New council boss vows to fight Chilmington Green housing plans
A CHANGE in direction is on the cards for the inflammatory Chilmington Green issue after Great Chart with Singleton Parish Council elected a new chairman.
Karen Hopkins took on the role after receiving the backing of the majority of councillors at the annual election.
She ousted former chairman Ian McClintock in the process.
And Mrs Hopkins, who lives in Chilmington Green, has vowed to lead the charge against plans by Ashford Borough Council to build up to 5,750 new homes on the tiny hamlet's doorstep.
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There is a little more than two weeks now for residents to take part in the borough council's public consultation.
Asked if she believed it was still possible to stop the development, Mrs Hopkins said: "I'd like to say yes, but I don't know.
"We will try our hardest to do everything we can to get people behind us and make sure everyone has the opportunity to put their objection in. Every single member of the community can put in their objection to Ashford Borough Council and we're encouraging people to do that.
Few issues have been as divisive around Ashford as that of Chilmington Green.
The controversy has its roots in Ashford's status as a growth town, which received government backing in 2002.
In 2008 the borough council adopted its Core Strategy, formalising its commitment to developing two key areas: Chilmington Green and Cheeseman's Green.
About 1,000 acres of prime farmland between Great Chart and Chilmington Green were earmarked for the new homes.
Cheeseman's Green was identified as having the capacity to hold 6,500 dwellings.
A campaign against the Chilmington Green proposal, called Keep Chilmington Green, was launched and a petition attracted 4,000 signatures.
And nowhere has the struggle been more obvious than at the parish council.
Last May six members of the group were elected to Great Chart with Singleton Parish Council, but they never took their seats, claiming they were wrongly advised at the time that to do so would have barred them from speaking in an official capacity on the matter.
A second election was held in October and six new candidates – also part of the anti-development movement – were elected instead, one of whom was Mrs Hopkins.
A vote of no-confidence was then called in Mr McClintock's leadership, although he refused to stand down, saying there was no statutory obligation for him to do so.
The Herald tried contacting him but at the time of going to press had been unable to do so.
Mrs Hopkins said it was time for the parish council to "learn from our mistakes" and move on.
Maggi Cook was elected vice-chairman of the council.
The public consultation will end on June 11. Visit www.ashford.gov.uk to have your say.