Capel Parish Council response to Regulation 18 consultation on draft Local Plan

Capel Parish Council objects to the sections of the draft Local Plan that relate to Capel Parish for the reasons found below:
Vision:
Reducing existing flood risk to PW, Capel Parish & FOG resulting in “betterment” – reduced flood risk is welcome; but hardly a price worth paying for so much development and associated road infrastructure. The fact that the same ‘betterment’ comment is cut and pasted for Tudeley suggests this vision is not one that had the ‘betterment’ of Capel residents in mind.
CPC believe Paddock Wood can be regenerated without using greenbelt land at East Capel for housing and that one of the other options should have been adopted, similarly the flood risk to Paddock Wood and Five Oak Green can be reduced without using greenbelt land at East Capel.
The Vision for Paddock Wood should not include East Capel which is part of a completely different community.
Housing in East Capel will alter the greenbelt boundary without any justification and will cause coalescence between Paddock Wood and Five Oak Green. The NPPF clearly states in paras 133 to 147 that green belt should only be released in exceptional circumstances. See comments on SA. This land is key to preventing convergence between Five Oak Green and Paddock Wood.

A new garden settlement is not required at Tudeley. Flood risk can be reduced using the Environment Agency’s existing plan which can be funded without developers building houses on MGB land. A garden settlement at Tudeley should not be part of your vision and is only there because the land is in single ownership. It is certainly not part of the vision of those who live there at the moment.

Your Vision states that rural enterprise will have been supported and natural environments will have been protected and enhanced by 2036. This is not true. The Local Plan will destroy rural enterprises, such as the equestrian facilities at Bank Farm alongside other businesses in Capel. The natural environment in Capel will be badly damaged if the development of new housing in Tudeley and East Capel goes ahead. Neighbouring businesses will also be affected during the long building process, including huge amounts of roadworks on one of the busiest roads in the borough. These works are bound to take many years and will put untold stress on the local community. Moreover, the Tudeley and East Capel proposals which are within two miles of each other and share the same road links seem to be scheduled for development in the same timeframe. This will place severe and disproportionate strain on the local community and infrastructure. A garden settlement would be better in a more remote part of the borough outside the Green Belt and AONB, to give that area a boost and to minimise disturbances caused by construction. The two sites that satisfy the criteria and are identified in the evidence base, Horsmonden and Frittenden have not been explored further in the sustainability appraisal.

Comments on Vision and Objectives 2 Strategic objectives
To release appropriate land from the Green Belt through a plan-led approach, and to increase public accessibility, and to protect the openness of remaining Green Belt land.
Objective 7 should be removed releasing land from the green belt should not be a strategic objective.
The NPPF clearly states in paras 133 to 147 that green belt should only be released in exceptional circumstances. Stating that you have an objective to release land from the green belt (regardless of your judgement that it is appropriate) is contrary to national guidance.
Also, in the Introduction (1.6) “Protection of the Green Belt” is a key outcome from your last round of public consultation.
There is no need to remove green belt land if the Council had adopted the other options that it had before it; where are plans here to increase public accessibility or protect the openness of the remaining green belt? Unlike Tonbridge and Malling, TWBC has no plans to replace the lost green belt suggesting it places a low value on this form of designation. It clearly has also concluded that replacement land (originally mooted to the south and east of Paddock Wood) would not serve the same purpose as the two lost sections which prevent the convergence of settlements between Five Oak Green, Tonbridge and Paddock Wood.
Capel Parish Council strongly urges the council to remove this objective.
Objective 8 To tackle climate change and minimise the impact of development on communities, the economy, and the environment with carefully considered design and by embracing technology, such as renewable energy generation
Destroying 600 acres of fertile green belt land in Capel, with mature trees and hedgerows in pursuit of the creation of houses will not tackle climate change. Nor will creating a new garden settlement that results in a high level of private car use. The proposal for development in the MGB at East Capel and Tudeley scores negatively for climate change in the SA and does not back up this objective or the council’s wider policy on carbon neutrality adopted only a few weeks ago.
The objective should stay in, but the proposed developments in Capel Parish should come out.
Objective 9 To establish garden settlements as a model for the future delivery of development in the borough.
Where is evidence that garden settlements lead to any positive outcomes for communities anywhere in the UK? Objectives should have clear goals that can be proven to be positive for the inhabitants of the Borough of Tunbridge Wells and the parish of Capel. This may be a passing fashion in planning policy that will disappear, and this approach may lead to future developments outside the LBD’s in the green belt and the AONB which will destroy the rural nature of the borough outside RTW. Capel Parish Council urges the council to remove this objective.
Objective 10: To work with neighbourhood plan groups to ensure the formation of locally-led policies, with this reflected in decisions on planning applications
The council has only worked with Capel Parish Council (in lieu of a neighbourhood planning group) once the choice of East Capel and Tudeley had already been determined. These policies which will have a huge impact on our residents are not locally led. Any future planning decisions in the parish will be dwarfed by the impact of this, making the role of neighbourhood planning peripheral at best.
Comments on Section 4 The Development Strategy para 4.16
TWBC has interpreted its housing need figure at 13,560 and then upscaled it to 14,776 despite having strong grounds to lower it due to the large amount of Green Belt and AONB land in the borough.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have repeatedly made clear that ““the housing need figure is not a mandatory target. Local Authorities should make a realistic assessment of the number of homes their communities need, using the standard method as the starting point in the process. Once this has been established planning to meet that need will require consideration of land availability, relevant constraints and whether the need is more appropriately met in neighbouring areas… The NPPF is clear that only in exceptional circumstances may a Green Belt boundary be altered, through the Local Plan process. Last year we strengthened Green Belt policy in the revised NPPF”.
You have chosen to accept the government’s housing need for Tunbridge Wells borough based on the standard method of calculation. You know that the ONS 2016 figures show a smaller housing need and that policy will reflect that in due course.
You can protect this borough from the destruction of Green Belt and AONB by following NPPF guidelines, but this plan shows no interest in doing so, and in fact is planning for even more housing than your interpretation of the 2014 figures require. For example, you could save the MGB land at East Capel by choosing a different development option that would require 1000 fewer houses.
The NPPF para 11(b) says “strategic policies should, as a minimum, provide for objectively assessed needs for housing and other uses, as well as any needs that cannot be met within neighbouring areas, unless:
i. the application of policies in this Framework that protect areas or assets of particular importance provides a strong reason for restricting the overall scale, type or distribution of development in the plan area; or
ii. Any adverse impact of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework when taken as a whole”.

The NPPF makes provision for TWBC to have a choice in the provision of the objectively assessed 13,560 houses. If provision of these houses is really only possible by sacrificing Green Belt land, then the NPPF makes it perfectly possible for TWBC to say that this is not achievable. TWBC have chosen not to do so.
Capel Parish Council calls for a reduction in the number of houses to be delivered by the Local Plan.
Comments on Section 4 Paragraph 4.38 (The Development Strategy) p.39
You are proposing a development strategy based on dispersed growth, i.e. proportional distribution of development across all of the borough’s settlements. You imply that you have achieved this, but this is misleading. The Local Plan is almost entirely dependent on the successful implementation of proposed garden settlement in Tudeley and the expansion of Paddock Wood including building on East Capel. They form 63% of the new housing. If these sites fail to deliver, then the associated infrastructure that is entirely reliant on developer capital would also never be realised. This appears to stack risk on risk, where both areas of development are inextricably linked and the failure of one would lead to collapse of the other and as a result the whole plan would fail.
Comments on Section 4 Paragraph 4.40 (The Development Strategy)
You refer to Tudeley Village securing a long term option for the borough to deliver the needs of future generations. It is clear from this statement that you intend to add more and more housing to this “garden settlement” in each five year review of future Local Plans.
Capel Parish Council are seriously concerned that this will be the first step in the longer term destruction of the entire MGB in this part of the Borough. It deserves to be protected and sheltered from development. A garden settlement should there be one, would be best in the middle of the borough, to make it accessible north and south. It is totally counterproductive to put affordable housing right at the very north of the borough when so many residents live in the south. Put it in the middle of the borough or spread it right across the borough.
The developments in Tudeley and East Capel are unsustainable, having a poor road infrastructure and this doing nothing for local employment needs (it will make many local farm workers redundant). It would also put an unfair burden on the residents of Tonbridge whose infrastructure the new residents will access. ‘The ‘master planning approach’ will come to a grinding halt at the boundaries of Tonbridge a town whose infrastructure has grown slowly over the last millennium and can hardly be expected to adjust to this challenge imposed on it by the planners of the neighbouring authority. This view was reflected by the comments of Tonbridge and Malling councillors at their planning and transportation meeting on 2nd October, and the subsequent letter included as part of their comments.
Comments on The Key Diagram (Figure 4, Section 4) p.41
The circle representing housing on Tudeley is not big enough. It should show 1,900 new houses and is only a little bigger than the key circle showing 1,000 housing units. The depiction of Green Belt land and AONB land on this map is very helpful. It demonstrates that the garden settlement should be in Horsmonden or Frittenden. Tudeley should not have been shortlisted when you have suitable sites outside of the AONB and Green Belt.
Comments on Policy STR 1 (The Development Strategy) p.42
Object / Support / Support with Conditions / General Observation
This policy does not include any reference to development on Brownfield sites but does refer to the release of Green Belt. There should be a strategy of identifying suitable Brownfield sites and developing innovative ways to deliver housing on those sites.
You repeatedly refer to the Eastern part of Capel parish as part of Paddock Wood when it is not, and unlike Paddock Wood is in the green belt. It has a completely different heritage and culture from Paddock Wood. Badsell Manor is the oldest continuously inhabited houses in the parish and its historic environs would be destroyed by this proposal.
Comments on Table 3 (Scale and Distribution of Development) p.43

Repeated use of the phrase “To be determined as part of master planning” in reference to Paddock Wood, Capel and Tudeley is ridiculous when it refers to 63% of the houses in this Local Plan. You are asking residents and businesses to consult on a largely incomplete draft. This is a gaping hole in the draft Local Plan and thus incomplete and not fit for consultation.
Policy STR 3
In order to bring forward development of the sites allocated in a timely and comprehensive way, the Council will, where appropriate, use its Compulsory Purchase Order powers to enable the sites and development to be delivered to achieve the strategic objectives and development strategy set out within the Local Plan.
Master planning and compulsory purchase powers: This is noted. Also noted is that one of the reasons the offline option for the Colts Hill bypass was favoured was that there would be no need for CPO’s unlike the on-line option which would do materially less harm to the AONB. In light of this inconsistency will this plan be revisited.
Capel Parish Council is against any of its residents being subject to compulsory purchase arising out of this plan.

Comments on Section 4 Paragraph 4.49 (The Green Belt) p.49
the Council considers that there are the exceptional circumstances to alter the boundaries of the Green Belt to remove land from the designation for the proposed development at Tudeley Village, land at Capel and Paddock Wood, at sites around Royal Tunbridge Wells (particularly at North Farm/Kingstanding Way), and at Pembury, and also alterations at Southborough, Speldhurst, and Langton Green. Overall, some 5.35% of the Green Belt within the borough is being de-designated.
Capel Parish Council do not believe the exceptional circumstances exist to justify releasing land from the Green Belt in Tudeley and East Capel.
As you will see from our comments on the Sustainability Appraisal, options for the expansion of Paddock Wood need not include East Capel.
The release of Green Belt for Tudeley New Town is totally unjustifiable. The 1,900 houses delivered there in this plan period are either not required by TWBC (who can easily reduce their plan to provide 13,560 rather than 14,776 new houses) or can be provided elsewhere outside of the Green Belt and AONB (for example at Horsmonden or Frittenden). Innovative use of Brownfield sites may also provide the housing that TWBC would like to provide by removing 400 acres from the Green Belt in Tudeley plus another over 200 in East Capel.
5.35% of the land is being ‘de-designated’ (by which the plan means removed) from the Green Belt. But this is disproportionately concentrated in Capel parish where it will have a huge impact on the community and lead to the convergence of settlements. One of the main reasons for the green belt in the first place.
Comments on Section 4 Paragraph 4.50 (The Green Belt) p.49
You state that the Distribution of Development Topic Paper (which draws on the Green Belt Strategy Study) provides evidence and justification to release land from the Green Belt at Tudeley. This is not true. There is no evidence that makes Tudeley a better site for a Garden Village than Horsmonden.
The justification for not placing a garden settlement at Horsmonden is that “This would be a very large scale strategic allocation that would be disproportionate to the size of the settlement, with concern about landscape and heritage”. Tudeley is a tiny hamlet. It has 50 houses at most. The whole of the Parish of Capel has only 950 houses in it. Adding 2,800 new houses at Tudeley is a massive increase that is far higher than the proportional increase at Horsmonden.
Tudeley is home to a world renowned heritage asset – All Saints Church. The only church in the entire world to have a complete set of stained glass windows designed by the renowned artist Marc Chagall. There is no equivalent heritage asset at Horsmonden. The proposal at CA2 would also impinge on the views from and towards Somerhill a Grade 1 listed building.
Tudeley has a beautiful, rolling landscape with abundant wildlife, fertile soil and high biodiversity scores. It is entirely within the Green Belt and the High Weald AONB is within a few yards of the proposed development site.
You state that Horsmonden has severe access difficulties. The access difficulties on the B2017 and Hartlake Road are at least as severe and the impact of the extra traffic on Tonbridge’s overloaded road infrastructure will have severe impact there too.
Capel Parish Council do not believe exceptional circumstances exist to justify building at Tudeley rather than Horsmonden. The only argument presented anywhere is that Tudeley has a single landowner and Horsmonden has multiple landowners. TWBC’s reluctance to deal with multiple landowners is not an “exceptional circumstance”. The Capel Parish SHEELA states there will be compensatory Green Belt elsewhere in the Borough. This is clearly not the case. Capel Parish Council deplores the loss of MGB as a result of this plan.
Comments on Policy STR 4 (Green Belt) p.42
Object / Support / Support with Conditions / General Observation
The release of Green Belt described in this plan in Tudeley and East Capel is not justified in any way and is certainly not the result of “exceptional circumstances”.
See comments above re Section 4 para 4.5
The Green Belt Strategic Study commissioned by TWBC states that building houses at Tudeley and East Capel would cause the maximum level of harm possible to the Green Belt. CPC believe that there is a suitable alternative site for the Tudeley development outside the Green Belt (for example in Horsmonden) and the East Capel development is not required to expand Paddock Wood.
Comments on Policy STR 5 (Essential Infrastructure and Connectivity) p.52
Object / Support / Support with Conditions / General Observation
An addition is required as follows:
“All infrastructure required for the garden settlements must be described in detail before the Local Plan is adopted, signed off via public consultation and a TWBC Full Council vote and delivered and inspected in full before the first house within the garden settlement is built.”
Comments on Policy STR 6 (Transport and Parking) p.54
Object / Support / Support with Conditions / General Observation
An addition is required as follows:
“All sustainable transport services, with proven capacity to hold the entire population of the garden settlement, must be provided and active before the first house within the garden settlement is built.”
Note that you can only provide rapid bus links if you provide dedicated bus lanes. For Tudeley, the closest rail station in Tonbridge, it will require bus lanes along Woodgate Way, Pembury Road and all the way up to Station Approach.
CPC support the ambition regarding sustainable travel but the only way to do that will be to provide limited car parking and limited car access into the new development at Tudeley. This may conflict with the ambitions of the landowner. CPC insist transport services are provided before the houses are built as part of the master planning approach.
Comments on Policy STR 7 (Place Shaping and Design) p.56
Object / Support / Support with Conditions / General Observation
You state that your policy seeks to protect existing residents from a development’s “overbearing impact”. This is impossible when you propose to put 2,800 houses on a site that has at most 50 houses at present. You must add a clause to say that where an overbearing impact is anticipated, residents will be consulted and have enhanced rights when planning applications are considered, including the right of veto or appeal as individuals vs developers.
Comments on Section 4 Paragraph 4.69
Paddock Wood is a distinct settlement, which is identifiable as a historic railway-focused town, located in the transition area between the Low and High Weald, at the foot of the scarp slope.
We are glad the plan recognises this. Please note it does not include East Capel!
Comments on Section 4 Paragraph 4.87 (Limits to Built Development) p.62
You have not provided any detailed LBD information for Tudeley or East Capel, citing “the need for further master planning”. This once again highlights that this plan is not ready for Public Consultation.
Comments on Policy STR/CA1 (The Strategy for Capel Parish) p.156
Object / Support / Support with Conditions / General Observation

You have developed a strategy which is completely unachievable. The risks involved in inflicting a “garden settlement” on this Green Belt hamlet are huge. The infrastructure costs will also be massive. The landowner and co-master planner is inexperienced and ill-equipped to deliver such a complex project. Point by point the policy is flawed in the following ways:
1. It is difficult to see the provision of employment and retail provision within the settlement as it lies so close to Tonbridge. This is no compensation for the loss of agricultural land and farming/equestrian employment if the development goes ahead.
2. The proposed secondary school site is next to an extremely busy road that is already very congested at school drop-off times. It also crosses a railway line that is at the bottom of a very deep cutting. It stands to be demonstrated whether children can cross safely before, during and after the school day. It is also directly opposite the Grade 1 listed Somerhill and contains ancient woodland. CPC understands this is not a choice KCC Would have made as the site for a new school. We think it is completely inappropriate and do not support it.
3. The requirement for more primary school places in the immediate locality has yet to be demonstrated, as the birth rate is dropping.
4. 4,000 new dwellings in two new developments in such a small rural area, with such a limited infrastructure is inappropriate. The houses will not provide for the needs of this parish. If needed it would be better to spread them out across the borough.
5. Flood storage areas and other mitigation strategies can be delivered without developer contributions from new housing. This is an ex post facto justification as far as Five Oak Green is concerned as the borough were seemingly unaware of the EA scheme until February 2019, well after the plans for both schemes had been drawn up. CPC notes the alacrity of the borough in using this proposal which has been on the drawing board since 2010, to allege ‘betterment’ for residents as a result of this proposal, despite their previous lack of interest in or awareness of this issue. Introducing hard surfaces and dwellings on to the meadows and fields of East Capel and Tudeley will increase the flood risk beyond any mitigation measures.
6. Strategic transport links cannot be provided without destroying large areas of AONB, and it is noted you cannot provide the exact location of such a link; which makes it difficult to comment on. Given the uncertainty, Capel Parish Council would like the offline A228 link to be reviewed in the wider context of this possible new road infrastructure. It may be the online option would cause less damage to the AONB, and the offline plan is already 20 years old. You will need to be aware of the impact this will cause on the road at Pembury. Any transport links provided will have to continue on through Tonbridge with a huge impact in an already highly congested traffic area.
7. No comment.
8. Despite surrounding Five Oak Green with 4,000+ new houses, you state clearly that you want to keep on providing additional housing within Five Oak Green. The village envelope of Five Oak Green should remain as it is in these circumstances given the disproportionate development in the rest of the parish.
9. The release of Green Belt land is not permitted within the NPPF as TWBC has not proved “exceptional circumstances”. Dealing with a single landowner at Tudeley does not amount to exceptional circumstances, and TWBC have two other options for Paddock Wood which would not require them to build on the green belt at East Capel.
10. Agree
11. The impact on carbon sequestration provided by the farmland, meadows, mature trees and hedgerows in all three Capel sites cannot be offset by a nod to zero/low carbon energy production. The impact of this development on climate change is clearly negative as demonstrated in your own sustainability appraisal.
12. This site is within the recognised 1km AONB buffer zone and so is entirely unsuitable for development of this scale. The associated road infrastructure will have an even more damaging impact.
13. The AONB Management Plan is severely compromised by this proposed development.

You have a Master planning and Delivery approach within this policy that does not reference the involvement of developers and landowners. It is our understanding that the master planning of East Capel will be led by the Council. However, the master planning of Tudeley appears to be shared between the Council and Hadlow Estate. This is not consistent and the product of having one developer to deal with. Hadlow Estate are not experienced developers and have failed to share their plans and ideas with the parish council or the wider community. We fear these ideas will be completely inappropriate for this Low Weald landscape and that they will try to build a high end urban development completely out of keeping with the local heritage and landscape, designed to appeal to an upmarket London based clientele. We strongly urge the council abandon this idea and failing that to take a more pro-active role with the landowner in managing this development.
Comment on Section 5 Paragraph 5.60 (Allocation Policies) p.159
This site is unsuitable for a garden settlement because it has a main railway line running through the middle of it. There only two crossings. At Hartlake Road on its boundary (no more than a country lane) and Sherenden Road which is so narrow that only one car can pass at a time under the railway embankment. There are no proposals as we understand to change this as it would require major works to the railway which is the main Tonbridge – Dover line. CPC believe it is two settlements divided by a railway line, neither of which satisfy garden settlement principles.
This site is under single ownership. This appears to be the overriding factor in its selection. The landowner has no track record in managing or master planning a development of this size, and they are not widely trusted to do so within the wider Capel community in our judgement. No-one has had any positive form of engagement with them since the development was disclosed, and thus nobody has any idea of what this development might entail.
Development on the site will adversely affect flood risks in Tudeley and neighbouring Golden Green, East Peckham, Hadlow and Tonbridge. The River Medway is more prone to flooding and the impact of a failure in the Leigh Barrier has not been considered, particularly in light of rapid increase in sea levels and other Climate Change. The Five Oak Green flood risk will be reduced by a storage reservoir on the Alders Stream, that can be delivered and funded by a much smaller scale of development than that envisaged by this garden settlement.
The Biodiversity on this site is extraordinary. As is rightly noted, it is also adjacent to a Biodiversity Opportunity Area and directly adjacent to AONB.
Comments on Policy AL/CA 1 (Tudeley Village) p.160
This policy envisages too many new dwellings, completely out of proportion to its environment. They are entirely unsustainable in this rural area with a limited infrastructure. Capel Parish Council believes this proposal is unsustainable and therefore unsound – clearly not of a sustainable scale as claimed here. CPC is also troubled by the call for a ‘clear identity’ by which we take something similar to Poundbury, which would be an unwelcome urban intrusion into this rural Low Weald Medway Valley landscape. We believe this is what the landowner intends, and we believe he should not be allowed a free hand.
If this development were to materialise, we believe TWBC should insist that all infrastructure (transport services, new roads and road improvements) must be delivered before construction of housing begins. We believe the added flood risk cannot be fully mitigated against and the site contributes negatively to climate change.

Comments on Policy AL/CA 2 (Land east of Tonbridge, west of Tudeley) p.164
This policy refers to a site that is wholly unsuitable to the development of a secondary school due to the:
• Railway line
• Busy roads
• Flood risk
• High pressure gas pipeline risks
• Unsustainable transport links to Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells Town Centre
• Reliance on private car use for staff and students’ families.

The proposed secondary school site is in a dangerous place, with a railway line running through the site. It will add an unacceptably high level of traffic to/from Tonbridge with a negative effect on the town’s infrastructure as well as the setting of the Grade 1 listed Somerhill. The development at Tudeley, with 1,900 homes built in the next 15 years, will be unlikely have enough children of Secondary School age to fill an eight form entry secondary school. Most of the students will come from Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells, and Southborough/Bidborough and Paddock Wood. The road infrastructure is not capable of sustaining this pressure and it will provide for an over reliance on the car given its distance from central Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells and its otherwise rural catchment.
Comments on Policy STR/PW 1 (The Strategy for Paddock Wood) p.170
The expansion of Paddock Wood can be achieved without using land at East Capel for housing. Flood storage attenuation/mitigation measures may be useful there, but no housing is required. In fact, providing housing will contravene the NPPF as East Capel is Green Belt and the removal of East Capel from the Green Belt will cause convergence with Five Oak Green, as our comments on the SA suggest. This does not amount to “exceptional circumstances”. This is further described in comments on the Sustainability Appraisal.
Comments on Policy AL/PW 1 (Land at Capel and Paddock Wood) p.170
The expansion of Paddock Wood can be achieved without using Green Belt land at East Capel for housing. 4,000 new dwellings in Paddock Wood is excessive given the scale of recent developments and overambitious, and Green Belt land in a neighbouring parish should not be taken to provide for this. Capel Parish Council believe that if TWBC is not willing to argue that the housing need given to them by government is too high, they can use the NPPF’s protection of Green Belt to adjust their expansion plans.
Capel Parish Council ask that TWBC remove this option from the draft local plan. The East Capel site prevents the convergence of Paddock Wood and Five Oak Green, is the area of the parish most vulnerable to flooding, so is inappropriate for development and has a valuable historic landscape including Badsell Manor a moated manor house. It is traditional part of Capel Parish and CPC are strongly opposed to its absorption into Paddock Wood in defiance of its history and heritage going back to early Medieval times.

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