Drafting the NDP …

In the light of Paul’s  request for your comments on the Key Criteria in the Parish Magazine, and here on the website there are a couple of things which might be good to clarify especially as the NDP reaches the drafting stage. There are a number of misapprehensions swirling about as to what is or isn’t being done and therefore a number of assumptions being made, so a quick look at some of the issues:

The NDP does not stand alone: it is part of a larger plan, TWBC’s Local Plan. Like a piece in a jigsaw our NDP only has some power to influence when it is drafted, independently examined and accepted as part of the Local Plan and will then protect the Parish against future speculative development.

No-one wants excessive house building but the government is pushing the Borough Councils hard. After negotiation with TWBC Benenden has accepted a total of around 100 houses to be built over a 15 year period. This ties in with the figure set out in the 2015 Parish Plan. So then the next question is where?

The NDP is not offering sites; landowners have offered 19 sites in Benenden to TWBC for consideration. Kent Barker mentioned last month that  he ‘knows of’ small available sites, but if they have not been offered in the Call for Sites they are not ‘on the table’  they cannot be assessed and therefore cannot be taken into account. However, small ‘windfall’ sites that do come up later may count towards our total in the light of new guidance in the NPPF.

It has been said that TWBC has dictated what sites they prefer and the NDP has simply said yes. Not so. TWBC has trained the working groups on how to assess the sites and are consulting with the working groups as to which sites Benenden thinks are best. Everyone in the Parish will have the opportunity to assess and vote on this.

So why not build 5 houses here and there around the Parish as this was the preference of many people? Although there are 19 sites on offer, there are not enough smallsites to accommodate just 5 houses. This doesn’t mean there are no small sites, just that almost all are bigger sites, and if someone gets permission to build just a few houses in one corner of a bigger site then that whole site is opened up for future development. Nor does this mean all the sites have to be huge developments of 50 houses. The list of sites is available to see on the TWBC website at www.tunbridgewells.gov.uk on the Local Plan webpage or at the Parish office.

Why not build small groups of houses scattered around the Parish? The impact on the AONB would be much greater, the impact on local infrastructure more damaging – 10 houses equals 25-30 cars – thus because our rural landscape is our greatest asset and our strongest protection, so much so that the NPPF indicates it must be protected and preserved, these developments would be opposed by TWBC, CPRE, Natural England and WKPS. However, this does not prevent someone converting eg a couple of outhouses or a barn in future which can contribute to our total.

The Parish has indicated their preference for utilising so-called ‘brownfield’ sites (previously developed land) first if possible: this militates against using far-flung, rural, greenfield sites.

The Parish has indicated it wants a range of housing types, if possible locally-led, including affordable housing, in order to provide for Benenden’s housing needs in the future. The working groups have prioritised this in their consultations over sites. Small developments do not have to provide any affordable housing, are often one type of house and may be far away from amenities (contra to the NPPF and to our own 2015 Parish Plan) which means more car use and less connection with the existing community.

Minnie Garnier

Housing Supply Group