Capel Parish Council comments on Sustainability Appraisal for DLP [draft for discussion]

Sustainability Appraisal Draft Response from Capel Parish Council
p. 2 “some loss of green belt’ means 600 acres; adjoining AONB will be harmed by the associated transport infrastructure.
p.2/3 Environmental scores seem to be overwhelmingly negative in the strategic sites
p. 3 Tudeley is the only “reasonable location” – there are no assessments for alternative locations e.g. Horsmonden site 144; so, this is an assertion rather than something clearly based on evidence
“land take to the West of Paddock Wood on the Green Belt “provides a suitable scale of extension with benefits for the economic, environmental and social elements of sustainability” even on your evidence environmental and social elements are negatively impacted compared to the non-Green Belt Options
p. 4. cumulative impact assessment for each parish – chapter 8 shows Capel but lacks detail and underplays the local impact.
p. 13 1.3.1 The report was then updated to take into account consultees’ comments and a final version prepared in October 2016. The Stage A Scoping Report should be referred to for a description of the original baseline, relevant plans, policies and programmes and the justification for the sustainability objectives that are being implemented in this report.
Capel Parish Council’s comments on the scoping report were not changed by TWBC despite being told by CPC that it contained material inaccuracies.
p. 20 4.1.2 Green Belt study stage 2; historic landscape characterisation; historic environment review – Capel parish council was not consulted or made aware of these studies at the time they were done. Therefore, the local community had no opportunity to contribute.
p.21 Landscape Sensitivity Assessment (RTW, Paddock Wood, Horsmonden, Hawkhurst and Cranbrook) done spring 2017 and July 2018 but does not include Capel where 4000+ houses are proposed to be built on the Green Belt
p.24 KCC draft mineral and waste local plan. This is incorrect – Moat Farm and the entrance to and part of Stonecastle are within the borough and are adjacent to the proposed site in Tudeley
p.26 4 Climate Change: Reduce carbon footprint and adapt to predicted changes – the proposals for the Green Belt do not reflect this objective or the policy adopted by TWBC in July 2019
11 Housing Provide sufficient housing to meet identified needs – identified needs of who? The government? TWBC? The Local community? Objective 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18 are all negatively affected by the strategic sites
4.3.2 How is it fair to score a biodiversity objective against the Ashdown Forest when the strategic sites have a very different geology, and therefore ecosystem, flora and fauna? They are sites of local biodiversity and should be measured on their own terms
4.3.6 higher weightings given to issues legislatively driven, …of critical importance to the borough- this surely has skewed the appraisal in favour of the maximum number of houses in all case – the appraisal has been thus predetermined by the council, as housing need according to TWBC outweighs all environmental and other considerations
p.27 4.3.9 noted in the case of the strategic sites it is challenging to predict effects accurately – if the predictions are wrong the effects will be felt by the local community and not by the planners
4.3.10 realistic mitigation measures in line with the Draft Local Plan were assumed to be in place when scores were applied. But these are not in place and there is no guarantee they will ever be in place. Scores should reflect the current situation.
Table p.28 Biodiversity
Consideration was given to the requirement for net gains for nature when scoring the biodiversity objective for borough-wide strategies. This reflects the changes to the NPPF since the Issues and Options stage. A more precautionary approach was adopted for site level assessments, as the policy is in its infancy and it was not clear whether benefits would be delivered on or off site.
Not clear what approach was taken by TWBC here; no net gain for nature when 600 acres of Capel Parish is covered by housing!
p.29 4.3.13 what is the point of scores if they can’t be added up? They are masquerading as objective criteria but in reality, the subjective written commentary is the basis on which decisions are made.
p.30 5.2.3 Where the term ‘appropriate’ in used in relation to Green Belt release, it refers to the land that contributes weakly to Green Belt objectives – the ‘weakly’ seems subjective and in the case of PW1/CA3 not borne out by evidence. Moreover, it is not clear which ‘part’ of the MGB is being referred to. One of the differences between Paddock Wood and Capel is that Capel is in the Metropolitan Green Belt and Paddock Wood is not. The parish boundary is also the limits to built development of PW and the MGB boundary. CPC would argue this is the most important part of the MGB in Capel parish as it prevents the convergence of Paddock Wood and Five Oak Green. In other words, it maintains a sense of openness and separateness between the two communities which is the whole point of the MGB – it does not therefore ‘weakly’ contribute to the MGB
The stretch of the road further west of AL3 between Five Oak Green and the A228 does not give this impression to the same degree, it doesn’t give a clear sense of separateness between the village and its surroundings. But once you cross the A228 it is very different – after a few houses near the roundabout there is open countryside right up to the LBD of Paddock Wood. The boundary between the two parishes is at its clearest here – yet the proposal of the planners to end the MGB at the A228 would destroy this clear distinction between rural and urban which is the main function of the MGB. This most strategic section of the MGB would be destroyed and the two settlements would to all appearances have converged.
p.31 6. Environment valued heritage not being protected e.g. Grade I Listed Somerhill; ‘net gains for nature’ this is far from being evidenced.
7. Green Belt – increase public accessibility unclear how this is to be achieved unless it means building access roads over the remaining MGB; there are no measures to protect the remaining MGB land
8. This conflicts with TWBC’s recently adopted policy as a climate change council.
9. It is troubling to see this as a model for even more development in the future presumably in the same parish
p.32 5.3.1 To argue the local plan objective on climate change is compatible with all the SA is just an assertion. How can that be when 600 acres of open farmland is to be built over and a road to be driven through the AONB?
The compatibility of local plan objective on Garden Settlements with SA objectives is a series of ‘?’s What does that tell us?
Table 8 (para 5.3.1) purports to test compatibility of objectives.
In relation to item 1 (Development needs) the table shows compatibility in every area, but this is not possible to assess in relation to at least 2 (Biodiversity and Landscape) as full assessments of the current situation were not undertaken for key development areas.
Table 9 demonstrates very high levels of uncertainty in relation to key objectives, especially in relation to the proposed Garden Settlements.
It is, therefore, totally wrong to simply conclude (para 5.3.3) that nine out of ten Local Plan Objectives are more compatible than incompatible with the Sustainability Appraisal objectives. If the outcome is uncertain then it may very well be that objectives are incompatible. The approach is wrong, and the SA is therefore unsound.
Para 5.3.6 is based on speculation. If the Neighbourhood Plan content is dictated by the Strategic Policies of the Local Plan, given the high levels of uncertainty previously identified, it cannot be claimed that there will be compatibility.
Table 15 is also speculative in relation to biodiversity. Given the paucity of information on biodiversity in general it is simply not possible to justify the statement of small losses and potential gains. This is unsound.
Similar concerns relate to Tables 16 and 17 given the lack of base information in relation to biodiversity.
p.34 5.3.8 “a clearer picture is now available on what sort of development would be created in a garden settlement. However, no presumption about potential locations for garden settlements is made for this element of the Local Plan thus several uncertain impacts are still predicted.”
There are no details on ‘what sort of development’ apart from that it will follow a master planned approach’; ‘no presumptions’ you are proposing development at Tudeley, Capel and PW – why are there no presumptions?
p.36 how many responses were there to this consultation which provided only a ‘slight’ preference for option 5?
p.37-8 2 Capel/4 Horsmonden there is only very limited information on why alternative strategic sites to Capel were rejected (far less information than on small scale sites rejected ) e.g. there is no comparison between site 144 in Horsmonden and its ‘severe access difficulties’ [not explained] and the sites chosen; it is not measured against the comparative negative criteria in Tudeley and East Capel despite the latter being in the Green Belt and in Tudeley’s case also bordering on AONB
12. This also refers to sites in Capel as well as PW. Land is outside of key constraints (except flooding and Green Belt) and has useful transport links – as if these constraints are conveniently less important? – and the transport links are already overused. The reference presumably includes the Colts Hill bypass which would require damage to the AONB if it were to be built – a point the SA ignores.
p.41 6.2.9 – the views of Capel Parish Council were only sought after this strategy had been adopted. At no point has the council expressed a view supportive of this strategy. The council’s view is that there is no need to build housing in the Green Belt and the Borough Council’s strategy is flawed.
p.42 Table 15 the negatives for air, biodiversity, climate change, heritage, land use, landscape, noise, travel and waste would be considerably higher in a measure of the cumulative impact on Capel Parish where 4300 (63%) of the proposed housing shortfall is planned. Much of this will have very limited impact on other parts of the borough so this cross borough impact measurement is flawed.
p.43 6.2.14 there is no detailed explanation as to why other large scale sites were rejected. Capel Parish Council believes that Tudeley was not the original choice as a stand-alone garden settlement, and that the choice was more to do with the single landownership than the absence of constraints. The nature of land ownership is not a good argument for rejecting a site outside the Green Belt for one inside it.
p.44 Capel Parish Council are grateful for small mercies that the bigger Tudeley site was rejected, but are concerned that the council even envisaged large scale building in the AONB, and that there is a high risk of this option returning at some later date to destroy virtually all the MGB between Tonbridge and Five Oak Green.
p.45 6.2.18/19 Justifies a smaller settlement on the grounds that a larger one would be even worse: most of the adverse effects are caused by the nature of the development itself – mitigating this by not building something even larger is ridiculous. The only sustainability comparison is between the two Tudeley options – there are no comparisons with other options the council considered, particularly those outside the Green Belt.
p.47-8 Urban extension 6.2.20 -30 there are two options which would not have involved building on the Green Belt – the council have rejected these in favour of one that does. Option 1 has least impact in terms of a range of environmental factors.
1. The effect on local biodiversity will be much greater than stated (even if it has no effect on the Ashdown Forest – surely this is a flawed and ludicrous measurement given that it is miles away with a completely different geology soils, and flora and fauna!). 1500 houses on option CA 3 is not going to enhance biodiversity as stated – the presence of several hundred more domestic cats will see to that!
2. Option 1 has the least effect on climate change – but the council seems only paying lip service to this goal despite proclaiming themselves a climate change council
3. Option 1 has less effect on heritage than 2 and the setting of the Medieval moated Badsell Manor needs to be accounted for. Not clear whether this was included in the assessment.
4. Option 1 would have less effect on land use and noise than option 2; and giving 1 and 2 the same score for landscape seems illogical given the 201 acres extra lost to this scheme. The environmental scores are much more negative overall for option 2 than 1 and there is an argument that the difference has been underplayed in this assessment
6.2.28 Approximately similar outcomes for Options 1 and 2 – but clearly not on environmental measures see above.
p.49 6.2.29 It is clear that housing is the factor that motivates the council despite the impact on the Green Belt of option 2. This reads like the council chose the option they wanted and skewed these criteria to justify it. Environmental factors should have been taken more seriously and have been underweighted for the Green Belt section to the west of Paddock Wood. No exceptional circumstances have been put forward for building on the Green Belt outside Paddock Wood in Capel Parish when even the council realises there are alternatives which would leave the MGB intact.
6.2.29 but also improve the flood risk for existing residents must be highly weighted. This refers to Five Oak Green Flood Alleviation as well as PW. This has been used twice in this SA both in East Capel and Tudeley to justify development. This despite option 2 having been selected before TWBC were aware in Feb 19 of this scheme. Option 2 would ALSO require building on the most flood prone part of Capel Parish – so improving the flood risk as a highly weighted factor for the choice does not make any sense.
p. 50 7.1.4 no specific alternative approach is identified – therefore impossible to judge chosen strategic sites against any possible alternative.
p.52 Table 18 highlights negative impact of Green Belt policy across the Borough. The impact on Capel Parish where all the Green Belt development is planned will be disproportionately greater. Why no cumulative impact assessment on Capel Parish alone as all the lost Green Belt is here?
p.55 8.1.4 sites were rejected including significant proportion of the site is Ancient Woodland, significantly reducing the developable area of the site CA2 has a significant portion of ancient woodland but has been included.
Para 8.1.4 states that landscape considerations form one of the filters. What is totally unclear is what this is based on given that there has been no comprehensive Borough wide landscape assessment. On this basis the SA cannot be sound.
There is no filter for biodiversity interests beyond considerations relating to designated sites.
Figure 10 p. 66 demonstrates the significant and excessive proportion of Capel parish being considered for development. No other parish is subjected to such pressures for development. It is completely disproportionate. The designation ‘Reasonable’ is wrong.
p.67 Table 25 suffers the same faults as earlier tables in relation to biodiversity.
The commentary is biased. Without proper assessments of some factors in the first instance and given that there is an emphasis on development rather than conservation and respect for natural beauty and existing ecosystems there is bound to be a greater number of positives.
The cumulative assessment for Capel Parish notes the negative scores for environmental objectives which the TWBC clearly believe are a cost worth paying; and therefore, ultimately less important in the assessment.
Positive biodiversity score for AL/CA3 hard to believe if this referred to Capel section alone
This chart is assessing cumulative effects on Capel but includes an area mostly in Paddock Wood. The betterment for flooding in Five Oak Green could still be paid for under option 1 for PW.
How can heritage for CA2 be 0 when it affects the views to and from Somerhill – a Grade 1 listed building?
It is clear that one parish is bearing a hugely disproportionate impact of this plan even on the Council’s figures. The environmental impact of the development in the Green Belt (with these three sites CA1; CA2 and CA3) in one small parish, when set alongside the impact of TP6 on the AONB with the associated transport infrastructure for these schemes which will carve its way through the remainder of the parish in a way this appraisal has yet to spell out, will disproportionately damage the quality of life for Capel residents over the coming years. Essentially the council needs to rethink its strategy and avoid building on the Green Belt, to protect the quality of life for its residents in Capel who cannot be expected to bear the full burden of development for the whole borough. This SA is based on the needs of the Borough as a whole it pays little attention to the cumulative effect on Capel Parish. Even this table envisions the positive impact for future residents. It does not reflect the impact for current residents.
p.70 note the negative score on climate change off AL/CA3 which contrasts with the limited impact of the other sites in the town.
p.87-8 Site 144 in Horsmonden originally seen an option for strategic development according to p. 37 has not been included in the assessment.
p.129 Table 73 score for climate change is a ‘?’ – is this really sustainable for a climate change council? The impact of development in the Green Belt must be a big negative contribution. Table 73 suffers from the same speculation as other tables with regard to factors where the base data has not been properly assessed such as landscape and biodiversity.
p.131 The Biodiversity objective is compatible with (or has no relationship/an uncertain relationship with) all strategic objectives in the Draft Local Plan except Strategic Objective 4 (Housing) – see Table 8. This is principally because the large area of greenfield land take that would be required for construction of new dwellings is likely to create pressure on existing habitats. However, Strategic Objective 6 (Environment) offers protection to “valued natural environment” and expects net gains for nature thus any losses would be more than offset” There is no evidence presented for this assertion and the impact on biodiversity must be measured on each parish not across the borough. The flora and fauna of the Low Weald of Tudeley and East Capel cannot be replaced by compensatory measures elsewhere – it is a unique landscape with its own species.
The comments in Table 74 in relation to biodiversity are dependent on tables that are faulty for reasons given above; namely that without the proper initial assessment it is not possible to understand the impact on this key issue. Similar comments also apply to landscape.
p.139 the heritage effects on Capel Parish will be wholly negative – pattern of low weald farmsteads and the damage to the setting of listed buildings cannot be replaced.
p.140 housing it is not clear how this will benefit the residents of Capel or of Tunbridge Wells. It will result in the building of houses attractive to the London market which will put more pressure on existing infrastructure.
p.142 landscape – As for the cumulative impact from release of Green Belt sites, the cumulative impact on the Landscape objective of all allocated sites (equivalent to STR 1) is expected to be highly negative TWBC is urged to remove Green Belt development and refocus the plan in line with its environmental objectives. The commentary moves from highly negative to negative by the conclusion; the mitigation ‘to some extent’ is an assertion that has not been evidenced.

p.153 passim Appendix A demonstrates that no consideration whatsoever has been given to biodiversity and the natural environment outside of designated sites. With regard to landscape no weighting has been given and the comment suggested that there has been some judgement yet there has been nothing to base that judgement given that there has been no comprehensive Borough wide landscape assessment.
Appendix G p.177-9 The reason given for the rejection of most of the smaller sites in Capel parish refers to their contribution to the Green Belt, the setting of Five Oak Green, and contribution to the landscape. These are the very reasons that have been ignored in the adjoining strategic sites. In particular the plan refers to the ‘weak’ contribution to the MGB part of CA3 makes – but it adjoins some of these sites, and its contribution is crucial as explained above.
Appendix G suffers from the faults previously identified; in particular in relation to biodiversity and landscape.
Appendix O p.204-6 Horsmonden makes no reference to site 144 considered as strategic see p.37
Given the above Capel Parish Council believes the overall SA is based on incomplete information and is therefore unsound. It fails to justify the extensive building within the Green Belt envisaged by the dLP, which Capel Parish Council maintains is unsustainable.