On 23 February we launched the Rough Draft Plan at a meeting attended by over 130 people. Copies of the plan were handed out; we placed a stock in the Parish Office for collection and copies in the community shop for people to browse over their coffee or tea. The plan was also posted on our website alongside copies of the presentation delivered at the launch meeting. By the time the six-week consultation period closed on 6 April we had gathered over 30 pages of comment and suggestions from residents. We have also held meetings with some landowners (perhaps notably Benenden Hospital and Benenden Almshouse Trust) and some developers who wished to discuss aspects of the plan in more detail.
The Rough Draft Plan has been sent to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC), neighbouring Parish Councils, Natural England, Historic England, and the High Weald AONB for their comment. A Strategic Environmental Audit of the plan is underway by Government-funded environmental consultants called AECOM. A meeting has been arranged for 31 May with the Head of Planning at TWBC to discuss the draft plan in some detail.
This rough draft is just the start of a long consultation process. The NDP Steering Group will review the feedback from residents, landowners, developers and the statutory bodies. The feedback and advice from TWBC will obviously be of particular importance as TWBC are about to publish a new Local Plan for delivery of housing throughout the Borough. Once we have digested the key points, we will decide what changes we should make to both the content and proposals within the plan. We will also be reformatting the plan to reduce duplication and hopefully make it easier to read and understand. This will become the ‘Regulation 14’ draft plan. It will be subject to a further six-week consultation period, where all stakeholders can seek further change or clarification.
The Regulation 14 draft will be amended following the stakeholder input and republished as the ‘Regulation 15’ draft. A further phase of consultation follows, giving stakeholders an opportunity to make representations direct to an independent examiner who will rule on issues and may insist on final changes to the draft plan. This consultation will also be six weeks long – a timetable will be provided for each step on our website and through the pages of the Parish magazine.
With both the Regulation 14 and 15 consultations it is important to note that feedback should focus on whether the plan complies with planning regulations and guidelines. The NDP team have to act within the rules and guidelines set out in Borough and National Planning guidelines.
Once our revised, revised, revised plan passes examination it will be subject to a referendum. All residents of voting age at the time can then decide whether to support or reject the plan. My hope is that by the time we publish our final plan around January 2020 all of you will understand the proposals, protections and pitfalls and no one will be able to say, “I didn’t know what I was voting for…”.
Paul Tolhurst, Chair, NDP Committee firstname.lastname@example.org