An image of rural life in north Kent… but for how much longer will this chime true?
It wasn’t so very long ago that we were wishing you all a happy Christmas and New Year. Those sentiments still stand, of course, but all too predictably a large dark cloud has loomed over the horizon to dim any remaining festive thoughts.
We refer to the re-emergence of plans to extend Kent Science Park on the edge of Sittingbourne… and how they have re-emerged!
This long-running venture has had a range of incarnations, but the scale of the latest proposal is staggering, entailing the building of a new town to the east and south of Sittingbourne, together with commercial development and a relief road.
To quote one local woman, Monique Bonney, an Independent councillor on Swale Borough Council, the whole thing is “monstrous” and “a disaster for the local rural villages and town”. To be precise, the proposals particularly affect south Sittingbourne, Rodmersham, Tunstall, Bredgar, Milstead and Bapchild.
No planning application has yet been made, but the developers have applied to Swale council for an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) Screening Opinion – the first stage in asking the local authority to judge if an EIA will be needed.
The application, which can be found here, reads: “The EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) Screening Opinion is for a mixed-use development including up to 11,250 residential dwellings, commercial space (circa 120,000 sqm/1.2 million sqft), new infrastructure to create new junctions onto the M2 and A2 joined by a new relief road, new retail and health facilities, leisure facilities, educational facilities and community facilities at land to the south and east of Sittingbourne.”
That’s right… more than 11,000 houses are being targeted for this attractive rural area.
Cllr Bonney said: “Historically, the previous grandiose Kent Science Park proposals have been thrown out by government planning inspectors during the last three Local Plan cycles over the last 12 years or more, allowing only a small extension on one side of the site that has not materialised.
“Locals should not be railroaded by this new plan, especially given all previous concerns over the environmental constraints (high-grade agricultural land, countryside gaps and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), ancient woodlands and local road infrastructure, with its devastating consequences on the rural lane network.”
Talking about how best to tackle the scheme, Cllr Bonney said: “We need as much help as possible from all the locals around Rodmersham, Bapchild, Tunstall, Bredgar and Milstead.
“The Five Parishes Opposition Group (FPOG) – made up of a representative from each of Rodmersham, Bapchild, Milstead, Tunstall and Bredgar parish councils – will actively lobby against this proposal, but we need your help, too.
“Follow FPOG here and our Facebook page here.”
And finally, an appeal: “FPOG would welcome any offers of help and resources with regard to planning, environmental consultants, transport consultants, funding and donations.
“Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or FPOG through its website.”
Here we go again…
Friday, January 5, 2018