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The Observatory housing development at Hollow Lane, Wincheap, is seeing houses valued at upwards of £500,000

Party wants to give communities more clout in planning matters

South East Liberal Democrats are calling for people to have a greater say over planning issues.

The proposal was raised at the party’s regional conference, held at the Spires Academy in Hersden on Saturday.

Lib Dems believe that people and their communities are finding themselves shut out of the planning process.

They want to give communities a grant of up to £5,000 to pay for lawyers and planning consultants to match those hired by developers behind schemes.

The Canterbury Liberal Democrats described the plan as “a simple, cheap and understandable proposal that would introduce a safety valve into the democratic process”.

A spokesman went on: “It is not a Nimby’s charter, but a way of putting a bit more power and influence into the hands of local people.

“It should also improve the dialogue between communities, developers and councils by giving residents a bit more muscle.”

The grant money would not come from local taxpayers but from central government. Each council would be awarded an annual grants pot of £50,000, with large councils getting proportionately more.

The proposal was overwhelmingly endorsed by the conference and will now be debated at national level.

Among those attending the conference were MPs Stephen Lloyd (Eastbourne), Ed Davey (Kingston) and Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) as well as Baroness Judith Jolly and the leader of the opposition on Kent County Council, Rob Bird.

The party conference was held the day after the Lib Dems learned that they had come second in the Kent County Council by-election for the Canterbury North division.

Candidate Alex Lister polled 756 votes, almost 100 more than Labour’s Ben Hickman. Conservative Rob Thomas polled 1,355 to become a county as well as city councillor.

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