Neighbourhood Plan: what next?

The next stages in the development of the Neighbourhood Plan were discussed at the steering group meeting on September 12. Legally, a number of things have to happen: the Plan has to be drafted, there have to be two consultation periods (with possible revisions of the Plan), the final Plan has to be submitted to an independent examiner, and finally – subject to the examiner’s approval – there has to be a referendum.

In terms of content, the Plan will have to take note both of Swale Borough Council’s draft local plan (currently out for consultation until 30 September) and the existing local plan (which includes AAP2 for Faversham Creek), as well as the National Planning Policy Framework with its focus on sustainable development.

Following the resignation of the consultant Tony Fullwood, there is at present no-one to draft the Plan. Swale Borough Council is considering a number of options and hopes to have reached a decision by mid-October. It is not clear what involvement Faversham Town Council will have in this process.

The draft plan will have to include an overall vision, plus detailed policy on individual sites – some of which, it was said at the meeting, will be “challenging”. In addition to strictly planning procedures, the plan could include other measures to meet the broader objectives, such as ways of encouraging the development of maritime industry.

After the last steering group meeting, landowners were contacted about the results of the June consultation, but so far there had been only one meeting, re the Swan Quay / Frank and Whittome site. Anne Salmon noted that the latter was fairly uncontroversial, but with Swan Quay there were a number of issues [the landowners’ plans were for four-storey buildings, as shown at the June exhibition, but the public feedback was for low-rise and retention of existing buildings]. The landowners had proposed a public walkway not on the quayside, but on a moored pontoon in front of the buildings, which raised a raft of practical problems.

Further discussions were planned with other landowners. It was agreed that a site-by-site list of planning use classes should be drawn up now, regardless of whether and when a new planning consultant will be appointed. There was emphasis on the importance of the “vision”, described as having been agreed by the steering group and developed through public consultation [it is derived from the vision statement in the Urban Initiatives report of 2008].

Brenda Chester asked how the draft would reflect the views of the public. It was stated that it was important that it should do so, but if this was not possible on planning grounds, a clear explanation would be provided.

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