Archive for ‘Steve Dyke’

October 28, 2017

Medway Green Party response to Rochester Town Council proposal

We have been surprised at the degree of opposition to the proposed Rochester Town Council as this is something that could in theory give local people a greater say in how things are run where they live. Medway Green Party will always support local democracy and decisions being made closest to those they affect.

However there are several aspects for consideration with this idea and Medway Council’s consultation is reportedly rather vague. Things for people to consider are what a Town Council would be able to achieve in practice, whether its existence would, in reality, improve the decision-making power of local residents and what any financial costs might be.

Thus we hope that the current consultation is being regarded as one that simply allows residents to consider the idea of a Town Council in principle.  Rochester residents have a right to know what this would mean to them in practice.  Similar to the EU referendum, the people affected must be given another opportunity to consider this more thoroughly once full details of the workings are available.

Steve Dyke, Medway Green Party Co-ordinator

 

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September 23, 2017

Medway Council could be forced to increase its housing targets even further

According to KentOnLine (1), Kent Councils could be forced by the Government to accept thousands more new homes each year to make up affordable housing shortages.  This could mean Medway Council being pushed to find land for 1680 new builds a year in comparison to the Council’s current target of between 730 and 1410.

Steve Dyke, Medway Green Party coordinator, says:
“Our already stressed infrastructure in Medway will be stretched to breaking point by these proposed new targets for house building. The area already faces huge pressures from developers to build on its countryside and it now looks like our Council will have even less scope for rejecting any development, even if it is unsustainable or destructive to the local environment.

People need access to green space and clean air for their own mental and physical health and wellbeing. Our local MPs and Medway Council should stand up for all their constituents against the Government’s plans.”

Mary Smith, Medway Green Party officer says:
“If it was likely to vastly improve the proportion of truly affordable homes, it might not be too bad but we should question the whole premise that the South-East needs this many new homes.

“If the Government was really serious about providing affordable housing they would enable Councils to build social housing instead of sacrificing our green spaces to an additional expansion of overpriced private housing we don’t need. Our housing market is broken and no longer fit for purpose”.

Medway Green Party spokesperson, Clive Gregory adds:
“The Government’s targets for housing seem to have more to do with the Tory national policy of using house building as a means of kick starting the economy – a tactic that works briefly and then needs repeating – again… and again.

“We need to recognise this Government tactic and call it out for what it is.  Sadly we have a government that thinks future prosperity for the country is based on arms sales and house building and this has to be rejected by all decent people regardless of their political bias”.

ENDS

NOTES:

(1)    http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kent/news/kent-councils-could-be-forced-132203/

April 24, 2017

Party People – achieving truly sustainable development in Medway’s Local Plan

Please see below a piece written by Steve Dyke for Medway Messenger’s Party People column and published on 13th April.

Since writing this, the deadline for responding to the Local Plan consultation has been extended once again to 30th May so there is still time to get your response in!

Details of the consultation can be found here.

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With the deadline for responding to Medway Council’s latest consultation on its Local Plan approaching, my hope is that the Council will review all responses received and be prepared to adapt the Plan accordingly.

To achieve truly sustainable development in Medway requires boldness in planning in order to reduce our ecological footprint to a ‘one planet’ level.  This should be seen as an opportunity rather than a hindrance.  Imagine Medway with a proper cycle network, reliable, accessible and cheap public transport and low energy homes affordable for local people.  Developing the technological expertise locally to build off-site constructed energy efficient homes and renewable energy technologies could reinvigorate our local economy.  This is what is truly meant by “meeting the twin challenges of global competition and a low carbon future”.

We must also ensure that we protect valuable existing green spaces from development.  The most sustainable development option would be to focus on brownfield sites in urban locations close to travel hubs, suggested by the Council within one of the four options in their consultation document. However, they could go much further, such as making better use of existing space through utilising empty premises or building above car parks and in the air space above existing buildings.

Of particular concern is that the Council still wish to press ahead with major development at the Lodge Hill SSSI.  This is despite a policy approach stated in their consultation promising that “a high level of protection from damaging impacts of development will be given to Sites of Special Scientific Interest”.

Medway Green Party would love to see Medway become an inspiration for other areas on how sustainable development can be achieved.  My fear is that we will end up with piecemeal, destructive, unsustainable growth.  I hope the Council will prove me wrong.

April 12, 2017

Medway Green Party slams Lower Thames Crossing decision

Medway Green Party has expressed its disappointment at the decision made today to proceed with ‘Option C’  for a new Lower Thames Crossing.

Steve Dyke, Medway Green Party Co-ordinator says:

“We feel sad for those in Shorne and Chalk and the other villages in Kent and Essex near the proposed tunnel or on the route of its associated road network who will be directly affected by this project.

“Once again an environmentally damaging infrastructure project has been justified on the grounds of making motorists lives better and the possible economic benefits it may bring.  Yet again it has been decided that the solution to traffic problems is to build more roads.

“However any short term benefits in tackling congestion are likely to be eroded by an increase in road travel and the existing Dartford crossings will soon be back up to full capacity.  The new tunnel will do little or nothing on its own to alleviate the existing high levels of pollution in Dartford and Thurrock.

“With the decision made, we now need to know urgently what mitigation measures will be put in place to safeguard the natural environment, address air pollution, protect the affected communities, minimise any increase in traffic on already stretched local roads and prevent infill development following construction of the tunnel.  We urge Medway Council to be mindful of the impact this project may have on its residents in Strood and other areas west of the River Medway.”

April 5, 2017

Medway Greens saddened by Gibraltar Farm decision

An adapted version of this was published in the Medway Messenger last week.

**Steve Dyke: “We already have excessive demand for housing in Medway and the goalposts keep shifting”.  

**Sonia Hyner: “Capstone Valley is the only green area now in this part of Medway. The rest of it has been built on”.

**Steve Dyke: “There are better alternatives to building on Greenfield, such as higher density development on Brownfield sites in urban locations and close to travel hubs (to cut down on car use)”. 

Like many in Medway, the Green Party was saddened by the Government Planning Inspector’s decision which gave the go ahead for development at Gibraltar Farm.  The plan to build 450 homes on the site had been rejected by Medway Council but they were overruled by the Inspector.

Sonia Hyner, a Medway Green Party Officer who lives in Lordswood comments:

“I was truly horrified to hear about the proposal for 450 new houses to be built at Gibraltar Farm and hope that it can be further challenged. I have known this area for the past 50 years and, in this time, it has shifted from a patchwork of farms to being largely built up. Most of the building has been in relation to new housing and there have been some benefits such as new linking roads and new shopping areas. However, Capstone Valley is the only green area now in this part of Medway. The rest of it has been built on”.

Medway Council stipulates a low standard of green space provision compared to adjacent local authorities of 3.25ha per 1000 population. This compares to standards of 6.14ha per 1,000 people in Tonbridge and Malling, 10.1ha in Gravesham and 7.39ha in Swale. [1] Medway also has a higher population compared to adjacent areas [2].  However, in Medway Council’s Local Plan consultation, much of the land proposed for potential development is Greenfield.  Additionally the Medway Towns are under additional pressure because of migration from London boroughs, due to the high property prices there, which in 2014 totalled 33% of all migration into our area. [3] According to local Estate Agents this trend has continued. [4]

Steve Dyke, Medway Green Party Co-ordinator comments:

“We already have excessive demand for housing in Medway and the goalposts keep shifting.  There is a risk that landowners will be tempted by the high premiums offered by developers. This is not helped by the decision regarding Gibraltar Farm which could open the floodgates for similar planning applications. The only real way to protect Medway’s green spaces is to draw a hard line around them and not allow development in them under any circumstances.

“There are better alternatives to building on Greenfield, such as higher density development on Brownfield sites in urban locations and close to travel hubs (to cut down on car use).  This is suggested by the Council within one of the four options they have proposed in the Local Plan consultation.  This may end up as the preferred option of Medway Green Party which is currently drafting its full response to the consultation.  This is not least because all the other options on offer explicitly mention development at Lodge Hill, an SSSI and of national importance to wildlife.”

Medway Green Party is encouraging those with concerns over developments such as Gibraltar Farm to visit the Local Plan consultation on the Council website and share their views.

The deadline for responses is 18th April.

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ENDS

NOTES:

[1] Issues and Options consultation (p65) http://www.medway.gov.uk/PDF/Final%20Issues%20and%20Options%20Public%20Consultation%20Copy.pdf [p66]

[2] Strategic Market Housing Assessment – “Based on the 2011 population level, Medway makes up the largest proportion of the population in the wider HMA, at 34%” – Housing Market Area (HMA) has been identified as consisting of Medway, Gravesham, Swale, Maidstone and Tonbridge and Malling)  http://www.medway.gov.uk/pdf/Medway%20SHMA%20Final%20Report.pdf (p42)

[4] http://www.medway.gov.uk/pdf/Medway%20SHMA%20Final%20Report.pdf (p38)

[5] http://www.medway.gov.uk/pdf/Medway%20SHMA%20Final%20Report.pdf (p53)

March 2, 2017

Party People article on housing, Lodge Hill and the Local Plan

The article below, written by Medway Green Party Coordinator, Steve Dyke, was recently published in the Medway Messenger Party People column.

Medway residents are encouraged to respond to the The Local Plan consultation.  The deadline for sending comments has been extended to Monday 10th April at 5 pm. Details here.

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In drafting last week’s housing White Paper, the Government had a chance to radically tackle the housing crisis in this country.  Unfortunately, while some positive moves were outlined, there was no real change in direction.  They could have allowed Local Authorities to build their own Council homes by removing the cap on borrowing. They could have introduced measures to shift development from the South East. Instead they are simply tinkering on the margins of the problem.

This comes at a time when Medway Council is consulting on the latest phase of its Local Plan, including its vision for the Medway Towns and four options for the direction which planned development may take.

Whichever option is chosen, the Council seems determined to press ahead with housing at Lodge Hill.  Large scale building there would certainly destroy natural habitats of national importance as well as setting a damaging precedent for other Sites of Special Scientific Interest. It is difficult to reconcile any such development with the Council’s aim stated in its consultation document of protecting and enhancing our natural environment.

It is also uncertain what mix of homes we will end up with.  The Council’s research identified a need for 17,112 ‘affordable’ homes in Medway.  This represents nearly 60% of the 29,463 being planned for.  Yet the Council seem to envisage no more than 25% of the eventual mix being affordable, failing to meet the needs of many residents.

A direction encouraging the wrong type of development would lead to needless expansion of the Medway Towns and could result in over 9,000 homes being built which don’t meet the needs of our local population.

It is good to have a future vision, but also important to think past current political limitations. It doesn’t need to be like this.

November 20, 2016

Urgent – Please help the Medway homeless

Below is a letter published in the Medway Messenger recently which both commented on the recent Rainham Central by-election and called on the Council to do more to help people faced with homelessness in Medway.

Sadly eviction is due to go ahead of the camp on Gillingham Lines tomorrow at 10 am.  This camp was organised by one of our members who is asking whether anyone who is available can go along and support the five homeless people who remain in the camp.

The people who are homeless will not just go away because the  camp is evicted. They deserve our support and we need to urge our Council to do more to help.

*****

I write on behalf of George Meegan to thank all those who voted for him in the recent Council by-election in Rainham Central, but also to push for both recently appointed and existing Medway Councillors to urgently respond to a growing local problem, that of street homelessness.

The Green Party result in the by-election held last Thursday was not as good as hoped but may reflect that, unlike other parties, we were not out vigorously campaigning in the area in the lead up to the election, a decision made, in part, because of the sad circumstances surrounding the by-election.

Unfortunately, no Councillors were present at a public meeting held earlier on the day of the count to discuss how we can best help homeless people in Medway. In fact, one local resident (one of our members) who with a few of her friends has been independently providing support and organising camps for the homeless across Medway, has written to Rainham Central Councillor and Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti on several occasions pleading for help and is yet to even receive a response!

We are told that there is a lot of work going on on the ground with various agencies doing their best to provide and find homes but that progress is slow, particularly as there are two to three new homeless people, in Gillingham alone, every week. It is an added concern that with the new benefits cap coming in this week, there will be a lot more people in this position before Christmas, including families.

We would therefore urge all our elected Councillors to now turn their minds to providing urgent support for people who find themselves homeless and to work as vigorously at addressing this problem as they do towards winning by-elections. Local people can help by checking the “Medway Help for Homeless” Facebook page to see if they are able to donate any of the clothing, sleeping bags, quilts or camping equipment needed urgently.

Yours,

Steve Dyke
Medway Green Party co-ordinator

October 31, 2016

Reflections on Strood South by-election by Steve Dyke

This article was published in Friday’s Party People column in the Medway Messenger

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I write this just after the Strood South by-election and would like to thank all those who voted for me as Green Party candidate.  Unfortunately on this occasion we were unable to upset the established order and the seat was won back by the Conservatives.

One shock of the by-election was the low turnout.  Just 16.74% of those who could have voted actually did, and of those only 38.4% chose the winning candidate, Josie Iles.  She was elected by just 6.4% of voters.  Hardly an endorsement of local democracy.

All political parties must now attempt to understand what this low turnout means.  While people in Strood South have faced six elections plus a referendum in the last 30 months, have they seen any improvements in their daily lives? Are they tired of politicians promising things rather than taking practical action?

I fear the election of another Conservative to an already Tory-dominated Council will not help to bring about change hoped for or needed in Medway.  However all Councillors are individuals and everybody recognises for example how hard the late and highly respected Rainham Central Councillor, Mike O’Brien, worked for his constituents.

Many challenges lie ahead in these uncertain times.  Further cuts in spending threaten the most vulnerable in our community, there are rising levels of homelessness and poverty, essential public services are in crisis and our environment continues to be under pressure from unsustainable development.

The Green Party will always work for the common good, seeking to hold the Council to account and highlighting the need for action wherever needed.  We congratulate Josie on her win in Strood South and wish her every success, but hope she recognises her role as councillor is to improve things for all her constituents, particularly those in need, not just follow the party line.

Steve Dyke

Green candidate in Strood South by-election

 

October 15, 2016

Green Strood South candidate seeks clarity from Labour on Lower Thames Crossing

It is great to see that the Labour candidate for Strood South appears to oppose plans for Lower Thames Crossing Option C, seemingly in contrast to the official Medway Labour line.  However as he has shown a reluctance to discuss the issue with me I do not know the extent of his opposition.  I hope it is not just a cynical attempt to get votes.

The Greens remain the only local political party firmly opposed to Option C, as we have been from the start.  We believe that this proposal will impact negatively on Strood and many other areas in Medway, bringing increased local traffic, noise and air pollution and damaging the local environment.

I believe we must end our obsession with road building and instead invest in public transport, ensuring it is run for the convenience of those who use it, rather than shareholders.  With little scope for substantially improving the transport infrastructure here in Medway in the near future, to address our traffic issues we need to start to move away from dependence on car use.  People will use public transport if it is affordable, reliable and goes to the places they want to go and at the times they want to travel.

Steve Dyke
Green Party Candidate for Strood South

October 9, 2016

Strood South candidate, Steve Dyke, on local housing priorities

Please see below a letter that Green Strood South candidate, Steve Dyke, wrote to the Medway Messenger.  A shortened version of this was printed in the paper on Friday.

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Dear Editor,

With one eye on the Strood South by-election, Roy Freshwater again used his Party People column (29th September, Medway Messenger) to raise the need for the Council to focus on the housing crisis in the Medway Towns, but seems to be misled in thinking that EU and international migration is a major factor. According to the supporting evidence provided by Medway Council as part of the recent Local Plan consultation, domestic migration from neighbouring towns has had far more impact than international immigration here in recent years. [1]

In her recent letter to your paper (16th September), MP Kelly Tolhurst gave a panicky message suggesting that the Tories are building a case for concreting over our green spaces, while, as part of her Strood South by-election campaign, Conservative Josie Iles has recently championed the new Redrow development at Temple Waterfront in the ward [2]. This is despite the likelihood, in keeping with other recent new housing developments, that the majority of the homes built there will be too expensive to meet the needs of local people.

According to the North Kent Strategic Housing and Economic Needs Assessment [1] (used by the Council to predict housing need in the Medway Towns), from around 2011 there had been a stark rise in inward domestic migration from neighbouring towns and South East London. Before this, the net direction had been outward. Could it be that this is a direct response to the building of costly new developments such as that planned for Temple Waterfront?

We will never meet the housing needs of Medway people if we allow our valuable land to go to building executive homes that the majority of the local population cannot afford. We are also at risk of destroying our rich local natural environment in an effort to chase a goal that is forever moving – fuelled by political decisions which have led to a decline in decent social homes and encouraged financial housing bubbles. Shortages are not simply a result of population figures outweighing the numbers of homes available, but other factors, like income inequality, play a part and must be taken into full consideration when planning future allocations.

It is shocking that in the latest housing report by the Office of National Statistics, Medway featured as having the biggest shortfall in social housing in the country! [3]. A clear objective therefore must be a focus on putting this right. The way forward must be based on a clear understanding of the relationship between social, economic and environmental factors, but I fear that many of our current and prospective councillors have the wrong priorities.

Yours,

Steve Dyke

Green Party candidate in Strood South by-election

Notes:

[1] http://www.medway.gov.uk/pdf/North%20Kent%20SHENA%20Baseline%20report.pdf

(page 19)

[2] https://rochesterandstroodconservatives.org.uk/blog/temple-wharf/

[3] http://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/housing/articles/housingsummarymeasuresanalysis/2015-08-05#social-housing-shortfall