February 2021 Newsletter from Ward Councillors Alastair Gould and Tim Valentine
A public consultation on the Local Plan Review has now started and will run until 23rd March. The Local Plan is an important document that sets plans for development in the borough until 2038. Significant development in this area is proposed.
The number of houses that the plan is required to deliver (1038 per year), is set by central government. Without this number being met, the plan will be rejected by the inspector.
This level of building will inevitably risk problems with traffic congestion, air quality, use of farming land and many other issues. The plan process is about choosing locations and developing planning policies which minimise those impacts over the whole borough.
The process of making a choice will automatically mean that there is greater impact on some areas than others and involve compromises over which policy is given more importance.
If the Council does not produce a plan, then any control it has over development is greatly weakened. Even if permission is rejected by the Swale planning committee, the absence of a plan makes appeals likely to succeed. Furthermore, the policies the council would like to apply will be less likely to form one of the conditions for permission granted.
The process the council has gone through, and an evaluation of the choices made, is set out in the sustainability appraisal which accompanies the plan. All of the documents and details of how to respond to the consultation are available here: https://swale.gov.uk/planning-and-regeneration/local-plans/local-plan-review/public-consultation#h2
We have already introduced a planning condition requiring greater energy efficiency of homes when possible. The local plan will enable this condition to be imposed for all development and will bring significant improvements to other key issues, such as affordable housing and sustainable transport. It is principally to safeguard these policies that Alastair Gould is supporting the plan. Although he would much prefer a greatly reduced number of houses, that is not an option. In short, if we want to have any control over what happens, then some uncomfortable choices must be made.
Similarly, Tim Valentine supports the policies on energy efficiency, affordable homes, biodiversity net gain and active travel. However, he is not convinced that the allocation of new development sites is optimal or fairly distributed across the borough: 54% of all allocated housing is at Faversham. The sustainability appraisal was only published a few days before the decision was taken to put the plan out to public consultation. Furthermore, the short, adversarial style of debate in council committees is not well suited to consider adequately such a complicated plan. Tim is concerned about the sheer scale of development east of Faversham, plans to build in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Neames Forstal and the impact of housing and a bypass at Teynham. Tim was removed from his post as Cabinet Member for Environment by the Labour leader of the coalition, Cllr Roger Truelove, for expressing these reservations at a Cabinet meeting.
We strongly urge you to have your say and respond to the consultation using the link above. If you don’t have access to the internet, you can find out more about the plan and respond to the consultation by phoning 01795 417014.
Alastair Gould (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tim Valentine (email@example.com) 07752 191807
Swale Borough Councillors for Boughton & Courtenay.