Published: Thursday, 21st December 2023

We have formally responded to Michael Gove following his comments about Medway's Local Plan.

Date:21 December 2023  

Dear Secretary of State  

s.15 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 intervention in the Medway Council Local Plan 

I am writing in response to your letter of 19 December, requiring the submission of Medway Council’s Local Development Scheme within 12 weeks of the publication of the revised NPPF. 

We were astonished and disappointed that your department lacked the courtesy to inform the council of your directive until after both your speech on Tuesday (19 December) in which you named Medway and six other authorities as underperforming in the delivery of their respective local plans, and the DLUHC X feed, posting about Medway Council.   

I might remind you that this council has been under Conservative control for the past 20 years, whereas the new Labour and Co-operative Administration has prioritised production of the Local Plan from day one – this in the face of chronic resourcing challenges, your department’s abrupt withdrawal of £170m Housing Infrastructure Funding and the brakes another Department put on development in Medway owing to a gateway motorway junction on the strategic road network being assessed as not fit for purpose. 

I want to take this opportunity to respond to some of the points made in your letter and to set out what a positive and pro-growth planning authority Medway is, with a track record of monumental, high-quality regeneration. 

I accept that our Local Plan dates back to 2003, albeit there have been two occasions when we reached Examination.   

In 2008, the Inspector had concerns over employment issues but rather than helping to facilitate us to resolve these issues and enable a plan to move to adoption, he indicated he would find the plan unsound and this resulted in us having to withdraw.    

In 2013, the plan was based on a significant allocation promoted by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), on a site referred to in the 2003 plan for future development in a later Local Plan. The MOD also submitted a planning application for the potential allocation.  A few weeks before the examination, Natural England designated a significant part of the site as an SSSI. As a result, the Inspector encouraged us to withdraw the plan, as the site was of such significance. 

Since that time there have been several delays that have also impacted on progress - decision making from the Secretary of State over the eventual application for the Lodge Hill site (5,000 homes) and confusion and delay over the calculations and numbers in the revised standard methodology, including meetings between the MP for Rochester and Strood and the Government’s Chief Planning Officer.  

The council has continually engaged with officers from your department and the Planning Advisory Service. With that support, the council was moving towards a Regulation 19 draft plan in 2021. However, that emerging plan would have required difficult decisions to be made, particularly in relation to regeneration on some key sites and a potential sustainable community within the rural area. Unfortunately, the Conservative administration failed to grapple those decisions and the Regulation 19 was not finalised. It is important to reiterate that, prior to 4 May 2023, Medway Council 
was in the control of a Conservative Administration, as it had been for the previous 20 years.  

There have also been a number of other major factors stemming from national government departments that are hindering progress of our Local Plan. 

Working with National Highways, it appears that differing methodologies are being used for commenting on planning applications and Local Plans versus what is being used to model the impact of the Lower Thames Crossing (LTC). This alone has meant that the Council has had to restart its Strategic Transport Assessment. National Highways still opposes any growth in the area due to the capacity of the M2 Junction 1; the modelling for LTC does not consider any further growth or provide any mitigation despite having a significant impact; nor are there any current national investment plans to address capacity at the junction. This is yet another substantial issue which Government must address but appears to be leaving to Medway to resolve. One Government department calls for growth, another arm of Government stymies it, leaving us in an invidious position.   

Shortly after the Labour and Co-operative Group gained control of Medway Council, the department for which you are Secretary of State removed Medway’s Housing Infrastructure Funding, an agreement worth £170m. This funding for infrastructure was the foundation of sustainable development and economic growth in our emerging planning. The removal of this funding materially changes the content of our Local Plan and we have had to undertake a significant amount of work to revise our approach.  

The Government, in all its forms, must take responsibility here. For you to suggest that the issues reside solely with the council is not just unfair, it is factually incorrect.  

Since May, Medway Council officers and the Cabinet have been unambiguously clear on our commitment to deliver a Local Plan for Medway.  

We have: 

  • undertaken a new call for sites allowing for a fresh Land Availability Assessment. 
  • agreed a new model for the Strategic Transport Assessment with National Highways. 
  • undertaken a further Regulation 18.  

All of this has been undertaken at a time when Local Authority resource is scarce, a position heavily influenced by your department. The Autumn Statement and recent funding settlement has done little to improve the position, as attested by local authorities up and down the country, of all political persuasions.  

Whilst we intend to comply with your instructions and the associated dates, I would also like, once again, to extend an invitation to you to visit Medway to discuss this position and how we can collaboratively work with the Government to deliver the economic growth, infrastructure and homes that are desperately needed for Medway residents. Whilst a visit to Medway would give you the confidence you need to ensure that we are doing everything possible to submit a plan by 30 June 2025, it would also allow you to see Medway’s contribution to: 


  • award-winning, large scale brownfield development, led by the sector, in close partnership with the council, cited as a national case study by Homes England  
  • exemplar use of modern methods of construction to deliver new homes.  
  • new mixed-use communities 
  • strategic sites, de-risked by the council enabling delivery of regeneration.  
  • the need for infrastructure to enable new homes and community facilities on the peninsula. 
  • sector-leading Design Codes and Neighbourhood Planning 
  • a Local Planning Authority that celebrates building beautifully with a focus on supporting our SME developers. 
  • an authority that determines 76.9% of non-major applications within 8 weeks without the use of an extension of time. Medway is one of the 9% of authorities referenced positively in your speech, in relation to development management.  

Given the intensity of your interest, I trust that you have personally taken the time to review my response. My officers will be in regular contact with your department over the coming 12 weeks and I look forward to welcoming you here in that timeframe. 

With best wishes 

Leader, Councillor Vince Maple 
Medway Council 

Richard Hicks, Chief Executive, Medway Council 
Cllr Shaun Davies, Chair, Local Government Association 
Rt Hon Angela Rayner, Shadow Deputy Prime Minister & Shadow Secretary of 
State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

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