Published: 15:36, 28 May 2019
| Updated: 14:29, 23 September 2019
There has been strong criticism of proposals by Tunbridge Wells council to load 6,800 new homes across just two communities in the borough, as the local authority works towards developing its new Local Plan.
The borough's head of planning Stephen Baughen, visited both Capel Parish Council and Paddock Wood Town Council to brief them on the scheme to allocate an extra 2,800 homes in a garden village development at Tudeley, within Capel parish, and a further 4,000 in a ring around Paddock Wood.
Paddock Wood Town Councillor Derek Boyle said: "I can see the borough is between a rock and a hard place.
WATCH: Reaction to plans to build more than 13,000 new homes
"They have to meet these new Government housing targets and they are very constrained to take any more housing within Tunbridge Wells itself.
"Paddock Wood has always been viewed as a bit of a soft target because of our excellent road and rail links.
"But what we have found in the past couple of decades is that they always build the housing first, and the extra infrastructure that is needed comes much later, if at all."
Following on from the briefing last week, Cllr Boyle, who is chairman of the town council's estates committee said: "I've had a lot of approaches from concerned residents, worried in particular about the fate of our greenfields.
"But there other issues as well. New development of this size is going to need its own local community areas - shopping areas away from our existing Commercial Road.
"There will be a need for new roads and new schools.
"With 4,000 new homes, we can expect an extra 500 to 600 secondary school places will be needed and a new primary school.
"These are multi-million pound investments."
Cllr Boyle said: "I specifically asked Mr Baughen what he was doing about employment opportunities.
"Unless there is more local work provided these houses will be filled by people commuting to London.
"Not only does that help to make Paddock Wood even more of a dormitory town but it will also push up house prices to the extent that our own young people will no longer be able to live in the area in which they grew up."
Cllr Boyle said: "Speaking personally, I think there would need to be 35% affordable housing- and affordable housing that is for rent."
Asked if there were any benefits to be gained from the proposals, he said: "Well, at least they are proposing a masterplan for the development.
"We've recently had three housing schemes approved in Paddock Wood, all on an individual basis.
"They are already due to give us an extra 960 homes.
"Yet we already have problems with flooding and a foul water system that is at breaking point.
"Perhaps a masterplan where everything was looked at might help us with this.
"But it would have to look at having everything- providing, education, employment, affordable rented property, health services, midwifery - everything."
Paddock Wood's population, currently around 8,500, is due to grow to 11,500 with the three developments already in the pipeline and then grow again to 20,000 if the Tunbridge Wells draft Local Plan proposals go ahead.
Cllr Boyle said: "There are alternatives. The borough council originally considered five development options.
"One of those was effectively to create a new town off the A21. That might be preferable."
Meanwhile, in Capel there is equal consternation.
The parish council chairman Hugh Patterson pointed out that aside from the proposed garden development a of 2,800 homes at Tudeley, in fact 1500 of those homes being talked about for Paddock Wood also fell within the parish of Capel.
He said: "So that means we will go from the 950 homes we have at present to 4,300 homes.
"Paddock Wood has always been viewed as a bit of a soft target because of our excellent road and rail links" - Cllr Derek Boyle
"Our parish which has just 2% of the population of the borough will be asked to take around half of the borough's whole housing requirement."
He suggested Tudeley had been earmarked for the garden development scheme not because it was the best option but because all the land was in the hands of one landowner - the Hadlow Estate - which made it easier to acquire.
With 100 people members of the public attending the original briefing and a further 70 at a subsequent parish meeting, he said: "There is a lot of anger."
Cllr Patterson said his council would attempt to get the Tunbridge Wells cabinet members to change their minds ahead of their meeting on August 15 when the cabinet was due to approve the draft plan for public consultation.
He said: "We need to convince them this is not a good idea."
If it failed to reverse the decision, Capel would be making its representations during the public consultation period and then to the Government planning inspector who would examine the plan if necessary.
Cllr Patterson felt that at least two of the alternative approaches that the borough council had considered would have been preferable.
He favoured either building the new homes along the A21 corridor, which would be a more sustainable location with a good existing road network, or the option of spreading the development across the borough with each community taking a number in proportion to its present size.
He said: "If that were done, Capel would have to take just 40 homes."