Ashford Independents biggest winners in Ashford Borough Election 2019!

With our intense focus on local issues it was a rather strange feeling to see BBC News announce our success in the Ashford Borough Council Elections last week – telling the world that the Independents had slashed the Tory majority.

Eleven of our fifteen candidates were duly elected to represent their Wards. The trend was repeated across the country in an exciting day for those standing to make a difference in Local Politics.

The Tories still have a majority in Ashford, but it is significantly reduced after losing 13 seats.  Altogether the other parties elected now hold 21 seats between them, with the Conservative Party holding 26. The BBC stated “ The party’s hold on the Borough Council, which has been subject to boundary changes, has been loosened, largely by independents.”

Through your support, we have achieved our goal in this Election.  We are now an opposition force in Ashford Borough Council, which has been driven by the Big Party Machine for far too long. For many years people have been telling us that their Council does not listen – well, now, in nine Wards at least, your representative is on the ground and ready to do just that.  Ashford Independents is a group of local residents who feel that Local decisions should be made democratically by local people, not to support national party policies – but to meet the needs of our community, our families and their future needs, first and foremost. We will be working to achieve this over the next four years – after which you will be able to judge whether you can feel the difference and vote accordingly.

We are grateful for the chance you have given us and look forward to the challenges that will undoubtedly lie ahead.

Noel Ovenden.

An Independent trend!

It seems that we have been a little ahead of the game… 

The political climate nationally is changing rapidly!  Being Independent is the new trend!  

Whilst there are different drivers locally from nationally, the root cause is the same; dissatisfaction with the party machine and wishing to have a voice that is not constantly over ruled by those with the power to drive conversations. It is a theme that we in Ashford share with the MPs in Westminster.

Ashford has had a Conservative dominated Council for many years now.  It means that discussions within the Council are driven by Conservative Party Policy, and Conservative Councillors who might wish to challenge are able to be pushed into line by the Party Whip. The whip’s role has several responsibilities, including making sure that all party members attend and vote as a team when there is a division of views, as well as counting and recording the votes in a division to be sure of the result.  If a Party Member defies the Whip – they can be disciplined by the Party, which can mean anything from being removed from Committees to being expelled from the Party.

The Independent Group in London have yet to declare whether they will install a traditional Party Constitution or have a Whip.  The Ashford Independents do not have a Whip.  It is the single factor that makes them very different from all other Ashford Borough Councillors.  When the Ashford Independents formed we took the view that the most important thing for an elected Councillor to do was to use their vote in Council Chamber to reflect the views of our electorate.  This freedom to speak has been graphically illustrated throughout the development of the Ashford Local Plan.

Planning is a particularly sensitive area. Everyone who lives in or around Ashford can see the scale and pace of change that our Borough is going through.  Government Housing Policy has put building targets in place for every Local Council; each set to support the Government aim of building 300,000 new houses each year.  Coupled with the Help to Buy Scheme, which only applies to new builds, house building is supporting our national economy.  

Here in Ashford, we benefit from very good road and rail links as well as being located in The Garden of England, we have reasonable levels of employment and the Grammar School system – all factors that make us a very desirable location to live. Naturally developers want to build here  – leading to Ashford accepting more than our fair share of the building burden as our Council plans to absorb large numbers of new residents into the Borough. Redevelopment of brownfield sites can not accommodate the scale of growth, so there has been a scramble to secure land. All of the large developments in the Local Plan are on green field, agricultural land.  At exhibitions of the intended applications to build, locals gather with saddened faces and raise concerns about increasing traffic on unimproved roads and lack of doctors’ and dental surgery spaces. But in a Conservative led Council that is working to support Government Policy, meet building targets and avoid developer pressure  – having the right Plan in place is the priority, not listening to the frustration of current residents.

The growth of a national movement of Independents is good news.  There are sincere people in politics and they are standing up now.  It is a brave choice because being part of the National Party machine brings much greater opportunities and support for a career politician so there will be very personal implications for each individual.

Bravo we say and hope that you will agree with your votes in our Local Borough Election here in Ashford on 2nd May.

John Durrant

Borough Council Election 7 May 2015

Congratulations to Noel Ovenden and Winston Michael were both re-elected in their Wards.

Wye

CHILTON, Jayne Labour Party 142
DOVE, Stuart James Liberal Democrats – Stronger Economy Fairer Society 71
HOWARD, Alex The Conservative Party Candidate 402
NEWILL, Alan William Edward UK Independence Party (UKIP) 126
OVENDEN, Noel Ashford Independent 651 (E)
Turnout: 74.91%

Boughton Aluph & Eastwell

BUNN, Len The Conservative Party Candidate 465
MICHAEL, Winston Russel Ashford Independent 895 (E)
MICKLEWRIGHT, Len Liberal Democrats – Stronger Economy Fairer Society 64
BULLEY, Ryan Labour Party 158
Turnout: 65.52%

Following the Election Independent Cllr David Smith (South Willesborough) having shown interest was invited to join the Ashford Independents, bringing the Councillor group to three.

Ex-Cllr Peter Davison has resigned from the position of Party Leader and becomes Chairman of the Ashford Independent Association. Ex-Cllr and past Mayor Mrs Palma Laughton MBE becomes President of the AIA following the retirement of Mrs Betty Turner, wife of ex-Cllr and past Mayor Gordon Turner.

Chilmington Green – sample letter of objection to the building development

Mock Lane, Chilmington – the future view
Chilmington Green Urban Extension Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment, Sept 2014. Turkington Martin

.View Sample of Objection here

Ashford Borough Council Revision to Local Plan

New housing numbers a done deal and the potential for even more housing

A report from Cllr Winston Michael, Ashford Independent

Every 5 years the Ashford Borough Local Plan has to go through a review and so the 2006 Local Plan known as the Core Strategy needs revision.

The current revision has resulted in Ashford Borough Council looking to add some 4000 homes to what remains undelivered in the 2006 Local Plan. With a 5-yearly revision and a Council with a voracious appetite for many more houses no matter what the consequences, residents continue to face unacceptable uncertainty about the countryside and their quality of life. Since 2011 Councillor Winston Michael has represented Ashford Independent Party on the Planning Task Group Committee during which time he has vehemently opposed more housing on the grounds of sustainability and an unsound stated need.

Ashford Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) conducted by consultants
G L Hearn proclaims a need for circa 720-730 homes per annum. This number is based on demographics and inward migration to Ashford, with 42% expected from natural resident growth and 58% to people relocating to Ashford, thought to be predominantly commuters. This implies only 306 homes are necessary to serve local natural population growth and economic growth.

The net inward migration figure is justified on the grounds of past relocations to Ashford but no analysis is given to support as to why people come to Ashford. Official reports point to the much lower cost of housing, fast train service to London, and available housing supply. Homes in and around London are very expensive and buying a home in Ashford releases equity and reduces mortgage payments for Londoners. The past large inward migration was certainly not through an economic boom in Ashford drawing in workers because business / employment figures do not support. To justify the 58% it is stated the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) would not allow a reduction in net inward migration but this is questionable.

The NPPF Guidance notes allow for adjustments to overall housing number where migration levels may be affected by changes in employment growth, a one-off large employer moving in or out of the area, or large housing development such as an urban extension in the previous five years, etc. In Ashford’s case an adjustment can be made since previous inward migration is distorted by high speed trains to London, lower house prices, and housing availability; and not because of increased economic activity. So a reduced inward migration figure can be supported.

In 2011 ABC commissioned G L Hearn to produce an Employment Options Report (EOR) with Cambridge Econometrics (CE) providing the data and modelling. The report projected growth scenarios from cautious to highly optimistic and the conclusion leaned toward medium growth. A handful of Councillors including Ashford Independent Councillor Winston Michael challenged because the data was suspect and the method to extrapolate statistics beyond 2021 (the Government statistics end date) to 2030 was questionable.

Following the EOR, ABC commissioned G L Hearn to produce the Ashford Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) as demanded by the NPPF. Since November 2013 when the headline numbers were revealed to Councillors, Ashford Independent Councillor Winston Michael sought details of the underlying data, and sight was given at the end of February 2014.

The SHMA dropped the previously agreed jobs led approach in favour of a demographic and migration approach. This statement appears to be contradictory since the SHMA uses the CE data model to make comparisons as a balance and check. The SHMA looked at similar scenarios to that of the EOR, introducing Government Sub-National Population Projections (SNNP) data into a G L Hearn model. The finding leaned toward SNPP data / G L Hearn modelling even though this is based on pre-census data, went no further than 2021, and required manual intervention to extend to 2030.

In the meantime CE had updated their data model in 2013 with the 2011 Census data and latest economic forecast. This later CE data model revised downward their previous projection for Ashford and the stated need was now 518 homes per annum. Amazingly G L Hearn settled on 726 homes per annum a number based on pre census data, and to justify this number comparison was made against the CE 735 homes per annum projection that was based on old data and not the new CE data model which came out with a need of 518 homes per annum. Needless to say Ashford Independent Councillor Winston Michael challenged the report’s inconsistencies and inaccuracies.

More recently G L Hearn decided to update their data model with 2011 Census data and this came out with a marginally higher housing number per annum.

In summary circa 730 homes per annum is the stated Ashford need but by removing the 58% for net inward migration 306 homes per annum is the demand for growth of local demographics and economy. The latest CE data model projection that Ashford needs 518 homes per annum is 212 homes more and is sufficient to cater for a reasonable level of migration. AI Councillor Winston Michael supports 518 homes per annum and as a lone voice voted against the higher number at the Planning Task Group meeting. Given the present Local Plan has 9700 homes that could be delivered during the planning period, 518 homes per annum represents a 19 year supply that takes us to 2030, so no further land is really necessary.

The overall housing number may be added to because of the NPPF duty to cooperate policy. This requires Ashford to provide for any land shortfall in housing need by surrounding districts. For example if Canterbury show a need for 20k homes but has land for only 15k then it can ask Ashford to provide land for 5k homes, and Ashford would need to provide evidence it is unable to service this need. Ashford call for land yielded over 200 site submissions containing in excess of 22k homes. The overall housing number circa 730 per annum equates to 13870 houses for the period 2011 to 2030 but within the current Local Plan 9700 of these houses could be delivered by 2030 and so Ashford has to find additional land for 4000 homes. With land submissions containing 22k homes and only 4000 homes required this could expose Ashford to the duty to cooperate. Already there is a shortfall at Hastings which has a remote possibility of hitting Ashford.

Ashford Independent Councillor Winston Michael thinks there may be a time bomb lurking in the Local Plan under the guise of “an area of strategic development”. At Council he sought an answer and is waiting a reply. The question is whether designating an area as strategic development would open it to more development than identified in the Local Plan and whether the designation makes it difficult to challenge. So the one to watch and fight are these designations because they could lead to further Chilmington Green time bombs.


Cllr Peter Davison, Leader Ashford Independent Party, comments:

Cllr Winston Michael is the Ashford Independent Party representative on the Ashford Borough Council Planning Task Group. The Manifesto of the AI Party, its election platform, seeks to protect our environment and ecology in the areas of natural beauty around Ashford and opposes large building developments on greenfield sites and urban extensions where there is no need for them and there is strong opposition from residents.

Wye By-Election Results 6 March 2014

Congratulations to Noel Ovenden who was elected Borough Councillor for Wye at the By-Election on 6 March.

The results were as follows:

Candidate Party Number of votes
BLANSHARD, Kenneth Liberal Democrats 13
COOLING, Ian Conservative Party 240
EVANS, Elaine UKIP 97
JONES, Dylan Labour Party 22
MEADEN, Geoffrey Green Party 55
OVENDEN, Noel Ashford Independent 323 ‘Duly Elected’
Wye Ward electorate 1,833 Votes cast 750 Turnout 41%

Wye By-Election 6 March 2014

Our Candidate, Noel Ovenden’s election flyer.

MarchFlyer

Press Coverage of the Wye By-Election

Canvassing of residents is revealing strong support for Noel.

201402Press

KE Wye by-election

A Supporter Comments

On hearing that Noel Ovenden will be the Ashford Independent candidate, a local resident put the following comment on his website Sustainability in Wye (www.jasperbouverie.com)

‘Following Steve Wright’s resignation as borough councillor, there is to be a by-election in Wye with Hinxhill on Thursday March 6.

Usually I keep the colour of my vote close to my chest but I’m not going to on this occasion.

I, like everyone on the parish council, feels the need for someone to represent the parish who is up-to-date with current negotiations with Imperial College over Wye3, and who also has an awareness of the many other thorny issues in the parish: the Neighbourhood Plan; the developments at Naccolt, Willesborough and Conningbrook; the construction of the MUGA; the complicated interaction between the Parish Council and the charitable organisations in the village; not forgetting traffic, level-crossing, network rail.

We need someone who is not just aware of these issues but also has the necessary skills to seek support and resolution at borough level.

I have no doubt that Noel Ovenden who is standing for the Ashford Independent Party will be extremely good at this. He has scarcely missed a parish council meeting, has done much to put the pc’s affairs in order over the past 14 months, and has been a good deputy chair since the last AGM. He is methodical, financially astute, and has a good grasp of what makes people tick. I have also very much enjoyed working with him.

Noel is standing for the Ashford Independent Party – a party set up by former Tory Peter Davison which believes that there is no place for national party politics in local elections. I couldn’t agree more.

With members free to speak their minds, it is no surprise that the ‘party’ is united against over-development. Many of their councillors’ constituencies are after all the targets of developers.

Surely, given the current situation in Wye, we could do with their support?
I have yet to hear of others who are standing for election, and will publish details when I hear of them. However I’m 99% certain that my vote will go to Noel.