Published: 21:25, 25 June 2020
| Updated: 12:36, 26 June 2020
Councillors defied officers' advice and again turned down a controversial application for more than 400 homes, as they face an appeal which could cost taxpayers £95,000, launched by the developer.
During a Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) planning committee in May, members rejected a proposal to build 421 dwellings around the Grade 1 listed St Nicholas Church, off Church Road, Otham.
But the overall decision was deferred, as it was pointed out the decision could be overturned by an inspector at the developer's appeal, resulting in the council potentially paying costs.
Tonight, in an online hearing, committee members once more voted against the scheme and application will now go to the policy and resources committee for determination, given the "significant risks of costs".
Planning officers had recommended that permission was granted.
The new grounds for refusal are based on severe traffic congestion in Willington Street, caused by proposed traffic lights and safety concerns in Church Road, the access road for the site.
Earlier this month, developer Bellway lodged an appeal with the planning inspectorate, an independent Government body, on the basis of non-determination of an outline application for building on the site which although concerning the same location, contains much less detail.
That application is now out of the council's hands and in a committee report, council officers said costs awarded against the council could be "in the region of £95,000", if the appeal is lost.
The vote against the outline permission was passed with nine for, two against and two abstentions. The vote against the full application was passed with 10 for, two against and one abstention.
Several councillors believed they would win at appeal, although a minority voiced that it could jeopardise the council's five year housing supply.
The Chapman Avenue Area Residents Association, a group campaigning against the site has submitted a petition with more than 1,600 signatures against the scheme.
David Hatcher, from the group, said: "We are delighted the councillors held firm and continued to refuse permission. They were concerned with the future wellbeing of residents, both existing and those who would have to live on this road locked site.
"Bellway were clearly just concerned with making millions of pounds from from their victims who would be living there as they walk away."
In the meeting, a representative for Bellway said the application's refusal will pave the way for undesirable and unplanned sites, as opposed to this one which is allocated in the local plan.
More by this authorKatie Heslop
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