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Setting of St Nicholas Church in Otham 'at risk'

There is growing opposition to a planning application to build 421 homes on land west of Church Road in Otham.

Two residents' associations have submitted detailed objections to the plan proposed by Bellway Homes.

St Nicholas Church, Otham
St Nicholas Church, Otham

The Chapman Avenue Area Residents Association has cited harm to the historic Grade 1 listed church of St Nicholas, saying the building of three-storey homes on the boundaries of The Beams and Chapman Avenue will block views of the church, and also given fears of traffic congestion as key reasons.

The association alleges that the traffic modelling for the new homes carried out by the applicant was based on historical data that preceded the construction of many hundreds of new homes on the Sutton Road, and the consequent increase in traffic in the local area.

The association points out that KCC Highways raised strong objection to an outline planning application on grounds of both safety and congestion.

The residents say it can already take 10 minutes to travel the 1.5kms from Chapman Avenue to Ashford Road at peak times.

They also fear flooding in the Downswood Valley will be exacerbated by run-off from the new development.

The development site outlined
The development site outlined

They state the site will not be sustainable since its occupants will be dependent on the motor car to reach all facilities.

The Bearsted and Thurnham Society has raised objections over the perceived harm to the church. Chairman Caroline Vanhecke said planning policy said development should enhance the setting of heritage assets, not diminish it.

She said: "With no amenities on site, the developer is counting on the new residents taking up non-existent spare capacity in local schools, doctors and dentists.

"Many of the facilities quoted in the application documents are pure fantasy – they either closed years ago or their significance is grossly exaggerated.

"With no realistic local alternatives, it is likely that the traffic generated will far exceed the developer’s predictions. Overall, it is

apparent that the volume of traffic trying to pass through Downswood and into Bearsted will be unsustainable."

David Hatcher has started an online petition
David Hatcher has started an online petition

Maidstone Borough Council has also received 282 individual letters of objection as well as objections from Downswood Parish Council, from Bearsted Parish Council, from Heritage England and from the St Nicholas Parochial Church Council.

David Hatcher, a resident of Chapman Avenue, has also started an online petition against the plans which has so far attracted 341 signatures. It can be found here.

He has also produced a video citing residents' objections to the plans.

Curiously, the developers, who submitted an outline application for the site back in October of last year only to have it sent back to them by councillors for improvement, have moved to now submit a full application without first having the outline scheme approved.

The site is one of six near the Sutton Road already allocated for development in Maidstone's adopted Local Plan. In total - if approved - they will provide an extra 2,651 homes in the area.

Bellway is proposing a looped main road through the state that will both enter and exit onto Church Road.

On the plus side, the developer says it will provide a community orchard, a village green and a public square in its proposals and is looking at bringing a bus route onto the site.

Application 19/506182 refers.

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