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Eccles in Aylesford prepares for 900 homes plan from Trenport Investments


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The small village of Eccles in Kent is set to get a whole lot bigger.

Nestling within the parish of Aylesford, Eccles comprises 752 homes, a primary school, church, shop and one pub.

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But now Trenport Investments is preparing plans to create 900 new homes to border the village on three sides.

Because of the scale of the enterprise, Trenport will have to submit an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) along with its application, and the company has already received advice from Tonbridge and Malling council on what details that should include.

The site, known as Bushey Wood, although actually Bushey Wood is adjacent to the proposed development area, is allocated for housing within Tonbridge and Malling's draft Local Plan, which has yet to be adopted.

At present, the council cannot demonstrate it has a five-year land supply, which makes it difficult to refuse any planning applications.

The development land has been owned by Trenport since 2001, but is largely let to tenant farmers. They farm seven fields covering 58 acres.

Part of the development site
Part of the development site

The land also includes the village allotment site, leased to the parish council, and a football pitch, leased to Eccles Football Club.

Trenport says its plans include reserving space for a new primary school, providing replacement sports pitches and allotments, and building a new village hub with "with flexible community and commercial space."

Access will be from two points on Bull Lane and another on New Court Road.

But there are complications with the site, which lies in a Zone 1 flood area.

The River Medway lies 850m to the south-west of the site and there are several watercourse tributaries flowing across the land.

Bull Lane in Eccles will take the traffic from the new development
Bull Lane in Eccles will take the traffic from the new development

There are four public rights of way crossing the site and it is also home to a Romano-British villa and an Anglo-Saxon cemetery, which are scheduled national monuments.

In addition, there are several listed buildings, not on the site but close by, which include the Red Bull pub, 29 and 31 Mackenders Lane, the Eccles War Memorial Clock Tower, and Little Culand Farmhouse.

Trenport acknowledges that the site will necessitate off-site highways improvements to the junction of Bull Lane and Pilgrims Way, and to the Pilgrims Way and Rochester Road junction.

It also acknowledged that during construction there could be a harmful effects on air quality, notably from the emission of dust, with some existing homes only 20 metres from the site boundary.

It also acknowledged there could be detrimental effect to neighbours from noise and vibration, both of which would be studied in EIA.

The Red Bull public house is a listed building
The Red Bull public house is a listed building

Lorraine Otway is an existing Eccles resident. She said: "A large portion of the houses in Eccles particularly the ones adjacent to the site were built on soil in 1860.

"If properties incur any damage, for example subsidence, will we be compensated?"

She said there would need to be strict working time limits on the site to ensure neighbours weren't disturbed too early or too late, or at weekends.

She was also concerned that dust created by the construction would not only affect householders, but by children at St Marks Primary School in the village.

Ray Sturgeon from Bull Lane has lived in Eccles all his life. He said: "There are only 750 homes in the village now. They want to add another 900. It's disgraceful. It will destroy the village."

Ray Sturgeon thinks the plans will destroy the village
Ray Sturgeon thinks the plans will destroy the village

Villagers campaigned vigorously against the inclusion of Bushey Wood in Tonbridge & Malling's draft Local Plan when it was first conjectured three years ago, handing in 1,400 letters of objection to the borough, but they were unable to get it excluded.

Andrew Kennedy (Con) is one of the ward councillors for Eccles. He said: "I understand why people in Eccles feel swamped by this proposal, after all it will more than double the size of the village.

"But I take a more pragmatic approach. There is a need for more housing, people are living longer, the divorce rate has increased resulting in more individual households.

"I have consistently opposed small-scale developments because they don't bring any improvements in infrastructure.

"But a development of the size that Trenport is proposing is large enough to finance the necessary road improvements that we need and provide other facilities like a community hall, better sports pitches and more allotments."

Andrew Kennedy is taking the pragmatic approach over the plans
Andrew Kennedy is taking the pragmatic approach over the plans

Cllr Kennedy said: "This site has been earmarked for housing for at least 20 years. It's nothing new.

"We could take a stance to oppose it outright, but we would almost certainly lose at appeal, and then the borough would end up paying the legal costs of both sides.

"It seems to me better to work with Trenport, who have so far been very receptive, in order to negotiate the best mitigation measures possible."

Eilish Smeaton, the planning director at Trenport said: "This is a strategic housing site that has been allocated for development in successive development plans by the council.

"The development will not only deliver up to 900 much-needed new homes, but also provide new highways improvements and a range of community facilities."

An artist's impression of the proposed community hall at Bushey Wood
An artist's impression of the proposed community hall at Bushey Wood

She said: "We understand the importance of ongoing consultation with local residents and stakeholders, and we are very grateful for all the ideas and comments that we have received in response to our plans so far.

"We are currently considering all the feedback we have received and looking at how we can revise the masterplan in response to this. Further details and updates on the proposals are posted on our website." https://landateccles.co.uk/

Trenport has already built the 1,000 development at nearby Peters Village in Wouldham, and is currently seeking to extend that site with another 95 homes.

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