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Save Capel protesters take their garden village objections to Tunbridge Wells Town Hall

"I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!" So said the character Howard Beale in the Hollywood movie Network.

A similar sentiment is now being expressed by residents in the Weald.

On Monday, around 120 people gathered in Calverley Gardens in Tunbridge Wells before embarking on a protest march through the streets to the Town Hall.

Save Capel Campaigners take to the streets
Save Capel Campaigners take to the streets

Led by the Save Capel action group, they were opposing the borough council’s Local Plan proposals to permit a garden village of around 2,600 homes to be created in Capel, with another 4,000 homes proposed in a ring around Paddock Wood.

Hugh Patterson spearheaded the protest, which the demonstrators hope will put pressure on the council to knock their plans on the head.

Cllr Patterson, who is chairman of Capel Parish Council, said: “As well as Capel, there are people here from Paddock Wood, Pembury and Tonbridge, and they are all fed up with the constant pressure to build on the greenbelt.”

Cllr Hugh Patterson of Capel Parish Council
Cllr Hugh Patterson of Capel Parish Council

The protest followed a similar - although much larger demonstration - in Marden in May when almost 2,000 villagers marched in protest at plans for a garden village there.

The Save Capel campaigners say the proposals would quadruple the population of their village and place intolerable pressure on the roads and infrastructrure.

Campaigner Chris Callander said: “We were told explicitly by the head of planning at TWBC when he came to a public meeting in the village that one of the key reasons they chose the Capel site is because it’s the easy option.

“There’s only one large landowner so they haven’t got to deal with hundreds of contracts, and they haven’t got a raft of projects going on. It’s easy for them, but that’s not the right reason to destroy a greenbelt.”

Chris Callander from Save Capel
Chris Callander from Save Capel

Cllr Patterson added: “We shall be putting our views to the council’s cabinet meeting in August.

“If they still insist in taking the Local Plan to the next stage unchanged, we will mount a vigorous campaign to persuade them to change their mind.”

The message to councillors: Don't feed the greed!
The message to councillors: Don't feed the greed!

The borough council's head of planning, Stephen Baughen, said: “TWBC has worked extremely hard to identify sites which are considered, against a robust methodology, as suitable for development.

"This is just enough to meet the Government’s targets. The Draft Local Plan contains a whole range of planning policies, from sustainable construction and renewable energy policies to new approaches to retail and town centres, to parking for new houses and to affordable housing, and new transport policies prioritising ‘active travel’.

“The masterplan approach to the strategic sites means development being planned in a comprehensive way, ensuring that adequate roads and transport, schools, medical facilities, leisure, employment and business opportunities are provided as well as housing, including affordable housing”.

A public consultation on the development plans will take place between September 20 and November 1.

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