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Road-rail freight depot plans roundly condemned

THE worst disaster to befall Bearsted since the Second World War. That's how protestors heard the Kent International Gateway Project described at a meeting on Friday.

Around 530 members of the public attended the event called by the KCC Local Board, filling the main hall at the Ramada Hotel in Hollingbourne. Many residents had to follow the meeting via a video-link from a spill-over room.

The audience heard speeches from Cllr Paul Carter (Con) the KCC leader; Hugh Robertson MP for Faversham and Mid Kent; Lord Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, chairman of English Heritage; Dr Hilary Newport, director of CPRE Kent; Alan Thomas, spokesman for the Bearsted and Thurnham Society; Richard Horton, chairman of the StopKIG campaign, and Cllr Richard Jacques, representing the KIG Joint Parish Councils Group.

All roundly condemned the plans to create a road-rail interchange with warehousing across 250 acres of Kent countryside. Cllr Fran Wilson (Lib Dem), the leader of Maidstone council, was also on the panel, but was unable to voice a view on the project because of the need for the council, as the authority that would determine the application, to remain impartial.

Some of the most emphatic objections came when Cllr Paulina Stockell (Con) who was chairing the meeting invited comments from the audience.

Dr Will Mangar, a Bearsted resident and GP warned of the health consequences that would follow in the wake of the enormous number of lorry movements that would follow any acceptance of the KIG plan.

Increased particulates in the air could cause respiritory and heart problems and the incessant low level hum often associated with the operation of such developments could cause sleep deprivation and a lost ability to concentrate.

Children were particularly susceptible to lead pollution, and he warned that many of the lorries visiting KIG would come from parts of Eastern Europe where lead was still allowed in petrol.

Dr Felicity Simpson, chairman of the Maidstone branch of the CPRE and a Thurnham resident, warned that Maidstone council had opened the way to the development by producing a core strategy planning policy that included parts of the KIG site within its "areas of search" for business development.

She warned: "It is important that Maidstone council gives no succour in any way (in its planning policies) that the Government could latch on to to justify this horrendous project."

She said: "Quite simply, no development should be allowed in this special landscape area."

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