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Protesters picket Maidstone Town Hall over Lidsing Garden Settlement

Protesters have demonstrated against plans for thousands of new countryside homes.

Campaigners against the Lidsing Garden Settlement which could generate 2,000 new homes picketed Maidstone Town Hall on Monday ahead of a crunch meeting on the borough's Local Plan Review.

The document sets out housing targets and potential development sites for the next 15 years.

The protesters were joined by people voicing their opposition to the Heathland development, also included in the draft, which is at Lenham and could see 5,000 new homes being built.

Those who are against the proposals for Lidsing are worried they could open the flood-gates for development in Capstone Valley across the border in Medway.

Vanessa Jones, chairman of Bredhurst Parish Council, said: "The road that is proposed to Lidsing, it doesn't only give access to Lidsing it will also give the developer access to Gibraltar Farm and East Hill.

"So in fact tonight, councillors are not considering 2,000 houses, it's over 3,000."

Protesters picket Maidstone Town Hall over plans for a garden village at Lidsing
Protesters picket Maidstone Town Hall over plans for a garden village at Lidsing

Protesters are also worried that the development could amount to a new link road with the M2 in this area.

Ms Jones added: "It won't service and it won't help people; if they're going to Rainham train station, or to Hempstead Valley shopping centre, these 2,000 cars aren't going on the M2, they're going to be going through Bredhurst, Maidstone Road, and all through Rainham."

Among those in attendance were Rainham councillors Martin Potter and Roger Barrett.

Cllr Potter (Con) said: "I am completely opposed to Maidstone Borough Council's proposals for more than 2,000 homes at Lidsing which is effectively Maidstone dumping its housing need on Medway and without the necessary infrastructure funding.

"It's a morally bankrupt and totally outrageous proposal with Medway's services and Medway's highways taking the strain, not Maidstone."

Mark Grant, who travelled to the protest from Hempstead, said: "We're trying to save Kent's open green spaces, there are very few left and this will plan will decimate parts of Kent.

"The plan is ill-conceived, it's badly put together, it doesn't take into account any of the resident's wishes, and in respect of Lidsing, it's Maidstone dumping their issues on Medway Council."

During the meeting, councillors approved a recommendation to put the review draft out for public consultation between October 29 and December 12; this will need to be further approved by full council during an extraordinary meeting tonight.

Cllr Denis Spooner (Con) said: "The advantage of the Local Plan is the authority have the advantage to control it in the best interests it can and the best way that suits local residents."

Residents are hoping Cllr Bob Hinder (Con) and his Boxley Ward colleagues will support them
Residents are hoping Cllr Bob Hinder (Con) and his Boxley Ward colleagues will support them

He said: "If the Local Plan doesn't come forward it's not going to stop the development coming forward at all, what will happen is we will loose our five year land supply and developers and house builders will put in application after application.

"We will have a tsunami of applications which the inspectorate will grant permission for because we won't have a housing land supply."

But approval is by no means certain.

Faversham and Mid Kent MP Helen Whately has voiced her opposition to the plan and many residents are hoping that the three Conservative councillors from Maidstone's Boxley Ward, which includes the Lidsing proposal, will combine with Lib Dem and Independent councillors to vote down the current version of the Local Plan Review.

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