Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Town Hall, High Street, Maidstone

Contact: Debbie Snook  01622 602030 Email:

No. Item




It was noted that apologies were received from Councillor B Mortimer.



Notification of Substitute Members


Councillor D Mortimer was present as a substitute for Councillor B Mortimer.



Election of Chairman




1)  That Councillor J Sams be elected as Chairman of the Committee.


2)  That the election of a Vice Chairman is not required as it is the last meeting of this Committee for this municipal year.



Urgent Items


The Chairman stated that there was an urgent update relating to item 13. Land at Woodcut Farm, Ashford Road, Hollingbourne, Maidstone, Kent.



Notification of Visiting Members


The following visiting members were present, and indicated they wished to speak on item 13. Land at Woodcut Farm, Ashford Road, Hollingbourne, Maidstone, Kent:

·  Councillor Prendergast

·  Councillor Garten

·  Councillor Perry

·  Councillor Newton

·  Councillor Springett

·  Councillor Spooner

·  Councillor Powell

·  Councillor Clark

·  Councillor Garland


The following visiting members were present at the meeting and did not indicate that they wished to speak on items on the agenda:


·  Councillor Stockell

·  Councillor Ring

·  Councillor Blackmore

·  Councillor Cuming



Disclosures by Members and Officers


There were no disclosures by members and Officers.



Disclosures of lobbying


All members of the Committee had been lobbied on item 13. Land at Woodcut Farm, Ashford Road, Hollingbourne, Maidstone, Kent.



Exempt Items


RESOLVED: That the exempt appendix on Part II of the agenda be taken in private.



Minutes of the meeting held on 11 May 2015 pdf icon PDF 48 KB


RESOLVED: That the minutes (Part I and II) of the meeting held on 11 May 2015 be approved as a correct record and signed.



Presentation of Petitions (if any)


There were no petitions.



Question and Answer Session for Members of the Public (if any)


Mr John Horne made asked the following question of the Chairman:


As Woodcut Farm has twice been refused by your Planning Committee colleagues, do you feel let down that Officers do not feel inclined to defend that position, despite their inadequate drafting on the grounds for refusal?


The Chairman responded that Officers had given professional advice to the Planning Committee both with respect to the original consideration of proposals for Woodcut farm and subsequently with respect to the appeal. The reason for refusal was based upon the discussion and grounds put forward by Members at the original Planning Committee meeting.


In addition Officers have ensured that the position concerning the reasons for refusal agreed by the Planning Committee had been properly reviewed given the change in circumstances arising from the Local Plan Examination. This was good practice.


Officers had continued to give their professional advice to Councillors at this Committee.


Consideration of the matter at the Planning Referrals Committee was in line with the Council’s agreed Constitutional procedure on such matters.


Mr Horne then asked the following supplementary question:


If the Committee decides to continue to defend the appeal tonight, will you mandate officers to strongly defend the appeal, despite the fact that the costs represented only 0.5% of the New Homes Bonus that is due to be received by this council from central government?


The Chairman responded that the Council would ask Officers to provide a robust defence of the appeal grounds if the Committee was minded to continue the defence of the appeal.


Mr Gary Thomas asked the following question of the Chairman:


As the Planning Inspector has not yet issued his final report on MBC’s Draft Local Plan, will it be reasonable for your Committee to be asked to assume that Woodcut Farm is firmly in the final Plan?


The Chairman responded that the Committee was considering the position in the context of the stage that the Local Plan had reached, decisions that Full Council and the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transport Committee had made and the outcomes of the Local Plan Examination.


The new Local Plan was at an advanced stage and the Council had prepared a comprehensive evidence base to underpin the Plan, which included an objective assessment of the amount and type of new employment land that will be required to 2031.


The Woodcut Farm allocation had been considered and agreed by Full Council.


Woodcut farm was by far the largest B class employment allocation in the Plan; it addressed the evidenced need for a strategically well-located employment site in the borough and was consistent with the Council’s Economic Development Strategy which was also agreed by Full Council.


The Local Plan’s approach to employment land, including the allocation of Woodcut Farm, was discussed at length and in detail during the Local Plan hearings.  Following this full debate, and as outlined at paragraph 5.16 of the main report, the advice from Officers was that the Inspector had endorsed the general principle of the Woodcut Farm  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.


Report of the Head of Planning and Development - Application 15/503288/OUT - Land at Woodcut Farm, Ashford Road, Hollingbourne, Maidstone, Kent pdf icon PDF 111 KB

Additional documents:


At the beginning of the item, members of the public spoke against the Officer recommendation for the Committee to ‘agree that the sole reason for refusal recorded in the Council’s decision notice, should not be defended at appeal’. The members of the public who spoke on this item were:


·  Councillor Mrs Cheryl Taylor Maggio, speaking on behalf of the Kent Association of Local Councils

·  Councillor Horne, speaking on behalf of the Joint Parishes Group

·  Mr Roger Vidler, speaking on behalf of the Bearsted and Thurnham Society

·  Mr Gary Thomas, speaking on behalf of the Campaign to Protect Rural England

·  Councillor Bennett, speaking on behalf of Hollingbourne Parish Council


Following public speaking, the Principle Planning Officer and Head of Planning and Development made a presentation to the committee which summarised the Council’s current position in relation to planning application MA/15/503288/OUT – Land at Woodcut Farm, Ashford Road, Hollingboure, Kent:


·  The application was originally taken to Planning Committee on 30 June 2016, with an officer recommendation to approve the application. The committee resolved to refuse the application due to it being harmful to the character of the countryside, Special Landscape Area and the setting of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and any benefits were considered to be outweighed by this harm. The Committee also gave the grounds for refusal that the development would cause less that substantial harm to a Grade II listed building (Woodcut Farm) and the public benefits were not considered to outweigh this harm. At this stage the local plan was an early draft and had not been examined by the Inspector.

·  The developers appealed against this refusal. The appeal commenced on 27 January 2017 and a public enquiry was due to commence on 10 October 2017.

·  Since the application was refused, and before the public enquiry was due to commence, the Draft Local Plan was examined at public hearings and the Inspector published his Interim Findings. The Woodcut Farm site was an allocated employment site in the Draft Local Plan, and the Inspector did not request that the site was rejected (as he did with several housing sites) and did not dispute the figures given for proposed employment need.

·  Continuing to sustain the grounds for refusal at appeal could lead to the council being liable for paying costs. This was because the refusal was contrary to the Draft Local Plan policies, an employment allocation had been made at the site in the Draft Local Plan and the refusal did not recognise the site’s importance in providing for the employment need in the borough.

·  A new application for the site had also been received by Council, which at the time of the meeting appeared to be policy compliant with the Local Plan.


After the officers made their presentation, Visiting Members spoke on this item. The following visiting members spoke against the Officer recommendation to not defend the reasons for refusal at appeal:

·  Councillor Perry

·  Councillor Garten

·  Councillor Prendergast

·  Councillor Springett

·  Councillor Spooner

·  Councillor Newton

·  Councillor  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.


Duration of Meeting


6.32 p.m. to 8.23 p.m.