Published: 06:00, 12 December 2020
| Updated: 07:32, 12 December 2020
A campaign group opposing plans for a garden village on farmland has grown from five members to 1,000 in just a week and its objections have already been voiced in the House of Commons.
Against Lidsing Garden Development was set up to fight proposals by Maidstone Borough Council to designate a large area in the parishes of Boxley and Bredhurst for a garden village of 2,000 homes in its Local Plan Review.
Although the area is officially in the borough of Maidstone, it is more closely connected to the Medway Towns than Maidstone, and the opposition group has already won the support of Tracey Crouch (Con), the MP for Chatham and Aylesford, and Rehman Chishti (Con), the MP for Gillingham and Rainham.
Miss Crouch said: “While the site for Maidstone council’s proposed garden village falls marginally outside of my constituency, its impact would very much be felt in Lordswood and Walderslade - areas which I do represent, putting a huge strain on local infrastructure and eroding a vital green lung.
"I will be raising local residents’ concerns with Maidstone council and I urge all those with concerns to also register their views formally with the local authority."
Mr Chishti is concerned at the impact the garden village would have on Hempstead and Wigmore, which fall within his constituency. He described the scheme as "completely unacceptable".
He has already presented a petition in the House of Commons on behalf of objectors, calling on the Government to intervene and stop Maidstone council's plans.
Objectors say the proposed village on farmland north of the M2, would link Lordswood, Hempstead and Bredhurst and remove well used public footpaths.
Because residents tend to look to Medway council, they have only recently heard about the proposals put forward by Maidstone, leading them to describe the plan as “underhand” and a “back-door approach”.
They were also angry that the council had scheduled the window of the public consultation on the draft Local Plan Review to fall in a period when Kent residents were in Tier 3, making it more difficult for objectors to campaign against the plans.
The group had scheduled a protest walk along one of the footpaths over the land this Sunday, that was expected would have been attended by hundreds of objectors, but the event has been cancelled amid concerns over maintaining proper social distancing.
Katherine Hersey-Meade, one of the founding members of the group, said: "I live in Lordswood, have done for 20 years, but I walk across this site regularly with the dogs.
"It's just such a lovely area, full of wildlife. This land has been described as Maidstone but it impacts mostly on Medway."
This weekend, the campaign group aims to distribute 5,000 leaflets to homes in Bredhurst, Lidsing, Prince's Park, Hempstead, Lordswood, Walderslade and Gibraltar Farm, informing householders about the plans and encouraging them to object.
They are concerned that the proposal includes the creation of a new road at Junction 4 of the M2.
They said the proposal would bring an increase in traffic heading for the railway stations in Chatham, Gillingham and Rainham, as well as placing extra demand on already oversubscribed schools and GP surgeries.
Mrs Hersey-Meade said: "Maidstone council states Lidsing is one of their ‘preferred options’ but many feel they are dumping their houses right on the border with Medway and the term ‘out of sight, out of mind’ springs to mind!"
Medway Council has not yet responded to Maidstone's Local Plan Review.
Against Lidsing Garden Development has started a gofundme page seeking donations to help pay for banners and leaflets.
More information is available by clicking here.
In the meantime, Mr Chisti is appealing to all those concerned about the proposals to take the opportunity to respond to Maidstone council's public consultation on its Local Plan Review.
The deadline for the public to respond to the Local Plan Review is 5pm on Tuesday, December 22.
The link to the consultation document is here.
The relevant policy is SP4 (b) North of the M2 Lidsing.
Against Lidsing Garden Development has a Facebook page, offering advice on how to make a comment, which is available here.