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Gladman appeal for 75 homes near St Mary's Abbey in West Malling is rejected


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A controversial planning application has been rejected at appeal by a planning inspector.

Gladman Developments had applied for outline permission for 75 homes on high-grade agricultural land close to West Malling Station.

How Gladman said the development might have looked
How Gladman said the development might have looked

Tonbridge and Malling council, which had failed to determine the application in time, argued that it would have an adverse effect on a number of listed properties, including significantly the St Mary's Abbey complex, dating from 11th Century.

The inspector Anne Jordan agreed the Abbey would be harmed, but not to such a significant degree as might offset the positive provision of extra housing.
However, she found that the effect on Eden Farm Oast would be substantial, and also that the loss of countryside would seriously detract from the rural character of the area.

She said: "The site and the land around it would be diminished to the extent that it would no longer be perceived as rural or open countryside.

"This would cause very significant harm to the character and appearance of the area."

One of the historic buildings at St Mary's Abbey in West Malling
One of the historic buildings at St Mary's Abbey in West Malling

On balance, she concluded the application was not sustainable and refused permission.

The verdict is a major victory for Tonbridge and Malling council, which currently finds itself without an adopted Local Plan, after its last effort was rejected by the Planning Inspectorate on a technicality.
Unable to demonstrate that it has a five-year land supply (it is actually estimated at 2.5 years), the council would usually expect the Planning Inspectorate to look favourably on any housing application.

The decision has pleased local opponents of the scheme.

John Dean of Offham Road, West Malling, said: "Having fought this for nearly a year, I am absolutely delighted!"'

'The Green Belt should be extended'

He said: "The decision has several implications.

"It may give added weight to frustrate other applications in the area.

"It shows the borough council should extend the Green Belt eastwards to at least the A228 bypass in its forthcoming Local Plan.

"And more generally, the inspector's decision shows that significant weight can still be given to the harms caused to departures from policies even in out-of date development plans."

He said: "Hopefully Tonbridge and Malling council can use this argument to frustrate speculative attempts by other developers to build on other sensitive areas."

The red triangle show the rejected development plot
The red triangle show the rejected development plot

The decision can be found on the Planning Inspectorate's website under reference number 3254563.

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