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CPRE Kent AGM

The Kent Branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England will be holding its AGM on Monday 23rd September at pm at Bidborough Village Hall.


The advice we have received from CPRE Kent since the inception of our campaign has been key to the development and progress of Save Capel to date. Please do attend this meeting if you can. Full details are below, followed by the speech made by the Chair of CPRE Kent, John Wotton at our recent public meeting.


See you there!


Come and meet the members of your local CPRE Kent Committee at 8pm on Monday 23rd September 2019 at Bidborough Village Hall, Bidborough, Tunbridge Wells TN3 0XD to discuss the new draft Tunbridge Wells Borough Plan and how we can best try to protect our lovely countryside.


Cheese and wine will be served.

For catering purposes it would be helpful if you could RSVP to: Elizabeth@akenhead.co.uk


We urgently need more committee members, especially to help us to monitor developments in Cranbrook/Sissinghurst, Lamberhurst, Paddock Wood, Pembury and Speldhurst parishes, and to help us with campaigns and events. If you might be willing to stand for election to the committee, please contact Elizabeth Akenhead via Elizabeth@akenhead.co.uk


Agenda

Chairman’s Welcome

Apologies for absence

Minutes of last Annual Meeting (2018)

Chairman’s Report and discussion of draft Tunbridge Wells Local Plan

Any other questions to the committee

Election of the Committee

The following have agreed to stand for re-election:

Elizabeth Akenhead

Ed Bates

Howard Belton

Mark Booker

Margaret Borland

Marlene Lento

Peter Tavner

John Wotton

Any further Tunbridge Wells CPRE members who may agree to stand for election will be announced on the day. After the formal meeting there will be an opportunity to stay and chat with committee members. Cheese and wine will be served.


John Wotton's speech at the Save Capel Public Meeting 18th September 2019


Good evening, everyone. I want to start by congratulating the Save Capel

campaign team for the prompt and effective work you’ve undertaken so far and

to say how pleasing it is that so many of you are showing your commitment to

this community by coming to this evening’s meeting.


CPRE is the countryside charity. It exists to protect the English countryside, to

make sure it is valued and accessible to all and that it supports a viable and

sustainable rural economy. Here in Tunbridge Wells, we are privileged to live in

the beautiful and historic farmed and wooded landscape of the Weald of Kent.

We are all custodians of the countryside, none more so, I would suggest, than

our local planning authority.


So, how does the draft Tunbridge Wells Local Plan measure up in terms of

protecting our cherished countryside? Not well, in my estimation. The plan is,

of course, the product of a broken planning system, driven by political and

commercial interests that are wholly divorced from the needs of the population

as a whole and wishes of local communities, including this one. It is

inconceivable that Tunbridge Wells Borough Council would have come up with

a plan of this nature in the absence of the housing and other targets imposed by

national planning policy. There is now no pretence that the targets are based on

genuine predictions of household growth and housing need, for the most up-to

date Office of National Statistics data on population growth and household

formation have been ignored by national government, in order to adhere to a

totally arbitrary and unachievable target of building 300,000 homes a year (that

is homes built anywhere and of any type, regardless of housing need). The

rationale for this target has been challenged in recent research by Ian Mulheirn,

published by the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence, which

concludes that no more than 160,000 homes per year need to be built to cater for

housing need.


This topic is highly controversial, but for us in Tunbridge Wells, the key point is

that the right homes for the people in this Borough are built in the right places.

The homes which are built should be affordable to those in need of a home and

built in the most environmentally sustainable places, not simply the sites that

yield the highest profit to developers. This means that houses should preferably

be built on brownfield or urban infill sites, or as limited urban extensions,

always making the most efficient use of land, rather than in new settlements on

greenfield sites, and especially not in protected landscapes. The Council seems

to agree with this in principle, but not in practice.


CPRE naturally wishes to see Tunbridge Wells adopt a sound Local Plan as this

will give the local authority a measure of control over future development and

better defences against inappropriate, speculative development proposals.

However, a sound plan is not a panacea. Factors beyond the Council’s control

may (and probably will) undermine the Plan during its 15-year life, probably

sooner rather than later. These factors include changes in the deliverability of

individual sites, failure to build out planning applications which have been

granted and, in these febrile political times, changing requirements of national

policy. As soon as the Council’s housing policies are shown to be out-of-date,

the developers will again have the whip hand.


A “Sound Plan” is therefore not to be bought at any price and the price of this

draft Plan is, in CPRE’s view, far too high. Tudeley Village is just the most

egregious example of the sacrifice of greenfield sites for substantial housing

development in the Green Belt, in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural

Beauty and elsewhere in the Borough. This sacrifice is made in pursuit of

housebuilding objectives that, even in the unlikely event of their being

achieved, would do little to meet the genuine local need for housing, at prices

local people can afford. The Council say that they place the highest priority on

protecting the AONB and then the Green Belt, but this is not the impression I

gain from the proposed site allocations throughout the Borough. If Tudeley

Village is intended to relieve the pressure on the rest of the Borough, it does not

achieve this, even in protected areas. In my own Parish of Cranbrook and

Sissinghurst in the AONB, for example, the housing allocation exceeds assessed

local needs by about 50%.


What can the Council do, though, in the face of seemingly implacable national

policy requirements? In our view, national planning policy does allow

Tunbridge Wells to provide for less than the so-called objectively assessed

housing need, in view of the high proportion of the land in the Borough which is

protected as Green Belt or AONB. This ability is fundamental to the effective

protection of the Green Belt and AONBs. If it were not there, the Green Belt

and AONB would be less protected in those districts in which they form a large

proportion of the land area than in those where only small areas are protected.


This is not the law, or the policy of government.


The Council say that they have not even considered the possibility of providing

for less than assessed housing need, because their Strategic Housing Land

Assessment shows that the Borough can accommodate this need. However, it is

hard to see how they have reached this conclusion. Their Sustainability

Assessment shows that the Council’s housing objective is compatible with only

5 of the 19 sustainability objectives they have set themselves and incompatible

with 9 of them. It is the only objective in the Plan which fails the Council’s

sustainability tests in this way. This is a fundamental contradiction in the Plan.It

does not provide for sustainable development in Tunbridge Wells on the

Council’s own terms, and it must be changed.


I haven’t said much about how the technicalities of planning policy apply to the

overarching subject of the climate emergency, which rightly moves ever higher

up the political agenda, including the planning agenda. It is far from clear to me

that the Council gives adequate weight to mitigating climate change in this Plan.

That is a wider topic than we can embark upon today, but an aspect of it is

specifically relevant to the Tudeley Village proposal. Under the government’s

climate change guidance, planning authorities are advised that the distribution

and design of new settlements and sustainable transport solutions are

particularly important considerations that affect transport emissions.


The Planning Inspectors have within the past week rejected the draft West of

England Spatial Plan, saying that high levels of dispersed development across

the West of England, unguided by any strategy, would not be sustainable. I

understand that this plan included a number of so-called “garden settlements”

on greenfield sites. It would seem that garden settlements are going to be looked

at closely by Inspectors and this should make Tunbridge Wells Borough

Council think twice before trying to meet its housing objectives in this way.


Tudeley Village is the poster child for the unsustainability of this draft Plan. It

represents unsustainable, environmentally harmful destruction of the

countryside, replacing a beautiful, unspoilt and protected site with a dormitory

for City commuters and their families, heavily reliant on their private cars for

transport. It will destroy local communities and ruin local residents’ lives. It

must be stopped and CPRE Kent will support you in your campaign.

Thank you





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