Kent please just give us something, anything strategic

Planning in Kent is a mess. Although the South Essex strategic plan is moving at the pace of a Greenland Glacier flowing downhill under global warming at least they have something.

Canterbury is proposing to build more than its OAN to fund bypasses east and West. Swale has completely ignored the Thames Estuary 2050 report that housing numbers here should be jobs led. The west Kent authorities found their found unsound after conspiring not to ask each other to cooperate on meeting each others needs.

Elsewhere proposals for new settlements and major sites such as RAF Manston operate in a strategic vacuum.

The problem apparently is a disagreement over whether you have a North Kent strategic geography or a Kent wide one. The governments response to the Thames Estuary 2050 report in 2019 suggested having something was more important than simply keeping to an Estuary Geography. They were right.

Yet absolutely nothing has emerged. Does this have to do with concerns over opening up the Pandora’s box over local government reorganisation, which has created strategic planning paralysis in areas such as Hampshire.

I suspect also there is concern that the less you mention Kent strategy the less the government will be reminded it is a growth area, and this suits the Politics at County Hall. The number of civil servants dealing with the Estuary (formally known as Gateway) has shrunk to one (part time) its seems forgotten about.

Even an informal non statutory strategy like Leicestershire, without saying where growth will grow, seems off the table as some district administrations, like Sevenoaks and Swale, don’t like the term growth – they have caught the South Oxfordshire variant and it is highly contagious.

Clearly nowhere needs strategic planning as much as Kent, great linear bands of constraints and narrow corridors of where growth can possibly go needs a positive framework.

So now we have the national embarrassment of a private sector led garden town quantum of growth being put forward by the private sector. Simply because who else is doing the planning, national government, Kent CC, the district? Nobody, how can you say something is ‘premature’ when there is no strategy of any kind for Kent Thameside and no plan to produce one. Of course it isn’t premature, whatever you think about the location, it is long overdue. Lets hope that this is a long overdue wake up call to central government. If you wait for local governmOne final ent to come up with strategic arrangements capable of making big overdue decisions you will be waiting forever.

One final thought, Kent County Council, if you cant or won’t take big strategic decisions, and use your economies of scale to leverage infrastructure and delivery around those decisions what is the point of your existence, and why are you blocking structures that will serve that function?

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