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Fight over controversial green belt Meopham build goes on

PUBLISHED: 12:55 16 December 2010 | UPDATED: 14:23 16 December 2010

Alex Hills at the the Green belt land which has now become overgrown with shrubbery and trees

Alex Hills at the the Green belt land which has now become overgrown with shrubbery and trees

Archant

A storm over a controversial development plan earmarked for Green Belt land is set to rumble on despite receiving planning permission.

The green light given at a council committee meeting to proposals for a 50-unit sheltered housing complex on Green Belt land at Meopham is being challenged.

Plans were passed by just one vote at Gravesham’s Regulatory Board last Wednesday and now there are calls for the issue to go to a public appeal.

Alex Hills, spokesman for Protect Kent, the county’s branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said he would be asking Gravesham MP Adam Holloway to make formal representations to the government because he believes there is a definite case for the matter to be “called in”.

“It would be unusual for an application of this size to be called in, but, apart from anything else, there was huge local opposition,” he said.

“I am also writing to Gravesham council formally objecting about its officers. There were procedural errors and serious concerns that the board was misled by the officers.”

Chairman of the council’s independent regulatory board, councillor Harold Craske, rejected any accusations of irregularities. He said: “This item has been discussed more than once and at great length by elected members from all parties. There has been a site meeting and plenty of opportunity for objections.

“In the end the committee members voted, democratically, to approve the scheme. Any suggestion that this is anything other than democratic flies in the face of reality.”

At the meeting, councillor Leslie Hills questioned the project. He said: “Exceptions are allowed for small projects that meet community need. I would not argue this was a small site and would question the research into the need.”

However, councillor John Burden supported the project, saying that the rising age of Gravesham’s population created a need.

“I have always voted against building on Green Belt, but in my opinion the rural community requires this facility,” he said.

Plans were put forward by housing company SJP Group. Its director Ralph Levy said there was a clear, identified need. “There is no owner-occupied sheltered housing in the rural areas of the borough,” he said. “This has been a yawning omission in our housing stock.”

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