Published: 17:11, 10 March 2021
| Updated: 17:13, 10 March 2021
MPs have criticised huge development schemes included in Maidstone Borough Council’s (MBC) draft plan for the future of the borough.
In a submission to the council, Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham and Aylesford, described a plan for 2,000 homes in the parish of Boxley and Bredhurst, known as Lidsing, as “environmentally damaging”, “ill conceived” and “completely unsuitable”.
Helen Whately, MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, said she had grave concerns about the 5,000 home community near Lenham Heath, known as Heathlands.
She spoke about a lack of transport infrastructure and the rural character of the area being “utterly destroyed”.
The garden communities are part of MBC’s draft Local Plan Review, which sets out the council’s proposals for shaping the growth of the borough until 2037, in order to meet government set housing numbers.
Of the 7,000 homes proposed in total at Lidsing and Heathlands, it is the ambition to deliver 2,700 by 2037.
The blueprint went out for public consultation between December and January and the council received up to 3, 281 responses.
Some 3,001 were from residents. The remaining responses came from councillors, pressure groups and others.
Ms Crouch, responding to the consultation and speaking about the Lidsing development, said the homes would be built on the authority’s boundary with Medway Council. Although the site fell outside of her constituency, it would have an “unacceptable” impact on Waderslade and Lordswood, areas she does represent.
She wrote: "The impact on the neighbouring local authority is acknowledged by MBC in its consultation document.
"I am therefore extremely concerned that MBC believe they can propose such a significant development at a site on their boundary in order to meet their housing need, while leaving established neighbouring communities and Medway Council to deal with the unacceptable and damaging consequences."
She urged the council to remove the site from the draft plan.
Speaking about Heathlands, Mrs Whately said the proposal lacks "transport infrastructure and accessibility to employment areas".
This made the new development a "commuter village rather than that meets local housing needs", she said.
The draft plan says Heathlands should aim to "provide for as close to 5,000 new jobs as feasible and viable."
The responses were presented in summary form at MBC’s stategic planning and infrastructure committee yesterday evening for noting.
They will inform the future stages of the review. A stage 3 masterplan will be published in April and a final consultation is expected in June before going to an inspector.
The version planned to be out for consultation in the summer is known as Regulation 19.
Chair of the strategic planning and infrastructure committee, Cllr David Burton said: “We are pleased to have seen so many people take the opportunity to take part in this consultation.
"They clearly reflect some of the main issues raised regarding the Local Plan Review and will be considered alongside the evidence base which informed the Regulation 18b consultation document, the emerging further evidence base which is currently being established and a number of other technical matters relating to sites and proposals.
"All of this will then form the basis of further work with elected council members in establishing the policies and proposals, including the spatial strategy to be promoted at Regulation 19."
MBC says that discussions with infrastructure providers, statutory bodies, adjacent local authorities and other stakeholders are ongoing and the authority is working to resolve issues through these discussions and further technical evidence between now and the Regulation 19 consultation in the summer.