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Council housing figures approved The fight’s not over, says parish councillor

MAIDSTONE Council planners have been cleared of misleading members over the avail- ability of land for housebuilding, following hours of debate and deliberation by its scrutiny committee. Boughton Monchelsea Parish Council took

the council to task, claiming the methodsused to calculate the five-year land supply were flawed. They sought advice from leading lawyers to substantiate their claim – but these were coun- tered by the council’sownQCwho backed the officers’ judgement. The argument centred on the availability of ‘windfall’ sites – those which the council could not anticipate and which, historically, have occurred in significant quantities each year. But the council’s chief planner Rob Jarman

saidmany of these had been factored into the council’s current calculation, which put the land supply at 4.2 years. Opponents say this leaves the floodgates

open for developers wishing to build on greenfield sites in the borough – such as the MAPS site in Marden and Langley Park, which would increase the size of Boughton Monchelsea parish by 50%. The council ratified the decision made by

the scrutiny committee, endorsing the methodology and judgementsmade ‘thus far’

Storage agreed

for caravans PLANNING permission was granted to allow the winter stor- age of 20 seasonal workers’ car- avans on land at Swanton Farm, Bicknor. Consent already existed for

the caravans to be used by fruit pickers for eight months of the year, and now the planning committee has allowed the ve- hicles to stay on site all year round – providing they are not occupied between November 1 and February 28. Peter Moore, chairman of Bic-

knor Parish Council, objected over the threat of increased traf- ficmovements, but planning of- ficer Chris Hawkins said there should be less disruption to neighbours as therewould be no need to remove and return the caravans. The 12-person committee unanimously approved the scheme, which also included the erection of a building for communal facilities.

Tip closure THE waste recycling centre in Burial Ground Lane, Tovil, has been closed for improvements. Work to repair concrete

walls and surface slabs began on Monday, October 21. As Downs Mail went to press the re-opening date had not been announced but it was thought the works would take three weeks to complete. During the closure, waste

can be taken to other centres at Gas Road, Sittingbourne, North Farm Lane, Tunbridge Wells and Cobbs Wood Indus- trial Estate in Brunswick Road, Ashford.

34 East

COUNCILLORS who called for an investigation into how the council reached its conclusions have not yet given up their fight. Boughton Monchelsea Parish Council claims

the scrutiny committee failed to carry out its duty effectively and is seeking legal advice. Parish council chairman Steve Munford was

taken ill shortly after the initial meeting, which he believes was brought on by stress, and vice chairman Ian Ellis appeared at the second hear- ing on his behalf. Cllr Ellis said: “Wewere given 24 hours to submit our papers to the council, giving the officers time to look at what we had

– but proposer Cllr FranWilson stressed the committee would be keeping a close eye on the situation and asked to be updatedhalfway through the year on permitted planning ap- plications,windfall sites andnon-completions to assess how close Maidstone was to having the critical five-year housing land supply. The council also moved that officers be in- structed to investigate urgently what could be done to protect any site from inappropriate development in the interim. Ian Ellis, the vice chair of Boughton Monchelsea Parish Council, gave evidence to the scrutiny committee. He said: “We believe the scrutiny and overview committee did not

to saybefore thebundlewas sent out. Then, dur- ing the process, they issued a further paper. If wehaddonethat, itwouldhavebeenthrownout by the chairman.” “We believe the scrutiny and overview com-

mittee did not undertake the role which they were asked to do. Instead it was a successful attempt by members to defend and support their officers and themselves, instead of look- ing at it as an opportunity to accept that there was no need to release greenfield sites prema- turely in advance of the completion of the local plan.”

undertake the role which they were asked to do. Instead it was a successful attempt by members to defend and support their officers and themselves, instead of looking at it as an opportunity to accept that there was no need to release greenfield sites prematurely in ad- vance of the completion of the local plan.” The building of 600 new homes at Langley

Park will increase the size of Boughton Monchelsea parish by50%and Cllr Ellis said: “No support is being offered by Maidstone Council to mitigate the issues which we as a village community will have to address once we have such a large increase in our popula- tion.”

Former sports minister opens gym

HUGH Robertson MP, ex minister for sport and tourism has openeda newgym in Maidstone. Mr Robertson was joined by

MayorofMaidstone, Cllr CliveEng- lish, at theopening ofC5Fitness at Turkey Mill Business Park, along- side the gym’s founders, Craig Dixon and Luke Hagreen. He was presented with an honorary mem- bership before taking a tour of the facility, dropping in on group exer- cise classes and trying out a “Tour deFrance” trainingbike that simu- lates going up and down moun- tains. Luke and Craig have both over-

come serious health problems to achieve their dream of opening their own fitness centre. Mr Robertson said: “The London

2012 Olympics created increased interest in sport and fitness across

Craig Dixon, former sports minister Hugh Robertson, and Luke Hagreen at the opening of C5 Fitness

the country, and it’s great to see that spirit alive andwell here inmy own constituency. I am delighted to be here today to see Craig and Luke realise their ambition.” Craig said: “Looking at us now,

most people would never imagine that I once had a serious weight problem and that Luke was in a

Caravan park lighting objection THE proposed introduction of an entrance sign at a caravan park in Harrietsham was deferred over its lighting arrange- ments.

Members of Maidstone Council’s planning committee had no objections to the erec- tion of the sign – measuring 3.2m wide by 3m high and no more than 1.5m above ground level – at Pilgrims Retreat, Hogbarn Lane. But they objected to it being illuminated. Cllr Tony Har- wood said: “Sites as remote as this should not have up-light- ing on the signs. It has a nega- tive impact on the landscape. This is in the back of beyond and I don’t see any reason, in terms of guiding people, why this sign should be lit up.” All 12members agreed to defer the application for council of- ficers to negotiate a removal of the lighting with applicant Sines.

wheelchair following a sports in- jury. We want to create a fitness centre that shows our members how to enjoy a healthy lifestyle through exercise and nutrition.” For more details, go to or call 01622 757179.

RNLI meeting THE Maidstone Branch of the RNLI will be holding its annual meeting at Church Cross House, South Lane, Barming, at 8pm onWednesday, November 6. Anyone interested in becom- ing volunteers or serving on the committee is welcome. Call John Ashbolt on 01622 725435.

Extension refused A PLANNED first floor exten- sion with two dormer windows at 1 The Grove in Bearsted was refused. Maidstone Council said the scheme would have harmed the character of the area.

Birch tree ‘unsafe’ RICHARD Ashness has applied for conservation area consent to fell a silver birch tree at Mote Hall, Church Lane, Bearsted.

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