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Examination of the Local Plan


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Update: Consultation extended to midnight Friday 12 April 2024*.

Public Consultation on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s Response to the Inspector’s Initial Findings Letter on the Examination of the New Local Plan

Background

The Pre- Submission version of the Local Plan (Regulation 19) was submitted to the Secretary of State for independent Examination on 1 November 2021, together with the representations received to the Pre-Submission (Regulation 19) Consultation.

A suite of evidence base documents and documents relating to tests of compliance were also submitted to the Secretary of State. These documents are on our Core Documents page.

Following the examination hearing sessions, the Inspector wrote to the Borough Council setting out his Initial Findings in November 2022.

Response to Inspector’s initial findings

Following receipt of the Inspector’s Initial Findings Letter in November 2022, the Council is proposing that the examination of the Local Plan be progressed with revisions to the Development Strategy to the Tunbridge Wells Submission Local Plan (SLP).

In summary, the following changes are proposed:

  • Proposed removal of the strategic policy STR/SS 3: The Strategy for Tudeley Village from the Local Plan.
  • Revision of the strategic policy STR/SS 1: The Strategy for Paddock Wood and land at east Capel, including a reduction in the amount of residential housing growth by approximately 1,000 dwellings, with all housing being on Flood Zone 1 and employment land on Flood Zone 2, along with a reduction of employment provision, and reconfigured sport and recreation provision and secondary school education provision (as set out at Appendix D of the Development Strategy Topic Paper Addendum).
  • At Hawkhurst it is proposed to revise site allocation policy number AL/HA 5: Land to the north of Birchfield Grove, to include housing, and land safeguarded for primary school expansion (in accordance with a planning committee resolution on application reference 22/02664/HYBRID).
  • Also at Hawkhurst, the Council proposes the removal of site allocation policy number AL/HA 8: Limes Grove (March’s Field) from the Local Plan. This site was proposed for employment use in the Submission Local Plan.
  • Progression of a 10 year housing land supply position including the requirement for an immediate review of the plan.

The proposed Revised Development Strategy and full response to the Inspector’s Initial Findings Letter is set out in the Development Strategy Topic Paper Addendum [PS_054]. The Council’s response to the Inspector was considered and approved by Full Council for public consultation on 13 December 2023. An accompanying Sustainability Appraisal Addendum also forms part of the public consultation and there is a set of associated evidence base documents covering a range of matters that has informed the Council’s response. All consultation documents including a Summary (Table) of Proposed Modifications to the Development Strategy [PS_063] to assist with making comments, can be viewed here: Post-Initial Findings Evidence Base Documents.

Public Consultation

A six week public consultation on these proposed changes took place between 15 January and 26 February 2024. This consultation period has been extended*.

* As a result of some internal database issues identified by the Council the public consultation period is being extended until midnight on Friday 12 April 2024 so that all relevant parties have the opportunity to respond to the Council’s Response to the Inspector’s Initial Findings letter.

As there is no change to the information contained in the consultation, all representations made between 15 January and 26 February 2024 will be taken into account and passed on to the Inspector - there is no need for these to be re-submitted. Following the extended deadline of Friday 12 April 2024, any further representations received in response to the consultation will also be taken into account and passed on to the Inspector.

Further details about the consultation can be found on the council’s Consultation on Council’s Response to Inspector’s Initial Findings webpage.

Updated Local Development Scheme (LDS)

The LDS has been updated: LDS December 2023 and sets out the timescales for the remaining stages for the production and adoption of the new Local Plan, as well as of other planning documents that the council expects to prepare over the next three years. Further details about the LDS can be found on Local Development Scheme webpage.

Contents

Click on a heading below to open and view the content in that section.

Matthew Birkinshaw BA(Hons) Msc MRTPI has been appointed by the Secretary of State as the Planning Inspector for the examination of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Local Plan 2020 - 2038.

The Inspector's task is to consider the soundness of the submitted Plan. The Inspector will also consider whether the Local Plan meets the requisite legal and procedural requirements. In order to do so, the Inspector will assess the Local Plan, the evidence base on which it was created, as well as all of the representations submitted during the public consultations.


The Programme Officer undertakes the administration of the examination under the direction of the Planning Inspector and all communications are handled by the Programme Officer.

The Programme Officer is Charlotte Glancy.

Contact details

Postal address

Programme Officer
C/O Banks Solutions
80 Lavinia Way
East Preston
West Sussex
BN16 1DD

Council Next Steps Update – March 2024

The Council provided a Next Steps update to the Inspector on 19 March 2024 (see document TWLP_114 below). The letter provides an update on a new Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA) being prepared on behalf of the Council, and an update on the Public Consultation being carried out for the Council’s response to the Initial Findings letter, received November 2022.

Inspector's Letter – February 2024

The letter is a response to the Council’s update letter dated 11.01.24 (TWLP_113), which set out, amongst other matters, how the Council intends to deal with the recent change in the Government’s Planning policy for traveller sites (‘PPTS’). More specifically, the change in definition of gypsies and travellers contained in Annex 1. The Inspector’s letter advises that a new GTAA will be required as part of this examination. The Inspector is not seeking any representations or correspondence on this specific issue at this stage.

Council Next Steps Update – January 2024

The council provided a Next Steps update to the Inspector on 11 January 2024 (see document TWLP_113 below). Full Council approved the Council’s response to the Inspector’s Initial Findings Letter (received November 2022 – see document ID -012 below) at its meeting on 13 December 2023 and that the response (which includes a revised development strategy to that proposed in the Submission Local Plan) shall proceed to a six week public consultation, to begin January 2024. The update to the Inspector sets out that the consultation will begin Monday 15 January and run until midnight on Monday 26 February 2024. It also updates the Inspector on other matters, including Gypsy and Traveller accommodation provision and changes to the National Planning Policy Framework published on 19 December 2023.

Council Next Steps Update – November 2023

The council provided a Next Steps update to the Inspector on 26 September 2023 (see document TWLP_112 below). The Planning & Transportation Cabinet Advisory Board (P&T Cab) Report has now been published in advance of the meeting on the 13 November 2023. Following this meeting, the Report will proceed to Cabinet on 7 December 2023, and Full Council on 13 December 2023.

An updated Core Documents list is available – this includes links to the Evidence Base documents supporting the Report.

Council next steps update to the Inspector

Turnden, Cranbrook - Decision by Secretary of State and Council's Response - May 2023

Publication of Secretary of State’s decision following a ‘Call in’ Public Inquiry held in respect of planning application reference 20/00815/FULL (submission version Local Plan Site Allocation Policy AL/CRS 3 - document TWLP_108).

The Council has written to the Inspector concerning land at Turnden Farm, Cranbrook (submission version Local Plan Policy AL/CRS3). The letter and decision are available to view from the examination library (examination documents TWLP_108 and TWLP_109). At this stage, the Inspector is not seeking any representations from interested parties on either the Council’s latest position or the decision made by the Secretary of State. However, opportunities will be provided for participants to make any comments on this, and other aspects of the Plan, in due course in accordance with the published timescales.


Publication of Inspector’s Response to Greg Clark, MP Letter Dated 27 February 2023 – Document ID-014

This letter provides a reply to Greg Clark, MP following receipt of Letter dated 27 February 2023 relating to Kipping's Cross roundabout.

Letter from Greg Clark, MP – February 2023

Publication of letter sent to the Inspector by Greg Clark, MP dated 27 February 2023 regarding Kippings Cross roundabout – Document REP-14570-001.

The letter relates to highways mitigation proposals for Kippings Cross submitted to the examination.


Publication of Inspector’s Response to Greg Clark, MP Letter Dated 27 February 2023 – Document ID-014

This letter provides a reply to Greg Clark, MP following receipt of Letter dated 27 February 2023 relating to Kipping's Cross roundabout.

Inspector's Letter - January 2023

Publication of Response to Councils Letter Dated 22 December 2022 – Document TWLP_106.

The letter provides a reply to the Council’s initial response following receipt of the Inspectors initial findings (Document ID-012). The Inspector is not seeking any comments from participants at this stage but invites the Council to respond to questions raised.

Council next steps response to the Inspector

Inspector’s Initial Findings Letter – November 2022

The letter sets out the Inspector’s initial findings following the Examination hearing sessions. The Inspector is not seeking any comments from participants at this stage but invites the Council to consider the issues raised and the suggested ways forward. Updates will be provided in due course, including the next steps for the Examination.


Additional notes and documentation has been added to the examination website as requested by the Inspector at the hearings in July 2022. At this stage the Inspector is not seeking any comments or representations on the additional documents. Instead, further information, including the next steps for the examination, will be published in due course by the Inspector.

Publication of revised Hearing Programme, Stage 2, June to July sessions with Participants - 14 July 2022

Publication of revised Hearing Programme, Stage 2, June to July sessions with Participants - 12 July 2022

Publication of revised Hearing Programme, Stage 2, June to July sessions with Participants - 01 July 2022

Publication of revised Hearing Programme, Stage 2, June to July sessions with Participants - 23 June 2022

Publication of revised Hearing Programme, Stage 2, June to July sessions with Participants - 13 June 2022

Publication of Virtual Examination Guidance

Update from Inspector 10 June 2022

One of the Council’s team has today tested positive for Covid and thus cannot attend in person next Tuesday or Wednesday (and possibly Thursday if still testing positive after 5 days). The Council has exhausted all other possibilities of continuing with the in person sessions.

Rather than delay the sessions until a future date, the decision has therefore been made to defer to virtual sessions using ‘Zoom’, which will operate in the same way as the virtual sessions already planned for hearing sessions running from 21 June. Further details and joining instructions will be issued to participants as soon as possible.

Public Observation of the hearing sessions will remain online on the Council’s YouTube channel.

Publication of agendas for Day 7 (Tudeley Village) and Day 8 (Paddock Wood) - 6 June 2022

Publication of revised Hearing Programme, Stage 2, June to July sessions with Participants - 9 June 2022

Publication of revised Hearing Programme, Stage 2, Days 4-6 with updated Participants (Version 3) - 24 May 2022

Publication of revised Hearing Programme, Stage 2, Days 4-6 with updated Participants - 24 May 2022

Publication of revised Hearing Programme, Stage 2, Days 4-6 with updated Participants - 23 May 2022

Publication of Stage 2 Matters 2-5 Hearing Statements - 18 May 2022

Hearing Statements for Matters 2 to 5 (Week 2) can be viewed under the drop down heading Stage 2 Hearing Statements Weeks 2-4 below. Hearing Statements for Matters 6 to 9 (Weeks 3 to 4) will be uploaded in due course, when received from the Programme Officer.

Publication of revised Hearing Programme, Stage 2, Days 4-6 with Participants - 18 May 2022

Publication of revised Stage 2 Matters, Issues and Questions - 22 April 2022

Publication of revised Guidance Note, Hearing Programme and Stage 2 Matters, Issues and Questions - 14 April 2022

The Inspector has issued revised documentation for the Stage 2 part of the Local Plan Examination, these including a revised Guidance Note, revised Stage 2 Hearing Programme and revised Stage 2 Matters, Issues and Questions. They can be viewed below.

Publication of a Public Notice detailing Stage 2 Examination hearing dates - 12 April 2022

Under Regulation 24 of the Local Planning Regulations (2012, as amended), a Public Notice has been published setting out the dates, times and location of the Stage 2 Examination hearing sessions. The Public Notice can be viewed below.

Update from Inspector 7 April 2022

A post hearing letter from the Inspector (ID-08) has been published below. This letter sets out the Inspector’s decision to proceed to Stage 2. The documents mentioned in Paragraph 2 of the letter are published as PS-025PS-023 and PS-024. As stated in paragraph 3 of the letter, we are now working to agree dates for Stage 2. The relevant public notices will be published and a revised stage 2 programme when dates are agreed.

The Inspector has issued an agenda (ID-07 - set out below) for the additional Duty to Co-operate hearing session scheduled for 29 March 2022.

The Inspector has published a letter (ID-06 - set out below) regarding the Stage 1 hearings. This will have an impact on the programming of Stage 2 of the examination.

In light of the additional information and the invitation to respond, the Inspector has extended the deadline for submitting hearing statements for Stage 2. For the hearing session currently scheduled to take place on Thursday 24 March 2022, the deadline for submitting statements remains the same - Tuesday 15 March 2022. However, for hearing sessions due to take place in Week 3 of the examination (Tuesday 29 March – Friday 1 April 2022), the deadline for submitting hearing statements has been extended to Friday 18 March 2022.

Publication of the Inspector’s Guidance Note, Hearing Programme and Matters Issues and Questions

The Inspector has published his Examination Guidance Note, Hearing Programme and Matters Issues and Questions.

The Examination Guidance Note provides further information on the procedural and administrative arrangements for participants in the Examination, including relevant deadlines and how to contact the Programme Officer.

Please note that some typographical errors have been amended since version 1 of ID-04 was issued. The timetable itself has not been amended.

Publication of a Public Notice detailing Examination hearing dates

Under Regulation 24 of the Local Planning Regulations (2012, as amended), a Public Notice has been published setting out the dates, times and location of the Examination hearing sessions. The Public Notice can be viewed below.

If you have any queries on these documents, please direct them to the Programme Officer.


Those wishing to view the Examination hearing sessions are encouraged to do so online.

The Stage 1 hearing sessions (weeks 1 and 2) were held between Tuesday 1 March and Thursday 3 March and Tuesday 29 March in the Council Chamber and may be viewed via TunbridgeWells.Public-I.tv.

Revised Stage 2 hearing sessions will be held between Wednesday 25 May and Tuesday 19 July.

The hearing sessions to be held on Wednesday 25 May to Friday 17 June (weeks 3 and 4) and Tuesday 5 July to Friday 8 July (week 6) will be conducted in Committee Rooms A & B.

The hearing sessions to be held on Tuesday 21 June to Friday 24 June (week 5) and Tuesday 12 July to Tuesday 19 July (weeks 7 and 8) will be conducted via Zoom.

All Stage 2 hearing sessions may be viewed via Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s YouTube channel. The streams for past sessions will be saved on the YouTube channel and will be added to the Stage 2 hearing sessions playlist.

Please see the Stage 1 and Stage 2 Hearing Programmes for the full timetable.


At the examination hearing session on Tuesday 1 March 2022, the Inspector asked the Council to provide minutes of meetings between Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Maidstone Borough Council. The Inspector also invited the Council to provide summaries of the meetings held as part of the 'Strategic Sites Working Group'. This information has now been provided. Should participants wish to make any comments on the additional information, this should be done in writing by Friday 11 March 2022. Additional comments should only relate to the further information provided.

Should any changes be required to the scheduled hearing programme, participants will be notified in writing with updates provided through the examination website.

For information


Matter 1

Additional statements from absent participants from Matter 1 Hearings


Matter 2

Matter 3

Matter 4

Matter 5

Matter 6

Matter 7

Matter 8

Matter 9


Matter 7

Matter 10

Matter 11

Matter 12

Matter 13

Matter 14

Matter 15

Additional notes and documentation has been added to the examination website as requested by the Inspector at the hearings in July 2022. At this stage the Inspector is not seeking any comments or representations on the additional documents. Instead, further information, including the next steps for the examination, will be published in due course by the Inspector.

NB During the course of the Stage 2 hearing sessions, the Inspector also asked (as Action Points 7 -11) for certain documents to be made available. These documents are contained under ‘Examination Post-Submission Evidence Base Documents’.

PS_010 Link to Interactive Policies Map (November 2021) (formerly document 3.153)

PS_019 Borough Landscape Character Assessment Supplementary Planning Documents (formerly document 3.162)


In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and guidance from government, the Planning Inspectorate has published guidance on site visits, hearings, inquiries and events.

You can view the guidance on the GOV.UK website.