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Maidstone councillors under investigation after secret housing meeting leak

Councillors and officers have come under investigation after a behind-closed-doors suggestion a village could absorb 5,000 homes was leaked to the public.

A meeting of Maidstone Borough Council's Policy and Resource's Committee became a heated exchange after leader Martin Cox suggested holding talks in secret.

The council agreed to hold a section about the call for sites in private. This is where the authority looks for land for possible development. It could mean thousands of homes being built on top of the 17,660 already in the Local Plan housing blueprint.

Maidstone Town Hall
Maidstone Town Hall

Despite backlash from councillors and arguments to hold talks openly, chief executive Alison Broom insisted she would not advise representatives on items contained in the discussion unless the door was shut to the public.

However it is understood the call for sites secret discussion included speculative talks on 2,500 to 5,000 homes near Lenham.

Officers and councillors who attended the meeting have been told they will be individually interviewed to hunt for the suspected leak.

In an email to those involved, head of legal partnership Patricia Narebor said: "Following guidance from officers, the committee decided that it was not appropriate to consider the report in public and for the information to be released prior to the public consultation.

"Contrary to the decision of the committee, the information was released to the public albeit that officers had provided clear guidance that the requirements of Part 1 Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972 were met.

"The interests of third parties and the council would be compromised by the release of the information at that stage together with breaching the council’s contractual obligations. As such, it was in the public interest not to release the information at that stage.

"Confirmation was provided that the information would be released to the public at the formal consultation stage.

"My colleague Christine Nuttall will arrange to meet you shortly to obtain a statement from you. An investigation report will be prepared once statements have been taken from members and officers."

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