Residents raise concerns over farm buildings plan
By Sevenoaks Chronicle | Thursday, August 29, 2013, 08:00
CONTROVERSIAL plans for a 30,000 square metre farm centre near Ide Hill were being scrutinised by residents this week after finally being published by Sevenoaks District Council.
The Save Mackerels Plain Action Group
The long-awaited proposal for the new development in Mackerels Plain, Goathurst Common, has now been validated by the council and letters have been sent out to residents.
As part of the Montreal Estate, owned by Jules and Sue Green, the new complex will consist of a new farm office, grain store, fertiliser store, tractor store, chemical store, machinery store, farm workshop, woodchip store, wood storage yard, straw barn, beef unit and herdsman's cottage.
The application also proposes to make improvements to the alignment of the junction between Back Lane and the B2042 which the Greens say will improve highway safety and convenience.
In addition the Greens plan to create a permissive footpath between Mackerels Plain and the Ide Hill Village Hall, which they hope will lead to safer pedestrian access for the residents of Goathurst Common and Whitely Row.
Their existing farm centre at Salters Heath was deemed inappropriately located in relation to the arable land and woodland on the 1,030 hectare estate.
The Greens also thought the buildings at Salters Heath were not fit for modern agricultural practices, which is why an alternative was sought.
According to the application the Montreal Estate currently farms 1,200 acres of arable land, producing a minimum of 3,500 tonnes of crop per year.
But the application says the granary building at Salters Heath can only store 1,100 tonnes of grain at any one time.
After a sequential site search was undertaken across the estate, Mackerels Plain was chosen as the most appropriate and least sensitive location.
The owners also hope the move to Mackerels Plain, which is close to the centre of their estate, will reduce vehicle journey distances, while they also plan to upgrade internal tracks to take a proportion of their farm traffic off the local roads.
Developing Mackerels Plain, they argue: "Will facilitate the long-term stewardship of the Montreal Estate, will generate employment, and will render the agricultural land use sustainable into the future."
The application, produced by Iceni Projects, also states the proposal is: "compliant with green belt and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty policy, and will not cause material harm to the landscape, to residential amenity, to highways safety/convenience, to ecology or to arboriculture."
Simon Miller, a civil engineer who lives in one of the three houses which back onto the proposed site, says he spent the bank holiday weekend reading through the 62 documents published on the council's planning website.
He added: "I'm still trying to make sense of it all. But there seem to be a lot of inconsistencies between the different reports.
"I also have about 60 significant concerns with what's in the documents and feel there are a number of things mentioned now that we were not consulted on.
"But it is currently hard to make any overall assessment about the application as it is not always clear and is lacking a lot of detail."
The application has a target determination date of November 15.