An 18-day public planning inquiry opens today (Tuesday, September 21) into a scheme for 165 houses near Cranbrook in the High Weald AONB. Berkeley Homes had been granted permission to build 36 homes at Turnden, in the Crane Valley between Cranbrook and Hartley, back in February 2019. The developer then expanded its scheme to add 165 more homes – which was also backed by the council. This scheme represents substantial development in the AONB on a greenfield site that has not allocated for development within a Local Plan. CPRE Kent has been vocal in its objection to the scheme from the start. CPRE Kent supported Natural England in objecting to the proposal and asking the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to call in the decision. This request was accepted and the inquiry opening today is to inform the Secretary of State’s decision. CPRE Kent is undertaking a formal role at the inquiry, working alongside Natural England and the High Weald AONB Unit in presenting evidence against the scheme and challenging the evidence being presented in favour of the proposed development. We do not undertake such formal action lightly though are deeply concerned the Turnden scheme would set a precedent that could lead to harm to protected areas throughout the country. The outcome of this inquiry is not just critical to AONBs in Kent but to protected landscapes across the country.
A scheme for 165 new houses near Cranbrook in the High Weald AONB has been ‘called in’ for review by a planning inspector after Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s planning committee resolved to approve the scheme. Berkeley Homes had been granted permission to build 36 homes at Turnden, in the Crane Valley between Cranbrook and Hartley back in February 2019. The developer then expanded its proposed scheme to add 165 more homes – which was also backed by the council. The development follows the council’s granting of outline permission for 180 dwellings at nearby Brick Kiln Farm. CPRE Kent supported Natural England in objecting to the proposal and asking Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to call in the decision. This has now happened. John Wotton, chair of CPRE Kent, said: “Major developments on greenfield sites in the High Weald AONB should not be happening. Allowing the Turnden scheme would set a precedent that could lead to harm to our precious protected areas throughout the country. “This scheme will destroy a piece of medieval farming landscape, obliterate historic settlement patterns and suburbanise the rural setting of Cranbrook. Spreading spoil from the development over adjoining fields will only cause further harm to the environment and the enjoyment of the countryside by local people.” CPRE will be working with the local action group, Hartley Save our Fields, to oppose the granting of permission and will support Natural England and the High Weald AONB Unit when the case comes before a planning inspector later this year. We are also opposing the allocation of the site for development in Tunbridge Wells’s new Local Plan.
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