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LENHAM HOUSING: Now Maidstone Borough Council faces legal action by landowners

Monday 2nd November 2020

SMALL landowners at Lenham Heath have called on Maidstone Borough Council to withdraw their plots from the 4,000 homes scheme or face legal action, Daily Downs Mail has learnt this evening.

The residents, who own 63 acres between them, said the land was included without MBC seeking permission.

Law firm Knights has been commissioned to issue a letter of complaint to MBC, the "master developer" in the project, demanding the plan is redrawn to remove their parcels of land from the proposed scheme immediately.

A spokesman said this could jeopardise 990 homes from the overall council's plan.

Save Our Heath Lands (SOHL) says three out of the eight large landowners have opted out of the scheme, "which forced the Council to redraw its masterplan with a revised target of 4,000 houses and abandon any plans for an ambitious motorway junction and high-speed train station".

According to one well-placed source, the remaining five are "far from onboard" and are concerned they will not see a commercial return on their sale to the council for many years. 

Maidstone Borough Council has made it clear that the scheme is only viable above 3,000  houses and with current numbers being based upon 4,000 houses, the reduction by a further 990 dwellings brings the viability down to near loss-making levels.

A SOHL spokesman said: “The small landowners have been treated disgracefully by the council.  It is clear MBC has been negotiating with a handful of large landowners for the last two years,so failing to engage with the small landowners is a massive oversight and could threaten the viability of the scheme.

"It is appalling that the Council went ahead and published its Heathlands Garden Community masterplan without first speaking to or seeking consent from the small landowners to include their land in the proposal.

"These landowners are learning through reading the Council’s published masterplan that they may now have a new road, cycle route, school or business centre effectively in their back garden.

"They are rightly deeply distressed and upset that the Council has presented it as a ‘done deal’ and the public will assume that the small landowners have already consented to hand over their land, which is far from the truth.

"By publicly including the land owned by the small landowners in the proposal, it has effectively blighted their homes.  On top of that, the small landowners are now living with the potential threat of compulsory purchase if they don’t agree to the Council’s plans."

Independent borough councillor Eddie Powell, a fierce critic of the scheme, said: "It just goes to show what a total mess this scheme has turned out to be."

MBC is the "master developer" in the scheme and a key decsion on where it goes next is due before a special committee on November 9. The council was approached for a comment.

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