Yesterday evening Bicknor residents attended a meeting to consider plans for a massive development on Swanton Farm which is likely increase the traffic on the B2163/C603 through Hollingbourne which is already often gridlocked in the Eyhorne Street Conservation Area. Hollingbourne Parish Council has been asked to support the fight against the development and last night’s meeting was attended by Hollingbourne Parish Councillor Alan Bennett.
A report of the meeting appears below:-
RESIDENTS of the tiny village community at Bicknor have come out strongly against plans to build a massive storage depot at a fruit farm in the area.
Representatives from Medway-based A. C. Goatham and Son told a well-attended parish meeting that the site at Swanton Farm needed to be brought up to date. The long-term plan over five years would mean 105,000 trees producing vast quantities of apples and pears. A planning application has been lodged with Maidstone Borough Council.
Goathams said the fruit needed to be stored on site to get the best results from the yields. This meant a storage unit nearly the size of a football pitch – 4940 square metres – more caravans on the neighbouring site to house workers and a reservoir to gather rainfall from the 120-hectare site, which they said would alleviate flooding problems which had dogged the village for years.
However, after Goathams had made their presentation, they faced a hostile response from about 40 residents – a large proportion of the population. Among the many objections were the size of the project and particularly its siting near the heart of the village, served only by the most basic country lanes.
They were dismayed to learn that articulated lorries would be coming to and from the site, which many claimed would further damage alread potholed roads. Some doubted if the lorries could even reach the site without damage being caused. Suggestions included moving the project closer to the main road from Hollingbourne to Bredgar with a new access point.
Speakers also mentioned the noisy and invasive behaviour of workers at the current site amid fears a higher number of workers under new plans would make this worse. Goathams said most workers came from mainland Europe because local people did not respond to adverts. They did tell residents they would control noise between 10pm-8am but many said similar promises had been made in the past but broken.
As well as local residents, the meeting was also attended by borough councillor Patrik Garten, county councillor Shellina Prendergast and representatives from Bredgar and Hollingbourne parish councils. It was ably chaired by Peter Moore.
Hollingbourne’s Alan Bennett told the meeting that the current planning set-up at Maidstone did not bode well, citing several housing applications in the area which had been forced through against the wishes of local people, who he said “had been treated like a bunch of numpties.”
Mr Moore called for a show of hands at the end of the debate and all local residents said they did not want the storage depot.
The Planning Application Number is 18/501312/FULL and more information is at the Maidstone Borough Council Planning Portal at http://www.maidstone.gov.uk/residents/planning/planning-application-search
Pictured below is St. James Church in Bicknor which is reputed to be haunted.