We have set out our concerns about the unrealistic and damagingly high target for new homes and jobs in the draft Thanet Local Plan.
The plan sets a target of 5,000 new jobs. We believe this is unachievable, mainly because the catalyst for growth on which it is based – Manston Airport – has gone. We are advocating a lower target of 3,100 jobs and this would mean the housing target could be reduced.
The housing target of 12,000 new homes is based on population information that is out of date and unreliable. It fails to take account of housing proposed in neighbouring districts – especially Dover. Dover has already set a high growth housing target of 14,000 new homes. In addition, Dover District Council has recently granted planning permission for even more houses – including 500 at the Discovery Park. The Dover and Thanet housing markets are closely aligned, and we believe that Dover will inevitably meet some of the Thanet housing need. This has not been taken into account in Thanet District Council’s assessment of housing need.
We believe it is wrong to identify so many greenfield sites in the plan which comprise grade 1 agricultural land (up to 5,000 home proposed on such greenfield farmland). CPRE Kent Senior Planner Brian Lloyd said: “Land of such good quality is a nationally important asset and vital for food security in the future. This should be a major constraint to development.”
Furthermore, Thanet faces serious water supply and water quality issues – which are openly admitted in the plan. This again must be recognised as a constraint to development. Plus the impacts on infrastructure, transport and social, including health and education, have not been properly assessed and should further limit the amount of new housing.
We do not believe that house builders will actually be able to build the target amount of new housing in Thanet – they would have to build 600 new homes each and every year for the next 20 years. On average they have only achieved just over 500 new homes a year for the last 10 years. Therefore a target nearer to 9,500 new homes is realistic and this would help avoid the loss of valuable farmland.
We think it is entirely unacceptable that the plan fails to grapple with the future of Manston Airport. The future of the airport has been left to a future plan, but crucially any development there would be additional to that proposed in this local plan.
Mr Lloyd added: “Greenfield sites may be sacrificed prematurely when there is a major brownfield site at Manston that could alleviate the need for this. We think the council must resolve this now.”
CPRE Kent disagrees with the plan’s intention to promote Westwood as a new integrated community. Mr Lloyd said: “It functions as an out of town shopping destination rather than as a town centre and it is inappropriate to propose a new residential community around it. This will only serve to push the urban area further into the countryside.”
On a positive note, we support ‘the vision’ presented in the plan, in particular the recognition that tranquillity is a feature of the district’s countryside. We would like the council to have a strategic policy on the need to retain tranquillity.
Bright blue indicates the highest quality agricultural land. Map from Natural England: download here: http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/141047