Tonbridge Green Party confident of election success
by Andy Tong | 24th April 2019
THE GREEN PARTY are fielding 10 candidates in Tonbridge wards at the local elections on May 2, their push for power reflecting some of the most burning issues in the town.
Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s [TMBC] draft Local Plan which includes proposals to build 480 houses on Green Belt land around Haysden Country Park.
Pollution is a problem, with concerns about air quality in that area of South Tonbridge, Judd ward, where there are a lot of schools clustered, and also on the High Street.
And Keep River Lawn Green is campaigning to stop the council selling off the public green space. The chair of the protest group is Mark Hood, who is running for a seat in Judd ward.
Before Christmas the 50-year-old father of two, who works as a gardener, perched in the branches of a chestnut tree on River Lawn as part of a week-long vigil to save it from being felled by developers of the Tonbridge Medical Centre next door.
What do you think are the major issues facing Tonbridge?
We need to balance building new homes with protecting the Green Belt, protect the economic health of our High Street and encourage independent small businesses.
We need to provide support for an emerging programme of community, arts and leisure events. And our traffic and transport system needs to meet the demands of the 21st century.
Do the Greens have enough support and clout to make change happen in the borough?
We have raised our profile since the last elections, people know we hold the council to account and offer cost-effective, common sense alternatives to the current administration.
We will work with progressive councillors to get this local authority’s finances back on track. People know we can win here now and once we have our first councillors more will follow.
The days of voting Green as a token gesture are over.
Do you think people are getting fed up with conventional political parties?
Locally and nationally we can see that one-party domination leads to complacency, secrecy and an unwillingness to govern by consensus.
People want politicians who are accountable that they can relate to and who they trust to create a better world for everyone.
There are 480 homes scheduled to be built on the Green Belt. It’s a shame, but don’t we desperately need more housing?
All the homes proposed in Judd could be accommodated at Vale Road next to the Royal Mail -Sorting Office.
We urge TMBC to redesignate brownfield land there for predominantly residential use to prevent its use as a retail park, which would jeopardise our High Street and increase pollution.
We also need to provide homes for local families on all income levels; the council has simply stopped providing social housing.
It fails to achieve the targets set for affordable housing and the new Local Plan has clauses which allow developers to make monetary contributions instead of providing them.
You are heavily involved in the campaign to stop the sale of River Lawn to developers. Are there not more pressing matters that need attending to?
River Lawn belongs to the people of Tonbridge, it was bought specifically to protect it from development. This council is guilty of environmental vandalism.
The campaign has exposed the way the council works. It has shed light on the short-sighted policy of selling property assets rather than repurposing or redeveloping them to raise revenue by leasing them.
Higher returns can be made by directly managing property than by gambling with institutional property investments.
The new medical centre, where the land was sold at half its market value, could have been built by the council – who will now miss out on the £245,000 annual rent.
Tonbridge High Street has poor air quality – what can be done to improve it?
Tonbridge High Street is an Air Quality Management Area yet each change introduced has made the situation worse - including the infamous bus stop which we warned about.
We propose making the High Street one way from Vale Road to Medway Wharf Road with restrictions allowing only bus and cyclist access southbound.
We would introduce a box junction at the end of Angel Lane to help the flow of traffic.
The progress would be monitored and subsequent measures considered after the initial trial.