Yesterday evening representatives of Hollingbourne Parish Council and local MBC Councillor Patrik Garten plus representatives of other local Parish Councils met with William Cornall from Maidstone Borough Council at the Great Danes – Mercure Hotel to hear about the Public Consultation on the Local Plan Review. Mr Cornall, the Director of Regeneration and Place, was accompanied by Mark Egerton and Sarah Lee from Maidstone Borough Council Planning Department. It is understood that Mr Cornall’s remit includes “planning, economic development, parking, housing, waste collections, grounds maintenance and parks”.
The formal notification of the consultation is at https://www.hollingbournepc.kentparishes.gov.uk/mbc-launch-public-consultation-on-the-local-plan/
Key points from the floor included the following:
- Although the consultation documents are available on line, in local libraries, and from Maidstone Borough Council, around one third of residents do not have good use of the internet for many reasons and not every village has a library. Mr Cornall agreed to arrange for printed copies to be made more available especially in rural areas possibly via village shops and other community facilities.
- Concern was expressed about the thousands of houses being built in an around Maidstone in order to meet Government targets and the methodology to produce those targets. Particular concern was expressed about the lack of infrastructure such as schools, roads, medical services, sewerage, public transport, and shops. Some attendees thought that Maidstone Borough Council should be taking a tougher line on developers to pay larger S.106 payments for local amenities.
- A number of attendees noted the fact that many of the new houses were being built for Londoners who needed to commute back to the Capital each day on overloaded and expensive transport links.
- The lack of affordable and social housing was mentioned several times including the fact that much needed local housing is being taken over by London Boroughs to house their homeless. There were also complaints about the lack of provision for the elderly.
- It was explained that the Review did not allow the removal of any previously agreed development sites from the Plan unless there was a material change in their status such as becoming a Site of Special Scientific Interest. A reference was made to the fact that although Hollingbourne Parish Council had objected to the three housing sites in the village in the current Plan with Maidstone Borough Council totally disregarding the points made. These related to infrastructure including sewerage, traffic, and access. The Godfrey Meadows development has been completed and the Fernham Homes site is under construction. The Section 106 payments from these sites will be mainly used for Harrietsham. The last site for ten houses is alongside the Windmill Lane Public Footpath which is too narrow for large vehicles and which has poor access from Eyhorne Street. Over the last two years 2 HGV’s that have tried to enter the Lane have come to grief while the bollard at the entrance was damaged by a pick-up in May. Additionally an accident involving a car in 2017 resulted in building repairs lasting over a year and an ongoing legal battle with insurers.
The Local Plan and the Review assumes that Maidstone will continue to grow in size an no mention was made of the possible economic impact of Brexit. Additionally no mention of was made of the fact that the Plan could include a proviso to the effect that all new houses are to be built to the superior standards required of social and affordable housing.
The closing date for comments on the Local Plan Review is 30th September 2019.