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Residents will fight housing on Fant Farm - for the third time

Fant residents could be forgiven for having a feeling of deja-view.

They have twice seen off plans to develop Fant Farm off Gatland Lane in Maidstone for housing, but now they are gearing up to do it all over again.

Gareth Owen
Gareth Owen

Gareth Owen, chairman of the Save Fant Farm group, thought he had hung up his posters and banners for good when the last application was rejected on appeal by a planning inspector in March 2017, but the controversial site has cropped up again as a submission to Maidstone council's Call For Sites.

Gleesons has submitted three options to develop either some or all of the site: the largest option proposes 750 homes - that's 525 more than was previously rejected by the Government inspector.

In addition two adjacent plots have also been submitted by their respective owners as possibilities for development: land at Half Yoke, bordering Gatland Lane and Farleigh Lane, submitted by the Warbleton charity for 75 homes, and the Homewood Orchard Garden Centre - which most people will know for Bill Stevens Christmas trees - put forward for 90 homes.

Mr Owen said: "It's very sad that we have to do this all again, but I believe we are in a much better place this time around.

"We have the inspector's decision from last time, and since then the site has been declared an Area of Local Landscape Value, and in addition the borough council now has a five-year land supply.

"All of those will work in our favour."

Cllr Paul Harper and Gareth Owen, seen celebrating victory after winning the planning appeal two years ago
Cllr Paul Harper and Gareth Owen, seen celebrating victory after winning the planning appeal two years ago

Mr Owen said that apart from the need to preserve the landscape overlooking the Medway Valley, there was still the issue of traffic, with the level-crossing and narrow medieval bridge over the river at East Farleigh at the foot of Farleigh Lane.

He said: "It's crazy to think this can take the traffic from so many more homes."

Ward Cllr Paul Harper (Lab) said: "The traffic situation is an issue. KCC has already expressed concerns about the nearby Fountain Lane junction operating at over-capacity, and recently Jubilee School in Gatland Lane gained permission to double in size, putting yet more traffic on the roads.

"If these new homes were built there would be gridlock."

A public meeting has been organised to discuss the issues. It will be on Friday, January 31, at 7.30pm in Fant Hall in Fant Lane, Maidstone.

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