Local Plan Review
The Society’s Involvement
Local Plan First Review Regulation 18 Consultation
Following the email the Society sent to members on 7th August Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) published its initial scoping Regulation 18 consultation on the first of its five-yearly Reviews of its Local Plan, originally adopted in October 2017.
The Society was represented at the event held by MBC at the Great Danes Hotel to publicise this consultation and to ask Parish Councils and other local organisations, such as the Society, to encourage as many residents as possible to respond, particularly with respect to infrastructure deficiencies.
This consultation comprised 8 overarching questions and 31 more detailed technical questions. However, a large number of unasked questions were identified as it appeared that the format of the questions had been designed to elicit the narrow band of answers MBC wished to hear. There was little chance to show some imagination, possibly seeking to improve the lives for existing residents, never mind those of the future. In addition it would seem that, unlike with planning applications, responses from the public would not be uploaded to the Local Plan section of MBC’s website until after the deadline of 30th September. A Society member also discovered that responding via the website was not straightforward and so devised a separate form which MBC confirmed was acceptable. We therefore strongly recommended that members send in their contributions by email rather than online.
Members were asked to address one or more of the following topics, whichever were of most concern to them
Transport – Roads, parking, buses/trains (a transport hub – with a little imagination the bus station could be relocated next to Maidstone East Railway station), encourage development of a Parkway railway station, provide positive incentives for public transport, including Park & Ride schemes, not just rely on so called ‘modal shift’ to walking and cycling without providing or encouraging the means to do so.
Education – schools, social services, community centres, sports facilities
Environmental – AONB for the Greensand Ridge, Defining an area of Green Belt, nature reserves, preservation of PROWs, play areas, green areas for sitting, water, pollution, leisure areas, footpaths/walking, flooding.
Housing – affordable housing – ensure for local people, bungalows for older people wishing to downsize in their local area.
Cultural – concert hall/theatre (in addition to Hazlitt).
Town centre – prison, law courts, Powerhub, County Hall – why not produce a really imaginative scheme to redevelop these buildings for both Maidstone residents and those from further afield?
Article 4 direction – to prevent automatic conversion offices to residential without the need for planning permission or contributions to local infrastructure, which has allowed developers to produce large numbers of tiny apartments with minimal, if any, parking facilities and little real public transport
Grants – Be imaginative – apply for government grants + from big institutions
Employment – MBC should provide positive incentives to mobile and broadband companies to enable more people to work easily from home if they wish. This would reduce the number of vehicles on the roads.
Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) – since these payments, which replace S106 contributions, (sums required of developers on approval of planning permission to be paid to eg. highways, schools, GP services etc.), are neither ringfenced nor guaranteed, MBC could consider reverting to the former S106 scheme, or else set up a more efficient monitoring system to ensure proper collection and use of CIL monies.
Duty to co-operate
The Society gave evidence to the Local Plan Examination in Public on this issue and feels very strongly that it was paid lip service by the Inspector, in particular with respect to the boundary of Tonbridge & Malling. This time around, MBC must provide evidence of close co-operation with, in no particular order, Tonbridge & Malling, Tunbridge Wells, Swale, Medway, Ashford, London (Mayor’s office), Highways England, Police, Fire & Rescue Service, Network Rail, DfE, NHS, DSS, cable cos., UK Power, National Grid, Southern Gas, Mid Kent Water, Southern Water, Leeds Castle Foundation.
We would emphasise the need to hold meaningful discussions with all of the above, with all meetings being properly documented, including published minutes.