As Swale Local Plan is pushed forward with unseemly haste, it is critical people make their views known

When Swale Borough Council confirmed it was to skip consultation on its Local Plan and go straight to a final version, CPRE Kent raised serious doubts about the legality and soundness of the Plan.
As we near the end of the one and only opportunity to comment on the council’s final version of the Plan, it remains that:

  • A number of important documents, for example a rigorous transport plan and a finalised air-quality assessment have yet to emerge. The latter is critical given that allocations at Teynham will feed extra traffic into AQMAs.
  • There seems to be no coherent plan for infrastructure delivery – a key component of the plan given the allocations being proposed near the already crowded junction 7.
  • There seems to have been little or no cooperation with neighbouring boroughs or even parish councils within Swale itself.

The removal of a second consultation might have been understandable if this final version of the Plan were similar to that being talked about at the beginning of the consultation process. It is, however, radically in the following ways:

  • There has been a major shift in the balance of housing allocations, away from the west of the borough over to the east, especially around the historic town of Faversham. This is a move that raises many concerns.
  • A new large allocation, with accompanying A2 bypass, has appeared around Teynham and Lynsted, to which we are objecting
  • Housing allocations in the AONB around Neames Forstal that were judged “unsuitable” by the council’s own officers have now appeared as part of the housing numbers
  • Most of the housing allocations being proposed are on greenfield sites, many of them on Grade 1 agricultural land – a point to which we are strongly objecting

The haste with which the Plan is being prepared is especially worrying given the concentration of housing in Faversham. If the town is to take a large amount of new housing, it is imperative that the policies concerning the area are carefully worked out to preserve, as far as possible, the unique nature of the town. The rush to submit the Plan is likely to prove detrimental.
As Swale does not have a five-year land housing supply, it is open to speculative development proposals, many of which would run counter to the ideas contained in the current Plan. Some are already appearing. This is a common situation, and one that, doubtless, is a reason behind Swale’s haste.
Our overriding fear, however, is that this emphasis on haste is ultimately going to prove counterproductive. This is because it is our view that the Plan, in its current form, is unlikely to pass independent examination. We are urging Swale to listen to and act upon the comments being made about the plan and to return the plan to the council with appropriate modifications before submitting it to the Secretary of State.
Essentially, this means treating the current consultation not as the final one but as the ‘lost’ second consultation.
The consultation ends on Friday (April 30) and we would strongly urge residents to make their opinions known if they have not already done so. 

  • For more on the Swale Local Plan, see here
  • CPRE Kent’s detailed comments on the Plan can be found here
  • The council’s consultation document can be found here

Monday, April 26, 2021

Credit to Dartford council as it prepares a genuine brownfield-first strategy

Let’s hope Dartford Borough Council’s good work is not undone on the Swanscombe peninsula, which is threatened by the proposed London Resort theme park (pic Paul Buckley)

Consultation on Dartford Borough Council’s pre-submission version of its Local Plan closed today (Friday, April 9, 2021) and CPRE Kent feels this has been largely a positive example of Plan-making within the constraints of the planning system. 
By focusing development on well-connected brownfield sites within the town of Dartford and at Ebbsfleet Garden City, the Plan is essentially a genuine example of a brownfield-first strategy. Coupled with strong Green Belt protection policies and policies responding to the climate-change emergency, there is a lot to commend.
Of course, there remains areas where things could be better. We have taken exception to the continued support of roadbuilding within a borough that has some the worst air quality in the South East and the council’s continued support for the Lower Thames Crossing.
We have called on the authority to be bolder with measures to truly respond to our biodiversity crisis, along with further strengthening of active-travel measures.
We were disappointed not to see a policy protecting intrinsically dark landscapes. We have reminded it about the implications of Natural England’s designation of Swanscombe Marshes and land to the south as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Overall, though, there was certainly as much good as there was bad. We now must just hope that this good work is not undone should the proposed London Resort theme park be consented. 

  • You can read our comments here

Friday, April 9, 2021

Swale consultation extended but councillors won’t be getting a report back before Local Plan is submitted

Swale Borough Council has agreed to extend its current Local Plan consultation until Friday, April 30.
The decision was made at a meeting of full council on Wednesday, February 24, and all residents in the borough will receive letters telling them about the state of the Plan.
However, councillors did not agree to have the outcome of the consultation reported back to them before submitting the Plan for examination. This was contrary to what CPRE Kent had suggested.
An amendment supporting such a report was rejected by 24 votes to 18 – a disappointing outcome, we believe.

  • To read more about the Swale Local Plan, see here

Monday, March 8, 2021

Decisions, decisions: how does planning work during the pandemic?

Planning by remote in the 2020s…

The Covid-19 crisis has curtailed public involvement in almost all aspects of life, so it is important for us all to see that fairness and the democratic process do not suffer as a result, as a CPRE planner explains

Are you still getting your say at planning committee?
Since Saturday, April 4, 2020, councils have been able to hold public meetings virtually – using video or telephone conferencing technology – hence removing the requirement for physical attendance at meetings.
The decision was announced by Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to in a bid to ensure effective local decision-making and transparency during the coronavirus pandemic.
Did you know that not all planning (and other) applications must go before councillors at a committee meeting? 
Under the 1972 Local Government Act, local planning authorities can discharge some decision-making to an officer – in the case of planning applications this is what is commonly known as a delegated decision.
Planning permission can still be granted (or refused) for individual schemes. The only difference is that, compared with a committee decision, the process is faster because there is no need to wait until the next planning committee comes round.
As it is up to individual councils to draw up their own delegation scheme, decisions that can be delegated in one authority may not in another.
Unless a local planning authority has changed its delegated scheme, all planning decisions that would normally have gone to a planning committee continue to do so.
While the decision-making format will not have changed, it is possible that meetings may have been cancelled in the early days while councils made the necessary arrangements to move committee meetings online.
It might not be the same for all councils, but I know one Kent authority minutes at the beginning of each session that meetings are being conducted in accordance with the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panel (Coronavirus) Flexibility of Local Authority Police and Crime Panel Meetings (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 No. 392.
And that in welcoming councillors and members of the public the chairman states which council officers are in attendance.
The procedure for my local council is that members of the public are advised in the normal way of the committee date for schemes in which they are interested.  As usual, the procedure for speaking at committee is explained. In accordance with the regulations, interested parties are invited to dial in to the meeting and, where pre-arranged, get to speak for their allotted time.
In addition, participants are asked to provide a written copy of the statement they wish to make so that in the event of technical difficulties their views can be read out.
At this specific council, members of the public can not actually see what is going on at the meeting (they dial in by phone). Any papers that are likely to be viewed by councillors at the meeting are added to the council’s website in advance.
Audio recordings of the meetings held are posted on the council’s website within 10 days of the meeting.

Tuesday, February 24, 2021

Swale says it’s a listening council. Now it has the chance to prove it

CPRE Kent and others have raised deep concerns regarding the lack of consultation undertaken by Swale Borough Council on its Local Plan. 
We therefore welcome the recommendation to councillors to extend the current consultation until Friday, April 30. This is to be considered by all council members tomorrow evening (Wednesday, February 24).
However, as it stands, there is no formal requirement for the outcome of the consultation to be reported to councillors prior to the Plan being submitted for independent examination.
This is why we have today written to Swale councillors urging they consider the consultation responses before making a final decision that the Plan is ready for formal submission.
In the report to members accompanying tomorrow evening’s recommendation, Swale describes itself as a listening council.
This simple positive step is the least that they can do to demonstrate this.

  • For more on the Swale Local Plan, see here

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Surprise, surprise! Kent’s environment suffers the failings of flawed government planning policy

The diggers and cement-mixers could be coming your way… but only if it suits the developers

Richard Thompson, CPRE Kent planner, shows how developers benefit from their own failure to build houses while our communities lose ever more green space

While the Housing Delivery Test might seem a dull and dry topic, often buried in the darkest, deepest recesses of a council’s website, its consequences should not be ignored. 
When CPRE Kent reported on the 2019 Housing Delivery Test results, it was a bleak picture. Well, last month the 2020 Housing Delivery Test results were published. And the situation for Kent has worsened yet further.
The test works by comparing how many homes have been built in each council district against how many homes the district is deemed to have needed over a three-year period (though reduced this year for a month to allow for the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic). 
These homes-needed figures will either come from a council’s Local Plan if it was adopted within the last five years or, more commonly for Kent, be based on the government’s ‘top-down’ standard method formula for calculating housing numbers.
If at least 95 per cent of the homes deemed needed have been built within a council’s district over that period, the council is regarded as having passed the test.
More than 85 per cent though less than 95 per cent, the council is put on the naughty step and has to write an ‘action plan’ in which it promises to try harder.
If less than 85 per cent though more than 75 per cent, the consequences become serious as an extra 20 per cent is added to the number of homes that will need to be built in that district. This makes it increasingly hard for councils to demonstrate they have a five-year supply of houses – and where a council cannot demonstrate a five-year supply it becomes subject to the “presumption in favour of sustainable development.
If fewer than 75 per cent of homes deemed needed have been built, that council area automatically becomes subject to the “presumption in favour of sustainable development. This means that if a site can be considered to deliver ‘sustainable development’, then planning permission should be granted, even if there is no support from the council for housing in that location or the site sits outside the Local Plan.
As set out in the table below, the combination of the 2020 Housing Delivery Test results and accepted lack of five-year supply by councils now means the majority of Kent is subject to the presumption.
Further, Canterbury, Dover and Folkestone and Hythe are all in precarious positions should developers seek to challenge the five-year supply position (note that both Canterbury and Tunbridge Wells only just avoided falling into the 20 per cent buffer requirement because of the Covid adjustment).

What does this mean in practice? Only that the majority of Kent is now at increased risk of speculative planning applications for developer-led interpretations of ‘sustainable development’.
CPRE Kent has long campaigned that the standard method for calculating the number of homes is a blunt instrument that fails to recognise local constraints and actual housing needs. Yet the revision made to the standard method in December 2020 is likely to further increase pressure on Kent to take some of London’s deemed increase in housing need.
It is also our view that the Housing Delivery Test and five-year supply requirements are fundamentally flawed.
The reality is that the supply of homes is all but controlled by the housebuilders, who clearly will only build what the local market will absorb. Yet if this building rate falls below these unreasonable targets, often the only response a local authority can have is to grant yet more planning permissions or allocate yet more land for increasingly unsustainable development.  
And so the cycle continues.  
Or, put another way, while the development industry is rewarded for failure to build houses with an increasing suite of sites where ever-greater profits may be made, communities suffer the real-world consequences of yet more precious green spaces being allocated for development.   

Friday, February 12, 2021

Swale Local Plan: have your say now!

After last week’s full council vote, the Swale Local Plan is now out for consultation.
Residents and other interested parties have until Tuesday, March 23, to submit their comments.
CPRE Kent and others have cautioned against going to this formal stage of consultation without undertaking the Draft Issues and Options consultation that had previously been promised.
It remains an overriding concern that this decision may inadvertently delay the Plan, either by hostile third-party challenge or through failure of the legal and procedural test at the Local Plan examination. The latter happened recently with the Tonbridge and Malling and Sevenoaks Local Plans.
Of course, a delayed Plan means a greater risk of speculative applications in the meantime.
These fears are compounded by the lack of the necessary evidence base to inform this consultation, most notably the absence of the required Sustainability Appraisal.
It is extremely concerning that a decision to go to consultation has been made before this important work has been finalised. We would urge Swale Borough Council to ensure the required six weeks is available to consider this evidence once it is completed.
More generally, CPRE Kent will be considering the detail of Swale’s Plan and supporting evidence over the coming weeks. Our early concerns, however, include:

  • The lack of meaningful consultation undertaken so far. This is particularly the case for the development now being proposed at Teynham and Lynsted
  • The lack of traffic modelling. This is a significant evidential requirement that goes to the heart of the soundness of the Plan and runs across many separate issues. The need and importance of such evidence is clearly set out in planning guidance
  • The uncertainty as to what infrastructure is required to deliver the Plan. Most notably, this includes whether a bypass at Teynham is required and the extent of improvement at junctions 5 and 7 of the M2
  • The chosen distribution of development leading to a worsening of air quality in the borough’s Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs)
  • The coalescence of the two contrasting parish settlements of rural Lynsted and more urbanised Teynham.

This list is not exhaustive and represents our initial views only. We would, however, strongly encourage all of you who care for the future of Swale to consider carefully the proposals and make your opinions known.
The consultation document can be found here

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Eco-development… or eco-disaster?

The meadow was treasured and cared for by people in Lenham

Flower-rich grassland is a scarce habitat today following the ‘improvement’ of so much grassland for agriculture. But some residents on the Kent Downs in Lenham were fortunate – they had such a beautiful meadow just next door.
They treasured the meadow and for many years looked after it for the elderly neighbour who owned it. At some stage it was used as grazing for rare livestock and for traditional haymaking.
When a new individual bought the house and the meadow, he wanted to pull down the house and replace it with an ‘eco-house’. The neighbours were supportive. They are people who have the environment in mind.
However, they were not prepared for the beautiful meadow being turned from THIS:

to THIS:

The new owner dumped tons of excavated spoil on the meadow. Such an action is illegal and would require permission from the county council to open a site for the disposal of inert matter. It also is a breach of the planning permission granted by Maidstone Borough Council for the construction of the eco-house. 
Sadly, enforcement officers were slow to act.
To add insult to injury, the developer put in a planning application to turn the spoil into a pond. In the opinion of Henny Shotter, of CPRE Kent’s Maidstone committee, who got involved in the matter, the application was an attempt to legalise the status quo of the site.
Fortunately, the borough council acknowledged that a pond on a hillside meadow in the AONB is a feature alien to the character of the landscape and refused planning permission.
CPRE Kent hopes the council now takes enforcement action and asks the developer to restore the meadow. If this does not happen, a dangerous precedent will be set that undermines completely the effectiveness of the planning authority.

It doesn’t look any better from the air (pic Google Earth)

Thursday, February 4, 2021

‘We’re being sold down the river for £5 million’… the residents battling a deeply unpopular housing scheme

Sturry and Broad Oak face the prospect of more than 1,000 new houses (pic Google Earth)

As Canterbury continues its descent from revered cathedral city to soul-crushing urban sprawl, a dispute over hundreds of planned houses highlights the sorry state of an overly complicated and disjointed planning system.
Many were delighted when a proposal for 650 homes at Sturry, north-east of the city, was rejected in November by Canterbury City Council’s planning committee – citing policy law that had not been addressed – but it has returned with the number of homes reduced slightly to 630 and some rejigging that has still not tackled the issues highlighted by councillors.
The Environ Design (Sturry) development forms part of the same strategic site as a separate proposal, from Barratt and David Wilson Homes for 465 properties at neighbouring Broad Oak.
Central to the debate is the council’s desire for a relief road intended to alleviate congestion at the A28 Sturry level crossing.
Proposals for a relief road have been around for some 30-40 years, so it has come as little surprise to see it raise its head again.
Developers from several sites will have to pay a contribution towards the road; with regard to the Sturry and Broad Oak elements, this would be paid once 500 houses had been built and sold within an agreed timescale.
South East Local Enterprise Partnership has earmarked £5 million for the road, about a fifth of which has already been spent on design.
The proposed development site has a chequered history. In 2005 the council concluded it was not sustainable for housing and did not allocate it in the Local Plan. It took a similar view in both 2010 and 2014 before, in 2017, allocating it as a way of funding the relief road.
Concerns over traffic, issues with environmental impact, absence of affordable housing, excessive density and poor design all counted against the scheme when it was refused in November.
Just possibly, it would be encouraging to think, they realised the proposed road would do little more than shunt traffic congestion a mile or two down the A28 (it would re-emerge close to Canterbury sewage works).
Sturry resident Peta Boucher is one of many who have campaigned against the proposed development’s shortcomings. She said: “This and other nearby applications are not just about relieving traffic at the crossing – they’re about opening up new developments in the area.
“The road, with its 22,000 movements a day, would be built through the middle of the new estate. It would be huge, noisy and polluting, complete with a viaduct near the sewage works.
“The Local Plan suggested a figure of 1,000 houses between Sturry and Broad Oak, but that figure has already been pushed up.
“The scheme abuts ancient woodland [Den Grove Wood], where up to 50 per cent of the trees could be axed for roads reaching into the new housing. There would be a buffer zone around the wood – which will be closed to public access – but it would do nothing to protect the wildlife within the area or to create safe natural corridors. Councillors were concerned about dog mess killing the woods, but we have more serious concerns.
“There is serious lead pollution on the former shooting ground that forms part of the site – you really would not want to build there.
We are not against new housing in the area, but we want good housing with proper facilities for all. This proposal will double the size of the villages without adding any new infrastructure.
“We know we need housing, but we need excellent housing. Apart from the fact no affordable homes are proposed, the density is far too high and some properties would be sandwiched between the road and the railway.
“A tiny community hall is planned on a roundabout, making it almost inaccessible! The developers say they will build a primary school, but they’re not needed as we already have Sturry and Hersden primaries. They’re not planning any playing fields for the estate residents as they will supposedly be provided by the new school.
“Open space would be limited because the woods will not be open to the public, while allocated space would have SuDS [sustainable drainage systems] and sewage pits in them.
“Natural England has had well-documented concerns over foul water being released to the River Stour, while Southern Water has said there is no capacity for this development.
“To deal with some of this, two huge sewage tanks are proposed – one at Sturry and the other at Broad Oak. These would be emptied once a month and of course the waste transported through the estate.”
Phew! And the list is far from exhaustive…
Ms Boucher is among those who suspect a deeply flawed development will be pushed through because Canterbury planners fear losing the SELEP road-funding, which has a mid-February deadline.
“We’re being sold down the river for £5 million,” said Ms Boucher.
With reports in local media that the council leader has written to members of the planning committee “reminding” them of their obligation to hold to the Local Plan, the signs are perhaps ominous.
Either way, the whole sorry saga is a mess – this is not how strategic planning should be done. Further, the amount of mitigation work necessary to address the damage caused by this desperately poor scheme, should it be accepted in its current form, would blight the area for years.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Appeal inspector backs 440-unit housing development at Otham

Maidstone Borough Council will face costs after the inspector’s decision to back the developer’s two appeals

A scheme for 440 homes in Otham has been backed at appeal by a planning inspector.
The greenfield site had been allocated in Maidstone Borough Council’s 2017 Local Plan “as a strategic development location for housing growth with supporting infrastructure”.
However, in July the local authority’s policy and resources committee voted to reject the project, west of Church Road next to St Nicholas Church, after it had already twice been rejected by the planning committee.
Council officers had recommended the development be approved, fearing that, with the site included in the Local Plan, developer Bellway would win an appeal.
And last week the Planning Inspectorate announced that inspector Stephen Normington had allowed Bellway’s two appeals, which he had considered jointly.
The first related to non-determination of an outline planning application for 440 homes, with the second coming after MBC had refused an application for a revised project of 421 units.
Mr Normington’s report concluded there was “no demonstrable evidence” supporting one of the council’s reasons for refusal on highways grounds. The council had cited the impact of the development on traffic congestion in Willington Street and highway safety at Church Road.
The county council had also raised highways objections.
Although he said there was “no doubt in my mind that the appeal proposals will contribute to the congestion already experienced on Willington Street to a degree”, the inspector continued: “Whilst this would undoubtedly cause driver inconvenience, I have no substantive evidence to suggest that this would cause a highway safety problem.”
Further, he did “not consider that the proposed developments would demonstrably cause worsening safety issues on Church Road to the south of the site to the extent that both these appeals should be dismissed”.
He also added “significant weight” to the fact the development would “include affordable housing to meet a demonstrable housing need on an allocated housing site”.
Mr Normington made a partial costs award against MBC, concluding it had “behaved unreasonably” in reaching its decision on its first reason for refusal.
CPRE Kent was represented at the appeal, arguing that Bellway had failed to demonstrate how Church Road could be modified safely and that the impact of the proposed development on the Grade I-listed church and nearby Grade II-listed buildings was unacceptable.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Enough brownfield land for 1.3 million new homes, CPRE report reveals

Better use of brownfield can save our green spaces

There is enough brownfield land for 1.3 million new homes, while more than half a million already have planning permission, a report from CPRE, the countryside charity, reveals.
The figures demonstrate that there is already enough available and suitable land in the planning system to meet the government’s ambition to build 300,000 homes per year for the next five years (this Parliament), calling into question the hugely controversial plans to deregulate the planning system that has been proposed by ministers.
Brownfield land – land that has previously been built on and now sits derelict or vacant – provides a valuable resource in the protection of greenfield land from development. The State of Brownfield report 2020 is the latest in a series of CPRE reports on the brownfield register, which catalogues the number of brownfield sites available for development.
The analysis clearly shows that the planning system is not slowing building rates. There is currently planning permission for more than half a million (565,564) units on brownfield land.
In February 2020, the Local Government Association found that more than one million homes in total had been granted planning permission but not yet built. This means that brownfield sites and other unbuilt sites with planning permission could provide more than 1.5 million new homes – in short, we need not suffer the staggering loss of countryside that recent government proposals could bring about.
Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, said: “These figures clearly show that the planning system is not what is ailing our housing market.
“If there is enough land in the planning system to meet the government’s own housing targets, what will an overhaul of the planning system, with rushed and untested changes, really achieve? It’s clear the government has gravely misdiagnosed the problem – slow build-out rates and market-led housing are blocking the quality affordable housing that rural communities are crying out for.
“But there is a real prize in brownfield – what says ‘build back better’ more than adopting a truly ‘brownfield first’ approach that will breathe new life into the long-forgotten and derelict areas in our towns, cities and villages? This approach will deliver huge benefits, building the affordable homes in areas where communities want to live, providing access to better transport links and amenities and services they need.
“As things stand, the government’s proposed changes will result in a free-for-all, allowing big housebuilders to build what they like, where they like and when they like. Now more than ever is it vital that the government listens to local communities, promotes a genuinely ‘brownfield first’ policy and brings forward more brownfield sites for development so we can build more affordable, well-designed homes.”
Many areas across England with high housing need also have a large amount of brownfield land ready for redevelopment. London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield have identified land available for regeneration that would provide almost half a million homes (458,587).
To make best use of suitable brownfield land, CPRE is urging the government to introduce a genuine ‘brownfield first’ policy that ensures suitable previously developed or under-used land is prioritised for redevelopment over green spaces and countryside.
Clearer definitions and guidelines must be given so that the registers act as a true pipeline, identifying all possible brownfield sites and recording their suitability for uses other than housing, including uses that protect the biodiversity or heritage value of sites where applicable.

  • To read Recycling Our Land: The State of Brownfield 2020, click here

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Another important consultation on new planning rules closes…

Photo: Peter Newport

Consultation on the second major tranche of proposed changes to the planning regime closed yesterday (Thursday, October 29). Despite the government’s stated aims of ‘levelling up’ the country and prioritising brownfield redevelopment, we see little within the proposals that would actually achieve that. Along with so many others in the wider CPRE network, we raised our concerns over the proposals, which would see a significant increase in the amount of rural land that would have to be allocated for housing, and would mean people would see a dramatic reduction in their ability to have a say about how their communities develop.

It was heartening to see so many MPs echo CPRE’s concerns in a parliamentary debate on Thursday, October 8. We hope our concerns will be heeded and we can maintain a planning system that has communities, nature and the climate at its heart.

You can read the CPRE Kent response here:

And the national ‘One CPRE’ response can be found here:

Read our response to the consultation on planning changes

We’re doing our best to stop damaging proposals being bulldozed through

CPRE Kent has submitted its response to the government’s Changes to the Current Planning System consultation (click here).
The process could have an ultimately devastating impact on much of Kent, with almost all the county’s district authorities facing housebuilding hikes of up to 125 per cent.
If the consultation figures are accepted as part of planning policy, Kent will need to build an extra 2,835 homes a year on top of current targets, which are already frighteningly high.

  • You can read the national CPRE response here

Friday, October 30, 2020

Concerns over open space and density scupper scheme for 900 homes at Herne Bay

The site south of Herne Bay had been targeted by Taylor Wimpey (pic Google Earth)

Plans for 900 new homes in Herne Bay have been turned down by councillors despite officers recommending they be approved.
The 136-acre site at Sweechbridge Road had been allocated for development in Canterbury City Council’s Local Plan, but concerns over open space and density saw Taylor Wimpey’s application for hybrid consent refused.
Consent was being sought by the developer for an initial 193 homes of the scheme, together with access works, drainage infrastructure, open space, landscaping and street-lighting.
Outline consent was also sought for up to 707 further homes, up to 27,000 square metres of employment space, a care home, shops, a community centre, a school, open space and infrastructure works.
Planning officers had recommended the scheme be approved, a planning report saying the site “forms the major part of a strategic allocated site for a mixed-use development in the Canterbury District Local Plan”.
It continued: “The application site will provide a significant amount of the homes that are required to meet the district’s need, as well as providing employment opportunities for local people. This application is therefore acceptable in principle.”
However, the proposals were refused at a planning committee meeting on Tuesday, September 1.
A council spokesman said members had concluded the scheme would not provide for “sufficient high-quality open space for active and continual use due to the amount of that space which contains attenuation ponds/features”, making it contrary to national planning policy.
Further, the development “at 40 dwellings per hectare is over-dense and would amount to an overdevelopment of the site given the location of the site”, while its proposed 22.5 per cent affordable-housing provision failed to meet the 30 per cent sought by local planning policy.
Members also found a “lack of sustainable infrastructure such as solar panels and electric vehicle-charging points”, against Local Plan policy, and “highways arrangements proposed would not provide safe movement within and around the proposed development”.

Monday, September 14, 2020

‘Landmark’ planning reforms: will they really benefit the Kent countryside?

CPRE Kent, the countryside charity, has given a cool response to “once-in-a-generation reforms” to the country’s planning system proposed by the government today (Thursday, August 6).
Described as “landmark reforms to speed up and modernise the planning system and get the country building”, the changes proposed in the Planning for the Future White Paper are unlikely to benefit our countryside, John Wotton, chairman of CPRE Kent, said. 
Mr Wotton was responding to a statement from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick saying “an overhaul of the country’s outdated planning system that will deliver the high-quality, sustainable homes communities need will be at the heart of the most significant reforms to housing policy in decades”.
According to the statement, core reforms will mean:

  • Local communities will be consulted from the very beginning of the planning process. By harnessing the latest technology through online maps and data, the whole system will be made more accessible
  • Valued green spaces will be protected for future generations by allowing for more building on brownfield land and all new streets to be tree-lined
  • Much-needed homes will be built quicker by ensuring local housing plans are developed and agreed in 30 months – down from the current seven years
  • Every area is to have a Local Plan in place – currently only 50 per cent of local areas have a plan to build more homes
  • The planning process is to be overhauled and replaced with a clearer, rules-based system. Currently around a third of planning cases that go to appeal are overturned at appeal
  • A new simpler national levy to replace the current system of developer contributions, which often causes delay
  • The creation of a fast-track system for beautiful buildings and establishing local design guidance for developers to build and preserve beautiful communities
  • All new homes are to be ‘zero carbon ready’, with no new homes delivered under the new system needed to be retrofitted as we achieve our commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050

One of the more contentious aspects of the proposals is the concept of zonal planning, with land designated in one of three categories: growth, renewal or protection.
It is also stated that “valued green spaces and Green Belt will continue to be protected for future generations, with the reforms allowing for more building on brownfield land”, while “local community agreement will be at the centre of the proposals”.
However, Mr Wotton said: “We find hard to see how the planning reform proposals, unveiled by the government this morning, will benefit the Kent countryside.
“The policy driving the proposals, of building more homes, more quickly, appears to override the safeguards in the present system ensuring that local communities’ needs are taken into account and that harm to the environment and landscape from building new homes is prevented.
“If local authorities are to lose their ability to approve the details of new developments, by what means can the views of local communities continue to have real force?
“We support the efficient provision of sufficient sustainable, affordable homes in Kent, in the places where they are most needed and where they will not harm the countryside, especially our much-valued Green Belt and two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and we support, as a general principle, the use of brownfield sites first.
“We are concerned that a standard infrastructure levy for housing developments, in place of Section 106 Agreements, will hand over the responsibility for the provision of both the additional infrastructure required as a result of new development and the provision of affordable housing from developers to local authorities, who may not have the resources to make these things happen.
“We will be studying these proposals in detail, in conjunction with the wider CPRE network and will participate actively in the coming public debate.”
Echoing Mr Wotton’s concerns, Tom Fyans, CPRE’s deputy chief executive, said: “The key acid test for the planning reforms is community involvement and on first reading, it’s still not clear how this will work under a zoning system.
“Although we welcome the government’s commitment to all areas having a Local Plan in place, we also need robust legal guarantees that the public are consulted regarding new development.
“Red lines on a map are not going to build trust in the planning system. As things stand, the government seems to have conflated digitalising planning with democratic planning – they’re not the same thing. 
“The government’s aim to deliver carbon-neutral new homes by 2050 is pitiful and represents 34 lost years given that the Code for Sustainable Homes aimed to achieve the same thing by 2016 and was dropped by government.
“If this government is serious about tackling the climate emergency, it needs to be much, much more ambitious on new-build. 
“On affordable homes, our concern is how this approach might play out in the countryside. In many rural areas, house prices are often more than 10 times average earnings, and so the 30 per cent discount won’t cut it. Local authorities should be able to provide the sorts of homes needed in their area – homes that local people can afford. 
“We have long advocated for a genuinely brownfield-first approach and on this aspect, the government seems to have listened. But if a brownfield-first approach is to work, local authorities need to be able to prioritise the building of those sites and reject unnecessary losses of greenfield land.” 

  • Read Planning for the Future here
  • You can also read the document and learn more about the consultation here 
  • Read the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government press statement here
  • Read more on planning reform here and here

Thursday, August 6, 2020