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OTHAM HOUSING: Councillor Gordon Newton pulls out ahead of crunch homes vote

Wednesday 8th July 2020

A MEMBER of Maidstone Borough Council's policy and resources committee, which could scupper the authority's top management's plans for 421 houses at Otham next week, has pulled out.

Independent member for the area, Cllr Gordon Newton, says his vocal opposition to Bellway Homes' application might result in accusations of him being "pre-determined" and unable to be unbiased at a special meeting on July 13.

Cllr Newton believes the housing scheme, which is contained in the 2017 Local Plan, to be out of keeping with the nearby ancient church and presents a significant highway danger to locals.

He will be subsituted by fellow indy Eddie Powell.

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If the policy and resources committee throws out the plan, Bellway has already indicated it will appeal. The firm has lined up a London law firm to contest refusal.

The unelected officers, who have always favoured the application at Church Rd, Otham, have pushed for the scheme to go through and warned a developer challenge is likely to succeed and will end up costing taxpayers money.

But Cllr Newton has led a chorus of damning accusations that the administration, run by the Liberal Democrats, is now "officer-led" and unwilling to listen to the elected members, who ought to be making the ultimate decisions.

Councillors have twice thrown out the Bellway application at committee stage.

Cllr Newton said: "I have decided to withdraw and Cllr Powell has been subbed into my place. It's up to him to make his own mind up."

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