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Maidstone Junction 8 business scheme at Waterside Park rejected by appeal inspector

Residents throughout Hollingbourne, Bearsted and the surrounding villages are celebrating after a government planning inspector dismissed appeals to build a huge business, office and warehouse development at Waterside Park.

Gallagher Group's appeals, both for its original scheme and for a reduced version, were considered at a planning inquiry in May following the refusal by Maidstone council to grant planning permission.

Their dismissal will be taken as a huge victory for those opposed to development around Junction 8 of the M20.

An artist's impression of one of the proposed new buildings at Waterside Park
An artist's impression of one of the proposed new buildings at Waterside Park

The proposed development site had been on the opposite side of the A20 to the former Kent International Gateway proposal, but still close to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and to Leeds Castle.

Mary Richards, secretary of the Bearsted and Thurnham Society, said: “This is terrific news. We can hardly believe it.”

“It’s a victory for logical argument, common sense and people power.”

During the inquiry Ferdinand Bilstein UK (formerly known as ADL), one of the two major tenants lined up for the development, pulled out at the last minute, saying although it wanted to move to Waterside Park it could not afford to wait any longer for permission to be granted.

The inspector: Katie Peerless
The inspector: Katie Peerless

The application had been opposed by KCC, CPRE and Leeds Castle as well as by local villagers.

In the conclusion to her judgement, the inspector Katie Peerless said: “I find that the environmental harm would be greater than the identified economic advantages and the adverse impacts would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.

“While scheme B would be less harmful than scheme A, due to its reduced scale, there would not be enough differences between the two proposals to overcome the concerns outlined above or to tip the balance in favour of the smaller proposal.

“Therefore neither of the proposals amount to sustainable development as defined in the National Planning Policy Framework, due to the extent that they would conflict with the environmental policies contained within it, particularly in relation to the impact on the landscape character and the setting of the heritage assets.

“I therefore conclude that planning permission should not be granted for either scheme.”

Pat Gallagher
Pat Gallagher

Pat Gallagher, chairman of the Gallagher Group, said: “I felt very beaten up about the decision for about half an hour, but I’m over that.

“We’ve lost this battle, but not necessarily the war.

“We’ve won our fair share of fights in our time.”

Mr Gallagher said: “We have a licence on the land for 20 years. I’m sure we will come back with something in that time and you can be sure that the land will be worth more in five years’ time than it is now.”

But Mr Gallagher added: “I am disappointed for Scarab (one of the firms intending to move to Waterside Park). It’s a sad day for Maidstone.”

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