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Marden villagers take to the streets to say no to 2,000-homes plan

By Alan Smith

Almost 2,000 people took part in a protest march against scores of new homes planned for a village.

Organisers say 1,903 people turned out in Marden this morning and can be precise on the numbers because they "clicked" people in as they entered Southon Field at the end of the journey.

The villagers are unhappy that developer Countryside Properties has submitted a proposal to Maidstone council to create a 2,000-home "garden community" on the outskirts of the village.

The scheme would effectively double the size of Marden.

The proposal does include plans for two new schools and other facilities, but demonstrators who gathered outside the Marden Memorial Hall in Goudhurst Road before marching the quarter mile to Southons Field, said it would "crush" the village.

Residents have come together to create the Marden Planning Opposition Group to fight the scheme.

'The whole community has really come together over this and that's what we wanted...' - Claudine Russell

The group's chairman Claudine Russell said: "The response has been brilliant. It really shows the strength of opposition to this.

"We've had people join us from Yalding, Colliers Green, Staplehurst and Chainhurst - because they will all be affected by the increased traffic.

"The whole community has really come together over this and that's what we wanted."

Bucket collections were made with the proceeds being divided equally between a local charity - Safe Anaesthesia - and the costs for the campaign to prepare its technical case against the garden community scheme.

The marchers were in good-spirits, encouraged by some sunny weather.

After a speech from Mrs Russell, many stayed on for a picnic.

Mrs Russell said: "It was very much a family affair."

The message from Sally Sparrow is clear
The message from Sally Sparrow is clear

Yesterday they received a visit from Maidstone and Weald MP Helen Grant.

Protestors are now completing a house-by-house petition against the scheme which will presented to Maidstone council.

A spokesperson for Countryside Properties said: “Maidstone Borough Council’s Call for Sites and Local Plan Review process is at a very early stage.

“Land north of Marden will be one of many options to be considered by the council.

"If it is selected as a preferred option, it would be a number of years before a planning application would come forward.

"Any future development would be sensitively master-planned and the local community would have the opportunity to help shape any proposals."

“We will update the community after the borough council’s call for sites process has been completed.”

Some of the protesters
Some of the protesters

For more information about the Say No campaign, click here.

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