Published: 17:03, 19 November 2020
| Updated: 18:18, 19 November 2020
Horror and anger probably best described the reactions of Save Our Heath Lands campaigners at the news that the borough was persisting with the idea of creating a garden village of 5,000 homes at Lenham Heath.
Surprisingly, there has been little public reaction to the borough's other garden village proposal which is for 2,000 homes at Lidsing.
Perhaps there is no opposition, or perhaps residents there who tend to regard themselves as part of Medway have just not yet woken up to what Maidstone is planning for them.
However, most of the rest of Maidstone's rural communities seemed to breathe a sigh of relief that not too many homes were coming their way after all.
Certainly Marden was delighted that it had been marked up for just 113 extra homes and not the 2,000 home garden village that it had been threatened with.
However, a word of caution should be sounded.
The extra homes put forward in the Local Plan Review are just that - extra to the housing allocations already designated in the adopted Local Plan of 2017.
In that plan, Marden was already down to take 447 homes, so with the additional 113 it must now accommodate 558 homes by 2037 - the new plan end-date.
Similarly Harrietsham is being asked to take an extra 100 - on top of the 242 already allocated, bringing the total to 342.
Headcorn down to take 423 is being asked to take on an extra 127 bringing the total to 550.
Staplehurst is being asked to take an extra 127 homes, on top of 710 already allocated, bringing the total to 837.
Of the previously identified five "rural services centres" only Lenham escapes with its existing allocation of 155 - plus the 5,000 garden village of course.
Similarly the "larger villages" of Boughton Monchelsea, Coxheath, Eyhorne Street (in Hollingbourne) Sutton Valence and Yalding are being asked to take 42, 100, 11, 100 and 100 extra homes respectively.
That brings their totals to: Boughton Monchelsea 160, Coxheath 606, Eyhorne Street 50, Sutton Valence 140 and Yalding 165.
Clearly of those, Yalding and Sutton Valence are taking the proportionately biggest increases, with Sutton Valence being asked to absorb more than three time the number it had expected.
Cllr Geraldine Brown, chairman of Yalding Parish Council, said: "We support the borough in trying to finalise the Local Plan quickly before potentially even higher targets are set by the Government, and we are not averse to taking some housing.
"But there are inconsistency's in the way the borough is judging the different sites."
"In East Farleigh, a proposal for 130 homes off Kettle Lane was dropped from the plan because of the constraints of the East Farleigh Bridge.
"But here in Yalding, our medieval bridge is even more congested, but no account is taken of that.
"What's more under the review, the housing targets were said to increase by 40%.
"We were due to take 65 homes, well 40% of that is 26, not another 100 homes."
Cllr Brown also said the borough was not taking into account the knock-on effects on Yalding of development in other villages.
She said: "We have traffic from Coxheath and Marden trying to come through our village heading for Paddock Wood and Tunbridge Wells
"Both are taking large numbers of extra homes. Meanwhile over in Paddock Wood (which falls under Tunbridge Wells council) there is also a huge amount of development going on, with a significant proportion of that traffic trying to get through Yalding, over the bridge, heading for Maidstone.
"These factors are never taken into account."
She also queried the borough's assumption that as a "larger village" Yalding was well placed as a sustainable location to take more homes.
She said: "We have one shop. The library hasn't opened since Covid. The Post Office may be closing after the postmaster leaves in March and Yalding Station is well outside the village and can only be accessed by car!"
Of course, many of the borough council's Local Plan Review allocations for new homes do not mean battles over entirely new sites.
The borough calculated that of the 18,210 homes to be built between now and 2037, sites for 10,289 homes had already been found in the old Local Plan.
It just has to hope that all its allocated sites pay off and that is not certain.
The borough is relying on 1,300 homes being built on the Invicta Barracks site before 2037 for example, but of course if and when the barracks closes is in the hands of the government, not the council.
And the government has announced today a high tranche of extra spending on defence, which might mean the barracks stays after all.