The Bearsted and Thurnham Society has circulated the the following newsletter about the latest plans for development on Woodcut Farm at Junction 8 of the M20 which is within the Parish of Hollingbourne. Local residents and others have fought development on the site for the last 25 years and over £3 million of public money has been spent by Kent County Council and Maidstone Borough Council in support of local residents and Parish Councils and others. The newsletter appears below.
Bearsted & Thurnham Society
Action required please
As you may have heard, yet another planning application has been submitted to develop Woodcut Farm. The application reference is 17/502331/OUT and details can be accessed from the Maidstone Borough Council website http://pa.midkent.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=OPBJ6MTY0XJ00
This latest application, like those before it, is for the erection of over 45,000 sq m of mixed commercial development. This time the number of units is greater, 19 increased from 15, though their individual size is smaller. The closing date for comments is:-
9 June 2017
It is very important to sustain the level of objection seen thus far to this development which MBC’s Planning Committee has twice refused. Those decisions are now the subject of appeal by Roxhill to be heard at a Public Inquiry lasting ten days commencing 10th October. This date was chosen by the developers in the clear hope that by that time MBC’s Local Plan, which designates Woodcut Farm for development, would be signed off by the Inspector; thereby increasing their chances of success.
Your Society, along with other groups, including the Kent Association of Local Councils, the Joint Parishes Group and CPRE, has been working hard to counter this by arguing that Woodcut Farm should be excluded from the Plan and that the claimed need for extra commercial space should be the subject of further investigation as part of the plan review process due to be completed by April 2021.
If at all possible, please find the time before 9 June to object to these latest proposals. Comments should be sent by email to RichardTimms@maidstone.gov.uk and firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to
Richard Timms, Planning Officer, Planning Department, Maidstone Borough Council, Maidstone House, King Street, Maidstone, Kent ME15 6JQ
Set out on the next page are some of arguments you may wish to highlight.
- Development of this site would be very damaging to the local environment and the setting of the North Downs AONB.
- It would also have a damaging effect on the setting of Leeds Castle, Maidstone’s most important tourist attraction and the only building of national importance within the borough.
- Access and egress from the site (between two large privately owned residential properties) would be dangerous.
- Development would lead to a large increase in traffic, not only on the A20 but on the narrow roads to the south which are already congested during peak times.
- The proposed development is on an isolated site separated from urban Maidstone to the west.
- The site is not served by public transport meaning that the overwhelming majority of workers would have to rely on cars to get there.
- The case for additional development at motorway junctions is not proven. The prime example here is Eclipse Park which was once the great white hope for high quality well paid jobs in headquarters office blocks. This aim has never been realised. No evidence has been brought forward to suggest that development at Woodcut Farm would be any more successful.
- The proposal is entirely speculative. There can be no knowing how development of the site will progress since market forces will prevail and this is a time of great economic uncertainty.
- At the inquiry into the Maidstone Local Plan the Inspector called for a review of the need for additional employment provision and sites. Most importantly he asked that this review should be made across the wider economic area (i.e. including Tonbridge and Malling, Tunbridge Wells, Ashford, Swale and Medway). This is exactly the kind of assessment your Society and other groups have been calling for. The review MBC commissioned demonstrates that, when looked at on this wider basis, there is no immediate need for additional job creation. All are agreed that there is no immediate demand for additional office space.
- The above review failed, in our view, to adequately take account of commuter flows from Maidstone to other locations, especially to London where commuting numbers doubled between 2001 and 2011 and to Tonbridge and Malling and the thriving commercial corridor that exists between Aylesford and Larkfield where many people from Maidstone already work.
- The need for the Plan to be reviewed by April 2021 (which means that the process needs to get under way later this year) provides the opportunity for further and better thought to be given to these issues and to take account of all the additional sites that exist, or could come on stream, within the wider economic area. This would result in a balanced, strategic assessment of need.
We hope these points will be of help, but if there are points you would like to discuss do get in touch.
Thank you as ever for your support.