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UPDATE: ADL pull out of Junction 8 Waterside Park inquiry

By Alan Smith

ADL, the automotive parts company, has pulled out of a scheme to build a warehouse and industrial park near Junction 8 of the M20.

The Marden-based firm and Scarab Sweepers were the two large tenants lined up by the developer Gallaghers to move into the planned Waterside Park development off the A20 in Hollingbourne.

The company’s withdrawal, revealed on the opening day of a planning inquiry at County Hall, Maidstone, is seen as a major setback to the case for the scheme, weakening its economic argument.

Protesters opposed to the scheme
Campaign to Protect Rural England are opposed to the Waterside Park plans
An artist's impression of one of the proposed new buildings at Waterside Park

Giving evidence for Maidstone Borough Council, planning consultant Mike Goddard said: “The floorspace allocated to ADL exceeded that for Scarab by 50%.

“Without them the case for an economic need for the scheme is seriously weakened.”

Mr Goddard was clear in his evidence to the planning inspector Katie Peerless that he regarded the scheme as contrary to the established Maidstone Local Plan, saying the council policy ENV 28 designed to protect the countryside was still valid and that the scheme would cause considerable harm to the landscape.

Mr Goddard also questioned the appellant’s case that the scheme represented “sustainable” development.

The decider: planning inspector Katie Peerless

He said: “There are three aspects to what makes something sustainable, the economic effect, yes in this case, the social effect, questionable, and the environmental effect, definitely no.”

As the legal teams arrived at Sessions House in Maidstone for the first day of the hearing scheduled to last 10 days they were greeted by a picket of around 70 villagers opposed to the scheme.

Many stayed on for the hearing.

The application which had been previously refused by Maidstone council is also being opposed by KCC, the Joint Parishes Group, the AONB group and CPRE.

Site of proposed Waterside Park off the A20 Ashford Road, Hollingbourne

Craig Howell Williams QC acting for Gallaghers spent a long time cross-examining the borough’s landscape officer David Green on whether existing buildings in the neighbourhood and indeed the A20 itself weren’t already "visual detractors" in the landscape.

Mr Howell Williams asked: “You say that you can't imagine anything that could be worse (than this development) in the landscape. Do you really mean that?”

Mr Green said: “Well, a skyscraper perhaps. Let’s say I wouldn’t like to imagine anything worse.”

The inquiry continues tomorrow at 10am and reconvenes on Friday. Next week it runs from Tuesday to Thursday, and the week after from Monday to Thursday, May 18 to 21.

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