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.
Campaigners have launched a crowdfunding appeal to fund legal representation at a planning appeal and Local Plan inquiry. Trudy Dean takes up the story…
Forty Acres is a beautiful open area of gently rising farmland to the south of the A20 London Road in the parish of East Malling and Larkfield. Confusingly running to almost 60 acres, it lies between and separates the historic settlements of West Malling, East Malling, Larkfield and Leybourne from the new village of Kings Hill. It is crossed by two well-used Public Rights of Way, MR 119 and 120, between the villages and serves commuters to West Malling station, shoppers and walkers. They also feed into one of the few areas of nationally designated Quiet Lanes prioritising walkers, riders and cyclists immediately to the south. Forty Acres fields have been cultivated for grain for as long as anyone can remember and were part of the extensive estates of the nearby 11th-century Malling Abbey built by Bishop Gundulf for Benedictine nuns. In 2016, Forty Acres was included within a parcel of land proposed to extend the Metropolitan Green Belt eastward in the Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council Draft Local Plan, due to begin its final stage of examination before inspectors in October. Extending the Green Belt would not only protect the setting of West Malling with its Conservation Area but also prevent the joining up of East and West Malling with Leybourne and Larkfield to the north and Kings Hill to the south. The network of rural lanes and footpaths would be protected as well as the setting of many listed buildings. The developer Wates has applied for planning consent to build 250 houses on Forty Acres and now appealed against the borough council’s failure to decide the application within six weeks. The surrounding parishes of East Malling and Larkfield, Leybourne and West Malling are crowdfunding to raise the £60,000 estimated to be needed for legal representation at the appeal and Local Plan inquiry. We are using the team of lawyers who last year successfully fought off Bellway’s plans to build on fields up against the walls of Malling Abbey. This is probably the last chance we shall have to defend this open space. Please help if you can.
If you would like to contribute to the fund to help save Forty Acres, click here
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
CPRE Kent is fighting an almost overwhelming number of development proposals across the county – BUT WE CAN’T DO IT WITHOUT YOUR SUPPORT. If you would like to join us in our efforts to keep Kent beautiful, please click here
The government inspector dismissed the appeal by Quinn Estates
A planning inspector has dismissed an appeal by a developer that had tried to overturn refusal of its scheme for up to 77 homes, business space and a shop in a Kent village.
Swale Borough Council had turned down the plans by Quinn Estates, but the developer appealed against the decision, citing a range of factors.
Dealing with the appeal, the government inspector addressed three principal issues:
a) The effect of the proposal on the character and appearance of the area, with specific reference to its effect on the landscape.
b) Whether or not the site was a suitable location for the proposed development having regard to the council’s settlement strategy.
c) Whether or not the council could demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites and the implications for planning policy.
Giving extensive reasoning as to his verdict, the inspector dismissed the appeal by Quinn Estates against the council’s original decision.