Published: Tuesday, 11th July 2023

We are deeply disappointed at government decision to pull £170m support

Medway Council has described the decision by Homes England and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to stop the £170m programme of Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) support as “incredibly disappointing”. 

The decision by Homes England, the government agency responsible for ‘making homes happen’, removes the public funding for new roads, sustainable transport and a programme of environmental improvements, including new community public spaces, designed to support new communities on the Hoo Peninsula.

Following recent discussions with Homes England and DLUHC, Medway Council submitted a realistic proposal for a reduced scheme which it was confident could be delivered. The amended scheme recognised the challenging position of public finances at the moment but would have still delivered significant road and environmental improvements alongside a smaller number of homes. 

It focused on improvements to the two key junctions at Four Elms and Sans Pareil, alongside delivering a new community parkland at Deangate, improvements to public rights of way and enhanced public transport links. This pragmatic approach prioritised sustainable development and addressed climate change and supported the new administration’s commitment to delivering a Local Plan within two years. Unfortunately, this approach was also refused by Homes England and DLUCH.

As a result of the decision, Medway Council will now need to stop work on the original proposed investment in six road schemes which were designed to improve the peninsula’s links to the rest of Medway, reduce congestion, and improve air quality, and investment in public access to open spaces.

Medway Council’s HIF team raised their concerns over inflationary pressures in the summer last year and agreed with Homes England to review the programme. A revised plan, budget and timetable was submitted in March that kept the programme within the £170m funding bid originally agreed with the government, and the council took the decision to pause the rail plans.

Cllr Vince Maple, Leader of Medway Council, said: “We are continuing to press for a meeting with the Secretary of State and are deeply disappointed not to have had the opportunity so far. We welcome their commitment to identify future funding streams to deliver the project outside of the programme.  The loss of HIF today means we cannot fund and deliver the long needed all-important roads, public transport and environmental improvements ahead of new homes being built on the Hoo Peninsula.

“This decision has implications for Medway residents on the peninsula and across the whole of Medway. It risks undermining our commitment to delivering a Local Plan by 2025 and building new homes in the right places while creating sustainable healthy communities with the associated high-value employment prospects for Medway residents.”

As part of the Government’s national housing targets, Medway Council has to deliver 1,667 new homes a year between now and 2040 – a total of nearly 28,500. This target still exists.

Cllr Maple added: “We know there are people on the peninsula who oppose the prospect of new homes, but this decision won’t stop those homes being built on Hoo, or elsewhere across Medway. Recent planning appeals have shown that Medway is already struggling to reject developers’ proposals to build homes in what we believe are the wrong places without the necessary infrastructure. We want to stop that happening.

“People must also realise that the decision now risks homes being granted permission without the all-important contributions from developers towards local health, education, and community facilities as part of any forthcoming planning applications.

“Having signed a letter giving her full support to the council’s bid in 2017 for the HIF grant, we are disappointed by Kelly Tolhurst’s evident change of view which would have delivered significant infrastructure improvements for residents on the Hoo Peninsula.”

The council’s call for Homes England to continue backing the HIF investment in Medway had secured the support of Kent & Medway Economic Partnership, Kent County Council, and the Thames Estuary Growth Board.

Cllr Maple continued: “We recognise the public purse is under significant pressure, but the £170m HIF money was already allocated. The revised programme would have delivered the infrastructure improvements to support thousands of news homes to meet the needs of the growing community and residents of Medway and saved public money. We therefore feel it is flawed to have pulled the plug now. It is a very disappointing decision.

“We had hoped central government would be pragmatic and continue to work in partnership with us to explore all the options to enable critical new infrastructure ahead of new homes and jobs. That now looks unlikely, but our door is always open and we are still in final discussions with them. We still believe that central government’s decision-making process was flawed and would have liked greater opportunities for collaboration.

“We will continue to work with the parish councils, community groups and members of the Hoo Consortium of landowners and housebuilders to come forward with a solid Plan B for Hoo, focusing on improving the wellbeing of all residents by providing sustainable transport, access to open spaces, employment opportunities and new homes.”  

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