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Council Challenged on Brownfield Sites as building targets rise to 19,000 new houses

June 5, 2013 4:02 PM


An audit of brown-field sites for development is to be drawn up with the help of local communities, following an initiative by Liberal Democrats. This is an alternative to Maidstone Borough Council's Conservative administration and its "call for sites", 90% of which are green fields.

In a major new i nitiative, Cllr Tony Harwood, Lib Dem planning spokesman, is calling on local people, parish councils and community groups to send him suggestions. He is especially keen to hear of empty office blocks and under-used urban spaces that could be adapted for housing. At the same time he will also ask local people to identify agricultural or amenity space in their area that must be protected.

The move comes as Liberal Democrats have discovered that under current council policy, Maidstone will end up building 19,400 houses, almost 5,000 more than the 14,800 the Conservatives are already committed to.

"Maidstone and its villages deserve proper planning," says Jasper Gerard, Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesman. "The Conservatives have simply asked developers to offer sites, anywhere. Because green fields are cheaper to build on, these are what developers are putting forward - knowing full well they will later also get permission to convert the office blocks and disused warehouses.

"Demand for housing in the South East is virtually limitless: 15,000 houses become 20,000 and then 30,000. We must challenge the assumption that we can just carry on building. As recently revealed, these targets are not being set by national government but by the Conservative council here in Maidstone."

This was endorsed by Cllr Harwood: "Development of our Borough must be on local people's terms, with quality of life and protection of our precious environment influencing the pattern and scale of house building - it is far too important to be left to developers and council officials. That is why we want everyone involved.