Call for urgent rethink after rural revolt on central planning rules

Pam Mills

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is being encouraged to ‘urgently review’ its approach to planning in rural areas.
Parish councillors in Benenden have called for a rethink by their borough counterparts who ultimately determine planning issues, after several controversial village developments were given the go-ahead, despite strong local opposition.
One such scheme saw a developer submit a plan to convert a former poultry barn in Iden Green into three dwellings.
The Parish Council said they have a long standing’ policy of encouraging smaller residential units in and around the village to enable young people and families to remain in the area and welcomed the ‘golden opportunity’ the development represented.
But following advice from the planning authority the developer changed their plans and applied for just one dwelling with five bedrooms which will be ‘out of the price range of most local people’, the Parish Planning Chairman, Kent Barker, said.
A similar incident occurred at another conversion in the village, Mr Barker added. However, the Borough Council passed plans for an estate of 12 new houses on green field land despite concerted opposition from the Parish Council and local residents.
The row comes in the wake of the news that, under new government quotas, Tunbridge Wells Borough may have to provide 10,000 new homes by 2023.
Parish Cllr Barker said: “It seems quite ludicrous that the borough council foists unsuitable and unpopular green field developments on us, but won’t consider multi occupancy conversions on brown-field sites.”


Cllr Alan McDermott, Cabinet member with responsibility for planning, said the Borough Council cannot comment on pre-planning advice in relation to the individual cases raised due to ‘confidentiality’.
He added: “The Council is currently producing the new Local Plan. We have been, and will be, engaging with the Parish and Town Councils as the Plan moves forward. All policies, including those regarding the conversions of buildings in rural areas and the size/mix of dwellings in both rural and urban locations, will be reviewed as part of this process.”

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