Main Changes to Local Plan 2030

Policy SP7 - Separation of Settlements (MC85)

Policy SP7 - Separation of Settlements

(This Policy and supporting text will be inserted after SP6, within the Strategic Policies Section)

The separate and distinctive identity of individual settlements forms part of the particular character of much of the borough, helps to define communities and is an important feature in maintaining the quality and attractiveness of the borough for residents and visitors alike.

As Ashford town in particular has grown in recent years, some of the open space between the edge of the town and the closest surrounding villages has been eroded. In some locations, such as at Park Farm, specific features such as the buffer zone with Kingsnorth village have been implemented. But as pressure for additional growth to the south of Ashford continues (which is reflected in the proposed allocations in this Local Plan), the need for such protective features is likely to increase with more settlements potentially affected.

The Council is concerned that unplanned erosion of countryside between built up areas would have a serious and significant adverse impact on the character and individual identity of villages through loss of their setting or, more seriously, through coalescence. This could occur in a variety of locations across the borough, for example by the large scale expansion of villages to encompass nearby hamlets; through progressive ‘ribbon’ or linear development along roads that joins up settlements, or through the expansion of Ashford itself.

In judging whether a proposal would adversely affect the individuality and character of a settlement, the distance between settlements is only one factor to consider. The topography of the area can create visual separation even if gaps between settlements are relatively narrow. Existing woodland and other natural features may also contribute to visual and functional separation but artificial or managed landscaped buffers are unlikely to be a suitable substitute where a gap is narrow. The historic integrity of the settlement and its setting will also be a significant factor in assessing proposals that would otherwise coalesce or join together settlements.

Coalescence can occur not just as a result of further residential or commercial development but also as a result of other minor development related to activities such as agriculture, recreation or the keeping of horses. Proposals for development in areas at risk of coalescence will be considered with particular regard to siting, design, external appearance and the cumulative effect of any changes taking place.

Sporting or recreational uses that utilise open spaces between settlements may help to provide a functional open gap between settlements that helps to retain their individual character and identity. In these circumstances, proposals for such uses may be acceptable provided that any associated built development is minimised in number and scale, located appropriately and designed to a high standard without undermining the principal aim of the policy.

POLICY SP7 - Separation of Settlements

Proposals for built development on non-allocated sites outside the built up confines of settlements shall be permitted only where its impact, individually or cumulatively, would not result in the coalescence or merging of two (or more) separate settlements, or the significant erosion of a gap between settlements resulting in the loss of individual identity or character.

Proposals for outdoor sports and recreational uses will be permitted subject to there being no overriding conflict with other policies and the wider objectives of the Plan. Any related built development should be kept to the minimum necessary to enable the functioning of the associated use, be sensitively located and of a high quality design.