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Battle over ancient woodland in Maidstone rages on

PUBLISHED: 12:18 12 July 2013 | UPDATED: 12:18 12 July 2013

Bluebell Wood petition

Bluebell Wood petition

Archant

Opponents accuse the council of ignoring public opinion and a 2,000-strong petition

Campaigners fighting for the future of ancient woodland in Maidstone have accused the borough council of ignoring public opinion.

Lib Dem campaigners says authority chiefs refused to listen to a packed hall of residents during a meeting relating to development allocation east of Hermitage Lane.

Opponents – who have collected 2,000 signatures against the plans – say the housing scheme, proposed by Croudace, on either side of Bluebell Wood will damage the woodland.

They accuse the council of supporting the development.

The council, however, argues that no planning application has been received from Croudace and that it would be consulting on proposed housing sites across Maidstone from October when everyone would have a chance to comment.

But Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, Jasper Gerard, said the council’s policy “unequivocally” supported a development approach to the “loss and deterioration” of Bluebell Wood.

“Because the cabinet has voted for houses to be built cheek by jowl by the wood with a road running through it, that remains official council policy,” he said.

“So when the developer, Croudace, submits its planning application later this summer, how will the council possibly be able to say no?”

Leader of Maidstone, Chris Garland, defended the council’s position.

“Bluebell Wood has one of the highest levels of planning policy protection there is; that of being designated ancient woodland,” he said.

“Bluebell Wood, being ancient woodland, is protected from development, both at a national and local level.

“Any proposal that threatens the ancient woodland would be refused by the council under those policies.”

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