Labour MP for Canterbury, Rosie Duffield, is speaking out about the huge amount of money spent by Canterbury City Council fighting its own people. Rosie was saddened to read recently that the council has splashed out over £200,000 fighting the people of Whitstable, who wished to retain ‘The Oval’ – a sea-front pocket of land – as public open space. Subscriptions from the people of Whitstable, local businesses and charities had reputedly raised in excess of £60,000 to fund their own legal action standing up to the council’s London-based barristers. This week it was revealed that the community is reviewing the future legal aspects of this case and the way forward.
Rosie says, “We desperately need housing in Whitstable that local people can afford and I am not against development that achieves such aims. The Oval however will be developed into holiday houses and I am horrified to hear rumours that there is a potential resale of the undeveloped full site being pursued for £4 million. The valuable seafront half of this site was bought from the council, in a secret sale, for £160,000. It is outrageous that developers can make so much money off the back of land, once given to the people of the town; the failure of the council to achieve true value for that land has let down all the people of Whitstable. They deserve better than this failing Tory-led council who don’t support the people they represent.”
Rosie continues, “Accountability is important for all politicians and I want the leaders of Canterbury City Council to apologise to the people of Whitstable. They talk about wanting more social housing and deliver none; they talk about retaining protected public open space and fail, time and time again, to protect it.
Leader of the Labour Group, Alan Baldock, who sits on Canterbury City Council supports Rosie. “This land was public land,” Alan says. “It was sold secretly, for a fraction of its true value. It will not be homes; it will not help local young people who can’t afford to buy near their families; it will just line the big pockets of businessman: this is a scenario we see again and again with Conservative administrations”. The Labour Councillor for Gorrell Ward, Bernadette Fisher, agrees noting that “This has been the biggest issue of my tenure. I am ashamed of the council on which I sit for their failure to be open and honest to the people of Whitstable, and for their failure to protect this much-valued site. It is with a heavy heart that I hear about these problems. Long shadows, both literal and metaphorical, will be cast by this expensive development.”