FEARS that the building of an extra 2,000 homes by 2031 will leave Tonbridge in ‘unorganised chaos’ have been dispelled by Tonbridge & Malling Borough Councillors
According to the council’s projections, a total of 10,000 homes are needed in the borough by 2031, with around 2,000 of that figure earmarked for Tonbridge itself.
Following its ‘call for sites’ initiative, in which residents were asked to suggest the most suitable areas for meeting this need, the borough council held a public exhibition at the Angel Centre to hear residents’ views on the plan.
In order to meet the demand for 696 new homes every year, in and around the Tonbridge and Malling area, the council has devised ‘The Way Forward’ – a strategic proposal to guide future development with planning recommendations.
The idea behind the initiative is to provide a criteria to assess all proposals for new developments, instead of reviewing planning applications on a separate basis.
Howard Rogers, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Infrastructure, told the Times that the plan goes far beyond just housing, with a focus placed on building up infrastructure, namely schools, GP surgeries and roads to soften the impact of growing communities. He said without this it would end up with ‘unorganised chaos.’
Some residents were not reassured by the plans. Mr J. Islam, of Shakespeare Road, voiced concerns that the council is offering only ‘empty promises’. He worries that the proposed ideas are too vague and the project will result in the best interests of the town becoming secondary to contractors’ profit margins.
“Already there is so little in the way of sufficient local infrastructure,” said Mr Islam, adding that ‘things could get seriously dangerous’ if the council failed to deal with the current ‘chaotic’ levels of traffic.
Robyn Bannister echoed concerns surrounding the stretch on local facilities, arguing that if the plans are poorly implemented it could ‘disrupt the town’s community spirit’ and prevent Tonbridge from being ‘a happy place to live’.
But Cllr Howard Rogers argues the plan is to avoid exactly this. He warns that, if the council neglects to put any planning in place, the area will become vulnerable to housing that fails to consider the needs of the borough.
He believes that ‘The Way Forward’ is an answer to protect the town against poorly executed settlements and provide means for local citizens to have a say in the future of their town.
The Council’s Planning Policy Manager Ian Bailey said: “The main aim of the public consultations is to really get a grip on what people want for their area.”
Once the process for public consultations concludes on November 25, comments will be collated with a view to providing an indication of key areas of concerns for residents. These will then be used to a plan in greater detail.