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Maidstone councillor asks why developers are not paying for Fountain Lane junction which will see Taj Barming knocked down

Why is the public being forced to subsidise house-builders? A Maidstone councillor is among those demanding to know the answer to that.

Cllr Ashleigh Kimmance was speaking at the meeting of the Maidstone Joint Transportation Board at which KCC highways officers were seeking permission from county and borough councillors to continue to develop plans to implement a double roundabout at the Fountain Lanecrossroads on the A26 Tonbridge Road.

Bovis Homes' Orchard Fields development - one of the many along Hermitage Lane
Bovis Homes' Orchard Fields development - one of the many along Hermitage Lane

Members heard the scheme - which would require the demolition of the Taj Barming restaurant - would cost £3.2m and that there was only £621,000 in the kitty from Section 106 payments from the many housing developments along Hermitage Lane.

Officers said they had applied for a grant of £2.5m from the Government's Local Pinch Point fund to help make up the shortfall, though that would still leave a £75,000 gap.

But Cllr Kimmace (Lib Dem) said: "That's money coming from the public purse."

Arguing the new junction was only needed because of the increased congestion arising from themultiple housing developments along Hermitage Lane, he asked: "Surely that money should have come from the developers?

"Shouldn't we have worked out how much money was going to be needed and asked them for it before their planning permissions were granted?"

Cllr Ashleigh Kimmance: 'Why must the public pay?'
Cllr Ashleigh Kimmance: 'Why must the public pay?'

But highways officer Benjamin Cuddihee said: "We didn't have a working proposal when the developments went in, so we couldn't ask them to contribute to it."

Cllr Clive English (Lib Dem) who chairs the borough council's planning committee said: "There is an application coming before planning next week for another housing site in Hermitage Lane and Kent Highways has not requested any money from the developer towards the junction.

"Isn't that a missed opportunity with money just going begging?"

But he was assured that that very day, KCC has made a request for a contribution.

Maidstone borough councils chief planner Rob Jarman confirmed that a sum had been asked for, but he warned: "It's not going to be for the full £2.5m. We can only ask the developer to wash his own face."

The Taj Barming (formerly The Fountain Inn) could be demolished for the junction improvement
The Taj Barming (formerly The Fountain Inn) could be demolished for the junction improvement

By which he meant the sum requested would have to be proportional to the number of houses - and hence the extra traffic - generated by that one particular site.

The application referred to is from Taylor Wimpey to build 187 homes on land south of Oakapple Lane, Barming, known locally as The Peafield. The published agenda papers for next Thursday's planning committee meeting do not show any sum of money being asked for towards the Fountain Lane junction.

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