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Plans submitted to Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council by National Trust to build on field at Ightham Mote, near Sevenoaks, met with hostility

Controversial plans to build a car park on a field next to the historic Ightham Mote because of rising visitor numbers have been met with hostility by nearby residents.

The proposals, submitted to Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, would allow for an extra 240 cars to park at the National Trust-run 14th century landmark, near Sevenoaks, but involves building on green belt land.

The proposals for the replacement car park at Ightham Mote Picture: National Trust
The proposals for the replacement car park at Ightham Mote Picture: National Trust

Some permanent overflow spaces are included within the plans for 240 extra cars. The trust only has temporary overflow capacity at the moment.

The National Trust also want to remove a temporary visitor reception, replacing it with a permanent one and erect a shop, as well as reinstate the walled garden.

The institution says the current car park, with 232 spaces and located in the walled garden and northern approach, is impractical and the scheme will bring back historic views and improve visitor experience.

However, local residents and frequent visitors have raised concerns about building on scenic land and the increased amount of traffic.

One unnamed nearby villager, commenting on the plans online, said: "At times it's impossible and dangerous to walk out of your own property due to the amount of traffic heading towards the moat and there are no pavements to walk on.

"The situation will worsen... if this scheme is allowed to go ahead."

An anonymous Tonbridge resident and frequent visitor, again commenting online, said: "There is ample parking space for cars available at the property, demonstrated by the high numbers of visitors it attracts during the summer months. As a cyclist and walker in the local area, the very last thing I would like to see is more cars congesting and polluting local roads."

A layout plan for the walled garden at Ightham Mote Picture: National Trust
A layout plan for the walled garden at Ightham Mote Picture: National Trust

A petition set up to stop the expansion project is also nearing its target of 1,000 signatures.

However, some have welcomed the project.

One National Trust member and Maidstone resident, argued that the application: "solves so many problems at the site such as access, parking... improved facilities."

Responding to the consultation, The majority of Ightham parsish councillors were in favour of opening up the walled garden and restoration of the north drive, recognising the need to better manage visitor numbers and vehicles.

However, some members echoed residents' concerns about the impact of increased traffic volume on the village of Ivy Hatch.

More visitors are having days out at Ightham Mote, near Sevenoaks Picture: Hannah Epps/ National Trust
More visitors are having days out at Ightham Mote, near Sevenoaks Picture: Hannah Epps/ National Trust

The National Trust is predicting a rise to 225,000 visitors to the Grade 1-listed manor house and its grounds over the next decade, up from 178,000 recorded last year.

The proposals results in the loss of nearly two acres of arable land in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but, according to the trust will see a net increase of one and a half acres of woodland and nearly one acre of orchard meadow.

A spokesperson said: “Our plans to move our car park at Ightham Mote from the 18th century walled garden to a new location is part of a much larger project to join the medieval mansion with its natural surroundings, and preserve it for future generations to enjoy.

“In order to do this we have to relocate parking, and after considering various options, the plan we have submitted is the only one which allows us to reinstate and protect the historic walled garden and North Drive.

“As a conservation charity, this has been a tough decision to make, and we recognise the strong feelings both for and against our plans. We have had a number of specialist studies undertaken, and if the planning application is approved, we are actively committed to mitigating the effects on the landscape and wildlife, as well as ensuring we use sympathetic materials such as grass and gravel. We will also look to increase biodiversity in some areas, such as increased tree and hedge planting.

“As part of the planning process, members of the public as well as key organisations such as Natural England, Historic England, the Environment Agency and local councils have had an opportunity to share their views on our plans.

"The application is now with Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, which ultimately has the final decision."

To view the plans on the Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council website, click here.

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