The Panel to be updated on the current progress and latest timetable – Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Infrastructure
The Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Infrastructure detailed the process for the Regulation 18 Consultation in respect of the Borough Council’s draft Local Plan for the period 2021 – 2040.
A first draft of the Local Plan, known as Regulation 18, had been prepared for public consultation. The purpose of this consultation was to seek views from individuals, communities, stakeholders and parishes and invited comment on the strategic direction the Local Plan should take. This was an opportunity for concerns to be highlighted and priorities to be identified.
The Regulation 18 Consultation would also seek comments on the Interim Draft Sustainability Appraisal.
Members were reminded that as a result of not having an adopted Local Plan, the Borough Council were unable to demonstrate a 5 year housing supply and had difficulty in defending against development. In addition, the Governments Objectively Assessed Housing Need, using the standard methodology, had identified that Tonbridge and Malling needed to build 15,941 houses between 2021-2040. If these housing targets were not addressed in the Local Plan it might be rejected by the Planning Inspector.
At this stage, the information set out in the draft Local Plan consultation documents should only be considered as a broad indication of the Borough Council’s ability to meet its objectively assessed needs and did not represent the amount or pattern of development to be proposed through future site allocations.
Subject to the views of the Housing and Planning Scrutiny Select Committee on 6 September, it was hoped that the consultation would start on 15 September for a period of 6 weeks. Responses could be submitted via a consultation portal on the Borough Council website. However, email and postal addresses would also be provided to enable receipt of other responses including via a consultation form.
Representations received during this consultation would be reviewed and key issues identified and summarised. Feedback received would inform the next stage of the plan preparation (Regulation 19), alongside new and emerging evidence base documents.
There was detailed debate on a number of issues including the lack of infrastructure to support significant development, the availability of maps to print/download for convenience, the vulnerability of existing settlements and potential coalescing of conurbations, the lack of brownfield sites available to meet the assessed housing needs, the importance of utility and public transport companies participating in the consultation so issues could be highlighted early and the need for development to be spread across two housing market areas (Maidstone and West Kent).
Particular reference was made as to whether comments submitted as part of this consultation would be available to view. In response, Members were advised that once the consultation period had finished all comments would be reviewed and published to the website in due course. However, the exact detail of how comments would be shared was still being considered by Officers. Regard would also be given as to whether GDPR should be applied.
There was also discussion on building standards and the desire for these to reflect climate change and bio-diversity measures. The Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change advised that by 2024 there was an expectation that buildings would be CO2 neutral.
[NB: Subsequent to the meeting, Planning Officers confirmed that the Future Homes standard would come into effect from 2025 and would ensure that new homes built from this date would produce 75-80% less carbon emissions than homes delivered under the old regulations. Recently introduced Building Regulations changes confirmed that all future homes would need to be net zero ready from 2025 and not require retrofitting.]
Finally, all Parish and Town Councils were encouraged to submit responses during the consultation process so that a wide range of evidence was presented.
(The full debate could be viewed on the Borough Councils YouTube channel and starts at 38 minutes.)