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Poll: Gravesham councillors in £15,000 Disney World trip
Gravesham Council’s top brass are heading to Disney World on a £15,000 trip ahead of plans for a massive theme park in Swanscombe.
Five councillors, including leader Coun John Burden, and four officers will be flying to, Orlando, Florida on April 19 for a three day visit.
As well as Disney World the party will take in Universal Studios and Island of Adventure as well as neighbouring developments and communities.
The trip has been organised by developers London Resort Company Holdings who are behind plans for the £2 billion Paramount Park development in the Swanscombe peninsula.
Coun Burden said: “The programme for this visit is extremely busy being packed with serious business discussions which should provide invaluable insights into the issues surrounding the development of a truly global attraction on our doorstep.
“It is entirely right the council examines all these issues fully and we are grateful to LRCH for facilitating these meetings with key people and communities which have had direct experience of facing and overcoming those challenges.
The Gravesham Council party will be on their way to Disney World next month.
“This is the biggest development project in Europe and has global significance.
“The impact it will have is life-changing for everyone in the area and possibly far beyond.
“We have to get this right and prepare to be in a position to inform the discussions yet to come.”
The council claims the cost of the visit – approximately £15,441 – will be met from the costs of processing the planning application.
A council spokesman said the sum represents just a small slice of a pot of money running into the hundreds of thousands of pounds which will be made available by LRCH.
Such a fund to cover expenses incurred by planning authorities is normal for projects of this size once an expected planning application is put in later this year.
But for now the cost of the visit over the April bank holiday will be covered by council tax payers.
Councillors hope to learn more about managing the Paramount Park planning process.
A council press release trumpeted the event as a chance for councillors to “see at close quarters the issues for local communities surrounding the establishment of a world-class leisure project”.
Coun Burden added: “It would be foolish to see this project as just another planning application because in reality the scheme is of almost unimaginable proportions with colossal repercussions.”
It is claimed first-hand knowledge of similarly large projects will help councillors and officers deal with the complicated planning process for Paramount Park.
LRCH has set up meetings with senior figures in Florida who had to deal with the massive effects on transportation, housing and the local economy caused by theme parks.
The Paramount Park scheme, announced in November 2012, could bring up to 27,000 jobs to north Kent.
A 70-acre site of mainly derelict land straddling the border between Gravesham and Dartford is set to be developed.
Bryan Sweetland, Gravesham Council Conservative Councillor for Istead Rise, said: “At a time when Gravesham’s Labour controlled council have just increased our council tax and council house rents, organising an expenses paid sight seeing trip to Florida for nine councillors and staff simply proves they are completely out of touch with ordinary people.
"This will be seen by the general public as another jolly and I want no part in it.
"I’m sure they will feel completely at home in the Magic Kingdom."
Full list of Orlando attendees:
1. Coun John Burden (Gravesham Council leader)
2. Coun Jane Cribbon (chair of the regulatory board)
3. Coun Andrea Webb (cabinet member for communities)
4. Coun John Cubitt (leader of the opposition group)
5. Coun Robin Theobald (planning shadow lead member)
6. Kevin Burbidge (director of housing and regeneration)
7. Simon Hookway (economic development manager)
8. Peter Price (principal planning officer)
9. Wendy Lane (principal planner, policy).
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