Benenden is fortunate in having had recreation grounds and allotments in Benenden and Iden Green settled on the village by Viscount Rothermere and the St George’s Building and the village green by the Earl of Cranbrook. At last Kent County Council are providing Benenden with a new primary school so the school will no longer be using the 17th century building at the north end of the Green donated by Edmund Gibbon and the 19th century building on the west side of the green donated by the Earl of Cranbrook. The allotments in Benenden were developed in the 1970s and are now Rothermere Close and Harmsworth Court, with the proceeds used to build the village hall. Feoffee, the old Victorian workhouse was also given to the village by the Earl of Cranbrook, and is the major asset of the Benenden Almshouse Trust. More recent community developments in Benenden are the community shop (the result of working in co-operation with Benenden School and a well-supported community share issue), the formation of the Benenden Village Trust (to manage the village assets previously belonging to the Harmsworth Memorial Trust) and, of course, this magazine.
None of this changes the essential fact that Benenden is one of the remotest parts of the Tunbridge Wells Borough. Our local roads are narrow and often not well maintained. There are already significant traffic bottlenecks in Hawkhurst, Sissinghurst and Goudhurst on journeys to the A21 and to the station at Staplehurst. There is evident danger at the crossroads in Iden Green, Benenden and at Castleton’s Oak where, to alert motorists to the danger, the road surface has been changed, coloured and cobblestones introduced. Something similar is needed for the crossroads in Benenden and Iden Green. Traffic drives through the village dangerously fast and traffic-calming schemes are being considered with plans in hand to restrict the speed limit to 20 mph in the centre of the village and by the new primary school. There is a well-used footpath connecting Iden Green to the centre of Benenden. The Infrastructure Group would like to see this replicated elsewhere in the Parish, especially between the centre of Benenden and the community at East End. The busy road through Goddards Green is far from ideal for pedestrians and cyclists and a cycle path connecting Benenden and East End is something we are investigating. The Group would welcome your suggestions as to how this could be done.
The new primary school will provide for some 35 additional school places and raises the need for additional provision for the young. For the Plan Exhibition in April the children put forward interesting ideas about the facilities they wanted the village to provide in the future. The Benenden Village Trust and the Parish Council are actively planning a replacement play area on the Benenden recreation ground. The play area on the green in Iden Green is also close to the end of its safe working life and needs upgrading.
Benenden residents may make use of Benenden Hospital health insurance and we have investigated whether a GP service could be provided in the village, perhaps from the hospital, but Benenden does not really have the number of residents to make this a possibility – and, in any case, our current residents are already signed on with other GPs. Benenden is a widespread community and establishing a central surgery which people would be able to walk to is not at the moment possible. However, if a designated space could be provided then it might be possible to provide regular nurse, podiatry or physio sessions.
Broadband speeds are still not good enough, especially in the more far-flung dens, holding back business opportunities, and we need to identify what needs to be done to improve this (perhaps some way of boosting it, as has been suggested). Even more concerning is the very limited mobile phone coverage in the Parish. Phone masts have been planned … but at the moment we lack concrete offers of sites for additional masts to improve the coverage provided by our sole mast at Hole Park.
The move towards electric cars also needs to be catered for and rapid car-charging points provided. The village hall car park and the Pavilion car park at Iden Green might be possible sites but other locations are also being considered.
Where funds are needed to improve the infrastructure in Benenden, we would hope these could be provided by developers by means of the Community Infrastructure Levy or Section 106 contributions. If you have any suggestions regarding infrastructure improvements please let us know at:
Infrastructure Working Group
Neighbourhood Development Plan