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Online petition to oppose 250 homes in East Malling

A former Tonbridge and Malling borough councillor has launched an online petition against a planning application for 250 homes in East Malling.

Conservative Daniel Markham lost his seat representing East Malling Ward in last May's local elections, but he did not lose his interest in local events.

The Forty Acre Field is under threat
The Forty Acre Field is under threat

The former BBC producer, now about to launch his own marketing business, has started a change.org petition against an application by Wates Developments seeking outline planning permission to build 250 home and a community centre, across 18 hectares of farmland west of Winterfield Lane, East Malling.

His petition has already attracted more than 230 signatures in two days.

The land is known locally as Forty Acres Field and is owned by Simon and Martin Lingham of Hermitage Farm, West Malling.

Mr Markham, a keen runner, said he often crossed the field on his way to the station for his commute to London, and it was the one oasis of quiet and peace in an otherwise hectic day.

He said: "The field provides a last bastion against the merging of the urban areas of Leybourne, Larkfield and East Malling.

The area is home to nesting skylarks
The area is home to nesting skylarks

"If developed, it would further erode the space between those communities and the historic approach to West Malling via the Abbey."

Unusually, in planning disputes, the objectors have the support of the borough council. It too believes the land provides an important green lung and has submitted proposals to formally classify the land as Green Belt in its draft Local Plan.

But that Local Plan has yet to be passed and in the meantime the old rules prevail.

Currently the borough can only demonstrate that it has a three-year supply of housing land available- not the five years required by Government. In the circumstances it becomes very difficult for the borough to reject any planning application.

Mr Markham said: "East Malling has had its share. There is development in New Road and we have the Broadwater Farm proposals heading towards us."

Petition organiser Daniel Markham
Petition organiser Daniel Markham

Mr Markham said: "Keeping the Forty Acre Field as open space was supposed to be our mitigation.

"East Malling shouldn't have to suffer just because the borough council has been slow in submitting its new Local Plan."

The area is popular with cyclists, dog walkers and runners and home to a large community of nesting skylarks.

A spokesman for Tonbridge and Malling council said: "This application has generated a large volume of public responses which will be considered when it comes before the council planning committee.

"It is not accurate to suggest our Local Plan has been delayed.

"While approval is a lengthy process, it is on track with the first hearings expected in the spring.

"The plan not only seeks to designate these fields as part of the Metropolitan Green Belt, but will also ensure we have sustainable, viable sites that secure the supply of land for new homes across the borough.’

Planning application number 19/01814 refers.

You can sign Mr Markham's petition here.

And watch his You Tube video here.

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