Category Archives: Development

Where the Local Plan meets the Neighbourhood Plan

The examiner’s report on the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan is still awaited, nearly five months after the close of the examination hearings – the latest word is that it will not appear until at least mid-March 2016.

However, the Inspector of the Swale Local Plan has now completed her interim findings, following the hearings held in November/December 2015. This is what she has to say about the Neighbourhood Plan and its relationship with the Local Plan:

Policy NP1: Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan

  1. Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan (NP) has been developed concurrently with the [Swale Local] Plan and was subject to examination in late 2015. As the [Swale Local] Plan is not yet adopted it does not form part of the development plan to which the NP should conform. However both documents are based on the same evidence and Plan Policy NP1 reflects agreed strategic objectives. Should the NP be made before adoption of the [Swale Local] Plan the Council proposes to update Policy NP1 if necessary to ensure consistency, through main modifications. Alternatively should the NP stall or fail at the referendum stage the criteria in Policy NP1 will provide a backup framework for considering development proposals at the Creek.
  1. Serious concerns have been raised about the designation of the area as flood zone 3a(i), particularly when it was previously designated as 3B (functional flood plain). It is argued that this change, together with the Plan’s flexible approach to potential residential development, has increased property values and made it less likely that development for employment or more traditional maritime based uses will come forward. It is argued that “hope value” prevents sites from being developed for employment uses because it is hoped that more profitable residential development will eventually be allowed.
  1. The Council has confirmed that the flood zone designation, which effectively removed built up areas from the functional floodplain, has been agreed with the Environment Agency and is compliant with the NPPF. However Policy DM21 of the [Swale Local] Plan requires all planning applications to be accompanied by site specific flood risk assessment, whilst Policy NP1 requires proposals to be acceptable in terms of flood risk. The policy also makes it clear that priority will be given to retaining maritime activities, with residential and other uses cited as “complementary”.
  1. On this basis I am satisfied that the Plan provides a sound and justified strategic background for Faversham Creek, against which the NP will provide a detailed framework for dealing with planning applications.

If Faversham Creek NP is made before adoption of the Plan, main modifications may be needed to ensure that Policy NP1 is consistent with the NP.

Your chance to comment on changes to the planning system

The government has launched a consultation on proposed changes to the planning system, which will relax planning regulations even further (or “build upon improvements already made”, depending on your point of view). The consultation is open until 26 September.

In addition to making it “easier for residents and business to come together to produce a neighbourhood plan, drawing on the experience gained from over 900 neighbourhood areas”, the government says the proposals would:

  • expand permitted development rights, further reducing red tape, supporting housing and growth; these proposals will help ensure the planning system is proportionate and full planning permission is only required where this is genuinely justified
  • improve the use of planning conditions and enable development to start more quickly on site after planning permission is granted
  • improve engagement with statutory consultees so they are consulted in a proportionate way on those developments where their input is most valuable
  • remove unnecessary bureaucracy and reduce the cost and time taken to get planning permission, by raising the environmental impact assessment screening thresholds for industrial estate and urban development projects which are located outside of defined sensitive areas
  • expand the number of non-planning consents which can be included within a development consent order,

     

Assets of community value?

Here’s a story about how a local council can use the Localism legislation to protect a community against unwelcome development – if it has a mind to do so.

The problem here was a popular local pub. A developer bought it, closed it, claimed it was unviable as a business, and has been trying to turn it into offices or housing. The upper floor was converted into a self-contained flat without planning permission, Local people mounted a challenge: they wanted it to be re-opened as a pub or sold to someone who would do so.

Using a provision within the Localism Act called “Community Right to Bid”, the local authority designated the pub as an “Asset of Community Value” (ACV). This means that, if the pub comes on the market, the community has six weeks in which to decide if it wants to make a bid, and then six months in which to raise the wherewithal.

The owner appealed against the ACV designation – and lost. The local authority is also taking enforcement action against the unauthorised change of use of the property.

Community Right to Bid legislation cannot force an owner to put a property on the market, or to sell to a preferred bidder. But it does give the community the time and the opportunity to make a bid – and it sends a strong signal that the local authority will support the community. It may even lead to a Compulsory Purchase Order.

Could this happen in Faversham’? What are our Assets of Community Value?

A development policy for Faversham creekside

Some thoughts on the future development of the Creek – agree or disagree?

As a central component to the historic development of Faversham, the creek remains an important ingredient in its unique character as well as a place of employment, leisure and tourism opportunity. It is an irreplaceable historic asset of great significance.

The area should play an important part in the strategy for the town, whilst preserving and enhancing its historic character. Central to this aim is the retention and encouragement of employment activities, the encouragement of a greater diversity of uses, and for those sites with a frontage to the creek the re-establishment and enhancement of their links and usage of the water channel itself.

House builders and homeowners have found the creekside’s industrial sites an attractive prospect, but these change the character of the area and place pressures – both financial and environmental – on the remaining businesses and vacant sites to follow suit. Such changes to the character of the creekside lead to the loss of diversity of activity and a severance in the old links between the water and waterside uses.

A large part of the area is at risk of flooding. This is a further constraint on new housing development. The creek also forms part of and flows into the Swale SPA and Ramsar Site, an important European site for birds, where significant adverse impacts will need to be avoided.

The vacant site at Ordnance Wharf in Flood Lane is within an area of the town characterised by existing or former industrial uses. Development that would not complement this established character or maintain the historic tradition of activity along the creek should not be permitted. Additionally, the site occupies a key location between the wider more open creek channel to the east and the pond to the west. Visually prominent buildings or structures on this site would visually sever the pond from the rest of the creek and would not be desirable.

As an urgent priority, securing a major user of the creek in its upper reaches will benefit the creek as a whole, and provide an economic and tourism impetus to the wider regeneration of the creek and town.

At Standard Quay the priorities are: safeguarding this historically outstanding enclave of water-related and business activity; encouraging commercial uses that continue to sensitively occupy historic buildings; and promoting new employment uses to occupy appropriate sites, such as that allocated at Standard House. Ensuring that traditional and other vessels continue to have access to the creekside, and that the facilities and services essential to their upkeep are maintained here, is essential.

We didn’t write any of that. It’s taken directly from the Swale Borough Local Plan 2008, describing the council’s policy for Faversham creekside. This document states that:

“The Council considers that levels of new housing have reached the point where further proposals will damage the area and it will now resist them as both contrary to the strategy for the Local Plan and the policy for this AAP. Frontage development not involving active use or management of the creek itself, or that which prevents use of the creek by vessels, should not be permitted.”

“Before considering whether a development proposal can technically overcome the flood risk on the site, the Council will need to be satisfied first that the planning area’s housing land supply cannot be met on sites that are at lesser risk.”

“The Council will look to support proposals to expand and diversify businesses that will enable them to maintain a presence within the town … Where sites may be considered unsuitable for their current or former use, it will normally be the case that an alternative commercial use will be sought by the Council, rather than the site being accepted for housing development.”

“The basin should be used for the mooring, maintenance and use of historic craft for employment/ tourism purposes. These would be focused around land and buildings at Ordnance Wharf, the Purifier building, and the BMM Weston car park (where open space and environmental enhancement should be additionally considered around a retained car park), but could extend onto other wharfage. Housing development would prejudice these proposals and should not be permitted.”

At Standard Quay: “Residential development should not be permitted as it is likely to harm the historic interest of this area, both in terms of the existing buildings, and as a place of commercial activity.”

Why did the Council not follow its own policy? Who made the decision and on what grounds? Who was consulted?