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MP attempts halt on Local Plan for housing by appeal to Secretary of State

Monday 11th September 2017

MAIDSTONE MP Helen Whately has called on the local government secretary of state Sajid Javid to halt the Local Plan.

The Local Plan, which proposes 17,000 new homes and has been pronounced "sound" by a government inspector, is set to be put before the planning committee for approval on September 27.

Mrs Whately is concerned the plan - which sets out development policy for the next 15 years - will harm attractions like Leeds Castle and leave villages like Lenham, Harrietsham and Headcorn unable to cope with the extra numbers.

But the MP for Faversham and Mid Kent was warned she was playing a "high risk" game as the communities and local government secretary Mr Javid could easily increase the housing allocation and leave the borough at the mercy of speculative applications.

On Leeds Castle Mrs Whately wrote: “Maidstone’s Local Plan includes proposals to the detriment of one of our finest national heritage sites, Leeds Castle…

"The specific issue is the inclusion in the plan of an industrial employment site at Woodcut Farm, a rural location near to Junction 8 of the M20, and on the approach to the Castle… Developing this site would have far-reaching ramifications for the countryside and local heritage assets.”

Mrs Whately claims the council has not considered fully alternative sites.

And she is worried the Local Plan does not include sufficient investment in roads "to cope with the many of thousands of new houses included in the plan"

She said: “I am concerned that the (Local) Plan does not include sufficient investment in the local transport network, particularly local roads, to support the scale of development to the South/South East of Maidstone.

"Many thousands of houses are being built in this area, without meaningful development of roads (or any alternative to car transport) – when congestion is already affecting the ability of residents to travel to and from work or access services in and around Maidstone.

"I share the concerns of local residents and I strongly question whether these locations can be deemed sustainable for this level of housing.”

Mrs Whately added: "I have urged Maidstone Council and the Planning Inspector himself to make changes, but they have just steamrollered on.

"I wish we could have solved this locally, but we’re running out of time. That’s why I have asked the Secretary of State to personally intervene and consider whether this local plan is good enough."

MBC's Cllr Clive English, chairman of the planning committee, warned Mrs Whately her appeal to Mr Javid was "high risk".

He added: "Calling in  the Local Plan will not necessarily mean there will be a reduction in housing numbers - it could go the other way.

"This is not without its risks. The delays caused by calling it in mean that developers would slip any number of applications through as we would not longer have the powers to refuse them as we wouldn't have an emerging Local Plan or a five year land supply.

"It would be good if the secretary of state did reduce the numbers but this rarely happens. It's a bit of a high risk strategy."

Cllr English said that a large chunk of housing allocation - 5,000 homes -  lost in Medway may end up in another part of Kent.