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Maidstone council delays release of masterplan for Heathlands garden village at Lenham

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Lenham residents are angry because they believe Maidstone council is deliberately keeping them in the dark.

Opponents of the council's plan to create a 4,000-home garden village called Heathlands at Lenham Heath point to a promise made by the council in January that the third draft of the council's masterplan for the area would be ready by the end of the financial year - which was on Monday.

How Maidstone council envisages its new community
How Maidstone council envisages its new community

But instead, it now seems it won't be released until June.

The detail is of vital importance to some 18 residents whose homes were included in the area designated in an earlier draft of the masterplan, without their knowledge or agreement.

Their lives have been blighted by the fear they will lose their homes through compulsory purchase.

Although, in January, the council hinted that their wish to be excluded from the plan could be accommodated, residents are still awaiting the publication of the next draft as confirmation.

Other campaigners are fearful that the next version of the masterplan will hold other unwelcome surprises - and suspect the boundary of the garden village is to be expanded northwards to include areas previously unaffected.

Kate Hammond
Kate Hammond

Kate Hammond for Save Our Heath Lands (SOHL) said: “If the masterplan has already been formally submitted to the planning authority, why is the council refusing to share it with the public?

"It shows utter disregard and contempt for those directly affected by these plans.”

A council spokesman said: "Information to inform the next stage of the Local Plan Review takes many forms and includes evidence obtained from Heathlands garden community and other site promoters.

"It is intended to report the latest available information on Heathlands to councillors as part of the evidence base for the forthcoming Local Plan Review Regulation 19 consultation proposals.

"While at this stage a specific date for this to take place has not been set, the timetable that the council is working to indicates that the Regulation 19 consultation is due to commence in June.”

A map of Heathlands
A map of Heathlands

Mrs Hammond said: "We understand that Maidstone Borough Council has changed the boundary of the masterplan, but are not telling residents whether their land is still in or out of it now.

"It is disgraceful that a council can act in this unethical and immoral way.

"It looks as though they are delaying release until after the May elections.”

The council's director of regeneration and place, William Cornwell, told members of the council's policy and resources committee in March, that the garden village was expected to shift northwards from its current location towards the A20, which would take it closer to the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The council is working in collaboration with Government quango Homes England to bring about the Heathlands project, with the two bodies agreeing to share the estimated £3m cost of bringing the scheme to readiness for onward sale to developers.

The council declined to either confirm or deny it was in receipt of the third version of the masterplan.

One third of Maidstone's council seats are to be contested at elections in May, but Lenham is one of the few wards where there is no borough election taking place.

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

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