Published: 16:00, 20 November 2020
| Updated: 16:02, 20 November 2020
Plans for up to 300 new homes on former agricultural land have been narrowly approved by councillors.
The proposal for the housing development on fields south of Ditton went before a planning committee of Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council last night and were given the go-ahead.
However it was a close run thing, with nine councillors voting in favour of the scheme at Ditton Edge, eight voting against, and one abstaining.
The plans for the land, made up of unused fields at the National Institute of Agriculture Botany’s East Malling Research site, have been in the works for a number of years.
In 2018 more than 1,600 people signed a petition against the proposals, started by Ditton's Floyd Risby, which read: "This cannot happen with the current infrastructure, things need to change before this can go ahead."
The outline planning permission sought and approved at last night's committee meeting describes a development of up to 300 residential units - 25% of which would be affordable housing - with associated landscaping and areas of open space.
Ditton Parish Council has previously expressed its objection to the plans, arguing that the extra traffic would put great strain on the local roads. Access to the site would be from Kiln Barn Road which borders the plot to the east.
The council also said: "The development would cause the loss of quality agricultural land, be harmful in ecology terms and create a negative visual impact on the rural lane, the countryside surrounding the village, and existing residential properties and its vastness would ruin the traditional layout and attraction."
Kent County Council is seeking financial contributions from the developers to help fund infrastructure, including £4,535 per house and £,1134 per flat towards the first phase of a new Aylesford Primary School.
East Malling Trust, which owns the land, says it hopes to use the proceeds of the scheme - and another in East Malling - to help fund a new science and research campus.
The proposed new science campus would be the subject of a later planning application, and the Trust says "the funding provided from the residential development would ensure the continued scientific activity at East Malling."