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Woodland homes plan refused Backing from

A PROPOSAL for 220 homes on the playing fields at New Line Learning Academy in Boughton Lane, Maidstone, has been refused. Despite backing from the majority

of Conservative councillors on Maidstone Council’s planning com- mittee, a seven-member majority – comprising five Lib Dems,UKIPCllr Christine Edwards-Daem and local ward member Mike Hogg, a Tory – voted to refuse the plan, citing harm to the ancient woodland and not meeting affordable homes targets. There were grave concerns about increased traffic congestion on the Boughton Lane junction with Loose Road and further north, where the latter converges with Sutton Road at the Wheatsheaf pub, though a sec- tion 106 contribution would have been allocated for improvements at these junctions. But KCC raised no highways ob- jections to this, so it could not be used as a ground for refusal. The joint applicants,KCCand Fu-

ture Schools Trust, said the develop- mentwas vital to raise funds for the expansion of nearby special school FiveAcreWood, to allow another 60 pupils. Itwould also enable the cre- ation on farmland of an 8.65-hectare playing field – an increase of 30% –

Cllr Derek Mortimer, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Jasper Gerard, KCC Cllr Brian Clark and members of North Loose Residents Association with a petition signed by 1,500 people opposing the development.

for students at New Line Learning Academy and the community. However, thewestern access to the

homes would have carved through a section of the Five Acre ancient woodland, which it was felt would outweigh the scheme’s benefits. Cllr Tony Harwood, a member of

the committee, said: “Ancientwood- land is not a collection of trees – any old plantation is a collection of trees. Ancientwoodland is the sum of the parts of the soils, the micro-organ- isms, the flora and fauna and it al- most acts as one organism. “If you drive a road through the middle of it, it will no longer func- tion: it will deteriorate and be lost.” The access road would have had

the same position as the removed construction access created during the redevelopment of New Line Learning Academy five years ago, leading to suggestions from some councillors that thewoodland could be sacrificed. Cllr MalcolmGreer, deputy leader

of the council and member of the committee, said: “The benefits out- weigh the concerns. We do need housing, the design is acceptable andwe have education benefits.We need to take this opportunity.” But, along with thewoodland con-

cern, the allocation of just 30% af- fordable housing – below the council’s policy of40%–was enough to swing the vote the otherway.

parish council BOUGHTON Monchelsea Parish Council strongly supported the scheme. Cllr Ian Ellis pointed out that Boughton Monchelsea Amenity Trust would receive 95 acres of transferred land that would be protected for public amenity. Cllr Stephen

Munford (pic- tured), who r epr esents Boughton Monchelsea and Chart Sut- ton,


backed the de- velopment. Opposition came in the shape

of a 1,500-name petition pre- sented by local ward Cllr Derek Mortimer, North Loose Residents ‘Association, Loose Parish Council and Maidstone Council’s land- scape and housing officers. However, the council’s planning officers supported the proposal.

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