Published: 11:43, 13 January 2020
| Updated: 17:34, 13 January 2020
An ambitious plan to build 250 homes in Tenterden's countryside has been met with widespread dismay with concerns expressed that it will change the face of the town forever.
Wates wants to build the homes and a country park at Appledore Road, Tenterden and has now formally applied for planning permission despite the town council and Ashford Borough Council's (ABC) objections.
The scheme on fields known as Limes Land, includes 100 affordable homes and involves the creation of a 21-acre public country park, together with community orchards and a network of public footpaths.
Outdoor classrooms and natural play trails are also being billed as attractions, with the promise of five grass football pitches and a community pavilion being thrown into the mix.
Albert Poole of the Limes Land Protection Group, which was formed to block the proposal, said the land is of "historic importance" to Tenterden and has remained as pasture land for centuries, unspoilt by farming.
Mr Poole said: "This site is not included in the local plan and Tenterden and Ashford councils both oppose its development.
"If the Wates' scheme is allowed to go ahead against all local opposition it will herald the demise of Tenterden."
He added: "It just shouldn't be the case that a developer is allowed to dictate the future of Tenterden."
Social media has been flooded with objections from Tenterden residents after the planning application was posted on the Jewel of the Weald Facebook page. Jessica O'Leary said she did not believe the housing would be truly affordable, adding:"We don’t need a ‘country park’, we live in the countryside".
Heather Trumble posted: "This has to stop now, Tenterden can't cope why are they turning it in to a city?"
She added: "It makes me so sad we are losing all our countryside no wonder there is climate change it's because they are concreting over anything green."
A spokesperson for Wates Developments said the firm was "delighted" to submit its planning application, which had been the result of 18 months of work involving numerous consultations.
The statement continued that the country park, sports facilities, children’s play trails and community orchard would be built in the first phase of development and made available for public use at the earliest possible time, while "a high proportion of the site will remain green with 72% being opened to the community to enjoy, on what is currently privately-owned land with limited access".
Grass pitches and a club house had been identified as a need by ABC in its 2017 playing pitch strategy, the statement continued.
The spokesman added that the homes are needed in Tenterden, especially affordable properties and that Wates was"bringing forward unidentified windfall land for housing in sustainable locations".
Tenterden and Ashford borough councillor Callum Knowles has urged people to come forward and lodge their objections on the ABC planning portal or to the town council, saying he has been inundated with calls and emails from Tenterden residents worried by the proposal.
In a direct appeal to Tenterden residents he said: "The Wates' scheme is a substantial development that will alter the character of Tenterden forever. This is a critical opportunity to make your views known. Don't just leave it to someone else to do, let your town or borough council know or leave a comment on the planning application."
Residents have until February 1 to register comments for and against on ABC's planning portal by visiting bit.ly/36yj7Zc and putting 19 in the case year followed by the application number reference 01788.
More by this authorRachael Woods