Published: 10:05, 31 May 2019
| Updated: 11:12, 31 May 2019
A council has approved plans for 53 homes on grazing land in a village.
Although it was likely that the site would eventually go to housing, the timing of the approval has upset Lenham residents.
Maidstone council's approved Local Plan - which sets out its housing strategy for several years - identified the village as "a broad location for growth" that would be expected to take "approximately 1,000 dwellings post April 2021".
But the village was also promised: "Master planning of the area will be essential to achieve a high quality design and layout, landscape and ecological mitigation, and appropriate provision of supporting physical, social and green infrastructure.
"Housing site allocations and associated infrastructure requirements will be made through the Lenham Neighbourhood Plan or through the local plan review to be adopted by April 2021."
No master plan has been prepared and although Lenham is working on its Neighbourhood Plan, it is not yet completed.
The proposal from Wealden Homes was for 45 homes and two block of four flats each on land west of Loder Close and Westwood Close, with access via Loder Close.
Resident Michael Jerrett objected, pointing out that two previous applications for fewer homes on the site had been rejected.
Cllr Alastair Walmsley of Lenham Parish Council said: "If the council chooses to exclude that part of the Local Plan it doesn't like, it will be seen as untrustworthy."
In a passionate speech, Cllr Tom Sams (Ind), speaking as a visiting member - he is not on the planning committee - urged his colleagues to refuse the proposal on the grounds of "pre-maturity'" while his wife Cllr Janetta Sams (Ind) warned: "People are angry that this is being pushed forward now and not between the 2021 - 2031 time-frame."
She warned approval would "open the floodgates to other developers." She urged the committee: "Be true to the Local Plan."
Her appeal fell on deaf ears.
Only Cllr Louise Brice (Con) advocated rejecting the application, saying the council should stick to its promise to Lenham residents.
New councillor Robert Eves, attending his first planning meeting, attempted to argue that the location of a proposed children's play area close to existing homes should be moved. He said his previous life with the police had taught him that play areas would be a focus for anti-social behaviour that was likely to disturb the existing residents, but Cllr Paul Wilby (Con) told him police had been consulted and raised no issue.
Cllr Tony Harwood (Lib Dem) moved to grant permission, seconded by Cllr Dennis Spooner (Con). It was approved with 10 votes in favour, none against, and three abstentions.