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SCHOOLS: Council resists public protests and passes M20 application

Friday 26th April 2019

AFTER months of public protest against the building to two new schools near the M20 at junction seven, the council's planning committee last night approved the scheme.
Despite 600 letters of protest about the proposals for Popes Field, a nature reserve, Maidstone Borough Council passed the application.
The council decided to go ahead with the hearing in spite of officer calls that it might be too close to the May 2 local elections. This was over-ruled.
There have been strong objections on a number of fronts since the plans were revealed last December.
Boxley Parish Council has been most vocal with members concerned the primary and special needs school are in the wrong place and will create even worse traffic congestion.
The site is on the edge of the Kent Medical Campus.
Plans to have a vehicular and pedestrian access from Bearsted Road were dropped by the applicants, the Department for Education.
The DfE's builders also amended other aspects of the original plans to make them more palatable, although few objectors were convinced.
Committee member and Bearsted councillor Cllr Denis Spooner (Con) called for refusal claiming it to be "grossly inadequate and an insult to the people of Maidstone". He was defeated.
Liberal Democrat Cllr Tony Harwood warned that the committee could refuse it but would struggle to fight a costly appeal.
There were two aspects to the application - the building of the schools and the moving of the nature reserve elsewhere. The schools will be added to the business portfolio of the Leight Academies' Trust which will run them both. The Trust welcomed the decsion.

Rev John Corbyn, who has been a vocal critic of the location of the schools, said: "I am unsurprised by the result given the concessions made by the applicants. I am pleased there will be new school provision for local children but it is far from ideal. It will be interesting to see how it works out but, by that time, it will be too late."
The application was passed by seven votes to five.