Is TWBC in denial? The Local Plan interviews…

Dec 6, 2022

Dear Supporters,

TWBC has released an initial statement in response to the Inspector’s findings, saying “The Council will consider all of the points raised by the inspector before making decision on how to progress the Plan to adoption”. Save Capel wrote to the Leader, Ben Chapelard, and to Carlos Hone who is the new Head of Planning following Stephen Baughen’s departure. Mr Chapelard replied “TWBC will be in touch in due course” but no response has yet been received from Mr Hone. You can read our letters below.

Save Capel was recently interviewed by Martin Webber, who worked at the BBC for around 30 years, about the local housing policy for West Kent Radio. Martin also spoke to Councillor Hugo Pound, Cabinet member for Housing and Planning who said, “…the third option, which is one we will consider, is dropping it [Tudeley Village] altogether or maybe putting it on the backburner until later in the plan”. No doubt you will have your own opinion on whether TWBC is in denial given the clear preference of the Inspector. Hadlow Estate has not taken up the opportunity for an interview. You can listen to the interviews broadcast by West Kent Radio on 22nd November 2022 online.

Martin has created a podcast series “West Kent Talking” which includes those interviews and a conversation with Greg Clark MP who confirmed he will be standing in the next election. The discussion included how he came into politics, cost of living, working with Boris, climate change, housing targets, and building on green belt land. Comments on the local plan start at 25th minute where Mr Clark said, “sustainability is important…we need to have the infrastructure in place…one of the criticisms the Inspector made is whether the development is capable of having the necessary infrastructure which is a serious concern that needs to be addressed”.

You can also read articles by Times of Tunbridge Wells, KentLive, and KM Kent Online which cover the latest developments and provide good publicity for our campaign. We will continue to press the Council to make the right decision and remove Tudeley Village from the local plan, and not to spend further taxpayers’ money in trying to support it.

Save Capel will continue to defend the Green Belt at East Capel just as vigorously, where the proposals require ‘comprehensive main modifications’, and we are keen to participate in the revised masterplanning of housing & infrastructure in the Paddock Wood growth area that the Inspector supports in principle.

We will keep you updated on the progress of the Council’s strategy and timescale for taking the examination forward.

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From: Stewart Gledhill <savecapel@gmail.com>
Sent: 17 November 2022 09:57
To: Ben Chapelard (Cllr) <Ben.Chapelard@Tunbridgewells.gov.uk>
Subject: RE: TW Local Plan – URGENT

Good morning Ben

I am writing as Chair of Save Capel and hope this finds you well.

You will be aware of the Inspector’s initial findings in the public examination of the Local Plan. Much of what Save Capel and many others have been saying about the unsuitability of the strategic sites has been proven to be correct. That said, we are as keen as you to ensure that a new sustainable Local Plan is adopted as quickly as possible. This will help avoid speculative proposals by developers across the Borough of Tunbridge Wells, which would be damaging to parishes beyond Capel and lead to further and wider instability.

The Inspector is concerned about building on flood zones around Paddock Wood, including East Capel, but he is very clear that the Tudeley proposals are both unsound and unsustainable. His preferred option is to remove Tudeley Village from the Local Plan altogether.

He is very much of the opinion that the Local Plan stands a far greater chance of early resolution if this is done. He also points out in paragraph 99 that housing needs “…could be catered for over a shorter timeframe without the need for any specific additional sites to be identified at this stage”. So, it need not require much work by the Council to adapt the plan with the immediate removal of Tudeley Village and the proposed FOG bypass.

That said, Save Capel has a brownfield study that would assist the Council should it feel the need to consider more housing space, through the more sustainable approach of using brownfield options first. Moreover, the government has long stated that housing targets can be adjusted due to circumstance, such as significant areas of designated land – as exists in the Borough. That possibility was ignored under the previous administration but is a way forward you may now wish to consider, especially given the Inspector’s findings and the increasingly clear commitment to the Green Belt.

Clearly, the progression of the Local Plan will require significant modifications and Save Capel looks forward to working with you to develop a sustainable plan that has the support of the local community.

With thanks and best wishes.

Stewart Gledhill

On behalf of the Save Capel Executive

From: Stewart Gledhill <savecapel@gmail.com>
Sent: 24 November 2022 11:50
To: carlos.hone@tunbridgewells.gov.uk
Cc: Hugh.Patterson@TunbridgeWells.gov.uk; Councillor Hugo Pound
Subject: Local Plan revision

 

Dear Mr Hone

I would like to introduce myself as Chairman of Save Capel and to wish you well in your new position at Tunbridge Wells, quite a challenge. We had several meetings with your predecessor over the past 3+ years of the Local Plan preparation and, following the Inspector’s findings, now look forward to working with you on the revisions necessary for a sustainable plan that has local support.

We are as keen as you to ensure that a new Local Plan is adopted, and the Inspector is very clear that his preferred option is to remove Tudeley Village from the plan, which will have a far greater chance of early soundness resolution. He has highlighted the Borough’s constraints and appears to be offering you some flexibility in how you revise the plan for this, for example, in paragraph 99 that housing needs “…could be catered for over a shorter timeframe without the need for any specific additional sites to be identified at this stage.” However, should you determine that additional sites are required, Save Capel’s research team prepared a topic paper on alternatives which the Inspector has seen.

Major revisions are also required to the Paddock Wood area growth strategy and Save Capel would like to be represented at discussions on the location of housing, employment, and infrastructure. We attended a two-hour workshop hosted by DLA in 2020, although this was inadequate and ineffective. The government is clear that development plans should have local support and NPPF para 16 requires “Plans should be shaped by early, proportionate and effective engagement between plan-makers and communities…” The Inspector has determined that a sound plan requires the correct application of the sequential test (NPPF para 161) and the housing parcels must avoid ALL sources of flood risk which cover the majority of East Capel. As was also made clear, Green Belt is considered very important to Government and there were found to be no exceptional circumstances for such a significant removal of Green Belt land as the Tudeley findings would imply.

This provides an important opportunity for TWBC to adopt a ground-breaking Local Plan that is focussed on urban regeneration rather than Green Belt destruction. Assessment of the potential brownfield redevelopment post-COVID and the emerging town centre plan should assist planners in creating this. We therefore request an early meeting with you and, in the meantime, would be grateful if you will set out the timetable for the Council’s assessment of the ‘options’ which we understand the Inspector is expecting from you in weeks rather than months.

With thanks and best wishes.

Stewart Gledhill

On behalf of the Save Capel Executive

As ever, the Save Capel Executive would like to thank you all for your continuing support. If anyone is interested in contributing more to the campaign please contact us via email to savecapel@gmail.com

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!!!

Stewart, Ian, Dave, Maggie, Charlie, Jan and Mark

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Save Capel on Twitter

https://t.co/hwSDRFPxve The national inspector advises TWBC drop Tudeley town from its proposed local plan...Kind of what we said!
Interesting that the Inspector still has to ask for so much information on 'Duty to Cooperate' - TWBC knew other Local Plans had failed on this, so surely they should have adopted a belt and braces approach... https://t.co/1AqqVbAVyw
It will be interesting to see whether TWBC has a ‘duty to cooperate’ ace up its sleeve on 29 March. https://t.co/9CpPZGMzqv
Day 2 of the public Local Plan examination. It's certainly worth a listen . We hope that all the Cllrs that voted the draft plan through are now paying attention to what they voted for. https://t.co/5maTYIreei
There is growing voter anger about the 17000+ acres of green space Kent could lose if developers are allowed to take the easy option to build on greenfield instead of brownfield Kent MPs beware! @GregClarkMP #savekentsgreenspaces
https://t.co/QWrOso79gx https://t.co/KiTgM68IBo
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