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Cripple Street field dropped from draft Local Plan still firmly part of housing plans

By Alan Smith

It’s not even on the list of proposed housing sites in Maidstone council’s draft Local Plan, but a field off Cripple Street is firmly in a developer’s sights.

Millwood Designer Homes, based in Tonbridge, is drawing up proposals to build in the field opposite the Loose Valley Conservation Area.

The site of the proposed housing development off Cripple Street

Known locally as Dimmocks Field, the site was initially put forward by planning officers with the suggestion that it could take up to 70 homes, but it was removed from the draft plan that went out to public consultation at the request of Cllr Mike Hogg (Con) and Cllr Steve Paine (Con), who said the area, immediately opposite the Loose Valley Conservation Area was inappropriate.

Now residents have learned that the scheme is still on the cards.

The company confirmed it was working on a proposal, but would not release any details.

It has told a local residents’ association that it intends to hold a public exhibition on the scheme at Vine Church in Boughton Lane on Thursday, May 29, exactly one week after the local elections, but has so far not advertised the meeting.

South Ward councillor Ian Chittenden (Lib Dem) has taken it upon himself to deliver leaflets to homes in the area urging residents to attend the consultation event, which will be between 4pm and 8pm.

He said: "I'm afraid the developers will give residents too little notice. This is a very prominent location and I urge residents to make their views known."

VCS chairman Bryn Cornwell

Bryn Cornwell, chairman of the Valley Conservation Society, said: “We never really believed the council when they said they were withdrawing this site, because we know they just want to build everywhere.

“But this really is outrageous. This field is supposed to be protected as part of the green lung separating Maidstone from Loose.

“In addition, the effect of putting more traffic onto Cripple Street, which is very narrow at this point, and on to the Cripple Street traffic lights at the junction with Loose Road, is unthinkable.

“Motorists already wait an eternity at the lights in peak periods.”

A spokesman for Maidstone council said: "It is the developer that is pressing ahead despite the council’s action to remove this site from the plan."

Maidstone council has determined there is need for 19,600 new homes in the borough by 2031, but even with some controversial sites included in its draft Local Plan, it has only identified allocations for 16,700 of them.

The 1,900-home shortfall means it will be very difficult for councillors to refuse any application - such as this one in Cripple Street - that helps to make up the shortfall.

Cllr Chittenden said: "Unfortunately as soon as the planning officers put the site forward in their initial proposals it gave encouragement to the developers."

He said it would be difficult for planning officers now to oppose the site when they had previously supported it.

The green-field site bordering the Loose Valley Conservation Area
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