CPRE Kent has criticised a decision to approve 500 homes at Discovery Park in Sandwich, even though the area is not designated for housing.
Dover District Council planning committee is not following its own guidance set out in its Core Strategy. This does encourage educational and commercial development at the former Pfizer site but does not identify it as a location for housing.
CPRE Kent Senior Planner Brian Lloyd said: “Residential development has never been considered for this site – we ask why it was not identified during the drawing up of the Land Allocations Development Plan? This would then have saved other greenfield sites which have been included in the plan.
“What is the point of having a Local Plan if they ignore it – firstly with more than 600 dwellings allowed at the Western Heights and Farthingloe, part of which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and now 500 at Sandwich? That’s over 1,100 homes now agreed that were not envisaged in the Local Plan. This undermines the whole point of having a plan, which is intended to provide certainty as to where future development will happen.”
We are also concerned that the Planning Committee has approved the application at the Discovery Park even though the developers have made no funds available for a new primary school. Kent County Council had asked for £21,429 per pupil towards build and land costs. The applicants claim there is insufficient finance available for this. Planning officers admitted “this is not an ideal scenario, with a lack of certainty regarding how a school could be provided” but still recommended approval of the plan.
Plus, the NHS requested £421,200 to enhance healthcare provision – again the developers claim this is not viable and again officers recommended that the benefits of the scheme were so great as to not require this contribution.
CPRE Kent is also concerned that there is a complete lack of affordable housing in the plan – even though the Council’s own policy specifies that 30% of any development should be affordable homes.
Planning officers themselves admitted that “a nil affordable housing provision on a site of this scale would have a significant impact in terms of the balance of the community”.
“Again they are not following their own policies and former decisions,” said Mr Lloyd. “To allow this development, without any affordable housing and with no primary school and other essential services, is wrong and unfair. This will only mean that the sites it has identified for development in the local plan will have to shoulder a larger financial burden to meet the needs of a growing population. This makes a mockery of their planning strategy.”