A third of a large new commercial estate can be built and occupied without any traffic mitigation measures put in place, a council has decided.
The ruling by members of Maidstone council’s planning committee reverses a previous decision about the new Yalding Enterprise Park, on the former Syngenta chemicals site in Yalding.
Originally, it had been stipulated that before any building was occupied the developers would have to install a right-turn lane on the Maidstone Road, B2015, at its junction with Hampstead Lane.
When the council granted outline planning permission for the industrial park, it was proposed that traffic to the site – which will include HGVs as well as cars – should be encouraged to approach it from the A228, via the B2015, rather than the B2162 through Yalding village, which was considered an unsuitable route.
But the Maidstone Road is busy and any vehicles waiting to turn right into Hampstead Lane holds up traffic flow.
So it was made a condition of the planning permission that the developer installs a dedicated right-turn lane in Maidstone Road for traffic coming from the Seven Mile Lane roundabout.
This was to be achieved by moving a ditch which runs along the southern boundary of the road and widening the carriageway.
But in an application considered by the Maidstone planning committee last Thursday, the applicant submitted new traffic data modelling that indicated that 14,000 square metres of floor space (from the total of 46,447 sq m) could be occupied without there being a “severe” impact on traffic congestion or safety.
It was suggested that at peak times the traffic generated by the partial development of the business park would increase the queue waiting while a vehicle turned right from 14 to 19 vehicles, which was considered acceptable.
Although the business park is in Yalding, the Maidstone Road junction is in Nettlestead, and Nettlestead Parish Council chairman Alison Green urged the council not to “kick the can down the road”.
She asked: “When 14,000 square metres has been occupied, what is to stop the applicant coming back and asking for more?”
She described the junction as very narrow, saying a single-carriageway road joins another single-carriageway lane.
She said: “There is no footpath there and the area frequently floods and was flooded for one day last week.
“There is an issue there now with the current volume of traffic without adding more.”
Cllr Green was supported by Cllr Claudine Russell (Con) who added there were already severe traffic problems for residents in Hampstead Lane.
But KCC, which is the highways authority, has raised no objection.
Cllr Clive English (Lib Dem) said: “KCC will accept anything won’t they? But if they don’t object, we couldn’t sustain a refusal (at appeal).”
Cllr Peter Holmes (Con) said: “I don’t trust this traffic data we are given anymore. This condition was originally put in for safety.”
Cllr Fay Gooch (Ind) said: “We are on a sticky wicket. We can’t refuse it, if Kent Highways doesn’t object.”
Cllr Val Springett said: “I so get the parish council’s position. But our hands are tied by the lack of involvement by Kent Highways. We get so stuffed by them.”
The council voted to grant the change of condition, with only Cllr Russell and Cllr Stuart Jeffery (Green) voting against.
Work is already under way on the business park.
The developer expects to have a third of the business places occupied by 2027.
The Yalding Enterprise Park is being constructed on the site of the old Syngenta agro-chemical works, which ceased production in 2003 after 100 years on the site.
At its peak, the company had employed more than 1,000 people. It took five years to clear contamination from the site after closure
The park has permission to create 48 business units in four phases, and will include 640 car parking spaces and 189 spaces for HGVs.
Planning permission was granted twice – in March and September of 2021.
The first time, Maidstone council forgot to ask Yalding Enterprise Partnership Properties to provide a “sequential flood risk assessment" as it should have done, so asked the company if it wouldn’t mind applying again. It kindly obliged.