Kent International Gateway freight depot plan refused

Image caption,
More than 9,000 people signed a petition against the development

Controversial proposals for a road-to-rail freight depot in Kent have been thrown out by the government.

Residents have been fighting plans to build the Kent International Gateway (Kig) at Bearsted, near Maidstone, for more than three years.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles made the final decision following a nine-week public inquiry at the end of last year.

Developer Axa said it was disappointed at the government's decision.

It said Kig would have provided about 3,500 permanent jobs in the private sector, on top of those created during the construction phases.

Hugh Robertson, MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, said the decision was "fantastic news" and praised everyone who had been involved in the campaign.

However, he added: "It is important not to drop our guard yet and, in the longer term, to deliver a future for the site that commands the support of the local community."

Devastating plan

Axa had aruged the depot, which would have covered 110 hectares, would have removed millions of tonnes of freight from HGVs, putting it on trains instead.

Bearsted was chosen because of its location, close to the M20 and the high-speed rail link.

But villagers have been fighting the scheme, claiming their homes would be blighted by lorry movements through Bearstead to the unit.

Image caption,
The site was chosen because it was close to the M20 and the high-speed rail link

Resident and campaigner Alan Thomas said: "Axa employed the best people they could, spent a huge amount of money on it, they argued that it would reduce carbon but in fact we just don't believe that is the case.

"It would have been devastating for the locality here. This is a historic village with lots of green space around it.

"It's an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it would have just ruined all that. On top of that there would have been 3,000 lorries a day coming into the village."

Opponents of the scheme, led by the Stop Kig group, presented a 9,000-signature petition to the inquiry, which began on 13 October.

Axa said in a statement: "We are obviously disappointed at the secretary of state's decision to refuse planning permission for (the) entirely privately financed project, which would have provided a highly economically and environmentally sustainable development.

"We will now review our options, but fear this may be a lost opportunity by the Government to create something economically and environmentally positive for the county on a site ideally suited for purpose."

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