TENT1 MASTER PLANNING WORKSHOPS – REPORT
The first Tent1 master planning workshops took place in the Leisure Centre on the 10th and 11th December. This involved invited representatives from almost all local community and interest groups, as well as our elected ward, borough and county councillors, plus relevant local government specialists covering aspects such as schooling, highways, parking etc. The full list of attendees is available as a PDF (see top right).
The first morning started with a detailed presentation by the lead architect, George Saumarez-Smith of Adam Architecture, of how the street plan of Tenterden has developed over the last 250 years. This was followed by a guided tour of the town and the Tent1 site, led by the promotion team from Welbeck Strategic Land and the various architects and consultants they have appointed. We noted the characteristic attributes of Tenterden’s townscape and street plan, and the different materials used. In particular this reinforced how prevalent and appealing the views of St. Mildred’s tower are from almost every direction, and highlighted the topography of the town.
Some broad imperatives quickly became obvious to us – the new development must feel like a logical and sympathetic extension to the town; as far as possible new areas of development should enjoy distant views of St. Mildred’s; a defining feature of Tenterden is the charming lanes off the High Street, especially Bell’s Lane, so new streets or roads should mimic the sort of mix of style, materials and heights found in Bell’s Lane, wherever practicable.
Back at the Leisure Centre, working in groups around tables, we began to consider a variety of general issues, such as foot and vehicle access to the site and integration with the existing street and pathway plan; aspects of landscape and streetscape design; and ecological issues. Next we brainstormed more detailed topics such as delivery timescales and phasing, character, massing, layout, public realm, green spaces, in each case drawing out our preferred goals and aspirations, and defining key principles. There was lively discussion and debate between the participants but it was reassuring – and quite surprising – to see how smoothly we arrived at a common view on all significant matters.
The second morning began with a climb up the tower of St. Mildred’s for those who hadn’t been up before. The view from the top highlighted to all how much our interesting roofscape contributes to the character of the town, and the fact that very few of our streets and lanes are straight. It also emphasised the extent to which the southern half of the Tent1 site (the area designated phase B) rises to the distant ridgeline, and therefore how intrusive any housing built towards the top of that slope could be.
The second day was structured to build on the work and collective views of the first day, with the aim of collaboratively producing a rough first sketch of the overall development, showing its major features. Working in different groups in order to cross-fertilise ideas and concepts, this was a fascinating exercise, as we started to fill in some hard details on very large scale maps and aerial photographs. This led to some interesting tensions as opposing ideas were put forward, but all were ultimately resolved by discussion and debate. We formed additional task groups to discuss issues such as employment, parking and green spaces.
By 4pm George, the lead architect, started to sketch an initial very rough master design for Tent1, based on our conclusions and recommendations. Some of the key features of this are listed below, in no particular order. Please note that these concepts and ideas are from the first draft of the plan, and details may change in the light of survey results, or at the next workshop:
- Vehicle access to Tent1 should be limited to Recreation Ground Road from the north, and two new entrances off Smallhythe Road to the south.
- Recreation Ground Road may be improved, but should not be widened as that would speed up traffic. It must not develop into a rat-run to the Smallhythe Road.
- Bells Lane should be extended southwards a little, merging into an improved Six Fields Path, providing a pleasant pedestrian route to and from the High Street, and maintaining the view of St. Mildred’s along its length.
- Every effort should be made to maintain the ‘mixed’ look of properties, which characterises the lane at present.
- The northern half of the wooded area close to Bells Lane is suitable for accommodation designed for older folk, who would value the proximity to the surgery, clinic and High Street.
- The southern half of the woodland will be improved to provide a recreation area on its western side.
- The two ponds in Three Fields may be improved to create a public amenity feature.
- The junior school playing field will be preserved as is.
- Ivy Court surgery and East Cross clinic will almost certainly remain in situ, though may be redeveloped to improve their facilities and capacity.
- The two schools may merge physically, within the overall current footprint they occupy, but this is a long term project and anyway beyond the scope of Tent1.
- There is a known requirement for up to 200 additional car parking spaces. These are likely to be located in one group beyond the Leisure Centre (although probably phased as 100 plus 100 in line with Tent1 A and B). The current Leisure Centre car park will be remodelled to significantly increase its capacity.
- Houses will be designed so that cars do not clutter forecourts or streets. Pedestrian access will be a priority.
- Where possible properties will be grouped around informal green squares, and streets will be gently curved to calm traffic, with road junctions offset.
- Room will be found for additional allotments to relieve pressure on the existing plots.
- Three fields footpath will be preserved though moved a little way south of its present course.
- Affordable housing (being shared ownership and rental properties) will comprise about 35% of the new dwellings, and will be spread fairly evenly across the site, rather than clustered together.
- Housing must include some larger five and six bedroom properties with big gardens.
- A new landscaped green pedestrian route will be created across the width of the site, broadly following the line of the wet ditch that separates Phase A from B, thus creating a pleasant walk from the Leisure Centre to the Smallhythe Road.
- The line of Six Fields Path will be preserved.
- The loss of the Wild Flower Meadow to housing and car parking will be compensated for by new public open space across the southern sweep of Phase B land, especially toward the skyline as viewed from the descending Six Fields Path. A new woodland strip is envisaged along the southern side of Phase B.
The rough drawings and sketches developed by the architects by the end of the event, reflecting the above points, were then available to be viewed by the general public on the evening of the 11th December. About fifty members of the public attended the open evening and heard first hand from those who had taken part about the deliberations and issues covered.
The next stage in the process will be receipt of the worked-up early drawings and plans for Tent1, plus the results of various specialist studies such as transport and ecology, and we will share these with the town by holding public exhibitions and presentations probably in February or March, seeking detailed feedback from the wider community. hen will follow another workshop event, involving the same representatives as before, where we will ‘fine tune’ the proposed plan. Again, the output of this will be presented publicly, probably in the early summer, leading ultimately to the submission of a detailed planning application before the end of 2013. This should be decided in early 2014.
Role of the Town Council
The Tenterden Southern Extension land is in different ownerships. The Town Council owns 3.14 acres of the land which makes up the site.
The Town Council has resolved to support the Tenterden Southern Extension.
The Town Council’s role in bringing forward the Tenterden Southern Extension is to maximize the opportunities presented by this development for the benefit of town and its community. Having a stake in the land, the Town Council is ideally placed to influence the development as a whole.
The Town Council intends to;
• strive for the highest possible build quality, in terms of overall and detailed design, materials, property mix and density,
• ensure that the various community and interest groups within the town and area are suitably involved, consulted and briefed in a timely and efficient manner,
• ensure that the wider public are kept informed of developments and timescales, and that they understand the opportunities available to them to influence the planning process as it progresses.
The Town Council will not attempt to maximise our financial gain as landowner, but rather strive to gain the greatest possible benefits for the town as a whole, financial or otherwise.