Cllr Monique Bonney raises important questions at Full Council meeting

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14 Oct 2010

Question 1 asked by Cllr Bonney

In Bapchild the Stones Farm site is designated as an important local countryside gap (Policy C5) and a primary condition of developing this site is that just under half of it (15ha) is set aside as a countryside gap in perpetuity.

It appears that this policy has been undermined by the Council whom are proposing to create a legal framework via S106 to reduce the countryside gap if the NRR is routed through the site.

Does the council have an alternative meaning for perpetuity; how does the Council explain the conflict been the proposed s106 with their own Local Plan (Policy C5), and is it lawful?



The Borough Council has sent out approximately 1000 letters to local residents (and statutory bodies) advising that a development brief for Stones Farm has been published for a period of public consultation, ending 15 October 2010. All of the responses from the consultation period and any proposed changes to the development brief will be considered together at the Local Development Framework Panel of 25 November. These comments are therefore confined to factual responses to your questions and cannot reflect the final reporting or outcome of any decisions in November.

I would like to stress that the site does not yet have a planning permission. The purpose of this development brief is to provide detail on how the Council expects the land allocation in Policy H5 of the Swale Borough Local Plan (2008) to be implemented. The development brief provides guidance on what information developers will need to take into account in preparing their planning applications and sets out background details on issues/expectations for the benefit of potential developers and local residents alike. The key issues arising out of the consultation comments received to date relate to housing targets (following the abolition of the South East Plan), the relationship with the Sittingbourne Northern Relief Road and its associated link to the A2 at Bapchild (as portrayed in the recent KCC consultation) and the provision of a country park/public open space as a countryside gap between Sittingbourne and Bapchild.

1. Housing targets
Land is allocated at Stones Farm in the 2008 Swale Borough Local Plan for approximately 600 dwellings (policy H10) and 15ha of public open space (policy C5). The principle of these allocations is therefore not at issue as the Local Plan has been adopted and re-confirmed as the local development plan by the Secretary of State's instruction above. The Local Plan (in accordance with the Local Plan Inspector's binding report) does not require that development at Stones Farm should be dependant on the prior provision of the Bapchild section of the SNRR.

2. Relationship of Stones Farm with SNRR
Details of the Kent County Council consultation on the remaining section of the Sittingbourne Northern Relief Road (SNRR) were reported to the Council's Local Development Framework Panel in June this year. While the SNRR and Stones Farm development are geographically associated, it should be noted that development at Stones Farm is likely to take place over the next 10-15 years, whereas the relief road is unlikely to come forward until the Stones Farm development is well underway, at the earliest. Accordingly, it is not for the Stones Farm development brief to seek to resolve issues surrounding the SNRR. None of the various routes put forward by KCC for the SNRR or its link road affect the developable part of Stones Farm. Furthermore, the development of the site is not dependent on the prior provision of the relief road (as confirmed by the Local Plan Inspector), although the developer will be required to submit a TransportAssessment and Travel Plan, detailing travel movements and potential mitigation measures, at planning application stage

In essence, the Borough Council supports the principle of completing the SNRR, but considers that further work is required on route options and their assessment. It has not committed itself to favouring any route at this time.

3. Public Open Space
Policy C5 of the Local Plan allocates 15ha of land adjoining the Stones Farm housing allocation to be retained in perpetuity. In addition to this 15ha of land the development brief explains how the proposed housing at Stones Farm will be screened by a landscape buffer 10-15m wide. This buffer lies within the area of land allocated for housing, but will be read in the landscape as part of the land allocated for public open space, so the resultant land available as public open space will be in excess of 15ha.

The final section of the SNRR (and its link road) will almost certainly not be built in the next 10 years, and potentially may never be built in the exact location shown on the drawings recently subject to KCC consultation. Accordingly, the Stones Farm developer will be required to provide 15ha of public open space/country gap as set out in the Local Plan and draft development brief. Without prejudice to KCC's position it would be premature to rule out any possibility that the link road section of the SNRR may pass through this 15ha of land, but this is clearly a matter for KCC to resolve. In the event that it becomes apparent that part of this land will need to be set aside for the SNRR and/or its link road, then KCC will need to execute this work as a separate exercise and follow the appropriate procedures. At this time it will be within the Borough Council's remit to seek to negotiate to ensure that compensatory land be made available to top up any resultant shortfall in useable public open space.

Question 2 asked by Cllr Bonney

Is the Council continuing to use the SE Plan housing numbers; if so why?


Eric Pickles MP announced the revocation of Regional Spatial Strategies with immediate effect on 6 July 2010. Chief Planning Officers were advised in Mr Pickles’ letter that adopted local plans will continue to provide the statutory planning framework for the time being. Identification of a five year supply of deliverable housing land is also still required. New development plans will still be required to identify sufficient sites and areas for development to deliver housing ambitions for 15 years from the date they are adopted.

The Borough Council is shortly to publish an issues and options consultation document for the Core Strategy, which will look forward to 2031. This will be the appropriate time for the Borough Council to decide what housing targets should come forward for the future. Without prejudicing the outcome of the development options for the core strategy, it is likely that more rather than less housing will be needed to boost regeneration across the Borough and simply to meet need arising from local population projections.