HOUSING CRISIS: Council seeks delay in house-building plans as concerns grow
Tuesday 4th February 2020
MAIDSTONE Borough Council is tonight seeking extra time to consider the submissions made in its call for potential sites for development.
The Liberal Democrat-led authority says its officers will now undertake the second "consultation" stage later in the year, not in the spring as was first proposed.
Last year's "call for sites" exercise saw more than 330 submissions made with 550 proposed areas for development put forward by landowners.
The call for sites was part of MBC's review of the 2017 Local Plan, which would see the borough being asked to take up to a total of 28,500 new houses.The Local Plan had 17,600 homes pencilled in under direction from central Government.
MBC has faced a fierce public backlash over its plans, which include it becoming a self-styled "master developer" of 5,000 houses on Lenham Heath.
A growing residents' "housing rebellion" and the fact the Liberal Democrat leadership now supports a Conservative-led push to persuade the housing minister Robert Jenrick to rethink the way Government calculates housing need may have had some bearing on this evening's announcement.
Local people are dismayed that MBC should be considering even more houses when roads and services can barely cope with the estimated 7,000 which have been delivered so far.
MBC officers claim that it needs more time for "technical work" and to liaise with Kent County Council on how to deliver infrastructure needed to support such a vast number of extra homes.
However, insiders have suggested the council could be playing for time with the next tranche of borough council elections due in little over three months.
Philip Coyne, MBC interim director for the Local Plan review said: “The Local Plan is pivotal to Maidstone’s ongoing ambitions to attract investment in jobs, housing and other facilities to the borough over the next 15 years. The level of response to the recent Call for Sites is very encouraging and is further evidence of continuing investor confidence in the borough.
“However, this does mean that the Council now has more technical work to do in appraising all of the submissions fully and ensuring that we take forward proposals which will provide jobs, housing and community growth at the appropriate time, in the most suitable locations and in the most sustainable manner”
Mr Coyne added: “It is important that as part of the process we work in close collaboration with infrastructure and transport providers - including Kent County Council and utility companies to ensure that the necessary requirements are fully considered to meet the needs of future development.
"This new timetable will also enable us to work with investors and developers to deliver growth more quickly and with greater certainty when the plan is adopted, which will be critical if we are to ensure that we meet the increased housing target set by Government and that we maintain control of where new development takes place in the borough.”
Councillors will be briefed this evening.
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