Published: 19:17, 22 June 2020
| Updated: 17:01, 25 August 2020
A huge 3.2 million tonne sand quarry could be built next to thousands of homes, as plans laid out by local authorities gather momentum.
Campaigners point to Kent County Council (KCC) proposals for an 87-acre soft sand quarry at Chapel Farm, in Lenham , as another reason why a new garden community near the village, with up to 5,000 new dwellings, is unsuitable.
However, Maidstone Borough Council (MBC), which is acting as master-developer for the housing project, says development has always been planned with the quarry in mind and will be "phased in accordingly".
As part of KCC's Kent Minerals and Waste Local Plan for 2013-2030 the authority prepares a list of sites, which identifies potential locations for extraction of minerals, and includes Chapel Farm, which has an estimated reserve of 3.2 million tonnes of sandstone.
In April, the minerals plan was given the go-ahead by a government planning inspector, dependent on a number of recommendations being carried out.
A planning application for the quarry still needs to be submitted, with the earmarked land currently used for agriculture. It is also about half a mile from the existing Lenham Quarry.
Kate Hammond, from Save Our Heathlands (SOHL) action group, said the scheme "doesn't make sense in any way".
She continued: "It's going to gridlock the roads and it's very remote, and if you add the quarry on top of that...the council is spending money on a site that doesn't tick any boxes or make sense in any way. The fact is the quarry is going to happen so there's not much we can do about that but we can do something about the 4,000 to 5,000 homes dropped on our doorstep."
SOHL has accused MBC of not mentioning the quarry in initial reports on the Heathlands project.
A group spokesman said: "Maidstone council has chosen one of the most complicated sites possible for their proposed new garden town, and we now learn that a parcel of land officers have earmarked for
development is now included in Kent County Council's minerals plan for use as a new quarry to provide soft sand to the construction industry for the next 20 to 30 years. Interestingly, officers have failed to include this vital piece of information in their initial reports to councillors and the public."
'The council is spending money on a site that doesn't tick any boxes...'
There are several stages in the Local Plan Review to go, including a public consultation, where representations can be made, and it is not expected to be finally adopted until April 2022.
Under plans drawn up for MBC, Heathlands would include a four-hectare "mixed-district centre" which would feature shops and offices. Schools and a country park are also planned.
A council spokesperson said: "The council has always been aware of the mineral deposits in the locality and the draft allocation for further extraction from a parcel of land in the Kent County Council local plan.
"The council has always been mindful that any development in that vicinity would need to follow mineral extraction, and so with the Heathlands garden community to proceed, it would need to be phased accordingly."
The council didn't directly respond when asked if information about the quarry had been included in its initial reports.