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HOUSING: Council backs document in race against time with Government targets

Tuesday 10th November 2020

A BLUEPRINT for future building developments in the borough has taken a significant step forward when it was sent on for public consultation.

Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) is in a race against sweeping Government reforms which would see annual housing targets rise from 880 to more than 1,500 annually.

A major document considered by the nine-member Strategic, Planning and Infrastructure committee on November 9 set out which schemes will be in the running.

Among them are the so-called "garden communities" at Lenham Heath (4,000) and Lidsing (2,400) as well as a host of other smaller developments in the town and rural villages.

These were gleaned from the controversial "call for sites" exercise last year.

A feared 2,000 homes development at Marden has been dropped to the joy of the opposition group. 

Development of the Leeds-Langley corridor is not in the running at this time but may come back if landowners and developers can agree a major housing scheme which, in turn, delivers a relief road.

Members considered the Regulation 18b Preferred Approach document which details how MBC must deliver thousands of new homes in the Local Plan Review (LPR) in order meet latest housing targets.

MBC is the "master developer" of the Lenham Heath project and has faced considerable opposition from Save Our Heath Lands (SOHL) and Lenham Parish Council.

There seems to be increasing doubt whether MBC has secured the landowners' agreement in proceeding with the project and in the face of concerns raised by experts. Some smaller landowners are threatening legal action.

A spokesman for SOHL said: "Despite appraisals of the scheme by independent consultants warning Lenham Heath is a complicated proposal and very risky, the council has chosen to ignore its own commissioned expert advice and has opted to include the scheme in the Local Plan review."
The public consultation starts before the country has come out of national lockdown on December 1 and runs until December 22.

The document was passed unanimously by all parties last night.