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Gravesend Tory leader says Disney World Florida trip 'not a jolly'
Gravesham's Tory opposition leader has defended the council's decision to spend £15,000 sending five councillors and four officers to Disney World in Florida next month saying "we are not going on a jolly".
As well as Disney World the party will take in tours of Universal Studios and Island of Adventure as well as neighbouring developments and communities.
The trip has been organised by developers London Resort Company Holdings (LRCH) who are behind plans for the £2 billion Paramount Park development in the Swanscombe peninsula.
The trip will be paid for by taxpayers money to start with but then paid for by the cost of the planning application.
John Cubitt, ward councillor for Meopham North, told News Shopper: "There are always those who will accuse members of ‘going on a jolly’ but we don’t regard giving up our Easter Holiday for two long flights and an intensive series of meetings combined with a whistle stop tour of theme parks in America, as ‘a jolly’.
"Theme park noise (other than noting how it affects nearby communities), crowds and contrived excitement don’t particularly interest us.
"We do these things in the service of the council and our constituents not for personal gain."
The party of nine leave on April 19 for the three-day trip.
Dartford Council's leader Conservative Jeremy Kite has said that he was not invited on the trip and even if he was asked he wouldn't go.
The Paramount Park development lies predominantly in Dartford but with much of the infrastructure in Gravesend.
As well as Disney World the party will take in Universal Studios and Island of Adventure as well as neighbouring developments and communities.
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."
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, added: "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."
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