Yesterday evening (February 24th) Hadlow Estate (HE) and its planning consultant, Turnberry, invited the Capel Parish Council (CPC), two representatives of Save Capel (SC) and a representative of the Capel Green Belt Protection Society (CGPS) to a presentation introducing their plans to run a charrette.
As a planning tool, a charrette is an intensive design process which should incorporate a range of inputs from experts and stakeholders.
We were advised that details of the process will be sent to all residents of the parish, and a website – www.tudeleyvillage.co.uk – will be going live soon. But with the short notice, we felt we should give Save Capel supporters some initial details.
One important point to note is that the charrette does not address the comments made as part of the Regulation 18 process. Stephen Baughen, Head of Planning Services from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC), who was also at the meeting, assured us that anything which comes out of the charrette process would not be able to overrule decisions made as a result of Reg. 18. This included HE’s desire to run the master planning itself, contrary to the Draft Local Plan (DLP) which referenced a collaboration between TWBC and HE.
The charrette process runs from on March 14th to March 21st, inclusive.
At 3pm on the 14th, there will be an open presentation to be held at the Spa Hotel in Tunbridge Wells where the process will be outlined.
Also at the Spa hotel, at 3 pm on the 21st, there will be a closing presentation outlining the outcomes from the process.
In between these presentations, on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, there will be topic-specific workshops covering areas such as infrastructure, flooding, employment, biodiversity, heritage and more. These workshops will be held at One Warwick Place, a hotel also in Tunbridge wells.
These workshops will be by invitation only and will comprise architects, planning specialists and consultants, with representatives from the community also invited.
Then on the evenings of Monday to Thursday, there will be open opportunities for the community to see the work that has come out of the day’s activities.
The presentation we were given raises several concerns. The most significant are the relatively short notice (less than three weeks), the times of the events which make up the process, and the restricted nature of some of the sessions. Plus the locations chosen for the presentations and workshops left us somewhat surprised, when more local options, easier for the community to get to, had been overlooked.
The short notice makes it difficult for the community representatives (SC and CPC) to coordinate the members who are most appropriate to engage with the invite-only sessions.
The timings of the workshop sessions, with the opportunities to input into the design considerations, are impractically scheduled during regular working hours. The assertion from Harry Teacher that if we cared we would be there, was not considered to be a satisfactory response as clearly, not everyone has the flexibility to leave their work for such events.
We were also advised that there would be one representative of CPC and one from SC invited to each workshop session – as part of an overall team of around 25. With several sessions planned to have a broad remit (infrastructure, flooding, sustainability and access being a good example) and this supposedly being an opportunity for us to send experts, it will be impossible for us to identify one person with detailed knowledge of all topics. So, we do not feel this is adequate consultation. As such, we requested that SC and CPC are allowed to send at least two representatives each.
Finally, we raised a question asking whether this was motivated by the need for HE to demonstrate it is consulting with the community. We were told that if we felt that was the case, then do not come, but that we should if we want to be involved.
We remain concerned about the overall charrette process, how it is being organised, and how the results will be presented. We will, of course, keep you informed.