Development plan findings
Fears over housing and industry
THE needs of the whole borough, not just those of lobbyists, must be considered – that was how councillorsresponded to results of a two-month consultation on how Swale should develop in the next two decades.
Councillors revealed that objections to possible expansion at Kent Science Park and where houses should be built made up a considerable chunk of the 1,844 responses to Swale Council’s consultation to guide its core strategy document, which decides what can be built where for the next 20 years.
The results, which council officers described as “fairly typical”, were presented to the council’s local development framework panel at Swale House.
Councillor Roger Truelove said that while the number of responses was significant, he felt they might not be representative of the feeling across the borough. He added: “We do not want to be overwhelmed. There was a lot of lobbying going on.
And councillor Andrew Bowles said: “As 47 members we should represent the whole of this borough, rather than cower to one of two pressure groups.”
The consultation, dubbed Pick Your Own, put forward four possible options for Swale’s development over the next 20 years.
Although no consensus on one option was reached, residents, who made up nearly three-quarters of the respondents, were broadly supportive of the first two options, which suggested less housing and less growth of employment land.
Developers favoured the latter two options, which encouraged growth in housing and employment, with option four leading to up to 18,500 new homes.
“Elements of consensus” appeared in favour of developing larger towns and villages.
After noting the results of the consultation, the councillors were asked by officers to give some direction on a number of issues it raised, in order for them to draw up the policy based on a preferred option.
The preferred option, described as 90 per cent what the final policy could look like, will be drafted at the end of the year and put out again to public consultation. It is expected to be sent to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to be ratified next autumn.
Of the issues discussed, councillors felt it was necessary to protect the countryside, but that too many categories could create a tangle.
Strategic gaps, used to separate communities so that there remains a distinction between two places, were more controversial. Councillors Pat Sandle and Roger Truelove argued that the gaps needed protection, to stop development encroaching into rural areas.