Proposed ‘Main Changes’ to the Ashford Local Plan 2030 — Contribution from Weald of Kent Protection Society
The Weald of Kent Protection Society supports the revised Draft Local Plan in principle, and our observations are shown below:
1. HOUSING REQUIREMENT
The failure to supply deliverable sites over a five-year period in recent years and continuing into the forthcoming period is deeply concerning (P.21. paras. 3.77/3.78). We strongly urge the Borough to complete this long overdue document so that it can be formally adopted, demonstrating a 5-year housing land supply, so that the Council can successfully oppose the current speculative developments which are rife within the borough.
A major concern is the way infrastructure plans lag behind plans for housing, and we urge the Borough Council to work alongside the KCC and NHS to ensure a coordinated approach for planning in the area. Otherwise we foresee serious infrastructure shortages facing new and established residents in the near future.
2. AFFORDABLE HOUSING Policy HOU1 (MC48)
We consider that the social renting provision is too low and we believe that the policy must be amended to increase the rental percentage.
Affordable shared ownership homes must have covenants placed on all schemes to prevent extensions/conversions, etc., so that they remain affordable in perpetuity.
3. SITE ALLOCATIONS: Existing 2016 allocations having increased capacities:
S24 (MC29) Tenterden Southern Extension Phase B.
This site should only be developed once TENT1A has been completed and a comprehensive assessment made in particular in regard to highways.
4. ALLOCATIONS FOR VILLAGES
With provisos, we support the level of development proposed for the rural areas and particularly welcome the lesser density proposed for many of these, i.e. 20 dwellings per hectare.
Policy S55 Charing, Land adjacent to Poppyfields (MC98)
We are concerned that this policy will result in a further 180 houses in a village which will already be developed beyond its infrastructure model.
Policy S61 Wittersham, Land between Lloyds Green and Jubilee Fields (MC104)
We strongly oppose the allocation of land situated entirely within the High Weald AONB for this proposed construction of 40 houses. To allocate land with the highest level of protection the country can provide would create a dangerous precedent, possible opening the door to future large developments on untouched AONB land.
5. Policy HOU4 — Residential Windfall Development within Settlements (MC50)
We are concerned that this policy may result in the building to the rear of existing houses, infill and ad hoc expansion to villages without suitable controls. We must preserve the entrance to villages and the village envelope definition needs to be protected. Villages should retain some rural amenity even within the actual village. The over development of random windfall sites will cause the loss of a village’s inherent charm.
We agree that full consultation with local communities should take place before approval is given to new developments, in line with NPPF para.66. Design options need to be in sympathy with local neighbourhood plans and parish design plans (SP6). And the need for housing for a genuinely mixed demographic should be respected as is not the case at present.
However, there seems to be little ambition to introduce innovative design features (NPPF para.63) other than on individual sites, and it would be encouraging, where appropriate, to see some innovative design in larger developments rather than what is becoming a general trend towards pastiche as the easy option.
We agree that the new criteria for travellers to qualify for a pitch should be rigorously applied and protection of the landscape should be paramount. (HOU16.)
The limited number of allocated sites and reliance on windfalls, however, may lay the Borough open to criticism for not having a five-year supply of pitches. This would make containment of numbers virtually impossible and lead to sporadic and unplanned development. (5.120.) The policy document is urgently needed.
ABC’s allowance of parking spaces for individual houses and visitor parking is to be applauded (TRA3), but we would welcome a plan for improved parking provision in Tenterden under TRA2, where the problem is becoming acute. The proposed extension of parking at the Leisure Centre will not solve the problem in our opinion.
The inclusion of a new policy on private open space for every dwelling, meaning usable balconies to flatted developments is welcome (HOU15).
We also applaud the establishment of the Quality Monitoring Initiative (P.37) as quality control is of the utmost importance.
The quality of construction details does not form part of this document but we would like to record that this is an important factor when detailed permission is sought. External certification of developers’ building work should be adopted to prevent future problems to the occupiers.