GOVERNMENT plans to build thousands of new homes in Tunbridge Wells have grown 20 per cent and could escalate further if the current rate of building continues.
The draft South East Plan in 2006 said the borough should accommodate 5,000 homes by 2026. But under new Government-led plans announced in July, this figure has grown 20 per cent to 6,000. This number could swell yet further if the current rate of building continues.
Since 2002, the number of households in Tunbridge Wells has grown to 46,737, an increase of five per cent. If that rate continues, in 20 years a further 7,407 new homes will have to be crammed in to the borough, 1,407 more than the Government figure.
Leader of the borough council Cllr Roy Bullock said the authority had been working towards the 6,000 figure for some time. However, whether Greenfield sites would be built on was still unclear at this stage, he said.
Cllr Bullock said: "We are pleased that the number hasn't changed for us. We can't say if it would affect Greenfield land because we haven't got to that point. We are waiting for a strategic housing land availability assessment. When we get that we will start to plan where the 6,000 houses will go over the next few years to 2026."
The South East of England Regional Assembly recommended in 2006 that just under 580,000 should be built across the South East.
But the Government Office of the South East (GOSE) has raised this by 15 per cent, bringing the total to 662,500.
Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark has called for brownfield sites and industrial land to be "first priority" for building to protect green land.
He said: "This nationally imposed hike in housing numbers will place yet more pressure on our precious green spaces.
"It should be for local communities, through their local councillors, to make development decisions based upon the needs and character of the local area.
"Previously used industrial land or brownfield sites must be the first priority for new houses, and not green spaces or back gardens."
The Campaign to Protect Rural England's Tunbridge Wells spokeswoman Hilary Newport echoed the fears for Greenfield sites and said it wouldn't be long before building was seen on Green Belt and areas of outstanding natural beauty if the growth continued.
She said: "The latest figure is about the maximum that Tunbridge Wells can deal with. However, it is difficult to see how the local authority will be able to allocate sites without looking at areas that would be Greenfield.
"Green Belt land is protected but that doesn't mean people won't try.
"It is sucking vitality out of the town and into Greenfield sites."
She also had concerns other housing developments in surrounding areas would affect Tunbridge Wells.
Nearby Wealden, will have to build 11,000 new homes by 2026 under the Government plans.
A public consultation on the plan was launched by GOSE earlier this month and will end on October 24. To participate visit this story on www.thisiscourier.co.uk and click on the link.