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Final chance to respond to Lenham Heath and Lidsing garden villages and other aspects of Maidstone's Local Plan Review

Residents and businesses in Maidstone will have six weeks starting on Friday to give their views on the final draft of the borough council's Local Plan Review.

The plan, which is a revision of the town's Local Plan that was approved in 2017, sets out the intended sites for a massive increase in housing numbers, along with other details such as gypsy and traveller sites, and employment allocations.

The public are being asked to give their views on the future of Maidstone
The public are being asked to give their views on the future of Maidstone

It will shape the future of the town until 2037.

The review contains a number of controversial proposals - for example, for a garden village community of 5,000 homes at Lenham Heath, and another of 2,000 homes at Lidsing.

It also includes a new site in Coxheath, which has not previously been the subject of any public consultation at all.

This consultation, which will end on December 12, is what is known as Regulation 19 - it is the final chance that the public will have of making their views known, before the plan is presented to the Government's Planning Inspectorate for approval.

The plan was approved for consultation at a meeting of the full council on October 6, after the Mayor Fay Gooch ruled that amendments proposed by the Liberal Democrat group and by Independent councillor Janetta Sams could not be discussed.

Lidsing villagers have been vocal in protesting against the plans
Lidsing villagers have been vocal in protesting against the plans

Both Helen Whately and Tracey Crouch, respectively the MPs for Faversham and Mid Kent and for Chatham and Aylesford, have expressed their disquiet at the garden village proposals.

The chairman of the council's Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Paul Cooper, said: “The iterations of this important Local Plan Review have now been through a number of consultation processes.

"However, this Regulation 19 Consultation is the culmination of all of our previous work, and in accordance with government guidelines, is the plan that we propose to submit to government for examination by an independent inspector.

"So, as ever, I would encourage residents, businesses and other stakeholders to let us have their views.”

The plan includes policies on the protection of key environmental assets, climate change and the funding of key infrastructure.

Cllr Paul Cooper: 'We know the plan is contentious'
Cllr Paul Cooper: 'We know the plan is contentious'

Cllr Cooper said: "We are acutely aware, that, as with similar plans across the South of England, our efforts to meet government housing targets and to ensure that these are accompanied by all the associated land and infrastructure for traffic, jobs, education, health and other services are contentious within local communities.

"As such, we have worked very hard to identify a spatial strategy and supporting policies which will be best placed mitigate the impacts of growth and to bring new facilities which will benefit both our existing and new communities.

"I would also remind people again of the consequences of failing to get a Local Plan in place, which is that we effectively lose almost all local control over where development goes in our borough and risk a scenario whereby the first sites the development industry brings forward are those that they would be least likely to get an approval for with the control that an adopted plan provides.

"In such a scenario it is likely that the most unpalatable sites which we have already discounted would be the sites which would come forward first.”

Kate Hammond: protesting
Kate Hammond: protesting

Meanwhile, the Save Our Heathlands group, set up to oppose the garden village at Lenham, is holding a day of protest this Sunday.

Group chairman Kate Hammond said: "We are protesting against Maidstone council's plan to build a new town of over 5,000 homes on farmland and greenfields to the east of Lenham.

"This new settlement will be nearly five times the size of the existing Lenham village and is on top of the extra 1,000 homes already planned for the area.

"Our protest on Sunday is intended to send a very strong message to Maidstone borough - we are opposed to your Garden Village plan. "

The protest is being held at the Lenham Community Centre in Groom Way from midday.

The Mayor Cllr Fay Gooch ruled proposed amendments to the plan out of order
The Mayor Cllr Fay Gooch ruled proposed amendments to the plan out of order

The Draft Local Plan Review document, report and associated appendices/background papers are available on the Maidstone Borough Council’s website.

The public and other stakeholders including parish councils, community groups, residents, businesses and developers can have their say via the online form which will be available on the MBC Local Plan Review webpage from Friday.

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