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‘Profits before people’ row stalls Canterbury City Council vote on 900-home development in Herne Bay

A crucial decision on the town’s largest development has been pushed back after the firm behind the plans was accused of “putting profits before residents”.

Taylor Wimpey’s 900-home scheme proposed for land in Hillborough, Herne Bay, appeared set to be given the green light after officers from Canterbury City Council recommended it for approval.

The land in Hillborough, Herne Bay, was earmarked for homes in the city council's Local Plan in 2017
The land in Hillborough, Herne Bay, was earmarked for homes in the city council's Local Plan in 2017

However, members of last Thursday’s planning committee meeting instead voted to delay the decision in order to carry out a visit to the site.

This came after Beltinge councillor Ian Stockley, speaking as a member of the public, argued that the project provided little value to the community.

“It’s clear the developer is following the same tired old plan to deliver little to the community for as big a profit as possible,” the Conservative said.

“It saddens me that the planning committee are being asked to pass developments like this with cycle paths that go nowhere.

“Is it acceptable to allow 900 homes to be built with no solar-power generation and no rainwater harvesting? Is it acceptable that no air or ground-source heat pumps are to be installed?

Cllr Ian Stockley told the meeting last week that Taylor Wimpey was trying to "deliver little to the community for as big a profit as possible"
Cllr Ian Stockley told the meeting last week that Taylor Wimpey was trying to "deliver little to the community for as big a profit as possible"

“This is our watch and I fear we will be judged harshly if we let developers put profits before the future of our residents.”

Since being lodged with the council in 2017, the plans have received almost 300 letters from objectors fearing traffic disruption, a drop in air quality, and additional pressure being placed on existing services.

Taylor Wimpey’s scheme also includes an 80-bed care home, community centre, convenience store and land to be assigned for a new primary school, retail units and employment space.

The firm is also pledging to make 22% of the homes affordable – below the authority’s usual 30% requirement.

Council planning chief Simon Thomas warned last week’s meeting a delay to the decision could lead to the developer appealing to the Planning Inspectorate under the non-determination rule.

Seasalter councillor Ashley Clark
Seasalter councillor Ashley Clark

He said: “The decision would be taken out of our hands if that happened. If the council’s acted unreasonably, then there is the risk of the award of costs against the council.”

Mr Thomas also noted that, due to the government’s coronavirus advice, the authority is unable to organise site visits.

Cllr Ashley Clark said: “I feel I am sitting here with a pistol to my head and that we as a committee are being railroaded into not doing what we should properly do. It’s reasonable with an application of this magnitude and given the number of people who are concerned for us to make to take all the evidence we can.”

Councillors voted in favour of carrying out the visit by six to five.

A Taylor Wimpey spokesperson said the firm is working with councillors to arrange this before the application goes back to committee. They said the proposals had been developed following extensive consultation and would “provide significant benefit for local people.”

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