Tonbridge housing plan ‘in limbo’ after new concerns over student parking

Tonbridge housing plan 'in limbo' after new concerns over student parking
SQUEEZING IN: West Kent would have provision for 350 parking spaces where originally it was supposed to offer 580 PHOTO: Craig Matthews

The application, made by Ashill in September, was set to be rubber-stamped but was halted because of issues with the height of the developments affecting neighbouring properties.

These have been addressed, but Cllr David Cure of Judd ward, who called for a fresh site inspection, has succeeded in raising residents’ concerns about parking provision on adjacent streets.

It is understood that the Hadlow Group, which owns West Kent, decided to sell off parts of the campus – including a block used by construction students and the Asquith nursery – to help finance its struggling college in Ashford.

If the proposals are not approved, the group may not be paid for the whole site.

Ashill owns part of it, has exchanged contracts on the remainder and is looking to complete the purchase in August.

The Hadlow Group has been mired in controversy this year following the surprise resignations of its principal and chief executive, Paul Hannan, and his deputy Mark Lumsdon-Taylor amid claims of financial irregularities.

These are being investigated by the Further Education Commissioner and Education and Skills Funding Agency.

‘The college students use lots of parking and the traffic surveys they have done are totally wrong’

Cllr Cure told the Times: “The Hadlow Group, who have just seen two of their executives depart, are also under threat about the courses at a number of colleges and the quality of their teaching.

“They can’t judge what parking is required if they don’t know what services they are delivering.

“The inspection also brought into focus the lack of onsite parking on the site,” he added. “We saw overspill parking from the college site, giving considerable concern, particularly as the development proposed by this application is displacing a large number of parking spaces to elsewhere within the campus.

“It’s in limbo, basically. It’s most peculiar. The college students use lots of parking and the traffic surveys they have done are totally wrong.

“They said, ‘we’ll encourage the students to come by bus or walk in’. They all say that, but the students just drive in anyway.”

PARK THE IDEA: One of the old car parks which would accommodate the new housing PHOTO: Craig Matthews

The Area 1 Planning Committee of Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, which cancelled its meeting this month, responded to the new survey.

It noted: “With regard to car parking, some criticism was previously made that only one survey had been undertaken by the applicant of how many car parking spaces were occupied by the college during a typical day.

“Criticism was also made that the survey was undertaken…just before the Easter break.

“An additional parking survey has now been undertaken and the results of this shows that the proposed parking arrangements for the college post development (350 spaces) would be sufficient to cater for the needs of the college. This parking survey shows a similar level of parking to that shown in the earlier parking survey.”

‘We envision there being very little impact in terms of on-street parking in the residential streets around the college’

The Ashill development has accommodated a parking need of 350 spaces on the campus.

On March 26 last year, the survey revealed that the maximum of 342 cars, while the second survey on March 6 this year peaked at 346.

But the planning consent for the original campus stipulated 580 parking spaces.

When asked about the provision, Hadlow Group’s Philip Orrell said: “The site in question is an overflow car park, which is currently under-used, so we envision there being very little impact in terms of on-street parking in the residential streets around the college.”

And the managing director of Ashill, Ben Boyce, commented: “There are currently two car parks which are surplus to college requirements, which have approximately 174 spaces for the Children’s Nursery and The Oaks building, both of which are to be demolished as a result of the scheme.

“The plans do not propose to relocate the college parking as the car parks are surplus to their requirements.”

Cllr Cure said: “The residents are concerned, they get students from the college and from Judd.”

“They have considered applying for a parking permit scheme but these things go onto a list and there are so many areas in the borough, it takes a long time for the officers to get round to it.”

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