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Inquiry to settle row over housing

CAMPAIGNERS fighting plans to sell off a village recreation ground to fund a new primary school have been promised a public inquiry to consider if the land should be protected from future development.

Booth Field in Church Road, Harrietsham, near Maidstone, has been at the centre of controversy since plans to sell off the land for housing first emerged more than two years ago.

Planning permission for a new home for the Harrietsham Church of England School on Tongs Meadow was granted by Maidstone Borough Council last May.

The sale of Booth Field was flagged up by its owners, the Booth and Baldwin Charity, as a way of funding the new school. BBC’s chairman Paul Passey was until recently also the school’s head teacher. He stepped down from the post last month.

Kent County Council’s regulation committee this week approved plans for a non-statutory public inquiry led by a barrister with planning expertise. It will take place before the end of February and is expected to last up to four days with a report back to the council six to eight weeks later.

The Friends of Booth Field action group hope the inquiry will decide that the site should be protected from development and be officially listed as a recreation space for village sports and pastimes.

More than 150 Harrietsham residents, meanwhile, are expected to pack the council chamber at Maidstone Town Hall on Thursday, February 6, to hear borough council deliberations on an application to build 80 homes on the Booth Field site.

The council’s planning committee is also set to consider separate housing plans for an area of village open space at Hook Lane. The site is being mooted as an alternative source of funding for the school.

*What do you think should happen to Booth Field? Write to Kent Messenger, 6 & 7 Middle Row, Maidsotne, Kent ME14 1TG or email kentmessenger@thekmgroup.co.uk

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