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REVEALED: True extent of building land in council's secret 'call for sites'

Friday 11th October 2019

A TOTAL of 334 sites have been sent to Maidstone Borough Council for consideration ahead of the Local Plan review with large tracts of land in rural villages made available to house-builders.

Huge swathes have been put forward which will virtually connect small villages and communities should permission be granted for development.

Liberal Democrat-controlled Maidstone Borough Council has tried for months to keep the list contained in the “Call for Sites” a secret, only releasing part of the information in the past seven days.

But Daily Downs Mail has seen paperwork which shows the sheer extent of the land available that owners are prepared to sell to developers.

MBC has committed itself to build 17,600 houses as part of the Local Plan, passed two years ago, and a further 10,500 in the future years under direction from central government.

According to documents seen by us, there are several areas which will cause concern when the public are eventually allowed to see the list for themselves on November 4.

For instance, land near the A274 (Park Wood) has some nine sites up to the outer edge of Boughton Monchelsea, which itself has a scattering of small developments.

Residents in Marden and Staplehurst will be aghast at the sheer number of potential sites which could be turned into houses at Cross-at-Hand, Milebush, Marden Thorn and Staplehurst as well as a scattering of more than a dozen areas in outlying rural parts.

East Farleigh has similarly hit by more than 15 speculative sites for development, stretching right up to the edge of Tovil.

To the south of Maidstone, which will be hit by thousands of new houses contained in the 2017 Local Plan, Warmlake, Sutton Valence, Kingswood, Leeds and Langley have dozens of potential sites.

Farmland around Langley on the A274 would see the parish swamped, if approved.

A large swathe of land could engulf farmland and woods from the upper reaches of Leeds to the edge of Leeds Castle’s outer limits.

There are also large parcels of rural land off the A20 near the Leeds Castle roundabout which are up for grabs.

Caring Lane in Thurnham will also see a scattering of small sites put forward for consideration.

It is unlikely all would get planning permission but residents will be alarmed by the sheer scale of the sites landowners have been able to identify for potential development.

MBC is the “master developer” of a scheme for 5,000 homes at Lenham Heath and has been heavily promoting a 1,000 home plan in the centre of the county town. If passed, they would reduce the chance of other schemes in other vulnerable areas getting the go-ahead.

We understand that MBC is coming under increasing pressure to lobby government for a reduced number in the Local Plan review.

Recently, a moratorium on house-building (so that upgrades to infrastructure are carried out in earnest or new routes planned) has been called for from opposition Tories, Greens and indies in Maidstone.