December newsletter from our MBC Councillor Patrik Garten

Please find attached and copied below the December newsletter from our MBC Councillor Patrik Garten

Finally, the responses to the “call for sites” have been published – and caused a lot of alarm.

I will therefore start this month’s newsletter by putting this in context:

The government imposes a housing target on local authorities. In order to fulfil ours, MBC had a call for sites in spring.

Any response means that a landowner wishes his land to be considered for development in the reviewed Local Plan post 2021. Some landowners filled in a basic chitty, a few went a step further and employed architects and consultants.

The responses are NOT planning applications!

They are merely a SPECULATIVE interest.

While, at this point, I cannot guarantee that proposals in your neighbourhood will never happen, I would not consider the likelihood to be high, certainly not within the AONB. The five sites in my ward, which are along the A20, may be a different kettle of fish.

If MBC would include into their Local Plan all the received responses, we would have roughly three times as many sites as we need. Even the ones which we do need are far too many in a lot of people’s views.

In the coming months the various committees will look at and consider the 334 proposed sites. Watch this space, but please do not panic!

A star candidate is obviously the proposed Garden Village near Lenham Heath. I already eluded on that one in my previous letter.

If – and it is a big “IF” – this site should get the go ahead, there will be little need for other rural sites. If not, I am afraid that more development may take place in the Otham – Leeds – Sutton Road area. I am already very vocal, warning that we must not overdevelop this area to such an extent that there will be no room for a relief road, which, in any case, should come before any further development in that area. (We can dream)

Last month I stated that Maidstone takes millions of CIL and S106 contributions from the developers and passes it to third-party authorities who sit on it !!!!

County Councillor Prendergast took issue with my rant and likes to point us in the right direction re infrastructure delivery. She refers us to the minutes of the Joint Transportation Board and Strategic Planning and Infrastructure meetings on the MBC website and the new joint working group between MBC and KCC. So, I forward her comments, in order that our residents get the right message.

Let’s remain hopeful that things will improve in future with a joint / joined up effort between the planning authority (MBC) and KCC who is a significant infrastructure provider.

By the way:  £171,500.00 from the Bellway Homes’ Mayfield Nursey development in Harrietsham have been secured this month by MBC officers.  This will allow KCC, much earlier than anticipated, to start the second phase of the A20 remodelling.

Another update from September’s newsletter:  You may have read in the local paper about the Town Centre Opportunities Sites. The plans to enhance Maidstone’s town centre got my vote. The 14-storey skyscraper, replacing the Broadway Centre (Matalan & Lidl) did not.  It’s unlikely that much will happen to the Broadway Centre in the next five years. Tall grass is wonderful stuff !

And finally:

The good news:

Arriva is considering the purchase of electric buses to run on the 82 route in the future.

And the bad news:

Maidstone is not in a unique position, being a financially struggling local authority. Its revenue position is not good and significant variances have been identified recently. Merely in order to maintain the status quo of services, MBC will have to increase the council tax by the legally permitted maximum of 1.99%, which is only slightly higher than the rate of inflation.  Putting this in context, MBC’s share of the overall council tax bill is a mere 12%. Any increase at Borough level will be small in comparison.

I am minded to accept that 1.99% is a reasonable amount. However if, like last year, the government increases the permitted threshold, I will not support any higher increase. As I said 12 months ago, just because we can does not relay to “we must”.

Your comments will be very much appreciated !

PATRIK GARTEN

MBC Councillor for North Downs Ward  (Conservative)