Published: 21:53, 06 August 2019
| Updated: 21:56, 06 August 2019
Capel villagers are pressing ahead with their aim of persuading Tunbridge Wells council to drop plans for a garden village in their neighbourhood - but so far without success.
Around 80 residents turned up at the Town Hall on Monday to picket a meeting of Planning and Transportation Cabinet Advisory Board and Tom Adam addressed councillors on their behalf, telling them that the plan would "urbanise 600 acres of completely undeveloped land in the heart of Capel - that's an area the size of Monaco."
He was supported by County Councillor Sean Holden (Con) who told the borough he had "never believed in the 'objectively assessed need' that set the target for housing numbers."
He said: "Most of the housing will be filled by people not from this borough."
Cllr Holden said the problem extended beyond Capel and Paddock Wood and was also very concerning to residents in Hawkhurst in his own division.
Cllr Rodney Atkins (Ind) urged the council to rethink one particular policy in the plan - a proposal to turn the Memorial Field in Paddock Wood into a community hub. He said a parish poll had already shown that a majority of residents wanted the land kept as green open space.
Board chairman Cllr Alan McDermott (Con) told the public: "People will disagree about whether we need all these houses - but this a Government diktat that we must meet."
Cllr Julian Stanyer (Con) drew derisive laughter from the public when he said: "Capel will actually benefit from having a garden village. It will be a legacy for all of us."
Head of planning Steve Baughan assured the public that the draft plan was not the final say and that all representations would be considered when the plan went out to a six-week consultation starting on September 20.
The board then voted to recommend to the cabinet that the draft plan go out to consultation unchanged.
Afterwards, Farah Brooks-Johnson for Save Capel, said: "We showed those elected and entrusted to care for Tunbridge Wells that we care deeply about Capel. That we will hold them to account for their actions and decisions and will watch their every move."
She accused the councillors of "marking their own homework", pointing out that five of the councillors who voted to approve the plan as ready for consultation were members of the planning policy working group that had drafted the plan in the first place.
She described the councillors as "deeply uninterested in listening to contrary views."
Save Capel has already engaged consultants Castle Planning to fight on its behalf and members intend to also picket the meeting of the cabinet on Thursday, August 16, when it meets to decide on whether to take the draft plan to the next stage.