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LENHAM HOUSING: Council now joint 'master developer' with government provider

Thursday 16th July 2020

A NEW stage of the borough council's controversial development of Lenham Heath has been called into question after the authority announced it is teaming up with a government affordable housing provider.

Homes England (HE) is now joint "master developer" with Liberal Democrat-led Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) in building 4,000 new houses, according to new papers.

HE would be responsible for the 40% social housing on the site.

But opponents of the scheme, Save Our Heath Lands (SOHL) questioned if HE is aware of the true complexities of the site and if government support is actually in place.

The joint HE/MBC document states: "It was always the aspiration of the borough council that it would secure a promotion partner for (Lenham) Heathlands.

"We are delighted that Homes England has committed its backing of the project, including match-funding financial support, and a 'letter of intent' from them is provided with this submission."

But a SOHL spokesman said: “Homes England is a government housing quango that chases after any possible housing delivery in the country.

“Their 'in principle' support does not translate into government support for the scheme and it’s wrong to suggest this is so.

“Our concern is that MBC haven’t told them the true constraints and issues with this scheme such as the complicated land ownership and difficulty with accessing the site. Instead we think they’ve used their new glossy masterplan to oversell the proposal.”

SOHL says HE’s involvement “makes no difference” to the Local Plan review.

The spokesman added: “As the council admits in its report to the policy and resources committee ‘the project will be complex and challenging to deliver’, and there is still a long way to go."

The document said the 40% allocation of homes on the site will offer "genuinely affordable rents to local people".

It claims the principal landowners have signed up to the scheme and are being jointly represented by Hobbs Parker.

The document adds: "The borough council, working with Homes England, and acting jointly as master-developers, will maintain an overall enabling function which will possibly include the direct delivery of certain infrastructure items."

The proposed M20 motorway junction has been removed and the infrastructure serving the estate will be two roads south from the A20.

There will be a path created to Lenham railway station and the hope for the "future development to the north of the mainline railway and south of the A20".

On July 21, MBC's policy and resources committee will vote on the updated masterplan, the financial model for the proposal, to share the financial commitment with Homes England, secure land options and garner support from the public and parish council.