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Call for Maidstone council to extend its Local Plan Review consultation period


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Two Independent councillors at Maidstone council are to ask for an extension to the borough's public consultation on its Local Plan Review

Residents have been given just six weeks to respond to the Regulation 19 document that will determine development in Maidstone for the next 16 years to 2037, but Cllrs Janetta and Tom Sams, who represent Harrietsham and Lenham, point out that is less time than the public were allowed to respond to a consultation on proposals to control dog fouling in public parks, which was allowed eight weeks and two days.

The Local Plan Review will shape development in Maidstone until 2037
The Local Plan Review will shape development in Maidstone until 2037

The Sams will be putting forward a motion to the full council on Wednesday, calling for the consultation to be extended until January 4.

Cllr Janetta Sams said: "When other consultations within the borough have been longer and neighbouing Swale's recent local plan review was over 11 weeks, we strongly feel that six weeks, doesn’t seem long enough, especially within the current pandemic situation.

"The public have to sift through thousands of pages of information available on the borough council website."

The main document is 267 pages long, but there are subsidiary documents to read to get the full picture.

Cllr Sams said: "The fact that the Heathlands and Lidsing Garden Community proposals involving thousands of houses are included, gives residents huge additional information to read, digest and respond to”

Cllr Tom and Janetta Sams with their dog Zeta at their Harrietsham home
Cllr Tom and Janetta Sams with their dog Zeta at their Harrietsham home

Last year’s Regulation 18b consultation was initially for only three weeks in December 2020, but was given another three because of the rising Covid infection rates and winter pressures.

Cllr Sams said: "In the last week, Kent has seen the second highest infection rate in the country.

"Both Harrietsham and Lenham Parish Councils have requested the borough extend the process."

Cllr Tom Sams said: "We are also concerned that there have been no roadshows or anything to help people understand the plan.

"It has largely been an online consultation. Those without access to the internet are heavily disadvantaged."

The council will discuss the issue at the Maidstone Leisure Centre on Wednesday
The council will discuss the issue at the Maidstone Leisure Centre on Wednesday

He said "This is an extremely important consultation which will shape and influence the borough's future for many years.

"It is not a party political issue. It is allowing residents, parish councillors and other stakeholders an opportunity to have a meaningful input in the process."

Councillors will discuss the matter at their meeting on Wednesday, at the Maidstone Leisure Centre at 7pm.

If the motion is not passed, the consultation will end on Sunday, December 12.

Details about the Local Plan Review can be found here.

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