Council prepares for next stage of Local Plan

Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council published the first draft of its Local Plan in autumn 2016. The council received around 1,000 responses from the public, and published its reply to the points raised in July.

Councillors have been told they will be briefed on the council's final draft during this September and October, with publication of the document for consultation during autumn. The council expects to agree its final document, which will go to a government inspector for approval, in February 2018. 

So far there has been no indication of what TMBC thinks about the support for extending the Green Belt, and the many objections to the development of land in East Malling and Ditton, in the area of land bounded by the A20, the Maidstone- Borough Green railway line, Kiln Barn Lane and Hermitage Lane, where several thousand houses are proposed. 

Meanwhile several developers have submitted planning applications for large scale building on Hermitage Lane, in Aylesford Quarry, and London Road, West Malling. This gives the local authority a problem. The council could refuse these applications until its Local Plan is agreed. But if it does so, the applicants can appeal and a government inspector would then decide whether or not planning permission should be given. Concerns have been raised that an inspector may not, as TMBC would do, include conditions to ensure such things as adequate road access, public transport, and local amenities are provided by the developers. Cllr Trudy Dean said; “These kinds of binding agreements are critical to the Malling area where the main spine road of the A20 is already over capacity, and traffic congestion and pollution are major public issues.”

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Plans amended on Aylesford Newsprint site!

MEMBERS of East Malling and Larkfield Parish Council have met representatives of the agents for the former Aylesford Newsprint site to be updated on the latest position concerning the proposed redevelopment of the site. They are also going to meet other affected parish councils.

Work has started on demolishing the buildings and a record of those on site is being made so it can be deposited at Kent Archives. The applicants have lodged various reports with Tonbridge and Malling Council in answer to questions and issues raised and a revised statement in support of their application. These include more documents concerning highway impacts as required by the Highway Agency and KCC. Two more documents are due and then TMBC will re-consult including with affected parish councils.

The revised documents show two possible layouts with one showing a site for a new school if required by KCC. The proposals for the strip of land between the railway and the river have been amended to show a Riverside Park with play areas with the riverside path retained and improved. One of the bridges under the railway would be used as a pedestrian link. Housing would be confined to the Mill Hall end of the site.

The plans show as before an access out to Station Road from the housing site but this would not be for HGVs from the commercial site and would be designed accordingly. 

A site is shown to make use of existing boreholes to serve the general water supply to the whole wider area by SE Water.

The site for community facilities such as a GP surgery/medical centre and a small shop are retained and a proposed bus service would serve the site including a link to New Hythe Station.

The old mill pond next to the motorway would be retained as a feature, including the Ditton stream running through the site, linked to a series of green spaces and footpaths. There would be a green area separating the houses from the employment area which continues to be the biggest part of the site and which would create more jobs than the former Newsprint site.

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Help us to grow wildflower verges!

A PLAN to increase wildflower areas on roadside verges and corners of land in and around West Malling is being considered. 

Parish Councillors Richard Byatt and Trudy Dean met with KCC and Kent Wildlife Trust representatives to discuss how these areas can be managed to increase wildflower numbers. The major change is to ensure mowing only takes place after flowers have seeded. 

KCC will cut the grass but volunteers are needed to rake the longer grass to the back of the verge to allow the flower seeds to germinate. Parish Councillor Richard Selkirk is coordinating a team of gardeners who hopefully will help with this process. 

Parish council chairman Trudy Dean said: " KCC already has some protected wildflower verges but they are few and far between and none in this area. The ox-eye daisies on the A228 are widely admired. We hope that volunteers will enable us to significantly increase these beautiful areas we all enjoy, and raking the long grass is good for reptiles as well.”

If you are interested in taking part in this project please contact parish clerk Claire Christmas on clerk@westmallingpc.org.

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Have your say on bus proposals!

KENT County Council received about £100,000 from the developers of Ryarsh Brickworks to improve public transport links between Ryarsh and West Malling.

The council proposes to use it on improvememts to the 58 bus service. However, there are concerns that the “improvements” look set to deprive large numbers of Malling people of their only direct bus route to Maidstone Hospital and local shops.

KCC says it wants to use the money to increase the frequency of the existing number 58 bus timetable, but it is proposed that it runs only to New Road, when it would travel back into West Malling. This would leave passengers all along its current route, who want to travel to Maidstone Hospital, having to pick up other connecting bus services, all of which involve a trip into Maidstone town centre and out again. 

County Councillor Trudy Dean said: "The 58 bus provides the only direct route to Maidstone Hospital for a whole string of villages between Wrotham Heath and Aylesford. It also provides the only bus which runs through the old centre of East Malling via Clare Lane, and Mill Street. 

“I'm told there are no notices on the bus itself, so it's possible not many people are aware of the potential loss of this service.”

If you will be affected please email Dan Bruce at dan.bruce@kent.gov.uk with your views.

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DRAGONS’ DEN

COUNTY Councillor Trudy Dean is once again handing up to £2,000 to each of up to five local groups for projects for local people. This year the annual Dragons’ Den event will take place on the afternoon of November 18, courtesy of The Malling School at East Malling.

Groups from Larkfield, East Malling and West Malling can apply to bid for the money. Applicants have to give a three minute presentation to the audience on why they want the money and what they will spend it on, and at the end, everyone in the audience uses electronic voting pads to nominate their favourite projects.

The top five projects will receive funding from Cllr Dean’s KCC member’s grant. If you are interested in bidding for this money contact Anne.charman@kent.gov.uk for an application form.

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NEW HYTHE LANE WORKS ON TRACK TO FINISH BY 4th SEPTEMBER

The gasworks in New Hythe Lane were advertised as taking from 24th July to 4th September.  SGNs latest update says:

" SGN's work to upgrade the gas network in Larkfield is progressing well and is expected to be completed within the original schedule. The gas company appreciates that roadworks can be very frustrating and has expressed their thanks to Larkfield residents for your patience. They are replacing old metal gas mains with new plastic pipe, which means a continued safe and reliable gas supply to all of us in Larkfield for many years to come."

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Brexit blamed for 260 job losses as UK food supplier Southern Salads collapses into administration

A family-run company that supplied fresh salads to supermarkets, restaurants and travel chains across the UK has gone out of business, costing around 260 people their jobs.

Administrators say Southern Salads, based in Tonbridge, has ceased trading with immediate effect.

They confirmed all but a handful of its approximately 260 staff have been made redundant.

Despite successfully producing over 50 tonnes of salad per day for its array of customers, the company faced an unprecedented pressure on cash flow in the immediate aftermath of last summer’s EU referendum vote.

The sudden decline in sterling was not foreseen by the company, leaving the business grappling with an immediate fall of between 10% and 20% in its purchasing power for overseas-grown salads required for the winter and early spring UK market which in turn put a severe strain on cash-flow.

With insufficient protection from its currency hedging arrangements, pressure increased on cash-flow as the business traded through to this spring.

The company was unsuccessful in negotiating any significant changes to its pricing terms with its suppliers in mainland Europe, while also being unable to pass on its cost increases to supermarkets and its other customers.

The company relies on European suppliers for fresh vegetables and fruit from the Netherlands and Poland in the north to France, Italy and Spain in the south.

Cllr Antony Hook, South East Liberal Democrats Brexit Spokesman, said; 

"Liberal Democrats stand by all the people who have lost their jobs at Southern Salads.

This business's closure is reported to result from the fall in the pound following the Brexit vote.

The people who led the campaign for Brexit promised the public this would not happen, they promised lives would get better.

Instead, Brexit inflation is costing jobs as well as driving up prices for families' cost of living.

The public were misled.  We need to stop Brexit. We need to have another vote when the terms of exit are known so people can decide whether this is what we really want."

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Arriva Bus NO 58

KCC is suggesting the 58 route should become more frequent but at the same time proposes that, in effect, the service would not run eastwards beyond West Malling except to collect passengers from East Malling village in order to take them to West Malling to change buses. It would no longer serve Larkfield on the A20. Whilst more frequent journeys would be welcome, the loss of the route to Maidstone Hospital would be a blow to local people.

Cllr Trudy Dean would like to hear your views about this. Please email Trudy at trudy.dean@kent.gov.uk

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£1.4 MILLION TO PROTECT OUR LOCAL COUNTRYSIDE

The Heritage Lottery Fund has given £1.4 million to the "Old Chalk New Downs" project which will see North Downs chalk habitats restored and improvements to the paths leading onto the Downs from surrounding parishes like Larkfield.  The North Downs is the ridge of chalk hills overlooking villages of Trottiscliffe, Birling and Ryarsh. They stretch from Farnham in Surrey and end in the famous white chalk cliffs of Dover. Many nationally rare plants and insects including butterflies are found on chalk hills.

David Thornewell has been supporting this project. East Malling and Larkfield Parish Council offered up to £300 towards waymarking the paths in the northern area of the parish especially to try to improve the links in and out of the country park to the surrounding path network such as the bridge over the A228 out of the park and connecting to Brook Lane; and the paths at Abbey Meads and Snodland Common area between the railway and the river.

It's fantastic that the launch of the project will be held on October 15th at Leybourne Lakes.  Come along and meet the people involved.  You and your children can also learn about identifying wildlife and plants and maybe become 'chalkland champions'

See event poster below for more details.

 

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LOCAL PLAN : TMBC reply to 1,300 residents responses published

On Tuesday, TMBC published its response to the 1,300 replies it received from residents on the draft Local Plan which sets out development in the Borough till 2030. TMBC officers make very few proposals to change the views set out in the draft Local Plan. 

1. They will be sensitive to the need to keep Kings Hill and East Malling separate, but apparently still committed to developing Kings Hill further out into Broadwater Farm, despite having received the most objections to this proposal.  They may perhaps not propose the use of the entire site offered. 

2.  The Borough notes high support for extending the Green Belt eastwards towards East Malling to the bypass.  They also report having received the highest number of requests for an even greater extension covering more of the open farmland between East and West Malling.  These included:
219 residents supporting West Malling Parish Council's submission,
199 residents supporting the two online petitions for a further extension of the Green Belt,
and 30 residents supported the Offham Road residents' submission.


3.  Limited areas of Mr Betts farmland fronting onto Offham Road West Malling south of Fartherwell Avenue will for the first time be considered for development.

4. TMBC continue to support the development of former quarry land between Borough Green and M20. 

5.  Land at Aylesford Newsprint, land between London Road and the railway line West Malling, and land to the east of Hermitage Lane have all been ruled out, but only because ordinary planning applications have been submitted for these sites which, if granted, would mean they were not available as Local Plan sites but would count against the overall number of houses required.
 
It appears that the Borough Council is still opposed to housing on Aylesford Newsprint,  and this may persuade developers not to wait any longer for a TMBC decision (waited for over a year) from TMBC and go straight for an appeal hearing before a government inspector. 

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