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Ashford Borough Council lodges legal challenge to decision to allow 141 homes on Limes Land in Tenterden

A legal challenge has been lodged against a decision by the Planning Inspectorate to allow a controversial 141-home development.

Ashford Borough Council (ABC) says it is "very disappointed" by the inspector's approval for the scheme on Limes Land between Woodchurch Road and Appledore Road in Tenterden.

The proposed development on Limes Land in Tenterden
The proposed development on Limes Land in Tenterden

The proposed Wates Developments estate, which will also feature a community clubhouse, football pitches and outdoor exercise and play equipment, was twice rejected by ABC because it is contrary to the Local Plan adopted in 2019.

This refusal to grant permission was then appealed to the Inspectorate, leading to a public inquiry in December and approval in March.

In finding in favour of the proposed development, the inspector noted issues of housing supply in the borough - which the council says has been caused by delays in building due to pollution concerns at Stodmarsh nature reserve.

Cllr Neil Bell, the council's portfolio holder for planning, said: "The council opposed the appeal and was very disappointed by the Inspector’s decision to allow the development to go ahead.

"We continue to feel strongly that this is not a good development for Tenterden, adversely impacting the landscape and character of this part of the town and as such felt we needed to lodge this legal challenge to overturn the appeal decision.

Residents have long been campaigning against the development
Residents have long been campaigning against the development

"Consequently, the council will be writing to ministers to seek their support for both a solution to the Stodmarsh issue and an explicit recognition that it should not be used as a reason to allow housing developments that are not sustainable or compliant with the Local Plan to be permitted on appeal.

"In the meantime, we shall continue to resist fundamentally unacceptable schemes and defend them robustly should appeals be lodged."

The scheme has met significant local opposition, with people in Tenterden fearing the increase in 'urban sprawl' if construction goes ahead.

A spokesperson for Wates Developments said: “It is unfortunate that Ashford Borough Council has submitted a legal challenge to the decision made by the Planning Inspectorate to approve our proposals for 141 much needed new homes on land at Appledore Road, Tenterden. Wates Developments remain 100% committed to the scheme, which includes; 50% affordable homes (71 in total), five new football pitches enabling the re-establishment of junior football, a club house/pavilion and an 8.66-hectare public country park with walkway and cycleway.

"The team has also focused on ensuring that there is a clear biodiversity strategy within the scheme to create a mosaic of grasslands and scrub habitats alongside a series of new ecology ponds. We believe the Inspector’s decision is legally robust and brings forward vitally-needed new family homes in Kent where there is an identified short-fall.

"We will now review the challenge with our legal team and take next steps to move the proposals forward.”

Albert Poole, spokesman for the Limes Land Protection Group, said: "Limes Land Protection Group welcome the the move by Ashford Borough Council to challenge the Inspector’s decision on the Limes Land Appeal.

For legal reasons we have not been made aware of the detail of the challenge. As a group we have made comments to ABC regarding our concerns about the decision. These include deliverability, biodiversity, loss of irreplaceable habitat and loss and damage to trees.

"The decision hinges on the lack of 5 Year Housing Land Supply which has been affected by Stodmarsh Nutrient Neutrality issues. This problem is facing many other Counties and should not lead to decisions allowing unsustainable developments led by developers contrary to the current adopted local plan.

"We hope that ABC have taken on board our concerns.

"This site was tested in the late 1980s at a previous planning application. At this time the application was refused by the Ashford Borough Council, granted on Appeal, quashed by the High Court and redetermined by another Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for the Environment, who dismissed the appeal.

"Let’s hope that history is repeated and that Limes Land can be protected for future generations of Tenterden residents."

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