BACKLASH OVER MEDICAL CAMPUS
Councillors furious at bid to allow office use
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