Statement from Mike Summersgill

Marden Planning Opposition Group (MPOG) have received a statement from the Green Party’s local election nominee for Marden & Yalding ward, Mr Mike Summersgill, which with permission, we will relay:

Although I am not a resident of Marden (I’ve lived in Hunton for 10 years, Kent since 1988), I am a member of Marden Club and use the station for trips to London (and beyond) where, as a soil/water civil engineer for 40+ years, I advise on technical bodies helping to remediate industrial contamination issues in the UK & EU. I’m also past president of an international water/environment Institution, CIWEM, and a volunteer tree & pond warden in Hunton.

The Green Party is against the principle of building on greenfield land when so much derelict and brownfield land exists to sustain any new housing requirements. There are numerous brownfield sites in Maidstone and surrounding locations that were identified in the existing MBC Local Plan (such as the large former ICI Pesticides land near Yalding), but developers ignore these and seem to take an easier/cheaper option of ‘finding’ fresh locations. All the main parties’ councillors on MBC supported the local plan over the past few years, with itshigh housing targets, and we can all see the effect of that on transport routes in Maidstone.

As residents of Marden, Staplehurst & Coxheath know, the Local Plan designation of a ‘Rural Service Centre’ sounds innocuous but leads to substantial loss of open fields and woodlands.Yet the infrastructure supporting our villages doesn’t get ‘improved’, and more of our minor roads become ‘rat runs’ (like through Chainhurst & Hunton) as the main roads clog. And, as the Green Party members in Maidstone know, the invisible effects of air pollution remain a health hazard, the background effects of traffic noise and lighting pollute our countryside…besides a tragic effect on our wildlife (and open spaces) by removing trees and hedgerows!

New homes need to be high density, affordable and social housing, for our younger families and single households, not larger executive homes in the ‘country’. That housing needs to be close to town centres and of sustainable efficient construction; government planning policy since 2010 seems to have been to encourage mass construction on greenfield without a view to future sustainability of housing stock and the communities growing around them.

This proposal is not a ‘garden community’, it is development on agricultural land seeking to play on the closeness of a railway station for convenient transport links. Garden villages are designed to be 1500-10,000 homes in a ‘new’ location, with appropriate infrastructure. Also, central government recently proposed reducing the frequency of trains from Marden into London, for their new franchise tendering; which hardly suggests joined-up thinking.

Nothing adds up with this proposal, and I encourage you all to oppose it vigorously; just like the recent adoption of a ‘Climate Emergency’ by MBC’s councillors (after Greens raised the concern publically at a Council meeting), and our installation of air pollution monitors in the town centre (to continue taking readings when MBC/KCC removed the monitoring station by Fairmeadow, as part of road ‘improvements’ three years ago). Local Green activists will be raising these environmental concerns as citizens long before the main parties catch up.

Marden Planning Opposition Group would welcome any similar statements from key parties and will publish any future statements in the same way.

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