Local Politics, if you live in North kent, that is
Ok, time for a “liddle bit o’ politics, ladees n gennulmen” (thanks Ben Elton). And it’s local politics, local to me that is, so apologies to non-UK/non-Kent people.
“It would never happen here” is something that is heard all over the country. has sold most of it’s property to a property dealer and is about to be redeveloped. Never ever happen in my town. Right? Wrong.
Dartford Council, in it’s infinite wisdom has decided that St James Property Development company should be given the keys to the town and be allowed to pave it over.
The affected parts:
The local Park (Central Park)
The main street through the town (Lowfield Street)
Now this doesn’t sound like much, but Dartford is not a big town and years of neglect by the council have left it in, shall we say, a poor state of repair. So they have kicked off a batch of compulsory purchase orders and, barring an Act of Parliament or God, will allow the bulldozers in.
We have had marches and protests. They have had closed planning meetings. Dartford Council does not, in my opinion, have a good history of actually listening to the locals, so I doubt that this will be stopped. Our local MP, Dr Howard Stoate, has publicly stated his opposition to this development: call me a pessimist, but I doubt this will do anything. In fact, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) has decided to raise a public enquiry on the matter.
What does it mean for us in Dartford? Well, one side of the street will be levelled. We will gain a large Tesco (we already have a largeish Sainsburys and Waitrose in the town and a large Tescos a few miles up the road and numerous other large supermarkets within easy travelling distance) supermarket and an 11 storey block of flats. This in a town in which the tallest building is probably 6-8 storeys. Yes, whoever lives on the top floor will be lucky enough to see into everyone’s back garden. Bye bye privacy
Also, the Park will end up being cut into two. This is so they can pedestrianise Lowfield Street and divert Market Street through the park. Apparently, this will calm traffic. I am at a loss to see how. To get to the Public Library, pedestrians will have to cross a busy road. Good news for people with small children, eh? This is compounded by the fact that the park is public land – it was donated to the town on the condition that it stay as public recreation land. Another Act Of Parliament is required.
The local ex-serviceman’s club is on land required for the works. This land/the club is a charity and so requires another Act of Parliament. The club is now being resited in the park. Is there nothing the Council won’t do to bulldoze this plan through?
I am not against redeveloping the town. It does need a lot of repair and some parts need to be removed and started afresh on. But this won’t improve the town, it will remove any character from the town and turn it into a replica of every other town that the developers have gotten hold of. There won’t be many new jobs created – typically, the building work will not be carried out by a local firm and all skilled jobs will be carried out by people from outside the area. All that will be left for local workers are basic labouring tasks and, finally, supermarket jobs.
At this time of writing, the Dartford website was unavailable. Shame, because there are some pretty plans and pictures which will show you what the development would look like if there were only 10 people living in the town and only 4 cars available.