Courier 1 June 2001 Page 13
Doubts at town blueprint
The documents which sets down planning policy in the Tunbridge Wells Borough for the next 10 years has been rubber stamped.
Despite objections by some councillors to parts of the Draft Local Plan and the Transport Strategy, and all Labour members voting against its approval, it will go forward to a public consultation in July or August 2001.
Its contents, which include guidelines for new houses, schools and roads, green-belt and parking, will gradually replace current planning policy.
At a meeting on Wednesday last week [23 May 2001] Labour leader, Councillor Ian Carvell said: "I have problems with putting my name to this council document when they are proposing to demolish a football pitch on Cole-brook Playing Fields and build a road."
Labour Councillor Val Catt said she was concerned about the lack of affordable housing. She said: "We plan to provide only 1,000 homes in 10 years. It's only a little over half that is deemed to be required. I can't vote for this."
And Lib Dem Councillor David Neve added: "If this goes out to the public with our approval it looks as if we agree with everything in it."
Lib Dem David Mills applauded restricted development in flood areas and more town cycle routes, but criticised plans for a park-and-ride in Pembury.
Conservative Councillor Terry Cload said the Woodsgate Corner "community site" initially reserved for a village hall should still be used for residents, as an internet cafe or drop-in centre.
He also urged the council to protect the countryside or "neglect it at your peril" and said park-and-ride would bring pollution to the village.
Plans for 200 homes at Hawkenbury's Farm, south of Hawkenbury Road, were rejected by Conservative Councillor Peter Bulman.
He said: "They would be an extremely problematic and difficult pill to swallow for residents. They have already suffered from the land registry and the infrastructure will not sustain a development of this size."
Chairman of the plan's working party, Conservative Councillor Paul Oliver-Smith said it was likely the plan would be adopted in 2004.
"If we insist on putting it back we achieve nothing. We are here to get this document out."
Cllr David Neve was on the plan's working party but said he opposed it "all the way through".
He said 200 homes planned for Hawkenbury would make the roads more dangerous for children at nearby Claremont Primary School.
"It would be more traffic on Pembury Road, because for that number of homes it's going to be more than 200 more cars."
He criticised delays on park-and-ride schemes included in the Draft Transport Strategy. "In 1997 the Tories said they must have another strategy and it would take six months. Here we are four years later and it's not that different from ours."
He is also against a southern bypass of Tunbridge Wells which would route traffic from Frant and Crowborough direction along Forest Road and into town via Hawkenbury.
"To sign it as a route, would mean more traffic and heavy lorries coming around the Bayhall junction and the narrow road alongside Dunorlan. The infrastructure is not good enough," he added.
Telephone House Neighbours' Association, which fought plans to build 43 apartments on the Church Road site, raised concerns about the Local Plan's policy for its future use.
"It's virtually identical to the proposal submitted by the developers Crest Homes," said Cmdr George Lawson.
The homes were the subject of a public inquiry last month. A result is expected in about three weeks.
Cmdr Lawson added: "If Policy H6(a) remains in the plan, how can the borough council possibly justify the expenditure of so much money on the public inquiry into Crest Homes' application?"
Tory Councillors for Park Ward, Peter Bulman, Catherine Mayhew and Terry Harrison, also object to implications for Hawkenbury contained in the plan.
Cllr Bulman said: "These houses are not wanted and would have an extremely adverse impact on the local environment. The local roads would not be able to cope with this massive development."
Turning to the Transport Strategy, he described the proposed southern access as "ill thought out".
"It will produce an intolerable situation for people living on Forest Road. The route is already a known problem and implications are severe for the dangerous black spots like Sibbey's Corner."
All three councillors pledged to "support to fight the cause" for Hawkenbury residents during forthcoming public consultation meetings.
Other items revealed in the plan are development opportunities at the Food Hall in Royal Victoria Place shopping centre, with the area converted into more shops and glaze-roofing Market Square with its entrance in Camden Road.
The Kent and Sussex Hospital site is earmarked for a range of uses including housing and possibly a hotel and as expected, the Local Plan identifies the current Pembury Hospital as the site for a new hospital.
Tony Fullwood, borough council head of strategy and development, said land was ear-marked for primary school provision.
These are at Hawkenbury Farm, for a new site for St Peter's Primary, at the Ridgeway in Southborough for a new primary, off Carriers Road in Cranbrook for Cranbrook Primary, land off Rye Road in Hawkhurst for Hawkhurst Primary, near Pearse Place in Lamberhurst for Lamberhurst Primary and an area off Common Road in Sissinghurst for Sissinghurst Primary School.
Further dual-use of school facilities is also contained in the plan.
It said: "There is great potential for further dual use provision in order to supplement existing community facilities, especially in the new purpose-built primary schools proposed."
This was strongly supported by Lib Dem Pembury Councillor Bruce Ballantine.
There will be plenty of opportunity for the public to comment on the plan. Exhibitions will tour the borough between July 9 and September 11.
A hotline will also be launched on July 9, the first time the local plan is available to the public.
It can also be seen on CD and as a paper copy. A scale of charges is currently being worked out.
The council will also post some of its contents on the internet.
All comments on the plan should be made between July 9-September 21.
The first exhibition is on July 9 at Benenden Iden Green Pavillion.
For more information telephone TWBC on 01892 526121.
Bizarrely, Policy H6(a) allocated for Telephone House was identical to the two refused planning applications for the Telephone House development.
Policy H6(a) is the most controversial document, produced by the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, leading to the Telephone House Debacle.
|A guide through Tunbridge Wells Local Press since August 2000 - "The Telephone House Debacle"|