Controversial housing plans for Tudeley Village are set to be withdrawn by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council following recommendations set out by officers in a revised development strategy.
On Monday November 13, members of the advisory board unanimously agreed that the 2,800 homes planned for Tudeley Village in Capel Parish be dropped from the Local Plan.
Councillor for Capel Ward Hugh Patterson, Mayor and Chair of Capel Parish Council, spoke at the Cabinet meeting in favour of the Inspector’s recommendations to remove Tudeley Village from the Plan. He told the Times:
“I think Tudeley clearly lacked the infrastructure necessary to support 2,800 new homes. The Planning Inspector required more evidence to remove the site from the Green Belt and TWBC was unable to provide it. This represents a victory for a community campaign led by the Save Capel and Capel Parish Council which has fought hard over the last four and a half years to protect the nature of this rural parish.”
He added: “I also welcome the reduced numbers of houses planned in East Capel, and I am pleased they will no longer be built in areas vulnerable to fluvial flooding. However, there are still questions to be answered about the remaining allocation.”
Inspector Matthew Birkinshaw’s initial findings were received by TWBC in November 2022, in which concerns surrounding the proposed developments including congestion, flooding and deliverability were raised.
The Times has reported extensively on the contentious plans for the development, proposed to help the Council meet the government housing targets of building over 13,000 new homes by 2038.
In response to the proposed developments first drafted in 2019, a campaign group ‘Save Capel’ was formed to block the development. Stewart Gledhill, Chairman of Save Capel, said at the meeting on Monday (November 13): “In 2019 there was an overwhelming objection to the proposal in the unprecedented 8,000 responses to the public consultation.
“Despite this, the Council persisted and it has become increasingly clear that you had no plan B, ignoring the reasonable alternatives highlighted by Save Capel and many others. Councillors, it is encouraging that you are now being asked to agree with the Inspector’s initial findings a year ago.
“We get the need for due diligence, but we are concerned about the time taken and the further costs incurred unnecessarily pursuing the Tudeley option. Crucially, the inspector has not determined that the proposal could ever be made inevitably sound.”
The group, which has 2,000 supporters, believes the deletion of Tudeley Village is a ‘significant victory’ for the Parish, who have argued at every stage of the process that the Tudeley development was unsustainable.
The plans were also criticised by Tonbridge & Malling Council, as the sites are less than a mile from the border with Tonbridge.
Though there will be a reduction of dwellings proposed for Paddock Wood and East Capel along with revised employment and educational provision, the work for the campaigners has not finished as they have ‘serious concerns about the development strategy for East Capel’ where thousands of homes are still planned.
Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.
Following the recommendations, Prospective Liberal Democrat MP for Tunbridge Wells, Mike Martin, said: “I’m glad that these badly thought-out Conservative housing plans are set to be scrapped. We need to build houses, but they must have the accompanying infrastructure like roads, GP surgeries and schools. That they planned to build on a flood zone says everything about how irresponsible the previous Conservative administration was. Despite claiming that houses should always be built with infrastructure, the local Conservative MP allowed this to happen on his watch.”
The recommended strategy sees additional housing at Hawkhurst of approximately 70 dwellings, a medical centre and school expansion land.
Following adoption, the Council will undertake an early review of the Local Plan, which will include further investigation of ways of meeting identified housing needs for the period post-2034.
The report will progress to Cabinet on December 7 and then Full Council on December 13 where all Councillors will vote on the recommendations. If successful, the revisions will be subject to a public consultation.