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Castle’s stand against Jct 8’s industrial zone

THE chief executive of Leeds Castle has said his organisation will stand against large industrial development of the area around M20 junction 8.

The charity running the “loveli-

est castle in the world” remains un- convinced the economic benefits of building industrial units off the A20 near Bearsted will outweigh the community. Although rejected by Maidstone Borough Council’s planning com- mittee, a plan for a large industrial site still remains in the Local Plan. The scheme is part of the coun-

cil’s drive to provide employment opportunities in the area. Castle chief Sir David Steel (pic-

tured right) is concerned that such a development would be to the detriment of one of the country’s best-loved visitor attractions. Sir David writes in the latest edi-

tion of the Leeds and Broomfield parish newsletter: “While we sup- port any commercial activity which promotes employment and eco- nomic benefit in the area, we are not convinced that development at junction eight will bring the bene- fits necessary to outweigh the detri- mental effects on the local community, the environment and

the wider tourism industry to jus- tify such development.” The castle’s estates and projects director, Bill Lash, spoke at the Local Plan inquiry in relation to junction eight development. He told the inspector Robert Mel-

lor that junction eight provides a rural gateway to the borough and is currently not “cramped” with commercial industrial develop- ment. Sir David added: “From our per- spective, (it) provides the scenic ap- proach to Leeds Castle that we consider to be important, not just for us but for the borough and Kent as a whole.” He said tourism generates £3.3bn

for the county and provides 65,000 related jobs, 9,000 of which are in the Maidstone borough. Leeds Castle is the “principal heritage and tourist asset” in the Maidstone area with 600,000 visi- tors annually, the third highest for a venue of its kind in the country, Sir David said. He added: “All of us working

Under scrutiny LOCAL Plan project manager Cheryl Parks said: “Maidstone’s Local Plan is currently being ex- amined by an independent plan- ning inspector. Any sites included in it would still need to be assessed and agreed once a planning appli- cation is submitted. The Local Plan has identified locations where de- velopment could take place but it is not a guarantee.”

here recognise the responsibility that therefore falls to us to maintain this attraction for the benefit of the borough and that means standing against development that may un- dermine such a contribution to the local area.” The castle currently employs 300

staff with a wage bill of more than £4m and events at the castle pro- vides secondary employment to local hotels, B&Bs, stallholders, land agents and other firms.

Party leader praises council for taking action on housing

LIBERAL Democrat leader Tim Farron has praised the Maidstone Borough Council Local Plan, cur- rently under scrutiny by the gov- ernment inspector Robert Mellor. Mr Farron (pictured) heaped

praise on the Lib Dem-led coalition for taking real action on housing. On a visit to Maidstone, he said:

“It (Local Plan) goes further than most. The plan is quite ambitious, but half of it has been built already. “Maidstone ranks towards the

top end of councils taking action.” He said the nationwide lack of af- fordable housing could not be al- lowed to go on and the Lib Dems have committed themselves to building 10 “garden cities” to ease pressure on housing. Mr Farron said that building on greenfield sites would have to be tolerated and developers should not be allowed to sit on brownfield

Church Street. The Lib Dems are gearing prospective parliamentary candi- dates for a possible snap spring election next year. The party has eyed up Maidstone

and the Weald as a possible scalp with local candidate, Coxheath’s Emily Fermor, a 23-year-old former Invicta Grammar School pupil and Oxford graduate. The sitting MP Helen Grant had

sites, as building on these areas protects the environment . Mr Farron, whose party was left

with just eight MPs after last year’s general election, visited Make a Difference Maidstone’s shop in

made representations to the Local Plan Inquiry last month in which she said traffic in the county town was at “breaking point” and resi- dents had lost faith in the council’s planning policy. Mrs Grant identified 16 areas

worst affected by traffic congestion and said pollution levels already exceeded limits. These would con- tinue to worsen if new develop- ments are allowed to go ahead.

Leeds’ borough councillor Gill

Fort said: “The scheme hasn’t gone away. I amtotally against it. “After the Kent International

Gateway (KIG)was seen off , this is just KIG2 on a smaller scale but I do not blelieve it is appropriate for the area. “We can’t imagine that there

would not be a traffic impact on Leeds village and surrounding vil- lages which they simply cannot take.”

Road repairs cause chaos

A COLLAPSED manhole in the centre of Leeds village caused traf- fic chaos for about two hours on December 1. The road through the villagewas

shut near the George pub and Upper Street while the problem was repaired. Cars were forced to use George Lane, Forge Lane, Car- ing Lane, Old Mill Road and Back Street to avoid the works. There was a build-up of traffic on the sin- gle track Burberry Lane where it meets George Lane and a staff en- trance to Leeds Castle. Cars travelling towards the M20 having left the B2163 Leeds Road found the lane blocked with traffic. South East Water spent several

hours reinforcing the affected area and resurfacing it before the road was reopened. One villager said: “One minute

the road was open, the next it was shut. Therewas nowarning, sowe can only assume the problem was significant.”

Maidstone East January 2017 29


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