News | Lenham housing

Landowners fear losing homes in Heath scheme

LANDOWNERS at Lenham Heath who are unwilling to sell to Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) for its massive 4,000 house “garden community” fear their properties are under threat of compulsory purchase or demoli- tion.

Lawyers for 18 residents, all of whom own small plots, have been told by Yorkshire-based legal firm Pinsent Masons, representing MBC, that the authority hopes to proceed with an agreement. MBC, the self-styled “master de-

veloper” of the project, has been accused of causing property own- ers “mental stress and anxiety”. A letter, written by Pinsent Ma- sons’ partner Anne Bowden and seen by Downs Mail, states: "....the council wishes to proceed so far as possible by agreement and to avoid acquisition and demolition of people’s existing homes”. The 18 have already asked to be

removed from the MBC plans and have appointed Knights solicitors to represent their interests. Pressure group Save Our Heath

Lands (SOHL) wrote to local coun- cillors stating: “(Lenham Heath) is a council-led scheme…now resort- ing to scaring residents and threat- ening compulsory purchase of their homes.”

A council spokesman said:

“MBC has been on record from the outset of the project that it does not

wish to see existing homes lost to make way for new development, and indeed the current masterplan shows all existing homes retained, inclusive of a “green” buffer around them in order to manage the transition between the existing and proposed new community.” Borough councillor Eddie Pow-

ell said: “This is intimidation, pure and simple. Put simply, the resi- dents are being told ‘give in or we'll knock your house down’.” ‘Worried sick’

about project IN A letter to Pinsent Masons, SOHL's Kate Hammond said: “It is important to remind you of the human impact your client’s proposals are having on this group of landowners. “The stress caused as a result

of the uncertainty is leading to some of our landowners having sleepless nights and to be sick with worry." MBC has, in recent weeks,

hinted at stepping aside from the project, leaving the future to Homes England, the govern- ment’s social housing body. The council has still to sign an offi- cial agreement with HE. None of the five principal landowners has yet agreed terms with MBC. The authority is under pressure to fulfil the Government’s massive housing targets. At a recent meeting of MBC’s

policy and resources committee, MBC’s Lenham project top offi- cer, William Cornall, agreed with a councillor’s assertion that the project was “not set in stone”.

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