Rochester and Strood: The candidates' priorities

Rochester Castle
Image caption Candidates have discovered plenty of local issues of concern to constituents

The Rochester and Strood by-election has captured national attention, following MP Mark Reckless's defection from the Conservatives to UKIP.

But the candidates say there are plenty of local issues to focus on as they vie for votes on the streets of the Kent towns.

Here, the five main parties' candidates identify their top three priorities, as the by-election campaign moves into its final fortnight.

And intriguingly, despite the high profile of immigration among the main parties, it figures barely at all in the list of top issues, hand-picked by the candidates for the BBC News website.

Louise Stewart, the BBC's political editor for the South East, says: "It was always going to be a big issue, given this by-election was triggered by the defection from the Conservatives to UKIP.

"But it's by no means the only issue being discussed on the doorsteps."

A full list of candidates can be seen at the bottom of this article.

Clive Gregory, Green Party candidate

Image copyright Green Party
Image caption Greens leader Natalie Bennett visited Lodge Hill during her trip to the constituency to support Clive Gregory
  1. Medway Maritime Hospital

"Because of the relentless privatisation of the NHS and the formation of the Medway Maritime into a foundation trust, the hospital has effectively been cast out to fend for itself."

Mr Gregory says the Gillingham hospital's age and location create "special problems not experienced by the brand new hospitals", and he wants an emphasis on local training to reduce dependency on agency staff.

He also wants its A&E department safeguarded and pledged to hold any future chief executive to account.

2. Lodge Hill

"The proposed development [of 5,000 homes] will destroy this site forever. It is ridiculous for the development company to pretend that it can somehow be 'moved'."

The site, within Chattenden Woods, on the fringe of the Hoo Peninsula, has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is notable for its importance for the nightingale.

"We are also aware many 'vulture' developers are viewing the area with interest simply because it's seemingly not very busy or developed."

3. Small Business

"The Green Party believe that small businesses should be the lifeblood of the economy, and yet in Medway, they're treated at times like unwanted guests."

Mr Gregory wants brownfield sites, deemed unsuitable for housing, to be used for start-up and small businesses and he wants flexibility of movement as firms look to expand or contract.

Geoff Juby, Liberal Democrat candidate

Image copyright Lib Dem Party
Image caption Geoff Juby is concerned about the impact of traffic in Medway and who funds improvements
  1. Medway Maritime Hospital

"It seems like every hospital in Kent has had money spent on their A&E (departments) except for Medway."

Mr Juby believes extra funding is the public's priority, too because of the length of waiting times at the hospital, "and now Medway seems to be the main A&E for the county".

2. Medway Tunnel

"It is the only tunnel in the country I can find that is funded by local taxpayers and not via the licensing fee for your car."

He wants the Highways Agency to take responsibility for its maintenance and daily running. "The local taxpayer should not have to pay for it. It is a national asset and should be paid for by the national taxpayer.

"That would free up money in Medway to be spent on public health or improvements to mental health and elderly care."

3. Traffic

"I want to try to get the Department for Transport to spend more capital money on trying to improve it."

Mr Juby wants the area's traffic-management system to be "reconfigured".

"There are also traffic problems on the Hoo Peninsula. Money might not be the problem - it might be the way the traffic is managed."

Naushabah Khan, Labour candidate

Image copyright Labour Party
Image caption Naushabah Khan wants more support for public services and small businesses
  1. The NHS

"I've spoken to so many people who say they are scared to go to the Medway (hospital).

Miss Khan says people in the area have complained of having to wait up to a week to see their GPs and she pledges to fight what she calls the privatisation elements of the Health and Social Care Bill.

"I'm sure we are not the only hospital facing these issues but we've had some serious issues with the hospital being in special measures and high mortality rates, and quite frankly, it's just not right."

2. Public services

"I've met people who have had to stop commuting to London because they genuinely can't afford it any more."

She says: "Sixty per cent of primary schools are failing in Medway, commuters are getting a poor service on the rails and roads.

"With the new railway station and high-speed rail links, it is, quite frankly, unacceptable."

3. Small businesses

"We have to make sure our local economies are thriving and get the support they need."

Miss Khan wants local mentoring schemes, harnessing the experience and expertise of business people in the area, to help those creating start-ups.

She also wants business rates for small- and medium-sized enterprises to be cut in 2015 and frozen the following year.

Mark Reckless, UKIP candidate

Image copyright William Steele
Image caption Mark Reckless is targeting local investment, the environment and health facilities
  1. Medway Maritime Hospital

"Medway hospital has not been meeting the standard local people deserve for many years, despite its many good and hard-working staff."

Mr Reckless says he will continue to work with local GPs to improve the NHS in Medway, "including saving Dr Juneja's excellent Marlowe Park surgery in Strood from closure".

2. Lodge Hill

"I completely oppose the plans to build 5,000 houses at Lodge Hill."

He says the development would "put huge pressure on local services and roads and turn our peninsula villages almost into one conurbation".

"It is also in a bird sanctuary and Site of Special Scientific Interest, so approval would undermine our whole system of environmental protection."

3. Local investment

"We need to ensure greater inward investment into the Medway towns to give opportunities and employment to all our people."

Mr Reckless says he has been a keen supporter of the riverside development in Rochester and plans for a new railway station in Corporation Street, which he says would bring new investment to the area.

Kelly Tolhurst, Conservative candidate

Image copyright Conservative party
Image caption Kelly Tolhurst was the only candidate to identify immigration among her top priorities
  1. Immigration

"Uncontrolled immigration is hurting this area - it needs to be addressed now."

Ms Tolhurst says: "I'll use my position to go straight to the prime minister and demand something is done.

"Locally, I'll fight to stop migrants accessing social housing until they've lived here for five years and made a contribution - and get it done now."

2. Medway Maritime Hospital

"That hospital saved my life last year and the people there deserve our best efforts."

She is determined to see the hospital taken out of special measures and pledges to work with neighbouring MPs to bring staff together with government officials.

3. Safer streets

"People should be able to feel safe in their own town."

Ms Tolhurst says she wants "more police officers out on Friday and Saturday nights to reduce crime and the alcohol-related problems on Chatham High Street and Rochester High Street, as well as other areas around the constituency".

The full list of candidates, in alphabetical order by surname, is:

  • Barker, Mike - Independent
  • Challis, Christopher - Independent
  • Davidson, Hairy Knorm - Official Monster Raving Loony Party
  • Fransen, Jayda - Britain First
  • Goldsbrough, Stephen William - Independent
  • Gregory, Clive - Green Party
  • Juby, Geoff - Liberal Democrats
  • Khan, Naushabah - Labour
  • Long, Nick - People Before Profit
  • Osborn, Dave - Patriotic Socialist Party
  • Reckless, Mark - UK Independence Party
  • Rose, Charlotte - Independent
  • Tolhurst, Kelly - Conservative

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