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Ditton and East Malling residents petition against 410-home plan for East Malling Research site

By Luke May

Plans to build hundreds of homes on land formerly used for research into fruit and crops have been met with opposition.

Unused fields at the National Institute of Agriculture Botany’s East Malling Research site, pictured top right, could be turned into more than 400 houses.

Early proposals have suggested building 300 at Ditton Edge, off Kiln Barn Road in Ditton and another 110 at Parkside, off New Road, East Malling.

An aerial view of the research site. Picture: East Malling Research Centre
An aerial view of the research site. Picture: East Malling Research Centre

Landowners East Malling Trust hope to gain planning permission and sell the land off to developers. Money from that would then be reinvested into the Grade I listed Bradbourne House, which the organisation owns, as well as building a new science campus on the site.

The trust explained the decision was made in a bid to sustain world-class research at the facility. In a statement it said: “The consensus is that, in the absence of government funding, this can only be done by releasing part of East Malling Trust’s 550-acre estate for development.”

It is currently home to 69 businesses.

However, more than 1,600 people have signed a petition against the proposals. Started by Ditton’s Floyd Risby, it reads: “This cannot happen with the current infrastructure, things need to change before this can go ahead.”

The petition takes issue with the potential impact 410 new homes could have on nearby roads as well as capacity at GP surgeries, hospitals and dentists.

Last week more than 300 people attended public exhibitions on the plans in Ditton and East Malling.

Ditton villagers at last week's public exhibition into housing plans for the East Malling Research site
Ditton villagers at last week's public exhibition into housing plans for the East Malling Research site

Oliver Doubleday, chairman of East Malling Trust, said: “We have received a lot of feedback from the events and are collating and considering all the comments made, many of which were positive and supportive of continued scientific research at East Malling, but some of which also raised points about the housing proposals that we take seriously and are giving careful consideration to.

“The views expressed by local residents will be important to us as we finalise the outline planning applications for both locations, which we hope to submit to Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council in the next month or so.”

Proposals for a new science campus will be revealed if planning permission is granted for the 410 homes. For more visit tinyurl.com/emtresearch

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