Published: 06:00, 28 February 2020
Residents believe the construction of a £40 million housing estate is creating a big divide within the community.
They blame "inconsiderate" developers for causing friction and "dysfunctional" Canterbury City Council for rubber-stamping the 750-home scheme off Cockering Road, in Thanington.
Councillors approved the controversial plans back in 2016 as it looked to fulfil its house-building targets.
Thanington Resource Centre manager Paula Spencer says the Pentland Homes scheme - which will see house prices range £350,000 to £540,000 - is in stark contrast to the existing council estate, which remains one of the most deprived areas in the UK.
"The months of dust, mud and lorries roaring along small estate roads, inconsiderate parking and imposed parking restrictions have led to the anger and hostility of many of the residents," she said.
"The animosity has led to a breakdown in communication and relationships.
"There’s been extensive theft from the development site and the newly-opened show house has recently been burgled and trashed.
"This will not help Pentland to sell their houses, nor will it lead to happy lives for any new and aspiring residents.
"In their desire to build and sell expensive houses, Pentland has failed to engage with local groups and residents, and they appear to have little understanding of the benefits of creating positive community relations."
The development - named Saxon Fields - will include a new primary school, restaurants, and sports pitches, as well as a bespoke base for the relocation of the city's Pilgrims Hospice.
Also part of the deal will be a long-awaited A2 off-slip at Wincheap, with Pentland picking up the £8.8 million cost.
While Mrs Spencer points fingers at the developers, Thanington parish clerk Roger Cheeseworth says the city council is at fault for approving the project.
"They just rushed through the plan and gave the development approval without properly thinking how it would affect Canterbury," he said.
“I don’t blame Pentland Homes as they were doing their job and submitted an application.
“I put the blame at the foot of the council’s planning department.”
Mr Cheeseworth, who who met with council chief executive Colin Carmichael last week, says the authority boss expressed his surprise when he saw the huge scale of the housing development.
The parish clerk says Mr Carmichael’s immediate reaction to laying eyes on the construction site highlights problems at the council.
“He turned around and said ‘oh my God’ when he saw the site,” Mr Cheeseworth explained.
“He had no idea how it was looking until then.
“It further proves how dysfunctional the council is.”
Mr Cheeseworth, who says he has worked closely with the developers to help make the scheme as good as it can be, fears the new estate will spark increased traffic through Canterbury and believes the council didn’t fully consider the effect it will have.
In response, council spokesman Rob Davies said: “Mr Cheeseworth has never been a fan of this development and we wouldn’t expect him to have changed his mind now work has started.
"And naturally we outright reject his claims of dysfunctionality.
"We’re not going to reveal the detail of the conversation between our chief executive and Mr Cheeseworth, although the latter’s commentary on what was said is, shall we say, somewhat different to how we remember it.
"The wider issue is that there is a severe shortage of housing for the people who need homes within the district.
"This is one of a number of sites that were agreed for housing within the Local Plan.
"The Local Plan was consulted on widely and was examined by an independent government inspector.
"We are very pleased that work has commenced on site and look forward to much needed homes, including affordable housing, being provided for the people who need them.”
Pentland Homes said "a vast amount of community engagement" had been carried out after planning permission was granted.
A spokesman said: "Everyone at Pentland Homes understands the effects that construction works can have on local communities and do all we can to ensure that the disruption and disturbance from having a construction site on the doorstep is kept to the absolute minimum.
"There was a vast amount of community engagement carried out after receiving our planning permission including public consultations with regards to the layout, community buildings and spaces.
"Public meetings were held along with Q&A sessions and the parish council have been involved with the planning process along with neighbourhood representatives.
"Our health, safety and environment manager recently met with Paula Spencer to discuss community relations and how Pentland Homes can continue engagement with the local community.
"Before the sales complex opened to the public, there was a minor inconvenience, but it was in no way connected to the local community.
"It was an isolated case and we have not experienced any reoccurrence, nor do we expect to.
"Pentland Homes issues a regular newsletter and communications are delivered to homes close to the development when work may affect them.
"The company has an open-door policy and responds to any concerns raised by local residents."