Published: 15:25, 27 September 2019
| Updated: 15:40, 27 September 2019
A new railway station and motorway junction have been proposed as part of ambitious plans for a garden community near Lenham.
The 5,000-home scheme was discussed by Maidstone council's policy and resources committee last week, but the location was kept confidential prior to and during the meeting, despite efforts from the KM for details to be disclosed.
Council chiefs said including this information could compromise the authority's financial position and this outweighed the public interest in disclosing the information.
Just 10 minutes after an article was published on KentOnline, stating that location details were not revealed at the meeting, a media statement confirming the plans for land east of Lenham.
Documents from planning consultants, Barton Willmore, seen by the KM, appear to suggest the scheme would be built on land in Lenham Heath and Lenham Forstal, stretching further into areas between Charing Heath to the east and Leadingcross Green to the west.
It is understood the site is made up of land owned by a number of different people, some of whom it is believed fear their land would be compulsorily purchased if they don't agree to a sale with the council, which is acting as the master-developer for the project.
This means the town hall 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.
At the full council meeting at Maidstone Town Hall on Thursday, September 25, the councillor for Harrietsham and Lenham, Tom Sams, asked the leader of the council, Cllr Martin Cox, to disclose the exact amount of money spent on the project to date.
In response, Cllr Cox revealed it has cost the council £68,817 so far.
Speaking about the meeting, Cllr Sams, said he is worried that the council appears to be embarking on the project without knowing how much it is going to cost.
Residents in the council member's ward have also expressed their fears as to the exact location of the proposed garden community, which has so far only been described by the council as "east of Lenham."
Cllr Sams reiterated their concerns and said people don't want to end up with something that has a "huge impact on our small community."
Barton Willmore's literature claims the creation of a strategic-scale, free standing garden village would "reduce the pressure to extend existing settlements, thereby helping to preserve their historic character".
In justifying the site selection, it argues the land is flat, away from an area of outstanding natural beauty and relatively unconstrained in heritage, ecology and flood risk terms.
The document adds: "We consider that this location is uniquely placed to not only make a significant contribution towards meeting the borough's housing and employment requirements but also to the delivery of wider infrastructure improvements such as the provision of a new HS1 railway station and motorway junction."
Also included in the proposals appears to be three primary schools and a secondary school as well as open space, a "district centre" and areas dedicated for "employment".
Barton Willmore was approached for further comment but had not responded.
More by this authorTom Pyman