Coun­cil­lors fu­ri­ous at bid to al­low of­fice use

Kent Messenger Maidstone - - FRONT PAGE - by Alan Smith aj­smith@thek­m­ @aj­smithKM

Maid­stone coun­cil­lors were lied to over plans for the Kent Med­i­cal Cam­pus, a mem­ber has al­leged.

A con­di­tion im­posed on the orig­i­nal grant of plan­ning per­mis­sion re­quired the of­fice space on the site off Bearsted Road, Maid­stone, only be used for busi­nesses “di­rectly associated with the life sci­ence, health care and med­i­cal ser­vice sec­tors.”

But now Har­vest­store Sys­tems (Hold­ings) Ltd has sub­mit­ted a plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion to have the con­di­tion re­moved - en­abling any type of busi­ness to take up the space.

Cllr Va­lerie Springett (Con) is ob­ject­ing and has asked for the ap­pli­ca­tion to be called in to the plan­ning com­mit­tee.

She said: “In a re­cent brief­ing by the de­vel­oper at the Town Hall, I specif­i­cally asked if the site would be de­vel­oped as per its in­tended med­i­cal/sci­ence re­lated busi­nesses and was re­as­sured it would.

“In the book­let handed out, the site is mar­keted as a ‘Flag­ship set­ting for best in class or­gan­i­sa­tions’, and as a ‘Cam­pus of like-minded or­gan­i­sa­tions with a health, sci­ence and ed­u­ca­tion fo­cus’.

“I to­tally sup­ported those aims but now feel as if I and the other coun­cil­lors who at­tended were lied to about the true in­tent for this site.”

Box­ley Parish Coun­cil has also said it re­gret­ted “the wa­ter­ing down” of the med­i­cal cam­pus con­cept.

DHA Plan­ning, the agents for the de­vel­oper, said there had been in­suf­fi­cient in­ter­est from med­i­cal-re­lated busi­nesses to take up the al­lo­ca­tion.

But Cllr Springett said: “The Lo­cal Plan was adopted just a few months ago and it is surely too soon within the plan pe­riod, which runs to 2031, to per­mit a change in the as­pi­ra­tions for this site.”

She said the coun­cil should stick to its guns at least un­til the re­view of the Lo­cal Plan sched­uled for 2025 at which point any ev­i­dence of de­mand for non-med­i­cal or sci­ence re­lated of­fice space could be pro­vided.

She said al­low­ing the re­moval of the con­di­tion would also see an ex­cess of space needed for of­fices un­der the Lo­cal Plan.

A sim­i­lar point has been made by Robert Sin­clair, a pro­fes­sional prop­erty ad­vi­sor from Leeds, who pointed out a gov­ern­ment in­spec­tor had al­lowed per­mis­sion for a light in­dus­trial and of­fice de­vel­op­ment at Wood­cut Farm at Bearsted on the grounds it would meet the town’s of­fice need.

To now al­low of­fices at the Kent Med­i­cal Cam­pus would un­der­cut de­mand at Wood­cut and could lead to a re­quest for more in­dus­try at Wood­cut, he said.

Mr Sin­clair added: “If the in­spec­tor had been told of the of­fice po­ten­tial at the med­i­cal cam­pus, he prob­a­bly would never have al­lowed the ap­pli­ca­tion at Wood­cut.”

An artist’s im­pres­sion of the Kent Med­i­cal Cam­pus, top, but Robert Sin­clair and Cllr Va­lerie Springett say chang­ing the con­di­tion would have plan­ning im­pli­ca­tions

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