I am disappointed that outline planning permission for an industrial development has been granted for Woodcut Farm by Maidstone Borough Council’s Planning Committee by a 7-5 majority. I had asked the Council to consider carefully the impact of a warehouse and office development on the nearby AONB and Leeds Castle, one of the country’s finest heritage assets, attracting over half a million visitors each year. The proposal was objected to by the surrounding Parish Councils, the Bearsted and Thurnham Society, the CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England), and many individual residents. Their views have been backed in the past by planning inspectors at appeals.
Planning inspectors have said the site is unsuitable for employment use because of the visual impact this would have on the countryside. The inspector who oversaw the appeal on the nearby Waterside Park proposal in 2015 concluded that environmental harm would significantly outweigh economic advantages. Other developments were rightly refused by examiners on heritage and landscape grounds.
While I want to see more employment opportunities in and around Maidstone. I’m concerned about how ugly and inappropriate large warehouses will look at the Junction 8 site, and unconvinced of the need for more office space when we have vacant buildings in Maidstone.
I will continue to oppose industrialisation of Woodcut Farm and will keep a close watch on the detailed planning application when it is submitted. I am just sorry that the voices of many residents in the parishes surrounding Woodcut Farm fell on deaf ears, but the battle to protect this area is not yet over.”