Update on the progress made to date and next steps
The Chairman, in his role as Leader of the Council, opened the discussion by reminding Members that the Borough Council had a duty, prescribed by Government, to set out local planning policies which identified how land was used and determine what would be built where. A Local Plan enabled a local authority to retain control of potential development opportunities.
Members were advised that failure to submit a Local Plan within the transitional period, proposed by the Government in the new draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), would result in significant risks associated with having to address a substantially higher provision of housing as a result of the introduction of a standardised methodology for assessing housing need. It would also cause significant further delays, which would place the Borough Council in a more vulnerable position in terms of land supply in responding to planning applications and facing planning appeals. This proposed transition period had prompted the need to revise the previous timetable and every effort was being made to submit the Local Plan to the Secretary of State in December 2018.
The Director of Planning, Housing and Environmental Health and the Planning Policy Manager provided an update on the preparation of the Local Plan. A draft document with a refined development strategy, policies and proposals had been considered by the Planning and Transportation Advisory Board on 5 June 2018. It was anticipated that the next meeting of the Advisory Board in July 2018 would review the final draft of the Local Plan with the formal public consultation, required under Regulation 19, to follow in September 2018. This offered parish councils and members of the public the opportunity to comment on the proposals. All responses received would be submitted to the Secretary of State with the Local Plan for approval in December.
It was reported that the policies in the draft Local Plan document outlined the key development requirements associated with each major site, including the need for significant infrastructure. Further work on completing and updating evidence was inevitable as the process progressed.
Particular reference was made to the major sites at Bushey Wood, South Aylesford, Kings Hill (Broadwater Farm) and Borough Green. All of which had seen refined housing allocations in response to consultation and the emerging evidence, including further assessment on transport modelling and capacity issues. The extension of the green belt to the east of West Malling was welcomed and Planning Officers were confident that special circumstances could be demonstrated to support this case.
A number of concerns were raised and included:
- Infrastructure Funding and Delivery: Members were advised that an Infrastructure Delivery Plan would be prepared assessing and identifying funding opportunities;
- Congestion and increased traffic flows on roads and the effects on rural communities (particularly the A20, Hermitage Lane, Borough Green and Junction 4 of the M20);
- Duty to Co-operate: The Borough Council would robustly defend and challenge any request to meet development needs of nearby areas, although it was recognised that this issue was likely to arise at the Public Examination. The Cabinet Member for Strategic Infrastructure and Planning (Councillor Howard Rogers) advised of the importance of understanding the challenges and needs of neighbouring local planning authorities and he would be meeting with his counterparts to discuss common themes;
- Early delivery of the new A25 relief road for Borough Green Gardens. This point had been raised by the Planning and Transportation Advisory Board in June and noted by officers for further investigation;
- Risks around alternative and/or additional sites being brought forward by other interested parties were noted;
- Regulation 19 representations: Responses would be made available when submitted to the Secretary of State and options would be considered to support availability to third parties; and
- A number of questions were asked about air quality and mitigation and these would be addressed out of meeting.
Finally, the next steps in the Local Plan process were reiterated and these included further evidence assessment of a number of sites. Comments would be welcomed as part of the formal public consultation exercise expected to take place in September.