The Society cares about Bearsted and Thurnham and their residents. It is vigilant in scrutinising proposals for change which might threaten the character of the two parishes, their gardens and other green open spaces, their Conservation Areas, the North Downs Area of outstanding Natural Beauty, and the area of special landscape value in its foreground.
The Society liaises closely with the representatives of the two Parish Councils, with Kent County Council and with Maidstone Borough Council, with whom it is registered as the amenity group for the two parishes. It submits comments on planning applications and planning policy, road safety, traffic, public transport, amenities, litter, trees, open spaces, water, crime and anti social behaviour and other local matters. It attends Council meetings at parish, borough and county levels to monitor and, where appropriate, comment on, or object to, proposals affecting Bearsted and Thurnham. It works in close contact with concerned local residents.
The Society played a leading role in securing improvements to the plans for the re-development of Eylesden Court on The Green, and in keeping the would-be developers of Church Landway at bay until the generosity and hard work of the founder-Trustees and members of the Bearsted Woodland Trust finally removed that threat. It strongly supports the objectives of the Trust and aims to work in close cooperation with it.
Supporting Thurnham Parish Council and residents the Society objected to the Summer Place (land south of 22 Caring Lane) proposal for a development for an extended gipsy family with mobile and static homes. This included an Inquiry hearing in March 2009 where the Inspector recommendation refusal which was confirmed.
In April 2007 the Society became founder members of StopKIG the umbrella organisation formed by the community for the community to fight KIG; the proposal by AXA to build a four million square feet Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) on the Green space along the base of the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). StopKIG represented the community as a Rule 6 party at the ten week enquiry finishing 23rd December 2009. Within StopKIG the Society presented the evidence at each of the pre-enquiry rallies and then at the Inquiry on ‘Harm caused by the development’. Inquiry Inspector Andrew M.Phillipson submitted his most detailed report dated 31st March 2010 to the Secretary of State for the Environment recommending that the application be refused, which refusal was confirmed by the Secretary of State on the 5th August 2010.
On the 18th September 2010 over 1,000 members of the community celebrated the success with a party on Bearsted Green and a plaque was installed on the Queen Victoria Jubilee Structure by the White Horse Pub recognising the tremendous community spirit and work that made this success possible.
Society notes on MBC Draft Core Strategy proposals 2011.
The draft Core Strategy was published early in 2011 and the period for the initial round of consultation closed on 14 October. Over 180 members of the Society wrote to the Borough Council expressing concerns about a number of its provisions and we are extremely grateful for their magnificent response.
The Core Strategy sets out the Council’s vision for the future of the borough until 2026 and when eventually agreed will be used when considering planning applications. It provides for 10,080 homes to be built of which some 3,300 have already been erected. It also seeks to grow the local economy, create 10,000 more jobs, including allocating additional land at Junction 8 for Industrial and Warehouse development and at the same time to protect the environment.
While the Society supports the plans to revive the town centre and to create more office space and refurbish that which already exists, we are not convinced by the arguments for all the new jobs the Borough Council wants to create. In particular the jobs envisaged at Junction 8 do not appear compatible with the stated employment aims identified in the strategy. Indeed, some of the reports commissioned by the Council do not support them. The Society has therefore opposed the allocation of land at Junction 8 for development.
We are also concerned about the removal of the Special Landscape Area designation on land between the M20 and A20 and have argued strongly for its reinstatement. Our preferred solution, supported by KCC, is for the extension of the AONB south to the A20. This is the best way to protect what the Inspector at the KIG inquiry described as “seamless countryside” the preservation of which the Borough Council strongly supported at that inquiry. Nothing has changed since then to justify the reversal of policy by the Borough Council.
The battle is not over.