News Call for review of Otham plan

OPPONENTS of the Bellway Homes development at Otham have threatened to take a controversial decision to grant the scheme to a judicial review. A government planning inspec-

tor last month overturned elected borough councillors, who three times dropped the proposal for 421 houses near the ancient church of St Nicholas. Now vocal critics of the decision by Stephen Normington to find in favour of the appellant say there may be grounds for a judicial re- view at the High Court.

In a letter to Downs Mail, David Hatcher, spokesman for the Chap- man Avenue Area Residents’ As- sociation said: “There should be an immediate referral for a full in-

Warning of shed raids

SHED burglars are on the prowl and residents are warned by police to take extra care. A number of outhouses were tar-

geted in West Malling in January. In one case, an outboard motor was stolen while power tools, gar- dening equipment and golf clubs were taken in break-ins.

A Kent Police spokesman said: “Officers remain alert for anybody they suspect is intent on commit- ting crime. “A number of residents have contacted us where they have seen somebody acting suspiciously and, in most cases, we have been able to attend promptly and track down those brought to our attention. “I would urge members of the public to continue to report this type of incident to us on 101, or 999 if you believe a crime is taking place. Make sure you lock doors and windows and consider fitting a shed alarm or security light.”

quiry to the Audit, Governance and Standards Committee. “At that meeting, the committee should consider whether this mat- ter can be the subject of a judicial review into the appeal decision. “If so, it should instruct new counsel to advise before this matter passes the period in which a review can be called for. Whilst I appreci- ate there will be costs involved, it is money that has to be spent to undo the current resulting harm from the recent appeal decision, and ensure that similar mistakes are not made in the future.”

Mr Hatcher has launched a petition to highlight the need to wrest control of key deci- sion-making back to elected mem- bers of Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) in the wake of the Otham appeal.

Councillors have agreed an ex- traordinary meeting will be held to explore legal avenues, although MBC’s legal chief Patricia Narebor warned against “going on a fishing expedition”.

Independent borough councillor Gordon Newton said he was “very angry” at the decision to uphold

Bellway’s challenge. He added: “There may be evidence that cer- tain protocols were not followed that we will be able to challenge on. We’ll have to wait and see.” Elected councillors three times

threw out the Bellway scheme, principally because of safety wor- ries about the narrow, winding Church Road. But Mr Normington did not accept that Church Road has a poor safety record, and Bell- way agreed to footpath widening and the extension of the 30mph zone.

See letters, pages 44 -46 Woodland car park plan Discount for

USERS of a popular destination for dog-walkers will soon have a new car park.

The Bearsted Woodland Trust (BWT) is to create 30 spaces off the A20 to

ease pressure on

Church Lane and the A20. Co-founders of the BWT, Richard and Dena Ashness, have provided the extra land.

A statement from the trust said: “The Bearsted Woodland Trust has drawn up plans to create a new parking area to benefit in- creasing numbers of visitors, ease the pressure on the Church Lane car park and reduce parking prob- lems on the Ashford Road. “Unlike most parks, BWT has

never had its own parking area and the scheme would provide about 30 parking spaces on a grass latticed area adjoining the A20, in- cluding disabled spaces.” Parish and borough councillor

Denis Spooner (pictured) said: “It looks to be a very good scheme – it satisfies a need for spaces. The

area is well-used and particularly so at present. So well done, Bearsted Woodland Trust.” The car park will be designed by architect Chris Buckingham. But Bearsted resident Keith Ma-

lyon said: “I can see the reasoning for a car park in an attempt to stop the grass verge parking, but I am concerned about the traffic exit- ing the car park on to a road with a 60 mph speed limit.”

electric cars CAR park charges will be reduced from April for electric car drivers if Maidstone borough councillors ap- prove a recommendation to help improve air quality. The Strategic Planning and In- frastructure Committee favoured the proposal but deferred a deci- sion until their next meeting. The officer recommended start- ing the discount at 50%, but de- creasing as electric vehicles become more popular. Drivers will benefit from the discount when they make payments through the Ringo app or at the council’s 18 Podpoint EV charging stations.

Safety marks

DESIGN work is completed for vir- tual lane separation using road markings on one of Maidstone’s most dangerous roundabouts at the Running Horse A20 Ashford Road/M20 slip road at Sandling. KCC anticipates construction late in the 2021/22 financial year.

DUE to the COVID­19 lockdown and the impact on small businesses across our borough, Downs Mail is now publishing monthly, rather than fortnightly. The next edition is out on March 4. The papers are free to read online, as is the Daily Downs Mail news service. Find them at

Editorial Editor Simon Finlay Editorial team: Online news editor Jade Schopman Chris Lawson Lindsay Roberts Obituaries Neil Nixon


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