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Save Our Heath Lands (SOHL) campaigners launch £50k appeal to fight Lenham Heath garden village in Maidstone council’s Local Plan

Campaigners against a 5,000-home development have launched an appeal for a £50,000 legal fighting fund.

The money will be used to legally challenge proposals recently passed by Maidstone council after they were approved by a planning inspector.

Locals have spent years protesting against the Heathlands scheme in Lenham Heath
Locals have spent years protesting against the Heathlands scheme in Lenham Heath

Save Our Heath Lands (SOHL) has so far raised just shy of £11,000 of its target to fight the scheme for Lenham Heath.

The money will go towards funding a judicial review at the High Court in London of the Local Plan which was adopted by Maidstone council on March 20.

The application for a review must be lodged by May 2.

Kent County Council (KCC) raised several major concerns about the plan, particularly the railway station needed at the heart of the Heathlands development, before it was passed.

In a letter to Maidstone council, corporate director of growth, environment and transport at KCC, Simon Jones wrote: “The county council, as the local highways authority, is concerned that the timing of the more sustainable transport provision, namely the train station and bus routes at Heath lands, are provided at a later date than requested by the county council and will therefore not be in pace at the right time to secure travel patterns.”

In particular, KCC wanted the station to be built at the point 650 homes had been built, but this had been put back to 1,300 homes instead.

Mr Jones said KCC has “consistently argued the necessity of early delivery” to establish sustainable transport to support the development.

Maidstone council leader Cllr David Burton (Con) acknowledged “Heathlands has got a long way to go” but the inspector found the outline proposals were “okay so far”.

Maidstone council leader Cllr David Burton
Maidstone council leader Cllr David Burton

The council is bound by housing targets imposed by central government and the leader said many of the new homes are being bought by Londoners.

Cllr Burton added the council has already intervened in the market locally with its bid to build 1,000 affordable homes.

Chairman of Lenham Parish Council, John Britt, said: “The purpose of the judicial review would be to challenge the process by which the inspector came to his conclusions.

“Ultimately, it is down to the judge to decide.”

Chairman of Lenham Parish Council John Britt
Chairman of Lenham Parish Council John Britt

The council’s cabinet member for planning, infrastructure and economic development Cllr Paul Cooper (Con) said: “Ultimately, the court is there as an arbiter and they [SOHL] have every right to launch legal proceedings if they think they have a case.”

SOHL’s online fundraising page reads: “Lenham, at the heart of the Garden of England, accepts that more houses need to be built nationally, however we don’t accept that it should be put in unsustainable locations, without suitable infrastructure, and on such a vast swathe of Kent’s green field.

“Lenham parish has already accepted our civic responsibility to accommodate more housing and our draft Neighbourhood Plan makes provision for up to 1,000 new homes on suitable strategic housing sites across the village.

“We want to unite residents in Lenham and the surrounding villages around a common purpose and give everyone a voice. We want to call out Maidstone Borough Council on their secrecy, lack of transparency and disingenuous approach to community engagement.”

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