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Controversial 750-home Conningbrook Park development to be discussed by Ashford Borough Council

A highly controversial plan for 725 homes is expected to be approved tonight.

Tonight's virtual planning committee meeting concerns the Conningbrook Park - or Large Burton - scheme, a Quinn Estates project centred on arable land in Kennington, Ashford.

How the Large Burton development could look
How the Large Burton development could look

Included in the Ashford Borough Council Local Plan, the current blueprint is the result of a large number of changes resulting from strong objections over highway impact, parking and design.

Initially 750 homes were outlined for the 81.5-acre site which has seen five rounds of revisions since being submitted last January.

If approved, the now 725 houses would be built alongside a new primary school, bowls club and community centre.

The community centre would feature a gym, takeaway, a café and shops.

Despite these promised amenities, the plan has proved to be highly unpopular among residents.

Where the homes will go
Where the homes will go

As of May 18, a total of 75 support comments had been lodged on the scheme's application.

It was later revealed that some of the favourable comments had been faked, including one from a one-month-old baby.

In contrast, more than 1,100 objections have been garnered from 813 individual residents who additionally started a petition in opposition.

The largest concerns centre on the loss of the field which - in the council's report - is noted as "Grade 1 farmland, the best and most versatile agricultural land."

Tied to this is a potential loss of protected wildlife known to be on the site, including water voles, grass snakes, slow worms, lizards, badgers and greater crested newts.

Green spaces have been highlighted throughout the scheme
Green spaces have been highlighted throughout the scheme

On this point, a site-wide mitigation scheme submitted by the developer was deemed by the council to be "appropriate and implementable within the current design of the proposed development."

This includes having ongoing contact and checks with a supervising ecologist, protective fencing around certain zones and appropriate storage of chemicals.

Another major concern was impact on traffic, with an early Kent County Council (KCC) Highways report suggesting "severe" consequences with a rush hour drive along Canterbury Road possibly taking six-times longer than it does currently.

However the latest Ashford Borough Council report on Conningbrook Park noted: "KCC Highways and Transportation do not raise any objections following the submission of additional information and amendments to the scheme."

Mark Quinn, whose company is behind the 725-home project
Mark Quinn, whose company is behind the 725-home project

The site would be accessed through two roads connecting the development to Willesborough Road.

Parking has also proved contentious, with early council summaries suggesting there wasn't enough for the number of bedrooms. Quinn Estates defended this by saying some of the 'bedrooms' noted were too small for sleeping in and actually served as studies.

The briefing for tonight's discussion highlights that following an extensive redesign, each house has a drive or is set back enough to allow for sufficient parking.

Compliant with Ashford council's policy, 30% of the dwellings will be affordable.

If approved, construction could start immediately on 288 of the homes. A second planning permission would be required for the detailed design of the other 437, which were recommended for outline approval ahead of tonight's meeting.

An earlier planning committee meeting was controversially held on March 18 just before complete lockdown, however technical teething problems saw it postponed until tonight.

The meeting can be watched on the council's website.

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