Thursday, September 9, 2010

Keep Chilmington Green

On Saturday the 4th of September I joined several others in the town centre to campaign against the proposal to build between 3500 and 7000 dwellings on Chilmington Green. Chilmington Green is a green-belt area which is home to several species, including water voles, great crested newts, hares, snakes, badgers and bats. Destroying the habitat of these species would have a detrimental effect on the biodiversity of Ashford and its surrounding regions, thus contributing to a great loss of natural wealth.
There is more evidence that the proposal would be unsustainable, because: the houses would be built near a flood plain; the council admits that only 35% of the housing would be affordable; only between 600 and 1000 jobs would be provided for perhaps 14000 people; and there could potentially be an extra 10,000 cars on the road.
The council also seem to have no obligation to carry out the plans, since they were the plans of the defeated Labour government and under the coalition, there is no obligation to continue the plans to develop Ashford as a boom town, so the council seems to have little mandate to continue with this project, whilst the government is talking about cuts. Why should it be acceptable to cut frontline services but to go ahead with a billion pound investment which is entirely unsustainable and opposed by the local residents of Chilmington?
It’s a sad fact that neither the Labour, Liberal Democrat or Conservative (or UKIP) parties in Ashford are willing to oppose these plans.
However, Steve Campkin from Ashford Green Party has put his heart and soul into protesting against these plans and was the only person out of the political parties to respond to the requests of Max Frohnsdorff, the instigator of the campaign.
Paul Bartlett, the leader of Ashford Council, said ‘that too much work had been put into the scheme to call if off but he said he was happy to look at the "density, shape and number of houses".
Having taken part in petitioning, it is clear that this is not a clear cut case. A bricklayer, whom I spoke to, asked me whether I knew the real facts of this country, namely that the country needs four million new houses and that last year, only 100,000 were built. So, he is not getting enough work. Clearly, there is a need for better social housing and more widespread employment. However, on the one hand, I do not agree with the construction of the proposed houses for the reasons outlined above, and on the other hand, I oppose the plans because only 35% of the houses are supposed to be affordable and because I believe that such decisions should be made much more democratically, in consideration of those whom the decision will affect the most and within an ecological framework.
For me, this is an example of how working people are forced by those in power to carry out alienating jobs, which destroy the community and the environment, because they can find no other employment. Surely it must be possible to make sure that people have a decent standard of living, have a worthwhile occupation and are contributing through their actions to community building and sustainable development.
So, will the campaign succeed? Well, at the moment we have approximately 1200 signatures and need 10,000 for the council to have to take notice. However, luckily, committed activist Steve Campkin is involved and it looks like Keith Taylor, Green MEP, may be helping out too. At the very least, I hope that the landowner is paid a decent amount of money for his land, considering the amount of money put into the project. However, if all else fails, there is the possibility of direct action, of directly confronting the bulldozers, if they come to destroy the land.
I strongly believe that we must oppose this proposed development. So, if you want to get involved, please sign the petition and perhaps contact me at or Steve Campkin at at to get actively involved.
Think global act local. Protect the environment from needless development.
Keep Chilmington Green!