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MP's last minute bid to stop Maidstone's Local Plan

By Alan Smith

Just as Maidstone finally moves close to adopting its Local Plan, MP Helen Whately has launched a last-ditch bid to scupper it.

The plan will determine the future of development in the town for the next 14 years to 2031 is due to be adopted at a full meeting of the borough council on Wednesday next week.

However, Mrs Whatley has written to Sajid Javid, the Minister for Communities and Local Government, asking him to intervene.

Helen Whately MP speaking at the Local Plan hearing

Helen Whately MP: speaking at the Local Plan hearing

The MP for Faversham and Mid-Kent, whose constituency includes half of Maidstone, has expressed “serious concerns” about the plan saying it includes proposals that could jeopardise Leeds Castle and the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

She also said the plan did not include sufficient investment in roads and infrastructure, and questioned whether villages like Headcorn, Harrietsham and Lenham would cope with the numbers of new houses planned.

She has asked the Minister to issue a “holding direction” that would prevent the council from formally adopting the plan until he personally has had a chance to review it.

On Leeds Castle, she wrote: “Maidstone’s Local Plan includes proposals to the detriment of one of our finest national heritage sites, Leeds Castle.

Leeds Castle A national treasure

Leeds Castle A national treasure

“The specific issue is the inclusion of an industrial employment site at Woodcut Farm, a rural location on the approach to the castle.

"Developing this site would have far-reaching ramifications for the countryside and local heritage assets.”

On the lack of infrastructure provision, Mrs Whately said: “I am concerned that the plan does not include sufficient investment in the local transport network, particularly local roads, to support the scale of development to the South and South East of Maidstone.

“Many thousands of houses are being built in this area, without meaningful development of roads or any alternative to car transport – when congestion is already affecting the ability of residents to travel to and from work or access services in and around Maidstone.”

The Local Plan has already been through a public examination by a Government inspector and it is the plan with his amendments included that is due to be considered by the council next week, but he MP said: “I have urged Maidstone council and the planning inspector himself to make changes, but they have just steamrollered on.

Local Government Minister Sajid Javid asked to intervene

Local Government Minister Sajid Javid: asked to intervene

Robert Mellor, government inspector, made some alterations but improved the plan over all

Robert Mellor, government inspector, made some alterations but improved the plan over all

"I wish we could have solved this locally, but we’re running out of time. That’s why I have asked the Secretary of State to personally intervene and consider whether this local plan is good enough.“

She said that Leeds Castle was a national treasure, so development at Junction 8 of the M20 was a national issue and it would be right for the Minister to intervene.

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