Your vote really matters on 4th July…

Jul 1, 2024

Dear Supporters

Whatever your views on the national picture, the parliamentary representatives elected locally are important for our campaign. In Tunbridge Wells, the draft local plan first published just before the last election in 2019 remains incomplete and will likely need to be reviewed soon after its eventual adoption. This will continue to be important during the next parliamentary term.

There are six candidates who are standing to become the next MP for Tunbridge Wells (listed alphabetically by party):

Conservative, Neil Mahapatra

Green Party, John Hurst

Independent, Hassan Kaseem

Labour, Hugo Pound

Liberal Democrats, Mike Martin

Reform UK, John Gager

We posed the same following key questions to each of the candidates, and it is well worth reading their answers below:

1. Infrastructure

What is your position on “I before E” – Infrastructure before Expansion – in local planning?   If elected, how would you ensure this happens?

2.  Affordable housing

What is your position on providing affordable housing for local people?  How would you achieve this?

3.  Tudeley Garden Village

Capel residents have expressed their concerns about local development over the loss of farmland and rural character, of inadequate infrastructure and roads, flooding, deliverability and other issues.

  • Do you support the deletion of Tudeley Garden Village from the Tunbridge Wells Local Plan and its exclusion from the proposed ‘early review’?
  • Are there any circumstances in which you could consider supporting TWBC bringing the Tudeley Garden Village proposal back for consideration at a later date?

Conservatives: Neil MahapatraNeil Mahapatra



On infrastructure: 

I fully subscribe to Infrastructure before Expansion, and have the relevant skillset to effect this, having founded three infrastructure businesses, a school, and also as the son of two Kent doctors.

If elected, I would liaise with stakeholders using my highly relevant experience of working with, and negotiating with, local councils. I have extensive experience liaising with local councils on rolling out infrastructure and can also enable improved primary healthcare provision in the near term, through my existing Kent medical relationships.

On affordable housing:

We do need affordable housing for local people, in particular young people – it’s a concern that younger generations cannot get onto the property ladder. Whilst any development option will be unpalatable to some, I believe affordable housing is best achieved through small pockets of development, rather than through any large scale “super developments” such as TGV.

This is best achieved through very active management of the Council, to ensure that it explores all housing development properly. I would also favour affordable housing being achieved through ensuring that a proportion of any development is made affordable, rather than through a specific development, which is solely comprised of affordable housing.

On Tudeley Garden Village:

on deletion of Tudeley Village from the Local Plan:  Yes I do. All other options must be examined properly.

on its potential consideration at a later date: Not at the size proposed – though I’m not saying there should be no new housing. Proportionate and distributed development is important, always with infrastructure developing before housing development expansion.

Green Party: John HurstJohn Hurst



On infrastructure:

Yes, but it is going to be hard to achieve within the current system of letting Developers do what they want to, and only provide minimum infrastructure.

Establishing a new planning framework, that takes into account the need for new infrastructure before finalising a Local Plan or major development, and establishing who and how it is going to be paid for. A good example at the moment would be Paddock Wood and its inadequate drainage, and lack of GP capacity.

On affordable housing:

The Green Party is committed to building, or renovating, 150,000 social homes a year, and renting them out for truly affordable rents.

This would be a Local Authority activity (i.e. a newly-delegated responsibility), with central Government support. Directionally, we want to rejuvenate Local Government, and make sure it is properly funded.

On Tudeley Garden Village:

on deletion of Tudeley Village from the Local Plan:  Absolutely Yes!!

on its potential consideration at a later date: No. I was vocal in the Stage 2 Inspection about the 50% of new houses in the Local Plan being in the Green Belt, with Tudeley being a big part of that. There are many other reasons why the area should stay as calm as it is!

Labour: Hugo PoundHugo Pound



On infrastructure:

The need for Infrastructure planning is right, though infrastructure itself is paid for by developers, so the reality is that infrastructure is usually put in place at the same time as development.

By supporting moves by Labour to change the planning process, taking into account the NPPF and inputs from expert bodies.

I bring valuable experience having served as a Tunbridge Wells Cabinet member for 5 years, with two of those as responsible for the Housing & Planning portfolio.

On affordable housing:

It’s very clear that we need to provide affordable housing for young people and families including affordable social housing for rent, as well as affordable housing for young people to buy.

By supporting moves by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council towards these aims, and working in Parliament to ensure it is given appropriate high priority.

On Tudeley Garden Village:

on deletion of Tudeley Village from the Local Plan:I support TGV’s exclusion from the LP so that it can be adopted, and I would not support the building of 2,800 houses in Tudeley in review either, because I don’t think the independent Inspector would approve it. It was in my role as Cabinet member for Housing & Planning that I led the motion at Full Council to approve its removal in the Council’s response to the Inspector’s Initial Findings.

on its potential consideration at a later date: Not as currently proposed – and never if as many as 2,800 homes are proposed in one development as I sense it may not be sustainable.

Liberal Democrats: Mike MartinMike Martin



On infrastructure:

Infrastructure needs to be built/improved/extended at the same time as new housing, so it’s in place by the time that people move in. Lib Dem policy is that they both happen at the same time, and this is something I fully support.

One of the jobs of an MP is to make sure that different bits of government work. So when planning consent is given, are the right conditions included? And are the other bits of government lined up to provide the school, or road improvement, that is required? Is the water company taking account of the increase in population density? I intend to be an activist on this and to hold organisations to account if they have said they will do something – both privately and publicly, and to build coalitions of support to achieve outcomes.

On affordable housing:

Affordable housing is essential – both locally and nationally.  The Lib Dems are the only party with a stated 150,000 per year affordable housing target.  Social housing is within this – social and affordable housing are viewed as together.

I have spoken to constituents in rural areas, for example Sandhurst, where there is social housing in the wrong place – central Tunbridge Wells, where the services are, is better for residents and drives economic growth.

Local MPs have tremendous narrative and coalition building power that is often underused. I fully intend to use the influence of the MP’s office exercised either internally – behind the scenes, or externally – in public.

On Tudeley Garden Village:

on deletion of Tudeley Village from the Local Plan:Yes!

on its potential consideration at a later date: Barring external circumstances such as a national emergency, I cannot see why Tudeley Garden Village should be brought back into any Local Plan.

Reform UK: John GagerJohn Gager



On infrastructure:

I completely agree that infrastructure should be in place before expansion commences.  House building around our villages has really surged recently and I do not see any infrastructure to accommodate the increase in population, whether that be new schools, GP surgeries, shopping areas, consideration of effect of additional traffic using country lanes, even thought about flood impact as building has commenced within flood plain areas.

If elected I would be looking at the local plan process as a whole so that sensible things like “I before E” cannot be circumvented, and that reasonable targets are set by Central Government.  Reform UK will also be looking at the planning process as a whole – while we want to protect our green spaces and countryside from development as much as possible, we recognise the need for more housing stock.

On affordable housing:

I am all for providing affordable housing for local people, it just makes sense and builds community rather than driving families apart. At the moment though even “affordable” housing is out of reach of most people!  From the new developments recently built in the villages near where I live I do not see any affordable houses whatsoever.

We need to review what “affordable housing” actually is to start with and come up with ways to ensure that when larger developers get planning permission, they must provide necessary infrastructure and genuinely affordable homes within their development.

On Tudeley Garden Village:

on deletion of Tudeley Village from the Local Plan: Yes, I wholeheartedly support its deletion.

on its potential consideration at a later date: As I have not been involved in any of the details concerning the proposal I would have to fully review it. But at the moment I would be sceptical if the proposal did return for consideration.

Save Capel also invited Hassan Kaseem, independent parliamentary candidate, to respond to these questions but we have not received a reply.

The candidate responses were obtained by Save Capel for the information of its supporters. Save Capel is not aligned to any political party.

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In summary…

Perhaps unsurprisingly, all candidates support the removal of Tudeley Village from the proposed local plan and the likely ‘early review’ to be required by the Inspector. However, there are differing views on its potential in the longer term. Save Capel continues to believe that we need strategic growth that delivers truly affordable housing in sustainable areas…not the destruction of vital farmland. Dispersed development that benefits all communities with improved infrastructure.

The existing growth of Paddock Wood has not delivered the necessary infrastructure to support it. Whilst some growth in Capel is probably inevitable, consideration should be given as to which candidate can best help ensure we get the “I before E” that is rarely provided when it is needed, if at all. Your Executive looks forward to working with whoever is elected this week.

Our campaign has now been running for five years and we should all be proud of what we have achieved so far, with your never-failing and ongoing support and generosity.

We hope the above is helpful for you in deciding where to put your “X” on Thursday.

We’d love to hear your feedback on this update via email to

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

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