LENHAM HEATH: Massive show of strength as fight launched against 5,000 homes
Tuesday 15th October 2019
MORE than 200 residents and landowners under threat from Maidstone Borough Council's plan to build 5,000 houses in Lenham turned out last night to register their opposition to the scheme.
Despite foul weather, the tiny hall in Charing Heath was packed with standing room only as local councillors Tom and Janetta Sams rallied support to fight the proposal.
There were vocal complaints from locals about how the Liberal Democrat-led authority had "secretly" devised the scheme behind the residents' and elected representatives' backs.
No one from MBC's senior leadership team attended last evening.
The "Save Our Heath Landscape" movement will raise funds to buy in skills, such as lawyers, that are not available within its own ranks.
Cllr Tom Sams complained that the parish, borough, county councillors and the local MP had been left out of the loop and had to learn much of the detail in the hush-hush plan from what they read in Downs Mail and this website.
Both the Lenham councillors - who are independents - helped return the Liberal Democrats to power in May but are "thinking about" withdrawing that support. Such a move could make it hard for the borough council to get its business through.
"We are willing to make ourselves unpopular," he warned.
Fellow borough councillor, Eddie Powell, who lives nearby in Chegworth, told the meeting: "Something has been hidden (by the council) and kept back from the most important people in all of this, the residents, and that is what concerns me."
He stated that "democratic principles do not apply here".
A fighting fund was started with a pot passed around the hall.
The scheme would see 5,000 houses on Lenham Heath with possibility of a new M20 junction and a high speed rail station.
Local people feared such a development would simply act as a "dormitory" for commuters to London.
Landowners have been approached to sell land by MBC, which is styling itself as a "master developer", but fear compulsory purchase if they refuse.
Greater detail may emerge when the MBC's top secret "call for sites" list becomes publicly available on November 4. This details the potential sites for 10,500 homes across the borough.
Cllr Powell said that more than 330 applicants had to go to the expense of compiling their own plans, only to find that the council had used public money to "predetermine" its own scheme.
But he said he had been assured by the MBC leadership that "it is not a done deal".
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