Countryside campaigners hit setback in Kent employment site fight

Countryside campaigners have lost a bid to delay planning approval for an employment development on a greenfield site in Kent, after announcing that they would be challenging a recently adopted local plan policy for the land.

Maidstone: local plan faces legal challenge
Maidstone: local plan faces legal challenge

CPRE Kent sent Maidstone Borough Council a "pre-action letter" earlier this week asking it to delay consideration of a planning application for proposed business use at Woodcut Farm, near junction 8 of the M20. The letter also stated that the group intended to challenge the council's policy for the site in its recently adopted local plan.

The planning application, submitted by Roxhill Developments, seeks outline consent for up to 45,295 square metres of mixed commercial development. Despite the CPRE's intervention, the council's planning committee proceeded to consider the proposal last night and approved the application by seven votes to five.

The council's local plan, adopted in October, includes a policy allocating the site for up to 49,000 square metres of mixed employment floorspace. The plan says the site provides "a unique opportunity in the borough to provide a prestigious business park" and would meet a "qualitative need" for a "well-serviced and well-connected mixed use business park in the borough".

The planning officers’ report on the application said the proposed scheme "accords with the headline requirements of the policy" and recommended approval for the Roxhill scheme.

But CPRE Kent said it is challenging the allocation on the basis that it is unlawful. The site is adjacent to the Kent Downs area of outstanding natural beauty and falls within its setting, it said.

The pre-action protocol letter argued that allocation of the site "has been promoted in a sensitive location which is larger than it needs to be to meet the need relied upon", and that it "dramatically overprovides for the economic needs of Maidstone borough in all respects".

 A Maidstone Borough Council spokesperson said: "We can confirm that we have received a letter from the CPRE raising concerns regarding a specific site in our local plan."

Following the planning committee's decision, CPRE Kent confirmed that it will be launching a legal challenge early next week.


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