Giant tower? What a cheek!

PUBLISHED: 14:57 09 April 2008 | UPDATED: 09:38 23 August 2010

AN MP and boyfriend of a Cheeky girl has slammed plans for a 32-storey tower in the town centre. Lembit Öpik, a Liberal Democrat MP who is dating Cheeky girl Gabriela Irimia, visited Gravesend town centre last Thursday. Launching the Lib Dems Housing

AN MP and boyfriend of a Cheeky girl has slammed plans for a 32-storey tower in the town centre.

Lembit Öpik, a Liberal Democrat MP who is dating Cheeky girl Gabriela Irimia, visited Gravesend town centre last Thursday.

Launching the Lib Dems' "Housing for Gravesham" campaign, he said the proposal was more suited to Canary Wharf.

The party's campaign challenges Gravesham Borough Council to provide more three- and four-bedroom homes in the area and opposes the tower block planned for the town's Heritage Quarter.

Mr Öpik, who recently took part in a celebrity edition of BBC1 hit show The Apprentice and is the party's spokesman on housing, said: "Building that tower in the middle of Gravesend is about as appropriate as moving Windsor Castle to Brick Lane.

"The tower is perfect - for Canary Wharf. I have nothing against towers or castles, but you need to put them in the right place. People might come and see it, but in the same way that people slow down to look at a road crash."

Mr Öpik, MP for Montgomeryshire, Wales, visited the proposed site of the tower in Royal Pier Road, and handed a letter to the Civic Centre outlining the new Lib Dem campaign. He then visited the Land Securities Observatory in Dartford.

Mr Öpik said: "We need three million new homes in this country and proper development will do the area some good, but if you have got the wrong type of housing or we build housing in the wrong place those can both do harm.

"What we need are family homes here, not just flats. Then you are just creating a great big dormitory town for central London."

As well as the tower, the proposal includes other residential and commercial buildings, provision of new public spaces, church community facilities and a residential quarter which will provide more than 600 apartments.

Bruce Parmenter, Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Gravesham, said: "Gravesham needs more and better affordable family homes.

"It doesn't need a skyscraper that will be entirely out of keeping with the area and which most local people won't be able to afford to live in."

How Lembit met his pop star beauty

RISING star Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat MP for Montgomeryshire in Wales, shot to fame in 2006, after it was revealed he was dating Cheeky girl Gabriela Irimia.

He told the Kentish Times: "We have been together for 18 months now, and it's great.

"I feel very lucky to have met her, she has character and soul and I am very proud of what she does. She is not political at all, but she has very good values. If I wasn't in politics then I would never have met Gaby, so I feel very lucky to be able to do what I do."

The pair met during Channel 5's All Star Talent Show, where Mr Öpik was performing with the harmonica and the cheeky girls were performing ballet.

Mr Öpik, who carries his harmonica with him wherever he goes, said: "Gaby and Monica were both professional ballerinas, and they really do have talent, where as I just muck about on the harmonica.

"It went from there and six weeks later we were dating. It's great. She's busy at the moment with photo shoots and her new album is out, so she has a lot of work on, but I still take an interest in what she does. I like to think that she is a Liberal at heart - but wild horses wouldn't drag her to stand for election."

He has made numerous television appearances since then, appearing on Have I Got News for You and most recently the celebrity edition of The Apprentice to raise money for Sport Relief, overseen by Alan Sugar.

He was put in charge of the boys team, who lost the challenge but still raised £316,000 for charity.

"The Apprentice is as frightening as it looks on television. I went into the room as a 42-year-old senior politician, and came out of the room as a pretty rattled seven-year-old schoolboy who had just been told off by his teacher.

"The girls' team did an excellent job, they had a strong and excellent leader. The boys had much less in common with big business, and more in common with Laurel and Hardy. It was quite embarrassing being in front of Alan Sugar in the board room, but the upside is that it was all for charity, and if everything hadn't gone according to plan it wouldn't have been such good television.


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