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News | Local plan inquiry ‘Listen to public over local plan’

THE public have not been listened to over their concerns about the content of its controversial Local Plan, outspokenMPHelen Whately has claimed.

Mrs Whately told planning in- spector Robert Mellor it was “vi- tally important” the council gets it right before proceeding – particu- larly on housing.

She told the in- spector at the town hall in- quiry: “I have had hundreds of letters and emails on this issue. Few topics


MP Helen Whately

aroused such a volume of so much concern.”

The failure of the borough coun-

cil to listen to the level of concern meant she was duty-bound to en- sure the inspector left the inquiry in no doubt that constituents felt the 18,560 new homes being pro-

18,000 homes ‘not enough’

THE Home Builders’ Federation claims Maidstone should be build- ing MORE than the 18,000 houses it has proposed by 2031 in order to ease the capital’s housing crisis. James Stevens told the inquiry that all the boroughs in London – with the exception of Camden – have a shortage of housing stock. Mr Stevens (left) told the inspector: “There will be a significant under- supply in London and it would be prudent to factor this in.”

Maidstone Bor-

ough Council (MBC) said the au- thority had made allowances for this in its projected population growth. Government inspector Robert Mellor asked if the arguments had been heeded by other planning in- quiries and was told they had not. Mr Mellor is due to hear from rep- resentatives of local parish councils, developers, amenity groups, neigh- bouring councils and highway au- thorities amongst others.

The inspector, who is bound by the existing legislative frameworks, can accept the proposals in the Local Plan or order significant changes. Robert Jarman, MBC’s head of planning, said his authority had risen to the challenge of setting local development targets “which are ap- propriate for Maidstone”.

This assertion is likely to be tested throughout the inquiry, with many representatives fearful of the impact house-building will have on roads, schools, GP practices and other amenities.

4 Maidstone November 2016 MP Grant against housing figure

MAIDSTONE and the Weald MP Helen Grant is to submit written representations to the planning inspector hearing views on the borough's Local Plan. Government inspector Robert Mellor began hearing evidence from the community on Tuesday October 4.

Mrs Grant is to lodge her objec- tions on the “excessive number of new houses” planned by Maid- stone Borough Council (MBC) and their traffic implications. She has also been concerned by the “manifest shortcomings in constructive co-operation be- tween MBC and Kent County

Check the session programme for the public inquiry at

Council (KCC)”.

The MP told Downs Mail: “The focus for me has been what I con- sider an excessive number of new houses, which could be reduced by reference to planning con- straints. “I have also been concerned with manifest shortcomings in constructive co-operation between MBC and KCC in the develop- ment of this plan, especially relat- ing to mitigation of additional vehicle traffic arising from new

housing developments.

“Helen Whately (fellow local MP) and I hosted a very well at- tended public meeting to address these and other issues at the Maid- stone Studios (pictured above). “I have also held private talks with the leaders of KCC and MBC and have made written represen- tations to MBC with particular ref- erence to the long-mooted Leeds – Langley relief road scheme. “I will be putting further writ- ten representations to the plan- ning inspector during the course of these public hearings to under- line and endorse the opinions I have already made clear.”

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posed in the borough by 2031 was too high – the highest number of any borough in the county, bar Medway. Going further, she said that a four-week consultation period after the revised housing figure had been released was clearly not long enough for parishes to consult and respond in time. This was particularly true of

those where much of the housing was being proposed, such as Head- corn, Harrietsham and Lenham, which she said would grow by 110% if the Local Plan were ap- proved. The MP said the housing figure

had to reflect local need and that of preserving the countryside, while also contending with the needs of transport and investment in infra-

structure. Asked specifically about whether the proposed junction 8 Woodcut Farm employment site, off the M20, should be removed from the plan, she said: “I seek the deletion of this site from the Local Plan. “It is not an appropriate loca-

tion for such a large industrial site.” She added that the site was an integral part of the landscape be- tween Bearsted and Leeds Castle – an important heritage site that attracts moe than 500,000 people to the area every year. Mrs Whately said development around junction 8 had previously been rejected, adding: “We clearly need to provide employment sites within the area, but those that are accessible by public transport.”

Traveller sites The MP also questioned the coun-

cil’s allocation of traveller sites, ar- guing that the council failed to take into account the Government’s lat- est definition of what constituted a gypsy or a traveller. This resulted in an over-estimate of the number of pitches needed. She said: “Time and again, we

are seeing permissions (for gypsy sites) granted. "We are seeing permissions

granted on the grounds of a lack of five-year supply, but this is leading to the expansion of traveller sites in totally inappropriate locations, where we know planning permis- sion for residential development would not be granted.”

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