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Wrong time to crow about rural development

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I have read with disbelief the editorial (AJ 21.10.99) regarding the Crow report on Serplan and suggest that Isabel Allen should either have read and understood the report properly or have attended with ourselves a public meeting on 22 October to discuss the proposals and to report back to John Prescott.

Those present represented Kent County Council, Ashford Borough Council, CPRE, WKPS, MP Damian Green and several other local bodies seriously concerned with not only the eradiation of their countryside, but also with the type of new development which we are inevitably having to face. Also present was David Warburton of the Urban Villages Forum.

The entire panel together with the large audience unanimously opposed the report.

The following items may be of interest: The report title encompasses the words 'public examination' but it was compiled by two academics who know nothing of the local area.Local public bodies requested to make comment but, we understand, such a request was refused.Why?

The recommended housing increase in the report above Serplan and the government's own recommendation is 50 per cent higher - a massive increase which will eradicate all the rural area and carpet it with concrete.We thought that 'predict and provide' had been dropped in favour of 'plan, monitor and manage'.

The proposal increases Ashford from a population of 50,000 to 150,000 and suggests that a 'New Town Corporation' should supersede the borough council. This will undoubtedly be an unelected quango which favours professionals and housebuilders whom it deems appropriate.

The report acknowledges that infrastructure will be a problem and that water should be 'imported'. It does not, however, suggest where the source of such water will be and how the resulting effluent will be disposed of.

The report ignores the large areas of land of high environmental quality which will disappear, together with two AONBs and several SLAs.

The report focuses on attracting people into the South-east, but with a relatively poor local economy and not a hope of finding local employment.

But to what end? One would think that job creation should come before people to fill such jobs. Surely this migration acknowledges the Government's failure to redevelop failing industrial areas.

Large areas of housing across the country require to be refurbished and redeveloped. Surely this housing stock should be targeted first, together with industrial/commercial regeneration before we attempt to construct our 'verdant turf-roofed structures' by their thousands in Kent countryside.

In tandem with the authors of the report, Ms Allen is surely not a rural lady, does not recognise the value of our rural areas and certainly does not understand the wishes of our rural population. Perhaps I may suggest, Ms Allen, that you remain in and comment upon our towns and cities and leave the development of rural areas to professionals who more understand the implications which you so readily embrace.

Roy Stone, Kent

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