Tonbridge and Malling’s draft Local Plan is struggling after inspectors suspended public examination due to concerns the borough council had failed in its ‘duty to co-operate’ with neighbouring Sevenoaks District Council. In response, Tonbridge and Malling has written to the Secretary of State asking him to intervene and instruct the inspectors to continue their examination. Its draft Plan, which proposes at least new 6,834 homes until 2031, has fallen foul of planning inspectors who claim Tonbridge and Malling has failed to work sufficiently closely with Sevenoaks and consider whether it could have taken any of Sevenoaks’s ‘unmet’ housing demand. The Planning Inspectorate told Tonbridge and Malling to withdraw its Plan or it would recommend the Government reject it. The council fears a reassessment could mean substantially higher housing targets. The council asked the Planning Inspectorate to issue its final report on its examination of the Plan before asking Robert Jenrick to intervene to review the inspectors’ decision.
Campaigners have launched a crowdfunding appeal to fund legal representation at a planning appeal and Local Plan inquiry. Trudy Dean takes up the story…
Forty Acres is a beautiful open area of gently rising farmland to the south of the A20 London Road in the parish of East Malling and Larkfield. Confusingly running to almost 60 acres, it lies between and separates the historic settlements of West Malling, East Malling, Larkfield and Leybourne from the new village of Kings Hill. It is crossed by two well-used Public Rights of Way, MR 119 and 120, between the villages and serves commuters to West Malling station, shoppers and walkers. They also feed into one of the few areas of nationally designated Quiet Lanes prioritising walkers, riders and cyclists immediately to the south. Forty Acres fields have been cultivated for grain for as long as anyone can remember and were part of the extensive estates of the nearby 11th-century Malling Abbey built by Bishop Gundulf for Benedictine nuns. In 2016, Forty Acres was included within a parcel of land proposed to extend the Metropolitan Green Belt eastward in the Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council Draft Local Plan, due to begin its final stage of examination before inspectors in October. Extending the Green Belt would not only protect the setting of West Malling with its Conservation Area but also prevent the joining up of East and West Malling with Leybourne and Larkfield to the north and Kings Hill to the south. The network of rural lanes and footpaths would be protected as well as the setting of many listed buildings. The developer Wates has applied for planning consent to build 250 houses on Forty Acres and now appealed against the borough council’s failure to decide the application within six weeks. The surrounding parishes of East Malling and Larkfield, Leybourne and West Malling are crowdfunding to raise the £60,000 estimated to be needed for legal representation at the appeal and Local Plan inquiry. We are using the team of lawyers who last year successfully fought off Bellway’s plans to build on fields up against the walls of Malling Abbey. This is probably the last chance we shall have to defend this open space. Please help if you can.
If you would like to contribute to the fund to help save Forty Acres, click here
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
CPRE Kent is fighting an almost overwhelming number of development proposals across the county – BUT WE CAN’T DO IT WITHOUT YOUR SUPPORT. If you would like to join us in our efforts to keep Kent beautiful, please click here