Nuns' lives 'would be devastated' by new West Malling homes

Mother Mary David at Malling Abbey Image copyright PA Media
Image caption A number of buildings at Malling Abbey are Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 2* listed

The way of life of a secluded community of nuns would be "devastated" if new homes planned nearby get the go-ahead, a council leader says.

Malling Abbey in West Malling, Kent, which was founded in 1060, is home to an order of up to 15 Benedictine nuns.

Rev David Green, vicar of nearby St Mary's Church, said: "Their whole way of life is built around isolated prayer and peace and quiet."

Developer Bellway said there would be a "green space" around the abbey.

Trudy Dean, chairman of West Malling Parish Council, said: "The whole community has come together to support the nuns against this highly intrusive plan."

Mrs Dean, who also sits on Kent County Council and Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, said: "If the sisters cannot carry on their work, we risk them quitting the site.

"The effect on the abbey is devastating."

Image copyright PA Media
Image copyright PA Media

Rev Green said the part of the abbey nearest the proposed housing development is the site of the Grade 1-listed chapel and cloisters, as well as the nun's accommodation and burial ground.

"They are there for a reason - it's the quietest part of the grounds," he said.

"For the nuns, it's a particular concern because their entire way of life is built around silence."

Image copyright PA Media

Bellway intends to build 65 homes.

A spokesman said: "There would be a significant buffer of green space and landscaping separating the homes from the abbey and there are no plans to build along the boundary with the abbey."

The house-builder had originally sought outline planning permission from Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council for up to 80 homes.

A public inquiry is due to begin on 20 August.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Rochester, which owns Malling Abbey, said: "We do have concerns about the proposal and so are watching the work of the inquiry closely."

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