Rehman Chishti fails to get yet another job
Plus minor parties prepare for General Election, planning committee fails to commit, and more
Between second jobs, foreign jaunts, and a failed effort to become Prime Minister, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chisthi has had quite a year. This week he attempted to land a vital parliamentary role - read on to find out how that went for him. Further down we have news on General Election candidates of some of Medway’s minor parties, a bewildering planning decision, and lots more.
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Rehman Chishti fails to get yet another job
Our commiserations to Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti who was spectacularly defeated this week in his efforts to become Chair of the Defence Committee in Parliament.
Chishti has increasingly been looking rather beyond his constituency in recent years, taking a lavish second job overseas, going on a number of foreign jaunts, and of course, trying to become Prime Minister.
Much like that effort, he seemed to launch his campaign for Defence Committee Chair at the last minute. He ran on a platform featuring his international work and his career as a barrister (non-practising). Most prominently, he highlighted his role as a British Army Reservist, a role he spent so much time on that he was paid a grand total of £16 for his efforts.
With these credentials, surely Rehman would be a serious contender for the role? Particularly as there was only one other candidate: A fellow Conservative MP called Jeremy Quin, who the majority of us won’t have even heard of before this week. Better still for Rehman’s chances was the fact that Quin was less experienced than him, being elected five years later, and most devastatingly of all for a Conservative MP in 2024, he was also a Remainer.
So did Rehman pull off the big win?
Of course he didn’t.
In the end, Jeremy Quin beat Rehman by a 79% to 21% margin, a fairly thumping result.
Still, while this may not have been the result that Rehman would have wanted, he should take some solace in the fact he did pick up the votes of 101 fellow MPs, which is exactly 100 more than he achieved during his efforts to become Prime Minister.
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Minor parties prepare for General Election
We know a General Election is coming this year, even if - because of our silly system - we don’t know when it might take place.
All three of our Conservative MPs are believed to be standing again, and Labour has chosen two of their three candidates with Naushabah Khan in Gillingham and Rainham and Lauren Edwards in Rochester and Strood. It is expected that Chatham and Aylesford will make their selection shortly.
Meanwhile, some of the smaller parties are also getting their candidates in place with the hope that maybe they’ll be able to keep hold of their deposits.
The Medway Lib Dems recently announced their three candidates: Stuart Bourne in Gillingham and Rainham, Nicholas Chan in Chatham and Aylesford, and Graham Colley in Rochester and Strood.
None of these names are hugely surprising. Stuart Bourne has been a prominent activist within the party over recent years and has built a network of support within the Rainham community. Nicholas Chan stood aside Bourne in the recent local elections and has wasted no time getting himself photographed around the Aylesford part of his constituency. Colley has been a long-time activist and was the party’s candidate for Kent Police and Crime Commissioner in 2021, and has stood for Parliament on three occasions, with his best result being second place in 1987.
Elsewhere, the turquoise UKIPpers at the Reform Party have also announced their Medway candidates, and much like the Lib Dems but even less surprisingly, have found three men to stand. In Rochester and Strood they have selected Daniel Dabin, a coffee shop owner from Gravesend, whose Twitter account holds some very pleasant opinions. In Gillingham and Rainham they have selected Rizvi Rawoof from Rochester, who appears to have been a Conservative candidate in previous years. Finally, in Chatham and Aylesford they have chosen Thomas Mallon, who we know literally nothing about.
Yet still, there are more. Following standing two candidates in Medway’s local elections, the SDP (not that one but kind of) will be putting forward Steven Tanner in Chatham and Aylesford and Peter Wheeler in Gillingham and Rainham. So far, there is no sign that they have found a third member to stand in Rochester and Strood.
There will certainly be other candidates too. The Medway Greens are sure to stand candidates but will likely announce just before polls open if their previous efforts are anything to go by. Inevitably, a handful of overly optimistic independents will throw their hats into the ring too.
This General Election will be one of the most significant Medway has faced for a long time, with our seats seemingly in genuine contention to change hands. What impact these smaller party efforts will have on that remains to be seen.
Planning Committee unable to commit
An utterly bewildering Medway Council planning committee this week saw councillors defer deciding on an application because they felt they were not knowledgeable enough to do so.
It isn’t wholly unusual for decisions to be deferred for many reasons, and often this will be because councillors feel they need more information from the developer or other stakeholders before they can make their decision.
That was not the case here though. Councillors deferred the application purely because they didn’t know how to make the right decision.
The application concerned the redevelopment of the Riley’s snooker hall site in Green Street, Gillingham. The developer proposed expanding and refurbishing the building to accommodate 57 new flats. Given the urban location and disused nature of the current site, the plans seem sound enough.
The problem came from a debate about the viability of the scheme between the developer and Medway Council. Developers will often cite viability concerns in their applications as a way of offering to build homes but suggesting there isn’t enough profit margin to provide affordable housing or contributions for local services.
In this case, the developer has seemingly proposed that the entire project will lose them nearly £5m, which has led to Medway Council quite rightly asking why they are even bothering in the first place. We aren’t experts in viability assessments so aren’t in a position to say who is right here, but the full documents are here if you’d like to wade in yourself.
Ironically, the planning committee don’t seem to be experts either, with councillors proposing that because they are a ‘new’ committee, they should defer to receive training on how viability assessments work. If they were a new committee would be somewhat understandable, but they have been in post for eight months now. Given the planning application for this site was submitted in 2022 and is already a year late in being decided, it’s not as if no one saw this coming. Why wasn’t training put in place for councillors to understand the technical details in the months before it was actually needed?
The committee are insistent that the application will be decided at next month’s meeting so this isn’t a significant delay. Given the agreed decision date is next week, there isn’t anything to stop the developer from immediately taking the matter to appeal as the council has failed to make a decision, something Conservative leader Cllr Adrian Gulvin raised in the meeting. There is no sign that the developer intends to do that and officers suggested they are comfortable with the one delay, but it does feel like a fairly sloppy way of doing things.
💉 Only 82.5% of children in Medway are vaccinated against measles. This is well below the 95% needed for herd immunity. Seems fine.
🗑️ Medway has seen a 2% increase in flytipping and a 67% drop in prosecutions for the offence. In all, barely 1% of flytipping incidents result in prosecution.
🏗️ KentLive has asked four entire people in Strood what they think of the Strood Civic Centre redevelopment plans. Some are reasonable, some are as ridiculous as you’d expect.
🌯 Plan Burrito is opening on Gillingham High Street. It follows recent openings for the Tex-Mex chain in Ramsgate and Canterbury.
🎞️ The lovely people at the award-winning ‘cene magazine have been down to explore the creative businesses in the Intra part of Medway between Rochester and Chatham.
Events this week
🛠️ Medway Libraries are holding their first Repair Cafe at Strood Community Hub tomorrow (Sat 20 Jan) between 10.30am and 1pm. Bring along old items that need fixing, and the team of volunteer repair experts will do their best to get them up and running again.
🎸 Indiepop supergroup Swansea Sound play a free gig at Rochester Social Club tomorrow (Sat 20 Jan) at 7.30pm. Swansea Sound features Rob and Amelia from the legendary Heavenly and Tallulah Gosh, local legend Bob Collins of The Dentists, and several other indiepop luminaries. Support from local rockers The High Span.
🥕 The monthly Rochester Farmers’ Market is this Sunday (21 Jan) in the Blue Boar Lane car park selling a range of fresh, local produce.
🏪 Kevin Smith’s seminal first film Clerks is getting a one night only screening at the Odeon in Chatham on Tuesday (23 Jan). Possibly the first time the film has even been exhibited in Medway, it’s back in cinemas to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Oh god, we’re all so old.
🗣️ The first full Medway Council meeting of 2024 is on Wednesday (24 Jan) at the St. George’s Centre in Chatham. On the agenda: Temporary accommodation, the Pentagon, and councillors losing their minds over red routes.
Can you help us?
⛪ We’re looking into Temple Manor in Strood and how well looked after and utilised the site is given it feels like it should be a prominent heritage site. If you have any insights on the site or would like to share an opinion, please get in touch.
🏚️ We’d also like to speak to anyone with knowledge of what is going on with the Spembly Works building in Chatham. The prominent office-to-residential conversion now sits abandoned, dominating the skyline around New Road as it falls increasingly into disrepair.
Email email@example.com if you can help out with the above either on or off the record, or if you have any stories that might interest our readers.
Our paid supporters receive extra editions of Local Authority every week. This week, we published our monthly planning report, looking at a range of developments facing our towns. This month we featured a sunken bar in a historic Rochester site a significant redevelopment in the Intra area, new homes on a former ambulance station, and lots more. Elsewhere, Steven interviewed photographer and educator Rikard Österlund on what brought him to Medway and kept him here, meeting Ralph Steadman, and wet plate photography and how it connects to the history of the Medway Towns.
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