Published: 06:00, 14 May 2019
| Updated: 07:39, 14 May 2019
A wildlife charity has distanced itself from claims it is working in partnership with a firm that wants to build homes at a beauty spot.
Wates Developments plans to build 250 homes together with a country park at Appledore Road, Tenterden, and is pursing its scheme despite its rejection by the town council and Ashford Borough Council.
In a controversial statement on its website, Wates claimed to be working "in partnership" with Kent Wildlife Trust, provoking outrage from Tenterden green campaigner Richard Masefield who said it was "patently untrue".
The firm put details of its public meeting in the town on the website stating: "Wates Developments in partnership with the Tenterden Schools Trust and Kent Wildlife Trust would like to share their vision for land at Appledore Road, Tenterden."
Wates has struck a deal with Homewood, which owns part of the site, known as Limes Land, but not with the Trust.
Vincent Ganley, conservation advice manager for the trust, said: “The trust does not endorse housing schemes, we provide advice and guidance to firms open to consultation about the protection of wildlife.
“It is not a partnership.”
He said the trust understood that "population pressures" meant there would be more housebuilding and was "open to conversations" with developers to ensure the preservation of wildlife and "biodiversity net gain".
Housebuilders are now forced by government mandate to ensure wildlife habitats are enhanced and left in a better way than they were prior to development, resulting in improved biodiversity.
Mr Ganley emphasised the trust did not endorse "building out" especially at the pre-planning stage.
He said: “We work without prejudice so our planning team can comment on schemes independently.”
However, Albert Poole, spokesman for the Limes Land Protection Group, formed to fight off the Wates scheme, said when he attended the developer’s earlier presentation at Homewood School, he had been "horrified" to see Kent Wildlife Trust share the same platform as Wates Developments.
But he said: “I believe Wates is using the good offices of Kent Wildlife Trust to promote its scheme.
“They have been drawn into the process by Wates who are now using them as a form of endorsement as opposed to being an objective party.”
Wates has released new images of what the homes at Appledore Road could look like together with a statement.
In the statement, Wates Developments' spokesman Rio Daniel, appeared to backtrack from the website claim, instead describing Wates' relationship with Kent Wildlife Trust as "working in close collaboration".
The land and planning manager said the firm was "delighted to be sharing its vision" for Appledore Road with residents, stating: “We believe that the site offers significant benefits including; up to 250 well designed new homes including 100 being affordable, a 21-acre country park, green learning spaces, extensive sports facilities including five new football pitches [and] a community sports pavilion, enabling significant upgrades to the existing Tenterden Schools Trust facilities.”
She continued Wates believed the housing, which was not included in the Local Plan to 2030 could count as "unidentified windfall" and meet ABC’s housing need, adding: “This policy has strict criteria; having assessed the land in great detail Wates' planning and technical team believes that these criteria can be met by working with the public and key stakeholders to produce a scheme that benefits the wider community in the long term and brings forward much needed new housing, including affordable homes.”
Mr Masefield criticised the firm, saying: “It’s 250 homes we don't need and Wates are implying that Kent Wildlife Trust approves of their plan, which is damaging to the Trust and misleading to residents.”
Wates will be presenting its scheme at St Mildred’s Church hall, this Friday from 3pm to 7.30pm.