Owlsnest remains safe as planning falls through

Pam Mills

PLANS to be build develop a new bed care home in Pembury were rejected by the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council last week on ecological grounds.

Councillors on the planning committee voted 10-0, with two abstentions, in favour of dismissing the application submitted by developer Quantum Group to build in Owlsnest Wood following advice from planning officers.

The officers had recommended the committee reject the Tonbridge Road scheme in their report, citing the ‘adverse impacts on landscape, trees and ecology’.

Their report stated: “The proposal is considered to be inappropriate development within the Metropolitan Green Belt.”

A number of ‘very special circumstances’ were listed to mitigate concerns about development on the greenbelt, such as the increasing need for elderly care, the site’s proximity to the hospital and the creation of new jobs.

However these were not considered enough to outweigh the downsides, leading planning officers to state: “The harm to the landscape, and character of the area, by virtue of the scale of the development, amount, layout and site coverage, would not be outweighed by the identified benefits of the scheme.”

If given the go-ahead, the proposal would have seen a 76-bed main facility plus 19 smaller dwellings built opposite the Tunbridge Wells Hospital across a five hectare site in the ancient woodland..

Documents reveal it would have led to the employment of 36 part time and 30 full time jobs, generating an estimated £400,000 in additional spending in the local economy per annum.

Furthermore, it was expected to pay approximately £34,000 in council tax, but was likely to be exempt from business rates.

A spokesman for Quantum Group said the firm were ‘reviewing our next steps’.

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