Supporters of the High Weald may have noticed that the AONB Unit has only been able to give standing advice on planning applications it has been consulted on since August. This is because our Co-Director and Planning Advisor have been involved in a large public inquiry for 165 dwellings in the AONB near Cranbrook in Kent.
Approving this application would set a precedent not just for the High Weald but nationally, which is why the AONB Unit decided to commit so much resource to this inquiry for the last few months.
National planning policy says that such major developments should be refused planning permission other than in exceptional circumstances and in the public interest. But the Unit believes that this policy is not being applied stringently enough and that this has led to significant damage to the AONB. The CPRE report ‘Beauty Still Betrayed’ published in April 2021 shows that the High Weald is one of the most pressured AONBs in the country and has seen a huge increase in the amount of major development approved in the last decade.
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council resolved to approve the development back in January, but the decision was called-in by the Secretary of State following concerns from Natural England, CPRE: The Countryside Charity and the National Association of AONBs (NAAONB). Evidence has now been heard from all interested parties at the inquiry, which started on 21st September and finished on the 5th November.
Normal planning services will resume mid-November and we look forward to hearing the Secretary of State’s decision in due course.
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