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Tractors take to streets of Crockenhill, Farningham and Swanley in protest against plans for Wasps rugby stadium and 2,500-home new town at Pedham Place

Villagers have shown their disdain for proposals to impose a new town of 2,500 homes on them by taking to the streets – in tractors.

The protest was to emphasise the rural character of the villages that surround Pedham Place in Farningham, near Swanley.

Cllr Rachel Waterton with some of those who took part in the parade
Cllr Rachel Waterton with some of those who took part in the parade

Sevenoaks District Council is suggesting it could be home to a new community of 2,500 homes, shops, businesses and schools.

The tractor parade on New Year’s Day was organised by Cllr Rachel Waterton, an Independent district councillor for the area, on behalf of the No Pedham New Town campaign, alternatively known as the No Farningham New Town group.

Crockenhill is one of three places likely to be seriously affected by the plans, along with Farningham and Eynsford.

Cllr Waterton said: “The support we received from people waving and from drivers beeping their horns and giving a thumbs-up was amazing.

“I really felt quite emotional seeing the strength of feeling.

“We are a rural community in the greenbelt and in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

“This area is supposed to be protected. We don’t need 2,500 new homes and an arena to rival in size the 02 at the end of our road.”

Around 20 farm vehicles drove twice around a 2.7-mile “butterfly circuit” of Crockenhill before branching off to pay a visit to the Asda car park at Swanley, then Farningham, Eynsford and Eynsford Station.

Homes along the route were leafletted in advance of the protest and residents were encouraged to come out to wave their support – and many did so.

The tractors were decorated with banners, slogans and balloons.

The onlookers were sold flags to wave, which helped raise funds towards paying for a legal opinion on the status of the greenbelt land that has been earmarked for development.

Supporters on the village green
Supporters on the village green

The campaigners are simultaneously running a Crowdfunding bid to reach the funds needed.

Su Hewitt, who rode in the parade in a trailer pulled by one of the tractors, said: “I’ve never seen so many tractors together before.

“There was fantastic community spirit with people coming out to wave and others waving from their windows.

“It created quite a buzz.

“With the public consultation on the plans coming over the Christmas period, there are still many people who have yet to hear what’s going on, and this was a fantastic way to make people pay attention.”

Campaigners have been leafletting the area
Campaigners have been leafletting the area

Sevenoaks District Council is currently consulting on its draft Local Plan, known as Sevenoaks 2040.

Among the proposals is one jointly from Gladman Developments and the Ramac Group to build a new town of 2,500 homes on the site of the Pedham Place Golf Club, alongside the M25.

A second bid has been put in by Wasps Rugby Football Club who want to see a 28,000-seat stadium, plus a hotel and training complex built either at Pedham Place or at Petham Court Farm, nearby but on the other side of the M25.

Villagers fear either plan is likely to have a massive impact on the road network and campaigners said a 2,500-home new town would swamp their Crockenhill community of just 1,000 homes.

Mrs Hewitt was dismissive of the Wasps’ plan.

The two proposed development sites
The two proposed development sites
Su Hewitt: Such community spirit
Su Hewitt: Such community spirit

She said: “The club is barely out of insolvency. It’s difficult to see how they could have the funds for such a project.”

She suggested the stadium plan was just muddying the waters.

She said: “There are some people in the Swanley area who find the stadium idea attractive. Perhaps they think it will provide jobs for their children.

“But the Wasps’ plans are very unclear.”

More information can be found on the Bees Not Wasps site here.

The message was No Pedham New Town
The message was No Pedham New Town

Residents can give their views to the Sevenoaks District Council consultation here.

The deadline for responses is January 11.

Sevenoaks District Council is hosting a drop-in session at Farningham Village Hall on Thursday, January 4, between 4.30pm and 7.30pm with staff on hand to explain the proposals.

The No Farningham New Town group (NOFNT) is also hosting two drop-in sessions of its own, both on Saturday, January 6, where help will be given to residents to make their response to the public consultation.

They will be at The Shand Hall in Farningham from 10am to 3pm and at Eynsford Parish Council Office from 9am to 11am.

Gladman and Ramac insist their plans will create a sustainable community that will go a long way towards meeting Sevenoaks’ requirement to provide 10,000 new homes by 2040.

They say their plans will include junction mitigations that will minimise any effects on surrounding roads.

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