Key site for new Tonbridge homes is rejected by planners

Tunbridge Wells Cemetery

There have been major revisions to the plans for delivering up to 2,000 new homes in Tonbridge over the next 15 years.

An image drawn up by Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council showing potential sites for development appeared on the front of the Times of Tonbridge on 1st June 2016.

It formed part of a new Local Plan being drawn up to meet the surge in demand for family homes in the area.

However, the council has now rejected several key locations in Tonbridge on environmental and planning grounds including Grange Farm, off Higham Lane, which could have seen up to 1,200 properties being built.

This removes a sizeable portion from the total expected number of homes from the borough’s next Local Plan, which covers a period until 2031, despite a projected need for 6,000 new properties across the borough during that period.

According to the council’s ‘Way Forward’ document, which forms the basis of the public consultation due to start in September, there are more than 15 sites actively being considered for development in Tonbridge.

These include potential for up to 332 homes at Manor Farm, 300 properties at Coblands Nurseries, as well as hundreds more homes in Lower Haysden Lane.

However, as council studies revealed, the area now faces major housing challenges with average property values in Tonbridge having soared to £277,000 for a three-bedroom home, according to property website Zoopla.

The borough’s figures show this is at least eight times a mid-earning Tonbridge salary of around £29,000 placing the property market out of reach for many families who then have to rely on the rented sector – which is also under strain because of the recently introduced hike in stamp duty.

As previously reported in the Times, concerns were raised by Mark Hood, of West Kent Green Party, who said the ongoing issue of serious flooding in Tonbridge posed a considerable challenge to future development.

However, according to Ian Bailey, planning policy manager for Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, its teams would work with the Environment Agency to strike a balance between developing a sufficient number of properties against ensuring environmental considerations.

He said: “The next stage for us now is to put together the proposed strategy which takes the best part of the principles of the initial call for sites that include existing locations that we can use as building blocks to help deliver the needs of the plan.

“We need to find around 6,000 homes for the borough. We’ve looked at some of the sites such as Grange Farm and found that perhaps parts of the location are not viable, which means in Tonbridge there might be around 1,200 homes as part of the Local Plan.”

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