TMBC Local Plan – response from Mereworth and Kings Hill Parish Councils

Mereworth and King’s Hill Parish Councils’ Responses to the Tonbridge and Malling Local Plan.
Many residents of Mereworth and neighbouring villages may not be aware that Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council’s (TMBC) Local Plan (see www.tmbc.gov.uk/services/planning-and-development/planning/planning-local-plans) is promoting residential development comprising 900 dwellings on the Broadwater Farm site north of Kings Hill and also 3,000 new dwellings on land to the north of Borough Green and Platt.
The Local Plan was published in September 2018 and Mereworth Parish Council (MPC) raised concerns about the impact on Mereworth and its road infrastructure in the consultation which ended in November, stating to TMBC that “MPC believes that [the Plan] is not sustainable due to the inadequacy of the A228 road, and the B2016 and smaller local roads onto which extra traffic may be forced. The A228 provides access to and from the north (A20 and M20) and the south (A21 and A26) and is already a major bottleneck, being very narrow just to the south of the Site. A further 900 dwellings will exacerbate the congestion. MPC considers that, in this respect, the Local Plan has been prepared on a strategy which fails to meet infrastructure requirements, and cannot therefore be said to satisfy the requirement for Soundness by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).”
To validate these comments, Mereworth Parish Council collaborated with Kings Hill Parish Council to commission and expert assessment of the Local Plan, specifically focusing on the impact on the roads surrounding Mereworth. The assessment was done by an Incorporated Engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Highway Engineers and a Member of the Chartered
Institution of Highways and Transportation who has been involved in highway and traffic engineering issues for over 35 years in connection with new development and road safety schemes within both the private and public sector, and who has assisted numerous Parish Councils in Kent with regard to many development proposals and highway improvement schemes.

This independent expert assessment was completed in January 2019, and is available on the Mereworth Parish Council website (www.mereworthpc.kentparishes.gov.uk). The key findings of the assessment are;

• The Local Plan proposals are likely to lead to an increase in traffic flows along A228 Malling Road of 17% and 23% in the morning and afternoon periods respectively. Similarly, traffic flows will increase by 19% and 14% on B2016 Seven Mile Lane in the vicinity of Mereworth Primary school.

• Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council commissioned a consultancy to assess the impact of the proposals on the local highway network as part of the Local Plan, but the increases in traffic flows have been underestimated.

• The Local Plan’s assessment fails to recognise that the width of A228 Malling Road in the vicinity of its junction with Kent Street is unable to cope with the existing traffic flows on the route and the additional traffic that will be generated by the proposals for additional housing will exacerbate congestion and poor highway safety.

• There is no feasible or realistic solution to widen or improve A228 Malling Road to accommodate the additional traffic that will be generated.

• The transport issues associated with the proposals have not been correctly considered in the Local Plan and therefore the impacts of the proposed development have not been addressed.

• The environmental impacts of traffic and transport infrastructure have not been identified, assessed and considered.

• The significant impact from the proposed development in terms of capacity and congestion and highway safety cannot be cost effectively mitigated to an acceptable degree.

• The proposals have therefore been prepared by a strategy that fails to meet the infrastructure requirements and cannot therefore satisfy the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requirement for soundness, as required by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Mereworth Parish Council believes that the expert assessment clearly demonstrates that the existing Local Plan has not correctly taken into account the severe impact on the roads surrounding Mereworth, both the A228 Tonbridge Road and the B2016 Seven Mile Lane, and that the assumptions made in the Local Plan are demonstrably incorrect.
MPC has now submitted the expert assessment to TMBC, the Borough Councillors representing Mereworth and to Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge and Malling., asking them to ensure that this expert assessment is taken into account by TMBC, the Programme Manager, and if relevant, the Inspector, and support Mereworth and King’s Hill Parish Council’s assertion that the TMBC Local Plan should be revised to ensure that these impacts are addressed.
Mereworth Parish Council will continue to represent the best interests of our village and hopes that the residents of Mereworth and West Peckham support this position. It is possible that this Local Plan may go to a further public inquiry, and if so, the Parish Council will seek support from villagers. In the meantime, please keep an eye on the Parish Council reports in the “Record” for further updates.