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Newspaper Columns

KM Column - West Malling Planning - 29 August 2019

Today marks the end of an experience that many in West Malling haven’t faced before. It’s the last day of the hearing for the application to build homes next to St Mary’s Abbey, at the junction of Swan Street and Lavenders Road. Tomorrow the site inspection will take place but no questions can be asked. After that, it’s up to the Planning Inspector alone. 

In our community, here in West Kent, we all know the pressures on housing. We know how much it costs to start out in life, how hard it is to find anywhere to call home near friends and family, and to keep our families close. But we know the other side too. We know the impact badly placed development can have. We know that building in the wrong place, in the wrong way can change the character of a place completely. We know the need for housing, but we also know the cost. 

That’s why, even though I know that families need homes, and we need those homes to be built, some sites really aren’t right. The village has said just that to the Planning Inspector about this land in West Malling.

Volunteers have worked tirelessly to fight this planning application. Raising £15,000 shows it has the backing of most in the community and Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council have been clear what side they’re on.

 But it’s not up to us anymore. The Planning Inspector is independent and has to make her decision based on the planning merits of the case, nothing else. And my influence, as your MP, is limited. If she follows correct process, then her decision will stand. That’s why I don’t get involved in planning, the law doesn’t let me change the outcome.

I don’t see how this application can go through. The arguments are so clear and the cost to the community so obvious that I firmly expect only one answer. But as we all know, decisions can go the way we least expect. So, I am preparing to ask the Secretary of State to review the application personally. This would be the final chance for the community to have their say and for the right decision to be reached. Let’s hope we don’t need it.

Georgie Welford