But the Borough Council is to continue with its plans to build a garden village to meet government housing targets as it finally publishes its draft Local Plan.
The pre-submission document, which is to be presented to councillors at the Planning & Transportation Cabinet Advisory Board at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council next week [January 11], has already been delayed by six months due to the sheer number of comments and objections to the Plan.
But despite more than 8,000 individual comments having been received as well as the creation of a protest movement set up to block the planned development in Capel, the Council is to go ahead with plans to build more than 2,500 homes around the village of Tudeley.
When originally drafting its Local Plan, the Council had earmarked some land in the Ramslye area of Tunbridge Wells – near to the Eridge Road on the East Sussex border – as a location for a new school.
But after analysis by Kent County Council on expected pupil numbers in the town, the school was shelved due to falling birth rates which are expected to reduce projected pupil numbers.
However, new schools are still being earmarked for Capel to serve the new Tudeley Garden Village and expansion of Paddock Wood, including two new primary schools and a new secondary school – as well as the extension of the existing Mascalls Academy.
The pre-submission Local Plan, which outlines the Council’s proposals for new housing in the borough for the next decade and beyond, is set to be presented to the Government’s Planning Inspector in July once it has been approved by Councillors at an extraordinary Full Council meeting in February.
If Councillors give the finalised document the green light, it will also see the town of Paddock Wood more than double in size with around 4,000 new homes.
It’s all happening to meet Government house building targets that see the borough tasked with constructing 678 houses a year.
Around 40 per cent of all the new homes built will be classed as ‘affordable housing’.
However, the housing plan has proved controversial, with protest group Save Capel formed to block the new housing developments.
The protest group have suggested an alternative proposal to build new homes along the A21 growth corridor.
While the Council has said it will meet the developers behind the A21 proposal, they have said the idea to build along the main road was rejected in the early stages in the creation of its draft Local Plan due to the number of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty [AONB] along the route.
The publication of the Local Plan also comes after three neighbouring authorities – Sevenoaks, Wealden and Tonbridge & Malling – have all had their local plans rejected for failing to communicate with other Councils over unmet housing needs.
It also comes after the Government scrapped a new housing algorithm, which could have seen the Council have to increase house building efforts by a further 32 per cent.
Council Leader and Head of Planning at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, Alan McDermott, says the Local Plan has now reached its final stages.
He said: “Councillors from across all parties have been actively involved in the huge amount of work that has gone into producing this pre-submission version of the Plan and, subject to final approval from Full Council, it is now ready for public consultation before it goes to the Government’s Planning Inspector.
“I hope that when people look at the document, and the wider supporting documents at the consultation, they will see how views from the earlier consultation have been taken into account and that the Plan aims to preserve the unique qualities of the borough while allowing for necessary development.”