Well it has been a tumultuous year what with a general election, Brexit and Coronavirus but all has been relatively calm in Tenterden – or has it?
The biggest stir came with the submission by Wates in December 2019 of a planning application for development of 250 dwellings in the area between Woodchurch Road and Appledore Road, known as Limes Land. A huge campaign against the proposal was waged by residents of Tenterden and by those living nearby who were not swayed by the offer of land for improved football facilities for the youth of the town. TDRA joined in these objections. As I write, the application is still under consideration by Ashford Borough Council. Whatever the outcome, we can be sure that pressure to develop this site will continue.
Since the latest Local Plan was adopted in early 2019 there have been relatively few signs of progress on other housing developments in the plan. The final houses forming part of TENT1A have been deferred by some 12 months and it is understood that a revised plan may be submitted with a different mix of house types to increase the number of 2 and 3-bedroomed houses while reducing the number of larger houses which are proving more difficult to sell. A land surveying team has been spotted on the TENT1B site but a planning application has yet to materialise. Similarly, there appears to be little activity at Pope House Farm site on the A28 on the boundary of St Michaels. Work on Tilden Gill site proceeds apace but with no start yet on the roundabout on the A28/Beacon Oak Road junction.
But what of the other major potential happenings in the town – namely Tenterden Cinema, re-ordering of the Recreation Ground and the improvements to the Town Hall. An exhibition of the three projects was organised by TTC and held in the Town Hall on 20th and 21st February. A total of 448 attendees were treated to detailed displays of the three projects and a lively exchange of comments and information ensued. A survey conducted by TTC showed overwhelming support for the proposals.
A company “Tenterden Cinema Limited” (TCL) was established in January 2020 to spearhead the continuing development of the cinema at the Pebbles building. To reassure readers – this is not a group of get-rich-quick cowboys out to exploit the residents of Tenterden. The company directors are all members of the cinema focus group established by TTC and, I believe, all members of TDRA and are resident in Tenterden. They have stepped up to the plate to carry the project forward for the benefit of the community. The directors are unpaid!
The feasibility study report for the cinema is due to be completed at end-March 2020. This will provide the information on project cost to enable TCL to move forward with fundraising to meet the construction costs. I urge all members of TDRA to donate generously, lend or invest in TCL to enable the cinema to proceed. A cinema will be of huge benefit to the town and the support of TTC, although very welcome, will meet only a small fraction of the construction costs. Your Cinema Needs You!
The second project highlighted at the TTC exhibition was the re-ordering of the Recreation Ground. The project will include a skatepark suitable both for boardriders and BMX bikes. I recall a BMX track was under discussion in 1981 so let us hope that teenagers will soon have to wait no longer and the original 1981 teenagers will be able to watch their grandchildren enjoying the new facilities, or perhaps even trying it out for themselves! The plans also include new floodlit tennis and netball courts and a youth hub building. A planning application is expected to be submitted by TTC in the near future.
The third project is the improvement of the Town Hall. Sadly the building has suffered from a lack of investment over many, many years and is in a poor state of repair. The roof has leaked regularly. Internally it is a rabbit warren of corridors since the extension at the rear was added many years ago. By contrast, the new plans are inspired – there are planned improvements to the ground floor to create a large open and usable space, better toilet facilities especially for disabled users. TTC offices are brought to the front and meeting rooms added at the rear. A new access to the kitchen upstairs will greatly improve catering capability. So the future could see a major transformation of the Town. I think these proposals should be supported by everyone.
Due to the exceptional generosity of a number of our members, and a grant from Ashford Borough Council, our Tree fund has accumulated a balance of £1,000. Due to circumstances beyond our control, it has not been possible to get Kent County Council to plant any new trees in the winter of 2019/2020, but we are assured that at least two new trees will be ordered and planted in the winter of 2020/2021. We will if necessary roll forward the balance of funds at the end of the year to fund further planting opportunities.
During this last year we have only produced one newsletter as, increasingly, we put news items on the TDRA website: we do know a good percentage of you read them! The newsletter distribution is now some 50 per cent by e-mail: please help us by making sure we have current e-mail addresses.
As agreed at the 2019 AGM, any member who wishes to read the draft minutes of the 2019 meeting and the draft accounts for 2019/2020 may access them via the website.
The advent of social isolation as a measure to minimise the continuing spread of COVID-19 has resulted in public gatherings being discontinued and social contact between individuals taking place at a safe distance. Under these circumstances the TDRA committee has taken the decision to postpone the 2020 Annual General Meeting until an (as yet unknown) future date. Delivery of “The Resident” and collection of donations/subscriptions has also been delayed indefinitely. We will keep you all posted with news via the TDRA website.
It remains for me to thank my committee members for their efforts throughout this last year and to wish all our members and their families a healthy year.