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New homes in Newington permitted despite 'harm to health' warning

By Chloe Holmwood

A controversial plan to build 124 homes in Newington has been given the go-ahead, despite concerns about air pollution.

The application to develop land at 99 High Street was granted permission by Swale council’s Planning Committee on Thursday.

It includes two, three and four-bed homes and one and two-bed blocks of flats, a new road from the High Street and a footpath and cycle link to Church Lane.

Newington High Street.
Newington High Street.

At the meeting, Mick Drury, who represents the developer Persimmon Homes, said the scheme was not an “take-a-chance application” but one where the council had thought long and hard to identify and allocate land for housing.

However, Richard Knox-Johnston of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) called on members to consider the problem of air quality in Newington High Street before making their decision.

It follows on from a report by James Freeman, the council’s head of planning, in which he concluded that “there would be some harm to human health as a result of an increase in air pollution as a consequence of this development”.

He added the need for housing would “outweigh any harm arising from air pollution”.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Knox-Johnston said: “There is far too much uncertainty in this matter. In summary, there is a problem of air quality in Newington High Street and no proof has been produced that any mitigation measures will be effective.

“Should you be taking such a risk-ridden decision which could have a serious affect on the health of people living in Newington?”

Richard Knox-Johnston
Richard Knox-Johnston

Cllr Mike Baldock (Ukip) said: “On a summary for reasons for recommendation, to actually have the words ‘I have concluded that there would be some harm to human health’ – I find that quite flabbergasting, especially in the light of Grenfell.

“I find it incredible that we have a recommendation asking us to support measures that would increase the harm to human health.

“I think there is a duty for us to do something about this.” Mr Freeman suggested the committee wrote a letter to the leaders of Kent County Council and Swale council about looking into the air quality matter “very seriously”.

Members agreed but voted to approve the application by 13 votes to four.

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