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Sittingbourne High Street

Date: 13 November 2018
Name: Mr S
Sittingbourne High Street is in a depressing state and has been experiencing a slow death for many years. Many shops lay vacant and have yet to find new tenants. Sittingbourne High Street will never be able to compete with online stores purely due to its offering of products - it can however become revitalised again by entering the realm of "shoppertainment" - providing an enjoyable experience. Faversham High Street has done well in this regard, with the pedestrianised high street providing a good backdrop for experiences to take place. Will you look into how the both existing funds and the new £675m Future High Street fund can revitalise our broken high street - for example by introducing pedestrianisation?
 
Dear Mr S
 
Thank you for your comments regarding Sittingbourne town centre.
 
I fully appreciate your concerns over the gradual decline in the High Street. The current economic climate has had a less than favourable impact on many town centres across the country. On a positive note, the current regeneration proposals for Sittingbourne do seek to address some of the issues and encourage future investment.
 
In response to your comment about vacant shop units, we have in the past looked at various initiatives to brighten vacant shop fronts, to reduce the perception of ‘retail void’ and to address the negative impact this has on consumer and business confidence. Projects have included installation of graphics to windows in the High Street and colouring competitions for local schools (Halloween and Easter) with entries being displayed in vacant shop windows. The competitions in particular were very popular and provided some welcome interest in the town.
 
Regarding the town centre providing a backdrop for additional experiences, the Artisan Market, which runs on the second Saturday of the month (March to December), has proved popular with both the local community and visitors to the town. The Artisan Market is now in its second year and is now becoming an established regular event. The new town square we are creating as part of the leisure development will also provide a space for us to develop more experiences for the town.
 
You may know that the High Street is closed to traffic on Saturdays, and this has been the case for many years. Previous consultation with town centre stakeholders regarding further pedestrianisation resulted in a mixed response. Utilising the pedestrianised space on Saturdays to introduce additional activity and animation is something we are keen to see. Although the Council no longer has a direct role in event delivery, we do have a grants scheme which enables local groups and organisations to organise local activities and we do offer advice and support where we can.
 
The £675m Future High Street Fund, which has recently been announced is of interest to us and we are awaiting the full prospectus and further detail on the nature of projects that will be eligible for funding together with the assessment criteria from central government later this year.
 
I can assure you that we continue to promote Sittingbourne as an attractive location to all retail developers, whilst seeking to identify ways to best support our existing independent stores. The eastern end of the town (East Street and lower end of High Street) currently accommodates a range of small independent shops which offer highly regarded services to the local community.
 
As you may know, the Council is working with Spirit of Sittingbourne to deliver a regeneration scheme to boost to the local economy and encourage businesses in to the area. Regeneration of the town centre is a long term project and we have a real opportunity now to deliver a significant regeneration project and achieve the step change Sittingbourne deserves.
 
Please be assured that Swale Borough Council continues to work to make Sittingbourne’s offer attractive to residents and visitors alike.
 
Once again, thank you for your enquiry. If you would like further detail, please do not hesitate to let me know.
 
Kind regards
 
Cllr Andrew Bowles Leader
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George Street playground

Date: 31 October 2018
Name: I
Hello. I'm fairly new to the area (5 years). I live on Murston Road. Only recently I've discovered that at the end of George Street is a large playground. But said playground is locked and wasting away . So my question is how long it's been this way and are there any plans to change it? As a community we need as many green areas as we can get for kids to play and be active outdoors.
 
Dear I,
 
Thank you for your question.
 
Elm Grove Play Area was unfortunately closed in November 2017 following significant and prolonged anti-social behaviour causing residents in Elm Grove and Coombe Drive distress and damage to their property.
 
We have worked closely with the local police and Swale Community Safety Partnership to try and identify the culprits of the anti-social behaviour which has eased the problem to some degree. However, a recent consultation with local residents has revealed that they would prefer to see improvements to nearby Rectory Playing Field Play Area rather than Elm Grove play area re-opening.
 
We have committed £45,000 of improvements at Rectory Play Area which will see major improvements take place before next Easter 2019 including two new play units, swings, roundabout and seesaw. We are currently investigating viable long term options for Elm Grove Play Area.
 
Kind regards
Cllr Andrew Bowles
Leader
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Why is the Council website so often faulty?

Date: 19 October 2018
Name: Mr L
Why is the Council web site so often faulty? I have tried over the years to send enquiries and usually I'm told it is probably off for maintenance.
 
Dear Mr L,
 
Thank you for getting in touch about the website.
 
This is a timely question, as we are in the final stages of relaunching our website after considerable work behind the scenes to improve both the general reliability, and the ease of use of the site.
 
As we’ve been planning the new look site, we have been working to identify the technical issues that cause problems with reliability.
 
The existing site has some infrastructure that is becoming out of date, and this is being replaced in the upgrade. We have also been working hard to make sure the site is easier to navigate and search, with information set out clearly so people can find what they want.
 
We had set up systems to monitor issues people are having with the existing site – every page had the option to report problems, which  would tell us where you were on the site so we could investigate and rectify it.
 
As part of the upgrade we need to replace the system behind this function, so have recently had to disable it, but it will be returning when the new site is live. In the meantime, any issues can be sent to communications@swale.gov.uk who will make sure they are investigated.
 
We want local people and businesses to be able to depend on a reliable, helpful website, that makes it easier to do what they need to do, on whatever device they are using, so they can get on with the rest of their days.
 
I sincerely believe you will have a much better experience with the our new website, and would welcome any feedback when it goes live in the next couple of months.
 
Kind regards
Cllr Andrew Bowles
Council Leader
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Central Stadium air and noise pollution

Date: 27 September 2018
Name: Ms R
How can the council justify operating speedway at the Central stadium 6 evenings a week in view of the matters of Parking, Air and Noise pollution and young children who have school and would be in bed at the times stated. Also having visited Milton Country Park expecting it be on the lines of Mote park found it is nothing but weeds it's a good thing Sittingbourne doesn't rely on tourists they would be disappointed.
 
Thank you for your question.
 
I believe you are referring to a current planning application to extend the hours of use for speedway racing at Central Park Stadium. Due to a drafting error, the description of the application is ambiguous – the application does not seek to enable racing at the site 6 days per week, but rather to allow racing once per week only, but on any of the days listed. The description will be amended shortly making this clear, and new consultation letters will be sent to residents. Notwithstanding this, the application has not been determined, is at a very early stage, and officers are currently considering the details. Any interested party who wishes to comment needs to do so via the Council’s Planning Portal, available via the Planning page of the Council’s website.
 
With regard to Milton Creek Country Park, I am sorry that you found your visit disappointing. Developed from a former brickfield and landfill site the country park provides an open space that has significant biodiversity value, in addition to being a great community venue. Clearly there are large areas of managed habitat (long grass) and we have regularly recorded over 60 different bird species and have large populations of Great Crested Newt and Water Vole. In addition to the wildlife, the community is really important to us with facilities such as the play area, events field and art trail. We have organised 26 events so far this year with over 3,000 people attending and the weekly Park Run attracts an average of 150 participants every Saturday. Events have included outdoor cinema, art in the park, kite festival and volunteers working with our Ranger have participated in a further 27 sessions, contributing 586 hours of work.
 
Along with our recent South and South East in Bloom Country Park category Gold award, I hope this helps to demonstrate that the country park, although a mixture of landscapes and habitat is valued and appreciated by many.
 
Kind regards
 
Cllr Andrew Bowles
Leader
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World Fair Trade day

Date: 18 September 2018
Name: Ms B
Please could you advise me if there are any events planned in the Swale area to celebrate World Fair Trade Day - Saturday 11th May 2019?
 

Dear Ms Burt

 
Thank you for your enquiry regarding World Fair Trade Day 2019.
 
At present we are unaware of any World Fair Trade Day events being planned in Swale. Should an organisation wish to plan and deliver an event, we would expect an Event Notification to be logged with our events team and as yet, I understand, we have received no notifications.
 
It is, of course, possible that organisations or groups may come forward nearer the time with details of events, but no approach has yet been noted
 
Swale Borough Council does not usually organise and deliver events but works with and provides advice to organisations and individuals wishing to run events.
 
Should you need any more information please contact Jill Read our Regeneration Officer (Town Centres) who will be happy provide further detail. Jill can be contacted via email: jillread@swale.gov.uk or telephone: 01795 417592.
 
Kind regards

 
Leader
 

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Footpaths

Date: 18 September 2018
Name: Miss B
Dear Sir or Madam, Can I please ask why most of the paths that I walk on every single day are so difficult for people in wheelchairs and mobility scooters? Actually, I can answer that myself. Firstly the paths are so uneven that there has been times that I thought my brother would come flying out of his wheelchair! Every time I take him out we always get stuck at some point on an uneven part of a path weather its the tree roots along remembrance avenue or an uneven tile, at some point he will get stuck and I will have to find a solution. It is also because the kerbs are so high that every ten seconds my poor little brother is jiggling form side to side in his wheelchair because of this. Today, I talked to a completely blind woman that was in a wheelchair and I told her that I was contacting the council about this issue and straight away she told me that "when I was walking around I just used to fall down these kerbs" and now she still struggles to stay in her chair and now has to have someone push her along as she cant get up and down them by herself. The lovely lady pushing her said that is was good that someone is doing something about this and the fact I am fairly young she was glad that someone wanted to do something about this as it affects peoples everyday life's. As an aspiring politician I believe its important to stand up to issues that you really believe matter and strongly want changed so I ask you why nothing is being done? Medway council even have a request link on their site about dropping kerbs so why haven't our council picked up on this? My question is first of all will you actually do anything about this? Has anyone ever brought this up before? IF so, why has nothing been done? And why does a young 13 year old have to address these issues? It is hard enough just being in a wheelchair especially if you are non verbal, like my brother, or even completely blind like that lovely old lady in the wheelchair that I talked to today. I fully understand that this in many ways is not your fault but I personally want something done, and I know it would benefit many, many people. Maybe the council are unaware about the issues that disabled people face in their day to day life's so I would like to make everyone aware and get these issues sorted. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
 

Dear Miss Birch

 
Firstly many apologies for the delay in responding to your question, I am very encouraged to hear that you are so community spirited and have taken the time to contact me.
 
The responsibility for the maintenance of the roads and pavements of The Avenue of Remembrance  lies with Kent County Council. I have forwarded your comments to their District Manager for Swale, Alan Blackburn, and he has sent me the reply as given below:
 
“ The Kent County Council website also has a link to enable residents to request dropped kerb vehicle crossings, as Medway Council, but these are intended for  home owners who want to convert their front gardens into areas to park their cars on. I think that Miss Birch is asking for kerbs to be dropped so as to cross the road with prams or wheelchairs, but I couldn’t see exactly where they would be required as each of the likely crossing points already had such a dropped kerb.
It is quite hard to keep the pavements level along this particular road, while it is nice to see all the trees growing there they do create problems with their roots pushing up the paths. We really do try to bear in mind the problems that uneven pavements can cause wheelchair and pram users, and so if Miss Birch has any particular areas where she has seen people struggle – either with the need for dropped kerbs or the paths being very uneven - if she would like to contact me directly by email giving the exact location(s) then I would be very pleased  to take a look to see what the problem is.”
 
The link to the site as given by Medway Council  - https://www.kent.gov.uk/roads-and-travel/highway-permits-and-licences/apply-for-a-dropped-kerb
 
Kind regards
 
Cllr Andrew Bowles

Leader

 
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What plans do the council have to expand the AQMAs?

Date: 30 July 2018
Name: Mr P
What plans do the council have to expand the AQMAs, as there are major concerns expressed with the air quality at Key Street and Grovehurst, so should these not be with AQMAs to ensure accurate measurements are taken? This is both to prove the current situation and also to monitor the council's statement in its air quality strategy that air pollution will naturally decrease with technology. There are currently applications in with planning for 2,500 plus houses all within touching distance of the A249 and hence through/under Key Street roundabout. This excludes the Crown Quay and Easthall areas.
 
Dear Mr P
 
Establishing an AQMA requires a local authority to follow a process defined by DEFRA. This involves identifying whether there are any areas where pollutants are above the standard DEFRA have set (see table below). The common pollutants associated with vehicles and traffic are Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5). Swale currently monitor Particulate Matter at one location (Newington) and soon to monitor at another air quality station in Ospringe; to date there have been no exceedances of the DEFRA level.
 

Pollutant

Air Quality Objective[1]

Concentration

Measured as

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)

200 µg/m3 not to be exceeded more than 18 times a year

1-hour mean

40 µg/m3

Annual mean

Particulate Matter (PM10)

50 µg/m3, not to be exceeded more than 35 times a year

24-hour mean

40 µg/m3

Annual mean

 
We have monitored NO2 at Key Street and Sonora Fields over a number of years and last year the monitoring identified that levels of this pollutant are just above the annual mean (40.6 µg/m3) at Key Street and well below at 20.4 µg/m3 at Sonara Fields (a background location).
 
As part of our ongoing management of air quality in the Borough officers review the results of the monitoring we carry out; identify NO2 tubes that haven’t identified exceedances of the pollutants, identify other areas where monitoring would provide insight to air quality.
 
To this end and because the Key Street data indicate there may be a problem we have increased the NO2 tube monitoring at seven locations around the Key Street roundabout and Chestnut Street from 1 July. This monitoring will continue for a minimum of a year to identify any trends and provide a more detailed picture of NO2 in the area.
 
[1] The units are in microgrammes of pollutant per cubic metre of air (µg/m3).
 
Should the increased monitoring identify a broader level of NO2 near the 40 µg/m3 we would be able to begin the process of declaring an AQMA. Although no monitoring tubes are located specifically in the Grovehurst area we also have monitoring tubes located on the new link road (Swale Way) to the Morrison’s Depot near housing in Kemsley Fields to the north of Grovehurst to assess the impact of the commercial and residential developments in this area on air quality.
 
I hope that I have answered you question but should you need further information on air quality monitoring in the Borough you may find information on the Kent Air website (www.kentair.org.uk) to learn more about air pollution and local air quality.
 
Kind regards
 
Cllr Andrew Bowles Leader
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Refugee article in the Faversham Times

Date: 21 August 2017
Name: Dr J
Following the article in Faversham Times, “We're pulling out the stops to find homes for Syrian refugees” (August 10th) I'd like to ask why SBC needs to initiate this new effort to implement its own policy after nearly 2 years. The speech from Faversham and Villages Refugee Solidarity Group accompanying their 1500-signature petition asked for “all council means” to overcome the delay, and Cllr Henderson asked for “strongest possible leadership”. But on 9th August not one of five estate agents questioned in Faversham had been approached by the Council regarding available accommodation. Can you tell us please which estate agents are involved in the search for affordable accommodation in Swale ? And as rent top-up by SBC is expected to be part of the plan, why has the Council not budgeted for this? The amount per month might rise to several thousand by 2020, but SBC reserves exceed £10 million. Given that the Leader of SBC, Cllr Bowles, is on record as losing sleep over homelessness, and now as suffering “immense grief” about the Syrian crisis, can I ask him what new measures the Council is now taking to put the almost-unanimous motion of commitment into action ? With thanks, Valerie
 
Dear Dr J,
 
Thank you for your question.
 
Swale Borough Council are not, as you have stated, initiating new effort to implement a policy, as this work has been constant and ongoing since the Council originally agreed to help ten families from Syria, through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (SVPRS) scheme over a five year period.  We have been and will continue to work hard at this, in this most difficult of times for our local housing market, to meet this target.  I have always said that this will not be easy as we already have many local families in temporary accommodation, who we are also assisting to try and secure a home they can afford.
 
It would not be appropriate for me to tell you which agents we are working with. Indeed when working with estate and lettings agents, and landlords, to secure accommodation we are often refused support when announcing that it is the Council seeking this accommodation on behalf of either local homeless families or Syrian nationals as part of the SVPRS scheme, therefore we do not always state that this is our purpose.
 
We have not yet received further offers of support from landlords following the press release issued by the Faversham and Villages Refugee Solidarity Group, but we are having to field calls from local residents who themselves, or their family members cannot access affordable housing within the borough and are formally complaining that we are not putting local residents needs first.  While we are experienced in dealing with such issues, this is taking time to manage, and we do need to be mindful of the vulnerability of the Syrian families we are supporting and any issues that such publicity can cause.
 
As you will be aware, Faversham is mostly, if not completely unaffordable for many households and whilst this is also the case for much of Sittingbourne and Sheppey, it is not in our view sensible to target the most expensive part of the borough to seek accommodation at high market rents that at some point in the future the household will have to maintain from earned income.
 
Rent top up by SBC is not expected to be part of the plan as, while discussed at the meeting, this was not agreed by Council and indeed, Kent County Council hold the Government funding for this project. As the financial resources to support our main statutory homelessness duty are increasing year on year and not fully covered by central government grant, the Council is putting in substantial funds to support the housing needs of many vulnerable families.
 
Kind regards
 
Cllr Andrew Bowles
 
Leader
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Domestic provisions for Hybrid Vehicles

Date: 12 July 2017
Name: Mr N
What facilities can home owners or renters have for charging electrical/hybrid cars in their home? More critical is the rules/facilities if you don't have a garage or driveway?
 
Dear Mr N
 

Thank you for your recent question.
 

Home owners or renters, with their landlord's permission, may install EV charging points at their home. Some funding may be available from central government - move information from the Government Grants for low emissions vehicles. Installation must be by an approved installer.
 

Unfortunately if you do not have a garage or driveway then domestic chargers are not possible as leads cannot be run across pavements.
 

In Swale we have free charging points at Swallows and Swale House. A parking ticket must be purchased in the normal way but we do not charge for electricity. Several supermarkets have charging points as do some hotels. We are hoping to condition charging points in new developments.
 

Kind regards
 

Cllr Andrew Bowles
Leader
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Parking and Roads

Date: 07 March 2017
Name: Mr D
Hi. I live on Coronation Road. I would like to suggest that it's finally time that you should make this road a one way direction. I live of the edge of the street and there's dangerous occasions every day usually in the afternoon. Even today there was a car that accidentally hit an already parked car. Every day there is a dangerous situation for pedestrians. Please think about it.
 
Dear Mr D,
 
I refer to your recent enquiry regarding Coronation Road in which you suggested making Coronation Road a 'one-way' street.
 
Road safety issues such as this are usually dealt with by Kent County Council in their capacity as Highway Authority for Kent, rather than Swale Borough Council. I attended a Swale Joint Transportation Board meeting on the evening of Monday 06 March and I have, in my capacity as County Councillor, passed this to the KCC Highways Team's District Manager, Alan Blackburn, for consideration by his colleagues. I have asked that I be copied in to the reply that will be sent to you - which I trust you will receive in the near future. Could you please email Mr Blackburn your address and phone number as he will need this information to log your enquiry, his email address is alan.blackburn@kent.gov.uk
 
In the meantime, may I thank you for bringing this matter to my attention.
 
Kind regards
 
Cllr Andrew Bowles

Leader
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Parks and Open Spaces

Date: 27 February 2017
Name: Mr K
As a keen Metal Detectorist I was wondering if I can detect on any local parks with my kids to keep them busy and teach them a bit about local history. I'm an enthusiast so will be teaching them to fill the hole tidily and maybe pick some litter up as we go along .. I am thinking of areas like the Glenn in Minster or anywhere that's grass or mud that you could five us permission to go on and make a day or it. Thanks your for reading and we eagerly await your reply.
 
Dear Mr K,
 
Thank you for your recent question.
 
The Council does not have a specific policy concerning metal detecting and while there are many positive outcomes, from an interest in history, being outdoors and active, the Council's Open Spaces Byelaws prevent the removal or displacement of soil and turf.
 
I note and appreciate your personal commitment to filling in holes, however this is not the case with all and the Byelaw is to protect the public open spaces and prevent other members of the community from having accidents.
 
I am sorry this is not the response you were hoping for.
 
Kind regards
 
Cllr Andrew Bowles
Leader
 
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New Developments

Date: 26 January 2017
Name: Mr H
My wife and I recently signed up to the Swale self build register as we are both very keen to build a home for our family within the Borough - ideally the Sittingbourne area. There is a large amount of new homes planned for Swale over the next 10 years, with required numbers running into the thousands, just to meet the increase in demand within the South East. This growth, from the latest plan is mostly concentrated within Sittingbourne and the immediate area. However, according to the Local Plan, new build completions have only reached a level of over 800 new dwellings 5 times in the last 30 years. To meet this demand, new build completions must be increased over and above current levels. There are now a number of schemes, supported by Councils across the Country, including Graven Hill in Oxford, which will provide some 1900 services self build plots for sale. These schemes help with both: *Increase the number of new dwellings constructed, away from the main national builders and, *Provide serviced building plots to those who wish to construct their own home. I would therefore like to ask whether Swale would look to include self build within their plans to meet housing demand. There are a number of ideas that could be implemented, depending on the demand levels. These could be anything from stipulating a requirement on all new housing developments (perhaps over a certain unit size) to include a percentage of services plots for private sale for self build. Alternatively, if demand warranted it, perhaps Swale could work with existing land owners, to help provide self build plots for sale to individuals. I look forward to hearing your views.
 
Thank you for your Leader’s question regarding the provision of sites for self build.
 
 
This is something I believe this Council would be very supportive of and would wish to bring forward pro-active planning and other support policies for in the future.  However, the self build register and requirements came about as part of the Housing Act 2016, which came into force after the emerging Local Plan had been submitted for Examination in Public.
 
 
Due to the way in which the statutory processes work, it is too late for this plan to include any specific allocation or policy on self build at this stage.  Whilst the plan does make sufficient provision for overall housing needs up until 2031, most of the housing site allocations within it are being promoted by developers.  This does not preclude part of these sites being promoted or sold on for self builders, should they choose to do so.  Additionally, the Local Plan has flexible policies to enable other sites including small or single ‘windfall’ plots to come forward for development (provided they are in a suitable location in respect of the Local Plan’s other policies).  There is nothing to stop these being self build and many are.
 
We currently have only 11 people on our self build register (since it was set up at April 2016), including yourself, so expressed demand in Swale is low at the present time. I am aware that the Planning Committee recently approved a planning application for 11 self build plots at the former Silver Sand Garden centre near the Thanet Way and we recently sent a  link to  everyone on our register with the promoter of that site (although I am not clear whether you joined the register after that point).
 
 
We will continue to maintain our register; monitor demand;  and as far as possible link people with opportunities.  However, the register aside, I would also reiterate that if a suitably located plot can be found, our policies will enable permission to be granted housing regardless of who is actually building it.  I would also expect any future review of the Local Plan to include pro-active policies to identify potential self build sites and to promote self build generally.
 
 
Kind regards
 
 
Cllr Andrew Bowles
Leader
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Refugees

Date: 27 October 2016
Name: Dr J
You must be pleased and relieved, as we are, that the Home Office under Amber Rudd has evidently found a way to move forward rapidly with the legal requirement to resettle lone child refugees from the Calais camp. This week has been encouraging, and we look forward to many more arrivals. We hope that Swale is playing an appropriate part in the task of finding homes required under Dublin III and Dubs2 for the children from Calais: it is estimated that just five homes per local authority would accommodate them all, though areas of the country will vary in capacity. In recent weeks FVRSG has been mostly concerned with the Calais situation, but before Christmas the focus should have returned to our original concern: Refugee families around Syria and provision for the 20,000 Refugees promised a home by David Cameron early this year. Following up my letter of 13th September, may I ask you now whether the two refugees families for whom accommodation had been found in Swale did in fact arrive in Britain in September, or early October, or are you still waiting to complete their transfer?
 
Thank you for your recent question which I am answering in the Leader's absence. We are very supportive of Kent County Council's work to house unaccompanied asylum seeker children however these young people required foster care or supported lodgings, and Swale BC is therefore not in a position to directly assist. We are however very confident that KCC are doing all they can and successfully placing more of these children than any other Council in England. We have received the first family who are settling in and being supported by local people who have offered help to find their feet in the area. We are currently seeking a suitable property for the second family whom we hope to be welcoming soon. While we appreciate the concern and compassion that FVRSG are showing towards the Syrian Refugees, I would again reiterate my original plea; if you know of anyone who has a property within the borough that they would be willing to allow these families to settle in, please refer them to us. It is incredibly difficult to find affordable housing locally for any vulnerable households, and with over 130 Swale households currently in temporary accommodation this is a very pressing issue for us.
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How is council tax calculated

Date: 13 October 2016
Name: Mr S
Can you tell me how the council tax is calculated, is it a fixed amount for the house or does it depend on the number of people in the house. For example is it the same if I have 5 people living in the house or if I have 2 people in the house?
 
Thank you for your Ask the Leader question. Council Tax is broken down into two parts 50% for the property and 50% for the occupiers. If there are two or more adults living in the property 100% of the Council Tax is charged. If there is only one adult living in the property we can reduce the Council Tax by 25%, this is called a Single Person Discount. There are also other discounts that can be awarded for example for students, apprentices or if a person is in a care home. Further details can be found on the Council Tax pages of our website.
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Household recycling centres

Date: 12 October 2016
Name: Mrs H
Why can't I take large items to the tip in a private van? In London borough of Bromley you can access the tip with a commercial van, no wonder areas of Kent have such a problem with fly tipping.
 
Thank you for your recent question. As Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC) are the responsibility of Kent County Council (KCC), I forwarded your enquiry on to them about the restriction on vans being able to access local HWRCs and they have provided the response below. Each local authority develops their own approach to waste disposal. KCC is currently reviewing its approach here in Kent as part of its Waste Disposal Strategy. The current approach is based on the unsustainable extent and cost of trade waste abuse that was prevalent on HWRC sites. As it is nearly impossible to distinguish trade waste from household waste and in order to provide site staff with clear and unambiguous policies to administer, the decision was taken in October 2012 to ban vans and pick-ups from sites unless it is the household's only vehicle, in which case the vehicle would require vouchers to enable access to the sites. This approach is outlined on KCC's website (www.kent.gov.uk) and this is also where the voucher system is explained in more detail. Unfortunately the consultation on KCC's draft Waste Disposal Strategy 2017-35 ended on 2 October; however you can still access the document from the following link. This sets out KCC's current position, identifies the future pressures and presents the Ambition and Priorities for the household waste disposal service. I am sure that if you wish to email a response to the County Council (details on the website) their Waste Management Team would be happy to review your comments. http://consultations.kent.gov.uk/consult.ti/WasteStrategyKCC/consultationHome You may also wish to contact your County Councillor, for your area it is Adrian Crowther 01795 874418 adrian.crowther@kent.gov.uk Thank you again for taking the time to get in touch with me and I trust the above explains the approach taken to disposing of household waste in Kent.
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Contact number

Date: 23 August 2016
Name: Mr P
Is there a contact number for the Swale housing boundary fences that are in need of repair it's not exactly clear who to call on your website?
 
Thank you for your enquiry, however Swale Housing is now owned and managed by Amicus Horizon housing association. You can contact them regarding the fencing on 0800 121 6060 they should be able to deal with your query.
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Affordable housing and solar panels.

Date: 04 July 2016
Name: Ms S
I attended the Council meeting last night, as part of the Refugee Support Group. Homelessness in Swale was mentioned early at the meeting. So is Swale demanding that a certain proportion of all new housing should be what I think is called 'affordable'? And the installation of solar panels.
 

Thank you for your question.  There are policies on both topics in the emerging Local Plan which can be found at SBC/PS/101 Bearing Fruits 2031: The Swale Borough Local Plan 2031 Proposed Main Modifications June 2016 (consultation document).

 

Policy DM8 Affordable Housing of the Local Plan (Bearing Fruits 2031: The Swale Borough Local Plan Main Modifications June 2016) states that the Council will seek the following affordable housing on sites capable of taking 10 or more dwellings:

 

Sheppey  - no affordable housing requirement ( due to viability issues);

Sittingbourne, including urban extensions and Iwade  10% affordable;

Policy MU 1 (North West Sittingbourne) 10% affordable, if  zero CIL charge    ;

Faversham town and urban extensions 35% affordable;

All rural areas 40% affordable.

 

Generally, we would be seeking the affordable element to be comprised of 90% social rented and 10% shared ownership.  We can only negotiate with developers subject to viability (and also availability of social housing provider investment).  So no  - we cannot ‘demand’ it in all cases.

 

However, this position is subject to change as the Government is seeking to introduce a proportion of starter homes for owner occupancy (20% has been suggested) on all sites of 10 or more dwellings, at a reduced price  as part of the provisions of the Housing and Planning Act 2016.  The operational details of how this is to work have yet to be published through statutory regulations which are expected to support the new Act.  This may mean our policy will need to change to comply with overriding national policy, so we are in a period of uncertainty as to how and when this will be implemented.

 

On the topic of solar panels, I am not clear what the question is.  However, Policy DM20 Renewable and Low Carbon Energy of the local plan deals with this matter and it will be on a case by case basis depending on individual site circumstances.  There are also two Planning Guidance Notes which deal respectively with domestic scale installations (eg roof panels on houses); and large scale solar farm proposals.    The key issues to be taken into account in considering such proposals are environmental ones  eg residential amenity; heritage impact; agricultural land quality;  landscape impact; biodiversity issues; and restoration in the case of temporary instalments.  The guidance notes on the solar energy can be found at;

http://archive.swale.gov.uk/assets/Planning-General/Planning-Policy/Evidence-Base/VERSION-3-SWALE-SOLAR-SMALL-MEDIUM-PDF-July-2014.pdf

 

http://archive.swale.gov.uk/assets/Planning-General/Planning-Policy/Evidence-Base/VERSION-3-SWALE-LARGE-SCALE-SOLAR-PV-PDF-July-2014.pdf

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Refuse centre

Date: 16 June 2016
Name: Mr V
I was told at your recycling centre in Sittingbourne, not to come back today with any garden rubbish, stones and soil as I had 5 bags and that was the "limit" at this site per day, per household, why!. Also there used to be bins to put old plastic bags in, they have been removed, why? I live on Tonge corner and we are now getting more and more fly tipping may the council and or contractor should have a look at what can/cannot/ how much can be recycled at this site.
 
Thank you for your question.

For clarity, the site you have mentioned comes under the jurisdiction of Kent County Council (KCC), not Swale Borough Council, but I trust the following information answers your query.

You initially asked about why you were told not to go back to the site with any more bags of stones and soil. The County Council had to review its operational policies surrounding HWRC access and usage due to the unsustainable extent and cost of trade waste abuse at their sites. They are entitled to adopt a reasonable policy to prevent the abuse of the free domestic waste disposal facilities provided at the council tax payers' expense.

One of the policies introduced (October 2012 and amended in November 2014) was a limit on the amount of soil and/or hardcore (stones) that could be brought to the sites. This type of waste is classified as construction waste and not household waste and therefore should not be brought to the HWRCs. However, the County Council recognised that some members of the public carry out DIY work and therefore small amounts of waste from minor DIY types of work may be brought to the sites (90kg (190lbs) per day per vehicle - which equates to approximately 5 bags). For larger projects members of the public are advised to hire a skip from any local skip hire company.

Your second query was about why the bins into which you would have placed your old plastic bags had been removed. The contractor has been asked to reinstate these bins where possible and depending on availability.

I trust the above answers your queries, however should you have any more concerns regarding this matter, I would encourage you to contact KCC directly. You can do so by emailing them on the following address WasteSupport@kent.gov.uk or alternatively, you can call them using the following number 03000 410 247.
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Refugee petition

Date: 12 June 2016
Name: Dr J
Thank you again for your welcome to three of us from FVRSG on 24 May, when we presented our petition to Swale Borough Council. Following from our informative discussion, can you tell us please whether the relevant Officers have now been able to meet representatives from Ashford, in order to benefit from Ashford's experience of housing Syrian refugees? We were disappointed that Swale had not so far received any of these refugees, particularly since the next opportunity is in September. Have you now identified any suitable accommodation for two refugee families, to meet your existing pledge of two families per year? Has your search for appropriate landlords, which had failed up to 24 May, now been intensified or adapted? We are hoping to hear good news of progress prior to the Council Meeting which we shall attend on 29 June, so that our call for Swale to increase its offer of resettlement places can be an appeal for Swale to build on a progressing situation. It would be discouraging for the people who signed the petition if even the target they deemed wholly inadequate was not being met.
 

Following on from our recent discussions I am sorry to say we have still not found suitable accommodation for the two Syrian families we have pledged to house this year. We have however intensified our search for accommodation, and are currently compiling an email alert to go out to 600 landlords. We will also be requesting help on every Housing Benefit payment that goes out to landlords.

Zoe Kent, whom you met with me on 12 June, has been in discussions with Anne Forbes to find out how Ashford Borough Council has managed to engage with landlords. Zoe has learnt that the landlords who have provided accommodation all contacted Ashford in response to a proactive media campaign by the Council. We therefore intend to run a similar media campaign of our own, and are currently in contact with Ashford's media team to obtain their advice on what worked best for them in advance of launching this.

However, the discussions with Ashford have also confirmed our understanding that Ashford's letting market is very different to Swale's, particularly in view of the number of landlords who have bought multiple buy-to-let properties in recent years. We would therefore hope that the media campaign will also reach local residents who may know of suitable accommodation.

I would like to thank you and the Faversham and Villages Refugee Solidarity Group for your interest in our search for properties, and would once again urge you to contact us immediately if you know of anyone with a suitable property in the Swale area.

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Qualifying refugee families

Date: 12 April 2016
Name: Ms C and Mr J
Question: I am writing to ask why Swale BC has only offered to receive 10 qualifying refugee families over 5 years, as its contribution to alleviating the appalling crisis unfolding in Calais and Dunkirk, virtually on our doorstep. I consider the Council's current stance is wholly inadequate, and at variance with the generous response to the crisis that is being shown by the residents of our Borough, which I have seen with my own eyes both as a member of Faversham and Villages Refugee Solidarity Group and from my personal visit to the Calais camp. Question 2: I have just attended a meeting of the Faversham and Villages a Refugee Solidarity Group. I would like to know why, when there is such obvious humanitarian crisis and need, are we, as Swale, only offering to receive 10 qualifying refugee families over the next 5 years? I feel disappointed and ashamed to be part of a borough that cannot provide sanctuary and support to more families and people who are fleeing their homes to save their lives.
 

Thank you for your recent questions.

I am aware of the depth and sincerity of feeling on both sides of this argument. We in Swale have been very clear that we want to do what we can to help the government in its pledge to resettle 20,000 of the most vulnerable people, and 10 families for a district of our size is roughly proportionate to this commitment. We think it is right that the families invited to build new lives for themselves in the UK should be those who are genuinely the most vulnerable, and this is why we support the government's decision to accept people directly from camps in the region rather than people who have had the means and the wherewithal to make it as far as the Channel coast.

The Council does not hold its own housing stock, and there is in fact a significant shortage in Swale of accommodation in the private rented sector which would be both suitable and affordable for a Syrian refugee family. It is important to recognise that these families are likely to have particular needs which, during the period in which they are integrating into UK life, will represent a considerable demand on public services, and this needs to be managed carefully if the level of services offered to existing residents is not to be compromised. I believe two families per year is manageable and represents a fair balance between these two competing priorities.

 

Our aim will be to ensure that we can offer the hospitality which the majority of our taxpayers would want us to offer, without adversely affecting the local public services on which existing residents depend.

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