Update November 2020
Maidstone Borough Council’s recent release of their regulation 18B consultation on preferred sites in its new emerging Local Plan has, again brought central government’s pursuit of residential sites into focus. We understand MBC intend to challenge the significantly increased housing number allocated to Maidstone and may be seeking to challenge the method of calculation, however, in the meantime it must progress matters and get its new Local Plan formulated and adopted as soon as possible or it runs the risk of being exposed to aggressive approaches from developers, and an ‘open season’ situation without policies in place to control and police such planning applications.
None of us like change, but with its proximity to Maidstone and its ‘larger village’ status it is inevitable that Boughton Monchelsea will be required to take some of the burden of providing some of the further allocated housing.
Your Parish Council is very conscious of this, and we continue to monitor the situation closely and to take a proactive view, rather than sit back and be dictated to regarding both housing numbers and, in particular, appropriate locations for such developments.
As a parish we are the envy of not only every other parish in Maidstone, but indeed parishes nationwide in that we are in a unique position due to the land BMAT holds, and we continuously review the situation regarding changes to the planning system.
Recap of what BMAT is and does
The members of the Parish Council had great vision when in 1994 they formed BMAT with the primary objective being to protect Boughton Monchelsea from the march of urban sprawl to the south east of Maidstone. It is worth noting that without the protection of any green belt designation, Maidstone, and its immediate hinterland, will always be vulnerable and a target for residential developers.
During the last 26 years BMAT has acquired, and has control of over 300 acres of land in the parish, (principally in the belt of land arching across the north of the parish, as well as in and around the village itself), to prevent us being absorbed into south Maidstone and preserving our largely rural character and identity. We continue to investigate further land when opportunities arise.
Boughton Monchelsea parish has made a very clear commitment to improving the environment and combating climate change. Through our ‘Friends of BMAT’ initiative we have landscape projects coming forward which involve re-wilding significant areas of BMAT land including extensive tree planting to re-establish substantial areas of woodland creating a landscaped country park in the heart of the parish.
Our Parish Council Chairman, Borough Cllr Munford, co-heads MBC’s Climate Change & Biodiversity Emergency Committee so we are at the forefront of environmental matters in the borough, indeed our re-wilding project is seen as an exemplar.
Obviously, all projects require funding, and whilst grant aid is available for some of our projects, with BMAT having no source of income we are constantly looking at ways in which other important landscape improvement projects can be supported.
Nationwide Housing Demand
The pressure to identify residential development land continues unabated in the government’s search for sites to meet the enormous shortage of housing we have in the UK. You may be aware that the government is intending to change and simplify planning legislation still further so housing developments can come forward more easily and be built and delivered quicker to meet the demand and help re-stimulate the economy as we emerge from the pandemic. A White Paper is going through parliament at the moment.
It has also been muted that the government is investigating and considering simplifying compulsory purchase powers and the overall process in order to gain control over potential development sites. With this in mind, we are exploring ways in which we may further protect BMAT’s land holdings to combat such action.
As mentioned above, ‘nobody likes change’ and indeed we, of course, recognise that you cannot please ‘all the people all of the time’. However, I would like to reassure you that the Parish Council devotes a large proportion of its time considering all aspects of town planning related matters whilst always keeping the interests of the parish, its parishioners, and the strategic aims and objectives of BMAT at the forefront of their minds to protect where it can the parish of Boughton Monchelsea, for its Residents and future generations.