Builders by­pass coun­cil over plan for new school

Kent Messenger Maidstone - - FRONT PAGE - By Natalie Tip­ping ntip­ping@thek­m­group.co.uk @ntip­pingKM

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

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