It’s amazing how many different ways some people can face in local government. Kent County Council’s leader Paul Carter is on the front page of tomorrow’s Kent on Sunday warning that Ruth Kelly, John Prescott’s replacement as the nation’s overseer of communities and local government, wants to force more housing on the Garden of England.
‘We’ve had an enormous number of houses thrust upon the South East and upon Kent… to suggest we need more or of a higher density would be quite ridiculous.’
As indeed it would. So one wonders why Paul Carter signed the Concordat with Imperial College which now, it transpires, may demand the building of thousands of houses in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, outside current development plans, and in addition to the 31,000 homes already scheduled for the Ashford area.
Cllr Carter said Mrs Kelly ‘should have thought harder about comments she made during a BBC radio interview where she said she was planning to rewrite planning rules to tackle people who were too ‘protective of their own space’. It later transpired this does not apply when controversial schemes are occurring in one’s own constituency; Kelly has vigorously opposed building a mere 1,700 homes back home in Bolton which locals don’t want.
But it is Paul Carter’s comments that deserve the local spotlight surely, and very slippery they are indeed. On the one hand he says the Government could avoid Nimby opposition by building new villages and towns in the Midlands and the North (not that the opposition to Wye Park is Nimby at all).
Then he adds these cryptic comments…
‘I’m a believer in new towns — not cramming yet more houses into existing villages and townscapes. The Government should be looking at being braver and bolder in looking at the potential for new towns and villages. To continue with the migration into the South East of England when the infrastructure is more than creaking and the Government’s saying they’ve got no more money to put in… it’s ridiculous.’
Which makes you wonder why he has been so vocally supportive of a scheme designed to bring a huge amount of development into protected countryside in an area that doesn’t need the jobs and — with 31,000 new homes on the way already — doesn’t need the housing. Are there, in fact, two Paul Carters, each capable of being wheeled out for rentaquote duties depending on the situation? And if so, which one — nice green ‘no more housing’ Paul or grasping ‘we need new towns’ builder Paul — will emerge when it comes down to a real decision?