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Japanese knotweed sighting on site of Lidsing Garden Village near Chatham and M2 raises question marks for developers


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Japanese knotweed close to a proposed major development site is threatening thousands of new homes.

The weeds were reported along a footpath which runs between Westfield Sole Road and North Dane Way in Lordswood, Chatham.

Sightings of Japanese Knotweed have been reported in the Lidsing area which is subject to a bid for thousands of new homes. Picture: Sarah Christie
Sightings of Japanese Knotweed have been reported in the Lidsing area which is subject to a bid for thousands of new homes. Picture: Sarah Christie

But developers insist plans to remove the plant to allow building work to begin in the summer are working.

It lays between two possible development sites – one allocated in Maidstone Borough Council's draft Local Plan Review for 2,000 homes in the hamlet of Lidsing, and the other for a planned 89 homes east of Gleaming Wood Drive.

Lordswood resident Sarah Christie first spotted the weeds in summer 2020 and reported it to the planning agents for the Gleaming Wood Drive development.

She said although she wasn't told anything following her report, she noticed the weeds had been sprayed early last year.

The area was fenced off and the weeds began to die down shortly after.

Sightings of Japanese Knotweed have been reported in the Lidsing area which is subject to a bid for thousands of new homes. Picture: Sarah Christie
Sightings of Japanese Knotweed have been reported in the Lidsing area which is subject to a bid for thousands of new homes. Picture: Sarah Christie

But this year, she says she has seen the weeds beginning to grow again.

She said: "I don't know if my report is what led to the spraying or if the landowner had already noticed it anyway. I've been keeping tabs on it several times a week when I walk there."

The Lidsing Garden Village proposals form part of the plans which were approved to be sent off to the secretary of state in March.

A planning inspector will carry out an examination in public to decide whether the plan can be adopted.

If the plan is approved, the promoter of the Lidsing scheme, landowner Kevin Attwood, will then work up a planning application for the site.

On the other site, McCulloch Homes and Palm Developments Ltd were granted permission to build 89 homes east of Gleaming Wood Drive, also in Lordswood, in 2019. Work has not yet begun on the site.

Opponents from the Against the Lidsing Garden Development group held a protest outside Maidstone Town Hall
Opponents from the Against the Lidsing Garden Development group held a protest outside Maidstone Town Hall

Another application was made to increase the number of houses by 26 later that year, but this was refused. A planning inspector later dismissed an appeal against the decision.

Japanese knotweed has heart-shaped leaves and hibernates over winter.

Typically, in March or April it begins to grow showing red or purple spear-shaped shoots.

The reason it can become such a headache for home owners is it can grow through cracks in concrete if left unchecked.

Adam Brindle, managing director at Japanese Knotweed Specialists, says for developers, early identification is key.

He explained how big developers usually carry out an invasive weed survey but those who don't identify invasive species early enough risk increasing build costs further down the line.

Sightings of Japanese Knotweed have been reported in the Lidsing area which is subject to a bid for thousands of new homes. Picture: Sarah Christie
Sightings of Japanese Knotweed have been reported in the Lidsing area which is subject to a bid for thousands of new homes. Picture: Sarah Christie

If the development goes ahead despite this, it could mean the homes are unsaleable and furthermore, if someone actually gets to move in, this could mean the developers could find themselves in court.

He said: "It depends on how big the infestation is, but it could be removed within two to three days, or up to two weeks.

"There's a lot of misleading information and myths where people think if the knotweed is sprayed, it takes three years to spray and then you can build on the site.

"That's not true; if you spray it for three years the land is still classed as controlled waste and therefore you would still have to dig it up and take it off site and do another remediation.

"We can do that straightaway and get the site back to the developer and they can carry on building so there are no delays.

"Where the delays happen is where building has started and the knotweed has been spread round the site, so we have to go in and say 'everyone stop working'.

The proposed Lidsing Garden Villlage site is situated in the Maidstone council area
The proposed Lidsing Garden Villlage site is situated in the Maidstone council area

"That delay can obviously cost the client more because you're having to stop the traders and it delays the building schedule."

Tetlow King, the agents for the Gleaming Wood Drive development were contacted about the weeds, as were Hume Planning who are overseeing the Lidsing plans on behalf of the Attwoods.

Hume Planning confirmed where the weeds had been reported was on land earmarked for the McCulloch Homes and Palm Developments Ltd.

Iain Warner, who is senior director at Tetlow King, said: "We were approached in September 2020 by a local resident who informed us of the presence of Japanese knotweed at least in part on my client’s land.

"We were already aware of that as it had been flagged up within ecology surveys undertaken on the site and we had measures in place to address the further spread when seeking to implement our development proposals.

"Specialist contractors have since been contracted to deal with the issue of Japanese knotweed on site in accordance with industry requirements.

Part of the proposed Lidsing Garden Village site seen from Chapel Lane looking towards Hempstead
Part of the proposed Lidsing Garden Village site seen from Chapel Lane looking towards Hempstead

"This is for a three-year period and we are into the second year of effective management, with further visits scheduled through 2022 to confirm that measures are effective."

The agents confirmed construction works are due to begin in the summer.

Meanwhile, Bredhurst Parish Council and campaign group Against the Lidsing Garden Development have begun a GoFundMe page to raise £26,000 to employ legal and professional experts to fight the development plans.

The groups want to be able to call upon these experts to help them defend against the plans for the garden development when the Local Plan review goes to the examination in public stage in the autumn.

The fundraiser - which has so far raised over £1,300 - can be found here.

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