The council’s Garden Village plans come under government scrutiny

Olympian Louis Smith
PROTEST: Save Capel group campaigning over garden village plans in Tunbridge Wells in 2019

The Tunbridge Wells Local Plan, covering development in the borough until 2038, outlines where houses and other infrastructure are to go.

Tunbridge Wells Borough council’s (TWBC) Plan has been delayed by six months due to the number of comments received, both for and against.

One of the most controversial proposals was development at Tudeley Garden Village and the expansion of Paddock Wood.

Campaign group Save Capel, which has more than 1,000 members, was formed to block the proposals, which were introduced to meet government housing targets of building 13,560 new homes to be built by 2036.

In its opening statement for Stage 1 hearings, TWBC told Planning Inspector Matthew Birkinshaw that the decision to promote some major development  within the AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) had been ‘of obvious controversy’.

However, the council stressed the need for housing and employment, and the fact that all the neighbouring authorities with similar AONB constraints have had their plans rejected.

“The fact that the decision of the Tunbridge Wells Full council to submit the Plan received such strong cross-party political support is – I believe – testament to its preparation and the urgency of needing an up-to-date Local Plan in place,” the authority said in its opening statement.

The review of the Tunbridge Wells plan comes as Tonbridge & Malling Borough council (TMBC), Sevenoaks District council (SDC) and Wealden District council (WDC) all had their plans rejected over unmet housing need and failing to communicate with other authorities.

The Planning Inspector also received statements from those who oppose the council’s plan, including Save Capel.

Lawyers for the pressure group told the Planning Inspector that there had been a ‘failure’ by TWBC to speak to other authorities on whether they could take some of Tunbridge Wells’ housing, which it said had now resulted in ‘unnecessary release of greenbelt and AONB’.

Friends of Tudeley have also complained about the plan to the Planning Inspector, raising the issue of transport pressures on Tonbridge and demanded the authority ‘go back to the drawing board’.

In a statement the campaign group said: “TWBC can’t fix this now. We believe that the only option is to go back to the drawing board (as Tonbridge and Sevenoaks have done) and start again.

“This time, we hope that all of the local authorities involved will work effectively together to deliver achievable, sustainable Local Plans.”

The hearings on the council’s local plan are being held throughout March, April and May, and it is understood the Planning Inspector will make his decision on the soundness of the plan in the summer for adoption in January 2023.

Residents can access the Local Plan Hearing Sessions through Tunbridge Wells Borough council’s (TWBC) channel:


Later sessions will be put on TWBC’s YouTube channel.


By Victoria Roberts

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