Published: 20:15, 15 October 2020
| Updated: 20:31, 15 October 2020
Could Covid be the lever that developers will use to prise open the door to previously unobtainable Maidstone building sites?
Gareth Owen, the chairman of the Save Fant Farm campaign fears so.
After a long and arduous campaign, residents thought they had finally seen off proposals to put 225 homes on Fant Farm off Gatland Lane, when in 2017 an appeal by a developer was rejected by a Government planning inspector at a public inquiry.
The Save Fant Farm group had played a key role in the defeat, organising public meetings and rallies, lobbying councillors and giving evidence at the inquiry.
Since then, Gleesons has once again submitted proposals for the site - this time presenting the borough council with three options - for 225 homes, for 400 homes and for 750 homes.
Mr Owen said: "Nothing has changed at Fant Farm to make it more suitable for development than when the inspector refused permission before, so I had been confident we could see it off again.
"But with Covid, it has become impossible to organise the public meetings that were the key to our success last time - or to stage rallies or demonstrations."
In addition he is concerned that Maidstone council, which is keen to complete its new Local Plan quickly before the Government inflates housing targets still further, has decided to shorten the process of scrutiny of the proposals.
Mr Owen said: "It's all working against us."
He has written to Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone and the Weald, telling her that for the Government to be pushing so hard for housing growth when the current Covid restrictions were in force was "a clear denial of local democracy and natural justice."
He said: "We as a community now feel threatened and vulnerable in the face of what would appear to be an overwhelming force."
Although no planning application has been yet been submitted for Fant Farm, KCC has this week announced its design for a new junction at the Fountain Lane crossroads. During the meeting of the Maidstone Joint Transportation Board on Wednesday, the design was three times described as "similar to the one put forward by the developer at Fant Farm".