Council demands Cabinet Reconsider Support for the destruction of Ancient Woodland at Oaken Woods

30 Nov 2023
Woodland

Despite the opposition of almost all of the Conservative Group, including the Local Members the Council voted on Wednesday night to ask the Cabinet to reconsider is support for the proposal to massively extend ragstone quarrying at Oaken Woods that would destroy a huge and irreplaceable swathe of ancient Woodland. With the exception of Fay Gooch all non- Conservative Members of the Council present voted for the motion.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader Clive English who seconded the motion said: “A majority of Members of the Council have shown that they do not agree with the Cabinet’s support for the destruction of this irreplaceable habitat and wish the Council to think again. Maidstone’s Cabinet are literally the only people other than the applicant who have given the proposal unequivocal support. The public response and that of Tonbridge and Malling has been very different. Even  Kent County Council has wavered in the face of the united opposition and has issued another call for sites. Maidstone Borough Council should not be the one’s to offer succour to this ill conceived and damaging proposal."

Cllr Tony Harwood built on this in the meeting highlighting the highest of protections that ancient woodland is given in the National Planning Policy Framework and with only 2.5% of the land area in the UK being ancient woodland, it is one of the lowest percentages in the world.  In the meeting he added:

"We have heard a lot of warm words from councilors across the council chamber regarding the urgency of tackling the climate and ecological emergencies. We now have a chance to do something about it and vote to protect Oaken Wood."

Cllr. Brian Clark also added:

"“There are pockets of ancient woodland across our borough but many are dwarfed by the ancient woodland at Oaken Wood. Make no mistake, if the Tories wave this plan through, developers will be sent a strong message that the borough’s ancient woodland is available for development."

More than 25,000 members of the public submitted objections to the grubbing of this irreplaceable ancient Kentish coppice woodland during an earlier KCC consultation.  

The vote itself was recorded; those voting For are asking the cabinet to reconsider the previous broadly supportive response to the destruction of Oaken Wood in line with campaigns from groups like the Woodland Trust and the more than 25,000 objections.  Those voting Against are happy with the broadly supportive response submitted at this time.

For (28)

Councillor Ward Party
Brian Clark South Liberal Democrat
Maureen Cleator Shepway South Labour
Patrick Coats Fant Independent
Richard Conyard East Liberal Democrat
Martin Cox East Independent
Derek Eagle Sutton Valence and Langley Green
Clive English High Street Liberal Democrat
Susan Grigg Loose Independent
Paul Harper Fant Independent
Tony Harwood North Liberal Democrat
Stuart Jeffery Bridge Green
Vanessa Jones Boxley Independent
Denise Joy High Street Independent
Dinesh Khadka High Street Liberal Democrat
Ashley Kimmance Heath Liberal Democrat
Sandra Knatchbull Bearsted Conservative
Steve Mumford Boughton Monchelsea and Chart Sutton Independent
David Naghi East Liberal Democrat
Gordon Newton Downswood and Otham Independent
Cynthia Robertson Allington Liberal Democrat
Margaret Rose Fant Labour
Janetta Sams Harrietsham and Lenham Independent
Tom Sams Harrietsham and Lenham Independent
Micheal Thompson North Liberal Democrat
Stephen Thompson Detling and Thurnham Green
Dan Wilkinson Park Wood Labour
Joanna Wilkinson Shepway North Labour
Thomas Wilkinson Allington Liberal Democrat

 

Against (21)

Councillor Ward Party
Alan Bartlett Shepway North Conservative
Annabelle Blackmore Marden and Yalding Conservative
Heidi Bryant Boxley Conservative
David Burton Marden and Yalding Conservative
Denis Spooner* Bearsted Conservative
Gary Cooke Shepway South Conservative
Paul Cooper Shepway North Conservative
Stanley Forecast Allington Conservative
Patrik Garten North Downs Conservative
Michelle Hastie North Conservative
Bob Hinder Boxley Conservative
Peter Holmes Heath Conservative
Lewis Mckenna Park Wood Conservative
Lottie Parfitt-Reid Coxheath and Hunton Conservative
John Perry Staplehurst Conservative
James Reid Coxheath and Hunton Conservative
Paddy Riordan Staplehurst Conservative
Martin Round Headcorn Conservative
Claudine Russell Marden and Yalding Conservative
Ziggy Trzebinski Headcorn Conservative
Simon Webb Coxheath and Hunton Conservative

* Edited: The original list had Cllr Tom Cannon as voting against this motion in place of Cllr Denis Spooner.  The author would like to extend his apologies to both councillors for this mistake.

Abstentions (2)

Councillor Ward Party
Fay Gooch Barming and Teston Independent
Val Springett Bearsted Conservative