Tunbridge Wells Borough Council are undertaking a Call for Sites to underpin the evolution of its Local Plan. As part of the Neighbourhood Planning process each of the sites offered by local landowners within the Parish are assessed by Benenden Neighbourhood Planning Team.
Our assessments must be objective and consistent. Site assessment is complex and involves the application of multiple criteria to each site, in some instances an element of judgement is required to deliver the best balance of housing types. To help us, training on the site assessment process was provided by TWBC, with input from Merit Thornton Planning Consultants. We have developed our assessment criteria based on the guidance offered in the new National Planning Policy Framework.
To ensure that the criteria we are using reflect the Parish’s aspirations, the NDP Steering Committee want to share the key criteria with Benenden parishoners and obtain feedback from them before finalising our site assessments.
- Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty & Conservation Area
Sites within the AONB have a high level of protection in terms of conserving landscape and scenic beauty. Any development should minimise the adverse impact on the landscape, scenic beauty, wildlife and cultural life of the AONB. Any development must also enhance any Conservation Area, the setting of heritage assets, historic parkland and listed buildings. Sites outside the AONB and not part of a Conservation Area will therefore be given greater weight. The dark skies and rural nature of the Parish is highly valued by residents and statutory bodies and should be to be maintained.
- Site Size and Scale of Development
The Parish’s cultural and physical infrastructure is inadequate for major development. So large sites will be given a reduced weight. The NDP is required to provide adequate Affordable Housing to ensure local people have the option to remain within the Parish. Greater weight will be given to sites where affordable housing or other developer contributions to community infrastructure can be mandated. These are sites of 10 or more dwellings.
- Previously Developed Land
The NDP will give greater weight to land which has been previously developed (often known as ‘brownfield’) for residential development. This will include the curtilage of any existing dwellings, but may not include all green spaces within a proposed site.
- Close to Existing Amenities
To ensure residents of new dwellings have the best opportunity to integrate with the community and to have access to local services; it is desirable to develop sites close to existing settlements. This is in line with the 2015 Parish Plan and the 2017 National Policy Planning Framework. Sites within walking distance of the main village of Benenden will be given greatest weight, although Iden Green and East End are also regarded as significant settlements.
- Site access and safety
Safe access onto narrow roads, sometimes with poor visibility, has been taken into consideration. Sites with dangerous access or those that increased the risk of accidents have been given reduced weight.
- Maintaining Local Job Opportunities
Benenden’s vision of a thriving and sustainable community includes a commitment to support local business and enhance job creation. Therefore sites that already support local jobs and light industry will be given less weight for residential development.
Chair Steering Group
IT IS VITALLY IMPORTANT THAT WE HAVE YOUR COMMENTS – POSITIVE AS WELL AS NEGATIVE – ON THE KEY CRITERIA TO BE APPLIED. POST YOUR COMMENTS ON THE CARDS PROVIDED IN THE SHOP OR EMAIL firstname.lastname@example.org
This article also appeared in the January 2019 Parish Magazine