Maidstone Borough Council has refused planning permission for the second time for Gallagher’s ‘Waterside Park’ at J8 of the M20. This is great news for all of us who have been fighting this development over the last two years.
Despite the Maidstone planners recommending approval, the planning committee was not persuaded that the changes made to the proposal would overcome the previous reason for refusal. This was the right and obvious decision. Gallaghers had been clearly told by the Council when they were first refused permission in February that “The application was considered to be fundamentally contrary to the provisions of the Development Plan and the NPPF, and there were not considered to be any solutions to resolve this conflict.”
Given this clear message, we’re concerned that the officers saw the revised application, for the same development, as being acceptable. This really is difficult to understand, but at least common sense and consistency of decision making has prevailed, and the committee members are to be applauded.
The battle though is not over. Gallaghers have already appealed against the earlier planning refusal, which will mean another expensive Public Inquiry next year. More worrying though, is that despite removing proposals for development at J8 from the draft Local Plan earlier this year, Council officers now want them put back in the Plan. In a report to the Council’s Planning Overview and Scrutiny Committee next Tuesday (21st) planning officers are claiming that new evidence means that J8 is the only option for new employment development. This does not bode well for how hard the officers will fight the planning appeal when they think that J8 is a good place for development.
Let’s hope that last night’s decision will make the officers think again, and finally accept that neither their own councillors nor local people want to see damaging development in the countryside at J8.