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Ancient Kent Woodland to be Replaced by 500 Homes

by Paul Addison on October 23, 2015 No comments

Communities Secretary Greg Clark has allowed on appeal a major housing scheme in Kent which will mean the destruction of an ancient bluebell wood between two fields earmarked for development. 

In a recovered appeal, Croudace Strategic Ltd, the developer, has won permission for an extensive housing development on land east of Hermitage Lane, despite the potential for damage to an historic woodland.

Residents fought long and hard against the scheme, with the New Allington Action Group (NAAG) playing a full role at the five-day planning inquiry in July.

However, on Tuesday this week (20th October), Greg Clark MP, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, endorsed the recommendation of the inquiry inspector Paul Clark that the application should be allowed.

Croupade Strategic had proposed a 500-home scheme, 30 per cent of which would be affordable, on a site at Maidstone which straddled the boundary between Maidstone Borough Council and Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council. Both councils had rejected the proposals. No buildings were originally proposed across Tonbridge and Malling’s boundary, although the Secretary of State acknowledged that this could change as the proposals were in outline.

Following an inquiry this June, inspector Paul Clark recommended approval of the scheme, noting that Maidstone Council could not show a five-year housing land supply.

The inspector found that the developer’s preferred access into the site would lead to the loss of a parcel of ancient woodland protected for its local ecological value. However, he noted that less ecologically damaging alternative access routes might emerge during the reserved matters stage.

Clark’s decision letter agreed that the majority of the area was correctly designated as ancient woodland and that the site had medium to high ecological value at a local level.

However, he also agreed with the inspector that the anticipated absolute loss of 0.03 hectares of ancient woodland would be acceptable given the significant social and economic benefits of the housing in an area where the local plan was out of date and the harm to biodiversity would not be “significant”.

Even if the preferred access route was retained, he added, it would only lead to the loss of 1.8 per cent of the designated ancient woodland.

The secretary of state agreed that although this would technically infringe an adopted local plan policy, the ecological effects would be acceptable.

NAGG had also argued that the application would place undue pressure on the road network, but Maidstone did not support them on that. The inspector said he found “no substantive evidence” that the effect on highway safety or air quality would be unacceptable.

The inspector has imposed 21 conditions on the permission, including that Croudace meet the cost of specified improvements at Junction 5 of the M20.

Is anywhere safe from development?

The approval also underlines that if councils are not adequately bringing forward five year supplies of land to meet housing demand enough – such as the release of brownfield land – then alternatives, even in sensitive areas, will be considered.

And once there is an approval, future amendments from outline to full permission could open the door to a bigger scheme.

Does your client’s property look out onto woodland? What about the empty fields either side? Have you checked and interpreted the land use zoning? The view may go forever.

Safeguard your client’s investment and get the expert view with a DevAssess report. For more information, call us on 01342 890010 or email info@dev-assess.co.uk

 

Paul AddisonAncient Kent Woodland to be Replaced by 500 Homes

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