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Planning inspector refuses proposal for 374 homes and a link road on Hawkhurst Golf Course

There is jubilation in Hawkhurst after a planning inspector dismissed an appeal for nearly 400 homes to be built on the village golf course.

The application by club owners CedarDrive Ltd included a proposal to forge a relief road through the course and attracted hundreds of letters of objection.

The golf course has closed. The squash club is still operating
The golf course has closed. The squash club is still operating

The inspectors's decision ends a near four-year battle after the company first submitted a "scoping inquiry" to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council in October 2018.

The proposal was fiercely contested by villagers and by Hawkhurst Parish Council and was refused planning permission by the borough council in April last year.

The former golf course is off the High Street in the centre of the Highgate end of the village.

The inspector, Owen Woodwards, conducted an eight-day pubic inquiry last September after the firm appealed the decision. He announced his ruling yesterday, refusing planning permission.

The plan would have seen the demolition of the existing clubhouse and squash courts and the re-shaping of the golf course to take the houses, a care home, doctors' surgery and community hall.

A stream runs through the site
A stream runs through the site

It involved building a link between the A268 and A229 to bypass the existing busy Highgate crossroads.

The site, described by the inspector as "attractive, open and green" lies within High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (the AONB);

He concluded the proposed road would involve substantial engineering work and a loss of trees and would be highly visible.

But he acknowledged that it would bring significant savings in journey times and reduce congestion at the crossroads, which was "already at over-capacity."

So he ruled that the proposal could not be refused on highways grounds.

The extent of the planning application
The extent of the planning application

He also found that although the existing proposal did not demonstrate a net bio-diversity gain, it would be possible to achieve one by imposing conditions.

But the fact that the site lay largely outside the defined settlement boundary of Hawkhurst, did go against it.

The refusal comes even though Tunbridge Wells council can not currently demonstrate that it had a five-year supply of housing land.

The inspector calculated the borough's supply at 4.38 years. There was shortfall of 439 homes, of which this site would provide 374.

However, he concluded that despite many positive aspects of the proposal, the harm done to the AONB would outweigh any good, and the scheme was "not in the public interest."

Clare Escomb, chairman of Hawkhurst Parish Council
Clare Escomb, chairman of Hawkhurst Parish Council

Clare Escombe, the chairman of Hawkhurst Parish Council, said: "Naturally we're delighted.
"The parish council took the decision to sit as Rule 6 party at the appeal hearing, along with a local residents group, - the first time we have ever done that - so this is a vindication of our stance.

"This news will be widely celebrated across the village. I certainly had a few glasses of something sparkling after I heard the news!"

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