Last night the Examining Inspector Mr Birkinshaw published his Initial Findings on the Examination of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Local Plan. You can read the letter here.
Firstly, to put some overall perspective on this, these are his initial findings which call for further consideration by the council and their response to his points raised, before taking the examination forward. In other words, there is nothing absolute or final at this point.
However. And it is a big however! (In fact, his 18 pages of findings continually use the word “however” to point to flaws in the proposed Plan). However: Mr Birkinshaw has evidently done his job independently and logically assessing the plan for what it was. He appears to have fully grasped and been persuaded by many of the arguments all of us, and any sane and independent observer, would have made. In short, he has found that the Strategic Sites, namely Tudeley Village and Paddock Wood/East Capel, have major flaws and cannot proceed as proposed.
The document is full of information which we need to take more time to absorb and decide on our next steps, but our current thinking is that the conclusions of the initial findings are as follows:
- Tudeley Village. The site and the strategy do not appear to be justified or effective. Exceptional circumstances for the justification of removing the site from the Green Belt have not been met. These exceptional circumstances are the litmus test for any GB removal, and he has stood firm behind this requirement. He has also found major flaws with the location and accessibility, the infrastructure and in particular the proposed Five Oak Green bypass, and the overall deliverability including the lack of experience of the landowner without support of housebuilders.
- Paddock Wood and East Capel. Again, he has raised concerns requiring major modifications to make the strategy and implementation sound. He has highlighted concerns over the education infrastructure, the reliance on Tudeley Village to proceed, location of employment sites, and of course flooding and flood risk.
We have inferred from his document that he has a slightly different view on Tudeley Village and Paddock Wood/East Capel. He seems to be clearly indicating that Tudeley Village is unsound, unjustified, and should be removed from the local plan, but that some further development in Paddock Wood/East Capel does make sense, although not as presented.