Published: 17:05, 28 January 2020
| Updated: 18:29, 28 January 2020
Maidstone councillors of all political colours have joined forces to call on the government to ease huge housing targets being imposed on the borough.
When the local authority agreed its Local Plan - which sets out key development sites across the area - in 2017, it was facing the prospect of building 882 homes a year.
However, the introduction of a new formula - the Standardised Methodology for Assessing Housing Need (SMAHN) - calculates Maidstone will soon need to increase that number annually to 1,236 - a jump of some 40%.
A motion describing the targets as "impossible" was tabled just before Christmas, and now the leaders of each of the council's five political groups, as well as MP Helen Grant, have signed a damning letter to communities secretary, Robert Jenrick.
In it, they warn the uplift "has eroded community trust in the plan making process", adding that "a firm anti-housebuilding sentiment is now widespread", with positive consultation and engagement "extremely difficult to achieve".
The signatories argue the council has a "strong track record of delivery", maintaining a five-year housing land supply to guard against unwelcome development proposals.
However, it notes that much of this has been achieved through converting office space, and this is now in limited supply, meaning there is "an emerging housing delivery threat", adding that "it would seem improbable" the housebuilders themselves would want to raise their output in the borough by such a margin.
As a result, the council requests its current target of 882 per year is maintained until the end of the Local Plan period in 2031.
The letter comes after Faversham and Mid Kent MP Helen Whately blasted local authority bosses for passing blame at a meeting to discuss controversial proposals for a 5,000-home garden community in Lenham.