West Kents Conspiracy to not Cooperate on Meeting Housing Need – Once Sevenoaks Fell so Must Tonbridge and Malling

Inspectors Letter

Sevenoaks District Council (SDC) considers that it is unable to meet all of
its own housing needs. It is a neighbouring local authority and forms a
large part of the West Kent Housing Market Area which also includes a
significant part of Tonbridge and Malling Borough. Our letter will focus on
the engagement of Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council (the Council)
with SDC, in relation to housing and how any unmet needs might be met.
This is a strategic matter for the purposes of S33A…

it appears from the evidence before us that the Council knew for
a number of years, prior to the submission of their plan for examination,
that it was highly unlikely that SDC would be able to meet its housing
requirement in full. Despite this there is no evidence that the Council
engaged in any meaningful discussions with SDC to consider how the
strategic matter of unmet need could be resolved. Instead the Council
has relied on the fact that SDC did not formally ask them for help…

there is no evidence that at any time the Council cooperated or
even considered cooperating with SDC on a joint review of the Green Belt
to understand the comparative quality across the two districts and any
potential to amend Green Belt boundaries to fully or more fully meet
needs. The Council say the reason for this is that the two LPAs were at
different stages of plan making, however the plans were submitted for
examination within months of each other…

Turning to the matter of the Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) that
have been submitted5. They were composed and signed after the
submission of both plans and provide no evidence of constructive and
active engagement prior to the submission of the plan and are therefore of
no help in demonstrating the Duty has been met…

On the basis of the evidence currently before us, for the reasons set out
above, it is reasonable for us to conclude, having carefully considered all
the evidence, that the Council has failed to engage constructively, actively
and on an ongoing basis in the preparation of the plan, so far as it relates
to the strategic matter of housing, and that the DtC in Section 33A of the
2004 Act has not been complied with. This cannot be remedied during the
examination of the plan.

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