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Willington Street junction works will end off-site disruption caused by Bellway’s Parsonage Place development at Otham

Villagers upset over traffic delays caused by the construction of new homes have been told the worst will be over “very soon”.

Bellway Homes is building 421 homes at Parsonage Place in Otham, near Maidstone.

Chris Moore is managing director of Kent Bellway
Chris Moore is managing director of Kent Bellway

Chris Moore, managing director of its Kent division, said: “We will very soon have completed all the off-site works, which will, I suspect, be a great relief to both us and the residents.”

Mr Moore is well aware that the development was regarded with alarm and anger by many of its neighbours even before the first piece of turf was turned.

More than 1,600 people signed a petition opposing planning permission, and permission was twice refused by Maidstone councilors and only granted in January 2021 by a planning inspector on appeal.

Much of the concern was centred around the Grade I-listed St Nicholas’ Church which lies adjacent to the housing estate.

But Bellway has designed the layout of the new homes so that several vistas towards the church remain, and it has also built the diocese a 30-space car park which it didn’t have before.

St Nicholas' Church is visible from several points within the site
St Nicholas' Church is visible from several points within the site

Fears that pile-driving for the new homes would disturb the ancient building seem to have been unfounded - it is standing still.

“We’re very proud of our development,” said Mr Moore, and with some satisfaction since the new residents so far have given it a Five Star satisfaction rating, and the site manager, Darrell Wilson, has recently been awarded his second Seal of Excellence from the National House Building Council.

However, neighbours have found plenty to complain of - noise from the pile-driving, mud in wet weather, dust in dry conditions, and traffic disruption from the necessary roadworks to bring services into the site, to re-fashion the junction of Church Road with Deringwood Drive, to improve the junction at Spot Lane, and with the latest work being to install traffic lights at the junction of Deringwood Drive with Willington Street.

Mr Moore said: “That is scheduled to be completed by the end of May. After that all the work will be on-site, and we will cause no more disruption to traffic.

“People should hopefully also come to appreciate the road improvements that we have made.”

Bellway was keen not to be seen as “faceless and unresponsive” and so from the start has held regular consultation meetings with representatives of the local community.

“The early ones were sometimes a bit tense,” Mr Moore admitted, “but now it’s much more just an exchange of information and giving updates.”

The company has so far completed 72 homes, with 29 of them being affordable. It hopes to reach 120 by the end of the summer.

Mr Moore said: “We are prioritising the provision of affordable homes as far as possible, but we have to work in a manner that allows us to keep construction away from the homes that are already occupied.”

At present, there are two entrances to the site - one for residents, one for construction traffic.

Chris Moore was keen to point out the development features
Chris Moore was keen to point out the development features

The last area to be built will be near the construction entrance, as Bellway effectively builds itself out of the site.

The affordable homes are being provided at two distinct parts of the development, but Mr Moore said: “There is no visible distinction; they will fit in seamlessly with the market housing.”

Two separate housing associations have been identified to manage them.

A plaza, several green areas and play areas are to be provided. Most are yet to come, but the company has resurfaced a right of way along the boundary of the site and created a ramp that leads down into the public council-owned play area off The Beams.

“Creating the ramp was quite a task,” said Mr Moore.

The ramp leading from the new estate to the The Beams play area
The ramp leading from the new estate to the The Beams play area

There will, sadly, be some more noise disruption.

Mr Moore said: “We will have to do some more pile-driving on some parts of the site, but we are doing trench foundations wherever possible.”

The company has purchased an acoustic shroud to lessen the noise from the pile-driving, though Mr Moore admitted: “It is a bit relentless.”

Building is made difficult by a layer of ragstone close to the surface.

Some of the homes are already occupied; others can be reserved.

Inside one of the show homes
Inside one of the show homes

Two, three and four-bed homes in a variety of styles can now be purchased, with prices starting at £385,000 and rising to £535,000.

Each will also be subject to an annual service charge, estimated at £409.

Details can be found here.

There are two show homes to view and Bellway is also trying out something new. It has left one house part-finished so that visitors can view the internal construction for themselves.

The first room has just stud walls with the pipes and electric cables on display, and then as you move around the property, each room gradually becomes more complete, so that potential buyers can see the cavity wall insulation, noise insulation and other measures that are being installed.

Mr Moore said: “It’s proving very popular and helping people to understand exactly what it is that they are buying.”

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