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New lease of life for former laboratories site

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  • A ‘win-win’ situation for the Kent housing market and future of horticultural research is how an agreement between Tonbridge-based Millwood Designer Homes and East Malling Trust is being heralded.

    Demolition has begun of the former Ditton Laboratories, after the two organisations secured planning permission from Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, to transform the site on Kiln Barn Road, into Orchard Gate, a development of 37 high quality homes.

    The former laboratories, once part of East Malling Research, the leading centre for perennial crop research in the UK, had stood redundant for more than 15 years. The building’s owners the horticultural charity, East Malling Trust, bought the buildings from Defra (Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) three years ago and then the search was on to find a developer.

    Teaming up with local housebuilder Millwood Designer Homes has meant the Trust has unlocked the value of a redundant building which can now be reinvested as part of the charity’s on-going support for the horticultural scientific work being undertaken at East Malling Research. The Trust has now sold the site to Millwood’s development partners.

    Jeff Elliott, Millwood’s Deputy Managing Director, said: “This is one of those rare moments where we can play a part in creating a new hamlet set within the heart of the Kent countryside, and at the same time help to ensure the future productivity of the orchards and fruit farms synonymous with Kent.”

    The residential development, with established orchards on all sides, has been designed to celebrate the local vernacular in terms of its architectural design and at the same time incorporate allotments and environmentally friendly technologies and for most of the houses.

    Adrian Padfield, Chief Executive of East Malling Trust, said: “The Ditton Laboratories dated back to 1929 and were no longer practical for 21st century science as undertaken by the current team at East Malling Trust.

    “The sale, and redevelopment, will enable us to invest in further groundbreaking research which will help tackle the important issues of food security and adapting to climate change. We’ve been delighted to work with Jeff and colleagues on making the deal a reality.”


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