There has been speculation in Eyhorne Street that the new development of ten detached houses at the end of the Windmill Lane Public Footpath will result in the loss of four parking bays in Eyhorne Street immediately opposite the entrance to the Lane where the Public Footpath is only 5.0 metres wide instead of the normal 7.3 metres for developments. The reason for the concern is that there will not be sufficient turning space for large vehicles such as fire engines, dustcarts, construction vehicles, and removal lorries to make the tight turn into the Footpath before it shrinks to 3 metres which is where most incidents occur. The worry is that parking spaces may be lost so that vehicles can turn into the Windmill Lane Public Footpath.
Public parking in the Eyhorne Street Conservation Area has been an issue in recent years because of increases in garage rentals in Eyhorne Mews following a change of ownership, an £85 charge for non customers introduced by the Windmill PH last year, subsequent restrictions on parking in the Village Hall Car Park, and the housing development alongside the narrow Musket Lane. The loss of free public parking was one of the factors leading to the closure of the long established Eyhorne Street hairdressers in October 2017.
The computer generated swept paths plans, showing the access from Eyhorne Street, clearly indicate that the parking bays in place continue are reproduced below. However the swept paths appear to include the areas formerly used for outdoor trading with tables and umbrellas by the Windmill PH. The Land Registry Plans, showing the extent of EI Group PLC property, marked in red are shown below the swept paths or turning circles and the property to the left of the marked area is not part of the Footpath or publicly available property. EI Group PLC are the landlords of the Windmill PH and the Village Hall.
No large vehicles have entered the Lane in living memory without causing some problems and/or damage and Country House Homes Limited, the successful applicants or the Maidstone Planning Department, have not tested the access or swept paths with a real fire engine or other large vehicle. MBC wheelie bins from properties alongside the Footpath are presently manually collected and brought up to Eyhorne Street.
The width of the Street between the parking bays and the Windmill PH kerb is just 5 metres so any large vehicle entering the Footpath will have to do a 90 degree turn in a 5 x 5 metre space. Dennis Fire Engines cite 55 feet (18 metres) for a U turn or 9 metres for half turn as a minimum on their website. The recommended minimum access width for a fire engine is 3.7 metres whereas the minimum width of the Footpath is 3 metres.
The Parish Council is well aware that many residents are disappointed that the Maidstone BC Planning Committee approved planning permission this week for the ten one million pound homes which back on to HS1 and the M20 and that the development was approved on the basis that the site was already in the Local Plan despite many protests from the Parish Council and residents with local knowledge. Only Councillor Clive English (Chairman) and Councillor Eddie Powell from Harrietsham from the Planning Committee have admitted that to visiting the site. Local MBC Councillor Patrik Garten, who is not on the Planning Committee, has visited several times and spoke at the Planning Meeting in the Town Hall on 26th April about the difficulties of vehicular access and the lack of affordable housing.
The motion to approve the application was made by Councillor Tony Harwood, who has not confirmed that he has visited the site, despite invitations to visit. The basis that the site should be approved, subject to minor changes in the plantings, was on the grounds that the site is in the local Plan although previously two MBC officers had given assurances that inclusion in the Plan was no guarantee that planning permission would be granted.
Councillor Clive English has subsequently circulated the following note which is reproduced below:
Firstly I do visit all of those sites that I feel need visiting, including this one. I do not feel the need to announce said visits and I am sure that goes for other members . Secondly the Committee had very little option but to approve as this was an allocated site within the Local Plan. Additionally there were no highway objections to the access so even if MBC had agreed with the issues raised on these we could not have used these as grounds for a refusal.
In terms of the Village Hall all planning applications are determined on their own separate merits, but it is certainly clear that the village hall is a community asset, and is not an allocated site, developing it for housing would unlike the site last night be clearly contrary to policies within the local plan.
I would conclude that whilst you and others may be disappointed it would not have served anyone to refuse this application and immediately lose the inevitable appeal that would have followed.
The successful applicant for this multi million pound project, Country House Homes Limited, has only had one brief meeting with Hollingbourne Parish Council which was almost two years ago, and their latest publicly available statutory accounts filed at Companies House indicates that their share capital is £2. Conditions of the developments include the payment of £33,720 for the benefit of Harrietsham School and £248,595 for affordable housing but not in Hollingbourne although there is an established need. This is the third housing development outside of the previously sacrosanct Hollingbourne Village Envelope with no affordable housing. They will also have to provide alternative access to the Windmill PH, the Village Hall, HS1, and other properties if they need to close the Footpath during the construction period.
Pictured below (top) are the computer generated but not physically tested heavy vehicle access routes from Eyhorne Street on to the 30-35mm deep tarmac Footpath which is not designed for heavy vehicles and (bottom) is the Land Registry Plan which shows the limits of the EI PLC property and the extent of the private forecourt and garden of the corner house which appears to have been incorrectly included in the Public Footpath on swept path plans. The cars in the swept path or turning circle plans appear to be fairly small as in reality the road space between the parking bays and the Windmill side of the Eyhorne Street only allows for single track traffic as shown in the aerial view (Fig. 1).