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HOUSING: Council announces 5,000 homes for Lenham as 'master developer'

Thursday 19th September 2019

THE borough council is set to be the "master-developer" for the massive housing scheme outlined for Lenham.
Downs Mail revealed the plan for 5,000 houses at Lenham Heath back in May and last night the authority decided to continue "exploring" the idea.
The proposal has been included in the secret "call for sites" list compiled by Liberal Democrat-led Maidstone Borough Council.
The scheme has been made public before the other proposals contained in the call for sites - which is the basis for the Local Plan review  - and discussed at MBC's policy and resources committee last night.
The committee agreed to bankroll the proposition and "to advance the commercial negotiations with the principal landowners".
A statement released last night said that "no firm decisions have been made at this stage".
As master developer MBC "takes a controlling interest in the land, leads the design process, enables the required infrastructure, identifies suitable development partners and oversees the stewardship of the new community". 
Cllr Jonathan Purle, of the Conservative opposition group who deliberately exempted himself from the meeting, said: "It's sad that the council went through the pretence of having a meeting to determine a predetermined course of action like this and resolve to issue a press release just to tell people what Downs Mail told everyone four months ago.
"I am glad I stayed away from that meeting. I don't see any merit in going along with MBC's scheming. They are still withholding from councillors the sites submitted in the Local Plan review."
The site at Lenham Heath would be a so-called "garden community" which would entail "5,000 homes as well as community, healthcare, education, retail, business, leisure and green space in a new integrated and sustainable settlement", according to MBC's statement.
It adds: "Should the proposal gain initial support from the Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Committee, it will become subject to public consultation at the next stages of the Local Plan Review process, no firm decisions have been made at this stage."
MBC's Lib Dem leader Cllr Martin Cox said: “The council is being proactive, we have listened to the feedback from the public and parish councils and have learnt from the previous Local Plan process. We are working together for the long-term benefit of the borough.” 
Tory opposition leader Cllr John Perry said: “We are at the start of a long process. Although this committee has taken the first step, this proposal will be evaluated against all the others.”
MBC said that if the proposal does eventually go ahead, the first homes could be built in 2027. 
We approached Lenham Cllr Tom Sams for a comment.