I’m outraged that Maidstone Borough is rushing through four controversial development proposals at short notice, just weeks ahead of the public inquiry into the Local Plan. It’s particularly unhelpful to do so just after the EU referendum, when many people will be preoccupied.
One of the developments will obliterate a protected green area which acts as a buffer between urban Maidstone and the countryside and was not included in the Local Plan. Another is a commercial development at Junction 8, which I am adamantly opposed to. It will damage the countryside and be detrimental to Leeds Castle. The council must do more to find alternative sites for employment land.
I am also very concerned about the sheer number of houses being built onto local villages, like Langley. So many new houses, all at once, affects the village character and will make the traffic problems around Maidstone even worse.
Several parish councils, local organisations and many individual constituents have been in touch with me to express their concerns over these developments. This includes parishes working on their Neighbourhood Plans.
It is the Council’s responsibility to ensure that local communities have their say on developments that will affect their lives. By jumping the gun and bypassing a Public Inquiry, the Planning Committee is denying the people of Maidstone Borough that chance.
I recognise we need more housing locally, but as I have said so many times to Maidstone Borough Council, the numbers need to be sensible, we need investment in infrastructure and the public need to be properly consulted. The rush to get these applications approved this week goes against all of these.
The draft Local Plan was approved by the council on 20th May despite much local opposition. It is due to go to Public Inquiry in the next few weeks.
However Maidstone Borough Council is rushing through the controversial proposals at a Planning Committee meeting on Thursday (30th June).
I've spoken to the Planning Minister, Brandon Lewis, to ask whether these decisions can be delayed. My objections will also be read out at Thursday’s planning meeting.