Tag Archives: planning

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.”

Fairer planning rules for Traveller sites announced

Last week the Department for Communities and Local Government announced new planning guidelines for Traveller Sites.  It was a success story for Maidstone & The Weald where MP Helen Grant has been involved extensively in the local debate on this issue.

Helen had been contacted by constituents and councillors regarding Traveller sites in April 2015 and subsequently arranged a meeting with local people regarding the much publicised Folly Farm planning application in Staplehurst.

Mrs Grant furthered this with a high level discussion with Maidstone Borough Council to try to get to the bottom of significant confusion surrounding planning policy on Travellers sites.  This led her to call for a meeting with Brandon Lewis, Minister of State for Housing and Planning, in order to get chapter and verse on planning guidance.

Helen Grant MP
Helen Grant MP

Helen said “My objective all along has been to ensure we have a fair planning system for all, where each application is considered on its own merits, taking into account local opinion and appropriate infrastructure.   I am also conscious of the high numbers of pitches the Borough is being asked to accommodate”.

Brandon Lewis said “It was a pleasure to meet with Helen and representatives from Maidstone Borough Council at Westminster in late July. We discussed key aspects of the NPPF including current legislation regarding Traveller sites. The submissions made were compelling and persuasive in the need for greater clarification in policy which the government is delivering.”

The Minister announced last week that;

  • Special planning rules designed to support England’s travelling community will only apply to those who lead a genuine travelling lifestyle. 

Anyone from the travelling community who no longer travels will have their planning application considered in the same way as any other member of the settled population.

  • Reducing burdens on those who play by the planning rules. 

Where previously councils were required to plan for the increased housing need created by evicting large-scale unauthorised sites such as Dale Farm, this requirement has now been removed.

This is in addition to a range of powers that councils and the police already have to deal with unauthorised development.

Upon hearing the announcements Helen told MWCA “I welcome these developments from my colleagues at the Department of Communities and Local Government and hope that this can further assist Maidstone & the Weald in accommodating suitable housing for all of its residents.”

MP enters consultation debate on Bridge Nursery development plans

Helen Grant visits Bridge Nursery
Helen Grant visits Bridge Nursery

Helen Grant has written to Maidstone Borough Council voicing her concerns about a proposed housing development on the Bridge Nursery site in London Road, Allington. It follows the results of a survey undertaken by the MP for Maidstone & the Weald after the issue was brought to her attention by a constituent during a surgery at Waitrose Supermarket in Allington.

Helen said:

“My survey to a sample of residents in the vicinity of Bridge Nursery area has received an overwhelming response with some important findings.

“92% of the respondents were unhappy about the prospect of the development and 80% had used the site in the last 12 months on multiple occasions.

“In addition, of the 60% of those who gave a reason for their objection, well over half (57%) expressed worries about increased traffic congestion and the impact on local services and infrastructure.

“I understand and fully support these concerns and I have formally put this on record to the relevant planning officer at MBC”

Last year, Conservative Councillors on Maidstone Borough Council put policies in place which would give additional protection for wildlife on Bridge Nursery – requiring any planning application here to be accompanied by a range of stringent ecological surveys.

More parking for new homes will end ‘vicious cycle of clogged up streets’

New homes must have sufficient parking space
New homes must have sufficient parking space

Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles called on councils to ensure more parking spaces are provided alongside new homes to end a ‘vicious cycle’ where clogged up streets leave motorists to run a gauntlet of congestion, unfair fines and restrictions.

The government is proposing further action is taken to rein back in arbitrary ‘maximum parking standards’, which have previously prevented and restricted house builders from providing homes with car parking spaces that families want and need.

Where sufficient parking spaces are not provided people will resort to either tarmacking over their front garden or parking on the street. This can then result in a counter-productive increase in municipal on-street parking restrictions and fines.

The Secretary of State was clear that new developments should be built with sufficient parking that reflects local market demand.

Eric Pickles MP
Eric Pickles MP

Eric Pickles, who visited Maidstone last year, said “Families want a home with space for children to play in the garden and somewhere to park and load the car or cars. The consequences of not building this are there for all to see: more cars left on the kerb, more cars parked in the streets, more municipal parking restrictions and more parking tickets.

No space at home leaves no space on the road. We need to cease this vicious cycle that leaves our streets endlessly clogged up. Allowing the market to offer enough parking spaces will help take the pressure off our congested roads.”

The department has published new planning guidance for consultation, which seeks councils support to improve the quality and quantity of parking as part of the government’s long-term economic plan.

Ministers put an end to previous Whitehall planning policy that encouraged councils to hike car parking charges. In a new consultation, they now want to see what else can be done to ensure house builders can provide adequate on-street parking in new developments.

These steps build on previous reforms to tackle other over-zealous parking policies including introducing grace periods and making it illegal to use CCTV ‘spy cars’ alone to enforce on-street parking and introducing reviews of yellow lines for on-street parking.

Conservative-run Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Borough councils have both been praised for getting the balance right between attractive landscaping schemes and suitable places to park vehicles in new developments.