‘Save our Heath Lands’ (SOHL) is an action group of local residents in Lenham set up to fight Maidstone Borough Council’s proposals to build a new town in Lenham Heath for over 5,000 homes. We represent the local community and provide a united voice in opposition of these proposals.
Maidstone Borough Council has identified Lenham Heath as a potential location for their new Garden Community initiative. They are currently proposing a new town with 5,000 homes, three primary schools, a secondary school, new M20 motorway junction, new high-speed rail station and a commercial/retail centre.
The land identified is east of Lenham in and around Lenham Heath. The specific boundary can be found on the Save Our Heath Lands website. The identified site is currently made up of multiple different landowners. The principal (largest) landowners are currently in negotiations with Maidstone Council to see if they can agree on terms on which a planning application could be submitted.
Look at our Call for Sites page where you’ll see on the map the site in question and the specific boundary they’ve given it.
Garden Communities are part of a national government initiative to deliver large scale new developments that will create well-planned, sustainable places for people to live. They are purpose built new settlements, or large extensions to an existing town. They are expected to have their own identity, attractive environment and provide a mix of homes including affordable and self-build. A key requirement is that they are to be planned by local authorities or by the private sector in consultation with the local community. More detail on the Government’s initiative can be found here.
Maidstone Council are required to increase housebuilding across the borough each year from 883 homes to 1,236 from 2022. The Council say they have no alternative but to find large sites for new houses however the formula used to calculate the total number of homes per year is based on an outdated population growth estimate from 2014. We therefore believe the Council is overestimating the housing need for the borough.
No. At the moment the Council’s plans are in very early stages of development. The Council have many hurdles to jump over to get their plans passed. Currently they are trying to get the site into the Local Plan Review, the borough’s planning policy, as a site that can be redesignated from greenfield to developable land for housing and other uses. The SOHL campaign is actively working to stop the site being redesignated from greenfield.
The Council have no planning permission yet nor is the land in question acceptable land to grant permission for housing on. The Council will need to get the site into the Local Plan Review (planning policy) first before they can start obtaining agreement from landowners and submitting planning permissions. The Local Plan Review will not be agreed until 2022 at the earliest and applications could follow after that. The Council’s current plans propose first house building to start in 2027, subject to them getting permission.
The Council has barely had any discussions on these two infrastructure schemes let alone any commitment to see them built. They currently do not form part of either Highways England or Network Rail current plans which means that any realistic chance of delivery would not be before the mid 2030s at the very earliest. This would be subject to getting sufficient funding in place to cover the costs of them too. We believe that the Council have grossly underestimated the cost and delivery times of these two projects.
We’re aware that lawyers acting on behalf of the Council and their consultants Barton Wilmore have been approaching significant landowners in the area to discuss their plans. Some of these landowners have been required to sign legal ‘Non-Disclosure Agreements’ in order for the Council to divulge information which they are currently not sharing with the community. The Council haven’t contacted all landowners however. If you are concerned about your own land, we recommend seeking your own legal advice as well as writing to Maidstone Council with your concerns.
We have asked the Council this exact question! We think it is completely unacceptable that the Council has published proposals in local media and on it’s website without having a conversation with the local affected community. Ironically, a requirement of the ‘Garden Town’ initiative is to properly and effectively engage with the local community from an early stage. Maidstone Council have already failed on this.
It is likely that Maidstone Council will run a public consultation on their ‘Call for Sites’ preferred options later in 2020. At that point we will need everyone in the local community to formally respond to the consultation and oppose the plans. In the meantime, we need everyone to be as vocal as possible. Sign SOHL’s petition on our website, write to the Leader and Chief Executive of Maidstone Council, voice your opposition on your social media, and put up a poster. We’d also suggest you vote ‘yes’ for the Neighbourhood Plan!
The Lenham Neighbourhood Plan (LNP) does not make provision for the Council-led garden community. The Parish Council is clear that it will not support the allocation of any more additional dwellings beyond the 1400 dwellings already committed in the Plan. SOHL believe that the LNP takes back control of strategic planning for our village. Having an adopted LNP is likely to make it harder for Maidstone Council to secure planning permission for their proposed garden community due to the draft policy in the LNP (Policy CP1, pg20) which protects countryside outside the defined Lenham settlement boundary.
Keep up to date on the action we are taking via our website and on our social media channels:
Facebook: Save Our Heath Lands