TWBC approves next stage of Hawkhurst housing project

DEVELOPMENT: A Google image of the development site near Highgate Hill, Hawkhurst

FOLLOWING last week’s Council Cabinet meeting on Thursday, February 8, it has been confirmed that Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) will provide over £1million in funding for a major housing development in Hawkhurst.

The development site near Highgate Hill and Copthall Avenue has divided local opinion but is set to comprise over 70 homes with 28 affordable properties, 18 to rent and 10 for shared ownership.

The first public webinar introducing the plan was held in the summer of 2022, with work starting on the overall development earlier this week. Sales of all the new homes are expected to launch this summer.

In addition to the housing, a medical centre which could provide care for thousands of local people is also set to be built on the site, alongside a country park and the expansion of land for the nearby Hawkhurst Church of England Primary School.

TWBC council are providing £1,140,000 funding as part of a Section 106 agreement, meaning the financial contribution must be used to develop high-quality affordable homes for local people.

The site is a Greenfield location, east of the centre of the village in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and equivalent in size to 19 standard 11-a-side football pitches.

The Council funding will be used to subsidise the gap between affordable and social rents for Town and Planning, the housing association overseeing the development.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council had been pushing for the planning committee to back the build for several months, recognising that large developments in AONBs require ‘exceptional circumstances’ for their build to be justified.

The shared ownership properties are available in a range of sizes, a necessary development given the especially high waiting times for three- and four-bedroom properties across the Borough.

Most of the affordable rented properties are one-room flats, with a single four-bedroom house also available.

There are currently 580 active households on the Housing Register across the Borough, with properties around Hawkhurst in particularly high demand.

From this register, 60 households have made it clear that they want to live in the village, with 50 having a local connection to Hawkhurst or the surrounding parishes of Sandhurst, Cranbrook and Sissinghurst or Benenden.

Commenting on the development Hugo Pound, Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning, said: “Using money given to the Council by developers to help provide genuinely affordable housing across the Borough, we have been able to create 18 homes for social rent on a well-planned development in Hawkhurst.

“Initially, no housing association could afford to take on these properties but by using developers’ contributions and working in partnership with Town & Country Housing, the Council has increased its stock of social housing with no cost to the taxpayer. The Council’s partnership with Town & Country Housing has greatly improved over the last two years and we will continue to work together to deliver high quality, genuinely affordable housing across the Borough.”

Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark was approached for comment.

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