UPDATE: Helen Whately, the newly elected Conservative MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, has given evidence to the planning inquiry into the proposed Waterside Park development near the M20 Junction 8 in Hollingbourne.
She said that in three months of campaigning prior to her election on May 7 she had heard from hundreds of residents in the locality of the proposed development site. She said nearly all had expressed their concerns to her about the effect on the landscape, about traffic and about noise, air and light pollution.
She said she was concerned about the scheme’s detrimental effect on Leeds Castle and the knock-on effect that would have on other businesses and employment in Maidstone.
She said that her colleague Brandon Lewis, the Minister of State for Housing and Planning, had supported several refusals of planning permission at appeal on the grounds of the detrimental effect on the countryside and with his re-appointment to the post this was would continue to be the government’s approach.
She referred to paragraph 17 in the Government’s NPPF planning guidance that talked of the need to preserve the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside.
She said it was important to get a proper balance between the economic, social and landscape effects of any proposal.
She said: “I am concerned that if approved, this proposal will lead to a flood of similar applications in the area.
“It is time to put a stop to speculative applications around Junction 8.”
Referring to the previous long fight against the Kent International Gateway scheme, on the opposite side of the A20, she said: “It’s been incredibly tough on residents to be constantly fighting this battle."
Isabella Tafur, junior counsel acting for the appellants, the Gallagher Group, said Mrs Whately’s evidence was quite similar to other evidence already presented and asked whether the MP had written her statement herself? Mrs Whately replied firmly that she had.
Mrs Tafur said Mrs Whately had referred to the need for balance between economic, social and landscape considerations, but had given no evidence about the economic benefits that would accompany the application. She suggested Mrs Whately had not taken a very balanced approach herself.
Mrs Whately said her statement was based on the concerns raised to her by constituents.
Mrs Tafur asked whether Mrs Whately was familiar with Maidstone council’s draft economic strategy. In a public consultation on the strategy 51% of respondents had supported the idea of economic development at Junction 8, she said.
Mrs Whately said that was certainly not the view of those living near the locality.
The public inquiry at Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone, is continuing.