Inspector turns down plans for High Street flats and nuns’ abbey

Inspector turns down plans for High Street flats and nuns' abbey

Developers wanted to add three storeys to the building to provide 10 flats. But the Inspector agreed with the Area 1 Planning Committee that this would ‘appear dominant in views from the south towards the High Street’.

Matt Boughton, councillor for Medway ward and Vice-Chairman of the Committee, had also expressed concerns about pollution on the High Street.

He greeted the decision and said: “Adding an extra three stories of flats above Poundstretcher would have been hugely detrimental to the views of the town from the whole of south Tonbridge.

“The impact on air quality on the High Street is also significant and I am delighted the Inspector has agreed that this is a totally unsuitable plan which deserves to be rejected.”

Another controversial plan has also been turned down by the Inspector in West Malling after Bellway applied to build up to 65 homes next to St Mary’s Abbey.

The 11th century abbey was the first building constructed in the area, with the town growing around it to provide services.

Tom Tugendhat, the MP for Tonbridge & Malling, asked the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government to intervene and stop the development after TMBC did not manage to reach a decision within the time frame.

Founded in 1090,the abbey is home to a Benedictine community of nuns who pursue a life of ‘solitude and silence’ and provide accommodation for retreats.

Frances Mahoney, the Inspector, noted that the nuns were concerned that noise from a proposed area of open space within the development could ‘drift into the quiet areas of the abbey where the contemplative atmosphere, so important to the nuns, would be mutated’.

She also found that damage to the area’s heritage outweighed the public benefits of the new housing.

An online crowdfunding campaign set up by West Malling Parish Council raised more than £20,000 to help cover legal costs.

Mother Mary David, the Abbess, said: “We are delighted with the outcome of the public inquiry into the proposed development at Lavenders Road and Swan Street.

“We are grateful and humbled by the amount of support we have received during this process. We would particularly like to thank Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council.

“We and our guests, who number more than 1,000 a year, are now looking forward to continuing our life at the Abbey in the God-centred quiet and peace.”

Mr Tugendhat said: “It was clear to anyone who knows West Malling that the impact of housing on St Mary’s Abbey would have been significant.

“This is a victory for our community, the sisters, and all those who contributed to the fundraising effort to support Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council in their objection to this proposal.”

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