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LENHAM HOUSING: 4,000 home plan a step closer after council vote

Thursday 25th March 2021

THE controversial 4,000 home development at Lenham Heath has inched closer after Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) agreed to join forces with a housing provider.

MBC will join forces with Government-backed Homes England, accelerating the likelihood of a planning application being submitted.

But pressure group, Save Our Heathland (SOHL), claims three of the landowners are implacably opposed but the MBC officer in charge, William Cornall, denies this.

MBC, the self-styled 'master developer', was forced to redraw the boundaries of the scheme after a torrent of opposition to the original 5,000 house proposal.

Eighteen smaller landowners, threatened by MBC lawyers with compulsory purchase or demolition, who wished to be removed from MBC's plans have been obliged.

The scheme could cost taxpayers up to £3m, half of which may be met by MBC directly.

SOHL spokesman Kate Hammond, pictured here, said: "MBC has been told countless times that local landowners do not wish to sell their land. The promised new motorway junction and high speed rail station has evaporated.

"Lenham is an inherently unsustainable location and the existing infrastructure will not be able to accommodate the thousands of new homes proposed."

Mr Cornall told the policy and resources committee on March 24: "If they weren't on board why would they be in talks on it?”

He said there are two land agents representing the landowners.

Labour member Cllr Malcolm McKay accused MBC of playing a "high stakes poker game" if they are not on board.

Independent Cllr Fay Gooch praised Mr Cornall’s “determined approach” in making the council a “master planner".

The collaborative agreement was agreed by eight votes to one against with four Conservative abstentions.