Category Archives: Neighbourhood Plan

Let’s talk about the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan

Neighbourhood Plan judicial review will go ahead

The owners of Swan Quay have been granted permission for judicial review of the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan. They had applied for permission on three legal grounds, two of which were rejected. But one was allowed to go forward to judicial review: that the examiner and Swale Borough Council acted ultra vires (ie, beyond what they are legally allowed to do) in making the modifications which the examiner said were necessary to meet the basic conditions for neighbourhood plans.

Assuming that Swale Borough Council intends to defend its case, which it has previously said it would do, both sides have up to 35 days in which to prepare their submissions. The judicial review should then take place within 10 weeks. So probably 3-4 months altogether.

The judicial review will not be a re-examination of the plan. A decision will be based purely on the legal process concerning the final submission and examination.

The topic is on the agenda for discussion in private session at the Faversham Town Council meeting on 19 September (7pm, Guildhall).



Neighbourhood Plan referendum delay

Swale Borough Council made the following announcement on its website on 29 July 2016:

“An application for permission to bring a Judicial Review has been received by the Council and the Council is defending the claim. The Council is of the view that a referendum on the Plan should not take place until the outcome of the Judicial Review is known.”

Swale development panel greenlights Neighbourhood Plan

Swale Borough Council’s Local Development Framework panel – the committee that deals with strategic planning – has followed the planning officers’ recommendations to accept the independent examiner’s modifications to the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan, and allow the modified plan to go to referendum.

The provisional date for the referendum is 20 October 2016.

It was reported that counsel for the owners of Swan Quay had submitted a legal opinion that the examiner’s comments on this site were beyond his remit and unlawful. However, counsel for the Council disagreed.

Cllr. Mulhern – the only Faversham member on the panel – said he had “concerns” about Swan Quay, but voted with the others to allow the plan to go forward.

Creek Trust and BCA welcome the Neighbourhood Plan examiner’s report

The Faversham Creek Trust and the Brents Community Association, which made a joint submission to the Neighbourhood Plan examination process, have issued a joint statement on their response to the Independent Examiner’s report:


The Faversham Creek Trust and the Brents Community Association welcome the Independent Examiner’s report on the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan.

The Examiner, Mr Timothy Jones, clearly listened carefully and objectively to all sides, and took time to study the Creekside area at all states of the tide, in order to understand it. While he has not accepted all the changes we had put forward, on the whole we believe he has been fair to everyone. We consider that the changes he has recommended will enable the plan to be seen as a defining document for Faversham’s future, in particular by requiring greater attention to the archaeological importance of the Creek and robust protection of existing important buildings, waterside features and employment opportunities.

Sue Akhurst, Chairman of the Faversham Creek Trust, said: “It was especially useful to have the Neighbourhood Plan set in the context of the strategic policies B1 and AAP2 of the adopted Swale Local Plan 2008, which focus on employment and protection of the maritime character of the Creek – for which we had consistently argued during the development of the plan. And of course we are pleased with the Examiner’s recognition of the work being carried out by the Trust at the Purifier Building.”

For the Brents Community Association, Chairman Mike Palmer said: “Working as we do to improve job opportunities for local unemployed people, we are encouraged by the importance the Examiner placed on employment uses. We also appreciate his comments on the Purifier Building, which we have used on our employment courses and where many local residents have worked as volunteers, and his recommendations for Swan Quay, which will help to protect the character of our local area.“

Our two organisations would like to thank the many people who have contributed to our efforts to present alternative ideas for the potential development of the Faversham Creek area, including Dr Pat Reid, Ray Harrison, the Faversham Society, Historic England – and the many hundreds of people from Faversham and further afield who have contributed to the consultations and the debate, and who have given their time and money towards the new Swing Bridge, which is such a vital part of regenerating Faversham Creek.

We welcome the Examiner’s recommendation that, subject to the incorporation of all his amendments, the plan may go to referendum with the whole of Faversham being given a vote. We trust that Faversham Town Council and Swale Borough Council will agree to incorporate all the required changes so that the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan may be brought to referendum without delay.

Swale councillors to consider Neighbourhood Plan on 19 May

Swale Borough Council’s Local Development Framework Panel – which is where strategic planning decisions are made – will be asked on 19 May to approve the Independent Examiner’s recommendations so that the plan can go to referendum. The planning officers’ report to the panel says:

‘Unless Swale BC amends the draft Plan in order to reflect the Examiner’s recommendations, the Plan would not meet the ‘basic conditions’ and the legal requirements and could not proceed to referendum.

‘Swale BC, as the local planning authority, must now consider whether to accept the Examiner’s recommendations. Officers are content with the modifications suggested, and agree with the Examiner that they make the Neighbourhood Plan acceptable in terms of meeting the basic conditions and the statutory requirements. As set out earlier, if Swale BC do not accept these modifications, the Plan cannot proceed to referendum.’

If the panel accepts the recommendations, the referendum would be held in September/October (on the grounds that it should not clash with the EU referendum, and after that it would run into school holidays, which would be best avoided).

The planning officers’ report can be seen here, starting on page 4.

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.

‘Minor’ modifications to Neighbourhood Plan

The modifications to the Neighbourhood Plan which have been proposed in order to satisfy the concerns of English Heritage can be seen here.

With 12 pages of closely-typed amendments to 33 pages of the original plan, describing these as minor modifications does seem to be stretching the language a bit.

The first modification says “All sites allocated for development have been assessed initially through the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment 2011 conducted by Swale Borough Council, and the Strategic Environmental Assessment [date] prepared for the plan by Swale Borough Council.” This is a little mystifying, since no Strategic Environment Assessment has ever been seen, despite repeated requests for it – if it exists – to be made public.

An accompanying email says “Without prejudice to comments that Historic England might wish to make on individual development proposals that may come forward under the Neighbourhood Plan, I am happy to confirm that subject to the modifications being accepted the revised Neighbourhood Plan would address the concerns raised in our response to the consultation on the submission version of the plan dated 18th December 2014. As such, we would be happy to confirm that within the areas of interest to Historic England the plan would meet the basic conditions and would receive the support of Historic England.”

It should be noted that this does not necessarily mean that the plan would meet the basic conditions in any other respect.