Tag Archives: Local Plan

MP expresses disappointment at inspector’s interim findings

An Inspector who is reviewing Maidstone Borough Council’s draft local plan recently released his interim findings in advance of the final hearing being held today.

Local MP Helen Grant, who presented to the Inspector on 17th November 2016 with concerns for transport and congestion around the town, has written to the Inspector in response to this document, to express her serious concern.

The interim findings, which set the tone for the Inspector’s final report, seemingly ignore the concerns that were raised, not only by Mrs Grant but also Kent County Council (the highways authority) and a number of other stakeholders regarding the issue of congestion. This is a particular issue for the South of Maidstone where the draft plan proposes a large number of houses will be built in coming years, in addition to those already in progress.

Helen criticised the Inspector’s conclusion that an extension of the Sutton Road bus lane would help to mitigate traffic travelling into the town centre. She also expressed her disappointment that the Inspector did not feel that the matter of poor air quality in this area was sufficient enough to limit or prevent development.

Furthermore the MP for Maidstone again stressed the case for the long-discussed ‘Leeds-Langley Bypass’ saying:

“I feel that the people of Maidstone deserve the right for investigations to be made into a possible relief road, which would divert a significant amount of traffic away from this area of the town.”

In addition to above, Helen reminded the Inspector of the fact that she is fighting the closure of Invicta Park Barracks, which has been earmarked for possible housing in the future.

Mrs Grant closed her letter by imploring the Inspector to listen to the views of local people writing:

“As I indicated in my presentation to you previously, the most common concern raised with me as the MP for the area is regarding the rate, scale and impact of housing developments around the county town. I do not feel that your interim report has recognised the severity of these concerns especially with regards to congestion. I therefore very much hope your final report can recommend mitigation and in doing so will recognise the objections raised by local people.”

Benenden Village shows how to use the Localism Bill

Helen Grant has praised the community of Benenden in creating a vision of the future for their idyllic Kentish Village.

On Saturday 7th February 2015 Helen was amongst almost two hundred local people who attended the Village Hall in Benenden to see the 40 minute launch presentation for the Parish Plan.

Created by people living in the village it combines the results of a wide ranging survey conducted in 2013 with creative forward thinking ideas.  It seeks to balance the will of the people with the wider needs of the County of Kent.  Headings include housing, well-being, the environment, communications, transport, young people, and much more.

Local MP Helen Grant was formally presented with a copy of the Benenden Village plan at the launch presentation.  She said:

‘The Localism Bill was designed to give power to local communities to create their own vision and Benenden have picked up that baton with both hands’.

‘This is not just about housing, it is a holistic plan for the future of the village, and its people, in every facet of community life.  I commend this work and see it as a worthy template for others to follow.’

Helen Grant MP with members of the Steering Committee behind the Benenden Parish Plan 2015
Helen Grant MP with members of the Steering Committee behind the Benenden Parish Plan 2015

Campaigners win another battle in the fight to save Fant Farm from housing

Following a huge effort from local people working together with their MP and Ward Councillors, the Cabinet of Maidstone Borough Council removed Fant Farm from the local plan last week.

Helen Grant MP with Fant Ward Councillors Stephen Paine and Alistair Black supporting local campaigners at Fant Farm last weekend
Helen Grant MP with Fant Ward Councillors Stephen Paine and Alistair Black supporting local campaigners at Fant Farm last weekend

Hundreds of emails were sent to Officers and Planning Committee members from residents objecting to the land being included for housing development consideration.  Helen Grant also undertook a survey of over 3000 households which showed a massive 96% of respondents were unhappy about the prospect of development at Fant Farm.

The Survey also found 61% were worried about increased traffic congestion, 51% were concerned about the lack of infrastructure to support more housing and 54% expressed concerns over the effect on wildlife and agriculture.

Writing to the Council, and to prospective developers Gleeson Homes, Mrs Grant said:

‘Since I was selected to stand for Parliament here in 2008, and as the MP for Maidstone & the Weald since 2010, I have become very familiar with Fant Ward, the issues it faces and the needs of its residents. Fant Farm in particular has always been a special place at the heart of this community and I understand and fully support the concerns my constituents have raised’.

Helen Grant MP joins residents to oppose further developments on Greenfield sites in Barming

Helen Grant, Member of Parliament for Maidstone and the Weald, met with local residents in Barming recently after being contacted regarding concerns for the beautiful area of Barming.

Helen Grant with Barming Greenfield Group at proposed site
Helen Grant with Barming Greenfield Group at proposed site

The Barming Greenfields Group contacted Helen to express their concern for a Greenfield site on Bell Farm, North Street where a proposed housing development by Taylor Wimpey has been submitted.  Local concerns are not only for this application but for the rural community as a whole, with the ever growing ‘urban creep’ threatening the countryside and local wildlife.

Local Residents in the area say:

“The countryside here has always been good agricultural land and an important habitat for wildlife. But it is also part of the character of Barming and helps us maintain our identity – we’re not just another bit of Maidstone town” (Helen Burn)

“The traffic is really bad everywhere you go in Maidstone and more and more houses will make it worse. No one seems to take this into account. Our Barming roads certainly can’t cope with any more.” (Sally Pettingell)

“Maidstone Borough Council has a staggering 769 long term empty properties. Surely this would negate the need for the proposed development”  (Jo Wood)

Barming protest 4 15-01-15

The MP for Maidstone and the Weald furthered her own concerns saying:

Helen Grant MP
Helen Grant MP

“As I have said before, I fully recognise the need for new housing in Kent, but we need the right numbers, in the right locations and only with the right infrastructure in place. Having listened to my constituents and having visited the proposed site I will be writing to the Head of Planning at Maidstone Borough Council and Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to oppose the proposed development”

Fant Farm campaigners celebrate first hurdle success

Helen Grant MP reveals results of survey to over 3300 local residents

Helen Grant MP today convened a second meeting with Fant Residents Action Group who are fighting to prevent housing development on much enjoyed green field land known as Fant Farm in Maidstone.

There was good news arising from a meeting of the Council’s Planning, Transport and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday 20th January.   The cross party Committee agreed to recommend to the Council’s Cabinet that Fant Farm should not be allocated for housing for a range of reasons including; adverse impact on the countryside, loss of agricultural land, and serious traffic issues.

Helen said “Campaigners were delighted to be working together in a non-political action group to help the Council oppose the developers in this application.  We will be using a survey I conducted across 3000 homes in the Fant area in December 2014 to support the resident’s objections.  We hope that this will help persuade the Maidstone Borough Council Cabinet Members to support the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s recommendation and reject the application when they meet this week”.

The main outcomes of Helen Grant’s survey were;

·        96% of respondents were unhappy about the prospect of development at Fant Farm.

·        61% expressed worries about increased traffic congestion

·        54% expressed concerns over the effect on wildlife and agriculture

·        51% are concerned about the lack of infrastructure to support more housing.

Campaigners meeting at Helen Grant’s office on Maidstone East station forecourt
Campaigners meeting at Helen Grant’s office on Maidstone East station forecourt

MP backs residents in opposing Cripple Street & Postley Road Developments

Helen Grant to write to Chief Executive and Head of Planning at Maidstone Borough Council to strongly oppose plans

Helen Grant, Member of Parliament for Maidstone and the Weald, is supporting residents in opposing two proposed housing developments in the Loose area.

Helen was joined by local residents as well as representatives of the North Loose Residents’ Association and the Valley Conservation Society to view the Greenfield sites.

Helen Grant with councillors, residents, members of the North Loose Residents’ Association and the Valley Conservation Society at Cripple Street
Helen Grant with councillors, residents, members of the North Loose Residents’ Association and the Valley Conservation Society at Cripple Street

The beautiful green fields, which are located off Cripple Street and Postley Road, are a habitat to wildlife and are cherished by locals who regularly use their footpaths.  To add to this, Mrs Grant is fearful of the impact further housing would have on existing traffic congestion and further pressure on local infrastructure.

The MP for Maidstone and the Weald recently conducted an Outreach Survey of over one thousand residents in the most affected areas – with the majority of respondents against further building in the area.

Helen will be writing to the Chief Executive and Head of Planning at Maidstone Borough Council to strongly oppose the new developments.

Helen said: “As the local MP I have been contacted by a number of constituents about the Cripple Street and Postley Road developments.

“I felt it necessary to gain a wider view of residents and my community outreach survey revealed overwhelming public concern about the developments.

“As I have said, I fully recognise the need for new housing in Kent, but we need the right numbers, in the right locations and only with the right infrastructure in place.

“These new developments do not meet these criteria and I will be strongly opposing the plans”

Letter to KM: The number of homes we need

Cllr David Burton
Cllr David Burton

Cllr David Burton writes to the KM:

I thought it would be useful to set the record straight about some of the comments printed in the letters section [of this paper].

It is widely quoted that the figure of 19,600 is a target or a proposal for housing numbers in Maidstone borough. It is not.

This is the best estimate available to us, currently predicting how many homes are needed if everyone in Maidstone who needs a home is to have one.

It is interesting to note that others have commissioned work to come up with a lower figure and come up with exactly the same 19,600!

In terms of numbers to actually be built, it is an issue of what can be achieved in terms of locations that are available and what infrastructure exists or can be provided.

This is how the final number will be set.

We have a duty to make sure there are enough homes for us all, including our children and grandchildren over the next 20 years and we must do our utmost to achieve this.

It is also predicted that we will live for longer, and this is also taken into account.

Since being appointed the cabinet member responsible, I have been greatly encouraged by the level of co-operation from all involved, including Cllr Fran Wilson as leader of the Lib Dem opposition group and also Kent County Council, the parish councils and residents’ groups.

It is quite clear that there is more agreement between us than disagreement.

We all need to work together to ensure the very best plan for the people of Maidstone.

David Burton (Cllr)
Cabinet Member for Planning, Transport and Developlemt
Maidstone Borough Council

Campaigning in Marden and Yalding

David Burton, Conservative candidate for Marden and Yalding, held a stall in Marden this Saturday. He was joined by Cllr Steve Mcloughlin, Cllr Rod Nelson-Gracie, and Cllr Annabelle Blackmore.

Conservatives campaigning in Marden
Conservatives campaigning in Marden

David said “People spoke to us about a wide range of issues, from housing and congestion to recycling and street cleansing.”

“The people in Marden are fed up with the lack of local planning policies to protect their village from development. The only way we can protect Marden, and other picturesque villages, is to get a sound Local Plan in place”

When you needed them most, they were not there…

The Conservatives have launched a powerful new leaflet campaign to highlight the irresponsible behaviour of the Borough’s Liberal Democrat councillors.

Conservative Council Leader, Chris Garland, summed the situation up nicely:

“When Maidstone Council was discussing the most important Local Plan for generations, local Lib Dem councillors failed to show up. The promised to stop development in the countryside, but when the crunch-time came they bunked-off and let down the very people who elected them to look after their interests. This is a wholly irresponsible approach, motivated purely by self-interest.

They have demonstrated, by their absence, that they have no courage, no ability to shape the debate or make the difficult decisions which go with the responsibility of elected office. 

This is in stark contrast to a Conservative Group which fights the corner for local people, and has the mettle to take tough decisions when they need to be made – such asproviding new homes in suitable locations across the borough.”

30,000 colour leaflets are being hand-delivered across the Maidstone area, along with whole-page adverts in the local newspapers. Please spread the word!

Empty Chair 1

Empty Chair 2

Conservatives win battle to protect countryside!

This week, Conservative Councillors won a major victory in their campaign to protect Maidstone’s countryside.

Fant Farm was one of the sites 'voted out' by the Conservatives
Fant Farm was one of the sites ‘voted out’ by the Conservatives

Tuesday night, the Planning and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee (PTOSC)  reviewed Maidstone’s draft ‘Local Plan’. This is the policy for where new homes and employment land will go over the next 20 years, as well as proposals to protect the countryside and combat congestion. This was the first opportunity for councillors to have an input on what sites were being suggested for new homes.

Conservative councillors made a number of recommendations to cabinet, including:

  • Removing approximately 600 proposed houses from greenfield sites (notably Fant Farm, Cripple Street, Roundwell Park in Bearsted, and a site in Ware Street)
  • Removing a field that can only be accessed through Ancient Woodland on the ‘Land East of Hermitage Lane’ site
  • Proposing an additional 400 homes on brownfield sites in the Town Centre – because they felt there was additional capacity on brownfield sites
  • Rejecting the designation of land at Junction 8 of the M20 motorway as a strategic location for employment use
  • Agreement that housing should not be allocated on Grade-1 agricultural land (the most productive and versatile farmland)
  • Agreement that Coxheath and Yalding should not be designated as Rural Service Centres, but ‘larger villages’ instead
  • Proposing that Transport investment should be a main priority for developer contributions, to help tackle congestion
  • Proposing that the countryside policy SP5 is “beefed up” to say that ANY harm caused by new buildings in the countryside, rather than “significant” harm, is unacceptable

These recommendations will go to Cabinet Committee for their consideration on Monday.

Lib Dems ignore voters and bunk off meeting!

Whilst the Conservatives were representing their residents and voting for policies to protect the countryside, the Lib Dems were shirking their duties and hiding elsewhere.

Not a single Lib Dem councillor turned up to vote on the Local Plan – nor speak to it. One of the most important and sensitive documents to face councillors for twenty years was shunned by Maidstone’s Lib Dems!

Cllr Collins is stunned by Lib Dem absence!
Cllr Collins is stunned by Lib Dem absence!

Cllr Dennis Collins, who sat on the committee, said “Having told residents they would vote against housing pretty much everywhere, the Lib Dems failed to turn up and vote against a single site. They are treating their voters with disdain and I am absolutely appalled by their behaviour. They have let down thousands of residents across the borough. Fortunately for them, the Conservative Party were here to debate officer recommendations, make decisions, and put in adequate measures to protect the countryside”

Cllr Chris Garland, Leader of the Council, said “Local Liberal Democrats chose to run away and hide behind rhetoric and political sound bites. They promised to stop development in the countryside, but when crunch-time arrived they bunked off the vote and let their residents down.”

He continued, “This is a wholly irresponsible and dangerous approach for Maidstone, motivated purely by the self-interest. They have demonstrated, by their absence, that they have no courage, no ability to shape and take decisions and are incapable of government. They cannot be trusted.”

“This is in stark contrast to a Conservative Party which fights the corner for local people, and has the metal to take tough decision when they need to be made – such as providing new homes in suitable locations across the borough.”