Former KIG site in Hollingbourne under threat again!

The Bearsted and Thurnham Society who successfully campaigned against the KIG development on Woodcut Farm in Hollingbourne and other developments at Junction 8 of the M20 have today circulated the following newsletter to local residents:

Bearsted & Thurnham Society

FORMER KIG SITE – UNDER THREAT FROM DEVELOPERS YET AGAIN!

We have recently learned that Roxhill Developments have lodged an appeal to the Government against last summer’s decision by Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) to refuse planning permission for a wholly speculative mixed commercial development on 50 acres at Woodcut Farm, a green field site on the south-western (Bearsted side) of Junction 8 (north of the A20), part of the former KIG site.   Please see page 2 for how you can help.

This news has come as a massive disappointment. With the overwhelming support of local people, MBC has always refused applications for large scale commercial development around Junction 8, but the Society is fearful that it may now be prepared to accept it!

8 years ago, our local communities rose up magnificently to oppose the horrendous KIG proposal for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange on 250 acres of open farmland between Junction 8 and Bearsted village.  We were all delighted when the Government rejected it in 2010.

3 years ago, MBC refused Gallaghers’ application for a 40 acre industrial estate at Waterside Park south of both Junction 8 and the A20. An appeal against this decision was dismissed by a Government Planning Inspector following a Public Inquiry and, subsequently, by the High Court following a legal challenge by Gallaghers this time last year.

In February 2016, MBC published its Draft Maidstone Borough Local Plan and incomprehensibly identified Woodcut Farm as a potential employment site. There was strong local opposition to this proposal but, MBC kept it in the Plan because it claimed “it was only a ‘draft’ plan and could be altered”?!?!

In June 2016 Maidstone Borough Council refused Roxhill’s planning application for a 50 acre mixed commercial development at Woodcut Farm following massive opposition from local people and organisations.

An Examination In Public (EIP) of the Draft Maidstone Borough Local Plan took place between October and January, and was attended by the Society and other local organisations, all of which objected strongly to the identification of Woodcut Farm as an employment site. The Government Planning Inspector who conducted this EIP has recently published his ‘preliminary findings’ in which he is rather ambivalent about Woodcut Farm. Although not condoning its use for employment development, he strangely comments that it should provide more office space than warehousing!

MBC will carry out further public consultation on the Local Plan but, in the meantime, Roxhill have launched an appeal to the Government against MBC’s decision to refuse its planning application last year.

All previous applications and appeals have been opposed by MBC, Kent County Council, the Bearsted and Thurnham Society, the Joint Parishes Group, Leeds Castle, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), our MP Helen Whately, including her predecessor, and by thousands of local residents.

IT REMAINS TO BE SEEN HOW ROBUST A CASE MBC WILL PUT FORWARD AT THIS PUBLIC INQUIRY AND SO IT IS VITAL THAT ALL OTHER ORGANISATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS TAKE THE STRONGEST POSSIBLE ACTION!!!!

CPRE and the Joint Parishes Group will be registering for Rule 6 status which means they will participate in the Public Inquiry, and your Society has agreed to provide as much support as possible. Preliminary meetings have already taken place.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

All comments and objections that have already been sent to MBC about this Woodcut Farm planning application will be forwarded to the Government Planning Inspector who will conduct the Inquiry but, the Society considers it vital that as many local people and organisations as possible submit further objections to this appeal so that the Inspector is made fully aware of the strength of public feeling against this proposal. 

Comments should be sent to : Helen.skinner@pins.gsi.gov.uk or in writing to her at:

Room 3/0, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Bristol  BS1 6PN

quoting reference APP/U2235/W/16/3165998.

 

COMMENTS MUST BE SENT BY 10 MARCH.

Please copy your comments to Cllr Paul Carter, Leader Kent County Council, Paul.Carter@kent.gov.uk asking him to do all he can at the Inquiry to protect this important green landscape:

Cllr Paul Carter CBE, Leader, Kent County Council, County Hall, Maidstone, Kent ME14 1XQ

We also consider it vital that pressure is put on our local Maidstone Borough Councillors to ensure that MBC fights this appeal as strongly as it can and deletes all reference to employment development at Woodcut Farm from the Maidstone Borough Local Plan. Please send your objections to:

Cllr Mike Cuming (Bearsted Ward) – mikecuming@maidstone.gov.uk

Cllr Gill Fort (Leeds Ward) – gillfort@maidstone.gov.uk

Cllr Patrik Garten (North Downs Ward) – patrikgarten@maidstone.gov.uk

Cllr Mike Revell (Bearsted Ward) mikerevell@maidstone.gov.uk

Cllr Val Springett (Bearsted Ward) – valspringett@maidstone.gov.uk

Cllr Nick de Wiggondene (Detling & Thurnham Ward) – nickdewiggondene@maidstone.gov.uk

 

Objections are best written individually and could embrace the following issues:     

1)  The proposal is contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework 2012 and to the policies of the Maidstone Borough Wide Local Plan 2000 because it is on a green field site in a totally unsustainable and isolated countryside location at considerable distance from the built up area of Maidstone and far from all local services, etc.

2) The scale and nature of this wholly speculative proposal will seriously erode the unspoilt character of the attractive and open countryside between Bearsted and Leeds Castle and harm the setting of the Kent Downs AONB, Leeds Castle and other heritage assets which were all major considerations in the Government’s emphatic rejection of KIG six years ago; of the Planning Inspector’s and the High Court’s rejection of Waterside Park one year ago; and of MBC’s refusal of Woodcut Farm six months ago.

3)  If allowed on appeal, the nature, scale and location of the proposal will severely compromise:

  1. i) much greater areas of adjoining open and unspoilt countryside for yet further commercial development in a sensitive rural area which will fly in the face of all the previous rejections of commercial development at Junction 8 as outlined in 2) above; and
  2. ii) the on-going work by MBC in preparing the Maidstone Borough Local Plan.
  3. The isolated and rural location of the application site means that existing and potential public transport links are very limited and the main means of transport will be the unsustainable use of the private car whereas the National Planning Policy Framework 2012 presumes in favour of sustainable development and emphasises the need to move towards a low carbon economy by reducing carbon emissions.