The plans by property developers Fairfax to construct 85 new homes on a field off Common Mead Lane in Gillingham have been described as ‘desecration’ and ‘vandalism’ by a town councillor.
On Monday night members of Gillingham Town Council’s planning committee voted unanimously to recommend rejection of the plans by the company to build the houses behind The Mellowes care home.
Councillor Mike Gould told the online meeting: ‘It’s pretty obvious that the residents of Gillingham do not want this application to be approved. In my opinion if this application is approved it would be a pure act of desecration and vandalism on this green field site in a rural part of England. And it’s totally against the wishes of the residents of Gillingham.’
His fellow committee member Councillor Roger Weeks pointed to the number of objections to the plans that had been sent to councillors by residents. ‘I feel very very strongly that we here to represent those people – that’s what we are here for. If this were to be approved then there is something seriously wrong somewhere,’ he said.
The town’s mayor and committee member Barry Von Clemens said his main concern was about the increase in traffic the development would lead to on Common Mead Lane.
But he and other councillors also pointed out that the plans were contrary to the town’s Neighbourhood Plan, which designated the land as an amenity area.
‘I thought I would back up the citizens off Gillingham who quite clearly know our town and do not want it ringed [by development],’ Councillor Von Clemens said.
‘That’s what the neighbourhood plan was there to do. Over 5 years of work cannot be ignored simply because somebody wants to make a buck on a field.’
And Councillor Sharon Cullingford pointed out that nearly 2,400 applications for homes had already been approved in the Gillingham area.
‘What we are short of is outdoor recreation fields which is exactly what this field was put aside for in our Neighbourhood Plan,’ she told fellow councillors.
‘Gillingham does not need this at the moment.’
Local residents also spoke at the meeting against the plans, citing the impact on the lane in both directions, including through the hamlet of Eccliffe, on wildlife, climate and the residents of the care home.
Councillors also said that the development breached not just the Neighbourhood Plan but national guidelines and the existing Local Plan.
However, under the new draft Local Plan being proposed by Dorset Council the land is earmarked as a ‘preferred’ site for housing development.
Fairfax has stated that their application ‘contains a number of detailed professional surveys and reports which confirm that our proposed development is entirely appropriate and sustainable in this location’.
The decision on the application will be made by the planning authority Dorset Council.