Published: 09:00, 19 September 2019
| Updated: 10:44, 19 September 2019
The plan was discussed by the Policy and Resources Committee on Wednesday night, but the location was kept confidential prior to and during the meeting, despite efforts from KentOnline for details to be disclosed.
Council chiefs said including these details could compromise the authority's financial position and this outweighed the public interest in disclosing the information.
Ahead of the hearing, KentOnline wrote to each councillor on the committee, asking if they would support the site details being discussed publicly in the meeting.
However, no protestations against the information being kept private were heard on the night before the committee formally agreed to progress the work in which the council acts as the master-developer.
A media statement confirming the plans for land east of Lenham was then released ten minutes after KentOnline published an article stating that location details were not revealed at the meeting.
Acting as the master-developer means the council takes a controlling interest in the land, leads the design process, enables the required infrastructure, identifies suitable development partners and oversees the stewardship of the new community.
The town hall believes the proposal will provide healthcare, education and retail facilities, as well as business, leisure and green space in "a new integrated and sustainable settlement".
The committee also agreed to allocate adequate financial resources to develop the proposition and for officers to advance the commercial negotiations with the principal landowners.
This proposal has already been submitted to the ‘call for sites’ exercise, an important early stage of the ongoing Maidstone Local Plan Review that is being overseen by the council’s Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Committee.
Should the proposal gain initial support from that committee, it will become subject to public consultation at the next stages of the Local Plan Review process.
However, the council insists no firm decisions have been made at this stage.
Council leader and Policy and Resources Committee chairman, Cllr Martin Cox, said: “This committee has given its approval to further explore plans for a new garden community.
"The council is being proactive, we have listened to the feedback from the public and parish councils and have learnt from the previous Local Plan process.
"We are working together for the long-term benefit of the borough.”
Vice-chairman of the committee, Cllr John Perry, said: “We are at the start of a long process. Although this committee has taken the first step, this proposal will be evaluated against all the others.”
Deputy leader and committee member Fay Gooch added: "Central Government requires us to meet incredibly high housing targets.
"We are working together for the long-term benefit of the borough..." Cllr Martin Cox
"Failure to deliver them will risk the government stepping in to take planning decisions on our behalf.
"This proposal could enable us to control the location, quality and type of housing we know will be needed into the future.”
If given the green light, the first homes could be built in 2027.
More by this authorTom Pyman