Swale council set to approve controversial 380 homes development in Tonge

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Additional reporting by John Nurden

A controversial development of almost 400 homes in a village is set to go ahead despite residents’ fears of overdevelopment and congestion.

Developers Trenport have lodged documents with Swale council showing outline plans for a 380-home development in Tonge, intended as a “high quality new residential-led logical extension” to Sittingbourne.

Developers Trenport want to build 380 homes on land in Tonge near Sittingbourne. Picture: Swale council planning document

The homes will range from one-bedroom apartments to four-bed family houses, and the development will include cycle paths, open spaces and “extensive landscaping and biodiversity enhancement”.

Council planning officers say “the scheme is of good quality with carefully considered parameter and design code,” and that “a major benefit of the scheme would be in providing new community facilities for the area and infrastructure for the safeguarding and extension of the 349 bus road”.

The developers are also obliged to contribute money for local services, such as GP surgeries and schools, based on the number of houses to be built as part of something called a 106 agreement.

The local authority received two letters of support for the scheme from residents, with one – Michele Topham – arguing the development “will help people to get back on the property ladder and help Sittingbourne.”

However, 60 letters objecting to the scheme were sent in by concerned residents.

People fear the picturesque tranquility of Tonge, with its beautiful mill, could be lost
People fear the picturesque tranquility of Tonge, with its beautiful mill, could be lost

Jayne Burr, of nearby village Teynham, wrote: “It is tragic that villages and hamlets surrounding Sittingbourne are being consumed by development.”

Rick Playford, also of Teynham, told the planning department that “this proposal is the latest in an apparently unending assault upon the environment and quality of life of residents of villages near Sittingbourne.

“Existing, approved developments are leading to increased road congestion and pollution, and this will only get worse if further development is permitted.

“This development is out of scale for local villages, will destroy village individuality, degrade the environment and quality of life, and will overload local services.

“The proposal will only benefit vested interests, to the detriment of existing residents,” he added.

Barbara and Barry Marshall expressed their fears that “the impact on wildlife would be disastrous”.

“The proposal will only benefit vested interests, to the detriment of existing residents”

They added: “There is so much building planned for Swale area, surely this little corner could be left alone for people and wildlife to enjoy.”

If approved, the development will be built in phases, meaning that 212 homes will be built, and the remainder will go ahead only if Swale council’s local plan does not include a requirement to “safeguard land”.

Planning chiefs are recommending the outline application is approved at an extraordinary meeting of Swale council’s planning committee tomorrow at 7pm.

It will be heard alongside two other applications nearby – one on Tonge Road and another on Lomas Road, for 30 houses between them – both of which are also set for approval.

Maurice Dunk, chairman of Sittingbourne Football Club and leader of the rock band Marvelous Mo and the Backline Ferrets, lives in the area and opposes the plans.

Maurice Dunk, pictured her performing as Marvelous Mo and the Backline Ferrets, believes the homes are in the wrong place in Sittingbourne.  Picture: John Nurden
Maurice Dunk, pictured her performing as Marvelous Mo and the Backline Ferrets, believes the homes are in the wrong place in Sittingbourne. Picture: John Nurden

He said: “The original plans said 90 houses, which was bad enough, but then it went to 330. Now 380 houses is just ridiculous.

“It is going to leave no room for the northern relief road.

“Getting out of Murston now is bad already and the Great Easthall new-builds didn’t help.

“I know we need houses but this area has always been tricky to deal with. The 90 houses may have worked but not 380. There must be somewhere better they can go.”

He added: “Murston is already a mix of old and new. It isn’t well balanced, the extra bins, cars and nowhere to park will just add to the issues the relief road was meant to solve.”

The land, west of Church Road, is identified as being suitable for 106 houses, as well as employment and open space, in Swale council’s current Local Plan.

But neighbors were shocked when developer Trenport revealed plans to increase that to 330 at a presentation at Lakeview Community Center last April.

Following the public exhibition, Trenport amended its original plans to include space for a shop, additional play areas, improved accessibility to the north and south as well as extended pedestrian footpaths and cycleways.

Eilish Smeaton, planning director for Trenport, said: “This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for all of Sittingbourne.

“Not only are we providing brand new homes which help Swale council hit its five-year land supply, we will also be able to open up this currently private site for public access.

“We’re really excited about what we can do here for the people of Sittingbourne, especially preserving the woodland and delivering brand new amenities such as community green areas, tree line enhancements and allotments.”

The northern relief road, designed to connect the Swale Way with the A2 at Bapchild, was first suggested in 1975.

A spokeswoman for Swale council said land for a relief road was being “safeguarded”.

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