Jobs may be at risk - but the planning process can’t be shortcut

Editor’s Blog Posted 18/05/15
As the editor of a leading business magazine I am, naturally, passionate about business and, more importantly, jobs.

The election result – in terms of the stability it is likely to lend the country regardless of your personal opinion of the winning party’s credentials – has prepared the foundations for growth, but it is individual businesses that will lay the bricks.

Those businesses need the right environment, the right space and the right infrastructure to create wealth and jobs, but that should surely not be at the expense of the local environment or without any regard to the views of local people.

Land at Junction 8 of the M20, close to Leeds Castle, has hit the headlines once again with the announcement by a major employer that it will be moving its distribution centre away from Kent because it can’t get permission to build on the site – apparently the only one that meets its needs.

Ferdinand Bilstein UK wants to move from the premises it has outgrown at Marden to a new depot at Waterside Park, the proposed industrial estate the Gallagher Group wants to build on land that opponents see as a vital ‘green lung’ for Maidstone.

It is true that the planning process – currently at the appeal stage – can be lengthy, but opposition to the scheme has been significant, and local people, as well as the CPRE, county and borough councils and the MP, simply don’t want the development.

In saying that it now plans to move elsewhere – Derbyshire and Staffordshire are in the frame apparently - Ferdinand Bilstein UK is clearly hoping to persuade the people of Kent that scores of jobs are at risk. That may be true – or this may be an elaborate bluff; only the company knows.

In truth, though, jobs are important but they are not the only factor by which Maidstone, Kent or the South East as a whole should be measuring quality of life or economic success. We have a duty to future generations to get important decisions like this one right, and if that means letting the planning process run its course and abiding by the decision, then that’s what needs to happen. There can be no shortcuts.

Read the whole story in the May/June edition of South East Business.

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