Local Plan to 2030 - Publication Draft

SECTION E - COMMUNITY FACILITIES

Meeting the needs of the community

5.406 The provision of good quality community infrastructure and services designed around people and their cultural, leisure, health, learning, social and wellbeing needs is fundamental to the creation of strong, vibrant, healthy and sustainable communities. As Ashford grows and the demand for new or enhanced community infrastructure increases, there is a need to apply strategic policies to ensure appropriate and sustainable provision that supports this demand. This will mean that some community facilities and services may be locally based and aimed at meeting the needs of the local residents in that particular area, whilst others may be more strategic and will need to be delivered in larger facilities and spaces which serve the wider town or Borough.

5.407 This Chapter provides the policy framework for the delivery of facilities that provide social and community leisure space, recreation and sports, arts and creative industry spaces, public open spaces, children’s play, educational and learning such as schools and libraries; health services, places of worship, space for the voluntary and community sector, and youth and children’s services. Such spaces and services involve a mix of agencies, professions and services and require the coordinated actions of a number of stakeholders, including the voluntary sector, to successfully deliver, manage and maintain.

5.408 It has been proved that community infrastructure that offers a range of services at one site, or ‘Hub’, helps to establish a focal and active point that benefits the area and community life. It also enables land to be better used with toilets and kitchens as well as parking and green space shared by a number of users. In general, such a model of provision is also more viable to maintain.

5.409 The longstanding commitment by this Council to the delivery of new infrastructure that embraces the ‘hub’ approach has and continues to result in good quality and well placed community and social facilities in the Borough. Such existing and programmed provision provides a useful framework upon which to build, in order to meet the needs generated by the additional level of population growth which will arise over the Local Plan period.

5.410 To this end the Council’s approach will be to continue to work with developers and providers to ensure the provision of community infrastructure in the right locations and at the right time. The Council recognise that - in practice - it will need to adopt a pragmatic approach as large amounts of community provision is subject to planning approval, but has not actually been implemented yet - something which the Council cannot control. Therefore, contributions from new developments may be needed to expand or enhance infrastructure that is already being planned or is in the early stages of being implemented. This may also involve monies to secure the early delivery of such infrastructure where it is appropriate to do so. Adopting this approach ensures that provisions are in place that will support the communities as they develop - a key planning objective of this Local Plan. 

Retention of Existing Facilities

5.411 Retaining existing facilities wherever practical is the most sustainable way of enhancing and expanding provision. This position is supported by the NPPF which recognises the importance of community and social facilities and requires that LPAs guard against the unnecessary loss of this valued provision, particularly where this would reduce the community's ability to meet its day to day needs.

5.412 The Council therefore aims to protect social and community infrastructure and to guard against unnecessary loss unless there are strong reasons why this is no longer viable or where provision is replicated nearby.

The Arts and Creative Industries

5.413 Participation in arts and creative pursuits increases personal well-being and helps to build healthy communities; it enhances people’s skills, unlocks potential and stimulates learning and enterprise.

5.414 Enhancing the local arts scene and working with the creative industries has been a particular focus of the Council’s work in recent years and is a priority of the Corporate Plan. An Arts and Creative Industry Strategy is emerging which supports the ‘Grow the Arts in Ashford’, the Council’s adopted Art Strategy. These strategies are committed to nurturing and supporting the arts and help form evidence to this Local Plan and its supporting Infrastructure Delivery Plan.

5.415 Ashford’s offer has been enhanced recently through the development of a new arts and performance space at St Mary’s Church (in the centre of town) which attracts regionally and nationally significant touring artists and is developing a local audience. The establishment of the internationally renowned Jasmin Vardimon Dance Company has also elevated Ashford's position as an emerging key destination for the arts. The draft Strategy acknowledges that while Ashford enjoys these facilities, and also enjoys a wider programme of cultural opportunities such events across the Borough, including local festivals, there is a marked lack of spaces such as galleries, multi-use art facilities, theatre and production and rehearsal spaces.

5.416 The following strategic arts spaces are identified in the draft Strategy to meet the current deficit and provide a wide range of creative activities and opportunities as Ashford grows:

  • Revelations St Mary’s: as Ashford’s occupancy increases this venue will be a significant space to meet the demands of the local audience and a key strategic centre for presenting a high quality arts programme that enhances the economy of the town centre;
  • Rehearsal and production centre: a large space for touring companies and local community groups to create and show work and smaller spaces for educational sessions. This will aim to drive innovation in the arts and the provision of excellent arts experiences;
  • Making and exhibiting workspaces: a space (or collection of spaces) where creative designers can co-locate, make and present their work in a gallery and offer associated spaces for the community to engage in the arts and crafts;
  • Arts use in community hubs: helping to ensure urban and rural community hubs cater for arts and are well equipped and design to support a range of creative activity.

5.417 The Council expects that these projects will largely be funded by way of CIL receipts. S106 contributions will however be used where local community buildings/ indoor sports buildings are required, as stipulated through various site allocations in this Local Plan. These buildings will be required to be designed in a way that allows for a variety of users, including art and creative industries.

5.418 Overall proposals that would significantly improve Ashford’s arts scene and encourage creative industries by virtue of their quality, cultural diversity, distinctiveness and economic impact should be supported.

5.419 New public art will also be encouraged as a result of developments throughout the town and key developments will be expected to contribute to such provision as part of ensuring a higher quality and more distinctive urban environment. This is further explored under policy SP6 'Promoting High Quality Design'.

The Voluntary Sector

5.420 Over recent years the voluntary and community sector (VCS) has become increasingly involved in managing many community facilities and delivering public services. The VCS in the Borough is vibrant and diverse comprising in the region of 850 organisations providing a wide range of services and has been shown to bring considerable advantages and benefits deriving from its value-driven motivation and focus on social needs.

5.421 Given the wide nature of the sector, it is accepted that projects which are needed to allow the voluntary sector to continue to play a role in meeting the communities needs will come forward over the lifetime of this plan. Where these projects can be costed and shown to be deliverable, the Council will seek proportionate developer contributions or the delivery of space/ provision on site. It is likely such provision will be focused in and around Ashford Town Centre, but is not limited to this boundary.

The Education Sector

5.422 The requirements identified in this Local Plan have been based with ongoing discussions with Kent County Council.

5.423 The residential developments proposed in this Local Plan will create a requirement for additional school places and thus for existing primary and secondary schools to be expanded and for new schools to be built. Wider demographic trends also affect the need for school places. The Council’s longstanding approach has been to require developer contributions on behalf of the education authority where new primary and secondary schools or extensions to existing ones are needed to cater for the influx of new children from housing development. The contribution sought is based on ‘pupil product figures' provided by Kent County Council for the number of primary and secondary school children likely to arise from each new housing development.

5.424 Broadly, this approach will continue, with the Council consulting the local education authority to determine where an education contribution should be sought. In most circumstances the Borough Council will only seek contributions from the larger schemes, in light of the S106 pooling restrictions and this is reflected in site allocation policies in this Local Plan. CIL receipts are also likely to be required. 

5.425 In some parts of the Borough the number of additional school children will create the need for new schools to be built, as reflected in the site allocations that accompany this Local Plan. The specification required will be determined through negotiation between the County Council, the Borough Council and the developer.

The Health Sector

5.426 The NPPF acknowledges the link between planning and healthy communities and states that the planning system should support strategies to improve health and well being, promote healthy communities and include strategic policies that will deliver the provision of health facilities. It encourages policies that will facilitate social interaction and healthy inclusive communities.

5.427 The Ashford Health and Wellbeing Board, comprised of health professionals, local government officers and patient representatives, was established in 2013. The board offers a fresh look at the way the health and wellbeing of Ashford’s residents is observed and measured. It also has an influence over the commissioning decisions made across public health and social care in the borough. It looks at improving the health and wellbeing of the people living in Ashford through joined up commissioning across the National Health Service, social care, borough council, public health and other services that are directly related to health and wellbeing.

5.428 Health issues are addressed in policies across this Plan, including those on design, transport, economic development, employment skills and training and provision of cultural and local services. Proposals for new health facilities in sustainable locations will generally be supported.  

Community Leisure Buildings 

5.429 The Council has a long established tradition of delivering ‘multi-purpose community leisure buildings’ which fulfill the needs of emerging and established communities. Recent provision takes into account the scale of the development, the nature of the place being delivered, and the proximity of nearby facilities and its offer. This Local Plan adopts this robust approach, supported by the Council’s, and partners experience, of what kind of facilities are deliverable and viable over the longer term particularly in response to some of the larger site allocations being proposed.

5.430 In addition, where indoor sporting facilities are proposed, they should generally provide space for a mixed use of community activity as part of their delivery to make the most efficient use of these buildings and also help with their on-going viability. 

Policy COM1 - Meeting the Community's Needs

Infrastructure and facilities required to meet the needs generated by new development, including sports, arts, community (including youth) and voluntary sector space, education and health provision, open space and play areas shall be provided as the community is established. 

Infrastructure or facilities designed to meet localised needs should normally be provided on-site. Other needs will be delivered in liaison with the relevant stakeholders and service providers to ensure that the provision is supplied in a way that meets their requirements and supports sustainability.

Development monies will be secured via S106 where provision relates to a localised need or as identified through the site allocations in this Local Plan. Otherwise, CIL receipts will be used to deliver strategic provision.

Where the need for developments to contribute to, or provide, particular infrastructure or facilities is dependent on their size, floorspace, traffic generation or any other attribute or impact exceeding a specified threshold and any site is brought forward  as two or more separate schemes of which one or more falls below the relevant threshold, the Council will seek from each scheme a proportionate contribution of the level of provision so as to match in total the requirement that would apply if the site came forward as a whole. 

In the Borough as a whole, the loss of existing community infrastructure will be resisted unless sufficient evidence has been submitted to demonstrate that they are no longer required or are obsolete and that suitable replacement provision is being provided or is located nearby.

Sport, Recreation and Play

5.431 Recreation, sport, open space and play areas can enrich the quality of our lives and contribute towards healthy living. The Borough currently enjoys a wide range of such space and this provision will be added to when current planning applications are implemented, most notably Chilmington Green which will deliver significant recreational and leisure areas.

5.432 The following total quantum’s of recreational, play, sport and open space are required to meet the needs of the new development proposed in this Local Plan. These figures are derived from the emerging Sports Pitches and Indoor Sports Facility Strategy, alongside standards set out in the current Green Spaces and Water Environment SPD. They take into account planned provision that is earmarked to come forward, such as at Chilmington Green. The figures do not take take into account the role which could be played by provision at schools. This provision should be treated as supplementary as in most cases it tends to have limited public access at key times.  

Table 4 - Total Spatial Target for play, open space and sports 

Informal space

22.5ha

Children’s play

5.6ha

Strategic Parks

3.4ha    

Allotment provision

2.2ha 

Sports halls (1 badminton hall or equivalent) 

3G Artificial Pitch 

Football Pitches

7 adult, 3 junior 

Hockey 2G pitch

1 adult 

Rugby 

2 senior pitches 

Cricket square and outfield

 

5.433 These figures are a ‘target’ as not all residential development coming forward will be required to deliver a proportion of these provisions. For example, some development will be excluded on viability grounds such as most proposals coming forward in the town centre, and a number of developments will fall below the threshold that trigger a requirement for provision. However, this is somewhat countered as CIL receipts can be used to deliver recreation, sport, play and open space, where it is strategic in nature. This type of provision effectively meets a need for all new developments in the Borough. Therefore the identification of a target figure is considered to be a robust starting point for the policy below.

5.434 In order to determine the quantum and type of provision required for each qualifying proposal, applicants will be expected to use the Sports England Calculator and the relevant standards in the Green Spaces and Water Environment SPD. Aside from informal space – which will normally be delivered on site and form part of the wider landscaping/ SUDs strategy, incidental space around buildings, discussions with the Council shall then take place as to what exact provision will be sort from any S106 monies to be collected, using the projects identified within the supporting Infrastructure Delivery Plan schedule as the starting point. 

The Hub Approach

5.435 The Local Plan seeks to deliver a community hub model and the strategies emerging for recreation, sports, open space and play all recommend the same model. The sport and recreational hubs are identified on Strategic Diagram 2 which supports this Local Plan. They are: 

5.436 Discovery Park: a new, major open space and recreational area that is proposed to include a number of sports pitches (including the provision for 3G pitches), a large scale indoor sports building, strategic play space and managed outdoor recreational space. The majority of Discovery Park will come forward in response to development at Chilmington Green and the area is protected as part of the Chilmington Green Area Action Plan, the provisions of which fall outside the scope of this Local Plan. However, an extension to Discovery Park is proposed to come forward as part of the Court Lodge development (policy S3). 

5.437 Conningbrook Park: a new large water based recreational resource and facilities at Conningbrook Lakes and significant indoor sports provision in the form of the existing Julie Rose Stadium. Complementary provision in the form of strategic play space and informal space will also be provided here. 

5.438 Ashford Town Centre: a key location for indoor sports provision within the Borough. The Stour Centre is the principal indoor sports facility within the borough and caters for a range of sports, including swimming, badminton, squash, netball and football.  In addition the Town Centre is also home to green spaces in the form of Victoria Park, Memorial Gardens and the Green Corridor. The Town Centre will continue to be a key recreational and sporting hub over the plan period.

5.439 Finberry/ Park Farm: a community and leisure hub adjacent to the planned primary school that compliments the facilities planned at Bridgefield Park. This Hub aims to deliver a 3G state of the art sports pitch which will be supported by a multi-use play area, a community building with indoor sports courts and changing facilities. 

5.440 Kingsnorth Recreation Centre: already a well established urban hub for the area and town. This could support an increase in the recreational and outdoor space offer located here. 

5.441 Sandyhurst Lane: another site already offering social, community and sports provision (comprising two full size grass football pitches and one rugby pitch supported by a pavilion comprising four team and one officials changing room, bar and large function room). New provision is proposed which could include improved sports pitches, informal and natural green space and potentially allotment space.  

5.442 Spearpoint: a busy football hub already existing on this site and contains six grass pitches, a newly built pavilion and tennis courts. The courts are currently in poor condition. The aspiration is to refurbish the tennis courts and provide a major new play area. Further leisure development on this site could also be considered. 

5.443 Pitchside/Courtside: Pitchside and Courtside are adjacent dual use sites in South Ashford on the campus of John Wallis Academy. Pitchside consists of a full size 3G pitch and two full size grass football pitches for community use. In addition the Academy grass playing field has a junior pitch, full size football pitch and full size rugby pitch which are available for occasional community use as demand dictates. Pitchside is supported by a 4 changing room pavilion. Courtside comprises six hard courts supported by a two changing room pavilion with meeting room and office. The primary use of the courts is for netball with tennis the main secondary use. This provides a key mixed use sports hub and has the potential to be extending and upgraded.

Local Provision

5.444 Not all of the provision of recreation, sport, open space and play areas will serve a wider catchment or play a strategic role. There are a number of local areas which fulfil a key role in meeting the everyday communities needs. These areas include Bridgefield Park, South Willesborough (Bulleid Place/Swan Centre), Singleton (Cuckoo Park/ Singleton Environment Centre), and Repton Park and Community Centre. These offer multi-use community space for local residents, children’s play and informal recreational open space. Hythe Road Recreation ground should be up-graded to provide a much needed quality open space for informal recreation including multi-use games area. When new development comes forward, there will remain a need to deliver provision at a local scale, to directly serve the community in which it is located. 

The approach in the rural area

5.445 The spatial approach in the rural area has to be a different one to the strategic hub approach above, given the dispersed nature of the settlement pattern. Here the Council has a strong track record of working with Parish Councils to ensure the delivery and maintenance of small scale provision across the rural settlements of the Borough.

5.446 In the rural areas it is important that the provision is linked where possible to public transport routes in order to work to avoid social exclusion, to ensure facilities are as accessible as possible to the widest catchment of users and thereby maximize the viability and vitality of the facilities themselves.

5.447 The Council will continue to liaise with the Parish Councils to determine the optimum level of provision possible in the rural areas.    

Policy COM2 - Recreation, Sport, Play and Open Spaces

As a target, the Council shall seek to deliver the quantum of provision as new recreation, sport, play and open space provision by 2030 as set out in table 4 of this Local Plan. 

Proposals will utilise the Sports England Calculator and comply with the standards set out within the Green Spaces and Water SPD, where practical.

Informal green space will normally be provided on site in line with the guidance and provisions contained within the Green Spaces and Water Environment SPD.

In Ashford, the provision of children’s play, strategic parks, allotments, sports facilities shall be concentrated on key allocated sites within this Local Plan or at the sports and recreation hubs identified above. Proposals which undermine the ability of a hub to play a role in delivering this provision shall not be supported. 

Provision that meets a localised need shall normally be required to be delivered on-site in a way that supports the local community as it comes forward.   

In the rural area, provision should normally be delivered in a way that helps maintain, enhance and potentially expand existing provision at the settlement where development is proposed, or at the nearest settlement.

In line with the provision within the NPPF exceptions to the approach outlined above could be justified, should the following circumstances arise in that:

  1. there is suitable open/ green space provision nearby and this provision can be accessed by green routes,
  2. there is suitable sports provision nearby and this provision is accessible and the facility is able to and has the capacity to be used by the public at key times and this access can be secured over the long term at determination of the application,
  3. delivering such provision would render a scheme unviable,
  4. not delivering the required provision is supported by the Council or in agreement with the Parish Council.

Allotments

5.448 Allotment gardening is an increasingly popular leisure activity and allotments themselves are an important feature in both urban and rural communities, providing wildlife and species rich habitats and attractive areas of green space in otherwise residential areas.

5.449 Allotments also make an important contribution to the planning and promotion of healthy communities, with the benefits of such safe, attractive and functional green areas including not only the direct provision of places for physical activity, but also the psychological and social benefits that arise from engaging with nature and opportunities for informal social interaction. Given their role in the well-being of communities and the difficulties in finding new open spaces within existing built up areas, the development of existing allotment land will only be supported in exceptional circumstances.

5.450 Demand for allotments owned by the Council is kept under review, with additional provision being made where necessary. Over the lifetime of this Local Plan the need for additional allotment provision is 2.2ha, the strategy for which will be identified in the emerging Open Space Strategy. 

5.451 Allotment provision should be provided in a way that is well related to residential properties, sit sympathetically in the landscape and enjoy suitable vehicular access arrangements. In addition, the Public Green Spaces and Water Environment SPD establishes a number of design principles relating to allotment provision which should also be applied to all new allotment sites coming forward during the lifetime of this Plan. 

Policy COM3 - Allotments

The provision of new allotments will be supported provided they follow the design principles established within the Public Green Spaces and Water Environment SPD. 

Proposals for the redevelopment of existing allotment land will only be permitted where the allotment site is significantly under-used and suitable alternative provision for allotment holders is available nearby, where the site is not needed to rectify any local shortages in informal open space, and where the proposed development would not lead to the loss of an important undeveloped area which plays a significant role in the character of the local environment.

Cemeteries

Cemetery Provision

5.452 The yearly mortality rate in this Borough has remained broadly constant over the last ten years despite an increase in population.  This is due to people living longer, however a continued increase in life spans is unlikely over the medium term and so it has been assumed that the future mortality rate will increase in line with Ashford’s population growth, which grew at a rate of 1.2% per annum between 2001 and 2011. Based on an average annual year on year future population increase of 1.2% per annum burial space within the Council’s Cemeteries is likely to be exhausted in the early twenty twenties. 

Policy COM4 - Cemetery Provision
Proposals for the expansion or creation of new cemeteries in the Borough will be supported providing that the land is suitable for such use, there are no adverse impacts on the water table, the provision and any facilities would sit sympathetically on the landscape so as to not adversely impact any wider views and suitable access onto the local road network can be achieved.