Maidstone Borough Council led Garden Community Proposal

Embracing Growth and Enabling Infrastructure

Maidstone Borough Council published a ‘Garden Communities’ prospectus in Spring 2019 as part of the ‘call for sites’ exercise for the Local Plan Review.


What is a Garden Community?

They are large scale new developments that will create well-planned, sustainable places for people to live. To help meet the need for 300,000 new homes in England every year, garden communities create new housing, infrastructure, jobs and services in sustainable communities. The main characteristics are:

  • a purpose-built new settlement, or large extension to an existing town
  • a community with a clear identity and attractive environment
  • a mix of homes, including affordable and self-build
  • planned by local authorities or private sector in consultation with the local community

As well as building new homes, the new communities develop:

  • job opportunities
  • attractive green space and public realm areas
  • transport infrastructure, including roads, buses and cycle routes
  • community infrastructure, schools, community and health centres
  • a plan for long-term stewardship of community assets

Why is Maidstone Borough Council considering this as an option?

One of the priorities within Maidstone Borough Council’s new Strategic Plan is to “embrace growth and enable infrastructure” through which the Council aims to achieve the following:

  • The Council leads master planning and invests in new places which are well designed
  • Key employment sites are delivered
  • Housing need is met including affordable housing
  • Sufficient infrastructure is planned to meet the demands of growth

Within the first five years of the plan, the Council will place importance on the following:

  • Taking a proactive role in creating and consider investing in new places
  • Expanding the Council’s role in the delivery of affordable and market rent housing
  • Working with partners to get infrastructure planned, funded and delivered

These are the priorities and outcomes that MBC has set itself and feels that a Council led garden community could be a means as to how these aspirations might be achieved.

Furthermore, the Maidstone Local Plan is currently being reviewed and extended, and this review means that there is a need to plan for greater housing growth with effect from 2022.

Who would lead this?

Whilst development within the borough is predominantly private sector led but regulated by the Council acting as the Local Planning Authority (LPA), the Council is also a property developer and landowner. Accordingly, MBC can develop its own proposals that are ultimately considered by the LPA, in the same way as they are for any other property developer or landowner. Therefore, the possibility of a Council led garden community proposal, whilst at a very early stage, has been developed by MBC acting as master-developer.

How would this happen?

Maidstone Borough Council aspires to act as the master-developer for the proposal and so broadly undertake the following tasks:

  • Secure the land options
  • Promote the proposal through the Local Plan Review process
  • Create an exemplar master-plan and securing an outline planning consent
  • Create a design code
  • Create an infrastructure plan possibly supported by third-party investment
  • Create a stewardship structure
  • Install high quality management arrangements
  • Bring in development partners to undertake phased development of land parcels

Where would this happen?

The LPA published all the ‘call for sites’ submissions on 4th November 2019; at this point the general public were able to view the vision document for the proposal. This document sets out the broad ‘search’ area. But as per the previous press release states, the search area is land to the east of Lenham/Lenham Heath.

However, the proposals are high level at this stage, and more detailed survey work to be undertaken over the coming months will ultimately inform the exact locations and scale of any development potential.

What if my home is in the search area?

The Council is presently at the very early stages of evolving ideas for the new Garden Community, and it will be very much an iterative process. Should the proposal gain traction in the Local Plan Review, a high-quality firm of designers/master planners would be engaged to commence the process of creating a landscape-led masterplan for the proposed new community.

A cornerstone of the designer’s brief would be that around 50% of the land within the new community would be non-residential, and this would include a variety of ‘green space’ to include; a country park, sports pitches, recreation grounds, village greens and enhanced biodiversity and wetland landscapes.

As such, there would be an abundance of green space available that could be utilised as buffers between existing hamlets and homes and any new development. Accordingly, should the proposal gain traction via the Local Plan process, the intention would be that there would be no loss of existing homes within the search area and that proposed green spaces would be utilised to help mitigate any potential impacts.

Finally, and most importantly, you will be kept up-to-speed with evolving plans and ideas, with the opportunity to input into the future Garden Community.

When would this happen?

Maidstone Borough Council has an adopted Local Plan (for the future development of the local area, drawn up by the LPA) for the period ending 2031; this plan is in the process of being reviewed and extended (the Maidstone Local Plan Review). The Council took the decision to submit its own garden community proposal into the ‘call for sites’ exercise being undertaken by the LPA as an early stage (evidence gathering) of the Maidstone Local Plan Review.

The LPA received more than 300 submissions into the ‘call for sites’ exercise and all of these were made available to Councillors and Parish Councillors from 4th October 2019.  The information was made available to the general public via our website from 4th November 2019. It is important that the LPA treats all the submissions the same way and that they are shared with Councillors and Parish Councils, and then the general public at the same time.

All the submissions are comprehensively analysed by the LPA using a consistent scoring system and the results of this exercise will be reported to the Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Committee where Councillors will decide upon which sites will be included in a later iteration of the Local Plan Review that will be subject to public consultation. This will be the opportunity for the community to comment on all the proposals that have been submitted. Therefore, no decisions have been made at this point.

Once all the proposals submitted into the ‘call for sites’ exercise are in the public domain (after 4th November 2019), the Council will schedule a briefing session for the local community.

The overall programme for the Local Plan Review being undertaken by the LPA is:

Evidence gathering June 2018 to June 2019
Scoping / options consultation (Regulation 18a) July to September 2019
Preferred approaches consultation (Regulation 18b)(i) October to December 2020
Preferred approaches consultation (Regulation 18b(ii) February to April 2021
Draft DPD consultation (Regulation 19) December 2021 to February 2022
Submission (Regulation 22) March 2022
Examination hearing sessions (Regulation 24) June/July 2022
Receipt of Inspector’s Report September 2022
Adoption – Full Council (Regulation 26) October 2022

Should the proposal become an ‘allocation’ within the adopted Local Plan in April 2022, it is unlikely that any development would commence within five years of then and would be built out at moderate rate over a long-term period.

Council Led Garden Community

If you should need to contact the MBC Communications Team - please email: or call:  01622 602560

Vision document


Maidstone Borough Council published its second stage vision document for the Heathlands proposal, published July 2020, attached below:

Second stage vision document

Vision Document

Maidstone Borough Council published a ‘Garden Communities’ prospectus in Spring 2019 as part of the ‘call for sites’ exercise for the Local Plan Review; this is a ‘Vision’ document.  The proposal at this stage, is known under the working title of ‘Heathlands’.

Frequently Asked Questions


Why is the Council considering this location?

The Council undertook a borough wide analysis of possible locations for a garden community, considering the various opportunities and constraints of each  to include environmental, landscape, infrastructure, heritage and topography considerations. The land to the east of Lenham was not the only possible suitable location, but simply the one favoured by the Council to explore further in terms of a Council led proposition. However, the analysis is at a relatively early stage and more in-depth studies will be required in due course to better understand the development potential. These will include  the following assessments; Transport and highways, ecology, heritage, flood risk, ground conditions, air quality, utilities and services, topography, landscape and visual impact and minerals.

Does this mean there will definitely be a community garden to the east of Lenham?

No. This proposal will be evaluated by the Council’s Strategic Planning & Infrastructure Committee in due course along with all the other proposals that will have been received through the call for sites exercise, that forms an early stage of the Maidstone Local Plan Review. Therefore, all the different sites and proposals will be considered by the Strategic Planning & Infrastructure Committee that  performs the Local Planning Authority function of the council, and in due course the Planning Committee itself.

What happens next?

If the proposal is supported through the Local Plan Review, this would not be confirmed until April 2022. In order to reach this stage, the proposal would be subject to two stages of public consultation, the first of which would commence late in 2020, as well as finally an Examination in Public in respect of the Local Plan Review itself. Were the proposals to get the go ahead, the first homes could start to be built around 2027 and the project itself would be built out over a long-term period.

How can the Council promote land for development that it does not own?

As mentioned, the proposal for a garden village at Heathlands was submitted to the local planning authority in response to a “call for sites” in connection with the current review of the Local Plan. Anyone can submit such a proposal as it’s not dependent on land ownership.   The planning authority has not decided which sites would be taken forward, but the eventual outcome for a selected site would be that it is allocated for development in the Local Plan.  Implementation of any development proposals would, however, be dependent on action by landowners at the relevant time.  As previously mentioned, the Council has held discussions with the principal landowners at the site in order to reach a consensus view in relation to the majority of the land from a practical perspective, whilst seeking to avoid the need to acquire any individual homes.

I think that my property has been blighted, can I apply for a Blight Notice?

As mentioned, there is no current intention to acquire or demolish existing homes in the area outside of the principal land ownerships.  “Blight” in the legal sense and the ability to serve a valid blight notice only arise in specified circumstances set out in Schedule 13 to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.  The Council does not consider that statutory blight applies at present.



January 2020 newsletter: View here

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