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LATEST: MBC votes strongly to pursue new Lenham Heath garden village

Wednesday 29th April 2020

Maidstone Council’s pursuit of establishing a new garden village at Lenham Heath took a further significant step forward this afternoon when its policy and resources committee powerfully supported all recommendations made by its Director of Regeneration and Place Mr. William Cornall.

These are:

1. To continue to pursue a council-led Garden Community in the target location with a view to acting as master developer.

2. To note at-risk expenditure to the end of Q3 of the current financial year.

3. To agree the council should continue to explore potential partners for its role as master developer.

4. To note the criteria for options appraisal of the delivery vehicle for a council-led garden community.

5. To grant authority to the Director of Regeneration and Place to work with Mid Kent Legal Services and enter renewed lockout agreements with the residual land owner group.

The committee added two further requirements.

Mr Cornall’s report indicated there was a steer that neither a new M20 junction nor a High Speed 1 stop would be appropriate for a development of this size. The committee agreed that a new M20 junction should be included.

The committee also called for regular progress and update reports, more financial information and a report on key risks.

A new masterplan will be drawn up now three smaller landowners have withdrawn (13% of the total land total), leaving five larger owners with whom the council are negotiating. The meeting heard that about 50% of the land would be non residential with emphasis on green space. No existing residences will be removed.

The meeting was conducted mostly over telephone links to councillors and questions/statements from objectors.

The votes indicated strong cross party support from councillors for the recommendations with most ending 11-3 in favour.

Cllr Eddie Powell said: "MBC response to Lenham Heath is shambolic. They complain that the government handout is too little and then agree on another £100,000 for consultation."

Kate Hammond for the SOHL Action Group said: “On behalf of Lenham’s residents we are extremely disappointed with today’s decision to continue with the council-led garden community proposals. In one breath Maidstone Council are pleading poverty and begging government for more money, on the other they are continuing to squander taxpayers’ money on a failed housing project. It is utterly scandalous and Maidstone’s elected officials should be held to account for misuse of public funds.

"Today’s first virtual Council meeting by phone was a farce from beginning to end. Members of the Committee were unable to speak, visiting speakers including KCC Councillor Shellina Pendagast were denied an opportunity to have their say, and councillors seemed confused on one of the recommendations regarding the motorway junction and had no clue in the end what they were voting for. The whole meeting was a disgraceful example of how public scrutiny should not be conducted.”