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Section 5: Place Shaping Policies Goudhurst


This response report contains comments received on Section 5: Place Shaping Policies – Goudhurst section.

Contents

General comments

Comment No.

Name/Organisation

Response

DLP_5154

Cushman Wakefield for Ministry of Justice

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is the ministerial department responsible for the justice system covering:

  • Courts
  • Prisons
  • Probation services
  • Attendance centres

One of the MoJ’s four strategic priorities is to deliver a prison and probation service that reforms offenders. The Ministry works with other government departments and agencies to bring the principles of justice to life for everyone in society. From civil courts, tribunals and family law hearings, to criminal justice, prison and probation services. The MoJ works to ensure that sentences are served and offenders are encouraged to turn their lives around and become law-abiding citizens.

The MoJ owns HMP Blantyre House, Horden, Goudhurst, Kent TN17 2NH. This prison was converted from a former children’s home and officially closed in 2019, although it had been vacant for the preceding 2 years. The prison site extends to 11.74 ha situated in the parish of Gouldhurst, about 3.9km north-east of Goudhurst village and 1.35km east of Curtisden Green. The extent of the site is shown in the plan at Figure 1. [TWBC: for Figure 1 see full representation].

Blantyre House was an adult male category 'C/D' resettlement prison located in a country house which was taken over by the Prison Commission in 1954, having previously operated as a Fegan Home for boys. It subsequently became a Detention Centre for young offenders before converting to a resettlement prison for long term prisoners. The regime at Blantyre House prison was designed to prepare men for their eventual release through training, education and lifestyle skills. A number of vocational courses were also offered including IT, Dry-lining and Plastering. Prisoners were also allowed to attend external colleges to obtain further employment skills. As well as education, prisoners are able to work as cleaners, kitchen workers, orderlies etc. Prisoners risk were ultimately able to go out, initially in escorted project parties within the local community, then unaccompanied. Eventually prisoners were able to find full time paid work for up to a maximum of 12 months before release.

The prison comprises some 26 buildings, a swimming pool, farm area with poly tunnels, woodland containing two ponds, meadowland, and associated hardstanding and car parking. It could accommodate up to 122 inmates and also provided dining hall, hospital, security facilities, administration block, classrooms, workshops, gymnasiums, chapel and garages. There is a row of eight semi-detached houses within the site perimeter but seven of these properties have been sold to private owners.

Following its closure, the prison is surplus to requirements and will be sold once decommissioning is complete. This substantial, previously developed, site is, therefore, entering a new chapter and a future use will need to be found for the property. This is a large site which cannot be left to fall into dereliction, as this would disbenefit local residents and harm the local environment. A new use needs to be found for the site and the plan needs to respond appropriately with a positive approach towards finding the right solution.

It is against this background that the MoJ wishes to object to the emerging Tunbridge Wells Local Plan which fails to incorporate sufficient flexibility to enable a balanced consideration of sites such as Blantyre House, which lie outside the Limits to Built Development and which will become available for development during the plan period.

The objections are made to the following policies which seek to control the location of development but which are based on a vision which is too focussed on directing new development to existing (or planned) settlements and overlooks previously developed land which does not accord with the rigid settlement hierarchy or a pre-conceived idea of the type of buildings likely to become available (e.g. barns and oast houses) which is too narrow in concept.

Policy STR 1 The Development Strategy
Policy STR 10 Limits to Built Development Boundaries
Policy STR/GO 1 The Strategy for Goudhurst Parish
Policy ED 5 Conversion of Rural Buildings outside the Limits to Built Development

The National Planning Policy Framework (2019 edition) sets out the circumstances when homes in the countryside should be supported (paragraph 79) which include the re-use of redundant or disused buildings which would enhance the immediate setting. It also defines ‘previously developed land’ as comprising land which is or was occupied by a permanent structure, including the curtilage of the developed land and any associated fixed surface infrastructure.

[TWBC: see Comment Numbers DLP_5154, 5157-5159, 5161, and 5163-5164. See also full representation attached].

See site location plan.

Policy STR/GO 1: The Strategy for Goudhurst Parish

Comment No.

Name/Organisation

Response

DLP_8186

Highways England

Location:

No/Type:

Distance to SRN:

Impact:

Current traffic flows:

Recommendations

Goudhurst

21-26 residential dwellings (2 sites)

Small scale development proposed at these sites.

A262 runs through Goudhurst, joining with the A21 at Forstal Farm roundabout approximately 4km west.

No / minimal impact given scale of development. Trips expected to use A21 Forstal roundabout for access onto SRN.

Currently roundabout showing some traffic during AM and PM peak hours.

NA

TWBC: see Technical Note. See also full representation].

DLP_729

Jim Henley

Summary

Having reviewed the Draft Local Plan (20 September to 1 November 2019) for Goudhurst, the area outlined for development allocation within the Goudhurst Parish is extremely limited. Although a difficult location with multiple planning restrictions there is no real compromise to actually providing strategic locations.

This plan will lead to an immediate supply upswing in all probability before the new Local plan is confirmed, leaving the full term with serious issues of providing the necessary housing for the parish community and particularly those looking for affordable housing. Ultimately leading to Goudhurst being even more expensive and ultimately exclusive.

On this basis and the discounting of other sites the following site is submitted as a new site for consideration:

Clothe Edge Field to the North of Church Road, Goudhurst TN17 1BN

It is submitted that the site could be sensitively transformed into an amazing location benefiting the village, whilst maintaining the views, providing critical housing within easy walking distance of the village’s key facilities and services.

Description

The site is to the north of the A262 within the Goudhurst Conservation area. It is part of an agricultural field between the two Goudhurst Limits-to-Build and has public footpaths across and along the boundary edge of the submitted site.

Gross Area (ha): Estimate 0.95

The site is an undeveloped flat exposed agricultural site within the AONB. It sits within the Goudhurst Conservation Area with pockets of trees along the boundary, some of which are protected.

It is within easy access to the main facilities of Goudhurst both the primary school and main high street via public footpaths and is currently accessed via the A262 directly into the field. Power, water, drainage and broadband would work with the services currently provided within Goudhurst.

The site is singularly owned

Review of the “Sustainability Appraisal of the Draft Local Plan (September 2019)” assessment indicates that the site would be similar in appeal as AL/GO1 | Site 124 outlined in Appendix N – Goudhurst page 203

DLP_8303

NHS West Clinical Commissioning Group

General Observation

The CCG notes that it is expected that contributions will be required towards health/medical facilities to mitigate the impact of the development. These will be requested, as necessary, in line with CCG Policy which is currently for developments of over 20 houses or more; noting that the two allocations are currently detailing less than 20 houses.

DLP_3338

Kent County Council (Growth, Environment and Transport)

Highways and Transportation

The Local Highway Authority conditionally supports this policy. The following changes are requested:

Paragraph 6 - “Maintenance and enhancement of, and/or linkages to, public footway network and public rights of way and the local strategic cycle network in accordance with Policy TP 2: Transport Design and Accessibility”

The standard paragraph regarding contributions should feature in this policy - It is expected that mitigation measures will be implemented by the developer. A contribution may be taken if appropriate

Public Rights of Way and Access Service

The specific reference to PRoW in paragraph 6 is supported. It is requested that PRoW enhancements are also included in the list of expected contributions, to mitigate the impact of future development.

DLP_4139

Tunbridge Wells District Committee Campaign to Protect Rural England

Support with conditions

We are concerned that the part of this policy referring to developments larger than 100 residential units could encourage applications for major developments which are thoroughly unsuitable in the AONB and its setting.  Arguably, for sustainability, any development of more than 20 dwellings in villages and the rural area ought at least to provide some employment possibilities, for example through live/work units.

We understand that the site at Blantyre House Prison may become available for sale for development before the draft Plan goes to examination.  This site, being outside the AONB, could perhaps help to relieve some of the pressure on the AONB to meet residential targets and we recommend that the Council should not entirely dismiss it at this stage.

DLP_4561

Historic England

Policy STR/GO 1: The Strategy for Goudhurst Parish et seq. - as with the foregoing comments, we would expect the allocation of sites following on from this Strategy policy to be subject to appropriately robust and detailed heritage impact assessment prior to the allocations being adopted.

DLP_5164

Cushman Wakefield for Ministry of Justice

We are instructed by the Ministry of Justice to submit the attached objections to the draft plan with specific reference to HMP Blantyre House for which the Notice of Closure was issued on the 11 March 2019. This is a substantial site lying within the countryside for which a new future needs to be found. Your draft plan is blind to the possibilities of such sites in both general and site specific terms, hence these objections.

Site Number and Site Address: HMP Blantyre House, Horden, Goudhurst, Kent TN17 2NH. 

This site was not submitted through the call for sites as the decision for closure came too late but is clearly a site of significant scale for which a future use needs to be established, preferably through the plan process as opposed to a windfall.

[TWBC: see Comment Numbers DLP_5154, 5157-5159, 5161, and 5163-5164. See also full representation and site location plan ].

DLP_5158

Cushman Wakefield for Ministry of Justice

Policy STR/GO 1

Object

The strategy for the parish of Goudhurst is too fixated upon the villages and fails to reflect the strategy of the NPPF which permits housing in the countryside in certain circumstances, including the re-use of redundant or disused buildings. The policy is not clearly written and unambiguous, and it is not evident how it would react to a proposal for reuse or redevelopment of a substantial previously developed site outside of the Limits to Built Development. Consequently, we do not consider the plan to be sound in terms of its consistency with national policy or the justification for its stance.

[TWBC: see Comment Numbers DLP_5154, 5157-5159, 5161, and 5163-5164. See also full representation and site location plan ].

Policy AL/GO 1: Land east of Balcombes Hill and adjacent to Tiddymotts Lane

Comment No.

Name/Organisation

Object/support/support with conditions/general observation

Response

DLP_2105

Terry Everest

Object

This is too much development in a small village and the numbers need to be reduced.

DLP_3339

Kent County Council (Growth, Environment and Transport)

Support with conditions

Highways and Transportation

The Local Highway Authority conditionally supports this policy. The following changes are requested:

Paragraph 1 – “Use of existing access point from the minor access road off Balcombes Hill. The scheme also to provide improved visibility splays at the junction with Baclcombes Hill...”

Paragraph 3 – “Location and design of pedestrian access to reflect the significant level changes into the site, and improvements to footway links into the village to be provided including improved crossing point on Balcombes Hill.”

The standard paragraph regarding contributions should feature in this policy - It is expected that mitigation measures will be implemented by the developer. A contribution may be taken if appropriate

Heritage Conservation

Scale 3 - Significant archaeology could be dealt with through suitable conditions on a planning approval

The site has potential for prehistoric remains as a hoard of Bronze Age palstaves was located on or near to the site. The 1st Ed OS map indicates a small holding and quarry on the site and there may be remains of Medieval or post medieval activity.

Archaeological DBA would be appropriate

DLP_4438

Mr James Rourke

Object

I do not think that is necessary to allocate the land at Triggs Farm as it already has outline Planning Permission. A timeframe has been set out by the Government Inspector to limit disruption to local residents. Allocation of this site could effectively lead to the developer ‘Land Banking’ as they know they will always be granted Planning Permission for this site should it be allocated in the draft Local Plan.

I object to the Limits To Built Dvpt (LBD) being extended around Goudhurst to include sites allocated at Triggs Farm and Balcombs Hill. These sites are in close proximity to the current LBD, which is partly why they were granted planning permission. If we apply this logic, continually extending the LBD will therefore bring in to play a continual supply of land which can find itself adjacent to the newly extended LBD, thereby furthering the threat of inappropriate development.

In my view, the sites at Triggs Farm and Balcombs Hill should be shown to be ‘outside’ of the current LBD, as they were only granted planning permission because TWBC could not demonstrate a 5yr supply of land for building.

DLP_4444

Nick Lucas

Object

I do not think that is necessary to allocate the land at Triggs Farm as it already has outline Planning Permission. A timeframe has been set out by the Government Inspector to limit disruption to local residents. Allocation of this site could effectively lead to the developer ‘Land Banking’ as they know they will always be granted Planning Permission for this site should it be allocated in the draft Local Plan.

I object to the Limits To Built Dvpt (LBD) being extended around Goudhurst to include sites allocated at Triggs Farm and Balcombs Hill. These sites are in close proximity to the current LBD, which is partly why they were granted planning permission. If we apply this logic, continually extending the LBD will therefore bring in to play a continual supply of land which can find itself adjacent to the newly extended LBD, thereby furthering the threat of inappropriate development.

In my view, the sites at Triggs Farm and Balcombs Hill should be shown to be ‘outside’ of the current LBD, as they were only granted planning permission because TWBC could not demonstrate a 5yr supply of land for building.

Policy AL/GO 2: Land at Triggs Farm, Cranbrook Road

Comment No.

Name/Organisation

Object/support/support with conditions/general observation

Response

DLP_2666

DHA Planning for Mr David Masters

 

1 Introduction

1.1 Purpose of this report

1.1.1 This representation has been prepared on behalf of Mr D Masters in response to the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (‘TWBC’) Draft Local Plan Consultation, which runs until 15th November 2019.

1.1.2 Mr Masters owns land located at Triggs Farm, Goudhurst and has the benefit of outline planning permission for the erection of 12 homes at the site. The site is also identified for formal allocation within the emerging Local Plan.

1.1.3 Based on the current national and local planning context, we consider the grant of planning permission supports a formal allocation. Furthermore, we consider it possible to reduce the mix of housing and to deliver a slightly higher and more appropriate mix of dwellings.

2 The Tunbridge Wells Draft Local Plan

2.1 Overview

2.1.1 The TWBC Draft Local Plan (herein referred to as ‘the plan’) sets out the spatial vision, strategic objectives, and overarching development strategy for the borough. It details overarching place shaping policies for each parish and settlement, as well as site specific allocations to deliver the strategy and detailed policies to be applied to all new development.

2.1.2 The plan will set the agenda for development across the borough to 2036 and replace the current Development Plan, which comprises the Local Plan 2006 (saved policies), the Core Strategy 2010, and the Site Allocations Local Plan 2016.

2.1.3 This representation comments on the following elements of the plan:

  • Vision and Strategic Objectives;
  • Development Strategy and Strategic Policies; and
  • Place Shaping Policies for the Parish of Goudhurst.

2.2 Vision and Strategic Objectives

2.2.1 The TWBC draft Local Plan is underpinned by a future vision up to 2036 and beyond. The vision is for Tunbridge Wells to be vibrant and prosperous and there is also an expectation that it will have grown significantly. The Council aim for growth to be infrastructure led and largely funded by new development. The key components of the vision are summarised below:

  • The heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells and Southborough will be culturally rich, full of vitality, and will have the flexibility, robustness, and adaptability to cope with changes in the economy and other circumstances.
  • Paddock Wood as a settlement will have developed considerably (including on land in eastern Capel parish) on the basis of garden settlement principles, using a comprehensive, master-planned approach.
  • A new garden settlement will have been established at Tudeley Village, including homes, employment, and community facilities (which will continue to develop into the following years).
  • High quality development at other settlements across the borough will have been realised, with the timely provision of relevant infrastructure
  • Rural enterprise will have been supported, and the exceptional quality of the built and natural environments will have been protected and enhanced.

2.2.2 The plan stresses that all development will achieve high quality design, responding to the distinctive character of particular locations and in certain instances valued and protected landscapes. Further, the timely delivery of infrastructure will be central to the plan.

2.2.3 In order to turn this vision into reality the plan sets a number of strategic objectives.

1) To deliver the housing, economic, and other needs identified for the borough by the end of the plan period through well designed, sustainable, plan led, and high quality development;

2) To achieve the delivery of all forms of infrastructure to mitigate the impact of development and where possible to result in 'betterment';

3) To prioritise active travel, but where necessary to plan appropriately for use by private motor vehicle, in particular embracing new technology;

4) To boost significantly the supply of affordable housing, and to seek to redress the disparity between house prices and income in the borough;

5) To ensure that the borough is vibrant, culturally rich, and economically buoyant;

6) To protect the valued heritage, and built and natural environments of the borough, including the AONB and to achieve net gains for nature;

7) To release appropriate land from the Green Belt through a plan-led approach, and to increase public accessibility, and to protect the openness of remaining Green Belt land;

8) To tackle climate change and minimise the impact of development on communities, the economy, and the environment with carefully considered design and by embracing technology, such as renewable energy generation;

9) To establish garden settlements as a model for the future delivery of development in the borough;

10) To work with neighbourhood plan groups to ensure the formation of locally-led policies, with this reflected in decisions on planning applications.

2.2.4 We support the general thrust of these objectives, which seek to meet identified housing needs in full and boosting significantly the supply of new affordable homes. However, we would suggest some minor modification to clarify that the plan is positively prepared and fully aligned with the provisions of the National Planning Policy Framework (‘NPPF’). Indeed, we acknowledge that the Plan aspires to achieve the full development needs of the borough and therefore we consider that objective 1 should be modified to make certain on this point.

“To deliver the full housing, economic and other needs identified for the borough by the end of the plan period through well designed, sustainable, plan led and high quality development”

2.3 Development Strategy and Strategic Policies (Policy STR1)

2.3.1 The purpose of the Development Strategy is to outline how much development will be provided to meet the needs of the borough and where that development will be located.

2.3.2 In terms of the amount of housing, paragraph 59 of the NPPF states that to support the Government’s objective of significantly boosting the supply of homes, it is important that a sufficient amount and variety of land can come forward where it is needed. Further, to determine the number of homes needed, strategic policies should be informed by a local housing needs assessment conducted using the standard method in national planning guidance – unless exceptional circumstances justify an alternative approach which also reflects current and future demographic trends and market signals.

2.3.3 The Council confirm that their housing need target for the plan period 2016-2036 is 13,560 dwellings (678 dwellings per annum), which is calculated using the Governments standard method and the 2014-based household projections.

2.3.4 In terms of the different supply components, the Council consider that the Local Plan must (as a minimum) include additional allocations to accommodate 7,593 homes. This figure was formulated taking into account; completions since April 2016 (1,552); extant planning permissions (3,127); outstanding site allocations (588) and a windfall allowance (700 dwellings). The Council have applied a 10% non-delivery rate to these figures to err on the side of caution and consider that the plan would exceed the minimum housing requirement if all of the supply components were achieved.

2.3.5 We agree that TWBC is capable of meeting its need in full and support this approach to plan-making. Likewise, we support the general thrust of the development strategy, which proposes a strategy to meet the housing needs of the borough with a dispersed growth approach. Nonetheless, we have concerns regarding the deliverability of the strategy and the potentially over optimistic housing trajectory, particularly in respect of the delivery from key strategic sites (as outlined below).

2.3.6 We note that the emerging strategy is consolidated by Policy STR1, which sets out the quantum of development that will be allocated within or around settlements to meet the identified needs of the borough over the plan period. This strategy would seek to meet the majority of the Council’s housing need through the strategic extension of Paddock Wood and via a new Garden Village at Tudeley. The remaining growth would then be dispersed proportionately to other settlements in the borough.

2.3.7 We support the general principle of proportionately spreading the benefits of growth. Adopting a pattern of dispersed growth approach would allow a number of sites to be developed at the same time, serving different segments of the local housing market, which is preferable to saturation of the market in a single area.

2.3.8 Nonetheless, we have some concerns regarding the balance between strategic and non-strategic scale allocations and the anticipated delivery trajectory. For example, 65% of new allocations would be delivered as part of the strategic extension to Paddock Wood (4,000 homes) and the new Garden Village at Tudeley (1,900 homes within the plan period), both of which require a fully master-planned approach, which is a time-consuming process. Furthermore, there are a significant number of existing commitments within Paddock Wood that have been slower at coming forward than had originally been envisaged. A cautious approach is therefore needed.

2.3.9 In this regard, we would draw the Council’s attention back to the 2016 document published by Nathaniel Lichfield’s and Partners (NLP) - ‘Start to Finish: How Quickly do Large-Scale Housing Sites Deliver’, which provides evidence pertaining to the speed and rate of delivery of large-scale housing, based on a large number of sites across England and Wales. It identifies that the average lead in time for the submission of a planning application is 3.9 years, from the date the site is first identified. In terms of the planning approval period, for larger scale sites (2,000 + homes) this is circa 6 years. After planning permission is granted, larger sites start to deliver within a year and the average build out rate thereafter is 161 dwellings per annum, although it can be as high as 301 dwellings per annum.

2.3.10 On the basis of this research, if the Local plan is adopted by 2021, planning permission approved by 2023 and delivery commences within 6 years (2029), the likely deliver for the plan period would be no more than 966 homes.

2.3.11 Despite this evidence, TWBC has set a much more optimistic trajectory for delivery of Tudeley Garden Village and the strategic extension of Paddock Wood, which is detailed in the Housing Trajectory Paper. The Council forecast that the Tudeley Garden Village will begin to deliver homes from 2025/26 onward, with an initial build out rate of 150 dwellings per-annum, rising to 200 dwellings per annum from year 6 onward. Likewise, the Council suggests that the extension to Paddock Wood will start to deliver in 2024/25 at an average build out rate of 333 dwellings per annum – which is nearly double the average rate for larger schemes identified in the NLP document. This higher build out trajectory is predicated on the basis that there would be a number of house builders involved the construction of different parts/phases. However, by their own admission, TWBC do not currently know how many housebuilders will be involved.

2.3.12 Taking the above into account, our view is that the Council have applied overly optimistic development trajectory for the delivery of strategic sites, both in terms of the start date for completions and the expected build out rates. Accordingly, we would encourage the Council to increase the balance of small and medium sized sites, which can deliver quickly and usually require limited intervention to infrastructure. Furthermore, it is essential that draft allocations such as our clients are retained and encouraged given the advancement of planning applications emphasises the deliverability of the land.

2.3.13 Given the absence of any similar scale strategic sites in Tunbridge Wells Borough as a point of comparison, one could have regard to similar scale delivery in neighbouring authority Tonbridge and Malling Borough. In this respect, we provide evidence below of its three key strategic sites and the associated delivery rates (derived from the Tonbridge and Malling BV Annual Monitoring Report 2017).

2.3.14 Kings Hill is an extremely prudent example to consider in the context of the Paddock wood extension and new garden village at Tudeley, how deliverable this would be. Indeed, Kings Hill was a new village started in 1989 near land previously occupied by RAF West Malling. The concept was for a multipurpose site of both residential and office business space. The development is still being delivered some 30 years later, despite having multiple national housebuilders delivering different phases concurrently. Based on the most up-to-date delivery data for the last decade, Kings Hill has only delivered 131 dwellings per annum, despite multiple developers delivering concurrently. Furthermore, the earlier delivery phases we delivered at lower rates given the need to front load infrastructure.

2.3.15 Therefore, we consider that whilst some development may come forward in the plan period from the two proposed strategic sites, in reality these strategic allocations are longer terms aspirations that will extend beyond 2036.

2.3.16 Accordingly, we would encourage the Council to increase the balance of small and medium sized sites, which can deliver quickly and usually require limited intervention to infrastructure, particularly in settlements such as Goudhurst and to reduce the reliance upon Tudeley within this current plan period.

2.4 Place Shaping Policies

2.4.1 The place shaping policies establish the spatial priorities for different areas in the borough, organised according to non-parish and parish areas. For each area, there is an overarching policy that development should adhere to and details are provided for individual allocated sites that will deliver the quantum of development proposed. The site-specific allocations provide both strategic and development management guidance.

Goudhurst STR/GO 1 and AL/GO 2

2.4.2 Policy STR/GO 1 sets the proposed strategy for Goudhurst and states that Approximately 21-26 new dwellings will be delivered on two sites, including Mr Master’s land included as allocation AL/GO 2.

2.4.3 Policy AL/GO 2 states that the land is allocated for a mixed use scheme, including approximately 30-45 dwellings, allotments and play space. Development on the site shall accord with the following requirements:

(1) Provision of vehicular access onto Cranbrook Road;

(2) Regard to be given to existing hedgerows and mature trees on site, with the layout and design of the development protecting those of most amenity value

(3) Demonstration through the submission of relevant and proportionate archaeological investigations that the proposal will not have a materially harmful impact on the archaeological environment (

(4) Submission of an ecology assessment

(5) The scheme shall take account of landscaping on site and ensure provision of landscape buffers as defined on the site allocation plan (see criterion 3 of Policy EN 1: Design and other development management criteria and Policy EN 14: Trees, Woodlands, Hedges, and Development);

(6) Improvements to existing allotments, amenity/natural green space, parks and recreation grounds, children’s play space and youth play space.

2.4.4 Having regard to these draft requirements, our client supports the general thrust of the policy requirements, which largely reflects the current planning approval (reference 17/02765/OUT dated 16 August 2017 - illustrative layout below).

[TWBC: to view map/plan please see page 8 of full representation].

2.4.5 However, owing to the compelling housing need, we consider the below drawing provide an illustrative indication of how the approved appeal scheme could potentially be adapted to deliver a higher number of small units, with increased additional affordable housing and with no demonstrably greater impact on the AONB. We therefore consider the site allocation capacity should increase to 20 homes.

[TWBC: to view map/plan please see page 8 of full representation].

2.5 Exceptional Circumstances

2.5.1 Paragraph 172 of the NPPF states that great weight should be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which have the highest status of protection. It goes on to state that planning permission should be refused for major developments in AONB areas except in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated they are in the public interest.

2.5.2 Consideration of such major applications should include an assessment of:

(1) the need for the development, including in terms of any national considerations, and the impact of permitting it, or refusing it, upon the local economy;

(2) the cost of, and scope for, developing elsewhere outside the designated area, or meeting the need for it in some other way; and

(3) any detrimental effect on the environment, the landscape and recreational opportunities, and the extent to which that could be moderated.

2.5.3 It is important to stress that footnote 55 of the NPPF is clear that for the purposes of paragraphs 172 and 173, whether a proposal is ‘major development’ is a matter for the decision maker, taking into account its nature, scale and setting, and whether it could have a significant adverse impact on the purposes for which the area has been designated or defined. The term has no direct correlation with the definitions set out in the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015.

2.5.4 We set out below why we consider exceptional circumstances exist for the allocation of this site within the AONB.

2.6 The need for the development

2.6.1 As outlined by the plan, there is an overriding and growing housing need within the Borough. The Council’s SHMA findings initially identified the future need to plan for some 648 new homes per year. This in turn has seen a further uplift as a result of the standard methodology for calculating housing need, which based on the most credible set of population projections suggests a further uplift to circa 680 new homes per year.

2.6.2 In addition to the need moving forward, the previous difficulties in keeping pace with delivery has resulted in a need to accommodate a significant number of dwellings in the short term with a deficit in five year supply.

2.6.3 Given the current development plan has seen documented difficulties in meeting the existing core strategy housing target, the need for new housing is compelling and indisputable and must be addressed by the new plan as a priority.

2.7 The cost of, and scope for, developing elsewhere

2.7.1 Tunbridge Wells is a constrained borough. There are a number of archaeological and heritage sites, including 45 Historic Parks and Gardens, 25 Conservation Areas and 11 Scheduled Ancient Monuments. In addition, there are approximately 3,000 Listed Buildings.

2.7.2 The landscape of the High Weald AONB contains numerous historic landscape features, including field patterns, settlements and ancient woodland, whilst the borough also hosts a number of, or is close to, areas of ecological importance. These include:

(1) Ancient Woodland (approximately 16% of the borough)

(2) Circa 60 Local Wildlife Sites (approximately 11% of the borough)

(3) Ten Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

(4) Five Local Nature Reserves (including one Community Woodland)

(5) One Regionally Important Geological Site, at Scotney Castle Quarry.

2.7.3 The nearby Ashdown Forest is a designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA).

2.7.4 Although not an environmental constraint, the Metropolitan Green Belt covers 22% of Tunbridge Wells borough.

2.7.5 Given the above constraints, it is acknowledged that planning for housing requires the need to balance a number of core environmental and planning matters in order to reach a sensitive future development strategy.

2.8 Any detrimental effects and the extent to which that could be moderated

2.8.1 Opportunity exists to moderate the effects of development, including substantial areas of landscaping and associated ecological and heritage buffers and the opportunity to increase public access to the land.

In summary, we support the Council’s conclusions that exceptional circumstances exist to justify the allocation of sustainable AONB land.

3 Section 6: Development Management Policies

3.1.1 In addition to our comments on the strategy, we have reviewed the proposed replacement development management policies as set out in chapter 6 of the document.

3.1.2 In general terms, we would refer back to paragraph 15 of the NPPF that promotes succinct and up-to-date plans, which provide a positive vision. In contrast, the draft policies currently proposed are of such prescriptive detail that they are neither positively prepared nor flexible enough to allow for a range of different circumstances. Furthermore, many aspirations result in inevitable conflict. On this basis, we would recommend that the majority of proposed policies are simplified and where additional guidance is needed, this be included within secondary Supplementary Planning Documents.

3.1.3 Turning to detailed policies, there are a number of contradictory elements that need to be remedied before the plan proceeds to Regulation 19. For example, policy EN1 seeks to ensure development is consistent with the established character and surrounding form. However, policy EN4 places significant emphasis on measures to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The provision of a step change towards more sustainable construction and climate change is, inevitably going to result in a need for a change in attitude towards design, material and construction. Accordingly, a cohesive policy approach is needed that allows innovative and different design if supported on wider environmental and planning grounds. As drafted the policies are too inconsistent.

3.1.4 A number of policies also seek to provide guidance rather than policy. For example, policy EN6 seeks to clarify what information is needed in order to assess a heritage proposal. This level of information should instead feature within a support SPD not policy.

3.1.5 In respect of the natural environment, policy EN20 seeks to protect the rural landscape. It states that development will be required to:

1. Conserve and enhance the unique and diverse variety and juxtaposition of the borough’s landscape and the special features that contribute positively to the local sense of place; and

2. Not cause significant harm to the landscape setting of settlements, including historic farmsteads and hamlets; and

3. Not result in unsympathetic change to the character of a rural lane, which is of landscape, amenity, nature conservation, or historic or archaeological importance; and

4. Restore landscape character where it has been eroded; and

5. Preserve intrinsically dark landscapes in accordance with Policy EN 10: Outdoor Lighting and Dark Skies’.

3.1.6 We support the principle of the policy but consider amendments are needed to ensure that it does not result in a blanket reason to refusal otherwise sustainable greenfield development. We suggest it be amended to read:

‘1. Conserve and enhance the unique and diverse variety and juxtaposition of the borough’s landscape and the special features that contribute positively to the local sense of place; and

2. Not cause Include appropriate mitigation to ensure against significant harm to the landscape setting of settlements, including historic farmsteads and hamlets; and

3. Not result in unsympathetic change to the character of a rural lane, which is of landscape, amenity, nature conservation, or historic or archaeological importance; and

4. Restore Enhance landscape character where it has been eroded; and

5. Preserve intrinsically dark landscapes in accordance with Policy EN 10: Outdoor Lighting and Dark Skies’.

3.1.7 Turning to housing policies, we have significant concerns about the drafting of several policies, that show a degree of misunderstanding of the development industry. For example, policy H1 states:

‘Unless there are exceptional circumstances due to specific site or development constraints, a condition will be attached to any grant of planning permission for new major residential development (including change of use) requiring one or the other of the following conditions:

1. That the permission be implemented within two years from the date of decision; or

2. That groundworks and the construction of the ground floor base of at least two buildings be completed within three years of the permission’.

3.1.8 Whilst the majority of developers would aspire to be ‘on site’ and under construction within 2 years, the reality is that there are often processes that need to be adhered to that are outside of the applicant’s control, including the need to formally conclude land purchases, to discharge conditions and to deliver off site mitigation. There are also ‘non planning’ consents that need to be achieved for example Section 278 Highway works, infrastructure agreements (S38 of the Water Industry Act), ecology licensing etc

3.1.9 The Council will also be aware that commencement of development is often prohibited by seasonal restrictions in respect of ecology and wider constraints.

3.1.10 The second requirement for two buildings to be commenced is arbitrary, for example what is the test for single unit schemes or conversion works? The correct test should be as set out in statute i.e. ‘a material start’.

3.1.11 With the above in mind, we consider the Council’s policy should be deleted or modified to the extent that it will endeavour to agree a two year start date based on site circumstances.

3.1.12 In respect of policy H2, and the preference for Multi-developer schemes and comprehensive masterplanning, we understand the aspiration. However, in reality such stringent requests often result in conflict and further delay and the Council should be careful not to try and impose itself on wider commercial arrangements that may prohibit rather than assist delivery. With this in mind, it is our view that the Council should shift focus away from how it wishes to change development industry practices and instead concentrate on what it can influence, namely the provision of detailed guidance for the proposed site allocations (including potential phasing plans and areas zoned for different forms of development). The Council could also consider imposing a illustrative delivery trajectory as part of the validation process.

3.1.13 We note that policies H3 and H4 have regard to housing mix and density yet provide little or no detailed requirement. On the basis that mixes must reflect market requirements, we consider any aspirational densities would be better placed being inserted into the wider reaching policy EN1.

3.1.14 Policy H5 sets out affordable housing requirements. Whilst we support the general thrust of the objectives and the securing of affordable provision, we object to the rounding up of the calculations and contributions being based on a net rather than gross number of units. For small scale proposals this will often see the proposed percentage increase to closer to 45% and 35% respectively. Such thresholds would therefore need to be tested and justified by evidence. A pragmatic approach would be to apply traditional rounding up or down.

3.1.15 The phasing of affordable provision also needs to be sufficiently flexible so as to not prohibit wider delivery. In this regard, we consider that entering into contract with a registered affordable prior ahead of the 50% occupation should provide the certainty of delivery, but without risking a wider delay in market delivery.

3.1.16 We also object to the expectation of sites that provide between one and nine units to pay a contribution towards affordable housing. This conflicts with Paragraph: 023 Reference ID: 23b-023-20190901 of National Planning Practice Guidance, which states planning obligations for affordable housing should only be sought for residential developments that are major developments. Any reduced threshold should be restricted to designated areas only and should be underpinned by detailed evidence.

3.1.17 The Council will be aware of wider country wide discussions regarding the viability of providing social rented accommodation as part of a wider offer. Such provision is becoming increasingly difficult and without robust policy in place that addresses this matter, this matter is likely to significantly slow delivery.

3.1.18 We note that the Council is only willing to allow the use of Vacant Building Credits in exceptional circumstances. However, the test proposed appear significantly more onerous than have been considered and applied elsewhere. Based on the tests proposed, we fear that there will be a delay in genuinely vacant buildings, that are entitled to use of VBC, to be delayed in coming forward in order to meet the overly onerous criteria.

3.1.19 Finally, we note that paragraph 6.160 states:

“…The Council will assume a buffer of 25m from the edge of [ancient] woodland expecting through assessment for developers to confirm that this or any other distance is appropriate and that the priority for such buffers will be ecological mitigation and enhancement for the woodland rather than the amenity of the proposed development.”

3.1.20 The advice from the Government’s statutory advisor on biodiversity, Natural England, states that:

“For ancient woodlands, you should have a buffer zone of at least 15 metres to avoid root damage. Where assessment shows other impacts are likely to extend beyond this distance, you’re likely to need a larger buffer zone.” [1]

3.1.21 Whilst it is recognised that every case will need to be treated on its merits, the Council has provided no justification for imposing a new starting point of 25m, which is nearly double the standard minimum requirement set out by Natural England. This increased buffer zone does not appear to have been based on any evidence. It will simply reduce the quantum of development that can be achieved on many sites, which will in turn increases the risk that additional land is likely to be required elsewhere to meet development needs. We object to this proposed buffer, and request that the standard accepted minimum distance of 15m should be stated instead.

3.1.22 In summary, whilst this overview is not exhaustive, we do have concerns about the nature of the proposed policy framework and the degree to which it appears to be trying to limit and frustrate development. Accordingly, in the interests of positive planning, we recommend that the policy framework is simplified and refined and subject to further detailed consultation and focussed on planning matters.

4 Conclusion

4.1.1 This representation has been prepared on behalf of Mr Masters in response to the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council Draft Local Plan Consultation. The purpose being to provide comment on the Council’s proposed development strategy.

4.1.2 In this respect, we support the aspiration to meet housing need in full and consider that a dispersed growth strategy represents the optimum means to achieve this. Furthermore, we support the inclusion of our client’s site in Goudhurst.

4.1.3 It is important that such sites are retained within the Regulation 19 draft as we consider that the Local Plan strategy relies too heavily on the delivery of strategic sites that would require the provision of supporting infrastructure. Moreover, the Council have applied overly optimistic projections to the delivery of housing for the extension of Paddock Wood and the Tudeley Garden Village, largely disregarding the NLP 2016 report and the time it would take to masterplan the strategic sites and deliver the required infrastructure. For this reason, consideration should be given to intensifying the yield of this consented scheme in order to increase the overall provision of housing.

4.1.4 I trust the contents of this representation are clear and I hope the comments are useful in guiding the forthcoming stage of the plan making process.

DLP_3340

Kent County Council (Growth, Environment and Transport)

 

Highways and Transportation

The Local Highway Authority conditionally supports this policy. The following change is requested:

The standard paragraph regarding contributions should feature in this policy - It is expected that mitigation measures will be implemented by the developer. A contribution may be taken if appropriate

Heritage Conservation

Scale 4 - Low level archaeology anticipated which could be dealt with through suitable conditions on a planning approval.

Low potential for archaeological remains.