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Maidstone’s Core Strategy issues come under the spotlight Land sought for 140 gypsy pitches

MAIDSTONE Council is to earmark land across the borough for possible gypsy sites, following a warning that parts of the open countryside are reaching “saturation point”. That was the warning made by the coun-

cil’s planning committee chairman Cllr Richard Lusty,who joined localwardmem- bers in calling for the borough to encourage dispersed gypsy sites around the borough. Stephen Paine, Maid-

stone Council’s cabinet member for planning, has now announced that the public will be asked for their views on where they would accept gypsy sites. Council officers are cur-

rently working on a new Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) docu- ment, to earmark land that can be used to take the extra housing. This same template will also identify land

for the 140 gypsy pitches the council says need to be provided over the next 14 years. Landowners will be asked if their land is available and maps will be drawn up with potential sites. Members of the public will be consulted on thesemaps prior to the pro- duction of the Core Strategy, which will set out where new sites should be located. Cllr Paine said: “The only way we will

solve this issue, once and for all, is to allo- cate land for gypsy sites. Just as we are now allocating land for new housing, and asking the public what they think, we will need to do the same for gypsy and traveller sites.. “It is difficult to do, because many resi-

dents will say “we don’t want any gypsy pitches near us” and their councillors will support them.

Continued from page one “It is achieving this by refus-

ing to approve core strategies unless they reflect this need.” Maidstone had been due to decide on its Core Strategy by March, when the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) comes into being. Without a Core Strategy, councils will be exposed to po- tentially unsuitable develop- ment, with no course of redress. However, Cllr Garland said he hoped the council could agree

A moving target THE number of gypsy pitches in the bor- ough is likely to increase due to the council’s revised gypsy and traveller ac- commodation assessment (GTAA) setting a target of 105 permanent pitches be- tween October 2011 andMarch 2016. Planning permission had only been

given for 29 permanent pitches at the time of the recent committee meeting. However, some of the temporary permis- sions due to expire before March 2016 could be made into permanent agree- ments, which could help meet the target.

“But being pro-active and allocating sites means we can make sure protected coun- tryside remains protected. More impor- tantly, it allows us to put gypsy and traveller sites in places where they comple- ment and add to the diversity of existing communities.” “IfMaidstone borough councillors choose

not to allocate land for gypsies, then the council will continue to lose these cases at appeal, and they will be forced on to com- munities, often in unsuitable locations.” Cllr Paine added: “A small number of travellers have given the wider community a bad name, either by ignoring rules or being anti-social or criminal neighbours. The majority of traveller communities are decent folk who play by the rules and are welcome members of the local community.” The top destination for gypsies in the bor-

ough is Headcorn, with estimations on the number of pitches topping 80. Cllr Lusty, ward member for Staplehurst, said: “There are certain parishes that are overrun. Cer-

on an interim strategy before March 2013. The Government believes en- couraging more housing devel- opment will help to kick-start economic growth, as well as ful- fil the need for more housing – although the leader of the coun- cil remains unconvinced. “We are going to face real dif- ficulties identifying more sites, and will almost certainly have to build on the sites that have already been proposed, which some people are opposed to, to provide this increased number

THE news that an additional 5,000 homes may be required will further fuel hope among developers that previously out- of-bounds greenfield land will now be available to build on. One such developer, Eco

Build Partnership, has ear- marked open countryside bor- dering Broomfield Road and Gravelly Bottom Road for 1,000 new homes, which would in- clude a large retirement village. Even before the council fore-

Aroundabout would be created at the entrance to these paths in Broomfield Road

6 East

cast the requirement for addi- tional homes, the company said in a statement: “The coun-

tain areas are reaching saturation point. “We also have a lot of gypsy sites in Sta- plehurst, and it is important thatwe look at our villages and try to get an even balance. The gypsy community has a right to live in caravan sites in our community, but some our villages are getting too many.” Cllr Lusty’s comments were made at a meeting that saw planning permission granted for two more gypsy sites in Head- corn. It was agreed to allow one residential car-

avan and touring caravan to be sited on land at Love Lane, to become the road’s fourth gypsy site. There are 12 bricks and mortar homes in Love Lane. The committee also agreed, again unani- mously, to grant permission for John Skil- ton to station one mobile home at Granada, Lenham Road. “This will mean three trav- eller sites and three bricks and mortar houses at this part of Lenham Road,” said Headcorn parish councillor Dave Andrews. Referring to the Love Lane proposal, Headcorn ward Cllr Jenefer Gibson said: “Individually this planning application may seem innocuous, but I amvery anxious about the cumulative effect on Headcorn. “Headcorn is being asked to take an unac- ceptable number of sites, which causes huge stress on various services such as schools and health services. “The parish council feels enough is enough. Four sites in Love Lane does not sound excessive, but when you compare this to the 12 bricks and mortar homes down a very small country lane it is unfair to say it will not have an effect. “I would like councillors to come up with a figure for gypsy sites in each ward area.”

Homes review hits vision for the future

of homes,” he said. Rural areas could also come

under increased threat of devel- opment, as the town centre is al- ready practically at capacity. “With more housing comes

the need for an improved trans- port infrastructure, so the situa- tion becomes even more complex,” said Cllr Garland. “We will have to have im- proved bus networks and pub- lic transport and encourage people to use it to avoid mas- sive congestion.”  See MailMarks – page 43

31 Plans revealed for ‘eco retirement village’

cil’s infrastructure proposals are not bold enough, imagina- tive or adequate enough to take Maidstone borough forward in the plan framework. “The development would re-

ceive electricity and heat from the only commercial-size re- newable biomass power station in the borough, which already has planning permission.” The development, earmarked

for land owned by Rob Schroeder, was dismissed as “ludicrous” last summer by KCC member Cllr Jenny Whit- tle.

Visit Downs Mail’s website — Call for ‘a line

to be drawn’ COUNCIL leader Chris Garland is urging the Government to relax its housing demands. Maidstone’s Core Strategy has

been worked on for around six years and has been delayed by the need to review hous- ing targets. Cllr Garland (pictured) plans to write to the Secre- tary of State for local government, Eric Pick- les.

He said: “We have been bang-

ing on about this Core Strategy since 2006. Every time we go through this, the Government wants more up-to-date evi- dence.

“Other authorities have fallen

down on it because the plan- ning inspector says the evi- dence is out of date. “We can’t afford to submit a

Core Strategy that gets turned down on those reasons. “The Government has to

draw a line in the sand and say that at a certain point in time this is the evidence they will use and stick to it.”

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