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Newspaper Columns

Times of Tonbridge Column - Local Plan - 10 October

Last week, the most important local consultation in years opened. It’s all about the Tonbridge and Malling Local Plan. This will decide where our future houses will go and shape our town for generations. It will identify the infrastructure that needs upgrading and improving so that we can get to work, school and the doctor when we want. It will shape the way we live.

There is no doubt we need more homes. Every time I hold a surgery, families and young people come and ask me why they can’t afford somewhere to live, to raise a family and to start a life of their own. They remind me that we need to build more for everyone in our community. The question is: where?

Whether you agree or not with the proposals that Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council have suggested, now is your chance to comment on them. All the responses are sent to a Planning Inspector, who will assess the quality of the arguments. So it’s crucial that as many people as possible have their say before 4pm on Monday 12 November.

You can write to the Council, or e-mail localplan@tmbc.gov.uk to make your views heard. There will be drop in sessions on 15 October at the Council Offices in Kings Hill, and 17 October at Tonbridge Castle, where you can view the plans in more detail.

It’s also important to be clear which proposals you agree with. I’m sure many in north Tonbridge will welcome that development towards Hadlow will not be included and we need to show the Planning Inspector that we care about this important suggestion. But, if you feel that there are too many homes on Brook Street, or anywhere else, then make sure your views are heard too. I’m sure you will.

This isn’t just about places, the total number of houses is higher than many think are necessary and we need to make sure the government isn’t asking us to do too much. I’m challenging the government to make sure we get the homes we need, and protect the community we love.

I’m also speaking to the government about how we make sure that infrastructure improvements are actually delivered, in advance of the housing being built. Government policy states that greenbelt land can only be developed in exceptional circumstances and, as the plan stands, it is clear the planners thinks exceptional circumstances apply down Brook Street. I know many don’t agree. That’s why we need technical planning arguments presented in this consultation to counter this proposal, if you think they’re wrong.

It’s clear this consultation matters. It will shape our future and the future of Tonbridge and Malling. Please take the time to read the document and have your say.

At the end, I’ll bring together the arguments our community has made and present them to the Planning Inspector. The Planning Inspector is an arm of government, and as your representative in Westminster it’s crucial I argue your views properly. That’s why I need you to write to me too. After all, I can only do my job for you if you let me know what you think.

Georgie Welford