To consider and, if thought fit, to approve the recommendations set out in the associated report.
The Mayor asked the Monitoring Officer to advise members regarding an email which had been circulated by objectors to the Benenden Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) commenting about an article which had been published in a local magazine.
Monitoring Officer advised:
· Legal input had been sought in relation to the publication of certain statements in a local magazine and their impact on the validity of the Plan.
· It was felt that under the circumstances the risk of challenge to the Council’s decision was low.
Councillor McDermott moved, and Councillor Holden seconded, the recommendations set out in the associated report.
The Mayor advised that there were four members of the public registered to speak:
· Hazel Strouts – Resident of Benenden
· Nicola Thomas – Chair of Benenden Parish Council
· Paul Tolhurst – Benenden NDP
· Andrew Marks – Resident of Benenden
Comments by speakers included:
· Felt the wider community was not consulted on plans.
· Friends of East End were not consulted until too late in the process.
· Advised a petition was submitted and signed by 127 people and not 31 as suggested.
· The community felt they were being silenced and prevented from publishing articles expressing their views.
· Posters had been published that were confusing and misleading.
· The facilities of the site at East End were not adequate to accommodate the developments plans.
· Thanks was expressed to all councillors for their support.
· Delighted that over 80 per cent voted for the proposal.
· Congratulated Tunbridge Wells Planning team for openness and support.
· Benenden NDP had to date taken nearly four years with 25 volunteers to get to the position it is in today.
· Five workshops, three drop-in sessions and two exhibitions with a village plan launch meeting were held to make residents aware of the development.
· It was stressed that all meetings were well attended except the meeting held in the East End.
· The Independent examiner held a 5-hour meeting to listed to all concerns, he found robust and sound planning principles.
· 53.6 per cent turn out for the referendum.
· Residents felt NDP was a done deal.
· NDP group failed to include residents who would be most affected by development.
· Brown field site reference is emotive and incorrect as Tunbridge Wells own register does make such reference.
· Outside of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty where much of hospital intrudes into it for historical reasons.
· NDP failed to include hospital site in its consultation, and it was only at final planning consultation were residents able to express their concerns.
· This development lacks any formal infrastructure to accommodate such a sizeable development.
Councillor Patterson moved, and councillor Poile seconded, a motion to adjourn the debate under Council Procedure Rule 13.11.4. The Mayor determined that the motion had not reasonably been discussed and debate would continue.
· Concern was expressed over the allegations on how the Plan was conducted, it was felt the Borough Council should defer the vote on this plan until adjudication has taken place.
· It was reiterated that Legal Services had been consulted and they advised there was low risk to this challenge and there would be little advantage of deferring the decision.
· It was stressed that the East End lacked the infrastructure to support such housing plans and there were other areas nearby which could accommodate such a development.
· The Inspector had taken all the sustainable elements into consideration which on balance were found to be acceptable.
· It was noted that these plans had already been agreed in their current form and been subject to a referendum. It was the Councillors’ obligation to move the plan forward.
· With a turnout of over 50 per cent disappointment was expressed if councillors went against the wishes of the referendum.
· It was felt that there was a last-minute push to delay the decision.
· The NDP was part of the strategic development plan and to date no council had ever overturned a referendum vote. With 665 votes in favour and 161 votes against, there was no reason to overturn this decision.
The Mayor took a vote on the motion by affirmation.
Members who wished their vote be recorded: Councillors Fitzsimmons, Dr Hall, Lidstone, Morton, Patterson, Rutland and Willis and abstained.
1. That, following a favourable local Referendum result in relation to the use of the Benenden Neighbourhood Development Plan to help in the determination of planning applications in the Parish Neighbourhood Area, the Benenden Neighbourhood Development Plan be formally ‘made’ (adopted) and become part of the statutory Development Plan for the area with immediate effect;
2. That the Benenden Neighbourhood Development Plan Decision Statement (post-Referendum) shown at Appendix A also be published; and
3. That the Benenden Neighbourhood Development Plan SEA Adoption Statement also be drafted and published shortly after the NDP is ‘made’.