Tunbridge Wells in Kent has received an encouraging boost to the return to a prosperous economy with the long-awaited issuing of the decision notice for a new business park in Kingstanding Way, on an out of town location almost directly adjacent to the strategic A21 which links the town with London and the coast. The project provides for 74,000sqm of warehouse (B8 use) and office accommodation (B1 use) in a parkland landscape, together with a café and water feature.
Concerns over the ability of the proposed highways improvements to cater for the additional traffic generated by the proposal are to be addressed by a requirement on the applicant to undertake regular monitoring of the impact of the phases in the development to assess the trigger points for the implementation of various mitigation measures set out in a section 106 agreement.
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s planning committee resolved to grant permission for the development back in September 2020, subject to all highways concerns being addressed, and delegated the matter to officer level to finalise the conditions and the s106. The legal agreement goes a long way to securing the highways offerings: mitigation works to surrounding key junctions, a cycle strategy to lengthen the existing cycle paths on the wider industrial area, a shuttle bus which will run between Tonbridge railway station, the development, and High Brooms railway station, and a financial contribution of £40,000 to meet the shortfall in funding towards the delivery of a new access ramp at High Brooms railway station. The obligations in the s106, together with a long list of conditions (41 in total) providing for landscaping, biodiversity protection, the submission of a travel plan, electric vehicle charging points, utilisation of renewable energy, water conservation and the control of emissions, to name but a few, attempt to mitigate the clearly enormous impacts that the development will have on the surrounding area, both during construction and once operational.
The area was an allocated site in the Council’s local plan and so the development will come as no surprise. The site fills a greenfield gap between the existing business park at Kingstanding Way which houses the likes of Bookers, Carpetright, Childrensalon and John Lewis, and the A21, surrounded by (or at least formerly surrounded by) ancient woodland.
Despite its location directly adjacent to already thriving business park, and its allocation as an employment site, development in this area was strongly resisted and fought against over the years, partly because of its previously natural state and status as a protected greenbelt in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Indeed, when the A21 expansion works were taking place several years ago, the scale of the project came as quite a shock to many locals and bypassers as swathes of ancient woodland were destroyed (and new saplings planted) along the roadside and tall hoardings were erected to protect the existing roadside properties (some listed) from the encroaching traffic noise and activity along the busy strategic road.
But you can’t stop progress, can you. The Longfield Road and Dowding Way industrial parks at Tunbridge Wells and High Brooms now cover a vast area of land and cater for pretty much every need possible, from Aldi and M&S to DIY giants and Lamborghinis. It will be interesting to see the proposals come forward for how the new industrial estate will deliver and contribute to the economy of the town. A cliché but very apt #watchthisspace.