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A view from the cycle footpath of part of the land earmarked for the Purns Mill Legacy Project.

Developers have met representatives from Gillingham Town Council to discuss a possible development of land between the conservation areas of Colesbrook and Milton-on-Stour for what is called the Purns Mill Legacy Project.

The potential scheme – for which no application has yet been submitted but which is almost certain to be controversial – would involve a sizeable development on what is currently farmland just off the B 3092 and next to the cycle and pedestrian footpath to Milton primary school (see marked areas on map below).

Purns Mill Legacy Project plan
The land earmarked for the possible Purns Mill Legacy Project

The developers Vortal Homes Limited outlined possible plans which include:

– A leisure facility

– A small number of homes for those with special needs

– A care home facility

– First Homes

– Self-build Homes

– Bungalows

– Sensitive landscaping

– Investigation of the use of green energy generation at Purns Mill

The online meeting took place with members of the council’s Developer Engagement Advisory Panel (DEAP) whose purpose is to inform developers of the town’s planning priorities under the Neighbourhood Plan.

It does not include any councillors who sit on the town’s planning committee but on Monday night members of that committee were shown a brief report about the meeting with Vortal Homes.

During the meeting with Vortal the DEAP made clear to the developers about the planning priorities, needs and wishes for the town. These included:

  • Gillingham can meet its current housing numbers within the development on the southern extension.

  • The development at St Martins in Queen Street will provide 62 extra-care residential units.

  • First time buyers will be catered for in the southern extension and at the new development East of Barnaby Mead.

  • The new development East of Barnaby Mead will provide bungalows.

  • Figure 11.7 on page 51 of the Gillingham Neighbourhood Plan states that there should be important open gaps to retain the character of Milton-on-Stour as a separate village and to retain the distinct character of Colesbrook as a separate hamlet.

  • Policy 22 of the Gillingham Neighbourhood Plan states that development that would reduce the openness of the Important Open Gaps listed in Figure 11.7 will not be permitted.

  • The current provision of formal outdoor sports provision (playing pitches) is well below the recommended levels.

  • Policy 17 of the Gillingham Neigbourhood Plan states that further land for formal sports across the neighbourhood area will be required and should be located within the areas of search identified in Figure 11.2. The area north of Colesbrook is identified in Figure 11.2 as an area of search.

  • The Purns Mill Legacy Project covers an area between the Colesbrook Conservation Area and the Milton-on-Stour Conservation Area. Both of these areas are of special historic interest, the character and appearance of which should be preserved or enhanced.

As there has as yet been no application, and Vortal Homes are said to be planning to consult with residents of Milton and Colesbrook about the scheme, and are in pre-application talks with the planning authority Dorset Council.

At Monday’s planning meeting there was no vote and no views were expressed on the details of the possible plans as there has been no application.

But a number of councillors wondered whether the Neighbourhood Plan needed reviewing and potentially strengthening to ensure that local people’s wishes were taken into account for future developments in and around the town.

Purns Mill, otherwise known as Parham’s Mill, was famously painted by John Constable in the 1820s. The view from the mill towards Milton has remained largely unchanged since then.

Purns Mill Constable
The painting of Parham’s Mill or Purns Mill by John Constable.
From the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England.
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  1. Richard Gale
    10 November 2020 at 8:34 pm — Reply

    “Investigation of the use of green energy generation at Purns Mill” – Speak in plain English. Does this mean a solar panel farm or a wind turbine?

  2. Richard Gale
    10 November 2020 at 8:38 pm — Reply

    …and does ‘Investigation of’ infer ‘permission to build’? These are the things Vortal Homes and the council need to answer clearly.

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