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New 1300-home ‘village’ proposed by the East Malling Trust would have two accesses onto Hermitage Lane between Aylesford and Maidstone

A new “neighbourhood community” of 1,300 homes across almost 80 hectares of agricultural land has been proposed.

The East Malling Trust has submitted an outline planning application to Tonbridge and Malling council for land between Kiln Barn Road and Hermitage Lane in Ditton and East Malling.

A new village called Bradbourne could be created on these green fields
A new village called Bradbourne could be created on these green fields

The proposal talks of a new village centre with a primary school; commercial, community and employment plots; a total of 29 hectares of public open space, to include a 2.5 hectare community park, plus children’s play areas and new access points.

Two of those will be onto Hermitage Lane, close to Barming Station.

There will also be two accesses to the east - via Kiln Barn Road and via Chapel Street.

The proposal is not entirely new. The East Malling Trust put forward the land as a suggestion for the last Tonbridge and Malling Local Plan, but that Local Plan was rejected by government inspectors.

The landowner has already held extensive consultations with local parish councils and the local community and says the submitted proposal has been changed to reflect concerns raised at those consultations.

The East Malling Trust says it has listened to comments given at consultation events last year
The East Malling Trust says it has listened to comments given at consultation events last year

In particular, the overall number of homes has been reduced from 1,600 to 1,300.

To be known as Bradbourne, the new community’s residents, which the applicants refer to as a village, would have easy access to both Barming Station and the retail outlets at Quarry Wood industrial estate.

The village would have its own two-form primary school.

Originally, it was proposed that a road through the new development would link Hermitage Lane with East Malling. The road stays, but will now have a busgate at the eastern end so that through access will be limited to pedestrians, cyclists and buses.

Dr Oliver Doubleday, the chairman of The East Malling Trust, said: “We’ve listened to the local community and reduced the proposed housing numbers.”

Dr Oliver Doubleday
Dr Oliver Doubleday

“We’ve also created a sustainable corridor for the movement of vehicles, public transport, cyclists and pedestrians that links Hermitage Lane and Kiln Barn Road.

“Bus services would be able to pass, via a bus gate, from Hermitage Lane to New Road in East Malling, to create a dedicated bus, cyclist and pedestrian-only route.

“This would help improve connectivity for local residents to and from Maidstone and other local communities.”

The new housing would warp around three sides of the existing Orchard Gate development, but the trust said it had also listened to concerns of residents there and now planned an increased level of landscape planting to ensure a good separation distance between the two communities.

One of the proposed accesses onto Hermitage Lane will connect to the Whitepost Field link with the A20.

A "masterplan" for the Bradbourne site
A "masterplan" for the Bradbourne site

Dr Doubleday added: “We believe this site offers an opportunity to deliver a mix of much-needed new homes, including affordable homes, and community facilities, and at the same time enables the Trust to fulfil its charitable objectives to fund world-class horticultural science. Thanks to our support for research for NIAB at East Malling, we are helping farmers to manage the impact of climate change and support the nation’s food security.”

Details of the proposal can be found on the Tonbridge and Malling council website, under application number 24/00372.

To see more planning applications and other public notices for your area, click here.

Responding to the proposals, leader of Tonbridge and Malling council, Cllr Matthew Boughton (Con) said: “People will remember that this time last year, similar plans were published.

“Like many from the area, I attended the Trust’s public event at East Malling Research to take issue with some of the proposals, including not least the timing and surprise for us all that they were considering this.

“I made clear that the Local Plan process should determine when developments come forward as this is the best form of 'planning' for us all.”

Cllr leader Matt Boughton
Cllr leader Matt Boughton

“We know that Aylesford, Ditton and East Malling are arguably already under the most development pressure in the borough.

“But anyone has a right to submit a planning application and a year later, the East Malling trust has done so, even though consultation on the next Local Plan has not yet started.”

Cllr Boughton encouraged residents to view details of the plan online and submit their comments via the council’s portal.

He added: “This is a major application and one of the largest we have seen in Tonbridge and Malling for many, many years.

An area of ancient woodland known as Dead Man Wood will be retained
An area of ancient woodland known as Dead Man Wood will be retained

Maidstone and the Weald MP, Helen Grant, who will be standing for the new Maidstone and Malling constituency at the next General Election, said: "These Bradbourne housing development proposals will impose impossible new pressures on local infrastructure that is already creaking at its limits.

“The plan will also remove yet another large open space between Maidstone and Aylesford, exacerbating the continuous urban sprawl across our precious open countryside.

“My neighbour Tracey Crouch MP and I will be working with local stakeholders to do all we can to oppose this plan. “

To date, there have only been three responses from the public.

An aerial image of the Bradbourne site looking east
An aerial image of the Bradbourne site looking east

One resident from East Malling High Street said: “We absolutely object. I thought that the Research Centre was renowned for the work it does regarding research into better farming practices for growing fruit. Why on earth would they get rid of rich farming land that has been used for centuries to grow Kentish fruit?”

An Aylesford Riverside place resident said: “Little villages like East Malling and Aylesford will soon be engulfed by Maidstone. If I had wanted to live in Maidstone, I'd have bought a house there. It feels like the whole area has simply been earmarked to be concreted over, regardless of how the people who live there feel about it.

Tonbridge and Malling council will find it difficult to refuse the application even if it wants to. With no Local Plan, the council is currently without a five-year housing supply and this site is neither in the Green Belt nor in an AONB, which are the two key reasons to halt construction.

Bradbourne House is a Grade I listed Queen Anne mansion that forms the HQ of the East Malling Trust in East Malling. It was once home to Twisden family and is now a popular wedding venue.

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