‘Agreement’ to protect Tonbridge Angels Football Club from Local Plan

‘Agreement’ to protect Tonbridge Angels Football Club from Local Plan

by Andy Tong | 1st May 2019

CONFUSION surrounds the future of the car park at Tonbridge Angels Football Club’s Longmead Stadium in the run-up to the local elections on Thursday May 2.

A ‘call for sites’ in the draft Local Plan submitted in January has identified part of Tonbridge Farm, the council-owned land around the club, as a potential site for 54 new houses on the Green Belt.

But the sitting councillors in Trench ward where Longmead is situated, the Mayor of Tonbridge & Malling Pam Bates and fellow Conservative Georgina Thomas, took to social media to insist the homes will not be built there.

On the Facebook page for Trench Ward Community they stated: “The Long Mead football ground will not be built on for housing. It was added to the Local Plan to display allocation.

“It also allows more possibility in the future to regenerate the area, helping the football club, opening up opportunity.”

They revealed that there had been an ‘agreement’ between various councillors across the town about the importance of preserving the car park.

‘The Long Mead football ground will not be built on for housing. It was added to the Local Plan to display allocation’

“There is no planning application and councillors in Trench, Castle and beyond have a joint agreement that this is an important area for parking,” they said.

However, the Leader of Tonbridge & Malling Parish Council, Nicolas Heslop, told Tonbridge Angels last October that the car park might be subject to a planning application – and that a different option would be discussed.

He said: “The site is designated Green Belt, but exceptional circumstances for removing the designation are being made through the Local Plan process.

“The council owns the land and in the event of the site coming forward for development in the future, alternative facilities for parking would be considered as part of the planning application process.”

The club, which is contesting a play-off semi-final tomorrow [Thursday], has regularly attracted crowds of more than 800 fans towards the end of this season.

The venue also hosts the town’s main firework display with the Round Table, and annually stages the West Kent Garden and Craft Show – which will be held on May 11-12.

'The site is designated Green Belt, but exceptional circumstances for removing the designation are being made'

The club has told the Times: “The proposals put forward by the council have yet to be approved by central government.

“The club will continue to work closely with both the local authority and Trench Ward Community to enhance the aspirations of the club and the community as a whole once the plan has been approved.”

Cllrs Heslop and Thomas were approached by the Times last week to clarify what the agreement was and how it would help to safeguard the land. They had not replied at the time of going to press.

The old Coblands nursery site in Trench has also been identified to accommodate 300 houses.

Another contentious choice is land around Haysden Country Park in south Tonbridge, which has been designated to take 480 homes in the draft Local Plan despite also being in the Green Belt.

Cllr Thomas was elected to Trench ward in 2016 in the last ballot held in the town.

She said on social media: “Nothing in the plan has even got an application but opposition use it in their campaigns to create arguments like it’s going to happen.

“If the council doesn’t show to central government housing allocation and we vote against it then we could all lose control of the landscaping, infrastructure, amount of housing etc, but we all came together to protect the borough.

“There are so many things blown up my opposition political parties to create a divide.”

In the local election Stacey Pilgrim is standing as an independent candidate in Trench ward.

Mr Pilgrim said: “I’m standing in Trench as I believe the area needs a truly local person who understands the needs and issues in the area.

“This wasn’t a difficult decision to make when you look at what both our councillors had voted on in the Local Plan.

“How can they agree to a plan that would see the destruction of Green Belt land?”

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