A public inquiry will begin on Tuesday into plans for the creation of a large rail and road freight interchange in the south east
Developer Axa Real Estate Investment Management (REIM) wants to site the project, comprising a distribution park, warehouses and offices, across 285-acres of countryside north of Bearsted, near Maidstone, Kent.
It is claimed the interchange has the potential to shift a high volume of lorry traffic from the road network and that the site represents the best location for the depot.
However, opponents warn that if given the go-ahead, the development would blight large tracts of rural land and fail to cut motorway traffic.
Leader of Kent County Council Paul Carter said: “It’s the most ridiculous location anywhere in the south east for a modal shift transport centre. If the Secretary of State was misguided enough to allow this it would become the Demon of the South.”
Axa REIM appealed for a public inquiry in February this year on the grounds of the application’s non-determination by Maidstone Borough Council, who said it did not have enough information to make a decision.
The council’s planning committee subsequently rejected the plans in May, after considering a 222-page report citing 18 different reasons why the scheme should be refused.
It also rejected a revised proposal submitted last month reducing the size of warehouse and office space.
Concerns included, the effects on traffic, pollution, damage to wildlife, loss of archaeological heritage and doubts that the proposal would result in a shift of freight from road to rail.
The public inquiry is expected to last approximately six weeks, after which the planning inspector will report his recommendations to John Denham, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
A final decision by Government may not be made for several months.