Builders bypass council over plan for new school
The decision on whether the County Town will get another secondary school now lies with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, not the local planning authority.
BAM Construction, which applied for permission to create the Maidstone School of Science and Technology on behalf of the Valley Invicta Academies Trust ( VIAT), filed for non-determination two days before last week’s planning committee meeting, saying a decision had not been made in time.
It means secretary of state Sajid Javid will have the final say on the Valley Invicta site, off New Cut Road, rather than Maidstone council.
Plans were submitted in March, and had last been deferred in August due to councillors’ concerns about landscaping and transport issues.
Councillors still spent close to two hours discussing the application last Thursday.
Cllr Tony Harwood (Lib Dem, North ward) said: “The established planning framework is that dialogue should take place to overcome concerns and problems arising from the application.
“It’s very, very unfortunate this applicant has chosen not to negotiate on issues raised.
“They do not want any conditions, what they want is the application that’s on the papers, but this falls short in many respects, particularly in terms of landscape.
“They’re taking out trees that are many, many hundreds of years old, and are saying it’s three new trees for one old tree, but it’s not like for like.”
Cllr Clive English (Lib Dem, High Street ward), committee chairman, echoed Cllr Harwood’s sentiments.
He said: “I have been on this council and Tovil Parish Council for a long time, and I’ve never met a more hostile applicant.
“They have absolutely refused to discuss anything, down to the colour of the render on the building, and have appealed at literally the last minute before we were actually quite likely to grant consent, because they did not want any conditions imposed or any negotiations, that’s been quite clear all along.”
Despite their frustrations, councillors decided with necessary conditions, they would have approved the application.
VIAT has confirmed that due to delays, the school, which would cater for 1,200 students and was due to open in September 2018, will now not open until the following year.
A date for the final decision has not yet been set.
Cllr Clive English
Cllr Tony Harwood