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Councillors reject homes plan for land east of Hermitage Lane, Maidstone

Controversial plans to build 500 homes near ancient woodland have been unanimously rejected.

The application for the development off Hermitage Lane, Maidstone, was recommended by officers to be turned down when it went before tonight's Maidstone council planning committee.

Dozens of residents and campaigners had turned out to hear councillors debate Croudace Homes' application, which includes a road through an ancient Bluebell wood.

Protestors make their feelings known before the meeting
Protestors make their feelings known before the meeting

Members were particularly concerned about the threat to the woodland, the withdrawal of a country park which had at one time been part of the plans, and the effect of so much extra traffic on the area.

A number of speakers urged councillors to listen to their concerns, voicing fears about the scale of the development and the threat on the local environment.

John Wilkes of the St Andrew's Road Residents' Association, said: "We do need more homes but the scale of the proposed development in the Hermitage Lane area will destroy the environment."

Ann Bates from the New Allington Action Group, summed up the feelings of many members of the public who gathered saying: “This site should never be developed."

Land east of Hermitage Lane in Maidstone
Land east of Hermitage Lane in Maidstone

The plans are for two large fields separated by the woodland, which would be cut back.

Although the land is earmarked for some development, councillors were unhappy about the amount of affordable housing included, the scale of it and the threat to the woodland.

Cllr Stephen Paine (Con) said: "It isn't acceptable to bulldoze ancient woodland simply to access the lower field," while Cllr Tony Harwood (Lib Dem) added: "What matters tonight is putting together the strongest possible case to win the inevitable appeal that we all know is coming."

For the full story see next week's Kent Messenger.

A separate application for another site, also on Hermitage Lane, was withdrawn from the meeting.

The application for full planning permission to demolish the former nurses’ home and surrounding buildings to make way for 69 houses by Bellway Homes was deferred for three weeks.

The developer had asked for extra time to consider a request from Kent County Council in relation to the amount it should pay towards primary school provision, under a Section 106 agreement.

Councillors agreed the three week delay was the most they were prepared to allow.

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