The report of the Director of Planning, Housing and Environmental Health provided an update on progress towards completing the Local Plan evidence base and set out proposals and arrangements for the Local Plan Regulation 18 public consultations to commence in September together with emerging development strategies.
Consideration was given to the draft document comprising the Regulation 18 consultations and entitled “The Local Plan – The Way Forward” which would form the focus of the public consultation. It was noted that it would be refined and updated if necessary by evidence yet to be completed prior to seeking the approval of the Cabinet on 6 September 2016. Two supporting documents relating to Sustainability Appraisal and Habitat Regulations Assessment were appended to the report and would also be subject to public consultation.
Considerable discussion ensued with Members complimenting the officers on the quality of the document while requesting its simplification for the purposes of the public consultation and suggesting some changes to the format including creation of an executive summary at the front of the document, provision of clear, large scale maps, definition of who the consultation was aimed at and explanation of such terms as “sustainability” and “sensitivity testing”.
Members commented and sought information and clarification on a range of issues including provision of affordable houses for rent, housing for older people, densities and implications for infrastructure. Reference was also made to extension of the Green Belt, maintenance of a “strategic gap” between Tonbridge and Malling and Maidstone and buffer zones around settlements. It was acknowledged that presentation of the updated strategic land availability with colour coding would assist residents in making choices about sites.
An information report circulated at the meeting summarised comments received from a group of parish councils on sites within Borough Green and vicinity. It was noted that these would be considered by the Borough Council when the public consultation had taken place. Some Local Members requested the deletion of reference to the Borough Green and Platt by-pass from the Local Plan document since there was support for the east facing slip roads at the M25 junction 5 as a preferred solution. Officers advised against elimination at this stage on the grounds that the infrastructure in that part of the Borough should be tested and addressed as part of the public consultation.
Members queried the opportunities to see the revised document before it was formally approved by the Cabinet. In order to adhere to the timescale for preparation of the Local Plan, the Leader suggested that a supplementary report be presented to the Cabinet on 6 September reflecting the discussions of the Advisory Board and any Members would be invited to make comments as appropriate.
(1) the progress in respect of the preparation of the Local Plan evidence base and the proposed next steps including the Regulation 18 public consultations be noted; and
(2) the documents appended to the report be approved as the basis for that consultation subject to presentation of a supplementary report to the Cabinet in the light of the discussions at the Advisory Board meeting.
*Referred to Cabinet