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Green field in Marden turns into grey concrete thanks to the blue corner

January 18, 2014 6:10 PM

A cherished Wealden orchard will be lost to a housing estate thanks to the votes of Maidstone Conservatives - despite fierce opposition from Liberal Democrat councillors.

The 'green field' Parsonage site in Goudhurst Road, Marden is outside the 'village envelope' and was subject to surface water flooding during the Christmas storm.

Despite this, the housing estate application was proposed by Conservative Planning Cabinet Member Cllr. Stephen Paine. Not one of Marden ward's Conservative councillors stood up for their village by voting against the proposal. To an audible groan from Marden residents in the public gallery, one Marden councillor, Rodd Nelson-Gracie, even described the plans as "well thought through".

Opposition was led by Cllr. Tony Harwood, acting Leader of the Lib Dem group, supported by fellow senior Lib Dems Clive English and Martin Cox who all voted against. Proceedings were watched by Jasper Gerard, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, who is campaigning to protect local countryside from excessive and inappropriate development.

"This is a speculative development," Cllr. Tony Harwood told the meeting, adding "This is an intrusion into the countryside." Whilst Tony acknowledged pressures from central government to allow 'green field' development, he stated that countryside policies within the National Planning Policy Framework would enable Maidstone Council to refuse the application and have a fighting chance of winning the inevitable appeal.

The Planning Committee heard that five major developments are in the pipe-line for Marden. The historic Wealden village will grow by some 500 houses - about a third. Yet despite this a borough planner stated that the scheme would have "no adverse effects on the village".

The plan was bulldozered through by Conservative councillors, despite reports of reservations from Southern Water about local drainage capacity. During the Christmas floods, raw sewage cascaded through roads and gardens in the village.

Staggeringly, the council anticipates significant flooding just once a century - an optimistic estimate given recent events and our increasingly unpredictable weather (which can only get worse as climate change bites).

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England had objected to the 'green field' housing estate plans, as had the Parish Council. The latter were told that they could "listen" to experts telling it what was best for its village, but that it could have no substantive say.

Clive English, another senior Liberal Democrat councillor, stated that the plan was "contrary to policy".

Yet against this backdrop Conservative votes pushed the application through. No Liberal Democrat voted for the plan!