Kent County Council rejects criticism from Open Spaces Society

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Plans for a new primary school would be a “blight on the landscape” according to countryside campaigners.

But Kent County Council has denied it is destroying a beautiful area of Benenden.

The Open Spaces Society, Britain’s oldest national conservation body, said the plans needs to be scrapped.

It launched a bitter attack on KCC’s plan for a new primary-school on open land in the Weald of Kent.

It said the idea is appalling as this is a prominent, elevated spot visible for miles around.

It said the development will “suburbanise this attractive village” and the proposed lighting will make it particularly intrusive.

There are three footpaths crossing the site, and one of them is part of the High Weald Landscape Trail.

Kate Ashbrook, the society’s general secretary, said: “We are strongly opposed to the development of this highly-visible open land which is crossed by public footpaths.

“The buildings would blight the landscape of the High Weald Landscape Trail. We believe that the new primary school should be sited in a less sensitive place. I am familiar with this lovely area, having been a pupil at Benenden School.”

But the council is adamant any impact will be minimal and it will look in detail at the society’s concerns.

The council said: “A planning application has been submitted for the replacement of the current buildings. During the development of the design there were several public consultations; at the early stage when concept plans were presented and more recently in June,, 2011 when the detailed design was presented to the public in an exhibition in the village hall followed by an exhibition at the church.

“At that exhibition, there was overwhelming support for the proposal with 90 per cent of respondents supporting it.

“Kent County Council recognises the landscape value of the site; therefore careful consideration has been given to the landscaping and how the building fits into the site and its surroundings.

“As a consequence the proposed building has been partially set into the landscape to minimise its impact on the surroundings. From Rolvenden Road, the new buildings are set behind a row of existing trees and hedgerows which will reduce the impact of the building when viewed from the South. There has been careful selection of materials to ensure compatibility with the local environment and the lighting will be designed to address security concerns while not being intrusive to the village and local area.

“Kent County Council is aware of the footpaths crossing this site, and it is proposed to divert the existing footpaths. If the application is approved, the diversions will be the subject of a separate application on conclusion of the planning process.

“The project is currently being considered for planning approval and this presents an opportunity for all to comment. The concerns raised by the Open Spaces Society will be considered as part of this process.”

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