Published: 06:00, 02 April 2021
| Updated: 08:34, 06 April 2021
It seems rarely a week goes by without the announcement of yet another major housing development in the county - and the swift creation of a protest group to oppose it.
But with an ever increasing population, the demand for new homes will only increase.
The current government targets for new homes in Kent, annually, exceeds 10,000 (a figure which would have been 30% higher had a controversial algorithm used by government to determine housing numbers not been scrapped at the end of last year).
It means, inevitably, the county's landscape will be forever changed as fields are turned into housing estates.
Before we take a look at some of the biggest projects coming to a community near you, it is worth remembering this: According to statistics published in 2019 by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (the last time such figures were published), some 91.7% of land in England is undeveloped; a trend broadly reflected in Kent.
While we can assume some of these figures have changed fractionally in the intervening years, only a handful of our districts have more than 10% of their land developed. They are Dartford (whose land area is 75.9% undeveloped), Thanet (78.9%) Gravesham (85.6%), Medway (84.5%) and Tonbridge and Malling (88.1%).
At the other end of the scale we have Ashford, which bucks the national average with 93.9% of its land undeveloped. In short, there's still a lot of space out there - it just might not feel like it when the diggers move in near you.
For those interested, our other areas are: Canterbury (91% undeveloped), Dover (92%), Folkestone and Hythe (92.7%), Sevenoaks (92.5%), Tunbridge Wells (92.5%) Swale (92.1%) and Maidstone (91.3%).
Of that, it is worth noting the highest percentage of that development for housing is in Thanet. And that stands at 3.9%.
But the relentless march on new housing has a disproportionate impact. It changes areas we live or grew up in. Vistas we once held dear disappear. Places where we played as children are concreted over. Roads become busier and pressure is applied to all the local amenities we rely on. Little wonder, then, each development raises such shackles.
Particularly when you realise that in Ashford, for example, data from the same source revealed between 2015 to 2018, 73% of new residential homes in Ashford were on previously undeveloped land. Compare that to Canterbury, for example, where 77% of its housing was on previously developed sites.
So what are the areas of Kent where some of the biggest developments are planned - and this is not an exhaustive list - and just how many houses are we likely to see?
Chilmington, Ashford - 5,750 homes
A hugely controversial development when outline planning permission was granted in 2014, it saw a sleepy hamlet to the south west of Ashford earmarked for a sprawling community of more than 5,750 homes.
Originally due to be 7,000 homes, campaigners forced a concession and the number dropped. However, since then developers behind Chilmington - Hodson Developments - have expressed an interest in building a further 600 homes on land adjoining the main development and there are other schemes nearby too.
The first new home owners moved onto the site last year and the once outlying green fields are becoming a major conurbation, neighbouring other developments. Ashford's sprawl continues.
Heathlands, Maidstone - 4,000
As part of Maidstone Borough Council's bid to hit its housing targets, in 2019 it unveiled plans for the Heathlands Garden Community - a development of some 4,000 homes earmarked for land between Lenham and Charing.
However, so far it hasn't been without its problems - most notably with some landowners now wanting to withdraw their sites from the proposal - and some very vocal opposition. Recently Helen Whately, MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, said the scheme could "utterly destroy" the rural nature of the area.
With the local authority acting as 'master developer' to the project, the first homes, assuming they secure relevant permission, aren't expected to be ready until 2027 with all 5,000 homes completed, if its long-term plan plays out, from 2042 onwards.
Lidsing, Maidstone - 2,000
On the opposite side of Maidstone and butting Medway is the proposed Lidsing development - another 'garden community' - which, if developers progress, will see 2,000 homes in the parish of Boxley and Bredhurst.
The 145-hectare site was recently described as "ill-conceived" and "completely unsuitable" by Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch - not quite the ringing endorsement it would have wanted.
It forms part of Maidstone Borough Council's Local Plan - which identifies the area's long-term development - but is seen more as an extension of Medway's urban sprawl.
A consultation into the plans, which ran until the start of the year, attracted more than 3,800 responses which rather underlines the strength of feeling over the proposals.
Otterpool Park, Hythe - 10,000
Remember Folkestone Racecourse? Well it is that site which will form the heart of one of the biggest single developments in the county.
Otterpool Park has been a long-running saga but plans are now pushing ahead as land owners Folkestone & Hythe District Council seek to get the proposal off the planning table and into reality.
Outline planning permission has been sought and virtual consultations held recently.
Once it gets the full green light, then the homes will be constructed on the site, close to Hythe, over a 30-year period.
Kemsley, Sittingbourne - 1,200
To be built on a 64-hectare site of existing farmland, they will sit along the railway line at Kemsley.
Persimmon Homes will deliver the housing in a series of phases over the coming years with a key condition of the permission being upgrades to the Grovehurst roundabout on the A249 at Iwade and Kemsley.
Expect to see the first phases - comprising of some 300 homes - start to emerge sooner rather than later.
Birchington, Thanet - 1,650
Planned for what is currently farmland off the main Canterbury Road, it will completely change the feel of what is currently a popular destination leading down to the sandy beach at Minnis Bay.
Ptarmigan Land and Millwood Designer Homes put in an outline planning permission in January and, at the time of writing, a decision is due from Thanet District Council.
Unsurprisingly, villagers are less than impressed and a series of protests have been staged while local MP Sir Roger Gale has urged a rethink of the plans.
Westgate/Garlinge, Thanet - 2,000
While staying in Thanet, the local council is currently considering plans for 2,000 homes on land south of Garlinge and Westgate. Millwood Designer Homes - which is behind the nearby Birchington plans - is driving this forward too.
It's worth noting that both these applications are so huge on account, at least in part, of plans to turn the former Manston Airport site into housing being dropped from the Local Plan in order to allow it to have the chance to re-open as an airport; something for which it has subsequently secured government permission to do, legal wrangles aside.
Meanwhile, more farmland in Thanet is set to make way for more homes.
A decision on the plans is expected soon.
Conningbrook Park, Ashford - 725
Voted through by one vote last May by Ashford Borough Council, the Conningbrook Park development will be built in Kennington, just off Willesborough Road.
Hotly opposed when the plans were put forward back in 2016, full permission has been given for 288 homes and outline permission for the remaining 437.
However, work on the scheme has been stalled amid concerns over water quality at Stodmarsh Nature Reserve near Canterbury - believed to have been caused by housing developments. It has pressed the pause button on developments across east Kent while the cause of high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous are examined.
The Developer behind the scheme is Quinn Estates.
Faversham - 5,000
Admittedly that figure is a round-up of the number of homes ear-marked for the market town, but Faversham is certainly taking more than its fair share of building work over the coming years.
But the Swale Borough Council Local Plan has identified a number of areas which could see major changes.
Almost 400 homes are being built as part of the Perry Court Farm scheme by Barratt David Wilson Homes, while the Anderson Group is in the process of transforming the former gunpowder and aggregates site at the Oare Gravel Works into 300 homes.
The biggest single development could be on a 320-acre site south of the town on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall between the A2 and M2. If progressed, it could house 2,500 homes.
Mountfield Park, Canterbury - 4,000
The city of Canterbury has undergone plenty of development over recent years, but a new proposal could take that to a whole new level.
In December, the city council gave the green light to a 4,000-home scheme on 550 acres of farmland to the south of Canterbury. The size is equivalent to four times the size of its historic centre.
The Mountfield Park scheme - the biggest plan ever proposed for the district - is being spearheaded by developers Corinthian.
Full permission has been granted for 140 homes and outline approve for a further 3,860. It is expected the first homes will be completed by the end of the year.
Queenborough & Rushenden, Sheppey - 1,100
Some 100 homes are already up and running at what is the first stage of a £400million regeneration project on the island.
Built on a former industrial site, the land has had to be decontaminated and raised in order to make it suitable for development, but once complete will provide some 1,100 homes. It would have been closer to 2,200 but plans for a marina in Queenborough were ditched.
Elsewhere on Sheppey, SW Attwood and Partners are putting forward plans for a carbon neutral 1,500 homes development on Lower Road, Minster.
It's dubbed the scheme Sheppey ZeroC.
Tudeley Village, Tonbridge - 2,800
Developers love the phrase 'garden community' don't they? And it does sound so much nicer than 'housing development'.
And that's just how those driving the Tudeley Village scheme are describing their plans to build 2,800 homes on land between Tonbridge and Paddock Wood.
It was adopted as part of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council's Local Plan at the end of last year - it lies within the district's border - and has been proposed by landowners the Hadlow Estate.
Don't expect it any time soon though. No formal application has yet been submitted and the homes, if approved, will be built in phases over a 30-year period.
Albion Waterside, Gravesend - 1,500
In March, plans for 1,500 homes to be built next to the River Thames were submitted to Gravesham Borough Council in what developers hope will become Albion Waterside.
Developers Joseph Homes want to rejuvenate the area close to the canal basin and the Embankment Marina - demolishing existing buildings on the site to make way for the scheme.
If given the nod by planners, work could begin as early as next year.
The final homes are expected to be completed within 12 years.
Ebbsfleet Garden City - 15,000
Last, but by no means least, is the big daddy of developments in the county - Ebbsfleet Garden City.
First announced in 2014, work has long since started on developing the key regeneration site on what was former brownfield and industrial sites near Ebbsfleet International Station. Once it is finally complete, some 15,000 new homes will have been built along with all the required infrastructure.
More than 2,200 homes have already been built and additional developments are in constant progress by a host of developers.
The vision expects the homes to be completed by 2035.