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Revised plans to build 50 new homes east of Barnaby Mead in the middle of Gillingham have been formally and unanimously opposed by town councillors.

The new plans, which include a small block of flats on the highest point of the site, were dismissed as overbearing, unneighbourly, out of keeping with the character of the area and over-development.

Councillors also objected to the fact that plans to plant a row of trees 5.5 metres tall could block out all sunlight from a neighbouring solar farm or ‘array’.

Councillor Barry Von Clemens, the town’s mayor, told fellow members of the town’s planning committee on Monday 13 January: ‘What’s going on with this block of flats in the middle? It’s going to be obtrusive, it’s ridiculous.’

Barnaby Mead
One of the illustrations from the design statement by Aster Homes about the development.

Deputy mayor, Councillor Paul Harris, said: ‘I’m just gob-smacked that they are thinking about planting a number of trees that will grow to 5.5 metres. Why can’t it just be a hedge?’ Councillor Harris accepted that there was going to be a development there as outline planning permission had already been granted for the site. But he said: ‘Let’s get what suits everybody rather than just having this carbuncle dropped on us.’

And Councillor Mike Gould said: ‘When developments like this occur we have to object and we have to continue to object to make sure that we get what we want – we are after enhancing this town not denigrating it.’

A number of local residents also spoke out against the plans, which have been revised since Dorset planners rejected the original plans from developers Aster Homes in 2019.

Resident Ann Hicks conceded that some aspects of the new plans were better, including proposals for some bungalows. But she complained about the flats and said that talk from Aster Homes that they had been open to consulting with local residents had turned out to be ‘rubbish’.

And Joe Kelliher, owner of the neighbouring Bay Farm with the solar ‘array’ or farm said: ‘Approval of this plan will shut down this array permanently. The Bay Farm solar array will simply just stop generating green renewable electricity.’

In its application Aster Homes says its aim is ‘to create sustainable and well-designed efficient developments, planned to respond positively to local context and promote environmentally-friendly activity patterns.’

It adds: ‘The landscape strategy is intended to create a comprehensive green infrastructure network linking the existing setting of the Site to the proposed development in order to provide an attractive green environment for the user of the site.’

The application will now go to the planning authority, Dorset Council, for their decision.

Barnaby Mead
One of the illustrations from the design statement by Aster Homes about the development.
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