MPs unite over fears for Leeds Castle in Maidstone local plan
PUBLISHED: 10:06 14 September 2017 | UPDATED: 10:06 14 September 2017
ben & kristen bryant
Helen Whately and Helen Grant have both written to communities secretary Sajid Javid
A document which sets out Maidstone’s development over the next 15 years could be halted at the eleventh hour following intervention from two local MPs.
Helen Whately and Helen Grant have both written to communities and local government secretary Sajid Javid, expressing concern over some of the proposals in the borough council’s local plan which they claim would create “lasting damage to villages and countryside” around the county town.
The plan is set to be approved at a full council meeting later this month, but Faversham and Mid Kent MP Mrs Whately has asked the minister to personally intervene.
One of her primary concerns is proposals she believes will be “to the detriment” of Leeds Castle - the heritage site dating back to the twelfth century.
She said: “Leeds Castle is a national treasure – so development around Junction 8 is not just a local question, it’s a national concern.
“Industrial buildings or offices on the approach to the castle would change the experience for visitors. It would never be the same again.”
Neighbouring MP for Maidstone and the Weald, Helen Grant, agreed, saying: “I very much agree with the stance Helen Whately is taking regarding Leeds Castle and I have written to the secretary of state to offer my support.
“Furthermore I have my own deep-rooted concerns about additional flaws which exist within the emerging local plan.
“I am particularly concerned about the lack of infrastructure provision offered to our road network and the impact the plan’s various developments will have upon Maidstone’s already worrisome air quality.”
Mrs Whately added that the plan fails to address growing traffic problems and that developer contributions are needed to fund schemes such as a relief road between Leeds and Langley.
“I have urged Maidstone Council and the planning inspector himself to make changes, but they have just steamrollered on,” she said.
“I wish we could have solved this locally, but we’re running out of time.”
If the secretary of state decides to ‘call in’ the local plan, an inspector will be appointed to carry out an inquiry.
Mr Javid can then decide whether he needs to take over responsibility for the plan from the council.