MPOG are reproducing below, with permission, the response given to the Call for Sites exercise from the neighbouring parish council at Linton.
The Parish is defined as a small rural village and is the first South of Maidstone that is truly situated in open countryside from the Greensand Ridge down to the Low Weald. It is also described as such in “Maidstone Borough Local Plan-Policies Map Adopted October 2017” and vividly pictured on the Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) website for the call for sites. Strategic Policy SP17 applies to Linton Parish.
Linton falls outside the definition of a large village (Policy SP11) due to is small size and with zero services, and it also falls outside the definition of a Rural Services Centre (Policy SP5).
The MBC Local Plan document has only one mention of Linton, which is for a maximum of two Gipsy & Traveller pitches. This limited vision of what MBC development is contemplated for Linton hardly does not makes it a suitable candidate for what the council is attempting to achieve.
Infrastructure and sustainability:
Below is KCC Highways situation as revealed at the KALC Parish Councils’ Seminar at Ditton Community Centre on the 28th November 2019:
There is a fair amount of expenditure going into highways infrastructure but it is largely north of Maidstone. It includes works around Newnham Court and Junction 7 of the M20, an improved bus route between Eastern Quarry and Gravesend etc in North Kent, improvements around Sittingbourne on the A249 with little or no improvements planned for the Borough south of Maidstone. Bypass projects such as the Leeds Langley route are unlikely to go ahead as they are not a priority; any such projects would need to be partly funded by significant housing developments to raise capital. Leeds Langley for example would need in excess of 10,000 homes in that area to make it feasible.
Linton is only fed by a single hourly bus service (number 5 route) to and from Maidstone Town centre. MBC planning department and committee regularly refuse applications on the basis that “The proposed accommodation is located in an unsustainable location where future occupants would be reliant on the private motor vehicle for their daily needs contrary to polices SS1, DM1 of the adopted Maidstone Local Plan (2017) and the National Planning Policy Framework (2019).”
Non-Residential call for sites: when the sites were published for Linton, an error was identified in that site 284 was shown as residential but is in fact proposed for industrial use. HGVs have to traverse the A229 to and from Maidstone Town centre in order to join the motorway system (M20). This is a significant and insurmountable problem going forward as there is zero opportunity to increase capacity. Not only is the main road a narrow one from the Wheatsheaf corner to Linton and beyond but it is all residential both sides of the road all the way to Linton Corner. Linton itself, as with Loose, is a conservation area, and Linton Hill from Linton Corner to Redwall Lane is lined with centuries old properties.
Over two decades ago the A229 south of Maidstone Town centre was labelled as a serious traffic problem. Linton Conservation Management Plan adopted by MBC in 2010 also identified it as serious. To date, still nothing has been done by Kent County Council Highways to remove traffic from the route and there are no plans to address the problem. This serious traffic problem has in all those years become steadily worse and so has pollution in all its forms, hence the requirement for sustainability.
It is appropriate to highlight that ideas for over 20 years of a relief road for the area have never materialised and are not likely to. Although it won’t assist Linton, rather the reverse in fact, the Leeds-Langley relief road is still only at the “idea” stage with zero costings, budget or plans available(see above KCC view). There have been a large number of homes built in Coxheath and Boughton Monchelsea and even more are in the pipeline, to which the Call for Sites proposals only add to what is severe traffic conjestion.
Linton Corner is the main junction (interchange) that deals with Coxheath and Boughton Monchelsea traffic (B2163). The current consequence of developments has increased the already serious traffic congestion on Linton Hill, Linton Corner and surrounding roads with increased commercial vehicles and private cars adding to the pollution and congestion. HGVs only exacerbate the problems for residents in Linton and all the way to the Wheatsheaf corner. To make matters worse Kent Highways have sadly failed again to do anything about reconfiguring or improving Linton Corner and the future is bleak too. The current situation is that the intended s106s that were intended to fund the project have proved inadequate, and incidentally were not intended to solve the increased traffic use as a consequence of residential developments but were a response to the increased HGV movements from the Berry Gardens new site, which opened in autumn 2019, next to site 284.
KCC Highways have significantly miscalculated the costings for reconfiguring the Linton Crossroads junction. So much so that the developers’ funding falls considerably short of what is required. To make matters worse the landowner who instigated the project for their HGVs offered up land for free and paid KCC £160,000 for designing the junction to relieve some of the congestion that their HGVs would cause. The situation is exacerbated as the land (part of site 288) could be withdrawn. It would be appropriate to conclude that the highways infrastructure is not able to cope now and nor, realistically, is ever likely to be.
Given the above, although we have no control over what happens in neighbouring parishes or how MBC will view their call for sites, the serious issue of transportation needs to be addressed BEFORE anything else is approved. Also, Marden and Staplehurst will also have a huge impact on the infrastructure. We wholeheartedly support Kent Association of Local Councils (KALC) in their request for a pause on all developments so the infrastructure problems can be addressed and allow time for catch-up, where it can happen.
MBC also recently refused planning approval on small timber structures “The proposed development represents harmful intrusion into the open countryside which would both individually and cumulatively be out of keeping with the general landscape and the character of the area and detrimental to visual amenities. The proposal is therefore contrary to policies SP17, DM1, and DM30 of Maidstone Local Plan (2017) and the National Planning Policy Framework (2019).”
The rural Parish of Linton, we suggest, is a “red line” Parish whose major asset is its rural aspect and views. It acts as a valuable green lung for the greater Maidstone conurbation, and urbanisation must not be permitted to enter via creep or stealth.