Agenda item

Public questions

This report sets out the public questions received for this meeting. 


Question A – Sandra Fowler, of Chatham, asked the Portfolio Holder for Heritage, Culture and Leisure, Councillor Mahil, the following:

“Some Councillors, particularly those who are football fans, will have visited last year’s well received exhibition at the Guildhall Museum, which celebrated the life and achievements of Strood-born Isaac Newell. There is a growing national and international campaign to erect a statue of Newell in his birthplace.

Will Medway Council offer support to this worthy campaign and in doing so will it help find a site in Strood for this statue?”

Councillor Mahil thanked Mrs Fowler for the question. He said that he was proud of Medway’s association with Isaac Newell and delighted that his historical importance in the development of football in Argentina had been recognised.

The exhibition held at the Guildhall Museum in 2022 had been well received and the Council had continued to promote the importance of Isaac by the setting up of a permanent exhibition at Strood Sports Centre and inducting him into the Medway Hall of Fame at the December 2022 Sports Awards.

Councillor Mahil said the Council would be happy to engage with any organisation interested in further promoting the story of Isaac and he would be happy to discuss options with Mrs Fowler.

Question B – Jessica McCann, of Hoo, submitted the following to the Portfolio Holder for Climate Change and Strategic Regeneration, Councillor Curry:

“I am concerned at the lack of rail links in Hoo. Our nearest station is 5 miles away and we are forced to drive. Yet money is spent on cycling lanes. In an area where there are no shops or infrastructure for the locals, cycle lanes will not help transport in Hoo. We need better bus routes in the morning. It takes someone 35 minutes on the bus to get to the nearest station.

If you think this is acceptable, please explain why?”

Note: As Jessica McCann was not present, the Mayor stated that they would receive a written response to their question in accordance with Council Rule 8.6.

Question C – Lindsey Burke, of Rochester, submitted the following to thePortfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Councillor Price:

“As Medway Council has now entered a SEND Safety Valve Agreement with the Conservative Government, I hope they can reassure parents of SEND children in Medway how they are making sure they are fully compliant with their legal obligations to children and young people with SEND over the five-year safety valve agreement. 

Will they explain what this arrangement is in more detail to help us understand better what the safety valve intervention programme means for children and young people’s Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCPs) unlike the current Government’s smoke screen?”

Note: As Lindsey Burke was not present, the Mayor stated that they would receive a written response to their question in accordance with Council Rule 8.6.

Question D – Peter Harrison, of Rainham, submitted the following to the Portfolio Holder for Climate Change and Strategic Regeneration, Councillor Curry:

“‘Have your say' would seem to be another complete waste of time, as the Council listen and take absolutely no notice of the general consensus of the majority of Medway residents.

For example, regarding the red route through Rainham, sixty percent of respondents don't think it is needed, yet, the Council is still going ahead at a cost of £805,000 (the total cost for the introduction of the five schemes across Medway).

So, I do wonder what is the point of 'Have your say', I believe that Medway is turning into a communist council, not a democratic council.

Why are you not listening to the residents of Medway?”

Note: As Peter Harrison was not present, the Mayor stated that they would receive a written response to their question in accordance with Council Rule 8.6.

Question E - Tracey Wilson, of Strood, submitted the following to thePortfolio Holder for Housing and Property, Councillor Khan:

“If you cannot even run a proper facility for shoppers to go to the toilet (In relation to the unusable automatic public convenience (APC) in Newark Yard, Strood – and which has recently been set fire to), how on earth are you supposed to be running Medway?”

Note: As Tracey Wilson was not present, the Mayor stated that they would receive a written response to their question in accordance with Council Rule 8.6.

Question F – Nicholas Chan, of Gillingham, asked thePortfolio Holder for Climate Change and Strategic Regeneration, Councillor Curry, the following:


“Under Medway Council's contract with Veolia on Dry Mixed Recyclables (DMR), can the Portfolio Holder please set out what means of transport will Veolia use to ship DMR to the Southwark Integrated Waste Management Facility, including details of the carbon footprint of those transportation methods for the October 2022 to October 2024 contract?”

Councillor Curry thanked Mr Chan for the question. He said that accurate information on the carbon footprint was not presently available. As part of an ongoing workstream, the Waste Services Team was working with partner agencies to develop wider Scope 3 Emissions data, which would include this information.


Medway Council placed addressing climate change at the heart of its work, particularly regarding waste management.


Question G – Mathew Broadley, of Chatham, asked thePortfolio Holder for Social Regeneration and Inward Investment, Councillor Edwards, the following:

“In 2019, the Tory-run Medway Council purchased the Pentagon Shopping Centre, for £34.8 million.

In 2021, the Tory-run Medway Council purchased Mountbatten House, for £1.975 million.

The cross-party Medway Towns Centres Strategy (2022) has failed already and is not robust enough to weather the storm of national, household brands collapsing and market-behaviours moving towards online shopping. This is evident following Wilko, one of the largest shopping units by floor space, recently closing in the Pentagon.

At the time of writing, there are a large number of vacant shopping units within the Pentagon, with more long-term tenants indicating that they will shortly be closing up shop.

Kelly Tolhurst, the MP for Rochester and Strood (which includes Chatham Town Centre and the Pentagon Shopping Centre) has recently made an intervention stating that she wants the Pentagon “levelled to free up space for new housing”.

Labour’s response to the 2019 Tory acquisition of the Pentagon was to declare that “a future Labour controlled Council would deliver an effective strategy to revitalise the Pentagon and the wider Town Centre”.

It has been three years since the acquisition, where is Labour’s “effective strategy to revitalise the Pentagon and the wider Town Centre” as the decline appears to be accelerating under this Labour administration?”

Councillor Edwards thanked Mr Broadley for the question and for bringing the comments of the Member of Parliament for Rochester and Strood to the attention of Full Council. While the need for diversity in the centre of Chatham was recognised, including the provision of housing, she said that the Pentagon should not be demolished for housing as the future of its first floor as a place for local people to access vital health services and an innovative place for local startups to work would be key to revitalising Chatham.

Councillor Edwards considered that the comments made by the MP had been deeply unhelpful and reckless. The Council had needed to reach out to partners to assure them that the Council’s plans had not changed and that it remained committed to the future vision for the Pentagon. Any effective strategy to revitalise the Pentagon needed to be built on a foundation of security and confidence for potential partners to be willing to invest.

The new administration had only taken control of Medway Council in May 2023 and had been working hard on plans to revitalise the Pentagon. A number of exciting projects were in development, including a Healthy Living Centre and an Innovation Hub, that would provide co-working spaces and support for the local business community. These plans would help to bring more people to the centre of Chatham, benefiting existing local shops and restaurants in the Pentagon and wider town centre.

Question H – Trish Marchant, of Gillingham, asked the Leader of the Council, Councillor Maple, the following:

“Accessibility has been a phrase that multiple administrations, both locally and nationally, have promoted for over a decade.

The Disability Discrimination Act (1995) and The Equality Act (2010) are in place to support the needs of a wide range of people and the Accessibility Regulations (2018)  emphasise the need for online resources to “meet accessibility standards” and highlighted that “1 in 5 people in the UK have a long-term illness, impairment or disability, many more have a temporary disability”, which is the equivalent of approximately 56,000 people in Medway.

At our last Council meeting my friend’s question could not be asked in person as she was unable to attend due to her disability. Questions not asked receive a written response which I feel falls short of the accessibility expectations of the Council.

The current process thus actively disempowers people who struggle to attend these meetings and so are unable to “exercise their public function”. Disabled people should be able to engage in their democratic duty in the same way as non-disabled people and this needs to be reformed by Medway Council.

Reflecting on the above, will the Leader of the Council now commit to reforming the process by which public questions are asked to:

  1. Allow those who have submitted a public question to ask it remotely using an online facility.

2.    Allow those who have submitted a public question to appoint a person who can ask the question on their behalf?”

Councillor Maple thanked Ms Marchant for the question. He apologised that her friend had been unable to ask her question at the Council meeting in July, although she had been sent a written response on 26 July 2023and this written response, along with others, had been published to the Council’s website after the meeting.

Proposals would be brought to the next Council meeting so that members of the public who had submitted questions, but were unable to attend, would receive a response to their question at the meeting. A report due to be considered later in the current meeting would also ask the Council to agree to re-introduce supplementary questions for public questions.

Councillor Maple said that councils did have special dispensation to run online meetings during the Covid pandemic but that this had since been rescinded. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities had consulted on the matter but so far there had been no proposals from central government that would allow councils to run remote meetings. An update would be requested from the Department as the issue directly linked to the facilitation of greater public participation.

Question I – Vivienne Parker, of Chatham, asked the Portfolio Holder for Climate Change and Strategic Regeneration, Councillor Curry, the following:

“Would the Council be willing to install a crossing near Bridgewoods ASDA?

People have already broken down the fence at this point to cross to the other side and without the crossing they are having to navigate the Bridgewoods roundabout on foot or walk back to Watson Avenue carrying heavy shopping, not good if you are elderly or disabled.”

Councillor Curry thanked Ms Parker for the question. He acknowledged the challenges presented by the location of the ASDA store on a busy dual carriageway and accepted that the controlled crossings along this section of the A229 were situated a little distance away. Residents were encouraged to make sustainable transport choices and the Council did what it could to improve accessibility and make choices easier.


A local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan that identified areas of Medway where things could be improved was currently being developed. This would look at the existing walking and cycling network, identify gaps and prioritise routes for improvement. Whilst commitment could not currently be given to installing a crossing near ASDA, Councillor Curry would ensure that the A229 in the vicinity of the store was considered as part of this work.


Question J – Carl Dunks, of Rainham, submitted the following to the Deputy Leader, Councillor Murray:

“Can there be a wholesale review of mental health in the Medway Towns?

As with my Tourette’s, Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), there is no help whatsoever and a lack of knowledge about the condition as well.”

Note: As Carl Dunks was not present, the Mayor stated that they would receive a written response to their question in accordance with Council Rule 8.6.

Question K – Alan Wells, of Chatham, submitted the following to thePortfolio Holder for Climate Change and Strategic Regeneration, Councillor Curry:

“The Environment Agency's report TE2100 has stated that flash floods and flooding are projected to rise considerably by 2050.

Land on some parts of the Hoo Peninsula falls within flood zone 3 which has a high probability of flooding. Flood defences have been built to protect and reduce flooding, but do not completely stop the chance of flooding because they can be overtopped or fail.

Flood defence upgrades can deliver social value and multiple benefits. In some places in the outer estuary, they will need to be in place earlier. This is because planning for defence raising will need to start before 2030.

In relation to North Kent Marshes Policy Unit: Thames Estuary 2100 (TE2100), on what needs to be done to manage flood risk and adapt to rising sea levels. The North Kent Marshes Policy Unit consists of two large areas north and west of the village of Cliffe. It extends from Gravesend to St Mary’s Marshes and includes Cliffe.

The areas at risk of flooding include freshwater grazing marshes and designated freshwater habitats. There are also designated intertidal habitats along much of the estuary frontage. The marshes also contain valuable historic, military and industrial features, such as: Shornemeade Fort, Cliffe Fort and Cliffe Gunpowder Works. TE2100 states that there is currently no riverside strategy for this area.

The Council will need to produce strategies either as a standalone document or part of a Local Plan, and be in place by 2030. In some places in the outer estuary, they will need to be in place earlier. This is because planning for defence raising will need to start before 2030. Decisions taken by the Council in the 2020s will determine the quality of public space along the river for generations.

What strategies will the Council put in place to manage flood risks, for future flood defence requirements, so that communities and businesses are more aware of flood risk and able to adapt, respond and recover from flooding? This is particularly important in areas where flood risk will increase over time with climate change.”

Note: As Alan Wells was not present, the Mayor stated that they would receive a written response to their question in accordance with Council Rule 8.6.

Question L – Stuart Bourne, of Rainham, asked thePortfolio Holder for Climate Change and Strategic Regeneration, Councillor Curry, the following:

“We are currently facing a climate emergency and a cost-of-living crisis, where growing your own fruit and vegetables can have a dramatic impact on reducing food miles and providing cheap healthy food. And for those without large gardens allotments have been the only way for many people to do this.

Yet the data I have seen, shows that since 2018 the waiting list has nearly tripled from 695 to 2009 people. And the average waiting time for a new plot is now 2.5 years, whilst some people have been waiting 5 years and have still not got a plot.

It is shocking that so many people want to do the right thing, but are hampered and discouraged.

Can the Portfolio Holder please explain the cause of this ever increasing backlog, setting out what action will be taken to ensure it will be cleared?”

Councillor Curry thanked Mr Bourne for the question. He said that it was not always possible to provide suitable allotment space close to where people live and that demand had historically been greater than supply.


The Council had commissioned a new greenspace study that included an allotment module. This would allow the Council to assess allotment provision across Medway, identifying where demand exceeded provision and where possible, identify if more allotment and community growing spaces could be provided. When plots became available in existing allotments, consideration was given as to whether the plots could be subdivided. In partnership with the Allotment Association, work was being completed to bring vacant plots back into good order so that they could be re-let.


The Council was also assessing where its existing greenspaces could be used for allotment space, an example being Cozenton Park where besides the new Tree Nursery, allotments and community growing spaces would be provided.


Medway Council did not have the resources available to satisfy the full demand for allotment space. Through the Local Plan process the Council would be reviewing its policies around allotments and seeking, where appropriate, new allotments and community growing spaces enabled through development and financial developer contributions. As part of the Local Plan process, a public consultation was taking place until the end of October and residents were encouraged to provide their views on the provision of services, including allotments.


Question M – John Castle, of Chatham, asked thePortfolio Holder for Community Safety and Enforcement, Councillor Osborne, the following:

“The sewage leaks by Southern Water are a matter that all levels of government should rightly take seriously. Medway has a large estuary and the Medway estuary continues to see regular sewage leaks from Southern Water. This is a health risk and environmentally damaging, Medway Council should not allow the companies to get away with these leaks.

Other councils with rivers and where coastal access is vital to individuals and businesses in their communities have taken action to ensure that Water companies cannot hide from their leaks. Currently, water companies are obliged to test water quality, but can do so at a time of their choosing, allowing them to pick and choose when to carry out the tests.

I trust the Council agrees with me that this is insufficient, therefore, will the Council work with partners to ensure that Water companies cannot get away with marking their own work, including to ensure that regular testing of the estuaries in Medway is carried out?”

Councillor Osborne thanked Mr Castle for the question. He agreed that the discharge of sewage within the Medway Estuary by water companies was not acceptable. In June 2022, Councillor Osborne had submitted a Member’s item and representatives of Southern Water were invited to attend. A Member visit had taken place to Motney Hill sewage works, during which it had been made clear that infrastructure improvements and costs should not fall on the taxpayer and that the water company was expected to do better.

The Member’s item and this visit led to increased engagement and a commitment from Southern Water to improve reporting metrics and to give residents a single point of contact for discharges. Southern Water also agreed to review the impact of discharges on the natural environment and to engage fully in the Council’s Local Plan process. Members also met with leading advocates challenging sewage outflows nationally, including events in Rochester and fully supported the work that advocates were undertaking relating to rivers and coasts. While supportive of residents’ efforts to challenge the problem, councils had limited powers regarding sewage outflows.

Councillor Osborne said that the Environment Agency had increased their monitoring of water companies and Medway Council had agreed to working with partners to ensure that regular testing of water was undertaken within the estuary to ensure water quality. However, this needed to be more robust and needed national government support. It was important for there to be consistency in the reporting for outflows and a strengthened Environment Agency was needed to engage in mandatory testing across all rivers.


Question N – Onyx Rist, of Rainham, asked theLeader of the Council, Councillor Maple, the following:

“Does Councillor Maple agree with Medway Liberal Democrats of the need to be inclusive of the non-binary community on equality monitoring forms?”

Councillor Maple thanked Onyx Rist for the question. He said that Inclusivity of all communities was important. Collecting equality data enabled a better understanding of local communities and the local workforce.


Non-binary was an option included in equality monitoring as part of Medway’s recruitment process. Equality monitoring questions used in surveys and consultations aligned with those used by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in the 2021 Census. The importance of information about gender identity was recognised for policy development and service planning, as well as the need for information on those with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment, as set out in the Equality Act 2010.


When consulting with local communities, there was a need to balance asking questions about gender with other obligations, such as data protection. Many of the Council’s consultations considered topics that affected everyone. In these instances, collecting information about a person’s gender could be disproportionate, as a relatively small number of responses was unlikely to be able to identify statistically significant differences within the wider community. Where it was appropriate to ask about gender identity, alternate methods to collect views may also be considered, such as approaching recognised local groups to ask those who attend to share their views as this qualitative research was likely to identify better information.


Question O – Kate Belmonte, of Gillingham, submitted the following to the Portfolio Holder for Climate Change and Strategic Regeneration, Councillor Curry:

“In 2021 I was part of the Pump Lane Steering Group who successfully fought against AC Goatham's application to destroy 126 acres of prime agricultural land in Rainham.

Medway Council has now published a new Land Availability Assessment report as part of its Local Plan consultation process. I note that within the report it recommends that the land, which was saved from development, should proceed to Stage 2 of the assessment process.

Medway Council spent tens of thousands of tax payers’ money to protect this land, are they now happy to concrete over the orchards?”

Note: As Kate Belmonte was not present, the Mayor stated that they would receive a written response to their question in accordance with Council Rule 8.6.

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