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OTHAM HOUSING: Conservative Val Springett pulls out of crunch vote on 421 homes

Friday 10th July 2020

A THIRD member of the influential committee to decide the council's position on a controversial housing application which would threaten to engulf the ancient church in Otham has pulled out of Monday's key meeting.
Tory Val Springett said she wanted to give applicant Bellway Homes as little room as possible to manoeuvre if it launches a legal appeal in the event of the policy and resource panel throwing out the 421 unit scheme.
Like independent councillor Gordon Newton and Labour's Malcolm McKay, she stepped down because she did not want to face accusations of "predetermination" and therefore unable to make an unbiased judgement on Bellway's application.
Her place will be taken by a substitute member.
The borough member for Bearsted said: "I don't want to give the applicant any opportunity to challenge Maidstone Borough Council on the decision if it's refused."
Maidstone Borough Council's unelected officers have pushed for recommendation of the Bellway scheme and it was included in the 2017 Local Plan.
Elected members argue that inclusion in the Local Plan should not mean automatic approval.
Opponents are especially worried about road safety and have been backed by experts from Kent County Council's highways department.
MBC officials say that if Bellway appeals, the developer is likely to win and the taxpayer may pick up a hefty bill.