Published: 13:04, 01 July 2019
| Updated: 13:21, 01 July 2019
A Save Capel action group has sprung up to contest a proposal in the Tunbridge Wells draft Local Plan to create a "garden village" of 2,600 homes in the village.
A second proposal seeks to expand housing in a ring around Paddock Wood, of which another 1,400 homes will fall within the parish.
Save Capel, which already has 90 members, says that will quadruple the size of their parish, taking it from 950 homes to more than 4,000.
The group held a garden party at the weekend to support the fight to persuade the borough council to change its mind. It was attended by 160 people and £1,000 was raised.
Members also joined The Time Is Now demonstration in London on Wednesday last week, organised by The Climate Coalition and Greener UK, to lobby MPs over climate change and the loss of greenfield land.
Save Capel has accused the Tunbridge Wells planning department of inconsistency, pointing out that less than 12 months ago, the council rejected plans for a small development on the fringe of the land that is now ear-marked for development in the draft Local Plan.
Elite Pubs, the owner of the popular Poacher and Partridge in Tudeley, had applied to build six bed-and-breakfast rooms alongside the pub, but the plans were rejected because “The proposal would constitute inappropriate development within the Metropolitan Green Belt, which by definition is harmful to its openness.”
The decision letter stated the proposal “would have more than a minimal impact on the landscape character of the locality. It would not conserve and enhance the rural landscape, nor would it protect the countryside for its own sake, nor preserve the interrelationship between the natural and built features of the landscape. The overall impact is harmful to the rural character of the area.”
The letter was signed by Steven Baughen, the borough's head of planning, who is now advocating the garden village proposal.
Chris Callander, a spokesman for Save Capel, said: "It just makes no sense that on the one hand, the head of planning denies permission for a very small development, yet a few months later the same officer is trying to convince us that he now thinks it’s OK to build 2,600 houses in the same landscape.
"Clearly this would completely destroy the character of the area.”
Save Capel believes that rather than concentrating all development in a few small sites, the council should be looking to spread growth evenly across the borough.
More by this authorAlan Smith