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It's here at last.
Maidstone Council has finally produced its draft Local Plan - the document intended to guide the borough’s development until 2031.
The 368-page plan, which was due to come into force in 2006, covers everything from proposed sites for new homes, offices, factories and shops, to policies guiding the provision of solar farms, gypsy sites and traffic congestion.
Recently the council has been blamed for effectively giving developers carte blanche by failing to produce the plan on time. But now the much anticipated document has been revealed, the real complaints begin.
Kent County Council was the first to condemn it as “fundamentally flawed.”
KCC’s cabinet member for transport and environment said there were “serious concerns” about Maidstone’s target of 19,600 new homes in the next 17 years, and of many of the sites it had identified to take them.
Cllr David Brazier (Con) said: “We (KCC) cannot support plans to build such a massive number in such inappropriate locations.
“We have major concerns as there is clearly insufficient highway capacity to cope.
“Building this number of houses will create urban sprawl, eroding the open countryside between Maidstone and surrounding villages.”
Although, it is the borough council which is responsible for setting planning targets and allocating sites, it is the county council in charge of the provision of the infrastructure, such as schools, highways and social care that these new householders will need.
KCC said plans for such as large number of dwellings in the borough were “unsustainable.”
Sustainability is the first measure of the Government’s new Planning Policy Framework which local authorities are supposed to follow.
Cllr Brazier said that KCC had commissioned its own planning consultants to re-examine the methodology used by the borough council that had resulted in such a large housing target.
Another controversial aspect of the document is the borough’s expectation that the Army will quit the Invicta Barracks site before 2031, making it available for redevelopment for 1,300 homes.
However, the Ministry of Defence flatly denied any such plans. Saying it carried out a review in March last year in which some bases were identified for closure, but that Invicta Barracks was not one of them.
*A full report on the Local Plan, including a list of all the identified housing allocations is published in this week's Kent Messenger.
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