Yesterday evening the Maidstone Borough Council Planning Committee approved an application in a majority vote to build ten one million pound detached houses that can only be reached via 3 metre wide public footpath which runs from the Eyhorne Street Conservation Area alongside the Windmill PH and down to the Village Hall before continuing across country over the M20 to Leeds Castle. Formal objections to the application had been lodged by Hollingbourne Parish Council, the Village Hall Committee, and 21 local residents. The meeting in the Town Hall was attended by Parish Councillor Alan Bennett, local MBC Councillor Patrik Garten, John Holley and Graham Wood from the Village Hall Committee, and local residents. In addition to the written objections members of the Hollingbourne Parish Council are aware of the verbal frank and open views of many residents on the suitability of the site which can only be reached by a privately owned Footpath which is just wide enough for small cars and which has been maintained by local residents on a pro bono basis. The site backs on to HS1 and the M20.
Despite a number of invitations to the Planning Committee to actually visit the location, only two members of the Committee have admitted to being familiar with the area. In addition it appears that no MBC or KCC officer has visited the site during the morning or evening rush hours when Eyhorne Street is blocked by traffic at the point where the Footpath meets the road. At this point Eyhorne Street is effectively single track because of cars parked on the other side and the Footpath is single track although a passing place is proposed on the corner of the site which cannot be fully seen from Eyhorne Street. The passing place is approximately half way between Eyhorne Street and the site entrance which is adjacent to the Village Hall.
A representative from KCC Highways told the Meeting that there had been no recorded traffic accidents involving death or serious injuries in the locality although the Committee was advised that there were frequent and expensive collisions with the listed buildings alongside the Footpath and an MBC officer informed the Committee that the potential for further damage to the buildings and surface of the Footpath during and after the construction period was no reason to refuse the application. The attention of Committee members had been previously drawn to the First Protocol of Part 2 of the Human Rights Act 1998 which states that Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions.
The difficult access to the site was considered including the fact that the drive-in from Eyhorne Street when not crossing the forecourts and gardens of the adjoining listed buildings is only 5 metres versus a minimum legal requirement of 7.3 metres and that the Footpath then shrinks to 3 metres which is less than the legal requirement for fire engines which is 3.7 metres. It was noted that the ten detached houses are to have sprinkler systems which are likely to require water pressure of 30 psi even though a speaker from Kent Fire and Rescue at the recent Annual Parish Assembly had advised those present that local water pressure from Hollingbourne’s Victorian system is only 1.2 bar or 17.4psi. at best. The Planning Committee was also told about problems with the overloading of the village sewer system and the fact that there is no sewer at the site and that the installation of one will require the closure of the Footpath with no available alternative access to the Windmill PH, the Village Hall, or the adjoining properties as required by KCC Highways.
The Committee was told that there were serious concerns that there was no affordable housing in Hollingbourne with this application and that this was the third application for Hollingbourne houses outside the previous Village Envelope with no local provision although a Parish Council Housing Needs Survey had identified a critical need and that one particular site suggested to MBC had been ignored. MBC Councillor Patrik Garten stated that many residents had pressed him for affordable housing especially as the newest two bedroomed house in Godfrey Meadow was marketed at £535,000.
It was reported that the S106 benefit of £33,240 payable by the developer for educating the three primary school children who will be expected to live in the ten 4/5 bedroomed family houses will go to Harrietsham CP School as will £480.16 for library books. The developer is also being asked to pay £248,595 for Affordable Housing but nobody could say where it might be.
The Planning Committee was also informed about the threat to the Village Hall because EI Group PLC, the landlords had so far declined to renew the 20 year lease which expired in August 2016 pending a decision about building alongside the Footpath. If a precedent for development is set then there is risk that notice will be given which will mean that Hollingbourne will require a new Hall at a cost of around £1 million and the Committee was asked to stump up this amount as a contribution because their actions had resulted in Hollingbourne’s loss. An MBC officer stated that this is not a consideration for the Planning Committee.
Councillor Tony Harwood moved that the application (17/503118/FULL) be approved as it was in the Local Plan although Hollingbourne Parish Council has tried unsuccessfully to have the site removed over a number of years because of the access issues which are acknowledged on the MBC website where KCC comments:-
Concern about access, as it lies along narrow track next to the pub. Particularly difficult for pedestrians. Officer comment The access is a PROW (KH199). However, it serves as the access to the car park for The Windmill PH, as access to the building as well as to the car park of Hollingbourne Village Hall and also as access to Grove Mill House further to the SE.
Pedestrians often have to press themselves against the wall of the Windmill PH to allow vehicles to pass and it can very dangerous at night as there is no lighting.
In Hollingbourne any public consultation on possible housing sites for the Local Plan was not well publicised and no draft plan was displayed locally as was the case in other areas of Maidstone where there are libraries.
Villagers who attended the meeting felt that MBC had totally ignored local concerns and local knowledge and were very concerned that no tests with a real fire engine and a real dustcart had been done to ensure that there is access to the site. MBC Planners had used a computer to make their calculations and there is concern as no fire engine has entered the Footpath in living memory and presently refuse bins are brought to Eyhorne Street from properties alongside the Footpath for loading on to the dustcart. Councillor Garten expressed concern that if a dustcart actually entered the Footpath and site it might not be able to turn round. When occasional vehicles have entered the Footpath it has some times been necessary to drive them slowly in reverse in order to gain access.
Pictured below is the 5 metre wide entrance to the Public Footpath marked by wheelie bins before it shrinks to 3 metres as evidenced by the accident scars on the wall of the Windmill PH. The forecourt of the Windmill has until relatively recently been covered with tables and planters and the previous owners of the corner house had planned to erect posts or bollards which might have saved the building from an accident in June 2017. At the moment repairs are ongoing. The white house was hit last week and the wooden fence has had to be repaired from time to time. A site plan appears further below.