Marden Planning Opposition Group (MPOG) have received a statement from Steve McLoughlin, one of our sitting Maidstone Borough Councillors for Marden and Yalding Ward (who is not up for re-election). With his permission we have reproduced it as follows:
Unsurprisingly, your Borough Councillors – [myself], Annabelle Blackmore and David Burton, have been receiving a great deal of correspondence from residents expressing their anxiety and objections to proposals that have recently come to light for a massive housing development in Marden north of the railway line.
Marden has already had to absorb upwards of 500 new homes in and around the village since the emergence of Maidstone Council’s Local Plan and there is little appetite for further developments.
The present road network leading out of the village will not be able to cope with the additional volume of traffic in every direction – particularly towards Maidstone and through the rural villages of Yalding and Goudhurst – and there is little chance of realistically mitigating against this. It is questionable whether the railway system has the capacity to handle the increase in the number of commuters with other developments already taking place further down the line at Staplehurst and Headcorn.
Furthermore, a development of this magnitude will double the size of Marden and is likely to cause division and difficulties in the fabric and cohesion of this rural village.The concept of a ‘Garden Village’ is a good one where there is enough space for an autonomous and self-serving community to be established of a size that will provide all the facilities that people require, such as new schools, medical facilities and retail outlets. This probably requires upwards of 5,000 houses and needs to be sited where there is infrastructure that allows ready access to and from the major road network. This proposal, however, is a bolt-on to an existing community that brings no benefit whatsoever to current residents.
Your Borough Councillors all share your concerns about this and will support resident’s objections in the strongest terms should this proposal ever come forward.
At this stage, however, this is just a concept in response to the ‘Call for Sites’ by the Borough Council that is required to be undertaken as an initial step in the process of reviewing our Local Plan. When the current Plan was approved by the Inspector in January last year, it covered the period (retrospectively) from 2011 to 2031. A condition imposed by the Inspector was that the Plan had to be reviewed at the half way stage, that is by 2021, and in the meantime the Government has revised the basis of assessing each Borough’s housing requirements. This has resulted in Maidstone having to provide a further 7500 houses over and above the 17,600 included in the Local Plan.
Proposals such as this will be carefully reviewed by the Council and only if they are considered to be genuinely sustainable will they be included in a further consultation process towards the end of this year. That is the point at which the public will have an opportunity to register their objections. At the time when the Local Plan was being designed, Maidstone was unable to demonstrate it had identified sufficient sites for development to cover the next 5 years and as a result, the Government decreed that if a site was considered to be sustainable then it had to approved. There was no possibility of responding positively to local opposition.
This time around, however, the Council currently has over 6 years of land supply and is not therefore forced to accept all sites that come forward. It is important to view the current proposals in this light and carefully plan a campaign of objections to be presented at the appropriate time.