Two Steps Forward – One Step Back | May Update

The NDP team staged their first Village Exhibition on Saturday 7th April.  It was well attended; 129 people signed in at the door (we may need to show that we’re engaging residents), but we know others didn’t manage to sign-in.  The Exhibition gave us an opportunity to share progress so far, and most of the feedback we’ve had was very positive.

For many, the result of the Primary School Project was a high point.  I don’t think we’ll be able to progress the go-kart track round The Green, or the Church being used for pit stops.  But all the outputs were most creative, providing many good, challenging and thoughtful ideas including improving the surroundings of Cherryfields, and the playground, and reuse of the old Primary School buildings.

Wildlife, footpaths and maintaining the beauty of the parish are a concern; well illustrated by some fantastic photos.  The Green Environment Group provided impressive maps showing detail on the locations of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Tree Protection Orders (TPOs) and Ancient Woodland.

Communications with residents will continue to be important as we need your thinking to construct a robust plan that works for all the Parish.  We have a website under construction which we hope to launch by mid-May.  We’ll let you know once this is ready.

Our focus is now moving onto completing our assessments of the ‘Call for Sites’, developing ‘Benenden-flavoured’ planning policies and initial drafting of our plan.  We are still on track to deliver a draft plan by January 2019.

But it is not all good news…

The Housing Supply stand attracted a lot of interest.  Many who attended the Exhibition were shocked to hear that Tunbridge Wells Borough Council may have a ‘soft’ target for development of between 200 – 250 additional dwellings within the Parish by 2033 – this information gleaned by our Consultants based on the 14 sites in Benenden put forward by landowners and a cursory desk top evaluation of these sites undertaken in Tunbridge Wells.  Given our transport links, school places and infrastructure, many asked us how we would cope with a population increase of perhaps 500 people.

The Parish Council, supported by the NDP team believe we should embrace some development.  It will ensure the Parish remains vibrant and could offer additional affordable housing.  Our intention is to engage constructively with TWBC recognising they have been handed a ‘top down’ target by Central Government.  But we must make sure development is sympathetic, sustainable and restrained.  We do not want to change this beautiful Parish or undermine the community of the Village.  Evolution rather than revolution is our hope and it is now that the hard work begins!

Paul Tolhurst


Benenden Neighbourhood Development Plan Steering Committee