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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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.