Published: 14:00, 04 March 2016
A residents’ association has emerged triumphant from a “David and Goliath” battle with a housing developer.
The North Loose Residents Association (NLRA) was left to single-handedly to fight an application to build 220 homes on the New Line Learning school’s playing fields off Boughton Lane in Maidstone, after Maidstone council, which had at first declined to grant permission, then decided not to fight it at appeal.
When the amateurs from the residents association attended the three-day inquiry at the Tovil Masonic Centre in July last year, they found themselves facing Queens Counsel and a raft of professional consultants engaged by the applicants: BDW Trading Ltd, Kent County Council and the Future Schools Trust, who had lined up Ward Homes to build the homes.
But the residents’ determination was justified this week, when the Secretary of State backed the planning inspector’s recommendation to reject the appeal and ruled in favour of residents.
He found the application was contrary to the policies of the National Planning Policy Framework - even though the borough council had by then included the site as a housing allocation in its draft Local Plan.
He also found it conflicted with policy ENV32 in the existing Local Plan, which seeks to prevent the coalescence of communities, and said that the policy still applied even the borough was evidencing a housing shortfall.
But worst of all, he concluded the scheme would lead to severe traffic congestion at the Swan crossroads and on the Loose Road.
Observing that traffic there was already “more than usually severe” he concluded that the estimates of traffic generation submitted by the appellant “tended towards under-estimation.”
He said the proposed traffic mitigation measures would have little effect.
He ruled: “The proposed development would have a severe adverse impact on the highway network, in terms of congestion and inconvenience to local residents and other road users, and on the strategic transport planning of the area generally, and that this would be contrary to the aims of paragraph 32 of the NPPF.”
His finding will raise questions over the advice given to the borough councillors, who were told by their planning officers that traffic could not be used as grounds for refusal, because KCC, the highways authority, had raised no traffic objection.
KCC was one of the three applicants.
The application had been opposed by a petition signed by 1,500 people.
Cllr Brian Clark (Lib Dem), who spoke at the appeal to oppose the plan, said: “Local residents will be delighted.”