Local Plan to 2030 - Publication Draft

2 Introduction

2.1 This Local Plan establishes a policy and delivery framework that provides clear and firm guidance to ensure that the Council's aims for the Borough are achieved where they relate to issues of planning and land use. It covers the period between 2011 to 2030.  The policies included within this Plan are consistent with the Council’s Corporate Strategy, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and National Planning Policy Guidance (PPG) and in being so go to the heart of what sustainable development is and how good place making can be achieved. They also form the strategic context within which any neighbourhood plan should operate.

2.2 This Local Plan covers the whole borough, except for the area covered by the Chilmington Green Area Action Plan, as shown on the Policies Map (http://www.ashford.gov.uk/policies-proposals-map). Development proposals coming forward within the area covered by this Local Plan will be expected to adhere to the policies set out, as once adopted they will carry significant planning weight when it comes to the determination of planning applications. The Local Plan 2030 should be read and interpreted as a whole.

2.3 To be clear, this Local Plan supersedes the following:

  • the saved policies within the Ashford Borough Local Plan 2000
  • Ashford Core Strategy 2008
  • Ashford Town Centre Area Action Plan 2010
  • The Tenterden and Rural Sites Development Plan Document  2010
  • The Urban Sites and Infrastructure Development Plan Document 2012

2.4 Once adopted, the Council’s statutory development plan will consist of this Local Plan, the Chilmington Green Area Action Plan (2013) and any adopted neighbourhood plans. 

Duty to co-operate

2.5 In preparing this Local Plan, the Council has sought to fully co-operate with neighbouring authorities and other relevant bodies to ensure that strategic cross-boundary issues have been addressed and that the Plan is deliverable. The approach to the ‘duty’ is set out in more detail in the ‘Duty to Co-operate’ Statement which forms part of the evidence base for this Local Plan. This process has been assisted through a memorandum of understanding between ourselves and all of the East Kent districts (Thanet, Dover, Shepway and Canterbury) which has meant that any cross-boundary strategic issues have been dealt with in an open and transparent way. This has assisted not only the formulation of this Local Plan but also the evolution of each of the district's respective Local Plans. Given the Borough's central location within Kent, the Council's West Kent neighbours have also been thoroughly consulted at key stages of plan preparation to ensure the 'duty' has been adhered to fully.

Consultation

2.6 Significant engagement and consultation has been carried out in the development of this Plan and its supporting evidence. This has included engagement with key stakeholders and public sector partners, responsible for delivering a range of services and infrastructure. The Plan has also been subject to extensive public consultation, from the 'Plan it' exercises in 2013 to formal consultation throughout its evolution, including with Ward Members and Parish Councils on potential site allocations. Where appropriate, comments from the public have directly helped and shaped the contents of this plan and it should be viewed as a document that has had significant public input into its evolution.

Policies Map

2.7 This Local Plan is supported by an interactive Policies Map which applies the relevant policies to the applicable spatial area within the borough. This includes showing the extent of the Borough's two AONBs, its many ecological conservation and open space areas and proposed development site allocations. This interactive map will be updated after the adoption of the Local Plan to ensure that it remains up to date (for example if new areas of open space are designated after adoption).

Neighbourhood Plans

2.8 This Local Plan will set out the strategic context within which any neighbourhood plan will operate. They must comply with national policy, with EU obligations and human rights requirements and with the strategic policies of the local development plan. Currently the Borough has seven designated neighbourhood areas at Wye, Rolvenden, Bethersden, Boughton Aluph and Eastwell, Pluckley, Hothfield and Charing. The Neighbourhood Plans for these are at various stages in their evolution, with Wye being the furthest forward having passed examination and with a referendum to take place later this year. Where Neighbourhood Plan Areas had been established early on in the preparation of this Local Plan, proposals to allocate sites within these areas fall to the neighbourhood plan, where they are non-strategic in nature. Hothfield and Charing are more recent designations and it has therefore been necessary for the Local Plan to consider and make site allocations within those parishes, where appropriate. That should not exclude those parishes from considering alternative proposals for addressing the equivalent (or greater) amount of development through their Neighbourhood Plans.

2.9 The Borough Council intends to work closely with those parishes producing Neighbourhood Plans to ensure that such Plans are consistent with both government planning policy and emerging policies contained within this Local Plan in order that they may pass the 'basic conditions' test that Neighbourhood Plans are subject to at their examination stage.   

Key evidence

2.10 The Local Plan 2030 has been influenced by a range of evidence which are background documents to the Plan itself. A full list of the evidence base is included at Appendix 2. The key evidence that supports this Plan is summarised below:

The Corporate Plan (2015)

2.11 This document sets out the Council's vision for the Borough up to 2020 and how the Council intends to realise that vision. It established the following 4 priorities: 

Priority 1: Enterprising Ashford: economic investment and growth: To promote growth and achieve greater economic prosperity for Ashford borough. We will work to secure inward investment to create a wide range of jobs carried out by a highly skilled workforce.

Priority 2: Living Ashford: quality housing and homes for all: To secure quality homes across the borough, catering for a range of ages, tenures and need, in well planned and attractive new places.

Priority 3: Active and creative Ashford: healthy choices through physical, cultural and leisure engagement: To provide or enable a range of quality leisure and cultural activities where people can make healthy and affordable lifestyle choices and enjoy assets that create attractive, desirable and active communities.

Priority 4: Attractive Ashford: countryside and townscape, tourism and heritage: To achieve an environment that creates higher standards of public space design, alongside improved standards of presentation of key green spaces. To safeguard and conserve our local heritage and areas of outstanding landscape quality to ensure the very best attractive environment with thriving and vibrant town centres

Sustainability Appraisal and Strategic Environment Assessment

An appraisal of the economic, environmental and social impacts of the Local Plan, prepared from the outset of the preparation of the process. The approach and policies listed in this Local Plan have been appraised to ensure that the accord with the principles and objectives identified within the sustainability appraisal. This has included assessment of options in terms of the levels of development proposed, the strategic distribution of development and specific site allocations. The Environmental Report demonstrates that the approach set out in this Plan is the most sustainable options, when considered against the reasonable alternatives.

Habitats Regulations Assessment 2016 (HRA)

This Plan has been subject to a Habitats Regulations Assessment which has examined all the  policies of this Plan in order to ascertain whether they are likely to have a significant, adverse, effect  on the integrity of European Sites, protected under international law for their wildlife and/or landscape importance, both within, and in vicinity of, the Borough. 

Strategic Employment Options Report 2012 (SEOR)

2.12 This SEOR considers and sets out a number of potential scenarios for economic growth in Ashford Borough to 2030. It forms the evidence base that informs the setting of the jobs target within this Plan.

Strategic Housing Market Assessment 2014 & 2015 (SHMA) 

2.13 The purpose of the SHMA is to develop a robust understanding of housing market dynamics, to provide an assessment of future needs for both market and affordable housing and the housing requirements of different groups within the population. The SHMA covers Ashford's Housing Market Area and deals with the specific needs of the Ashford HMA. It provides a 'policy-off' assessment of future housing requirements, considering housing need and demand and also provides specific evidence and analysis of need and demand of different sizes of homes.

Strategic Housing and Employment Availability Assessment 2016 (SHELAA)

2.14 The SHELAA 2016 identifies and assesses the potential availability of land for new development in Ashford. It assesses the individual and combined potential capacity of sites that are considered to be deliverable or developable for housing and economic development over the plan period. This results in the identification of a future supply of land in the borough that may be suitable and available for development.

Employment Land Review 2016 (ELR)

2.15 The ELR assesses the Borough's employment sites with regard to their suitability and market attractiveness and their development potential and capacity. It analyses the current provision of employment land and sites in the Borough and potential sites which have been considered for allocation.

Whole Plan Viability

2.16 In line with the requirements of the NPPF, this Local Plan is supported by whole plan viability evidence which has tested the policies which have a direct and additional 'cost' to the development industry to ensure that the policy framework set out - at the macro level - can be delivered in a viable way and can achieve a reasonable return. In doing so, the strategic policies and approach as set out in this Local Plan can be considered viable within a whole plan viability context and therefore promotes a 'sound' planning approach.

2.17 This evidence has explored a range of factors and layers of evidence including, the level of S106 contributions the Council has historically collected, and which are likely to be collected in the future, the additional and assumed costs to the industry arising from new policy areas, the scale and type of infrastructure needed to support and mitigate new development and the land values and returns to the industry in various spatial areas within the Borough.

2.18 The outputs of this work has clearly shaped the policies in this Plan, in particular the affordable housing policy. 

Infrastructure Delivery Plan (2016)

2.19 This iterative document sets out the infrastructure that is required to be delivered to support the planned development up to 2030. It has been informed by discussion with key providers and identifies (where known) how and when this infrastructure might be delivered and to what extent new development is directly reliant on its delivery as a means of prioritising the required infrastructure.   

Working in partnership

2.20 The Council accepts that partnership working and co-operation is essential to deliver the vision and the future aspirations set out above. The following lists out the key arrangements that are in place to promote joint working:

South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP)

2.21 The SELEP is the key body determining strategic economic prioritises and investments for the area which includes East Sussex, Essex, Kent, Medway, Southend and Thurrock. The Borough has already benefited from significant funding for projects through the SELEP Growth Plan and Local Growth Fund, including major contributions towards Junction 10a, Chart Road and Ashford College.

Ashford Strategic Delivery Board

2.22 Set up to support the delivery of (initially) eight priority projects which are seen as crucial to the future economic growth and prosperity of the Borough. The board comprises of Ashford Borough Council and other key public sector partners including Kent County Council, the Homes and Communities Agency, Skills Funding Agency, Arts Council England, the Highways Agency and Ashford College. The local Member of Parliament is also a Board member and the Board has a good track record in helping to get projects delivered and funded. 

Kent County Council

2.23 The Borough and County Council have already achieved a lot by working together on projects over recent years. This approach is reflected in the 'Delivery Deal' signed by both Council - a formally agreed statement of the Council’s shared commitment to work together in key areas. This is the first such agreement in Kent. A District Deal board oversees delivery of the agreed projects. .

2.24 The Delivery Deal provides the framework to focus on the delivery of the ‘big 8’ projects as well the coordinated delivery of range of services including economic development, housing, strategic planning, the environment, property and asset management, highways, transport and wastes and culture, town centre management and health and wellbeing.

Ashford Health and Wellbeing Board

2.25 A sub-committee of the Kent Health and Wellbeing Board. The aim of the board is to improve the health and wellbeing of Ashford’s residents through joined up commissioning across the National Health Service, social care, borough council, public health and other bodies relevant to the health and wellbeing sector

Formal review of the Local Plan

2.26 This Local Plan is intended to be formally reviewed by 2023 to ensure that the wider policy position is suitably up to date and the development envisaged - and supporting infrastructure - has been delivered. This period of time provides the right balance between providing enough time to allow the policy framework to be implemented by the market and to give them certainty, with the inevitable need to respond to change as time goes by. However, should circumstances dictate, such as significant undersupply of housing delivery or the non-delivery of key infrastructure (namely Junction 10a) then an earlier formal review will be undertaken.

2.27 This will ensure that the Council can provide a suitable policy base to deal with the circumstances as needed in a plan led way - a key requirement of the NPPF.