New Garden Village


 

Brenchley Parish Council
Information Sheet


A New Garden Village in Tunbridge Wells Borough?

Tunbridge Wells is, as will be widely known, in the course of preparing a new Local Plan, which will govern development of all kinds throughout the Borough in the period up to 2033. It will make provision for housing, for retail businesses of all kinds, commercial development, schools and leisure facilities. The Borough is subject to an unusually high level of constraint on its ability to carry out development, because approximately 70% of the Borough falls within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the remainder is subject to additional constraints such as the Green Belt, ancient woodland, flood management and historic open spaces and gardens. This means that 79% of the Borough is constrained in some way. Tunbridge Wells is also a high user of water, with low recharge rates, so that it is defined as being an area of “serious water stress”.

Against this background the Borough is charged with finding an additional 12960 housing units during the proposed plan period, at the rate of 648 units per annum.

The Borough recently carried out a Consultation on the issues facing it when making provision for that development and on the options that it has to bring this forward. Perhaps the most controversial of these options was Option 5, the creation of a new garden village somewhere in the Borough. Concern about this, fuelled by developers promoting the idea in certain locations, has prompted the Borough’s Planning Policy Manager, Kelvin Hinton, to address the issue at a recent meeting with the Chairmen of the Borough’s parishes.

Mr. Hinton explained that, at the time of the consultation, Option 5 was put forward simply to establish the principle of whether individuals and businesses were in favour of this as a solution to the housing difficulties. There is no commitment at all, at present, to such a settlement but interest has been shown in a number of responses to the consultation, (the Borough had over 6000 responses from nearly 600 organisations and individuals).

Mr. Hinton picked out some headlines from the responses that have so far been analysed:-

• 55% of all responding parishes preferred a combination of Option 4 (developing along the A21 corridor) and Option 5 (new settlement);
• 49% of responding individuals had the same preference;
• 26% of individuals preferred a combination of Option 1 (maintaining the same hierarchy of development as at present, which the Borough has previously indicated is not sustainable), Option 3 (dispersed development throughout all the settlements) and Option 4.

He went onto to say that a new garden settlement has to fulfill very particular criteria as set out in the Town and Country Planning Acts:-

• the land value should be captured for the benefit of the community i.e. the uplift in value should be applied to the development of infrastructure etc rather than profit;
• there should be strong vision, leadership and community engagement, eg. there might be community ownership;
• there should be truly mixed tenure and it should be truly affordable;
• there should be job opportunities within easy commuting distance so, in all probability, employment opportunities should be created within the settlement.

There are other requirements but those are the principal tenets for a garden development. These would have to be adhered to for any such development that Tunbridge Wells might be minded to undertake once it has completed its analysis of the responses to the consultation paper and completed its evaluation of all the sites submitted under the two recent calls for sites.

Additionally, an independent feasibility study is currently being undertaken to see whether such a settlement is deliverable; if so, where it would fit in when looked at with the other strategies and where it might be built. That study should be available at the end of November.

Mr. Hinton said that the Borough is well aware of certain promoters of particular sites, such as the site around Pembury and Kippings Cross, stretching into Lamberhurst Quarter, Keys Green, Petteridge and Matfield, being proposed by the developers, Crest Nicholson. He was at pains to stress that no decision has been reached on whether a garden village would even be a possible option that could be pursued.

The Borough’s present position is that it is commissioning evidence from the feasibility study, which, as stated above, will assess whether the proposal is feasible at all and if it is, how it fits in with the other strategies and policies. If it does fit with those, they will then look at whether there is a suitable location. Additionally, it is completing work on the consultation paper, on the call for sites and on finishing other evidence studies to assist it in its deliberations.

The Bottom Line
The question was specifically raised about the pressure being put on local residents and landowners over the potential site that crosses Brenchley Parish from Pembury through to Lamberhurst and the concern this is causing many people. Mr. Hinton said that they are aware that there are developers out there promoting interest in certain sites and that this is horrible for the residents involved but the Borough’s position is that they are awaiting the result of the INDEPENDENT feasibility study and, in any event:

1) They are not far enough advanced in their assessments of the sites, the evidence and the representations yet to make a decision about whether a garden village is even wanted;
2) They don’t know whether it would be deliverable, even if desirable;
3) They don’t know if there is a suitable site; and
4) They might not want to deal with some or any of the current promoters of sites.

This is to reassure residents and businesses that no decisions have been made regarding a garden village in the borough