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EXCLUSIVE: Developer launches legal action over Otham housing rejection

Thursday 18th June 2020

THE developer behind a large housing scheme in the shadow of the ancient church at Otham have launched a legal appeal, Daily Downs Mail can reveal.
The Bellway Homes challenge is now in the hands of lawyers and Liberal Democrat-led Maidstone Borough Council was made aware of the move earlier this week.
Bellway wants to build 421 houses on the site and the scheme has already been included in the Local Plan of 2017 but concerns, especially related to highways and damage to the heritage setting of the church, have been voiced from the start.
Last month, MBC's planning committee of elected members rejected the plan after a massive public outcry and a petition with almost 2,000 signatures.
The full detailed application for the site was rejected by nine votes to three and the separate outline application relating to access was also defeated.
A spokesman for the applicant said: "Bellway Kent can confirm is it has launched an appeal against Maidstone Borough Council’s decision to refuse outline planning permission for our Church Road development in Otham. As part of our appeals process, we have instructed our external legal representatives to handle the appeal on our behalf. As this is an ongoing legal matter, we are unable to comment further."
Both plans were recommended for approval by MBC's unelected council officers who warned there would be an appeal by Bellway which would cost the tax-payer. There is also a danger the council would lose safeguards they were negotiating within the plans, they claimed.
Otham borough councillor Gordon Newton said: "The trouble with this authority is that the officers pay no heed to the elected members. They now run the place, so we are sidelined or kept in the dark and that's the way they like it.
"But it doesn't surprise me that Bellway have gone down this route."
On Saturday, Daily Downs Mail revealed two councillors - Cllr Newton and county councillor Gary Cooke - were served with legal demands from a firm of London lawyers to hand over all records relating to the Chruch Road application by Bellway. These inlcuded emails, phone calls and notes of conversations. 
Bellway confirmed it was behind the Freedom of Information requests.

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