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Tunbridge Wells building plans increase 20 per cent

By This is Kent  |  Posted: August 19, 2008

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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.

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