Council U-turn Criticised

A recommendation to approve plans for a business park at Waterside Park by Junction 8 of the M20 has astounded CPRE Kent as it is a complete U-turn on the part of Maidstone Borough Council.

We believe the planned development of warehouses, industrial premises and offices would be detrimental to the countryside setting of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the important heritage setting of Leeds Castle.

The council refused similar plans in February but now appears to have caved in after the developers made minor adjustments. The proposal, involving 16 hectares (39 acres) of prime agricultural land, is not identified for development in either the existing or proposed new Local Plan and breaches important national planning policies that seek to protect the countryside.

The officers’ report recommending approval will go to Maidstone’s Planning Committee on Thursday (16th October).  Although the planners still admit that “the development would cause significant harm to the countryside and setting of the AONB”, they consider that this harm is outweighed by the economic benefits.

CPRE Kent is just one of many organisations opposed to the scheme – there are also objections from Kent County Council, Natural England, the Kent Downs AONB Unit, the Kent Wildlife Trust, Leeds Castle, the Joint Parishes Group and many local people.

“We are amazed at this about turn,” said Brian Lloyd, Senior Planner for CPRE Kent. “This is greenfield land in the open countryside where development should not be allowed under both local and national planning policies.  We would seriously question the claimed economic benefits to Maidstone as it will just as likely attract employees from Ashford and other parts of the county with its proximity to the motorway.  There is no justification for developing in this location when considerable employment land has already been identified in area such as Ashford, Swale and Canterbury which would not impact on an AONB and one of the county’s prime heritage and tourist sites.”

We are calling on council members to stick to their original decision and adhere to their own Development Plan and national planning policy and refuse the plans.