Howard's Way -18 August 2005

Contributed by editor on Aug 28, 2005 - 08:41 PM

HOWARD'S WAY.... a weekly column from Michael Howard MP

Last week Toby Atkinson, whose Trent Development Company wishes to develop part of the Folkestone Seafront, is reported as having said:-

“We all know now where Mr Howard’s true allegiances lie.�

Let me take this opportunity of making it very clear where my allegiances lie. My allegiances lie, as they have for the last 22 years, to Folkestone, its people and its future.

That is why, unlike Mr Atkinson, I am able to take a wholly objective view of the different possibilities for the development of the seafront. Mr Atkinson, on the other hand, stands to make a large amount of money if his proposals are given the go-ahead. There is nothing wrong in that. As a Conservative I believe that financial incentives encourage people to use their talents and take risks and thus make a substantial contribution to our economy. But Mr Atkinson’s vested interest in the Trent scheme hardly makes him an objective judge.

I think the Folkestone seafront is a unique site of priceless value. It must be one of the last sites in the country on the sea which is ripe for development and which is not divided from the sea by a road or railway line. I therefore think it merits, and is capable of attracting, a world class development which will seriously enhance Folkestone’s environment. With the best will in the world it is impossible to say that the Trent scheme will have that effect.

Other proposals are in the course of preparation. They are being prepared by world renowned architects. They include the harbour as well as the rest of the seafront. They have not yet been finalised so it is impossible to say whether they will provide the iconic design I think the site justifies. But surely we should have the opportunity of making a comparative judgement between the two.

That is why I think Shepway’s Development Control Committee was wrong to decide two weeks ago to approve the Trent scheme. That is why I have asked the Government to “call in� the scheme and hold a public inquiry. I have been joined in this move by Kent County Council, who has grave concerns about the highways and traffic implications of the Trent scheme and the South East England Development Agency.

I hope we succeed. I hope Folkestone gets a world-class development. And I express these hopes, Mr Atkinson, because my true allegiances lie with Folkestone.