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Plans for the Gills to move to Mill Hill causes opposition from residents living near the proposed site.

By Nicola Jordan

Plans for the Gills to move to a new, bigger ground have run into strong opposition from residents living near the proposed site.

More than 400 people have signed a petition against the proposal which would also include 300 homes and a supermarket at Mill Hill, off Yokosuka Way, Gillingham.

The extra development would help finance the stadium which has an estimated cost of between £30m and £40m. The club wants to build a 24,000 seater stadium which is more than twice the capacity of their present home at Priestfield.

Mill Hill.

Mill Hill.

But residents living in the lower Rainham area are pressing for the land, which is classed as Green Belt, to remain intact.

In a petition to Medway Council, they say: “This is an area of outstanding natural beauty of wild grasslands, hedges and fields where horses graze and nature flourishes for all to enjoy.”

Brad Wightwick, who runs the Grange Road Farm Shop with wife Sylvia, said: “We don’t want it. My family have been here for 40 years. I do not want to look out onto a football ground.

"We don't want it. My family have been here for 40 years. I do not want to look out onto a football ground..." - Brad Wightwick

"Apart from the noise and traffic problems, it would also affect my business and devalue my property.”

Mr Wightwick, 51, is among those who do not want the land to be included in the local development plan which identifies areas which can be used to provide much-needed housing.

Like many local authorities, Medway Council is under pressure to earmark sites where homes can be built to alleviate a national shortage.

A draft blueprint for the stadium has been submitted to the council which is still being considered by planning officers.

Meanwhile Gills chairman Paul Scally is in discussion with potential investors to secure the finances to take the club to another level.

Mr Scally has said in the past that Mill Hill was The Gills “last option” for a new ground in Medway.

Gillingham FC manager, Martin Allen.

Gillingham FC chairman Paul Scally

He said: “I have always said I would like to move to a new purpose-built stadium in Medway. That remains the goal.

“I do think that history tells us that any city or town that has built a new stadium, has had an uplift in all areas. I think it tends to generate a whole new level of support.”

The petition was presented by Ukip candidate Cllr Vaughan Hewett at full council.

He felt that approving the plan would have “domino effect” leading to parcels of land across Medway being swallowed up for development.

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