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Agenda item

Council-Led Garden Community Update


Prior to the introduction of the report, Ms Gail Duff addressed the Committee as a representative of the Save Our Heathlands Action Group.


The Director of Regeneration and Place introduced the report that summarised the progress made within the last month. The report included the following topics; the second stage submission to Local Planning Authority (LPA) and the feedback provided, the financial model, the promotional costs and programme, delivery model and the role of Homes England (HE), Landowners, the potential motorway junction, community engagement and broader considerations. The Committee approved the original business case for the Heathlands proposal in September 2019 and the report and documentation provided was a refreshed version. The residual land valuation approach demonstrated the potential for a commercially acceptable margin to be achieved. The ongoing promotional costs, securement of planning consent and land option agreements were included in the report.


The Director of Regeneration and Place highlighted the two emerging delivery scenarios within the report. The first focused on a simplified enabling role whereby it was a reasonable prospect that HE may wish to become more involved in the project, whereas the second scenario would involve HE would draw down land options, carry out a portion of the infrastructure work needed and forward sales parcels to developers. It was possible that the LPA would feature the Heathlands proposal in the Local Plan Review (LPR).


It was noted that the project was consistent with the Council’s Strategic Plan priority of “embracing growth and enabling infrastructure’’ and would provide the land for 4,000 homes of which 40% would be affordable housing, to include social rent housing and employment opportunities. The significant land value capture would fund infrastructure, with the project to inject up to an estimated £1billion of construction work into the local economy across its lifespan. The Council would be able to consider future investment opportunities at a later stage, that would include affordable housing and/or commercial investments.


Visiting Members addressed the Committee and raised the following points. This included the affordability of the 40% affordable housing figure proposed, of which 70% would be for social housing, the reduced transport and infrastructure elements of the proposal, the impact on and need for greater engagement with the local area and residents and the access criteria for restricted documents. It was mentioned that the project was unsuitable, with the Committee requested to withdraw their support.  The Director of Regeneration and Place confirmed that the affordable housing provision was in accordance with the Council’s policy and that the remaining 30% of the affordable housing would be provided under shared ownership.


The Committee expressed concerns regarding the unlikelihood of key infrastructure that included a motorway junction and secondary school being achieved within the proposal and that this would impact its sustainability. As such, the Committee considered whether it was appropriate to defer the item, to enable greater discussion and Member involvement within the decision making of the proposal moving forward.


The Chief Executive confirmed that the Interim Local Plan Review Director and Planning Team were considering strategic transport infrastructure as part of the current local plan review, including in the M20 corridor. This would enable consideration to be given to both existing need and that arising from future potential development in the area. The delivery of an additional motorway junction was dependent on both meeting Highways England technical requirements and securing sufficient funding.  Highways England required 10,000 homes and 10,000 jobs for consideration of a motorway junction. The Heathlands proposal would not achieve this target, but other developments along this corridor would also be taken into consideration. It was confirmed that the Council was engaging in regular discussions with Ashford Borough Council, Kent County Council and Highways England to pursue consideration of the junction.


The Committee referenced the Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Committee, in its role in deciding which sites are included within the Local Plan Review. A formal decision on the preferred and alternative strategic spatial development options for the Local Plan would be made by that Committee in October 2020, with several member briefings to occur in August and September.




1.  The Council signals its intention to continue to work with Homes England (HE) to act as master developers to bring forward the Heathlands Proposal and that the second stage submission to the LPA be endorsed;


2.  The following be approved:


a.  The second stage vision document and revised masterplan provided as Appendix G, as well as the other supporting appendices shown;


b.  The financial model for the Heathlands proposal as provided as private Appendix L;


c.  The shared (with HE) impending financial commitment to continue the promotion of the proposal through the Local Plan Review (LPR) process, to secure the land options and Planning consent over the coming years; and


d.  The use of the second stage vision document as a means and bases for further community engagement in collaboration with the Parish Council.


Note: Councillor Purle exited the meeting after the resolutions had been agreed.

Supporting documents: