THE Council is considering the radical option of creating a ‘new town’ or ‘garden village’ within the borough in order to meet local housing needs.
Members of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council fear decisions over where housing may go could be ‘taken out of our hands’ and directed by central government if they are not seen to be building enough housing.
Their statement comes in response to a petition which has been launched criticising the authority over allowing ‘numerous large scale developments’ and their impact on local infrastructure.
Started last week on Change.org the petition urges people to sign on the basis that: “Our planners and councillors are not listening to experts so it’s time for the community to be heard.”
It adds: “Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is allowing developers to fill our town with inappropriately large-scale property developments, with second rate architecture and little to no parking.
“The impact is significant. Our roads, on street parking bays and car parks cannot take the extra pressure. And air quality is suffering from the pollution. Development is being permitted with very little consideration to whether the infrastructure can cope.”
It goes on to list proposals such as the 110 room Premier Inn hotel on London Road, 112 flats planned at Calverley House and 127 flats at Union House on The Pantiles as examples of what should be rejected.
The council said many of the planning policies complained about in the petition stem from ‘national government’ – including the ability for developers to convert offices into flats without any need for planning permission and the number of car parking spaces required.
The council statement said: “The petition implies that too many homes are being built; in fact, far fewer homes are being built in Tunbridge Wells than in other parts of the county. If we don’t meet our local needs, decisions could be taken out of our hands and subsequently made either by central government or unelected planning inspectors.”
It added Tunbridge Wells had not been awarded ‘a single penny’ for infrastructure in the last round of funding allocations for schemes in Kent.
However, the council has said a consultation will be launched ‘shortly’ to ask residents how they want the authority to meet these challenges, stating: “Possible ways forward include concentrating new homes in the town, across the Borough, along an A21 ‘growth’ corridor or thinking about the possibility of a ‘new town’ or ‘garden village’ in the Borough. We would encourage all those who have signed the petition and anyone else who has an interest in our future to voice their views and get involved.”