Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council is mandated by national planning policy to submit a Local Plan, detailing where housing development will take place in future years. This will require the Council to plan for 839 homes per year being built across Tonbridge and Malling for the next 18 years.
The Planning Inspectorate has been clear with a number of authorities that failure to meet this need will result in a Local Plan being rejected, and therefore it prevents the protection of unallocated land. Without a Local Plan the Council cannot reject what it sees as unacceptable development.
There is a window of opportunity for the Government to reassess the level of housing demanded in Tonbridge and Malling, and in light of the Levelling Up White Paper that is exactly what I have asked the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, to do. I have written to him and explained that we have changed our Local Plan timetable to allow his Department to reduce Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council’s housing targets.
We need a target that is consistent with the infrastructure constraints and environmental concerns we share. Without this change we will be unable to fulfil our desire to avoid development on Green Belt and greenfield sites, given our clear policy of prioritising brownfield development first.
Tonbridge and Malling is a great place to live and we do need to balance the need for new homes for local people, keen to get on the housing ladder, with protection for our environment and improvements to infrastructure. These must come before development and it is essential the housing figures in Tonbridge and Malling are assessed again.