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HOUSING CRISIS: Lib Dems threaten revolt on 'their' homes plan

Tuesday 5th October 2021

THE newly-elected Conservatives at Maidstone Borough Council face defeat over controversial plans for housing numbers in the borough.
The Local Plan Review (LPR) was due before full council with Lidsing (2,000 units) and Lenham (5,000) at its core.
If, as is anticipated tomorrow night, three Boxley Tories vote to oppose the Lidsing proposal, the LPR might fail at its most crucial stage.
Presently, the LPR satisfies annual Government targets of 1,200 homes in the borough per year.
But with time limitations on the process, Tories warn the council could lose its planning powers and allow a free-for-all by developers of up to 40,000 units.
If the Liberal Democrats vote en masse to oppose the review with support from Labour and independents, the council leadership may be forced to go back to the drawing board.
Around 100 protestors, mostly from the Lidsing area, protested outside the meeting last night.
Deputy leader Jonathan Purle said "It doesn't matter which way the Lib Dems now pretend to vote. It's still their plan.
"They were in charge when it was developed and when the preferred approaches were developed."
But another conceded the process was "rushed and was all about getting numbers over the line".
Some Lib Dems feel that the LPR in its present guise would not stand up to scrutiny by the Secretary of State, who presides over the next stage.
The LPR proceeded through the Strategic Planning and Infrastucture committee last night 6-3.
Two Maidstone leisure centres and two large garden villages are among key features in the plan.  The current leisure centre in Mote Park would be replaced and a second built in another part of the borough to meet growing population demands.
Details have now emerged of the visions for new garden villages at Lenham and Lidsing which between them could finally accommodate about 7,000 houses.
The 29 new sites selected for residential development following the council’s public ‘call for sites’ invitation are revealed.  
The council is to produce a planning document for the future of Invicta Barracks once vacated by the Army in 2027 and wants to protect from new development the line of the proposed Leeds/Langley bypass for up to 4,000 houses to fund the new road.
Other key transport needs include  a new railway station for Lenham Heathside plus shuttle bus services and a fourth arm for M2 (junction 4)  with a new bridge over the M2 serving the new Lidsing village.
Lidsing joined Lenham protestors and one told how her parents, who had lived in Lidsing for a long time, were ‘bullied’ by developers who said they needed to sell because their land would be made worthless by the new village.  She said the developers had been reported for ‘coercion,’ she claimed now subject to a wider investigation.
Cllr Vanessa Jones, chairman of Bredhurst Parish Coúncil, said her small village of 178 houses was within 200 metres of the Lidsing boundary and could not take traffic from 2,000 houses on its narrow roads.  It would be a green light too for another 1,000 new houses nearby.
At one stage, chairman Cllr Paul Cooper adjourned the meeting when a noisy protestor would not stop shouting his points from the back of the room and was threatened with expulsion.
Key councillor thrusts from the ruling Conservatives were that Government housing demands were the driving force behind much of the plan and while they were unhappy about some of their decisions Government powers about future local development policies threatened local control and were much worse for local residents.