Steve Harwood

Labour Activist, #Sharkstoppers Campaigner and Blogger

Labour Activist, #Sharkstoppers Campaigner and Blogger. All views are my own (well, some were originally my mother's...) 

Steve Doran talks to Dartford Matters

Q1  What do you consider to be Swanscombe’s best asset?

SD – LAB

Its people. The residents of Swanscombe have a genuine pride in their community and they actively engage in order to make it better, for themselves and their neighbours. You see it in the commitment of local business owners, the passion of people who run community projects and the interest they take in local politics. Going door-to-door as part of this campaign has demonstrated this time and time again – people who want to discuss local issues, who take the time to sign our petitions and take action on local campaigns.

Q2  It seems inevitable that the area of Swanscombe Peninsula will either become the site of the new River Crossing or a theme/leisure park.  What are your opinions on both options?

SD – LAB

The Paramount Leisure Park is an exciting project and has the potential to bring jobs and tourism to the area – so I welcome it. However, the project will only improve life for people in Swanscombe if it is managed with the local residents in mind. That means listening to the views and concerns of local people – particularly around making sure we get the right road and rail infrastructure in place to support the number of visitors. Swanscombe won’t benefit if residents find themselves trapped in all directions by traffic. I’ll support the project but also campaign to make sure that the infrastructure is there so that local people don’t end up shouldering inconvenience while others benefit.

I’m totally opposed to building a new River Crossing in Swanscombe – it would have an awful impact on the local area.  I’ve seen the problems the air pollution and congestion caused by the existing crossing has had on Dartford and we don’t want those problems transferred to Swanscombe. The pressure on the road network in and around Swanscombe is already very high and the addition of a River Crossing would just make an existing problem for residents much worse.

A new River Crossing in Swanscombe just doesn’t make sense – it won’t relive pressure on the local road network and it won’t provide a genuine alternative to traffic using the existing crossing. Of the three options presented by the Government, only option C – east of Gravesend – achieves those objectives.

Q3  There are proposals to create about 6 000 new homes within Swanscombe in the near future. What effect do you think this will have on Swanscombe and how will it affect its relationship with the rest of the Borough of Dartford?

SD – LAB

I know there is a need for more housing in Swanscombe; we need more council houses, and we need more affordable houses. Speaking to residents, I hear countless stories of people who have been on council housing waiting lists for years, people who are facing an uphill struggle to save enough for a deposit, people who don’t want to move away from the community they love just so they can have a place of their own. So on the surface of it, 6000 new homes seems like nothing but good news. However, it could be just the opposite if there isn’t the infrastructure there to support it. Eastern Quarry will not work without extensive improvements to the Bean/A2 interchange, and an extension to the fast track service, and I will lobby tirelessly for the funding and the action that is required.

Then there’s the question of who is really suffering as a result of the housing crisis, and how Eastern Quarry can help those people. At the moment, planning permission allows for 30% affordable housing, but the likelihood is that as little as 5% will be social housing. In order to realise the true potential of Eastern Quarry for local people, we need to challenge the council on their targets for social housing.

Q4  At the last election, Swanscombe and Greenhithe Residents Association candidates had a lead in excess of 600 over Labour and UKIP. For Conservative, Labour, Independent and UKIP candidates What would be your key pitch to try and win the voters over?

SD – LAB

I would ask them whether their lives have improved, or gone downhill, since the Resident’s Association candidates were elected. They’ve raised local council tax 25% this year, having already raised it the year previously, but services simply don’t reflect this.  Swanscombe pays the highest level of Council Tax in the Borough but local people are not getting a good deal.

I’m standing because I want to speak up for people who have been ignored by the Resident’s Association and the Conservative Council. Everyone in Swanscombe, regardless of their background, should feel that their local councillor will stand up for them. I know the challenges that people face, the financial restraints, the difficulty getting hold of information, the trials of working around a job and a family – I know, because I’ve faced them. I won’t let these things disadvantage others the way they disadvantaged me, I’ll always have them in mind and I’ll always make the effort.

Q5 What will you do to give local residents more opportunities to contribute to the local community?

SD – LAB

Firstly, I would make the time to go and speak to residents, rather than waiting for them to come to me. We tell people it’s their responsibility to research what’s going on, make the necessary contacts, do all the leg work – but that’s not their job. These people have jobs, and families, and commitments, and they shouldn’t have to spend their time chasing us for opportunities. We should be bringing the opportunities to them, going door to door, posting information locally, attending local meetings and events, being available – that is our job.

Secondly, I would be sure to remember that there are any number of ways to get involved and any number of people who want to, so it’s no good sticking to the community projects that I’ve enjoyed – I have to support people from all walks of life, in all manner of interests. That means listening. It means engaging in consultation, finding out what skills and interests aren’t catered to and researching ways we can bring new projects to Swanscombe.

Finally, I’d make an effort to engage young people, who have been dismissed by this government and who don’t seem to be getting anything from the Resident’s Association. I’d begin by forging links with Ebbsfleet Academy, giving young people an opportunity to express their concerns and giving them the chance to get involved in local politics.

Q6 If the proverbial genie in the bottle could give you one wish on how to improve Swanscombe, what would it be?

SD – LAB

A huge underground car park, complete with high capacity storm drains!  Although in the absence of supernatural assistance, I’ll have to go back to consulting with residents and appropriate bodies in order to improve these issues that are currently having a huge effect on so many people.

Q7  Finally, if you were to walk into the Caveman Brewery Cave, what would be your tipple of choice?

SD – LAB

I’m more a light-beer drinker than an ale lover, so I would probably go for the Citra, although, as I have a bit of a sweet tooth, I might be tempted by the Mesolithic…

The original article and the other candidates responses are available at Dartford Matters

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