Local Plan to 2030 - Publication Draft

5 TOPIC POLICIES

SECTION A - HOUSING

Affordable Housing

5.1 The National Planning Policy Framework requires local planning authorities to ensure that Local Plans meet the full, objectively assessed need for market and affordable housing in the housing market area. Where there is an identified need for affordable housing, policies must be set to meet this need on site or where robustly justified through an off-site contribution of broadly equivalent value. The NPPF states that such policies should be sufficiently flexible to take account of changing market conditions over time.

5.2 The Council’s 2014 Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) establishes that around 50% of all future houses delivered in the borough should be affordable, in order to meet our ‘full’ objectively assessed housing needs. However it also states that this figure is unlikely to be delivered on the ground, mainly due to the housing market’s inability to deliver it.

5.3 This conclusion is supported by whole plan viability testing that has been carried out in support of this Local Plan, which tested various levels of affordable housing requirements, including different thresholds and tenure mixes. The policy has been set at a level which is considered deliverable in terms of viability, when tested alongside all of the other policies set out in this Local Plan, balanced against the need to maximise potential affordable housing delivery to meet the identified need.

5.4 Affordable Housing for the purposes of this policy includes affordable/social rent, shared ownership, and starter homes.

5.5 Starter home provision within this policy has been set in line with the government’s current consultation on the implementation of the national starter homes policy. It is therefore proposed that starter homes will be required at a level of 20% on sites of 10 units or more (and 0.5 hectares or more), across the Borough. In order to align with this, it is proposed that the threshold for all affordable housing requirements is set at the same thresholds.

5.6 The viability evidence demonstrates significant variation in the viability of residential development across the Borough, which is mainly due to variations in sales values. The requirements for affordable housing have therefore been set at different levels across the value areas of the Borough in order to ensure development is viable and can be delivered. These areas are shown on the Map 6.

5.7 Ashford Town area covers the wards of Victoria, Aylesford Green, South Willesborough, Norman, Beaver and Stanhope. The viability evidence shows that developments in this area can only meet the minimum requirement for starter homes provision at 20% with no other affordable housing provision. As an exception to this, higher density flatted development is not viable at this level of starter home provision, and it is therefore proposed that such development will not be required to provide any affordable housing.

5.8 Ashford Hinterlands area covers the wards of Godinton, Bockhanger, Stour, Bybrook, Little Burton Farm, Kennington, North Willesborough, Highfield, Park Farm North, Park Farm South, Singleton South, Washford, Great Chart with Singleton North, the southern area of Bougton Aluph and Eastwell, the northern part of Weald South and the eastern area of Weald East. In this area, development can support up to 30% affordable housing, with 2/3 of this provided as starter homes, and 1/3 split evenly between affordable/social rent and shared ownership.

5.9 Rest of Borough includes the villages and rural area covering the wards of Saxon Shore, Wye, Downs North, Downs West, Charing, Weald North, Weald Central, Biddenden, Rolvenden and Tenterden West, Tenterden South, St Michaels, Tenterden North, Isle of Oxney. the northern area of Boughton Aluph and Eastwell, the western area of Weald East and the southern area of Weald South. This area has the potential to support higher levels of affordable housing, and it is proposed that development within this area will provide a minimum of 40% affordable housing, half of which will be starter homes, and half to be split evenly between affordable/social rent and shared ownership.

5.10 In line with national policy, the provision of affordable housing will normally be expected to be provided on-site. Where this is not possible, specific justification will need to be provided.

5.11 The Council has in the past adopted a flexible approach in relation to affordable housing requirements, and where the viability evidence has supported it, accepted reduced levels of affordable housing on a site by site basis. Given that this Plan has been subject to much more stringent viability testing than previous ones, and the policy has been framed from this evidence, it is expected that the number of applications where viability issues are identified should significantly reduce, and it will certainly not be expected as the norm.

5.12 Site specific circumstances will need to be clearly set out in any case being put forward. This will not include where land has been purchased speculatively above realistic threshold land values.

5.13 Whilst the viability testing has considered impacts of changing market conditions, it is impossible to predict what may happen within the housing market in the future. Should market conditions shift dramatically from those assumed within the viability assessment, flexibility in provision of affordable housing will be allowed for these reasons.

5.14 Where the requirements of this policy are proposed not to be met, viability evidence will be required to be submitted in support of an application and will be rigorously tested by independent advisors, paid for by the applicant, in line with the principles set out in policy IMP2.

5.15 The government’s consultation on starter homes proposes exemptions to their provision including for specialist accommodation such as residential care homes; estate regeneration and other affordable housing led developments (for example rural exception sites); student housing; and potentially custom build developments. In addition the consultation proposes potential provision of off-site commuted sums in lieu of on-site provision for private rented sector development and older people’s housing (with no additional support required).

5.16 The following policy seeks to maximise the provision of affordable housing to meet identified needs, taking into account the government’s proposals for a national starter homes policy, whilst ensuring the requirements do not put the delivery of the Local Plan at risk as a whole.

 

Policy HOU1 - Affordable Housing

The Council will require the provision of affordable housing on all schemes promoting 10 dwellings or more (and on sites of 0.5 hectares or more), with provision being not less than the area specific requirements set out in the following table:

Area

 Total affordable housing requirements

(% of total dwellings)

 Starter Homes requirements

(% of total dwellings)

Affordable/Social Rented Requirement

(% of total dwellings) 

Shared Ownership requirements

(% of total dwellings) 

Ashford Town*  20%# 20%#  0%  0%
Ashford Hinterlands*  30% 20% 5%   5%
Rest of Borough*  40% 20% 10%  10%

*These areas are defined at paragraph * of this Local Plan.

#Excluding flatted development, which will not be required to provide any form of affordable housing.

Affordable housing provision should be delivered on site, including starter homes provision. However, should independently verified viability evidence establish that some (or exceptionally all) of the non ‘starter home’ elements cannot be delivered on-site then a financial contribution to secure the equivalent provision elsewhere may be acceptable. Those sites allocated for the delivery of exclusive homes, which are of 0.5ha or greater, will be required to pay an off-site contribution in lieu of affordable provision on site. In addition to this, certain types of development as set out in government regulations on starter homes may provide an off-site contribution in lieu of on-site provision of starter homes.

All proposals are expected to meet their full affordable housing provision. However, should independently verified viability evidence establish that it is not possible to deliver the affordable housing as required by this policy - and this position is supported by the Council – then a degree of flexibility could be applied in line with the Council’s deferred contributions policy.

If a site comes forward as two or more separate schemes, of which one or more falls below the appropriate threshold, the Council will seek an appropriate level of affordable housing on each part to match in total the provision that would have been required on the site as a whole.

 

Local Needs / Specialist Housing

5.17 This policy applies to the delivery of local needs housing and specialist housing schemes. These are defined as:

5.18 Local needs housing: Subsidised ‘affordable’ housing for people who have a genuine need and local connection to the area, as per the Council’s housing procedure note.    

5.19 Specialist housing schemes: A specific type of subsidised housing accommodation (self-contained or communal) to cater for more vulnerable local residents who have a genuine need and local connection to the area. It allows certain residents to live a higher quality of life near to where they have support or are where they are familiar with their surrounding area.

5.20 Both these types of housing are normally delivered on sites that would not normally be permitted for housing development because they are subject to planning policies of restraint. Therefore a specific exception sites policy for promoting their delivery is required in the Local Plan.

5.21 The NPPF supports this position by setting out under Para 54 that LPA’s should ‘be responsive to local circumstances and plan housing development to reflect local needs, particularly for affordable housing, including through rural exception sites where appropriate……….(and) should in particular consider whether allowing some market housing would facilitate the provision of significant additional affordable housing to meet local needs.

Local needs housing

5.22 Ashford Borough Council, working with Housing Associations and Parish Councils has an excellent record of local needs housing delivery. Over 300 local needs homes have been completed since the 1990s and this has been achieved through various iterations of Local Plan policies where 100% of local needs housing is delivered on ‘exception’ sites.

5.23 In order to qualify as a local needs housing scheme, a proposal will need to meet all of the following criteria in that:

  • it meets an identified housing need in the particular parish that cater for people who have a genuine local connection, in line with the Council’s Rural Local Needs Housing Guidance Note,
  • it provides local needs housing that is appropriate in terms of its tenure, type, size and cost to meet the needs identified,
  • the local need housing element is conditioned so that subsequent occupancy of the dwelling will be controlled by a binding agreement to ensure the property remains available to meet local needs in the future and does not only benefit the first occupier.
  • has the support of the relevant Parish Council.

5.24 Proposals may provide for one or more groups of people, although it should be noted that decisions on exception sites and the specific needs to be catered for are essentially local issues and the views of the local Parish Council will be taken into consideration. The requirements of a variety of groups of people that will be considered when assessing local needs is set out under the Council’s Affordable Rural Local Needs Housing Guidance note.

5.25 The scale of any proposal for local needs housing will need to take account of:

  • what affordable housing provision is planned nearby (on sites with planning permission or sites allocated in this Local Plan, including potential future starter homes) that could play a role in meeting some of the need identified and,
  • its sustainability in planning terms with regards the impact on the character of the area, the landscape setting, the local road network and the amenity of existing residents.

Specialist housing

5.26 The Council recognises that some residents within the rural areas require specialist accommodation to enable them to live a certain quality of life and where moving away to a more urban area is not always appropriate.

5.27 Where an identified need for specialist accommodation from a Parish or a group of Parishes that share a common need for such accommodation is identified, the Council will consider the use of exception sites to bring forward carefully planned and designed schemes that meet the needs of a specific client group from within the local area. Where applicable, this could also involve specialist accommodation needs from outside the Borough boundary where there are linked with the needs from parishes within the Borough.

5.28 Such schemes could be brought forward for a range of vulnerable people. This varies from main local needs (as set out above) in that any proposals will be developed for a specific client group whose needs may require a degree of communal facilities incorporated together with the provision of self-contained accommodation.

5.29 The Council will support and encourage Parish Councils to work collectively to identify specific needs, appropriate sites and delivery partners to bring forward specialist housing to serve residents of rural communities in the Borough.

Delivery of local needs/ specialist housing

5.30 It is expected that local needs/ specialist housing schemes are delivered without any cross subsidy from the market being required. This approach has been the mainstay of the Council’s policy in the past and has not, in the large majority of cases, adversely affected the delivery of local needs housing coming forward.

5.31 However, the Council accepts that in light of the reduction in government subsidy for Registered Providers (e.g. Housing Associations) and the requirement within the NPPF to provide a flexible policy approach to assist delivery, there may be occasions where cross subsidy might be needed to bring ‘local needs’ schemes forward. In this context there are several similarities with other issues of viability referenced in this Local Plan.

5.32 Any viability case will be rigorously tested by independent advisors for the Council. Where issues of viability demonstrably exist, the Council will adopt a hierarchical approach (as set out in the policy below) with regarding the nature of any cross-subsidising market housing.

5.33 Any enabling element of a scheme that is needed should fall within two targeted sectors of the housing market – starter homes and custom/ self-build properties. The merits of these schemes, and the desire for the Council to deliver these types of properties are set out under policies HOU1 and HOU6 within the Local Plan.

5.34 Focusing on these sectors of the housing market boosts their potential delivery and also maintains an element of ‘affordability’ to the overall approach which is consistent with the overall aim of this policy, even though these particular types of houses can’t be conditioned to remain for local people in perpetuity.

5.35 Proposals which promote general market housing as a means of enabling the identified need element of a scheme will not normally be supported unless it can be demonstrated that there is an overriding planning benefit from its delivery (this includes where it is required to deliver a specialist housing scheme)* or where there is no other cross subsidy solution.

5.36 This is to avoid general market housing in the countryside in unsustainable locations – a key spatial aim of this Local Plan.

5.37 *For specialist housing schemes on exception sites where it has been demonstrated to not be viable to deliver 100% affordable housing, an element of open market sale could be incorporated in order to cross-subsidise the development as these schemes do not tend to lend themselves to starter home or custom / self-build housing. For example an extra care scheme for older people developed as a scheme with shared communal facilities and support services.

 

Policy HOU2 - Local needs / specialist housing

Planning permission will be granted for proposals for local needs / specialist housing within or adjoining rural settlements identified under policy HOU4 as ‘exceptions’ to policies restraining housing development provided that all the following criteria is met:

  1. the local need or requirement for specialist housing is clearly evidenced,
  2. the scheme has the support of the relevant Parish Council/s,
  3. the development is well designed and would not result in a significant adverse impact on the character of the area or the surrounding landscape,
  4. there would be no significant impact on the amenities of any neighbouring residential occupiers.

It is expected that all local needs/ specialist housing schemes will be delivered without the need for any cross market subsidy.

Where this is not the case a proposal will need to be supported by robust and transparent viability evidence that will be independently verified by the Council. Should a viability case be proven, the Council will accept an enabling amount of starter homes and /or custom build/ self-build plots as a means of providing the necessary subsidy to allow the identified need to be delivered, providing the proposal remains in accordance with criteria b) – d) above.

Proposals which promote general market housing as a means of enabling the identified need element of a scheme will not normally be supported unless it can be demonstrated that there is an overriding planning benefit from its delivery and that there is no other cross subsidy solution.

 

 

 

Residential Windfall Development

5.38 Residential development which comes forward on sites outside of those allocated in the Local Plan are known as housing ‘windfalls’. Historically, the Borough has had a strong tradition of delivering housing windfalls and they will contribute towards meeting our objectively assessed housing needs (see Strategic Policies chapter).

5.39 In line with the NPPF and supporting PPG, it is important that suitable redevelopment oppourtunities for housing within the built-up confines of particular settlements are allowed to come forward. The scale and quantity of housing development proposed should not be out of proportion to the size of the settlement concerned and the level of services present.

5.40 This allows for a sustainable pattern of development across the Borough and avoids the environmental, social and economic impacts that typically occur where development is proposed that is out of scale with the settlement. This approach is consistent with the strategic distribution of allocated sites, identified under policy SP2 of this Local Plan.

Residential windfalls within Ashford

5.41 Ashford is the largest settlement in the Borough and is clearly the most sustainable location, enjoying access to good transport links and a range of services, facilities and shops. Although there is currently limited available land in the urban area to develop that has not been allocated in this plan or is not already subject of a planning approval, it is likely that there will be opportunities for new development or infilling to come forward over the plan period. 

Policy HOU3 - Residential development in Ashford urban area

Windfall residential development is acceptable within the built up confines of Ashford providing that it can be easily integrated into the existing urban area and the development:

  1. Is of a scale, layout, design and appearance that is appropriate to and is compatible with the character and density of the surrounding area;
  2. Does not create an adverse significant impact on the amenity of residents;
  3. Would not result in harm to or the loss of public or private open spaces that contribute positively to the local character of the area (including residential gardens);
  4. Would not result in significant harm to the surrounding landscape; nearby heritage assets or important biodiversity networks.;
  5. Is capable of having safe lighting and pedestrian access provided without significant impact on neighbours or on the integrity of the street-scene.

Residential windfalls within rural settlements

5.42 The NPPF and PPG require that Local Planning Authorities promote sustainable development in rural areas to support the vitality of rural communities. Blanket policies restricting housing development in settlements should be avoided unless clearly supported by evidence.

5.43 New housing can enable rural communities to retain their existing services and community facilities and help to create a prosperous rural economy. However, a balance must be achieved between allowing new housing with the need to protect the character, form, heritage and attractiveness of the rural settlements themselves and the surrounding countryside.

5.44 Across the borough there are a number of settlements which play a service centre role in that they contain a number of services such as a primary school; a GP service; a community venue (such as a pub or a village hall); a shop which is able to meet a range of daily needs and a commuter-friendly bus or train service. There are also a number of settlements which are smaller and play a more 'secondary' role, yet they still have a limited number of community facilities and services. These settlements often rely on the services of the nearby primary settlements or the town of Ashford and are therefore relatively 'accessible' in a rural context. Within these settlements, appropriate small scale development is acceptable in principle.  

5.45 The Borough’s remaining rural settlements are not considered to play a service centre or secondary role on account of their small size and their lack of services and facilities (or proximity to these services/facilities). Residents of these settlements are typically reliant on the private car to meet all of their everyday needs. These settlements are considered to be countryside for the purposes of determining planning applications.

Important considerations

5.46 In order to ensure that windfall schemes are integrated properly within an existing settlement, all development proposals will need to show how they can complement the existing settlement character in terms of their layout, design, scale and appearance.

5.47 Many rural settlements include important green spaces or gaps within the built up confines that contribute to the form and attractive character of the settlement and any harm or loss of these areas should be avoided. Proposals promoting the development of residential garden land must also meet the requirements of policy HOU10 of this Local Plan.

5.48 Development proposals must also avoid causing significant harm to nearby local heritage assets and take into account environment, biodiversity and landscape considerations. Where proposals fall within or adjoining the AONB then their intrinsic landscape value will be an important material consideration.

5.49 Where proposals fall within an area that has an adopted village design statement that is supported by the Parish Council, schemes should be designed in accordance with the key principles contained within them.

5.50 Windfall residential opportunities within the rural area should focus on sites that are not in active use, particularly where those uses are contributing to the vitality of the area by providing employment or community facilities.

Settlement confines

5.51 The traditional approach taken to defining settlement confines in the Borough has been to rely on a written definition, rather than a boundary line drawn on a map. This enables a more flexible approach to assessing windfall developments, particularly given the number of settlements within the Borough and given that the confines may change over time in response to development coming forward.

5.52 This approach has been largely successful in controlling the release of sites for windfall residential development and over time the built up confines have become well established. Therefore, and for the purposes of this Plan, the confines of a settlement are defined as:

5.53 'the limits of continuous and contiguous development forming the existing built up area of the settlement, excluding any curtilage beyond the built footprint of the buildings on the site (e.g garden areas)'.

5.54 This definition may, however, include sites suitable for 'infilling' which is the completion of an otherwise substantially built-up frontage by the filling of a narrow gap, usually capable of taking one or two dwellings only.

5.55 However, it should be noted that there are opportunities for all communities through the Neighbourhood Plan process, to formally define the built confines of their settlements. Alternatively, mapping a settlement’s confines can also be achieved informally by Parish Councils through undertaking a ‘village envelope’ exercise working with the local community. On satisfactory completion of this exercise, the Borough Council will informally endorse the defined village envelope and will treat this as a material planning consideration for the purposes of determining relevant planning applications.

Policy HOU4 - Residential Development in the rural settlements

Minor residential development and infilling of a scale that can be easily integrated into the existing settlement will be acceptable within the confines of the following settlements:

Aldington, Appledore, Appledore Heath, Bethersden, Biddenden, Bilsington, Boughton Lees/Eastwell, Brabourne Lees/Smeeth, Brook, Challock, Charing, Charing Heath, Chilham, Crundale, Egerton, Egerton Forstal, Godmersham, Great Chart, Hamstreet, Hastingleigh, High Halden, Hothfield, Kenardington, Little Chart, Mersham, Molash, Newenden, Old Wives Lees, Pluckley, Pluckley Thorne, Pluckley Station, Rolvenden, Rolvenden Layne, Ruckinge, Shadoxhurst, Shottenden, Smarden, Stone in Oxney, Tenterden (including St Michaels) Warehorne, Westwell, Wittersham, Woodchurch and Wye.

Providing that the following requirements are met:

  1. The proposal adheres to the requirements (a) – (e) of policy HOU3 above;
  2. The proposal is able to be safely accessible from the local road network and the traffic generated can be accommodated on the wider road network,
  3. The proposal does not need substantial infrastructure or other facilities to support it;
  4. The proposal would not displace an active use such as employment, leisure or community facility.

Where a proposal is located within or adjoining the AONB, it will also need to demonstrate that it is justifiable within the context of their national level of protection and does not significantly undermine their intrinsic or scenic beauty.  

Housing Development Outside Settlements

Residential windfall development in the Countryside

5.56 Policies HOU3 and HOU4 – as well as the site allocations identified in this Plan - seek to control general market housing development. Combined, they provide a sound planning approach by focussing suitable levels of residential development to established settlements, providing certain important criteria are met.

5.57 However there is another aspect to residential windfall development in relation to when it is proposed in the Borough’s countryside areas - i.e all of the areas of the borough outside of the confines of Ashford and the settlements listed under policy HOU4. Here, its suitability relates to whether it is considered isolated or not, according to the requirements within the NPPF.

Non-isolated residential development in the countryside

5.58 By definition, residential development that comes forward through a site allocation within this Local Plan or is covered by policy HOU3 and HOU4 above is not isolated. In addition, there are also certain other locations within the Borough that offer opportunities for non-isolated residential development.

5.59 The NPPF is clear in its desire to promote sustainable development in general and utilise suitable brownfield opportunities where possible, all within the wider context of boosting housing supply, meeting a range of housing needs and using development as a means of improving the quality of a place and / or its setting.

5.60 Although isolated locations are not defined in the NPPF, it is clear that these criteria form the key material considerations on which to make a judgement on proposals on a case by case basis. They also form a sound planning basis in which to underpin the policy approach below.

5.61 The Council understands that any policy which proposes to release sites for residential development in the countryside must be strictly defined given the desirability of the location to the housing market and the impact over-development would have. It is certainly not the intention of this policy to promote substantial numbers of new dwellings in the countryside. This would also be inconsistent with the core objectives of the NPPF.

5.62 Therefore it is crucial that any release of land is only done so in certain circumstances, as defined by this policy. For a proposal to be considered as promoting non-isolated residential development in the countryside it must adhere to the definition below.

5.63  'Non-isolated residential development is 3 or less new dwellings that come forward on suitable sites in the countryside that are currently brownfield or incorporate a disused agricultural building/s and are within easy walking distance to a shop or facility in an adjoining settlement, as listed under policy HOU4 above and Ashford’.

5.64 A proposal for ‘non-isolated’ residential development must also demonstrate that it (and its associated infrastructure) is well designed and sited in a way that can:

  • sit sympathetically within the wider landscape,
  • enhance its immediate setting,
  • be consistent with any prevailing character and built form, including its scale, bulk and the material used,
  • does not harm neighbouring uses or the amenity of nearby residents.

5.65 Proposals will also need to demonstrate that the existing buildings on site have been there for a number of years and are no longer needed for their current use. This is to avoid speculative new buildings being built with a view of replacing them with new dwellings in the countryside at a later date – undermining the targeted nature of this policy.

Isolated residential development

5.66 Residential development in the countryside that does not meet the definition above will be considered ‘isolated’.

5.67 The NPPF clearly states that new isolated homes in the countryside should be avoided, unless there are special circumstances. Para. 55 of the NPPF lists a number of exceptions to the general rule of restraint and these are replicated in the policy below, alongside proposals for replacement dwellings and local needs/ specialist housing schemes. As both these types of proposal may be located within the countryside, they are included in the policy for clarity.

 

Policy HOU5 - Residential windfall development in the countryside

Proposals for non-isolated residential development in the countryside will be permitted providing that each of the following criteria is met:

  1. the scheme is for 3 dwellings or less,
  2. the site is currently brownfield or has an agricultural building on site and that any building on site is no longer used and has been in situ for a number of years,
  3. the site is within easy walking distance of a shop or facility in an adjoining settlement, as listed under policy HOU4 or Ashford,
  4. the development (and associated infrastructure) is well designed and sited in a way that can:
  5. sit sympathetically within the wider landscape,
  6. enhance its immediate setting,
  7. be consistent with the prevailing character and built form, including its scale, bulk and the materials used,
  8. does not harm neighbouring uses or the amenity of nearby residents,
  9. does not adversely effect the integrity of international and national protected sites in line with Policy ENV1.  

Isolated residential development in the countryside will only be permitted if the proposal is for at least one of the following:

  1. Accommodation to cater for an essential need for a rural worker to live permanently at or near their place of work in the countryside;
  2. The optimal viable use of a heritage asset or would be appropriate enabling development to secure the future of heritage assets;
  3. The re-use of redundant or disused buildings and lead to an enhancement to the immediate setting;
  4. A dwelling that is of exceptional quality or innovative design* which should be truly outstanding and innovative, reflect the highest standards of architecture, significantly enhance its immediate setting and be sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local area;
  5. A replacement dwelling, in line with policy HOU7 of this Local Plan;
  6. A local needs/specialist needs scheme in line with policy HOU2 of this Local Plan.

Where a proposal is located within or adjoining the AONB, it will also need to demonstrate that it is justifiable within the context of their national level of protection and does not significantly undermine their intrinsic or scenic beauty.

*these proposals will be required to be referred to Ashford Design Panel and applications will be expected to respond to the advice provided.

 

Self-Build / Custom Build Development

5.68 The Council will support the principle of Self and Custom Build development as an opportunity to bring choice to the housing market as well as enabling local people to design and build their own home that will meet their bespoke needs.

5.69 The NPPF makes it clear that LPAs should identify and make provision for the housing ‘needs of different groups in the community such as people wishing to build their own homes’. ‘Self-build housing’ is identified by the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations as a dwelling built by (or commissioned by) someone to be occupied by them as their sole or main residence for at least three years. Custom-Build homes encompass self-build but tends to be where individuals work with specialist developers to build their home.

5.70 This policy will contribute towards the availability of self and custom build plots enabling local residents to deliver high quality homes, as well as supporting the local economy providing work for builders and associated trades.

5.71 The establishment of a Right to Build Register and evidence gained from future SHELAAs and SHMAs will help inform the level of need for Self Build.

5.72 The Council will also support qualifying bodies in taking forward local self and custom build projects through the neighbourhood planning process, subject to the wider planning considerations within the strategic policies of the Local Plan. 

Policy HOU6 - Self and Custom Built Development

The Council will support self and custom build development by requiring all urban area sites delivering more than 40 dwellings to supply no less than 5% of dwelling plots for sale to self or custom builders.

In the rural areas sites delivering more than 20 dwellings must supply no less than 5% of dwelling plots for sale to self or custom builder.

The following criteria must be met:

  1. Where this equates to more than 5 custom build dwellings on a single site a Design Brief should be submitted and agreed with the Council prior to the application being submitted;
  2. Where plots have been marketed and not sold for at least a 12 month period the plot(s) may either remain on the open market as custom build unless the plot is being offered in lieu of affordable housing in which case it will be offered to the Council or a Housing Association.
  3. Development proposals must be of high quality design and demonstrate a positive response to sustainable development.

 

Replacement Dwellings in the Countryside

5.73 Proposals involving the replacement of existing dwellings in the countryside need careful management in order to protect the character and integrity of the rural landscape of the borough. Given that such forms of development encompass isolated new dwellings, which are an exception to the other policies of restraint, together with the protected status of much of the borough's countryside, design issues are of particular importance when proposals of this kind are considered. Developments in particular will need to ensure that any replacement dwellings sit sympathetically with the existing character and appearance of the local area in order to prevent overbearing and bulky replacement dwellings, whatever their scale or increase in footprint or mass.

5.74 Applications will therefore be required to justify the design approach to the replacement dwelling, its proposed scale, bulk and materials, its siting in relation to the surrounding built form, character of the street scene or the position in the landscape, highway access details, the impact on any neighbouring uses and residential amenity and any resultant implications for the extent of residential curtilage. In certain circumstances there may be a need to focus on scale, as a point of principle. These circumstances are likely to manifest themselves particularly in sensitive locations within the borough, such as the Kent Downs and the High Weald AONBs, Conservation Areas or where a dwelling would be clearly prominent in the landscape. Here scale might need to be restricted to respond to these particular sensitivities.

5.75 Usually the replacement dwelling will be required to be sited on, or adjacent to the site of the existing dwelling. However, where there is an opportunity to achieve a development with a reduced visual impact on the landscape or a reduced impact on neighbouring uses or occupiers by changing the siting of the dwelling, then this will be encouraged. In such circumstances, where the replacement dwelling is sited differently to the existing, the Council will seek through condition or agreement the demolition of the existing dwelling within 3 months of the occupation of the replacement, in order to prevent two dwellings remaining on site in contravention of policy restricting additional residential development in the open countryside. 

5.76  Although the ability of the planning system to control larger extensions to properties has been much reduced in recent years, the importance of maintaining a housing stock comprised of a wide choice of properties catering for the needs of different groups in the community, remains enshrined in the NPPF (paragraph 50).To this end, replacement dwellings that are larger than the existing dwelling will usually only be granted planning permission subject to a condition withdrawing permitted development rights for residential extensions, in order to maintain the integrity of the policy's intentions and bring future alterations to the scale and nature of the new property within the control of the planning system.

Policy HOU7 - Replacement dwellings in the countryside

Proposals for a replacement dwelling will be permitted provided that the proposal:

  1. is replacing an existing individual dwelling that has a lawful residential use; and,
  2. complements the surrounding built form and the character and appearance of the area and / or the existing street-scene; and,
  3. is sympathetic in terms of its scale, bulk, massing and the materials used; and,
  4. can be suitably accessed;
  5. does not harm the landscape, the functioning of neighbouring uses or the amenities of nearby residents.

 Where a replacement dwelling is proposed in a Conservation Area or a visually prominent position in the landscape, or within or adjoining an AONB, proposals will be required to address the specific sensitivities that are prevalent in these areas. Particular consideration will be given to the scale and wider impact of a replacement dwelling in these locations.

 Where planning approval is given, planning obligations will:

  • remove ‘permitted development’ rights where a replacement dwelling has increased the floorspace of the existing dwelling,
  • ensure that the existing dwelling is removed within 3 months of the occupation of the replacement dwelling (where an alternative location is proposed).

Residential Extensions and Standalone Annexes

5.77 The enlargement of dwellings to accommodate additional living space is important in ensuring that the existing housing stock is suitable for the current and future residents of the borough. By modernising, adapting or enlarging an existing dwelling its life can be significantly extended, which in turn, contributes to the future sustainable development of the Borough. Small scale extensions and alterations to properties have in recent years often become categorised as 'permitted development' under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning General Permitted Development Order 2015. 

5.78 Where an extension requires permission, the Council requires that the scale and visual impact of such development is appropriate in relation to both the existing dwelling and the surrounding area and that the living conditions of neighbours are not adversely affected. To this end, alterations and extensions should be designed to complement the scale, massing and materials of the existing building, preserve and features of interest, provide a satisfactory relationship between the old and new fabric and not lead to overlooking, overpowering or overshadowing of neighbouring properties.Therefore, when assessing proposed extensions, account will be taken of the potential impact of the extension on the living conditions of any neighbouring occupiers and on any other adjacent uses, its impact on the character of the existing dwelling and its setting  in the landscape, including its contribution to the street scene.

5.79 In AONBs and Conservation Areas, particular attention will be paid to the size and design of extensions. In these protected locations it is more likely that only smaller extensions which clearly present as subordinate to the main dwelling will be acceptable. Applications will need to demonstrate that particular attention has been paid to the design of extensions to the roofspace, which should be kept as simple as possible. Throughout the borough, where very small rural dwellings are proposed for extension, the standard of the existing accommodation will also  be taken into account.

Policy HOU8 - Residential Extensions

 

Proposals for extensions to dwellings will be permitted if each of the following criteria is met:

  1. the existing dwelling [1] enjoys a lawful residential use; and
  2. the proposed extension would not materially harm any neighbouring uses including the living conditions of adjoining residents; and,
  3. the proposed extension is suitable in size, scale and built form to the existing dwelling to which it should be physically linked; and
  4. the proposed extension is designed sensitively to avoid harm to the overall character or street scene of the surrounding area and the landscape and the distinct features of the landscape character area in which it is located.

 

Annexes 

5.80 Annexes which are physically linked to the main dwelling will be determined against Policy HOU8 including in schemes where they contain all the facilities essential for independent residential occupation.

5.81 For all annexe schemes (attached or standalone) a planning permission is likely to be conditioned to ensure that the annex in question remains used for its intended purpose. This is to avoid an annex becoming an independent and separate residential unit at some point in the future without planning permission, particularly as the ‘need’ can only ever be for a temporary period (for example the need is lost once a relative dies or requires greater care than can be provided at home)

5.82 Standalone annexes will be supported where it can be demonstrated that there is a need for such a facility - for example to provide a home for elderly or infirm relatives unable to live independently, or for staff accommodation and that the standalone annex is sited appropriately and that it has a real and functional relationship between the occupation of the main dwelling and the annexe. It is unlikely that a standalone annex located outside the curtilage of the main dwelling will be supported in principle. 

5.83 Annexes within the curtilage of listed buildings or buildings that are a historical asset or are located within a conservation area, which have particular character are likely to be difficult to achieve in terms of satisfactory design. Where these proposals cannot be sited in an acceptable way beyond the curtilage of these buildings, such proposals will not be supported.   

Policy HOU9 - Standalone annexes

Proposals for detached annexe accommodation to residential property will be permitted where;

  1. the existing residential property enjoys a lawful residential use; and
  2. the proposed annexe would not materially harm any neighbouring uses; and,
  3. the scale and appearance of the proposed annexe is sympathetic and modest in proportion to the principal dwelling and site; and
  4. sited to achieve a clear dependency is retained between the annexe and the main building at all times; and
  5. the proposed annexe is designed sensitively to complement the existing dwelling and is clearly ancillary and visually subordinate to it in design and massing; and
  6. the proposed annexe would not have a harmful visual impact on the overall character of the surrounding area and/or the street scene or  be visually intrusive in the landscape in which it is located

 

1. The term 'existing dwelling' is defined as the property at the time of the planning application. [back]

Development of Residential Gardens

5.84 Much of the character and attractiveness of the Borough’s towns and villages is derived from private garden areas. Residential gardens provide important breaks or gaps in built up frontages and in overall built massing, play an important amenity role by providing private recreational space for residents and providing important wildlife habitats and green networks particularly where the gardens are well established. Biodiversity levels in residential gardens are often cited as being higher than those in agricultural use.The Council is keen to reflect the value it places on such areas in policy.

5.85 Para 53 of the NPPF states that Councils should consider providing a policy framework to resist inappropriate development of residential gardens, although such an approach needs to be balanced against the objectives of sustainable development and of encouraging development in the first instance on land that was previously developed. Recent Court rulings have supported the exemption of private residential gardens in built up areas from the definition of previously developed land.

5.86 The uncontrolled loss of residential gardens can lead to a piecemeal and inappropriate pattern or style of development being delivered. This can individually or cumulatively erode openness, disrupt wildlife corridors, and harm the living conditions of neighbouring residents. 

Policy HOU10 - Development of residential gardens

Development proposals involving the complete or partial redevelopment of residential garden land will be permitted provided the proposed development complies with the Council's external space standards as set out in Policy HOU15 and does not result in significant harm to the character of the area including:

  1. The surrounding grain and built pattern of development including the prevailing building density, line, frontage width, building orientation, distance from the road, existing plot sizes and visual separation between dwellings;
  2. The surrounding built form comprising the scale, massing, height, design and materials of construction of the buildings;
  3. The wider landscape and/or the countryside setting;
  4.  wildlife corridors and biodiversity habitats;
  5. The amenity of adjoining residents.

  

Houses of Multiple Occupation

5.87 Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are properties which are occupied by unrelated households that share one or more facilities such as a bathroom or kitchen. HMOs are an example where a high degree of sharing facilities is typical, where living arrangements, being more intense than single family occupation.

5.88 In 2010 government introduced a new use class (C4), which covers small shared houses or flats occupied by between 3 and 6 unrelated individuals who share basic amenities. Planning permission is generally not required for a change of use from a dwelling house (C3) to C4, as it is permitted under the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO). Large houses in multiple occupation (those with more than 6 people sharing) are unclassified by the Use Classes Order, and planning permission is required for a change use of from a C3 or C4 to a large house in multiple occupation.

5.89 The Council subsequently approved an Article 4 direction so that planning permission would still be required for a change of use from C3 to C4 in specific wards in Ashford. A loss of control over such changes is considered to harm the sustainability of neighbourhoods within Ashford over the long term. An increase in concentrations of HMOs in an area alters the population mix, impacting on the facilities and services that can be supported, as well as affecting residential amenity and social cohesion; and can give rise to noise, nuisance, more callers, a higher parking requirement and visual deterioration of buildings and gardens. These issues cannot be addressed successfully by neighbourhood management measures alone. In recent years HMOs have encroached into areas traditionally characterised by family housing.

5.90 The problems associated with high concentrations of HMOs have been recognised nationally, by residents and organisations, the press and by the government. The study 'Evidence Gathering-Housing in Multiple Occupation And Possible Planning Responses' carried out by Ecotec for the government in 2008 summarise the impacts as including:

  • antisocial behaviour, noise and nuisance
  • imbalance and unsustainable communities
  • negative impacts on physical environment and streetscape
  • pressures upon parking provision
  • increased crime
  • growth in private rented sector at expense of owner-occupier
  • pressure upon local community facilities, and
  • restructuring of retail, commercial services and recreational facilities to suit the lifestyles of the predominant population.

5.91 In Ashford, the principal impacts have been from noise and disturbance, impact on the environment from neglected gardens, litter, overflowing bins, and pressure on parking due to more people living in an HMO than would generally live in the same size house. The principal areas of concern in Ashford, and where the Article 4 direction has been put in place are:

  • South Ashford where there has been a concentration of conversion to HMO of three storey properties in Beaver Ward. Some also have the ground floor garage converted into a separate flat. This has resulted in issues of noise, antisocial behaviour and parking pressures.
  • Bushy Royds and Little Burton Farm where there has been increased pressure on parking on street,
  • Drummond Grove, Adams Drive, Billington Grove, Rayworth Court and Stroudly Close where there is potential for the above mentioned impacts if additional HMOs are created.

5.92 The following policy sets out the criteria which will be considered when determining applications for new HMOs or when deciding whether the take enforcement action.

 

Policy HOU11 - Houses in Multiple Occupation

Proposals for Houses in Multiple Occupation (small or large) will only be permitted where the proposed development, taken by itself or in combination with existing HMOs in the vicinity of the site, would not result in an unacceptably harmful impact in respect of any of the following:

  1. Residential amenity, caused by increased noise and disturbance;
  2. Highway safety, caused by insufficient onsite parking provision thereby resulting in an unacceptable increase in on street parking, or
  3. Visual amenity, including that from inappropriate or insufficient arrangements for dustbin storage.

Permissions granted will normally be subject to a condition that restricts the number of occupants allowed to reside at the property as their main residence.

Residential Space Standards

Residential Space Standards (internal)

5.93 The Council’s supplementary planning document entitled ‘Residential Space and Layout’ adopted in 2011, provided guidance to support the Core Strategy 2008 Design Quality policy CS9. In part (g), policy CS9 requires flexibility, adaptability and liveability as aspects of the design quality. The Local Plan 2030 provides an opportunity to include detailed requirements concerning these aspects of design quality.

5.94 The Government has introduced a set of Nationally Described Space Standards to ensure consistency of approach across the sector and invited Local Planning Authorities to consider including them in their Local Plans. The national space standards cover internal space only and rather than return to a position of having no minimum space standards, the council considers that new developments should meet at least the national standards if design quality, flexibility, adaptability and livability standards are to be maintained.

5.95 The national space standards are based upon the areas required to accommodate essential furniture and storage items and the need for the occupants to be able to circulate around them. Good practice would be to exceed these standards where practical in order to provide a good range of accommodation.

5.96 The space standards help to ensure that new homes have sufficient space for the number of occupants they are designed to accommodate including storage of functional and personal items. Minimum bedroom sizes, floor to ceiling heights and storage space are included in the standards set out in the policy below.

5.97 It may, very occasionally, be necessary to make an exception to development meeting the national minimum standards, for example, in the case of the conversion of historic buildings where it may be desirable to maintain important and distinctive characteristics that contribute to the character of the building. However, without strong justification, proposals which do not comply with the standards are unlikely to be acceptable.

 

Policy HOU12 - Residential space standards (internal)

All new residential development, including dwellings created through subdivision or conversion, shall comply with the Nationally Described Space Standards set out in the table belowspace standards

 

Accessible and Adaptable

Homes suitable for family occupation

5.98 The amount of space for cooking, living and eating is not defined in the new standards. The rooms used for those purposes are important areas for families to interact and usually include areas for play, study and storage as well as the basic functions of each of these areas. Although one large room is sometimes provided to accommodate all of these functions in homes designed for one or two people, this is not usually an appropriate layout for family occupation. At least two separate rooms, rather than one large room, should therefore be provided to accommodate cooking, eating and living in homes suitable for family occupation with three or more bedrooms. Provision of a separate room does not necessarily require any increase to the gross internal floor area.

Policy HOU13 - Homes suitable for family occupation

All new residential development designed for family occupation and having 3 or more bedrooms shall include at least 2 separate rooms to accommodate space for cooking, eating and living.

Accessibility standards

5.99 Local Planning Authorities are required by the NPPF to plan to create safe, accessible environments and promote inclusion and community cohesion, to take account of evidence that demonstrates a clear need for housing for people with specific housing needs and plan to meet this need.

5.100 In order to help to fulfil this requirement, all new dwellings created as ‘new build’, should be built to comply with a minimum of ‘level 2’ access (building regulations part M4 (2).   Houses built to this standard are designed to meet the needs of occupiers throughout their lifetime. Level 2 accessibility is intended to allow a home to be accessible by providing facilities such as space to manoeuvre a wheelchair, the availability of an entrance level WC with shower drainage and enough space for an entrance level bedspace. Level 2 homes are also built to be adaptable standards so that additional facilities such as a stair lift or hoists can be easily fitted without major cost and upheaval.

5.101 The features of a level 2 accessibility home help to provide a safe, accessible living environment to those with reduced mobility due to accident, illness or age. Homes with this degree of accessibility extend the period of independent living, can reduce the length of a hospital stay and allow people to be cared for in their own home if the need arises. For those with permanent mobility problems, more specialised wheelchair accommodation provides greater freedom for independent living. Larger room sizes are required to enable greater ease for wheelchair dependent occupants.

5.102 In addition parking spaces provided in connection with M4(2) and M4 (3) dwellings may need to be larger to facilitate the increased access requirements, as per the current building regulations.

Policy HOU14 - Accessibility standards

Accessibility in compliance with building regulations part M shall be provided as follows:-

  1. All ‘new build’ homes shall be built in compliance with building regulations part M4 (2) as a minimum standard.
  2. In ‘new build’ properties which are affordable, a proportion of wheelchair accessible homes complying with building regulations part M4 (3b) will be required. The number of homes built to M4 (3b) standards will be dependent upon the number of households on the Council’s housing waiting list requiring wheelchair accessible homes and the suitability of the location for wheelchair users. 

 

External Space Standards

Private external open space

5.103 Ashford Borough Council’s Residential Space and Layout SPD adopted in 2011 included guidance for providing residents with a private area of external space. The need for private outdoor amenity space as suggested by the Council’s SPD was supported at appeal in 2015. The main issues in the appeal were considered to be harm to the character and appearance of the area and the unsatisfactory living conditions of future occupants in relation to the provision of private amenity space.

5.104 Outdoor private space is highly valued and it is important for both children and adults to have access to some private or at least, semi-private outdoor space for play and relaxation as well as more practical requirements. In the case of non flatted developments, this can most easily be provided in the form of a private enclosed garden. The provision of a garden also makes it easier to provide outside covered storage for items such as bicycles, garden tools, garden furniture and outdoor toys.

5.105 In the case of flats, balconies or terraces/roof gardens may take the place of a garden. Easily accessible communal areas may be acceptable but lack the element of privacy, which is important for relaxation. Lack of outdoor private space will therefore only be acceptable if there are particular design features which mitigate against this lack of provision.

5.106 A private outdoor space is one which is not overlooked from the street or other public place. For a house or ground floor flat a garden with direct access is the best solution. It should accommodate an area for drying washing, for garden furniture and play space as well as planted areas to provide an attractive environment for residents. In order to accommodate these elements in a private garden attached to a house, a minimum area based on the 10m long 'rule of thumb' multiplied by the width of the dwelling provides a helpful starting point. The first 5m of this space should not be overlooked by surrounding properties. Another advantage of the 10m minimum depth is that it imposes a reasonable separation distance between properties where the rear windows face one another. However, where overlooking is not an issue, the standard can be flexible providing it can be adequately demonstrated that alternative solutions provide a sufficient area of usable private outdoor space. 

5.107 A balcony or terrace on flatted developments can provide space for outdoor relaxation with the benefits of privacy, fresh air, extra living space and growing plants. The size of a balcony or terrace should reflect the number of occupants and in the case of a balcony should be at least 1.5metres in depth in order to accommodate a small table and chairs. The value of a balcony or terrace is partly dependant upon its aspect, privacy and outlook. A balcony close to a heavily trafficked road, with no sunlight and a poor outlook is of little or no value to the occupants. Lack of privacy and exposure to noise and fumes would also deter its use. A balcony should be easily accessible from the dwelling and preferably from a dining or living area.

 

Policy HOU15 - Private external open space

Unless drawings indicate alternative provision of private useable external open space, new dwellings, whether created as ‘new build’, subdivision or conversion shall be provided with an area of private open space in accordance with the table below:

space standards

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traveller Accommodation

5.108 The need to plan for the housing requirements of the gypsy and traveller population is in line with Government guidance contained in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and its companion document ‘Planning Policy for Traveller Sites’. These documents ensure that everyone, including members of the travelling community has the opportunity of living in a decent home.

SETTING A PITCH TARGET FOR TRAVELLERS IN THE LOCAL PLAN

5.109 The 'Planning Policy for Traveller Sites’ (PPTS, August, 2015) sets out the Government’s planning policy specifically relating to Travellers and this document has the main overarching aim:

5.110  “to ensure fair and equal treatment for Travellers, in a way that facilitates the traditional and nomadic way of life of Travellers while respecting the interests of the settled community” (paragraph 3) 

5.111 The 2015 PPTS replaced the 2012 PPTS, at the same time redefining the definition of who qualifies as a 'traveller' [2] . Under the new definition travellers who have ceased to travel are now excluded. The new definition defines travellers as:

5.112 "Persons of nomadic habit of life whatever their race or origin, including such persons who on grounds only of their own or their family’s or dependants’ educational or health needs or old age have ceased to travel temporarily, but excluding members of an organised group of travelling showpeople or circus people travelling together as such"

Objectively Assessing Local Traveller Need:

5.113 Therefore, in order to achieve the overarching aim of Government policy the Council commissioned a Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA) in 2013, which provided an Objectively Assessed Pitch Need (OAPN) in the borough. Then following the publication of the new PPTS the Council undertook a piece of work[3] , re-assessing the travelling habits of travellers using the GTAA raw data. This piece of work removed any travellers that no longer travel, to ensure that any future need is consistent with the requirements of the PPTS policy. The following assumptions have therefore been defined: 

5.114 The GTAA outlined a pitch requirement of 57 pitches for the 15-year period 2013 - 2028. However, following reassessment of the base data a new OAPN requirement of 48 pitches between 2013 and 2028 can be established. As the Local Plan runs to 2030, on a pro rata basis this would result in a OAPN of 54 pitches by 2030.

How many pitches have been provided to date:

5.115 The Council has a good record of delivering Traveller pitches on appropriate sites and since the GTAA was published 31 pitches have received full planning permission.

5.116 Using the new OAPN target above, this leaves a residual need to provide at least 23 pitches by 2030.

Achieving the Objectively Assessed Pitch Need (OAPN):

5.117 The council has considered whether all 23 pitches should be provided through site allocations to ensure the OAPN has been achieved from the outset. However, due to the current lack of suitable, available sites, this has not been possible. The Council is proposing to provide 7 pitches through site allocations, see policies S43 and S44.

5.118 Also, due to the substantial number of windfall sites that have been delivered since 2013, the Council considers that the remainder of the OAPN requirement is likely to be achieved via a windfall approach. For example, even a modest continued delivery of 2 windfall pitches per year would mean 30 new pitches over 15 years, more than meeting the required need.

5.119 Therefore, the most pragmatic approach for delivery of the OAPN would be to deliver pitches through a combination of windfalls and allocations. At the same time, to ensure resilience in this approach it is proposed to set out a criteria based policy, requiring the retention of all existing Traveller sites to ensure their continual supply in the market.

Traveller Windfall Policy:

5.120 Ashford has a long history of delivering Traveller accommodation, especially through the provision of 'windfalls'. 31 pitches have been provided through this means since the publication of the Borough's GTAA. This Local Plan is allocating two sites to provide 7 pitches. Therefore, within this Local Plan there is a requirement to provide a minimum of 16 pitches through windfall sites in order to meet the OAPN. Because there is a shortfall of sites coming forward it is considered that the strategy of providing some pitches through windfalls maximises the opportunity for new sites to come forward without relying on a single means of provision, for example the allocation of new sites only. 

5.121 A specific, clearly worded windfall policy enables the Council to deal with planning applications for Traveller sites on a site by site basis and would allow suitable sites to continue to be permitted provided they meet criteria set out in the policy. To this end, suitable sites, which are well-related to existing and proposed services and facilities, that may previously not have been identified have the opportunity to come forward in the plan period.

5.122 The 'windfall' policy below sets out a threshold to provide for additional small sites in the borough. This approach is consistent with the approach set out in the PPTS (Paragraph 10d), which states that in producing Local Plans, Local planning authorities should 'relate the number of pitches or plots to the circumstances of the specific size and location of the site and the surrounding population’s size and density'. 

5.123 Local evidence, identified from the bi-annual gypsy count[4] suggests that Travellers in Ashford tend to reside on small sites which accommodate their immediate and extended family. Coupled with the lack of available land identified in the GTAA and the long standing issues managing larger sites, a number of smaller sites spread throughout the district would be a more effective means of providing sustainable and flexible accommodation to meet the need.

5.124 For example, The Council owned site at Chilmington Green, which has 16 pitches, often has empty and long standing vacant pitches, with Gypsies and Travellers stating themselves that they would rather live with their extended family than on a site which supplies pitches on the open market. Although not specifically a ‘planning’ concern the site does have issues with antisocial behaviour between different gypsy groups and has suffered extensive vandalism.  

5.125 Finally, the impact of new Traveller accommodation on existing communities and how well proposals can be integrated is an important consideration in the determination of applications for Traveller provision. New applications will need to adhere to the criteria in Policy HOU16 below to ensure that this impact is mitigated.  

Policy HOU16 - Traveller Accommodation

Planning permission for new sites to accommodate Gypsy and traveller accommodation or accommodation for travelling showpeople will only be permitted outside of allocated sites if the following criteria are met:

  1. The Council is satisfied that there is a clearly established need for the site and the proposals cannot be accommodated on an existing available site or allocated site;
  2. The site would not accommodate more than 5 pitches or make an existing site exceed 5 pitches in size;
  3. The site would provide a good living environment free from the risk of flooding and risks to health through contamination, noise or pollution;
  4. Occupation is limited to those meeting the definition of Gypsies and Travellers or Travelling Showpeople in the relevant national planning policy;
  5. Local services and facilities - shops, public transport, schools, medical and social services, can be readily accessed from the site;
  6. The site is capable of being provided with on-site services such as water supply, sewage disposal and power supply;
  7. The form and extent of the accommodation does not adversely affect the visual or other essential qualities of an AONB, SSSI, Ancient woodland, international, national or local nature reserve or wildlife site, or the key characteristics of a Landscape Character Area;
  8. Access to the site which does not endanger highway safety for vehicles and pedestrians can be provided;
  9. Proposals incorporate a landscape strategy, which will be required by use of planning conditions, where mitigation of the impact on the landscape is necessary to protect the quality of the surrounding landscape.
2. In accordance with PPTS, Annex1 (4), the term “travellers” refers to “gypsies and travellers” and “travelling showpeople” [back]
3. Ashford Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment Update Paper – Post PPTS (Aug 2015) [back]
4. See 5yr Land Supply Position Statement on Traveller Sites [back]

Safeguarding existing traveller sites

5.126 It is important to protect existing Traveller sites from being developed for alternative uses whilst there is a need for such sites, as currently demonstrated by the GTAA (Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment). It is also important to safeguard these sites for future generations of gypsies and travellers. In particular it is important to safeguard the traveling showpeople site in Ashford as there is currently only one site in the Borough and the GTAA has established that no further sites are required at this time.

5.127 Therefore, any sites with existing lawful use as a Traveller site should not be lost to an alternative use, unless an alternative replacement site has been identified. Sites that have been granted a personal permission, to be inhabited by a named family, will not be safeguarded under this policy. Any new traveller sites granted planning permission and implemented shall also be safeguarded under provisions of this policy as long as the need for traveller accommodation within the Borough remains.

Policy HOU17 - Safeguarding existing Traveller sites

Existing authorised gypsy and traveller sites and sites for travelling showpeople shall be retained for the accommodation of gypsies and travellers and for travelling showpeople as defined in the relevant National Planning Policy Document.

Any new gypsy and traveller sites granted permanent planning permission shall also be safeguarded under the provisions of this policy.

This policy may not apply if:-

  1. There is a surplus of available accommodation over and above the required five year supply of sites,or,
  2. The site will be replaced by a site of similar proportions in an appropriate location which complies with the criteria listed in policy HOU16, or,
  3. A site has been granted a personal permission restricting residency to a named occupier or family.