§ Mr. Evennett
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he proposes to allow new development in rural mid-Kent as a result of the channel tunnel rail link.
§ Mr. Curry
Existing strategic planning policy for Kent seeks to restrict the development of fresh land in the countryside and to give protection to areas of outstanding natural beauty. I fully endorse that policy. Much of the rural area between Maidstone and the Medway towns forms part of the Kent downs area of outstanding natural beauty; elsewhere other conservation policies apply. The current third review of the Kent structure plan specifically recognises the importance of maintaining the separation of the built-up areas of Maidstone and the Medway towns by proposing the designation of a strategic gap, within which large scale development will be restricted. The draft regional planning guidance for the south east, published on 24 March, anticipates growth associated with the rail link being focused in Ashford, and east Kent, and especially in the east Thames corridor.