After much secrecy and rumour, Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) have finally revealed that their intention is to investigate building 5,000 houses near Lenham – as reported in the local press including KentOnline and DownsMail yesterday.
Location-wise, it’s not been fully confirmed where the proposed site is yet – the only information gleaned from MBC’s press release is that it’s somewhere “east of Lenham” – possibly to the north east of Lenham Heath – the landowners (plural) have all signed non-disclosure agreements with the council’s development partners, so the precise location and details may not be made public for some time.
What about Marden?
Does this mean that Marden’s very own “garden settlement” proposal is now fully off the cards? Unfortunately, not necessarily. While 5,000 houses being built in another location in simple terms means these won’t be built in Marden, residents of Marden will have to wait and see what the rest of the “Call for Sites” exercise reveals.
MBC have a certain number of houses to build as set by central government, and they have to do this in a certain time period. While this announcement reduces the burden on other sites, the likelihood is that there will be other sites closer to home that are also being considered. Call for Sites information is due to be published by MBC ‘this autumn’ and we await these details and hope that MBC respects their own self-imposed deadline.
Why the secrecy?
It is unfortunate that MBC have not been fully transparent about their plans, despite the fact that they admitted they were investigating a “leak” of the Lenham plans all the way back in May 2019. To now find out that this leaked information appears to be accurate, despite months of secrecy, in hindsight suggests perhaps the council would have been better to just release the information into the public domain. The costs of this legal arrangement to the taxpayer, like the rest of the plans, have not been made public.
It would seem that at least some MBC Councillors are unhappy about the way the secrecy has been conducted:
Cllr Jonathan Purle said the proposed site’s location should have been published ‘months ago’ and said he expected the private motion to fail.
MPOG members were again in attendance for MBC’s public meeting on Wednesday night and are, like everyone else, awaiting further information on the Call For Sites locations. If you wish to attend these planning meetings at Town Hall in Maidstone going forward, all details and dates are placed onto the ‘Whats New’ section of the MBC website.