03 / 11 / 20
Small landowners in Lenham Heath are calling on Maidstone Borough Council to withdraw their land from its ill-fated Heathlands Garden Community masterplan or face legal action.
The Council’s decision to include over 63 acres of land owned by small landowners in its masterplan, without seeking permission, has been met with outrage.
Local solicitors, Knights has been commissioned by 17 small landowners to represent them and a letter of complaint has been issued to the Council, demanding that the masterplan is revisited and redrawn to remove their parcels of land from the proposed scheme immediately.
The withdrawal of over 63 acres of land could mean the loss of approximately 990 houses from the Council’s plan and key sites it requires to build the new roads and other supporting infrastructure for such a big development. Already three out of the eight large landowners have opted out of the scheme, which forced the Council to redraw its masterplan with a revised target of 4,000 houses and abandon any plans for an ambitious motorway junction and high-speed train station.
Maidstone Borough Council has made it clear that the scheme is only viable above 3,000 houses and with current numbers being based upon 4,000 houses, the reduction by a further 990 dwellings brings the viability down to near loss-making levels.
A spokesperson for Save Our Heath Lands Action Group said: “The small landowners have been treated disgracefully by the Council. It is clear MBC has been negotiating with a handful of large landowners for the last two years, so failing to engage with the small landowners is a massive oversight and could threaten the viability of the scheme.
It is appalling that the Council went ahead and published its Heathlands Garden Community masterplan without first speaking to or seeking consent from the small landowners to include their land in the proposal. These landowners are learning through reading the Council’s published masterplan that they may now have a new road, cycle route, school or business centre effectively in their back garden.
They are rightly deeply distressed and upset that the Council has presented it as a ‘done deal’ and the public will assume that the small landowners have already consented to hand over their land, which is far from the truth.
By publicly including the land owned by the small landowners in the proposal, it has effectively blighted their homes. On top of that, the small landowners are now living with the potential threat of compulsory purchase if they don’t agree to the Council’s plans.
Maidstone Borough Council is soon to begin their next public consultation for the Local Plan Review which is looking at where development will go in the borough up to 2037. It is including the Heathlands project knowing that it is unsustainable, undeliverable and unviable. This is a fatal mistake by our elected officials who will have to go back to the drawing board and look for new development sites once more.”
In the letter to Maidstone Borough Council, the small landowners have demanded their land is removed from the proposed scheme and a statement is issued to make it clear that there has been no engagement with the small landowners and they are strongly opposed to their land being included in the proposal.