480 homes at Haysden Country Park while brownfield sites stand vacant

The Mead School in Tunbridge Wells gave a professional level performance in the  ISA drama contests

CONCERN is growing over the loss of greenfield sites after the new draft Local Plan for the borough identified an area in south-west Tonbridge next to Haysden County Park for the construction of almost 500 homes.

There are also worries about the need to install bring in infrastructure.

The site stretches from Hayesbrook School to the A21, and spreads either side of Lower Haysden Road. If the plan is approved, building will begin in 2022 and be completed in seven years.

A further 352 homes are mooted to be built on the site of Coblands Nursery in Trench Road near Tonbridge Angels’ Longmead stadium, from 2021 to 2026.

A public consultation on the draft Local Plan will be held later this year.

The council has had to revise its strategy and revisit potential sites after the government revised its targets for house-building in November.

As a result, Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council has had to increase the number of homes it builds across the borough every year from 696 to 859.

This constitutes an increase of 23.5 per cent on the number the council had originally worked out for the previous Local Plan. Council Leader Nicolas Heslop has described the new requirement as ‘in simple terms undeliverable’.

‘The council is in a difficult position but we believe it has taken the easiest option’

Large numbers of houses have been allocated for Borough Green (1,720), Aylesford (1,oo0), Bushey Wood, Eccles (900); and north of Kings Hill (825).

The area near the park had already been safeguarded to meet longer-term housing needs. The draft plan states: ‘Taking account of the evidence and the character of the area and the current level of activity, it is considered that approximately 480 dwellings could be developed at this location.’

Howard Porter, Chair of the Tonbridge & Malling Green Party, told the Times: ‘The council is in a difficult position but we believe it has taken the easiest option in identifying the green fields adjacent to Haysden Country Park for a development of 480 new homes.

‘There are two enormous brownfield sites, the Old Colas Site in Vale Road and Southern Salads at Cannon Lane, which we believe should be redesignated for residential use.

‘The benefits are two-fold: Using brownfield sites first would follow guidelines requiring the use of open fields only as a last resort.

‘And preventing further retail development on the edges of town would safeguard the viability of our High Street as the primary retail area.’

The plan highlights the site’s ‘close proximity to the town centre and railway station’ and ‘existing cycle routes, for example the Tonbridge to Penshurst Place path.

Key infrastructure would be required including a primary school with two-form entry and an expansion of secondary school provision.

The junction of Brook Street and Quarry Hill would be upgraded to cope with the extra traffic.

But Mr Porter says: ‘The current infrastructure simply cannot cope. There is no room for yet more roads and there are no plans to upgrade rail or bus services. In fact, Kent County Council are cutting the latter.’

Cllr Maria Heslop, Cabinet Member for -Community Services, said: ‘We have a quota we have to fulfil that’s set by national government.

‘All we can do is make sure these developments occur in the best possible places.’

‘Tonbridge has a great community and you’re more likely to develop a community spirit here than sticking houses in the middle of nowhere.’

But she expressed concerns about the need to build GP surgeries to service these new estates.

‘There is provision, when there’s a large-scale development, for a GP surgery to be attached to that, but the problem is you can’t get the GPs.

‘They will not sign up. They have to commit their own money to it. They’re private, not part of the National Health. We can’t force them.’

PICTURE: GREEN SCENE: The land set aside for 480 homes

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