Quinn Estates has announced details on its plans to develop the largest country park in Kent, at Binbury Park, off the A249.
There are two alternative scenarios: one has two million square feet of commercial development, with 350 homes. The other has a smaller amount of commercial space at 650,000 square feet, more homes (1,450) and a primary school and pub. Both plans would also include a new roundabout for access to the site.
Director Mark Quinn is keen to get permission for this site rather than the current county council development proposals which involve developments near villages.
“This development will be a game-changer for Maidstone. The interest we’ve had from potential tenants has been massive, it’s insane.”
He argues that the pre-existing infrastructure at Binbury Park makes it a more natural choice (the existing development is the Kent Showground).
Highways England has said that it will spend £100m improving Stockbury Roundabout and Quinn Estates is promising to improve junction 7 of the A429. The news from the public transport point of view has not been quite so rosy. Arriva, the bus company, said in a statement that a park and ride facility would be unsustainable.
It poured further cold water on the idea of a new bus service. Instead it suggested that it would prefer to look at an extension of the 333 and 334 routes currently running in the area. However it was not prepared to divert buses into the site, which would mean that people living there would be looking at a half mile walk to Detling Hill, rather more than the normal maximum distance to the nearest bus stop.
Despite Mr Quinn’s ascertains over interest from prospective tenants, the development plans are controversial with many local residents unreservedly opposed to the development, which will increase the borough’s population by 4270 and crimes by 243 per year. There is also an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty behind the site and Mr. Quinn is reported as intending to access this area. The development also includes the former RAF Detling airfield and the nearby Detling Aerodrome Industrial Estate.
Cllr Cathcart, of Stockbury Parish Council, has pointed out that in the past Maidstone Borough Council has rejected planning applications for the land, because of its proximity to the area of outstanding natural beauty.
Maidstone Borough Council Approval
Despite the controversy though, an environmental impact assessment for the site went forward to Maidstone Borough council in June and has now been approved. The site is primarily farmland and woods, and the environmental study assessed what effect the development would have on nature, including habitat destruction and pollution. It also assessed the likely flood impact and the history of the site.
Quinn is adamant that the public will get behind the development, which he believes will have a positive impact on this region of Kent.
“By the end of the consultation I hope we have more people supporting the development than objecting.”
Local Kent History
The scheme also includes Binbury Castle, which is a motte and bailey castle dating from the twelfth century, and a listed national monument. The castle is situated within the boundary of the disused airfield, and what survives are part of the tower, the earthworks and the remains of a large moat and a wall. Interestingly, there are apparently World War II air raid shelters inside the castle which have their own ventilation shaft. The surviving wall is built of Kent ragstone and flint.
The developers will have to take account of the fact that although a warehouse, some fences and fence posts near the castle are not part of the scheduled monument, the ground beneath them is included in the schedule.
Meanwhile, there is some bemusement locally, since the castle and some nearby manor ruins are called Binbury, but the lane which would run by the development is called Bimbury, giving scope for endless confusion. But with the complications inherent in the development proposal for this corner of Kent, this may be the least of Mr. Quinn’s problems.