Controversial Maidstone local plan rubber-stamped by councillors

PUBLISHED: 12:54 26 October 2017

Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle

ben & kristen bryant

MPs Helen Whately and Helen Grant failed in a bit to get the communities secretary to delay its adoption

A controversial blueprint for development in Maidstone over the next 14 years has been agreed by the borough council.

Members voted in favour of the county town’s local plan on Wednesday - despite protestations from two local MPs - which will be used to make decisions on planning applications until 2031.

Helen Whately and Helen Grant both wrote to communities secretary Sajid Javid last month urging him to delay the formal adoption of the plan ahead of a full council meeting on September 27.

The local authority then pulled the plug on the meeting while Mr Javid mulled over the MPs’ comments, which included fears that the council’s proposals would create “lasting damage to villages and countryside” around the county town.

They were particularly concerned about the impact on Leeds Castle - the heritage site dating back to the twelfth century they described as “a national treasure”.

However, the council received confirmation from Mr Javid earlier this month that the local plan would not be issued with a holding direction - meaning councillors were able to rubber-stamp the proposals at Wednesday’s re-arranged meeting.

Leader Fran Wilson said: “We have worked tirelessly with key stakeholders and the public to ensure our plan is right for Maidstone and I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this key document.

“By adopting the plan, we are ensuring that any developments planned for the borough will create new communities that provide sufficient homes for our growing population needs, that we can support new job creation whilst also ensuring we protect our landscape and wildlife areas.”

Chair of strategic planning, sustainability and transportation committee David Burton added: “I believe our local plan gives the best chance of certainty up until at least 2021 and will give our planning committee the best set of tools to refuse unwanted opportunistic applications.

“Most importantly it contains the opportunity for improvement and revision of policies and allocations through the review process for a plan post-2021.

“This includes giving consideration for a Leeds Langley Relief road and other alternative options plus looking at the need for further sustainable transport measures aimed at encouraging modal shift to reduce congestion and air pollution on our roads.

“It is now vital that we all work together to get the next revision set to address as many of the concerns that have been expressed as possible whilst enjoying the overall protection of a current local plan.”

The council adds plan will be subject to review in order that it still remains relevant for the changing needs of Maidstone and its residents.

Mrs Whately, MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, had said ahead of the meeting: “My job is to represent my constituents and their concerns and I have done everything I possibly could from the moment I was elected, from speaking in inquiries to lobbying the council, to asking the secretary of state to step in.

“Clearly I am disappointed he did not intervenee but I understand planning decisions should be taken locally.

“I remain adamant that any future building here must be at a size and design that will not harm Leeds Castle.

“Work on reviewing the local plan will begin as soon as it is adopted and I will continue to push for Leeds Castle to be protected and for the road network to be improved.”

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