Our Neighbourhood Development plan: It’s about so much more than building sites

Around 90% of the public feedback received about our rough draft and two formal phases of consultation concerned the allocation of sites for new building. It’s understandable that proposed building, particularly if it’s close to one’s own home, gets the most attention, but the NDP is actually about much, much more.

The plan contains policies and projects, built on your input from our early workshops and feedback during each consultation phase, which are designed to support the aspirations of the community of Benenden. Policies can be generic, applying across the parish, or site-specific. They are requirements that must be considered by developers or landowners when they create planning proposals, but they must be limited to the remit of the Neighbourhood Plan. For example, we can’t have a policy to reduce speed limits, which are the responsibility of Kent County Council. Projects are proposals that fall outside the remit of a Neighbourhood Plan but which may be delivered in partnership with other authorities such as KCC or Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. So, our plan does include a project to review speed limits and lobby KCC for reduced limits in specific locations.

The plan contains 36 generic policies, including creation of wildlife friendly zones, protecting our fabulous dark skies and amazing views, safeguarding public green spaces and enhancing community facilities. The 50 site specific policies are designed to ensure that developers deliver high-quality dwellings that reflect distinctive local character, reduce and repair any damage done during development, and contribute to supporting and improving local services and facilities.

It’s worth noting that TWBC are planning a change to developer contributions. For developments like those set out in our plan, they intend to set a Community Infrastructure Levy. With an approved Neighbourhood Plan, 25% of the levy will go to the Parish Council for local infrastructure projects. If the parish does not have an approved Neighbourhood Plan, the levy remains with TWBC to allocate to borough projects (which may be nothing to do with the parish that generated the funds).

Our plan has 14 projects, which we anticipate will be funded in part by such developer contributions. These include provision of allotments and public electric car-charging points and reviews of broadband and mobile phone coverage across the parish. You can read each policy and project in detail on the Neighbourhood Plan website (www.benendenneighbourhoodplan.org) or the TWBC Local Plan website – just search for Benenden Neighbourhood Plan. When you vote on the Benenden Neighbourhood Plan in early summer, you will be voting for so much more than housing allocations.

Paul Tolhurst

Chair, Benenden NDP Steering Committee