Published: 14:44, 10 September 2019
| Updated: 14:56, 10 September 2019
More than 300 people crowded into St Lawrence Church at The Moor in Hawkhurst on Monday night to discuss a major planning application that has been put forward for the village.
Cedardrive Homes has submitted an application to Tunbridge Wells council seeking permission to build 417 new homes on Hawkhurst Golf and Squash Club site.
The 20-hectare area falls within an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
In a meeting, described as "cordial and respectful", most people spoke against the scheme.
The agents for the applicant, DHA, were invited to attend and make a presentation on the developer's behalf, but didn't appear and it was up to parish clerk Richard Griffiths, in the interest of fairness, to try to present the positive aspects of the plans.
A few people did speak in favour of the affordable housing that the scheme would bring to the village, but the vast majority were very concerned about the adverse effects on the environment, the already stretched village infrastructure and the additional traffic that would be generated.
Part of the developer's plan is to create a "relief road", through the new estate linking the A229 Cranbrook Road to Hawkhurst High Street, which it said would mitigate some of the existing congestion on the Highgate traffic-light controlled cross roads, but many expressed doubt that the scheme could do anything other than make the overall traffic problem worse.
After the public meeting, the parish council held its official monthly parish meeting to consider the application.
The council voted unanimously to recommend refusal on the grounds that the application was not sustainable - it brought many more homes but no more employment opportunities, that the village infrastructure could not cope - the council cited the many recent breakdowns in the village's sewerage system, and that the developer's traffic figures were underestimated.
The firm had conducted its traffic survey in March last year during the bad weather caused by the Beast From The East (properly named Anticyclone Hartmut) that had reduced the recorded traffic numbers.
Mr Griffiths said: "The council felt that the developer's traffic predictions had all been calculated from the wrong starting point."
The application has already received more than 360 individual letters of objection, including from the Campaign To Protect Rural England, the High Weald AONB and the Woodland Trust.
Application number 19/02025 refers.