Submission

The Society’s submission to Maidstone Borough Council

While the Society has never welcomed development at Junction 8 we drew attention in our email of 13 October to the very real problems we faced in trying to protect land east of Bearsted resulting from Maidstone Borough Council’s failure to finalise its Core Strategy and the further proposals that had been put forward to develop Woodcut Farm. Given the Council’s clear loss of interest in taking any effective action to protect land north of the A20, we indicated that the best means of avoiding development of this land may be to accept development at Junction 8, however reluctantly.

Since then we have been asked to refine our position and your Committee has had the time to further consider the huge volume of papers accompanying the J8 proposals.

What is now clear is that the proposals would involve the removal of some 740,000 tonnes of potential building sand in order to provide the proposed development platforms. This represents some 50,000 lorry movements over a 2/3 year period for the proposed redesign of the site. This is without the very considerable further lorry movements involved with the construction element of the proposal some 50% of which is identified to be completed by 2017.

This level of extraction is enormous and abnormal for a standard planning application. That being the case the application should have a separate extraction licence to enable the effects to be properly identified, together with its own transport plan showing the destination and transport route for all this excavated material. This information has not been produced.

Such vast earth movements will have a massive adverse impact on the environment and, taken together with the other grounds for objecting which are detailed below, have caused the Society to come out firmly against the proposal. Such development cannot possibly be acceptable and should therefore be opposed along with Woodcut Farm or any other development on the former KIG site.
Just as happened over KIG it is important that local organisations should stand together in opposing development that would have such a devastating impact on our environment. The Society now stands firmly in line with the stance being taken by other local organisations such as the Bearsted Parish Council and the Joint Parishes Group. This stance continues to enjoy the valued support of Hugh Robertson MP and Paul Carter.

The other grounds of objection we have made to the Maidstone Borough Council are:

The proposal envisages in excess of 1,000 employees on a 24 hour day operation. The routes from the south, where it is indicated the vast majority of employees currently reside, are very narrow village lanes. The one exception is Willington Street which has been identified as on the edge of capacity usage. This is without the effect of this proposal and others currently being considered by Maidstone Borough Council.
The very significant proposed developments at Junction 7 will have a considerable impact on Junction 8 and the route from the Newnham Park and Eclipse Park proposals due to the exceptional pressure on Junction 7. Currently this is evidenced by the traffic avoiding Junction 7 at peak times.
The proposal is contrary to Policy ENV 28 of the Borough Wide Local Plan.
The site is a considerable distance from the Maidstone urban area, is without local services and unsustainable.
In the absence of a Maidstone Borough Local Plan residents in all areas are experiencing developer and land owner applications outside any structure plan. Many are finding this intolerable. This particular application is on land close to the major tourist attraction which is Leeds Castle – the only building of national importance in the Maidstone area. This proposed site also adjoins the former KIG site and that application resulted in very considerable work and major costs, including those for the Borough, and a 10 week inquiry. We urge the Borough Council to complete the local plan for consultation so that proposals can be considered within an overall structure plan for both the urban area – including the town centre – and rural areas.

In taking this stand we are very much aware of the damaging implications on the quality of life for Bearsted and Thurnham residents as a result of very large developments, part already approved and part proposed at Junction 7 Eclipse Park and Newnham Court.
We also recognise that Ashford District Council has a particular requirement for warehouse development at Junction 10 and the proposed Junction 10a at Sevington.
These proposals raise wider issues affecting decision making. First, Maidstone Borough Council is showing an alarming tendency towards favouring developer-led planning decisions irrespective of their impact elsewhere in the borough. Thus proposals for green field development are favoured whilst areas of Park Wood become increasingly derelict with no plans to regenerate them. Development at J7 is favoured despite its obvious impact on the town centre.
Secondly, strategic issues with implications well beyond district council boundaries are, because of the way planning powers are divided and the absence of any strategic plans, increasingly being decided on the narrow interests of individual boroughs without consideration being given to their wider impact on neighbouring boroughs and the county at large. As a result other parts of Kent with higher unemployment and greater social needs are losing out.
We therefore call on the County Council to use its influence to ensure that development takes place in those parts of the county which are crying out for regeneration and new employment opportunities.
Maidstone BC has indicated that they are still willing to consider representations about this planning application provided they are made quickly.