Appeal inspector backs 440-unit housing development at Otham

Maidstone Borough Council will face costs after the inspector’s decision to back the developer’s two appeals

A scheme for 440 homes in Otham has been backed at appeal by a planning inspector.
The greenfield site had been allocated in Maidstone Borough Council’s 2017 Local Plan “as a strategic development location for housing growth with supporting infrastructure”.
However, in July the local authority’s policy and resources committee voted to reject the project, west of Church Road next to St Nicholas Church, after it had already twice been rejected by the planning committee.
Council officers had recommended the development be approved, fearing that, with the site included in the Local Plan, developer Bellway would win an appeal.
And last week the Planning Inspectorate announced that inspector Stephen Normington had allowed Bellway’s two appeals, which he had considered jointly.
The first related to non-determination of an outline planning application for 440 homes, with the second coming after MBC had refused an application for a revised project of 421 units.
Mr Normington’s report concluded there was “no demonstrable evidence” supporting one of the council’s reasons for refusal on highways grounds. The council had cited the impact of the development on traffic congestion in Willington Street and highway safety at Church Road.
The county council had also raised highways objections.
Although he said there was “no doubt in my mind that the appeal proposals will contribute to the congestion already experienced on Willington Street to a degree”, the inspector continued: “Whilst this would undoubtedly cause driver inconvenience, I have no substantive evidence to suggest that this would cause a highway safety problem.”
Further, he did “not consider that the proposed developments would demonstrably cause worsening safety issues on Church Road to the south of the site to the extent that both these appeals should be dismissed”.
He also added “significant weight” to the fact the development would “include affordable housing to meet a demonstrable housing need on an allocated housing site”.
Mr Normington made a partial costs award against MBC, concluding it had “behaved unreasonably” in reaching its decision on its first reason for refusal.
CPRE Kent was represented at the appeal, arguing that Bellway had failed to demonstrate how Church Road could be modified safely and that the impact of the proposed development on the Grade I-listed church and nearby Grade II-listed buildings was unacceptable.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

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