Controversial plan to develop Stones Farm progresses

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03 Dec 2010

A CONTROVERSIAL development of farmland could be adopted by the council early next year.

The borough's Local Plan allocates land at Stones Farm in Bapchild for about 600 homes and 15 hectares (about 37 acres) for public open space.

Local Development Framework committee members agreed last Thursday that the brief prepared by landowners GH Dean and Co and St John's College, Cambridge, should be adopted.

The executive committee is due to discuss the matter next Wednesday and if they agree to the recommendation, it will undergo a formal process before forming part of the council's development plans for the area.

Despite the fact building targets put in place by the previous government were scrapped by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles in July, there is no sign of the number of houses being reduced at the site.

Committee chairman Cllr Gerry Lewin said: "What this council will do when those numbers are extinguished is yet to come and I wouldn't want to make any comment at this stage about which way we are going to jump because that's for members to decide."

The brief has caused uproar among villagers as the land which measures 37 hectares (91 acres) in total, is also Kent County Council's preferred route for Sittingbourne's Northern Relief Road.

If the road is built, it will go through countryside gap between Sittingbourne and the village.

Andy Hudson, chairman of Bapchild Parish Council, said: "This is simply a case of pushing this site through the planning process as quickly as possible before there is the need to re-evaluate the housing numbers.

"There is absolutely no reason why the progression of this site could not wait until the council had a clear understanding of what their position was.

"As expected there was absolutely no debate or questions about the primary point that the open space cannot both be retained in perpetuity and set aside for the Northern Relief Road.

"I can assure you that this is not the last of the matter and the parish council intends to seek government intervention."

Hayley Robinson,
Kent Messenger