Imperial’s local authority foot soldiers have been busy trying to blind locals to the truth behind the plans for Wye Park, often with such blandishments as ‘affordable housing’ so that local young people can enter the housing market. As we have shown already, this is a piece of fiction designed to provoke calumny for anyone opposed to Wye Park… since they would now appear to be against housing for young locals. None of this is true, of course, and as we can now reveal Paul Clokie himself positively loathes the whole affordable housing concept.
While Imperial’s cheerleaders on Ashford Council have been blithely predicting 35 per cent of the thousands of new homes Imperial want to build would be ‘affordable’, Clokie actually fought tooth and nail to reduce a 25 per cent recommended minimum in guidelines for new housing discussed by the South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA) at a meeting in November 2004.
Clokie, the builder’s friend, pleaded, ‘If you try to insist that the developer puts 25% housing on his sites at a reduced price to himself then he will not be able to afford to do that and pay for other chunks of infrastructure. You then produce a situation either where the land doesn’t come forward, or where the builders don’t make a profit.’ And then he added, cryptically, ‘Of course I am sympathetic to those people who can’t afford a house, but frankly, if you try to drive in the poorer areas of the country, of our region, and I am sure my friends in Thanet won’t mind me saying this, house prices in Thanet are depressed. House land in Thanet is not high.’
While keen to make sure Ashford didn’t attract any more poor undesirables, Clokie was, however, enthusiastic to exhort people from other councils in the south east to get on the development bandwagon (perhaps building homes for all those impoverished families he’d like to turn round at the ABC border posts). He did this in rousing fashion, worthy of John Prescott at his most eloquent…
A lot of talk has been made about the needs of the region. If the needs of the region are so important to you, why are those particular towns and district councils not taking their own local decision to increase the number of housing in their area? You are the local authority. Nobody is stopping you from increasing the number of houses in your area; you have done so. If the argument was totally convincing then you will go away from this meeting and you will do so. It seems to me that one of the things that we do need to remember is that if we are not careful, you could be sitting in the 26th or 36,000th house and find that there is no doctor, the hospital cannot take you, there are no dentists, there is no road to go to it and commute to the job that may or may not be there. We do need to take care with this situation. If you look today, we are building 25,000 houses, or at least that has been the average. I know some are talking about 28,000 last year but it depends when you take the year as to whether you squash more into one particular year or not, or by chance the weather has forced some into a different year because they could not be built the previous year, so I prefer to take the average. If the average has been 25,000 houses and the infrastructure is inadequate, and certainly in our area we have a problem with health and we have a problem with schools, we have very good social services but they are strained, and I have to say that there is very little culture in Ashford.
Are you clear now? Cryptologists out there who wish to try to decode more can find the fuller version, with the verbatim record of Cllr Clokie’s intervention on pages 15, 21, 41 and 44, below.