Contact your Parish Council


Maidstone Borough Council Local Plan Review: Regulation 18b Preferred Approach

(December 2020)

 


 

Contents

Foreword. 6

1.       Introduction. 8

How to Comment 8

About this Consultation. 8

Background to this Consultation. 10

2.       Introduction to the Maidstone Borough Local Plan Review.. 12

Background to the Local Plan. 12

National Planning System Context 12

What is the Development Plan?. 13

Content of the Maidstone Borough Local Plan. 14

Neighbourhood Plans. 16

Planning Guidance. 17

Why are we reviewing the Local Plan?. 17

What is the focus of the Local Plan Review?. 18

What is the present position on production of the Local Plan Review?. 21

3.       Spatial Portrait & Key Local Issues. 26

Spatial Portrait 26

The LPR’s Strategic Issues. 27

What are the key cross-boundary issues?. 30

Progress on Neighbouring Authority Plans. 31

4.       Spatial vision and objectives. 36

Local Plan Review Spatial vision. 36

Spatial objectives. 36

5. The Borough Spatial Strategy (SS1) 40

The Plan Period. 40

Requirements. 40

Housing Needs. 40

Commercial Development Needs. 41

G&T Accommodation Needs. 42

Settlement Hierarchy. 43

Call for Sites 2019 & Strategic Land Availability Assessment 45

Preferred Approach and Reasonable Alternative Approaches. 46

Policy SS1. 47

Key Diagram (Draft) 50

6. Spatial Strategic Policies. 51

SP1 Maidstone Town Centre. 51

SP2 Maidstone Urban Area. 60

SP3 Development at the edge of Maidstone. 62

SP4 Garden Settlements. 65

SP4(a) Heathlands Garden Settlement 67

SP4 (b) Development North of M2/Lidsing. 71

SP5 (Potential)Strategic Development Locations. 73

SP5 (a) Potential Development in the Leeds-Langley Corridor. 73

SP5 (b) Development at Invicta Barracks. 76

SP5(c) - Lenham broad location for housing growth. 77

SP6 Rural Service Centres. 78

SP6(a) Harrietsham.. 79

SP6(b) Headcorn. 82

SP6(c) Lenham.. 84

SP6(d) Marden. 84

SP6(e) Staplehurst 87

SP7 Larger Villages. 89

SP7(a) Boughton Monchelsea. 90

SP7(b) Coxheath. 92

SP7(c) Eyhorne Street (Hollingbourne) 94

SP7(d) Sutton Valence. 96

SP7(e) Yalding. 98

SP8 Smaller Villages. 100

SP9 Development in the Countryside. 101

7. Thematic Strategic Policies. 107

SP10 Housing. 107

SP10(a) Housing Mix. 108

SP10(b) Affordable Housing. 109

SP10(d) Gypsy & Traveller Site Allocations. 111

SP11 Economic Development 113

SP11(a) Retention of Employment Sites. 115

SP11(b) District and Local Centres. 118

SP11(c) Employment Allocations. 119

SP12 Sustainable Transport 123

SP13 Infrastructure. 128

SP13 (b) Open Space Development 132

SP14 The Environment 133

Policy SP14 (a) – Natural Environment 137

SP14 (b) – Historic Environment 139

SP14 (c) – Climate Change. 140

SP15 Design. 142

8.       Detailed Site Allocation Policies. 144

Retention of MBLP 2017 Site Allocations. 144

New Site Allocations proposed in the Local Plan Review.. 145

Sites in Maidstone Town Centre. 147

Maidstone Urban Area Site Allocations. 158

Edge of Maidstone Site Allocations. 163

Harrietsham Site Allocations. 172

Headcorn Site Allocations. 175

Lenham Site Allocations (employment only) 176

Marden Site Allocations. 178

Boughton Monchelsea Site Allocations. 182

Coxheath Site Allocations. 184

Eyhorne St (Hollingbourne) Site Allocations. 189

Sutton Valence Site Allocations. 190

Yalding Site Allocations. 193

Sites in the Countryside. 194

9.  Non-strategic policies – Development Management Preferred Approaches. 197

Introduction. 197

Housing. 201

Commercial development 217

Tourism, leisure and recreation. 228

Sustainable transport 234

Infrastructure. 243

Environment 253

Quality & design. 257

 

 


Foreword

 

Welcome to Maidstone Borough Council’s Local Plan Review – Consultation Draft. This review comes during strange and challenging times, as we battle with a global pandemic, prepare for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union and, from a purely spatial planning perspective, await the outcomes from current government consultation around fundamental changes to the English planning system.

Notwithstanding these wider challenges, there are good reasons why we must continue to progress our local plan review.  Not least the need to ensure that we remain in control of where development takes place in our borough and avoid a situation where our planning decisions are taken by Government Inspectors.  Equally it will ensure that where development does take place, we can make sure that it brings with it the jobs and infrastructure necessary to maintain balance in our economy and our communities. In addition, we have accelerated the timeline for this review in order to try and delay the impact of a proposed increase in government housing targets, and ensure that if these higher numbers do come, we have delayed them to give sufficient time to plan properly and positively. 

Having talked about challenges, this review has of course brought its own. We are very aware that new development impacts existing communities and places additional pressure upon our services and our infrastructure. So, this consultation document, which covers the period from 2022 to 2037, sets out the spatial strategy and supporting policies which we think will best enable us to meet the housing and other development pressures we face, in the most sustainable pattern and in a manner which will maximise our existing infrastructure and, where this is not possible, enable us to provide new infrastructure.

Our housing targets are stipulated by government and we have no control over these. Our current housing target is 883 units per year, the target contained within this document is 1214 units per year and, had we waited for the proposed increase in the target to take effect, the number we would have to plan for would have risen from 883 to 1569, almost 80%, in this plan period.

From an employment perspective, we must prepare for the uncertainties that will exist post Covid19 and post Brexit. What we know, is that the areas which fare best in difficult economic times, are those which offer the maximum choice and flexibility to those wishing to invest or to reinvest in employment creating activities. For this reason, our approach at this stage, is one of providing beyond technical targets for employment land provision – and even then, we will need to keep this under regular review.

Our town centre sits at the heart of our borough and our communities. We must also try to ensure that it also remains at the heart of our economy and that despite current circumstances we equip it properly for its ongoing role as the County Town of Kent. For this reason, this document proposes that Maidstone’s town centre will be the subject of an associated but separate Development Plan Document. This Town Centre Action Plan will look at how, over the period up to 2050, we can transform our town with a programme of new investment in high added value jobs, an improved retail, leisure and cultural offer, new community, health and education infrastructure and new and enhanced green spaces and river frontages.

It is neither possible or appropriate to summarise a document of this scale, particularly one which potentially influences so many facets of our urban and rural environments on a day to day basis, in a short foreword. My key message must be that these are our thoughts – now we want to hear yours. 


 

1. Introduction

 

How to Comment

1.1 We welcome your comments on the approaches set out in this document. To aid efficient analysis, please use the proforma that accompanies this document [TO BE ATTACHED AFTER SPI COMMITTEE], although comments that do not use the proforma will still be accepted. The consultation runs from 1st December 2020 and finishes at 5pm on the 22nd December 2020.

About this Consultation

1.2 This document is the second public consultation on the review of the adopted Local Plan 2017. The first consultation took place in 2019 and was entitled ‘Scoping, Themes and Issues’. Since then, a great deal of additional work has been undertaken and Maidstone Borough Council is now in a position to consult on our preferred approaches to the policy areas that we propose to include in the review document. This also includes, reasonable alternative approaches, where appropriate. These are not final policies - the work, including evidence gathering, is still ongoing and this consultation provides an opportunity to influence the approaches we intend to take, before Maidstone Borough Council undertakes a public consultation on the draft Local Plan Review (LPR) documents. This is scheduled to take place in June 2021.

1.3 This consultation is aimed at a range of stakeholders, from the local community, through to landowners, developers, businesses, statutory undertakers and neighbouring local authorities.

1.4 All policies from the adopted Local Plan 2017 have been reviewed and you will see that the structure of the main chapters of this consultation document reflects the structure of the adopted Local Plan 2017. Some of the adopted Local Plan 2017 policies are still necessary and will be retained. Others need modification and others are no longer needed. There are also new policy approaches proposed in this document that did not feature in the adopted Local Plan 2017. This consultation is therefore an opportunity to comment on vision and objectives and the amount and location of growth (including housing, employment and retail) that is proposed in the Borough between 2022 and 2037. The document also seeks to address the need for infrastructure, services and facilities that both existing and new communities will need to ensure balanced growth and a healthy, prosperous, sustainable borough.

1.5 The latter parts of the consultation document also provide an opportunity to comment on approaches to more detailed, non-strategic policies that are primarily used to assess planning applications.

1.6 The LPR sets out to meet the growth identified in the supporting evidence base over the plan period (2022-2037). This has indicated a proposed overall growth as follows:

 

Identified growth needs (2022-2037)

Residential (dwellings) – 18,210

Employment (m2) – 101,555m2

 

 

1.7 For residential growth there is an increase of 5,790 new units from 2022 to 2037. For employment, the need is reset and not additional to that already identified. As this is a LPR the growth outlined above is split between saved existing undeveloped allocations from the Local Plan 2017 and new allocations proposed here in this consultation. The proposed split between existing and new allocations is as follows:

 

Undeveloped Local Plan 2017 allocations/broad locations  

New LPR proposed allocations

Residential: 3,372

Residential: 5,883

Employment: 61,300 m2

Employment: 167,349 m2

 

1.8 A summary of the additional growth to that remaining in the Local Plan 2017 is outlined in table 1 below. This does not include LPRSA Emp 1, as this is to be defined through the development management process. It sets out the broad areas and the quantum for employment and residential growth across the Borough.

Growth Location

Residential units

Employment m2

Town centre m2

Smaller Settlements

279

-

-

TC Regeneration

700

532

265

Garden Settlements

2,700

-

-

Maidstone Urban Area

182

-

-

Edge of Maidstone (N)

84

-

-

Edge of Maidstone (SW)

250

-

-

Edge of Maidstone (S/SE)

658

-

-

Edge of Maidstone (NE)

92

-

-

Harrietsham

100

-

-

Headcorn

127

-

-

Lenham

-

3,296

-

Marden

113

-

-

Staplehurst

127

-

-

Boughton Monchelsea

42

-

-

Coxheath

100

-

-

Eyhorne St (H’bourne)

11

-

-

Sutton Valence

100

375

413

Yalding

100

-

-

the Countryside

25

41,023

-

 

1.9 The preferred approach for growth as set out above is felt to be sustainable. It is felt that by the allocation of growth to the existing centres in the Borough and developing new centres, that would be able to be independently sustainable, the growth pattern is sustainable.  In addition, the growth pattern identified would ensure deliverability as it is a balanced approach across the Borough and ensure that the benefits of growth emerge in a timely manner.

 

Background to this Consultation

1.10 The review of the adopted Local Plan 2017 is set within a framework that applies across England and is controlled by the government. This includes the overall matters that Local Plans have regard to, as well as the overall process for producing Local Plans and their reviews.

1.11 One of the matters that is now set by the government is the amount of housing need that the Council must plan to provide for in this review. This figure is 1214 units per annum from 2022, a rise from 883 units per annum planned for in the adopted Local Plan 2017. The figure is derived from a standard methodology that the government applies across England.

1.12 The scale of housing growth that the borough is required to meet has been, and will continue to be, challenging. The spatial strategy proposals contained in this consultation document result from very detailed work following the Council’s Call for Sites exercise in 2019, which has included 2 stages of independent assessment by consultants commissioned to evaluate a range of ‘garden settlement’ scale submissions. The strategy which has emerged from this work, comprises 2 large scale mixed use proposals located in the north west and east of Maidstone, along with a pattern of growth dispersed sustainably amongst the town centre and the urban area, rural settlement centres and larger and smaller villages.

1.13 Recently, the government consulted on changes to the  standard methodology, (the formula used to calculate house building targets) which, if adopted, would see Maidstone’s housing need figure significantly increase further, to 1569 units per annum. In an effort to take advantage of the transition period proposed by the government, Maidstone Borough Council has brought forward its timetable for producing this review of the adopted Local Plan 2017, including undertaking this consultation on a three-week basis and bringing forward the next public consultation on the draft LPR documents from December 2021 to June 2021. A revised Local Development Scheme and Statement of Community Involvement have been published by the Council and a Covid 19 addendum to the Statement of Community Involvement is also in effect. All documents are available on the Council’s LPR website - https://localplan.maidstone.gov.uk/home/local-plan-review

1.14 From an employment perspective, the LPR is being undertaken in quite unprecedented times, with the impacts of an ongoing world-wide pandemic and the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union as yet unknown. For this reason, the approach proposed in this document is based upon a level of over provision in order to maintain the widest and most flexible employment land offer possible as a mechanism to ensure that Maidstone can compete effectively for both investment and reinvestment.

1.15 The document recognises the important role of Maidstone Town Centre, the County Town of Kent and the most sustainable location in the borough. The role of the Town Centre going forward will become increasingly important both locally and sub regionally as a focus for inward investment and growth, and for this reason, will be the subject of a Development Plan Document prepared alongside the LPR. This ‘Town Centre Plan’ will promote growth in employment, leisure, culture, and housing in a manner underpinned by high levels of community, health and education infrastructure – all of which will be structured around the role of the Town Centre as an exemplar of sustainable development and sustainable living.


 

2. Introduction to the Maidstone Borough Local Plan Review

 

2.1 This chapter provides useful background information regarding the LPR and this Preferred Approaches consultation document. It therefore has regard to the English planning system and the current planning documents that apply in Maidstone Borough. There is also information on the nature of the LPR, as well as the stage that the review has reached.

Background to the Local Plan

2.2 Maidstone Borough Council’s (MBC’s) activities impact on the lives of people living and working in the borough in a variety of ways.  From collecting refuse from homes and businesses, keeping our public open spaces clean, tidy and fit for purpose, actively intervening to make the borough ‘open for business’, managing the housing register and finding safe places to live for those in greatest housing need, all the way to managing the elections in the borough, the council’s responsibilities and activities are diverse.

2.3 This responsibility is reflected in MBC’s recently adopted Strategic Plan, which highlights our responsibility “to make every effort to deliver its services and produce cohesive plans for – economic, environmental, social and cultural prosperity. We have stewardship of our future and it is important that we get it right.

2.4 One part of MBC ‘s statutory responsibilities is as the Local Planning Authority. This means the council has a statutory responsibility for determining planning applications and is responsible for preparing and maintaining a Local Plan for the borough.

2.5 The Maidstone Borough Local Plan (MBLP) was adopted in October 2017 and covers the period to 2031, anticipating and planning for the new homes, business premises, shops and infrastructure needed over the Plan period.

2.6 This consultation document is part of the preparation of the LPR. It is intended for the LPR to eventually update the current Local Plan, whilst ‘saving’ relevant policies contained within it, and ensuring that it is in line with the latest national planning requirements, including extending the plan period to 2037.

2.7 The Local Plan forms part of the overall Development Plan for the borough. These key concepts are explained below. 

 

National Planning System Context

 

2.8 The ongoing review of the adopted Local Plan 2017 is set within a framework that applies across England and is controlled by the government. This includes the overall matters that Local Plans have regard to, as well as the overall process for producing Local Plans and their reviews.

2.9 One of the key documents that the government produces that sets out its expectations regarding the content and production of Local Plans is the National Planning Policy Framework (with accompanying National Planning Policy Guidance). Reference is made throughout this consultation document to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) because of this.

2.10 The statutory regulations for what a Local Plan should contain, and how it should be prepared are set out in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (as amended), the Localism Act 2011 (as amended) and the Town and Country Planning Local Planning (England) Regs 2012 (as amended). Together these Acts and Regulations establish the requirement for a Development Plan to be maintained for each constituent part of England.

2.11 The purpose of the planning system is to achieve sustainable development to the greatest extent possible. Sustainability has three dimensions; economic – helping to build a strong, responsive and competitive economy; social – supporting strong, vibrant and healthy communities; and environmental – contributing to the protection and enhancement of the natural, built and historic environment and taking a proactive approach to climate change.  These aspects can sometimes compete with one another and the LPR will aim to strike a successful balance between the three.  A key way this will be considered is through the parallel process of Sustainability Assessment (incorporating Strategic Environmental Assessment), which is detailed later in this chapter.    

2.12 An important component of the Government’s ethos is that the development that the country needs – new homes, new commercial premises, community facilities and the associated infrastructure - should be planned.  The way to do this is to have a Local Plan in place which anticipates the development required and puts the planning arrangements in place to make it happen in a sustainable way.

 

What is the Development Plan?

 

2.13 The Development Plan is the collective term for the primary documents which are used in planning application decisions.

2.14 Currently the Maidstone Development Plan comprises the adopted Maidstone Borough Local Plan (2017), the adopted Kent Minerals & Waste Local Plan (2013-30) as amended by Early Partial Review (2020), Kent Minerals Sites Plan (2020), the North Loose Neighbourhood Plan (2016) and the Staplehurst Neighbourhood Plan (updated 2020), Loose Neighbourhood Plan (2019) and Marden Neighbourhood Plan (2020). Once the LPR is adopted, it will supersede elements of the adopted Maidstone Borough Local Plan. 

2.15 The above diagram illustrates the relationships between the national and local planning documents that apply in the borough.

 

Content of the Maidstone Borough Local Plan

2.16 A Local Plan is a document produced by councils across the country which guides the way new development will happen over the coming years. It provides the key framework for future decisions on planning applications. It sets out how much new development is needed, where it should be built and what supporting infrastructure such as roads, schools and health centres should be provided.  It also guides the quality of development.  It can be thought of as a blueprint for the future growth of the borough. It is relevant for anyone interested in the future success of the borough - residents, workers, businesses, landowners, developers, and infrastructure providers.

2.17 The content required to be covered in a Local Plan are primarily set out in the NPPF and National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG). Together, these establish the matters that the Local Plan must cover, as well as in part setting how policy approaches must address the matters identified in the Framework. There is still room for local issues and approaches to be identified, subject to the Local Plan policies conforming with the overall NPPF & NPPG framework.

2.18 We must also prepare the plan within the legal framework that national (and European) legislation creates. 

2.19 The NPPF sets out that Local Plans should include strategic policies, which address the key strategic issues for the borough, as well as policies which will help to inform decision making on planning applications. The strategic policies of the LPR will need to:

“…set out an overall strategy for the pattern, scale and quality of development, and make sufficient provision for:

a) housing (including affordable housing), employment, retail, leisure and other commercial development;

b) infrastructure for transport, telecommunications, security, waste management, water supply, wastewater, flood risk and coastal change management, and the provision of minerals and energy (including heat);

c) community facilities (such as health, education and cultural infrastructure); and d) conservation and enhancement of the natural, built and historic environment, including landscapes and green infrastructure, and planning measures to address climate change mitigation and adaptation”

2.20 Maidstone’s Local Plan is therefore not concerned simply with new development.  The planning policies and designations it contains also help to protect what is most valued in the borough – landscapes, historic buildings, wildlife habitats – by ensuring that new development is directed away from the locations that are the most sensitive and new development is planned in a way which enhances the overall quality of the borough. Its policies and proposals also have the potential to positively affect communities by adding social value and take a proactive approach to climate change.

2.21 There is already a Local Plan in place for this borough. The Maidstone Borough Local Plan was ‘adopted’ (finished) in October 2017 and it looks ahead to 2031 from an original start date of 2011, anticipating and planning for the new homes, business premises, shops and infrastructure needed over the coming years.

2.22 There are four types of policies in the adopted Local Plan (highlighted in bold below), 168 policies in all which are set out over nine chapters:

a.      Introduction to Maidstone Borough Local Plan

b.      Key Influences – including national policy and guidance, and other complementary plans and strategies.

c.       Spatial Portrait – setting out the Vision and Objectives for the Plan

d.      Strategic Policies (31) – identifying the Spatial Strategy of where growth will go, setting strategic policy for the larger settlements in the borough, and policies managing strategic cross-borough issues including housing mix, economic development, sustainable transport and development in the countryside.

e.      Strategic Site Policies (95) – identifying sites which will deliver the homes that Maidstone required to meet local need (66), detailed policies for broad locations for housing growth (3), detailed site allocations policies for Gypsy & traveller accommodation (16), detailed site allocation policies for retail and mixed use (6), and detailed site allocation policies for employment (4).

f.        Development Management Policies (26) – setting out how planning applications will be determined on local matters including management of the natural environment, design and density, and management of open spaces.

g.      Development Management Policies for the town centre (3);

h.      Development Management Policies in the countryside (12);

i.        Monitoring & Review Policy (1)

Neighbourhood Plans

2.23 Neighbourhood plans are a way that local communities can influence the planning of the area in which they live and work.  Parish councils and designated neighbourhood forums can prepare plans for their designated neighbourhood areas. 

2.24 Neighbourhood planning is very active in Maidstone, and the council takes a positive approach to its duty to assist, confirmed by the Council’s Strategic Plan which commits MBC to “working with parishes and community groups on neighbourhood plans.”

2.25 Four plans have already been completed (‘made’): the North Loose Neighbourhood Plan 2015-2031 (2016); Loose Neighbourhood Plan 2018-2031 (2019); Marden Neighbourhood Plan 2017-2031 (2020) and the Staplehurst Neighbourhood Plan 2016-2031 (updated 2020).  At the time of writing, an additional six plans are in preparation:

·         Lenham Neighbourhood Plan, which is allocating land to house 1,000 homes in accordance with the area’s ‘broad location’ status, completed a successful examination and will be subject to local referendum post May 2021 when referendums resume following suspension due to Covid-19;

·         Boughton Monchelsea Neighbourhood Plan has completed both Regulation 14 and 16 consultations and was submitted for examination in October 2020.

·         Otham Neighbourhood Plan has completed Regulation 14 consultation and will be was subject to Regulation 16 consultation between October and November 2020.

·         Sutton Valence, Tovil and Yalding Neighbourhood Plans are at various stages of progression towards publication for public consultation.

 

2.26 A further six parishes are designated neighbourhood areas, a first step to producing neighbourhood plans in the future.

2.27 The Government requires neighbourhood plans to conform to national policies and be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the adopted Local Plan.  The draft plan must be examined by an independent Examiner and pass a local referendum where more than half of those voting in the referendum have voted in favour of the plan being used to inform planning applications in the area. The plan moves forward to being made (adopted) by the Borough Council and becomes part of the Development Plan for the area.

2.28 Neighbourhood plans can allocate sites for development, including for housing, over and above the sites allocated in an adopted Local Plan. Similarly, the LPR may need to allocate sites in addition to those included in a neighbourhood plan, to ensure that the new borough-wide growth targets are met in full. 

2.29 Neighbourhood Plans and Local Plans should be complementary and avoid any conflict between policies or land allocations.  The LPR will need to take into account the policies of made neighbourhood plans.  Where neighbourhood plans are emerging alongside the review, the parish councils and MBC will need to work together to minimise any potential conflicts.  In the case where there is a conflict, emerging neighbourhood plans will need to be in general conformity with the strategic policies of Maidstone’s adopted Local Plan and then also with the strategic policies contained in the LPR once adopted. Government legislation requires that where non-strategic policies in neighbourhood plans and local plans overlap, the last document to become part of the Development Plan has primacy.

Planning Guidance

2.30 In addition to the policy documents above, the Council also publishes guidance documents which help to implement the Development Plan. At the current time these consist of:

·         Affordable and Local Needs Housing (SPD) 2020

·         Kent Design Guide (2005)

·         Kent & Medway Structure Plan 2006: SPG4 Vehicle Parking Standards

·         Kent Design Guide Review: Interim Guidance Note 3-Residential Parking

·         London Road Character Area Assessment SPD (2008)

·         Loose Road Character Area Assessment SPD (2008)

·         Domestic and Medium Scale Solar PV Arrays (up to 50KW) and Solar Thermal (2014)

·         Large Scale (>50KW) Solar PV Arrays (2014)

·         Kent Downs AONB Management Plan 2014-2019 (Second Revision)

Why are we reviewing the Local Plan?

2.31 A LPR is a process where a local authority will assess its present Local Plan to understand if any part of it needs to be updated. It is a process set out in national policy.[1]

2.32 The positive decision to prepare a LPR demonstrates the council’s commitment to take active control over the borough’s future growth. Through the review, we will locally shape, inform and make decisions about the locations for new development. This will also help avoid ‘planning by appeal’ in the future.  In the worst case, authorities which do not make sufficient progress preparing a local plan risk having the plan prepared for them by central government.

2.33 At present Maidstone Borough Council is reviewing the adopted Local Plan (2011-2031). This consultation is part of that review process. The LPR is not a completely new plan. Some aspects of the current plan will not need to be updated or changed and will be carried forward into the new Local Plan. However, other aspects will change, due to changing requirements contained within national planning policy or other significant changes in local circumstances, for example.  The development strategy of the adopted Local Plan will continue to be delivered up to 2031

2.34 Local Plans are required to be reviewed every five years. Another requirement is to extend the number of years that the plan covers - to 15 years from adoption, meaning at least 2037 for this review given the intended 2022 adoption date – and dealing with the additional new development requirements which that will bring.

2.35 As noted in the introduction to this document, the government has recently undertaken public consultations on changes to the English planning system. One of the key proposals is a new standard methodology for calculating housing need and this has also influenced the production of the LPR.

2.36 As the LPR is a ‘rolling forward’ of the current plan, and not a wholly new plan, there will be an overlap in the time horizon of the two.  The development strategy of the adopted Local Plan will continue to be delivered up to 2031, including in particular the ‘broad locations’. The LPR will address the additional development requirements for the post 2022 period resulting from the Government’s standard methodology (for housing) and other evidence updates as well as the revised NPPF.

What is the focus of the Local Plan Review?

2.37 For Maidstone there are clear reasons to justify why a LPR is necessary. These include:

National planning policy changes

2.38 The NPPF has also been revised significantly since the Maidstone Borough Local Plan was adopted. The most significant changes include:

a.      Strengthening the requirement to produce a Statement of Common Ground concerning how overall need and cross-boundary co-operation is taking place;

b.      Introduction of the national standard method for calculating a ‘local housing need’ figure.

c.       A more detailed requirement to set out the housing needs of particular groups including families, older people, people with disabilities, students, and private renters;

d.      Increased guidance on how rural developments should make use of an area’s existing infrastructure/services and that villages should work together to provide rural service networks;

e.      A requirement to make 10% of new homes on major sites available for affordable home ownership

f.        A more onerous test of ‘deliverability’ setting out how local authorities should demonstrate availability and deliverability of land for new housing;

g.      Strategic policies to set out a housing requirement figure for designated neighbourhood areas;

h.      A requirement to set out a vision and strategy for economic growth locally;

i.        Promoting the re-use of existing and underutilised land and buildings to help meet local need;

j.        Clarifying that the ‘agent of change’ (or applicant) should be responsible for mitigating the impact of their scheme of potential nuisance arising from existing development;

k.       The inclusion of making sufficient provision for planning measures to address climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Changes to planning law

2.39 In 2017 the government updated secondary legislation that made it a requirement to complete a review of a local development document (Local Plan) every 5 years. As a result the Local Plan 2017 now needs to be reviewed by 2022.

Maidstone Strategic Plan (2019-2045)

2.40 The Maidstone Strategic Plan sets out the overarching priorities, outcomes and short-term actions to be given particular importance, to deliver the overall Vision.  In addition, it identifies four cross-cutting themes which are correlated to the short-term actions and, by extension, to the identified outcomes. We will make sure these priorities, outcomes and additional cross-cutting themes are embedded in our approach to the LPR.

2.41 The Strategic Plan sets out the council’s aspiration for Maidstone through to 2045 and how we are going to achieve it. Our Vision is “Maidstone - a vibrant, prosperous urban and rural community at the heart of Kent where everyone can realise their potential” which sets its aspiration for the borough through to 2045 and how we are going to achieve it. Maidstone has ensured that its Strategic Plan has been produced prior to the start of the LPR. It contains ambitious priorities that recognise the potential of the borough whilst setting long terms aspirations that will benefit our residents, businesses and partners now and in the future.

2.42 The Strategic Plan makes it clear that a fundamental way to achieve our aspirations is by being good stewards and ensuring we take a long-term view. As the plan states “the choices we make today will impact on the state of our environment and the quality of life enjoyed by our residents, decades from now.” Fundamentally this is why it is so important for the council to have its long-term Strategic Plan in place with a Vision to lead us towards a planned future where we embrace controlled growth. The LPR will play an important role in respect of these priorities.

Performance of the Local Plan 17 against Authority Monitoring Report indicators

2.43 The Local Plan 2017 includes a number of monitoring indicators to monitor and review the effectiveness of the Local Plan policies. The Authority Monitoring Report (AMR), through the 50 Local Plan indicators and 41 Sustainability Appraisal indicators, addresses whether the policies in the Local Plan 2017 are delivering the outcomes that were originally intended, and where policies are not meeting these outcomes, provides some background. The analysis of the 50 local plan indicators and 41 Sustainability Appraisal indicators demonstrates that, in some cases, changes to local plan policies are necessary to ensure that the Council continues to meet its monitoring targets.

2.44 Under indicator M9 the Council is required to monitor the number of entries on the self-build register and the number of plots for self-build units consented per annum. The Council has a sustained low delivery of self-build plots over the past 3 years compared with registered interest. A review of Policy SP19 Housing Mix and the approach taken by the Council to deliver self-build forms part of this review.

2.45 Indicator M13 requires the density of housing to be assessed. The average of housing densities delivered between 2016/17 and 2019/20 within the town centre and urban area are considerably higher compared to the targets set out in the adopted Local Plan. The AMR explains that this higher density is due to changes of use of single properties into flatted developments. A review of Policy H1 Housing site allocations and Policy DM12 Density of housing development forms part of this review.

2.46 Indicator M20 looks at the amount of B class floorspace by type consented and completed on allocated sites per annum. Both Policy EMP1(2) South of Claygate, Pattenden Lane, Marden and RMX1(6) Mote Road are yet to gain planning permission, though it is acknowledged that there is still ten years of the plan left in which these could be delivered. Similarly, M25 looks at the amount of convenience and comparison retail floorspace consented and completed on allocated sites per annum. During the monitoring year no retail development was permitted on RMX1(1) Newnham Park, Bearsted Road, RMX1(3) King Street car park and former AMF Bowling Site and RMX1(5) Powerhub Building and Baltic Wharf, St Peter’s Street. Again, it is acknowledged that there is still ten years of the plan left in which these could be delivered, but these policies are part of this review.

2.47 The amount of B class employment floorspace consented and completed by type per annum is assessed by Indicator M18. Since 2016/17 there has been a net total loss of 32,505 sqm employment floorspace. As part of this LPR, the approach to employment land is being reviewed. This includes policies SP21 Economic Development, RMX1 Retail and Mixed-use site allocations and EMP1 Employment site allocations.

2.48 Indicator M24 looks at the amount of additional comparison and convenience retail floorspace consented and completed per annum. Since 2016/17 there has been a total overall loss of retail floorspace. This will increase pressure to deliver retail floorspace requirements over the remaining years of the plan. Retail requirements are being reviewed as part of the LPR. This includes policies SP21 Economic Development, RMX1 Retail and Mixed use site allocations, DM16 Town Centre Uses, DM17 District centres, local centres and local shops and facilities, DM27 Primary Shopping Frontages, DM28 Secondary shopping frontages, and DM40 Retail units in the countryside.”

Early review of Maidstone Local Plan 2017 (Policy LPR1)

2.49 The independent Planning Inspector who examined the adopted Local Plan decided that an early review of the plan would be needed. Policy LPR1 of the adopted Local Plan sets out a requirement to undertake a review of the Local Plan and includes a list of specific matters which an early review of the plan needs to consider. NB. As noted earlier in this chapter, the government subsequently introduced a five-year review period for Local Plans.

Policy LPR 1 Review of the local plan 
The council will undertake a first review of the local plan. The matters which the first review may need to address include: 
i.	A review of housing needs; 
ii.	The allocation of land at the Invicta Park Barracks broad location and at the Lenham broad location if the latter has not been achieved through a Lenham Neighbourhood Plan in the interim; 
iii.	Identification of additional housing land to maintain supply towards the end of the plan period and, if required as a result, consideration of whether the spatial strategy needs to be amended to accommodate such development; 
iv.	A review of employment land provision and how to accommodate any additional employment land needed as a result; 
v.	Whether the case for a Leeds-Langley Relief Road is made, how it could be funded and whether additional development would be associated with the road; 
vi.	Alternatives to such a relief road; 
vii.	The need for further sustainable transport measures aimed at encouraging modal shift to reduce congestion and air pollution; 
viii.	Reconsideration of the approach to the Syngenta and Baltic Wharf sites if these have not been resolved in the interim; and 
ix.	Extension of the local plan period. 
The target adoption date for the review of the local plan is April 2021.

What is the present position on production of the Local Plan Review?

LPR timetable

2.50 The review has 7 main stages to it. Currently the Council is at stage 3.

Reg. 18 Scoping themes & Issues Consultation

2.51 In July 2018 the Council agreed to undertake a LPR. The current Maidstone Borough Local Plan, adopted in October 2017, includes Policy LPR1 setting out matters which such a review should consider.  The revised National Planning Policy Framework issued in July 2018 and further revised in February 2019 will also need to be taken into account. A LPR Scoping Themes & Issues document was produced and published for a 10 week consultation period between July and September 2019.  A particular purpose of the consultation was to gather early feedback on the matters and issues which the LPR may need to tackle. 

2.52 The Scoping Themes & Issues consultation included a set of overarching questions (8) and a separate set of technical questions (31) focused on specific topic areas. We received some 555 responses from the following; parish councils (20), developers/agents/ landowners (90), expert agencies & infrastructure providers (11), other councils and MPs (7), residents associations/ neighbourhood planning groups (3) and other specialist groups1 (7) with the balance from private individuals (417). Approximately 250 of the responses were on a standard template objecting to the proposed garden community at Marden. The full text of the each of the responses has been uploaded onto the consultation portal and is available here; https://maidstone-consult.objective.co.uk/portal/

Reg.18 Preferred approaches consultation

2.53 This is the current stage that the Council has reach and has resulted in this public consultation. As noted in more detail earlier in this document. The consultation sets out the preferred approaches to key policy areas and, where appropriate, reasonable alternatives.  There is no statutory timeframe for consultation under Regulation 18. The Council complies with the requirements set out in its Statement of Community Involvement.

Evidence gathering

2.54 A proportionate evidence base is used for the preparation of this LPR. This includes topic papers on key matters that help to guide the proposed preferred approaches. The key studies and topic papers currently comprise -

·         Maidstone Strategic Housing Market Assessment

·         Maidstone Economic Development Needs Study Stage One

·         Maidstone Economic Development Needs Study Stage Two

·         Settlement hierarchy matrix

·         Infrastructure Capacity

·         Draft Strategic Land Availability Assessment

·         Strategic Land Availability Assessment, Appendix A - Green Site Assessments Part 1

·         Strategic Land Availability Assessment, Appendix A - Green Site Assessments Part 2

·         Strategic Land Availability Assessment, Appendix B - Red Site Assessments Part 1

·         Strategic Land Availability Assessment, Appendix B - Red Site Assessments_Part 2

·         SFRA Level 1 update and Level 2

·         Integrated Transport Strategy indications

·         Transport Modelling Draft Technical Note

·         Garden Communities Part 1

·         Garden Communities Part 2

·         Sustainability Appraisal/Strategic Environmental Assessment

·         HRA Scoping

·         Economic Spatial Topic Paper

·         Environment Topic paper

·         Housing Spatial Topic Paper

·         Social Infrastructure Spatial Topic Paper

·         Retail and Leisure Spatial Topic Paper

·         Transport and Air Quality Spatial Topic Paper

·         Sports Facilities Strategy

·         Playing Pitch Strategy

2.55 We are also proposing to produce further information and evidence to inform the LPR, including -

·         Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment

·         Local Plan Review Viability Assessment

·         Detailed Air Quality and Transport Modelling

·         Minerals Assessment

·         Update to Economic Development Needs Study

·         Update to Sports and Playing Pitch Strategies

·         Integrated Transport Strategy

·         Sustainability Appraisal/Strategic Environmental Assessment

·         Habitat Regulations Assessment

2.56 We may also draw on studies led by other expert agencies. An example is the Kent Joint Strategic Needs Assessment published by the Kent Public Health Observatory which analyses the key health-related issues in the county.

2.57 An important foundation for the LPR is the Sustainability Appraisal (incorporating the Strategic Environmental Assessment). This has an important role in influencing and impacting on the content of the review, including on the pattern of future development that is ultimately selected.  It is an evidence document prepared in an iterative way and in parallel with the evolution of the LPR. It provides an assessment of the overall and relative sustainability of the plan’s policies and approaches. In addition to the published Sustainability Appraisal noted above, the Council has published a Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report and a further Sustainability Appraisal on sites and spatial approaches. Both are available on the Council’s LPR website.

Regulation 19 Draft plan consultation

2.58 This stage is a 6-week statutory public consultation on what the Council believes to be the draft LPR that will be submitted for examination. The consultation is for the people to engage with the Council and review the plan and raise any issues of soundness or legal failings as set out in national policy, guidance and legislation. This consultation will include a Policies Map to accompany the draft LPR. This will set out the relevant allocations and zonings on an Ordnance Survey map base.

Examination in Public

2.59 Following the above periods of public consultation, the LPR will be independently examined by a Government-appointed Planning Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State, who will consider and challenge its content and any objections to it and reach a decision on its overall ‘soundness’.

2.60 Further details regarding the LPR timetable can be found in the Local Development Scheme.

Tests of Soundness

2.61 The LPR will need to meet the NPPF’s ‘tests of soundness’ as follows:

“a) Positively prepared – providing a strategy which, as a minimum, seeks to meet the area’s objectively assessed needs; and is informed by agreements with other authorities, so that unmet need from neighbouring areas is accommodated where it is practical to do so and is consistent with achieving sustainable development;

b) Justified – an appropriate strategy, taking into account the reasonable alternatives, and based on proportionate evidence;

c) Effective – deliverable over the plan period, and based on effective joint working on cross-boundary strategic matters that have been dealt with rather than deferred, as evidenced by the statement of common ground; and

d) Consistent with national policy – enabling the delivery of sustainable development in accordance with the policies in this Framework.”

 

2.62 The ‘tests of soundness’ underline the importance of evidence underpinning the content of the LPR.  This evidence needs to be sufficiently up to date to be a sound foundation for the review.  We are taking a proportionate approach so that resources are focused on the studies which are integral to the plan, that they contain sufficient but not excessive detail and that best use is made of the adopted Local Plan evidence which is still fit for purpose.

Duty to Co-operate

2.63 These tests will guide the work on the LPR from the outset.  There are also specific legal tests that it will need to pass, including that MBC has engaged positively with its strategic partners as part of its ‘Duty to Co-operate’. This is an iterative process and MBC is working with relevant authorities to discharge its duties in this regard. Such joint working can help to determine where additional infrastructure is necessary and whether development needs can be met within a plan area, and if such needs can be met elsewhere.

Maidstone Borough Council has engaged in effective and ongoing discussions and cooperation with neighbouring authorities and other prescribed bodies[2] throughout the Local Plan Review process, and this engagement has been integral to the development of the plan.

The Framework for engagement was set out at Regulation 18a, and as this is an iterative process MBC is working with relevant authorities to discharge its duties in this regard. Discussions will continue to be undertaken on a regular basis with prescribed bodies, including neighbouring authorities, to address cross-boundary issues should they arise.

 

Adoption

2.64 Subject to the LPR being found sound by an independent planning inspector the document will be adopted by resolution of the Full Council.


3. Spatial Portrait & Key Local Issues

Spatial Portrait

3.1 The borough of Maidstone covers approximately 40,000 hectares and is situated in the heart of Kent. Maidstone is the county town of Kent and approximately 75% of its 171,800 population live in the urban area. The Maidstone urban area, located in the north west of the borough, has a strong commercial and retail town centre,  with Maidstone comprising one of the largest retail centres in the south east. A substantial rural hinterland surrounds the urban area, part of which enjoys designation due to its high landscape and environmental quality. The borough encompasses a small section of the metropolitan green belt (1.3%), and 27% of the borough forms part of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

3.2 The borough is strategically located between the channel tunnel and London with direct connections to both via the M20 and M2 motorways. Three central railway stations in the town connect to London, Ashford, Tonbridge and to the Medway Towns. Maidstone borough has a close interaction with the Medway Towns that provide a part of the borough's workforce. The town centre acts as the focus for retail development throughout the borough and has an important role to play in the visitor economy with the tourist information centre located at Maidstone Museum.

3.3 The rural service centres of Harrietsham and Lenham lie on the Ashford International - Maidstone East - London Victoria line; and Headcorn, Marden and Staplehurst lie on the Ashford International - Tonbridge - London Charing Cross and London Cannon Street lines.

3.4 The larger village of Yalding lies on the Medway Valley Line, Paddock Wood - Maidstone West - Maidstone Barracks - Strood. The channel tunnel link known as High Speed 1 (HS1) runs through the borough, providing fast links into London (a service links to HS1 from Maidstone West station, via Strood to Ebbsfleet). A number of main highway routes cross the borough including the A20, A229, A249, A274 and A26.

3.5 The borough is relatively prosperous with a considerable employment base and a lower than average unemployment rate compared to Kent. However, the borough has a relatively low wage economy that has led to out-commuting for higher paid work.

3.6 The local housing market crosses one adjacent borough boundary into Tonbridge and Malling, with relationships identified with the Ashford, Medway, Tunbridge Wells, and London housing markets. All of these markets are influenced by their proximity to London, resulting in relatively high house prices.

3.7 There are parts of the borough that would benefit from renewal, primarily including Maidstone town centre and there are pockets of deprivation that exist, particularly in the urban area. The rural service centres and larger villages provide services to   the rural hinterland and some larger villages also play a vital part in the rural economy. There are a number of significant centres of economic activity in and around the rural settlements, and smaller commercial premises are dotted throughout the borough.

3.8 Agriculture remains an important industry to the borough including the traditional production of soft fruits and associated haulage and storage facilities.

3.9 The borough is fortunate to benefit from a number of built and natural assets including 41 conservation areas, over 2,000 listed buildings, 26 scheduled ancient monuments and 15 registered parks and gardens important for their special historic interest. Seven percent of the borough is covered by areas of ancient woodland, there are 63 local wildlife sites, 34 verges of nature conservation interest, 11 sites of special scientific interest, three local nature reserves and a European designated special area of conservation. The River Medway flows through the borough and the town centre and, together with its tributaries, is one of the borough's prime assets. Protection of the borough's distinct urban and rural heritage remains an important issue for the council.

3.10 The council is making provision for new housing and employment growth, together with associated infrastructure, whilst at the same time emphasising that growth is constrained by Maidstone's high quality environment, the extent of the floodplain, and the limitations of the existing transport systems and infrastructure. There is also likely to be increased pressure to compete with nearby Ebbsfleet Garden City, the Kent Thames Gateway and Ashford to attract inward investment. The challenge for the Maidstone Borough Local Plan and this LPR is to manage the potential impacts of future growth to ensure that development takes place in a sustainable manner that supports the local economy whilst safeguarding the valuable natural and built assets of the borough.

 

The LPR’s Strategic Issues

3.11 The table below brings together the NPPF’s strategic themes and the Strategic Plan’s priorities and outcomes, the NPPF strategic themes and the associated strategic issues for Maidstone borough.  This table helps provide the basis for the structure of the remaining chapters of this document

NPPF

Strategic Plan

Local Plan Review

Strategic Theme 

 (Para 20)

Priorities & Outcomes

Strategic Issue

Set out an overall strategy for the scale, pattern and quality of development and make sufficient provision for

…Housing (including affordable housing), employment, retail, leisure,  and other commercial development

Embracing growth & enabling infrastructure

Council leads masterplanning and invests in new places which are well designed.

Key employment sites are delivered

Skills levels and earning potential of our residents are raised

Local commercial and inward investment is increased

Homes & Communities

Existing housing is safe, desirable and promotes good health and well being

Housing need is met including affordable housing Homelessness and rough sleeping are prevented

A thriving place

Our town and village centres are fit for the future

A vibrant leisure and cultural offer

Meeting the borough’s local housing need and helping to meet needs across the relevant Housing Market Area/s

Ensuring a sufficient supply of affordable housing

Ensuring sufficient land and floorspace is provided to support economic growth in the borough and to contribute to the needs of the wider economic market area

Ensuring that Maidstone has a vital and vibrant town centre which maintains its role in the sub-region and that a network of local centres continue to serve local retail and service needs.

….Conservation and enhancement of the natural, built and historic environment, including landscapes and green infrastructure, and planning measures to address climate change mitigation and adaptation

Safe, clean & green

A borough that is recognised as clean and well cared for by everyone

People feel safe and are safe

An environmentally attractive and sustainable borough

Embracing growth and enabling infrastructure

Sufficient infrastructure is planned to meet the demand of growth

Heritage is respected

Ensuring that the borough’s environmental assets such as the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Landscapes of Local Value, the countryside and Green Belt are suitably protected and enhanced.

Ensuring that the borough’s biodiversity and wildlife habitats are suitably protected and enhanced

Ensuring that the borough’s historic assets are conserved and managed

Contributing to an overall improvement in air quality, in particular in the Maidstone Air Quality Management Area.

Managing the risk of flooding from all sources.

Taking a proactive approach to mitigating and adapting to climate change

… Infrastructure for transport, telecommunications, security, waste management, water supply, wastewater, flood risk and coastal change management, and the provision of minerals and energy (including heat)

Embracing growth & enabling infrastructure

Sufficient infrastructure is planned to meet the demands of growth

Ensuring sufficient transport infrastructure is provided to serve the new development that is planned.

Ensuring sufficient utilities infrastructure is provided to serve the new development that is planned.

….Community facilities (such as health, education and cultural infrastructure);

Homes & communities

Community facilities and services in the right place at the right time to support communities

A diverse range of community activities is encouraged.

Safe, clean and green

Everyone has access to high quality parks and green spaces

People are safe and feel safe

A thriving place

A vibrant leisure and cultural offer

Ensuring that sufficient provision is made for health and education to serve the new development that is planned.

Ensuring a sufficiency of parks and open spaces

Ensuring that sufficient provision is made for community infrastructure

 

What are the key cross-boundary issues?

3.12 The NPPF states “Local planning authorities and county councils (in two tier areas) are under a duty to co-operate with each other, and with other prescribed bodies, on strategic matters which cross administrative boundaries.”[3].  It goes on to note “Effective and on-going joint working between strategic policy making authorities and relevant bodies is integral to the production of a positively prepared and justified strategy.  In particular joint working should help to determine where additional infrastructure is necessary and whether development needs that cannot be met wholly within a particular plan area could be met elsewhere. “[4]

3.13 Accordingly, in producing the LPR and associated evidence base we have, and will continue to, engage with our council neighbours, KCC and statutory organisations on matters which have cross-boundary implications.  

3.14 The duty to co-operate is an on-going process; joint working must be effective and ‘deal with strategic, cross-boundary matters rather than defer them’[5]. The purpose of the duty is to ensure that we take account of the implications of our plan for our neighbours and our statutory partners and that they do the same.  Local plans should not be prepared in isolation from what is happening elsewhere. Importantly, these partners will also be involved in delivering aspects of the plan, notably the infrastructure needed to support the new development.

3.15 Joint working can take place to differing degrees.  The greatest degree of integration is where councils collaborate to prepare a joint plan which could cover a limited number of topic areas that have cross-boundary implications or could be a comprehensive local plan for the combined area. A variation on this would be where councils each produce individual plans but the preparation timetable and overall approach to policy matters is integrated across the extended area. A more focused approach would be for councils to progress their own individual plans to their own independent timetables whilst ensuring that cross-boundary issues are addressed as the plans evolve through the duty to co-operate framework.  In any scenario, it is open to a council to accept additional levels of development from a neighbour as part of this process and the duty to co-operate.

Progress on Neighbouring Authority Plans

3.16 To date MBC and its neighbours have all progressed individual plans.  Neighbouring authorities are all at varying stages with the preparation of their local plans as follows;  

·         Ashford Borough Council – adopted a comprehensive Local Plan in February 2019.  The plan identifies sufficient land for the amount of new housing that the borough needs for the period 2011 to 2030, set at some 16,872 new homes and similarly provides for the new employment land needed. The adopted Local Plan states that a review of the plan will be adopted by the end of 2025 although at the time of writing no formal timetable for the review has been published.

·         Tunbridge Wells Borough Council – has an adopted Core Strategy (2010) and a Site Allocations Local Plan (2016). A local plan to cover the period to 2033 is in preparation. Tunbridge Wells Borough Council – has an adopted Core Strategy (2010) and a Site Allocations Local Plan (2016). A local plan to cover the period to 2033 is in preparation.  TWBC produced an ‘Issues & Options’ consultation plan in May 2017 and produced a draft Local Plan (Regulation 18 consultation) in September 2019. The Examination is scheduled for Autumn 2021. The local housing need figure for the borough using the new standard methodology decreased to 678 homes/year from 682. 

·         Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council – has a Core Strategy (2007), Development Land Allocations Development Plan Document (2008) and a Managing Development and the Environment DPD (2010).  The ‘Tonbridge & Malling Local Plan’ has been submitted for Examination and hearings have commenced.  The plan covers the period 2011-31.  It makes provision for the full number of new homes needed, 13,930, and the matching employment land requirements. The current Local Development Scheme anticipates adoption of the Local Plan by the end of the year.

·         Medway - is in the process of preparing a Local Plan for the period 2018-35.  There have been 3 stages of consultation so far (2016, 2017, 2018). A further Regulation 19 consultation is planned for Spring 2021. Adoption of the plan is programmed for December 2021. Under the Government’s methodology, Medway’s housing requirement is 37,143 homes. 

·         Swale – has adopted a comprehensive Local Plan (2017) which covers the period to 2031. It has commenced a review of this plan which will cover the period 2022-2038.  There was an initial consultation stage in 2018 and, following further consultation stage/s, adoption of the plan is anticipated in Autumn 2021 according to the latest Local Development Scheme. Under the Government’s methodology, the housing requirement is in the order of 1,054 homes/year.   

3.17 With the imperative to have an up-to-date Local Plan in place, there has been no apparent appetite for councils to change their own preparation timetables to enable joint plans to be prepared.  It is also pertinent that the links between the neighbouring authorities are quite diverse, varying according to both geography and subject matter.

3.18 As a minimum, we will need to demonstrate that we have complied with the duty to co-operate by engaging actively with our neighbours (and other required bodies).  According to the matter at hand, this involvement may need to be more intensive and result in agreed approaches. Evidential studies will look beyond the borough boundaries where appropriate. Where feasible, we will explore the joint-commissioning of evidence with our partners.

3.19 Factors which could affect any future decisions around the duty to co-operate include -

·         Whether it will demonstrably achieve better planning outcomes for the borough;

·         The requirements for new strategic road and other infrastructure to release housing employment growth

·         The imperative to maintaining an ‘up to date’ planning framework for the borough;

·         Resource availability; and 

·         Political decision-making arrangements.

3.20 The co-operation that is occurring and will occur in the future will be formalised through a Statement of Common Ground. This statement is signed by the parties involved and affirms that the identified cross boundary issues have been dealt with. For this borough, the strategic bodies which may be involved, (in addition to other local authorities) could include the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, Kent Nature Partnership, infrastructure providers and advisory bodies. These additional signatories will only need to agree with those parts of the SCG that are directly relevant to role and required cooperation. It is intended for the first set of broad Statement of Common Ground documents to be produced as a result of this preferred approaches consultation document.

3.21 As noted later in this document, garden communities are good examples of significant developments that are proposed to take place near to the boundaries with adjoining local authorities. These will be given particular attention in associated duty to cooperate discussions, in order to ensure proper planning of existing proposals and to explore future residential and/or employment growth (with associated infrastructure) as may be appropriate.

 

3.22 The table below reproduces the strategic issues for the borough, indicates what the potential cross boundary issue may be and indicates which organisations may be party to the Statement of Common Ground.

Strategic Issue for Maidstone borough

 

Geographical area relevant for the ‘Duty to  Co-operate’

Possible Statement of Common Ground signatories

Meeting the borough’s local housing need and helping to meet needs across the relevant Housing Market Area/s

Housing Market Area/s; neighboring authority areas

Tonbridge & Malling BC; Medway; Swale BC; Ashford BC; Tunbridge Wells BC.

 

 

Ensuring there is a sufficient supply of affordable housing

Ensuring sufficient land and floorspace is provided to support economic growth in the borough and to contribute to the needs of the wider economic market area

Functional Economic Market Area

Tonbridge & Malling BC; Medway.

 

South East Local Enterprise Partnership

Ensuring that Maidstone has a vital and vibrant town centre which maintains its role in the sub-region and that a network of local centres continue to serve local retail and service needs.

Retail Catchment Area

[extent of RCA to be confirmed through future evidence]

Ensuring that the borough’s environmental assets such as the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Landscapes of Local Value, the countryside and Green Belt are suitably protected

Green Belt

Tonbridge & Malling BC.

Kent Downs AONB; setting of High Weald AONB

Tonbridge & Malling BC; Medway; Swale BC; Ashford BC; Tunbridge Wells BC.

 

Landscapes of Local Value

Tonbridge & Malling BC; Ashford BC; Tunbridge Wells BC.

Ensuring that the borough’s biodiversity and wildlife habitats are suitably protected and enhanced

North Downs Woodlands Special Area of Conservation and, potentially, European designated sites in other boroughs

[extent of impacts to be  identified through the Habitat Regulations Assessment].

Kent Nature Partnership

 

SSSIs, Local Wildlife Sites, ancient woodland which straddle the borough’s boundaries.

Natural England

Tonbridge & Malling BC; Ashford BC; Medway; Swale BC; Tunbridge Wells BC.

Ensuring that the borough’s historic assets are conserved and managed

Maidstone borough

Historic England

Contributing to an overall improvement in air quality, in particular in the Maidstone Air Quality Management Area.

Maidstone AQMA; AQMA in the Malling area of Tonbridge & Malling.

Kent County Council (as highway authority);

Tonbridge & Malling BC.

Managing the risk of flooding from all sources.

Catchments of the River Medway, Stour, Beult & Teise. 

Environment Agency;  Tonbridge & Malling BC; Medway; Ashford BC; Tunbridge Wells BC

Managing nutrient neutrality for the new development in the Sour Catchment in relation to Stodmarsh Designated Sites

Catchment of the River Stour

Environment Agency, Natural England, Ashford BC

Taking a proactive approach to mitigating and adapting to climate change

Maidstone borough.  [Significant overlap with air quality and transport matters]

[see air quality and transport matters]

Ensuring sufficient transport infrastructure is provided to serve the new development that is planned.

Strategic highway network, local highway network, and public rights of way within the borough and, potentially, key junctions falling in neighbouring authority areas.

Rail infrastructure within the borough.

Kent County Council;

Highways England;

Network Rail;

Tonbridge & Malling BC; Ashford BC; Medway; Swale BC; Tunbridge Wells BC.

Ensuring sufficient utilities infrastructure is provided to serve the new development that is planned.

Maidstone borough (subject to the selected spatial strategy)

Utility providers

Ensuring that sufficient provision is made for health and education to serve the new development that is planned.

Maidstone borough  (subject to the selected spatial strategy)

Kent County Council;

West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group;

Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust.

 

Ensuring a sufficiency of parks and open spaces

Maidstone borough

-

Ensuring that sufficient provision is made for community infrastructure

Maidstone borough

-


4.  

4. Spatial vision and objectives

4.1 The council’s vision for the borough is set out in the 2019 Strategic Plan:

Maidstone: A vibrant, prosperous, urban and rural community at the heart of Kent where everyone can realise their potential.

 

Local Plan Review Spatial vision

 

4.2 Having regard to the Borough’s Strategic Plan, as well as the other matters and strategic issues that the LPR will address, the proposed spatial vision for the LPR is as follows:

By 2037: Embracing growth which provides improved infrastructure, economic opportunity, services, spaces, and homes for our communities, while protecting our heritage, natural and cultural assets, and addressing the challenges of climate change.

 

Spatial objectives

4.2 The objectives below respond to the strategic issues and other matters noted earlier in the document, as well as the spatial vision identified above. They will help deliver on the vision as stated.

 

1. To provide for a balance of new homes and related retail and employment opportunities in the borough across the Local Plan Review across the plan period across the borough

4.3 By 2037 prosperity the vision will be achieved through the strategic direction of growth set out in the LPR. The emphasis will be on increasing developing skilled employment opportunities in the borough alongside developing learning opportunities, having regard to the roles of centres across the borough and existing and improved accessibility patterns:

i.                    Principally within the Maidstone urban area with a particular focus on the renewal of the town centre;

ii.                  Within two new garden communities at Heathlands and Lidsing;

iii.                With significant employment locations at the former Syngenta Works and Woodcut Farm

iv.                 To a lesser extent at the five rural service centres of Harrietsham, Headcorn, Lenham, Marden and Staplehurst consistent with their range of services and role; and

v.                   Limited development at the five larger villages of Boughton Monchelsea, Coxheath, Eyhorne Street (Hollingbourne), Sutton Valence and Yalding,

vi.                 To support smaller villages and hamlets where appropriate.

 

2.          Maintenance of the distinct character and identity of villages and the urban area;

4.4 The roles of the rural service centres and larger villages will be strengthened through the retention of existing services, the addition of new infrastructure where possible, and the regeneration of employment sites including the expansion of existing employment sites where appropriate. Development throughout the borough will be required to provide a mix of housing tenures to allow for the creation of sustainable communities and be of high quality using design that responds to the local character of areas and that incorporates sustainability principles.

 

3.          Protection of the built and natural heritage, including the Kent Downs AONB and its setting, the setting of the High Weald AONB and areas of local landscape value;

4.5 Development will have regard to safeguarding and maintaining the character of the borough's landscapes including the Kent Downs and High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and their its setting, as well as the setting of the High Wield Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Development will also have regard to, as well as other distinctive landscapes of local value and heritage designations whilst facilitating the economic and social well-being of these areas, including the diversification of the rural economy.

 

4.          Provision of strategic and local infrastructure to support new development and growth including a sustainable Integrated Transport Strategy, adequate water supply, sustainable waste management, energy infrastructure, and social infrastructure such as health, schools and other educational facilities;

4.6 The Council will seeks to ensure that key infrastructure and service improvements needed to support delivery of the Maidstone Borough LPR are brought forward in a co-ordinated and timely manner, and that new development makes an appropriate contribution towards any infrastructure needs arising as a result of such new development. The Council will achieve this through close working with infrastructure providers.

4.7 Through the delivery of the Integrated Transport Strategy, Maidstone will seek a transport network that supports a prosperous economy and provides genuine transport choices to help people make more journeys by modes such as public transport, walking and cycling.

4.8 The infrastructure will support the growth projected by the local plan to 2031 and LPR by 2037 with a focus on large scale developments, such as proposals at the new garden communities at Heathlands and Lidsing, with an aspiration for self-sufficiency.

 

5.          Improve the quality of air within the air quality management area (AQMA);

4.9 Developments within, and with the potential to adversely impact the boroughs AQMA will be required to mitigate their impact, having regard to both on-site design and travel patterns and modes of travel.

6.          Renewal of Maidstone Urban Area with particular focus on Maidstone the Town Centre and areas of social and environmental deprivation;

4.10 To transform the offer, vitality and viability of Maidstone town centre including its office, retail, residential, leisure, cultural and tourism functions together with significant enhancement of its public realm and natural environment including the riverside. As the County Town of Kent, Maidstone's urban area will be revitalised by the regeneration of key commercial and residential sites and areas of existing deprivation. supported by the creation of employment opportunities, the regeneration of key sites, continued investment in the town centre and improvements to access. The town centre will be a first class town centre that will enable Maidstone to retain its role in the retail hierarchy of Kent by the creation of a distinctive, accessible, safe high quality environment for the community to live, work and shop in. The town centre will be regenerated by encouraging a wide range of new development including shops, businesses, residential development, cultural and tourism facilities, and enhanced public spaces for people to enjoy and for activities that will attract residents and visitors. There will also be focus on provision of appropriate social infrastructure as well as accessibility, permeability and sustainability of the town centre.

 

7.          Redressing the low wage economy by expanding the employment  skills base to target employment opportunities;

4.11 The plan aims to provide for investment in employment space across the borough and in the town centre in a manner which maximises choice and flexibility as a mechanism to attract a more diverse range of employment with increased levels of higher added value jobs. However, if this is to be both economically and environmentally sustainable, it is important that local residents and communities are equipped with the skills to compete for the employment and training opportunities that result from this investment, and to continue to develop their skills base throughout their careers and beyond.

4.12 In achieving this, the plan will need to work in parallel with other documents such as the boroughs Economic Development Strategy, and with other agencies such as the Local Enterprise Partnership, Invest in Kent and both local and sub regional Higher Education and Further Education providers to ensure that these links are made and that opportunities are created at the best locations for the delivery of this education and training.     

 

8.          Meeting housing needs by delivering affordable housing, local needs housing, accommodation for the elderly, accommodation to meet Gypsy and Traveller needs, and accommodation to meet rural housing needs;

4.13 To support new housing in villages that meets local needs and is of a design, scale, character and location appropriate to the settlement and which supports the retention of existing services and facilities; A better mix and balance of housing will be provided, and the density and location of development will be carefully considered.

4.14 To provide for future housing that meets the changing needs of the borough’s population including provision for an increasingly ageing population and family housing, an appropriate tenure mix, affordable housing and accommodation to meet the needs of the Gypsy and Traveller community; and

 

9.          Protection and promotion of the multi-functional nature of the borough’s open spaces, rivers and other watercourses;

4.15 To retain and enhance the character of the existing green and blue infrastructure and to promote linkages between areas of environmental value;

4.16 The delivery of the Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy will develop and enhance a high quality network of green and blue spaces building on the assets that already exist.

 

10.     Ensuring that all new development is built to a high standard of sustainable design and construction;

4.17 To ensure that new development is of high-quality design, making a positive contribution to the area including protection of built and natural heritage and the protection and enhancement of biodiversity; Development will be required to take account of the impact of climate change. To ensure that new development takes account of the need to mitigate its impact on and respond to climate change, implementing sustainable construction standards for both residential and non-residential schemes;

 

11.     Ensuring that applications for development adequately seeks to reduce its impact on and mitigates against climate change, the issues of flooding and water supply; and the need for dependable infrastructure for the removal of sewage and waste water.

 

4.18 To ensure that development supports the council’s ambition of becoming a carbon neutral borough by 2030 by delivering sustainable and where possible low carbon growth which protects the boroughs natural environment.  The council will, through Local Plan policy, seek to facilitate the necessary infrastructure to enable residents and businesses to minimise their impact on and respond to climate change.  Developments will have considered the potential for the site to be delivered in a low carbon way, the incorporation of zero or low carbon technologies, and will include provision to enable future technologies and climate change adaptation.  Additionally, development will give high regard to protection and enhancement of biodiversity.


5. The Borough Spatial Strategy (SS1)

5.1 One of the principal aims of the local plan is to set out clearly the council’s proposals for the spatial distribution of development throughout the borough based on the vision and objectives of the plan. This section determines the housing and economic development targets for the plan period and describes the council's approach to the distribution of development. The justification for this approach has been derived from the NPPF, the Sustainability Appraisal and the substantial, ongoing evidence base that is being produced by the council.

 

The Plan Period

5.2 The LPR plan period runs from 2022-2037, extending an additional 6 years beyond the current Local Plan period which ends in 2031.

Requirements

5.3 As a minimum, the LPR should provide for objectively assessed needs for housing, including affordable housing, as well as other uses including land for Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople accommodation; employment; and retail.

5.4 Much of the need required over the period 2022-2037 is met through the existing Local Plan 2017. The policies in this document update and add to this document, but some policies, notably site allocations, will be retained. This is set out in the relevant chapters below.

5.5 Due to delays in completing site surveys informing the Gypsy & Traveller needs assessment, the G&T policies have not been updated in this document. At the current time it is expected that a separate G& T allocations DPD will be provided.

Housing Needs

5.6 Key to delivering the targets will be the availability of suitable sites and the provision of supporting infrastructure. Gypsy & Traveller Needs are in the process of being assessed.

5.7 The objectively assessed housing need for the borough over the plan period 2011 to 2031 is set at 18,210 dwellings (1,214 dwellings per annum). This need is based on the Government’s current (2018) Standard Methodology calculation, with key local inputs including net migration, household formation rates and house price to income ratios. The maximum housing need target is capped at a 40% uplift above and beyond the current plan figure (883 dwellings per annum, giving a maximum of 1,236 dwellings per annum). The need figure as calculated in December 2019 was 1,214 dwellings per annum; this will be reviewed in the run-up to the Regulation 19 public consultation in June 2021 to ensure that the Publication version of the plan is based on the most up to date data.

 

Extant Supply

5.8 The council does not need to allocate land to meet the whole need of 18,210 dwellings because there is a significant quantum of stock anticipated to be delivered from the land allocated in the 2017 Local Plan. As of 1st April 2020 there was an extant supply of 10,289 units:

·                Known extant planning permissions at 1st April 2020 (6,917 units)

·                Allocated sites without permission/ permission pending (1,088 units)

·                Broad Locations without permissions (2,284 units)

Development 2020-2022

5.9 As there remains 2 monitoring years (2020/21 & 2021/22) before the Local Plan Review is scheduled to be adopted, this will impact on the extant supply. Simply put, some of the extant supply will be built, and a number of new windfall permissions will come forward to be added to the extant supply. Each year the Council holds a workshop with local developers to understand how developments in the extant supply are progressing. At the current time the advice is that for 2020/21 the estimated completions figure is anticipated to be 1,387 units, and for 2021/22 1,827 units. This effectively removes 3,214 dwellings from the extant supply. In terms of new permissions, the historic windfall delivery rate on small sites (<1Ha) has been applied, this stands at 472 dwellings per annum, or 944 over the two year period.

 

Invicta Barracks

5.10 500 units are expected to come forward on Invicta Barracks during the Local Plan 2017 period (2011-2031), with the remaining 800 units coming forward over the period 2022-2037.

Town Centre Opportunity sites

5.11 A further source of housing supply sites is the Town Centre Opportunity sites. These were adopted by the Council’s Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Committee in 2019. Together they account for 883 units of capacity. While they will be covered by allocations in this document, they also carry some material planning weight, and so we show below the housing target both with and without these included.

New LPR Housing Need Figure

5.12 Totalling all of these changes together provides the Borough’s future housing need. The new calculation is 18,210 (new target) – (8,019 (modelled extant supply @1st April 2022) + 2,718 (windfall 2022-2037) + 800 (Invicta) + 883 (town centre opportunity sites)) gives a new total of 5,790 units. This is set out in the table below. Without accounting for the Town Centre Opportunity sites this target would be 6,673 units.

Commercial Development Needs

5.13 National Planning Practice Guidance requires Local Planning Authorities to understand existing business needs in terms of both their current and future requirements in the preparation of Local Plans. This includes identification of the Functional Economic Market Area, assessment of recent employment land supply and loss patterns, as well as understanding of the current market and wider signals relating to economic growth, diversification and innovation.

5.14 The Council’s Employment Need Assessment was produced prior to the publication of the government’s new use classes order 2020 and therefore has reference to previous use classes (e.g. A and B use classes rather than class E). It identifies that the minimum floorspace required to meet need based on job growth forecasts (labour demand) is 101,555m2 (gross) for B-Uses over the period 2022-2037. They essentially re-set the requirement from 2022 and are not in addition to the current Local Plan requirement. This figure is then translated into a land take requirement (in hectares), based on assumptions of the type of employment and its location in the borough. For example, offices (B1a/B1b use) located within Maidstone town centre are assumed to achieve a higher job density than offices located elsewhere in the borough, and will therefore have differing plot ratios applied. This will have implications on the overall land needed to provide the required floorspace.

5.15 The NPPF (2019) indicates that local plans should allocate a range of suitable sites to meet the scale and type of retail, leisure and other development needed in town centres, for at least 10 years. The retail need should be met in full and should not be compromised by limited site supply. Through application of a sequential approach, designated town centres should be the first choice for locating retail, leisure and main town centre uses.

5.16 Based on the expected population growth, combined with analysis of national and local retail trends and Experian forecasts; the objectively assessed projected retail floorspace requirements (sqm, gross) for all A-uses over the period 2019-2037 is 10,838m2 gross by 2032, and 16,146m2 by 2037.

5.17 This additional floorspace need (sqm, gross) can be broken down by different A-Use Classes as follows:

5.18 As we are only required to allocate sites to meet the retail need for the next ten years, the floorspace requirement 2022-2032 is 10,838 sqm (gross). This figure is not in addition to the existing Local Plan allocation, rather it resets and provides an entirely new target from 2022.

G&T Accommodation Needs

5.19 There is a potentially significant emerging need for Gypsy & Traveller accommodation. Due to the equally significant amount of work to ensure that this matter is appropriately managed with appropriate outcomes to manage these needs, work on a new DPD will be undertaken at the earliest available opportunity.

 

Settlement Hierarchy

Maidstone Borough Settlement Hierarchy

County Town

Maidstone

Garden Settlements

Heathlands, Lidsing

Strategic Development Location

Invicta Barracks

Leeds-Langley Corridor (potential)

Rural Service Centres

Harrietsham, Headcorn, Lenham, Marden, Staplehurst

Larger Villages

Boughton Monchelsea, Coxheath, Eyhorne Street (Hollingbourne), Sutton Valence, Yalding

Smaller Villages & Hamlets

The Countryside

5.20 Development must be delivered at the most sustainable towns and village locations in the Borough where employment, key services and facilities together with a range of transport choices are available or accessible. Due to the quantum of need, new growth locations have been identified in the form of garden settlements and strategic development locations. This is illustrated in the above settlement hierarchy, which reflects the Local Plan Review preferred spatial approach to new housing.

Maidstone County Town

5.21 As the largest and most sustainable location for development, Maidstone town is the focus for a significant proportion of new housing, employment and retail development in the borough. Cultural and tourism facilities are an important contributor to the success of the town centre and opportunities to retain and enhance such facilities in the town centre and the wider urban area are an important consideration. A fundamental objective of the council’s strategy is to ensure that the town’s growth brings about the renewal of the town centre and other areas in need of renewal. Optimum use has been made of the development and redevelopment opportunities that exist within the urban area. A new Town Centre Action Plan will be prepared to guide development at this location, including ensuring that housing growth is balanced by employment growth and new infrastructure.

5.22 The town of Maidstone cannot accommodate all of the growth that is required on existing urban sites, and the most sustainable locations for additional planned development are at the edge of the urban area, expanding the boundary of the settlement in these locations. A characteristic of Maidstone is the way tracts of rural and semi-rural land penetrate into the urban area. This feature results from the way the town has developed from its centre along radial routes and river corridors enveloping the land of former country estates. These green and blue corridors have a variety of functions in addition to the contribution they make to the setting of the town, including a local anti-coalescence function by maintaining open land between areas of development spreading out from the town; providing residents with access to open green space and the wider countryside; as well as providing biodiversity corridors. The council will maintain this network of green and blue infrastructure, whilst recognising that a limited amount development may offer opportunities for enhancement provided the function of the corridors is not compromised.

5.23 Broad locations for future housing growth have also been identified within the town centre boundary and at Invicta Park Barracks. The Kent Institute of Medicine and Surgery (KIMS) is now completed at junction 7 of the M20, and the local plan identifies this location for the expansion of medical facilities to create a cluster of associated knowledge-driven industries that need to be in close proximity to one another. The strategic location at junction 7 also includes replacement retail facilities at the adjacent Newnham Court Shopping Village, to deliver a comprehensively planned scheme with supporting infrastructure.

 

Garden Settlements

5.24 Heathlands and Lidsing present suitable and deliverable opportunities to deliver growth in sustainable locations. They will both be delivered according to garden community principles, with value captured from the raising of land values coming from the change of uses on these sites to help to fund infrastructure improvements, and place-shaping facilities. They will both operate as sustainable locations in their own right, but will also help to provide opportunities for surrounding areas in terms of improved employment opportunities and service choice.

5.25 Heathlands is a Council-proposed stand-alone new settlement, with the potential to accommodate around 5,000 new homes and a mix of employment and services within the Plan Period, and beyond. Development will be focused on the delivery of a new rail station on the Maidstone-Ashford line, with new infrastructure and employment opportunities focussed around this. It is hoped that the settlement will form a part of a strategic business case for the provision of a new motorway junction on the M20 between Junctions 8 & 9.

5.26 Lidsing is a significant site in largely unified ownership to the south of the Medway urban area. It has strategic access to the M2 via Junction 4, and presents as an excellent opportunity to create new employment uses harnessing this accessibility. The delivery of approximately 2,000 new homes both within and beyond the Plan Period will enable the delivery of improved infrastructure that will benefit surrounding areas including enhanced bus routes linking Lordswood and Hempstead, as well as improved general access to the M2, and enhancements to the infrastructure within the Capstone valley.

(Potential) Strategic Development Locations

5.27 Invicta Barracks is a strategic development location identified in the existing 2017 Local Plan. It has the potential to deliver c1,300 new homes as well as a range of new service in a strategic urban location to the north of the town centre.

5.28 The Leeds-Langley corridor will be safeguarded to enable the potential future delivery of an improved transport connection linking M20 J8 and the A274. It is not currently known whether and what quantum of development will be needed to help create the business case for this new route, and as such this Plan seeks to ensure that any development that takes place within this corridor does not act to sterilise this opportunity.

Rural service centres

5.29 It is important that these villages are allowed to continue to serve their local area by retaining vital services thereby reducing the need to travel. Some development at these locations provides for a choice of deliverable housing locations and supports the role of the rural service centres. Appropriately scaled employment opportunities will also be allowed, building on and expanding existing provision in these locations.

Larger villages

5.30 Some of the borough's larger villages can provide for a limited amount of housing development.

Smaller villages

5.31 Some of the borough's smaller villages can provide for a limited amount of housing development.

Countryside

5.32 It is important that the quality and character of the countryside outside of settlements in the hierarchy is protected and enhanced whilst at the same time allowing for opportunities for sustainable development that supports traditional land based activities and other aspects of sustainable development in rural areas, and makes the most of new leisure and recreational opportunities that need a countryside location. The individual identity and character of settlements should not be compromised by development that results in unacceptable coalescence.

5.33 In addition to the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and its setting, the setting of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Metropolitan Green Belt and sites of European and national importance, the borough includes vast tracts of quality landscape, including parts of the Greensand Ridge and the Low Weald, together with the Medway, the Loose and the Len river valleys. The council will protect its most valued and sensitive landscapes.

 

Call for Sites 2019 & Strategic Land Availability Assessment

5.34 In order to achieve a consistent and transparent approach to the allocation process, a standard pro forma was used to assess the development potential of all known housing and economic development sites. Information was sought through the 2019 Call for Sites exercise, as well as through an Alternative sources of sites investigation, and assessments are included in the 2020 Strategic Land Availability Assessment. The mitigation of constraints - local landscape, ecology, highways, services, flooding and so on - formed part of the assessments. 5.35 In accordance with the requirements of the NPPF, the availability, locational suitability, deliverability and viability of each potential development site was also examined. The results of the site appraisals are set out in the draft Strategic Land Availability Assessment (SLAA) 2020. The SLAA is a “living” document, and will change as the evidence base is challenged through the plan development period.

 

Preferred Approach and Reasonable Alternative Approaches

5.36 A principal aim of the LPR is to set out clearly the council’s proposals for the spatial distribution of all forms of development throughout the borough over the plan period, based on the overall vision and objectives of the plan. This chapter sets out the minimum required amount of development for different uses over the LPR period and identifies a preferred approach spatial strategy and reasonable alternatives to accommodate the minimum development requirements. 

The development of the Preferred Approach has had regard to two levels of Reasonable Alternatives testing through the Sustainability Appraisal, which in turn have been informed by the Strategic Land Availability Assessment:

·         The Initial appraisal of spatial strategy options (SA Chapter 2)

·         The appraisal of refined spatial strategy options (SA Chapter 3)

The Initial appraisal of spatial strategy options

5.37 In this approach, highly varied spatial approaches were tested to understand which patterns of growth would produce particular sustainability patterns. All of the patterns tested were “reasonable”, in that they would meet the identified local need throughout the Plan period. The patterns were selected in part on their distinctiveness, so that they would show a sustainability difference between each other. The three approaches selected were:

1.      Local Plan Review Continued (Maidstone maximum + RSCs + Larger Villages)

2.      No development in Maidstone (Garden Settlements + RSCs + Larger Villages)

3.      Maximise Garden Settlements (Garden Settlements + Maidstone + RSCs + Larger Villages)

5.38 These approaches were analysed based on a fixed quantum of growth being distributed according to the patterns above, and were interrogated using the Sustainability Appraisal criteria, as well as through Transport Modelling. The outcomes were that Maidstone was suggested to be the most sustainable location for more development, with the RSCs and Larger Villages being relatively sustainable due to their existing infrastructure assets. The Garden Settlements were not sustainable locations at present. This is because they do not have allocated infrastructure and services. It is expected that they would become more sustainable when properly planned with supporting infrastructure.

The appraisal of refined spatial strategy options

5.39 The next stage involved the analysis of a set of “refined” spatial strategy options having had regard to the outcomes from the initial analysis. The analysis was based on the allocation of quantums of development to different areas based on site availability. A key assumption made at this stage was the decision that due to the risk profile of garden settlements, that the Local Plan Review should only carry 2 such projects within it. After completion of the Garden Settlements Deliverability Assessment, there were 3 proposals that could be considered as deliverable within the Plan period: North of Marden, Lidsing, and Heathlands. As such the testing of refined alternatives consisted of three key variables:

·         Higher or Lower development in Maidstone

·         Zero, one, or two Garden Settlements

·         Higher or lower in RSCs/ Larger Villages/ Smaller Villages & Hamlets/ The Countryside

5.40 The Alternatives tested, using Sustainability Appraisal criteria were:

Location

Scenario 1

LP 2017

Scenario 2

2 Garden Settlements

Scenario 3

1 Garden Settlement

A

B

C

A

B

C

Maidstone (Urban)

V. High

Low

Low

Low

High

High

High

Rest of Borough (Rural)

V. High

Low

Low

Low

High

High

High

Garden Settlements

0

Marden & Lidsing

Marden & Heathlands

Lidsing & Heathlands

Marden

Lidsing

Heathlands

 

Development of the Preferred Approach

5.41 The Preferred Approach was arrived at following consultation with borough councillors, as well as engagement on potential site allocations with Parishes. The following political preferences were expressed, in addition to technical evidence coming forward, such as input from infrastructure providers, constraints studies such as the SFRA, topic papers and land availability and deliverability studies:

·         There is a clear political desire for garden settlements to be included within the LPR, and linked to this;

·         There is a clear political desire for growth to be limited, both in Maidstone and in rural settlements;

·         There is a preference for development in Maidstone town centre to focus on improving the local employment and infrastructure offer in preference to housing.

 

Policy SS1

5.42 The new Local Plan spatial strategy is an evolution of that contained within the Local Plan 2017. Changes are flagged below for ease of use.

Maidstone Borough spatial strategy 2022-2037

1. Between 2022 and 2037 provision is made through the granting of planning permissions and the allocation of sites for 18,210 new dwellings;

2. Between 2022 and 2037 provision is made through the granting of planning permissions and the allocation of sites for:

i. 33,430m2 floorspace for office use;

ii. 27,135m2 floorspace for industrial use;

iii. 40,990m2 floorspace for warehousing use;

3. Between 2022 and 2032 provision is made through the granting of planning permissions and the allocation of sites for:

i. 4,019 m2 floorspace for retail (convenience) use;

ii. 107m2 floorspace for retail (comparison) use; and

iii. 6,712m2 floorspace for food and beverage use.

4. New land allocations that contribute towards meeting the above provisions are identified on the policies map.

Maidstone Urban Area

5. Maidstone urban area will continue to be the main focus for development in the borough. Best use will be made of available sites within the urban area. Renewal is prioritised within the town centre, which will continue to be the primary retail and office location in the borough, and for which further detailed masterplanning is proposed to ensure that the maximum benefit is realised from development in the town centre.

Garden Settlement & Strategic Development Locations

6. New, sustainable Garden Settlements are identified at Lenham Heath and Lidsing which will provide new homes, jobs and services, all delivered to garden community principles.

7. A Strategic Development Location is identified at Invicta Barracks, with potential for development in the Leeds-Langley corridor to support and enable a possible addition to the highway network linking the A274 with M20 J8.

Employment Sites

8. A prestigious business park at Junction 8 of the M20 that is well connected to the motorway network will provide for a range of job needs up to 2037. The site will make a substantial contribution to the need for new office space in the borough as well as meeting the 'qualitative' need for a new, well serviced and well connected mixed use employment site suitable for offices, industry and warehousing, and will thereby help to diversify the range of sites available to new and expanding businesses in the borough. Redevelopment of the former Syngenta Works site near Yalding will make a significant contribution to the provision of employment uses. A number of new, smaller employment allocations are set out around the borough to assist in the delivery of a range of types of employment across the borough.

Rural Service Centres

9. Harrietsham, Headcorn, Lenham, Marden and Staplehurst rural service centres will be the secondary focus for housing development with the emphasis on maintaining and enhancing their role and the provision of services to meet the needs of the local community. Suitably scaled employment opportunities will also be permitted.

Larger Villages

10. The larger villages of Boughton Monchelsea, Coxheath, Eyhorne Street (Hollingbourne), Sutton Valence and Yalding will be locations for limited housing development consistent with the scale and role of the villages.

Other locations

11. Smaller villages not identified within the settlement hierarchy may have the potential to accommodate limited growth which will contribute to ensuring that local services are supported, and sustainable communities are retained.

12. Small scale employment opportunities will be permitted at appropriate locations to support the rural economy.

13. In other locations, protection will be given to the rural character of the borough avoiding coalescence between settlements, including Maidstone and surrounding villages, and Maidstone and the Medway Gap/Medway Towns conurbation.

14. The green and blue network of multi-functional open spaces, rivers and water courses, the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and its setting, the setting of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and landscapes of local value will be conserved and enhanced.

Infrastructure

15. Infrastructure schemes that provide for the needs arising from development will be supported. New residential and commercial development will be supported if sufficient infrastructure capacity is either available or can be provided in time to serve it.

 

Comparison between Existing Local Plan & the Local Plan Review

Current Planned Growth 2011-2031

Additional growth 2022-2037

17,660 new dwellings

5,790 new dwellings

187 Gypsy and Traveller pitches and 11 Travelling Showpeople plots;

Not identified yet (assessment ongoing)

39,830m2 floorspace for office use

-6,400m2

20,290m2 floorspace for industrial use

6,845m2

49,911m2 floorspace for warehousing use

-8,921m2

100,000m2 floorspace for medical use

0m2

6,100m2 floorspace for retail use (convenience goods)

-43m2

23,700m2 floorspace for retail use (comparison goods)

-22,680m2

0m2 floorspace for food and beverage use  

9,069m2

 

Key Diagram (Draft)


6. Spatial Strategic Policies

SP1 Maidstone Town Centre

Introduction to the Policy/ Reasoned Justification

6.1 Maidstone has a successful town centre, but there is scope for improvement. It has been, and continues to be, a centre for public administration, reflecting Maidstone’s county town role. Both the County and Borough Councils are located in the town centre along with other public sector employers such as the Passport Office and the HM Prison Service. Coupled with public administration, business, financial and professional services are particularly important economic sectors and between them they account for a third of employment in the local economy with the town centre acting as a particular hub for these activities. This is reflected in the volume of office floorspace in the town centre which is estimated to be some  192,000m2

6.2 Maidstone town centre is also a significant shopping destination, offering a predominately outdoor, street-based shopping environment. There is some 141,000m2 of retail floorspace within the town centre boundary. The town centre has a good balance of major, national retailers alongside a strong, independent offer. The former are particularly concentrated in Fremlin Walk, the southern end of Week Street and The Mall, the town’s main indoor shopping centre. The town centre benefits from a high representation of major retailers and has a particular strength in clothing and footwear shops. The presence of a critical mass of national chain stores is an important factor in attracting shoppers into the town which in turn helps to attract and retain the major retailers themselves.

6.3 The local independent shops are principally found within the Royal Star Arcade and along Gabriel’s Hill, Pudding Lane and Union Street. These shops add to the town centre’s distinctiveness and complement and support the mainstream shopping offer. The larger retail units on the west side of the river have a predominantly complementary role to the main shopping area. Whilst these units are close to the core of the town centre ‘as the crow flies’, the routes across the river for pedestrians and cyclists are indirect and, to a degree, unattractive to use which limits the potential for sustainable linked trips.

6.4 The town centre like others across the country faces challenges from changing retailing patterns, as more people turn to the internet for their purchases. Many national retailers are responding to the changing environment by consolidating their national store networks into a portfolio of fewer, larger stores. For Maidstone there is the challenge of competition from other Kent town centres such as Ashford, Tunbridge Wells and the Medway towns, as well as from Bluewater.

6.5 Maidstone town centre also supports a wide range of leisure, cultural and tourist attractions and enjoys an active night time economy. The majority of cultural and tourist facilities are based around the historic core of the town and include the Hazlitt Theatre on Earl Street, the Maidstone museum on St Faith's Street and the Archbishops Palace and All Saints Church to the south. Lockmeadow is the town's major leisure and entertainment complex whilst Earl Street has become a particular focus for restaurants and cafés.

6.6 Maidstone historically is a significant location for office employment in Kent. Since 2013 there has been a steady rate of conversions of office stock to residential use. It is acknowledged that there was an oversupply of poorer quality office stock in the town centre which was no longer fit for purpose. This had the effect of suppressing the town centre office market and thereby inhibiting new investment in stock which could better meet modern business needs. In order to protect the remaining good quality office stock in the town centre, an Article 4 Direction has been issued.

6.7 There is still potential to rationalise the supply of the poorest stock through conversion or redevelopment to alternative uses. The reduction in stock has been significant and in order for Maidstone to retain its position in the regional office market, new stock will need to be developed. There is little scope for the value of the lowest quality office stock, in terms of rents, to increase with further falls in values further making redevelopment for alternative uses increasingly viable. If a corresponding uplift in the market for town centre apartments can be instigated, there is the potential for highly viable sites for residential and new town centre uses to be delivered.

6.8 The combination of the centre’s historic fabric, riverside environment and accessible green spaces helps give the town its distinct and attractive character. The town centre benefits from the select number of green spaces interspersed through it, such as Brenchley Gardens and Trinity Gardens, and further afield the substantial facilities of both Whatman Park and Mote Park.

6.9 The River Medway is the key natural landscape feature within the town centre. The river corridor acts as a contrast with the urban townscape, provides pedestrian and cycleway routes and serves as a wildlife corridor by linking urban habitats with the countryside beyond. The River Len, a tributary of the Medway, also runs through the town centre, often unseen and unappreciated in culverts.

6.10 Maidstone historically is the key crossing point of the Medway and as such has main roads passing through its centre. This has manifested itself as a gyrational network around the centre linking the A20, A229, A26 and A274. The quality and attractiveness of the town centre as a pedestrian-oriented location  has long been a focus, with many upgrades resulting in a significant pedestrian-friendly area spanning Gabriel’s Hill, High St, Week St, and most recently Earl St. Vehicles are generally pushed to the perimeter of the town centre, but access to parking within and adjacent to the centre is generally good. Public transport access within the centre is good with trains linking Maidstone town centre with London, Ashford, Tonbridge, Paddock Wood, and the Medway towns. This contributes considerably to Maidstone’s commercial catchment. Buses also link the surrounding areas, with the bus station currently located as a part of the Mall.

6.11 The town centre is also the focus of wider initiatives which will add to the vitality of the town centre and increase it draw. Town Centre Management is a long standing initiative which acts to maximise the appeal of the town centre including through the organisation of promotional events and crime reduction initiatives. The recently established One Maidstone will be delivering projects associated with marketing, events, regeneration and culture.

The Town Centre Opportunity Sites

6.12 There are a range of opportunities to bring forward new town centre renewal. Five such opportunities were identified through the Town Centre Opportunity Guidance documents published by the Council in 2019. These provide guidance on the future development of:

  • Gala Bingo
  • Len House
  • Maidstone Riverside
  • Maidstone West
  • Mote Road

6.13 There are also other opportunities that will present themselves over the Plan period. The “churn” of land uses in the town centre is generally higher than that elsewhere, and this will continue to present opportunities for renewal and new uses in the town centre. These sites are included as allocations in this document.

The Town Centre Boundary

6.14 The town centre boundary identifies the area covered by the policy SP1. It has resulted from a positive assessment of the opportunities for:

  • Sites containing the main focus of town centre uses;
  • the existing character and form of development and it’s potential for change;
  • the visual, physical and functional form within and around the primary shopping area; and
  • the potential for appropriate development opportunities.

Shopping

6.15 The Economic Development Needs Study (EDNS) (2020) sets out that the centre is performing well in retail terms, signified by stabilising vacancy rates and the presence of major retailers, especially in the primary shopping area. Vacancy rates are higher, however, in the more secondary shopping areas which detracts from the overall vitality and viability of the town centre. A flexible approach to allowing service and leisure uses in these locations will help to improve unit occupation and diversify the mix of uses in the town centre. The town centre assessment has identified the importance of restaurants, cafés and coffee shops as well as personal retail (hairdressers etc) and leisure uses in encouraging people to extend the length of their visit to the town centre.

6.16 The EDNS forecasts the need for new shopping floorspace in the town for both the traditional comparison and convenience shopping, as well as for food and beverage space, over the time frame of the local plan. The study takes account of predicted changes in shopping patterns such as the increasing role of the internet, population growth and expenditure growth. There are limits to predicting retail trends over such an extended period and as such the findings for the latter part of the plan period in particular must be regarded as broad indications of retail capacity rather than absolute quantums. This uncertainty is recognised through the NPPF, as allocations for town centre uses are only required for the first ten years of the plan.  A further review of the capacity forecasts will therefore be needed during the LPR plan period to ensure continued provision of appropriate levels of floorspace in the town centre.

6.17 In terms of indicative floorspace requirements over the whole plan period, as well as floorspace allocation requirements over the first ten years of the plan, for all town centre A uses, the EDNS sets out the following:

Uses

Year

Previous Use Class

New use Class

2032

2037

Maidstone Town Centre

A1 convenience

A1 comparison

A3-A5 food/beverage

E(a) use

E(a) use

E(b) use

3,008 sqm

0 sqm

5,495 sqm

4,673 sqm

730 sqm

7,444 sqm

Sub-total:

12,847 sqm

Rest of the borough

A1 convenience

A1 comparison

A3-A5 food/beverage

E(a) use

E(a) use

E(b) use

1,011 sqm

107 sqm

1,217 sqm

1,384 sqm

290 sqm

1,625 sqm

Sub-total:

3,299 sqm

TOTAL:

16,146 sqm

 

6.18 Over half of the borough’s identified need (56%) is for food and beverage floorspace, with 38% identified for convenience retail and just 6% of the floorspace identified for comparison retailing. This is very much in accordance with the ‘town centre first’ approach, with 80% of all floorspace required in the town centre. The remaining 20% required throughout the rest of the borough is expected to serve local needs, thereby maintaining the centre hierarchy.

6.19 To accommodate needs in the early part of the plan period, the key opportunity and top priority for new retail development will be the Maidstone East/Royal Mail Sorting Office site (LPRSA146). 6.20 The site has capacity to accommodate 4,000m2 of retail floorspace and would accommodate almost the entire identified town centre need for E(a) uses to 2037. This is sequentially the first choice site with close, direct walking connections to the heart of the town centre and further scope to enhance the quality and attractiveness of this route through a scheme of enhanced public realm, as well as improved public transport connections in association with the site's development. This site can help to deliver a new modern shopping destination, creating a further ‘anchor’ shopping location in the town centre alongside Fremlin Walk and The Mall. The site is considered a suitable location for both convenience and comparison type shopping and could help to address the identified lack of larger, more modern units available in the town centre which are important in attracting new operators into the town.

6.21 The Mall is the town centre’s main indoor shopping centre and is currently well occupied as one of the key anchor locations in the town centre. The building is, however, becoming dated with its layout and internal environment is less suited to modern retailers' requirements compared with both Fremlin Walk and competing centres further afield such as Tunbridge Wells, Canterbury, Ashford and Bluewater. Without positive and significant intervention there is a considerable risk that the commercial attractiveness of the centre will decline over the plan period to the detriment of the town centre as a whole.

6.22 In response, the council will actively support the longer term redevelopment of the wider area that encompasses The Mall, the multi storey car park fronting Romney Place and Sainsburys as well as the King Street car park site and the former AMF Bowling building (policy RMX1(3)), both on the north side of King Street. As well as re-providing the existing quantum of floorspace, a comprehensive scheme could deliver net additional shopping floorspace and help meet the retail growth predicted for later in the plan period. Redevelopment will help to sustain and enhance the commercial health of the town centre. A scheme in this location is unlikely to come forward until the latter end of the plan period. The council will work with its partners to help bring the site forward, and to address issues of site assembly and physical constraints of the site. Identifying this area for longer term growth brings clarity in respect of the future of the town centre.

6.23 The local plan needs to define the ‘primary shopping area’ for the purposes of applying the sequential test (policy CD1). The sequential test requires that new retail development is directed to within the primary shopping area first, then to edge of centre sites (within 300m of the primary shopping area) before out of centre sites. The primary shopping area encompasses the core retail part of the town centre only; there is further significant retailing on more outlying streets (see policy CD2 – secondary retail frontages).

Offices

6.24 The permitted development rights for changes of use from office accommodation to residential use have had a significant effect on the potential supply of residential units in the town centre. At 1st April 2020, a total of 1,344 dwellings had been consented through prior notification within the town centre since the PD rights came into effect in 2013. There remains additional poor quality office floorspace identified in the town centre from which to realise further residential opportunities, yielding approximately 350 dwellings during the plan period. As at 1 April 2020, 70% of this identified poor quality office stock remains available for conversion to residential use.

6.25 Office-based businesses are an important component in the commercial success of the town centre. The town centre is a sustainable location for offices and it offers the dual benefits of having good transport connections and a full range of services and facilities close at hand.

6.26 The town centre office market has been challenged for a number of years. The last significant new office building completed in the town centre was the Countygate development early in the last decade. There is a significant supply of poorer quality office stock which is less suited to modern occupier requirements because this stock is generally older, is not suited to flexible sub-division, is less energy efficient and has limited or no dedicated car parking. This over supply has had the effect of suppressing values. Coupled with a confirmed supply of business park office development at locations such as Kings Hill and Eclipse Park, the net effect is that new 100% office development is unlikely to be viable in the current market and would not proceed without a substantial pre-let. This position is not unique to Maidstone; the market in many regional office locations is reported to be constrained at present.

6.27 A route to tackle this issue is to address the oversupply of poorer quality stock. Changes to the General Permitted Development Order enable the conversion of office space to residential use without the need for planning permission and this could continue to secure a step change. A number of factors are likely to need to be in place for the office to residential conversions and redevelopment schemes in the town centre to come forward:

·         The value of office stock, in terms of rents, to fall further so that redevelopment for alternative uses becomes viable

·         Existing tenant leases to come to an end

·         An uplift in the market for town centre apartments.

6.28 It is expected that modern office buildings with car parking which remain fit for purpose will continue to be occupied and remain part of the office stock within the town centre. These sites are designated in the plan for office (B1) use (E(g) Use under the new Use Class Order).

6.29 The EDNS identifies a requirement for 33,430sqm (GEA) of new office floorspace across the borough over the plan period. It does not specify how much of this requirement should be accommodated within the town centre. However, in planning for sustainable growth, the town centre is the most accessible, sustainable location for such development. One of the key opportunities and a top priority for new office development will be the Maidstone East/Royal Mail 6.30 Sorting Office site (LPRSA146). This prominent site has capacity to accommodate 10,000m2 of high quality office floorspace and is directly served by rail, bus and taxi services, as well as offering commuter parking. Allocations at Powerhub Building and Baltic Wharf (LPRSA148) and Mote Road (LPRSA151) also provide significant opportunity for the development of new office floorspace within the town centre and should be developed using the Town Centre Opportunity Guidance approved by the Council in 2019.

Housing

6.31 Whilst commercial uses are the priority for the town centre, residential uses in and around the town centre positively benefit the retail and employment uses by providing local demand, vitality and vibrancy especially during the evening. This can be achieved by improving links from the surrounding areas into the centre, as well as through new town centre residential development, in particular as part of mixed use schemes.

6.32 Maidstone town centre has strong characteristics associated with premium property values (access to public transport and services and amenities), but at present the price in the town centre is generally lower than elsewhere in the borough. This is largely due to the stock in the town centre being smaller than elsewhere and lacking in desirable features such as private outdoor space. Generating better quality stock, and improving surrounding environments has the potential to rebalance this relationship.

6.33 There has been a pattern of the delivery of high proportions of affordable (social and affordable rent) housing in and around the town centre, reaching back to post-war developments and continuing to this day. A strategic approach to ensuring that there is a balanced set of housing tenures across the town centre will be required to ensure sustainable and balanced communities are achieved here.

6.34 Minimum space standards will be a key tool in ensuring new stock is of a high quality, and the mix of houses that provide a choice for a range of households (individuals, couples, small families, larger families, older people) should be provided in line with the 2019 SHMA.

Accessibility

6.35 A key function and strength of the town centre is as a transport hub. Improving accessibility into and around the town centre is also important for sustaining and improving the commercial health of the town centre. Key measures will be identified in an updated Integrated Transport Strategy, including seeking improved connectivity to and through the town centre by all modes, a revised approach to car parking management and improvements to active transport infrastructure.

Quality in the town centre environment

6.36 Capitalising on the centre’s existing environmental assets is a further way to support sustainable growth in the town centre and to further enhance its commercial appeal, and attractiveness to visitors. Alongside obvious assets including the rivers Medway and Len, the town centre’s bowl topography allow impressive 360 degree landscape views from elevated positions.

6.37 The town centre has a significant historic core, which as the centre has evolved has become fragmented through a varied set of new buildings of a wide variety and architectural quality. There is a need to create greater consistency between the historic, modern, and contemporary buildings to improve the overall sense of place within the centre. In recent years there have been improvements to the street furnishings and surfaces, and now much of the core of the town centre is prioritised for pedestrians.

6.38 The town centre has good quality open spaces on its doorstep, notably Benchley Gardens, Whatmore Park, and Trinity Park, as well as close proximity to Mote Park. Improved linkages to and between the existing green spaces and riverside environment within the town centre will help to improve access to all of these for users of the centre. The Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy will help to identify the principles that should be followed and the Town Centre Action Plan will include specific initiatives for implementation, including ‘greening’ the town centre and help to adapt to, and mitigate against, climate change.

Maidstone Town Centre Action Plan

6.39 A longer-term vision to improve the Town Centre will be brought forward in a Town Centre Action Plan. The Action Plan will be developed as a part of the overall Development Plan and will seek to increase investment and improve the services within, and operation of the town centre over the period to 2050.

Maidstone Town Centre 2050 Vision

Securing the future role of Maidstone as the County Town of Kent and as a focus for investment in a wide range of employment, retail and leisure facilities. By 2050 a renewed Maidstone town centre will be a distinctive, safe and high quality place that has:

  • Retained its best environmental features, including the riverside and the enhanced public realm, facilitating a more active and multi-functional set of urban spaces;
  • Provided a variety of well-integrated attractions for all ages including new shopping, businesses, leisure, tourism, and cultural facilities; and
  • Improved access for all.

Key components in realising this vision are:

·         Enhancing the diversity of the retail offer, supporting a continued balance between independent and multiple retailers;

  • Creating a highly sustainable location resilient to future climate change;
  • Establishing the town centre as an attractive hub for business building on the town centre’s assets and environment to maximise its sphere of influence and access to labour;
  • Creating a stronger mix and balance of uses within the centre to support long term viability including where appropriate residential development;
  • Delivery of new high quality community, health and education infrastructure;
  • Adding higher value jobs, new approaches to sustainable working and sustainable living patterns;
  • Sequencing the delivery of development such that improvements to jobs and infrastructure are provided alongside new housing;
  • Ensuring the centre’s green and blue infrastructure, and public realm is enhanced to attract new investment;
  • Developing the visitor economy and creating an attractive and healthy living and working environment;
  • Providing a pattern of both accessibility and service provision/activity which encourages all of the borough and beyond to identify with the Town Centre, and
  • Tackling congestion and air quality issues through improvements in provision for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, including public transport.

 

Reasonable alternatives tested

6.40 The Town Centre was tested through the Sustainability Appraisal and Transport Modelling as a potential growth location in this Plan. It was consistently found to demonstrate the highest relative sustainability of all the growth locations in the borough, and as such is being allocated growth in line with this. Not developing in the town centre would place greater emphasis on the remaining urban as well as rural areas. It should be noted that there is not sufficient capacity in this area alone for it to comprehensively service all of the Borough’s needs.

Policy SP1 – Maidstone Town Centre

1)      The continued renewal of Maidstone town centre, as defined on the policies map, is a priority. This will be achieved through the completion of a Town Centre Action Plan to secure:

a)      The consolidation of Maidstone’s position as the County Town of Kent;

b)      Retaining and enhancing a varied and well integrated shopping offer, including;

i)        The protection and consolidation of retail uses within the primary shopping area;

ii)       Outside the primary shopping area, allowing for a wider range of supporting uses including those that contribute to the evening and night time economy;

c)       Increasing local employment levels, capitalising on the covid-catalysed decentralisation trend from London, including;

i)        The retention of the best quality office stock whilst allowing for  the redevelopment of lower quality offices;

ii)       Introduction of new workspace into the centre to enable the growth of a range of businesses and enterprises.

d)      Producing a step-change in the centre’s leisure and cultural facilities;

e)      Select opportunities for residential redevelopment;

f)       The retention of the best environmental features, including the riverside, and delivery of schemes to improve the public realm and pedestrian environment as identified in the Infrastructure Delivery Plan; and

g)      Achieving improved accessibility to and through the town centre through the measures in the Integrated Transport Strategy and Infrastructure Delivery Plan.

2)      Development in the town centre should:

a)      Demonstrate a quality of design that responds positively to the townscape, including ensuring the conservation and enhancement of the town centre’s historic fabric. Additionally for sites adjacent to the Rivers Len and Medway, development should:

i)        Respond positively to the rivers’ setting as seen in both short range views and in longer range views from the river valley sides; and

ii)       Ensure public access throughout the centre is maintained and enhanced.

b)      Contribute to a high-quality public realm and improvement schemes for the town centre identified in the Infrastructure Delivery Plan.

c)       Development set out in the Local Plan 2017 includes:

i)        A town centre broad location with the potential to deliver in the order of 940 additional homes at The Mall, on the riverside west of the River Medway, and through the conversion of existing poorer quality office stock. The riverside area has subsequently been updated through town centre opportunity guidance.

ii)       393 units on Site allocations H1 (12, 13 & 20) + RMX1 (2, 3, 5, & 6)

iii)     6,000m2 new commercial and 11,400m2 new retail across the centre

d)      An additional 883 units and 9,667m2 commercial and retail floorspace on the 5 TC Opportunity Sites above and beyond the existing Local Plan 2017 growth.

e)      700 additional residential units, and ambitious targets for jobs growth through the Town Centre Action Plan.

This policy will be revisited and updated in the forthcoming Town Centre Action Plan.

 

Map

Description automatically generated

SP2 Maidstone Urban Area

Introduction to the Policy/ Reasoned Justification

  • Development has been significant in the urban area over the past 5 years, and there is a need to ensure that infrastructure is balanced with current and planned allocations
  • This policy should be read alongside SP3 & SP1
  • Locations adjacent to the town centre are addressed a different policy: The Springfield/Whatmans sites off Royal Engineers Road is a gateway location just beyond the town centre boundary where significant new residential development is planned.

 

6.41 Policy SP2 is specifically concerned with the built up area of Maidstone that is outside the identified town centre boundary but within the urban boundary as shown on the policies map. This area has a varied mix of housing, shopping and community facilities, a range of business locations, a number of attractive green spaces and good transport links that all act in combination to make Maidstone an attractive place to live and work.

6.42 As the town has grown over the centuries areas of distinct architectural character have emerged. Adopted Character Area Assessment SPDs detail the locally distinctive character of an area, and offer guidance on improving the quality of an area. During the local plan period, change within the urban area will tend to be incremental in nature due to infilling and select redevelopment of appropriate urban sites. Development proposals at all locations within the urban area should look to include links to open spaces.

6.43 Land allocations within the urban area specifically at locations close to the town centre will comprise a mix of uses, which will include retail and community facilities, where possible. Major planned development at the edge of the urban area to meet housing and employment needs is to be supported by necessary infrastructure.

6.44 A number of key infrastructure requirements have been identified for provision within the Maidstone urban area as set out in the policy below. There is a significant strategic need for additional secondary school provision within the borough. The Valley Invicta Academy Trust has recently received approval from the Department for Education for an application for free school status and, subject to planning permission, funding has been provisionally secured for a scheme on land adjacent to Invicta Grammar School and Valley Park School.

Regeneration

6.45 There are four neighbourhoods within the urban area that have been identified as being in need of regeneration: Park Wood, High Street, Shepway North and Shepway South. These areas currently fall within the 20% most deprived in the country. Development within or adjoining these locations will look to close the gap between these areas and other parts of Maidstone by focusing on improving accessibility to health services, equal access to education and training opportunities, and job creation.

Reasonable alternatives tested

6.46 The Urban Area was tested through the Sustainability Appraisal and Transport Modelling as a potential growth location in this Plan. It was consistently found to demonstrate a high relative sustainability when compared to other growth locations in the borough, and as such development is being allocated in line with this. Not developing within the urban area would place greater emphasis on the remaining urban as well as rural areas. It should be noted that there is not sufficient capacity in this area alone for it to comprehensively service all of the Borough’s needs.

Policy SP2 – Maidstone Urban Area

1)      As a sustainable location, Maidstone urban area, as defined on the policies map, will be a key focus for new development.

2)      Within the urban area and outside of the town centre boundary identified in policy SP4, Maidstone will continue to be a good place to live and work. This will be achieved by:

a)      Allocating sites at the edge of the town for housing and business development;

b)      The development and redevelopment or infilling of appropriate urban sites in a way that contributes positively to the locality's distinctive character;

c)       Retaining well located business areas;

d)      Maintaining the network of district and local centres, supporting enhancements to these centres in accordance with the overall hierarchy of centres;

e)      Retaining the town's green spaces and ensuring that development positively contributes to the setting, accessibility, biodiversity and amenity value of these areas as well as the River Medway and the River Len; and

f)       Supporting development that improves the social, environmental and employment well-being of those living in identified areas of deprivation.

3)      Strategic policy SP3 sets out the requirements for development around the edge of the urban area. Elsewhere in the urban area land is allocated for housing, retail and employment development together with supporting infrastructure.

a)      Approximately 1,846 new dwellings will be delivered on 23 existing Local Plan sites in accordance with policies H1(11) to H1(30).

b)      Approximately 182 additional units will be delivered in the urban area on sites LPRSA156, 366, 152, 298, and 303.

c)       Fourteen existing sites at Aylesford Industrial Estate, Tovil Green Business Park, Viewpoint (Boxley), Hart Street Commercial Centre, The Old Forge, The Old Brewery, South Park Business Village, Turkey Mill Court, Eclipse Park, County Gate, Medway Bridge House, Albion Place, Victoria Court and Lower Stone Street (Gail House, Link House, Kestrel House and Chaucer House) are designated Economic Development Areas in order to maintain employment opportunities in the urban area (policy SP11(a)).

d)      Key infrastructure requirements include:

i)        Improvements to highway and transport infrastructure, including junction improvements, capacity improvements to part of Bearsted Road, improved pedestrian/cycle access and bus prioritisation measures, in accordance with individual site criteria set out in policies H1(11) to H1(30);

ii)       Additional secondary school capacity including one form entry expansions of the Maplesden Noakes School and Maidstone Grammar School;

iii)     Additional primary school provision through one form entry expansion of South Borough Primary School;

iv)     Provision of new publicly accessible open space; and

v)      Improvements to health infrastructure including extensions and/or improvements at Brewer Street Surgery, Bower Mount Medical Centre, The Vine Medical Centre, New Grove Green Medical Centre, Bearsted Medical Practice and Boughton Lane Surgery.

 

 

SP3 Development at the edge of Maidstone

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

6.47 In the current 2017 Local Plan there has been significant growth identified to the North West, and (particularly) the South East of Maidstone. The developments allocated in the current plan are at various stages of construction, with some having fully built out, some under construction, and some parcels still awaiting to start construction. The urban fringe of Maidstone has demonstrated that it is a deliverable location for new housing growth, but the expansion of the urban boundary now risks coalescing with surrounding villages.

6.48 This plan seeks to restrict additional growth at the edges of Maidstone to protect the integrity of surrounding villages in the medium term. This doesn’t mean that no sites are allocated in these areas, but additional development on the scale of the 2017 Plan is not included. As such a single consolidated policy for the additional growth around the edge of Maidstone is proposed in the Local Plan Review.

6.49 The edge of Maidstone is still needed to play an important part in meeting housing need across the borough. In addition to the South East and North western extensions, modest sites are identified to the north, north-east, south, and south-west of the Urban Area.

6.50 It is appropriate that the existing policy wording ensuring the sustainable completion of the 2017 allocations is included, and this is encompassed in the Policy below.

North West

6.51 The north west strategic development location benefits from good access to the M20 motorway, the A20 and the A26. There are capacity challenges that will need to be considered with the local transport network, including key junctions at the M20 junction 5 and at the northern and southern ends of Hermitage Lane. The council will work to address these challenges with Kent County Council, Highways England and the developers of the sites in this location.

6.52 Local services in this part of the town are good and include a mix of health and education facilities which are within walking distance or accessible by frequent public transport services.

6.53 Retail options are also good at this location. In addition to local convenience stores, the town centre is easily accessible, as is the Quarry Wood retail location across the borough boundary in Aylesford, which provides a mix of convenience and comparison goods.

6.54 At this location the council is keen to retain the separation between the edges of Barming and Allington and the edge of the Medway Gap settlements in Tonbridge and Malling Borough i.e. Aylesford, Ditton and Larkfield. To the north, long range landscape views that would be affected by developing these sites has been considered by the Planning Inspectorate, which concluded that it was acceptable to develop at East of Hermitage Lane.

6.55 The north west strategic development location has been comprehensively planned in respect of supporting infrastructure and connectivity between sites.

South East

6.56 The south east strategic development location benefits from its proximity to Maidstone’s urban area and the town centre, where key community infrastructure, local services and employment opportunities are located. A further benefit is that there are opportunities to expand and improve on existing services and facilities in this area, and to put new infrastructure in place to accommodate the demands arising from an increase in population.

6.57 Some forms of infrastructure provision have historically not kept pace with development. This has been a contributory factor to some issues such as a congested road network, a shortage of affordable housing, deficiencies in open space provision and poor access to key community facilities in certain areas. New development on the urban periphery in the south east will be underpinned with a co-ordinated infrastructure approach for the area, which will focus on tackling congestion and air quality issues, improving accessibility to the town centre and providing the community services, facilities and accessible open space necessary to mitigate for the increase in population. This is reflected in some of the site allocation policies, where highways improvements such as junction improvements and bus priority measures on the A274 are proposed, along with significant areas of new public open space, two new primary schools and a community hall.

6.58 At this location the council is keen to limit as much as possible the extension of development further into the countryside along both sides of the A274, Sutton Road. This ensures that the more sensitive landscapes in this area will remain protected and development will be consolidated around the urban edge to make best use of new and existing infrastructure.

6.59 The south east strategic development location has been comprehensively planned in respect of supporting infrastructure and connectivity between sites.

Reasonable alternatives tested

6.60 Sustainability Appraisal and transport modelling evidence suggests that the Maidstone Urban area is a generally more sustainable location for future growth than the rest of the borough. While not as sustainable as the town centre, it is relatively sustainable, services are accessible, and an improved network of services along key routes is supported. Not developing in these areas would place greater emphasis on rural areas. It should be noted that there is not sufficient capacity in this area alone, or closer to the centre of Maidstone for these areas to comprehensively service all of the Borough’s needs.

 

Policy SP3 – Edge of the Maidstone Urban Area

The South Eastern Urban Area

Land to the south east of the urban area is allocated as a strategic development location for housing growth with supporting infrastructure.

1)        In addition to development, redevelopment and infilling of appropriate sites in accordance with other policies in the Plan, approximately 2,651 new dwellings will be completed on Local Plan 2017 allocated sites (policies H1(7) to H1(10)).

2)        The existing Parkwood Industrial Estate is designated as an Economic Development Area in order to maintain employment opportunities (policy SP11(a).

3)        Key infrastructure requirements for the south-east strategic development location include:

a.       Highway and transport infrastructure improvements including: junction improvements on the A274 Sutton Road incorporating bus prioritisation measures, the installation of an extended bus lane in Sutton Road, together with improved pedestrian and cycle access, in accordance with individual site criteria set out in policies H1(7) to H1(10);

b.        New primary schools on site H1(10) and expansion of an existing primary school within south east Maidstone;

c.         A new community centre and local shopping facilities will be provided on site H1(5) to serve new development;

d.        A minimum of 22.1 hectares of publicly accessible open space will be provided; and

e.        Improvements to health infrastructure including extensions and/or improvements at The Mote Medical Practice, Orchard Medical Centre, Wallis Avenue Surgery and Grove Park Surgery.

The North Western Urban Area

4)      In addition to development, redevelopment and infilling of appropriate sites in accordance with other policies in the Plan, approximately 1,157 new dwellings will be delivered on three sites allocated in the Local Plan 2017 (policies H1(2) to H1(4))

5)      The existing 20/20 site at Allington and Hermitage Mills are designated as Economic Development Areas in order to maintain employment opportunities (policy SP11(a).

6)      Key infrastructure requirements for the north-west strategic development location include:

a)      Highway and transport infrastructure including improvements to: the M20 junction 5 roundabout; junctions of Hermitage Lane/London Road and Fountain Lane/Tonbridge Road; pedestrian and cycle access; and public transport, including provision of a new bus loop in accordance with individual site criteria set out in policies H1(2) to H1(4);

b)      A new two form entry primary school, community centre and local shopping facilities will be provided on-site H1(2) to serve new development;

c)       A minimum of 15.95 hectares of publicly accessible open space will be provided; and

d)      Improvements to health infrastructure including extensions and/or improvements at Barming Medical Practice, Blackthorn Medical Centre, Aylesford Medical Centre and Allington Park or Allington Clinic.

The remainder of the urban edge

7)      In addition to development, redevelopment and infilling of appropriate sites in accordance with other policies in the Plan, approximately 1,084 new dwellings will be delivered on ten sites  (policies LPRSAs 196, 216, 203, 265, 235, 270, 172, 362, 246, and 266).

 

 


 

SP4 Garden Settlements

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

 

6.61 The Council indicated when releasing the Call for Sites in March 2019 that it was interested in pursuing garden communities as a method of accommodating future housing need over the Local Plan Review Period.

6.62 New Garden Communities need to be of a sufficient scale to deliver meaningful supporting infrastructure. The Government defines ‘garden villages’ as being of between 1,500 and 10,000 homes and ‘garden towns’ as being of 10,000+ homes. They can be new, freestanding settlements or a new neighbourhood created through a major extension to an existing urban area. In either case, they are areas which are comprehensively planned and co-ordinated from the outset where the new homes and other forms of development will be built over an extended number of years.

6.63 New Garden Communities also offer the prospect of achieving mixed, balanced communities through the supply of a range of types and tenures of housing and a highly integrated approach to the provision of supporting infrastructure, facilities and mix of uses. This integration, co-ordination and delivery-focus are likely to be best achieved by taking a masterplanning approach to the delivery of the new garden community.

Assessment Process

6.64 Through the Call for Sites a number of garden settlement-scale developments were submitted. The Council has sought the independent assessment of the suitability and deliverability of each of these. There were judged to be 4 potentially suitable garden settlement locations within the borough. One of these, the Leeds-Langley corridor is not currently being promoted as a coherent development. Three submissions have been tested for deliverability by an independent consultant. The outcome of this study identified three potentially deliverable garden settlements.

6.65 The Sustainability Appraisal also assesses the proposed garden communities, against its own sustainability criteria. MBC has given further consideration to the work undertaken by the independent consultants in regard to garden communities and the sustainability appraisal when coming to a decision on the two garden communities for are part of the preferred spatial strategy. Consideration has been given to combinations of garden settlement proposals and different approaches to growth dispersal.

6.66 It has been recognised that there are strengths and weaknesses associated with all garden community submissions. The Council has considered the proposals and are content that the two garden communities that have been included in the preferred spatial strategy can contribute to meeting the Council’s housing target as part of the preferred spatial strategy.

6.67 On balance, it is considered that Lidsing and Heathlands garden communities present significant potential benefits including:

·         Connectivity potential, including to existing transport networks

·         Potential for mixed and balanced communities

·         A high degree of self-containment potential

·         significant potential job creation

·         potential to continue to meet needs beyond the plan period

·         potential to provide significant infrastructure for new and existing communities

 

6.68 The Council has determined that it is appropriate to take forward 2 garden settlement proposals within the plan: land at Lidsing, and land at Lenham Heath. These will be the subject of specific policies at SP4(a) & SP4(b).

Reasonable alternatives tested

6.69 Garden Settlements as a typology of development that could help meet local need have been tested both as a typology, and on an individual and combination basis to explore their sustainability, transport impact, and potential ability to help meet overall needs. This enable the sustainability implications of Garden Settlements be compared to other types of development, as well as in combination with growth in other areas.

6.70 It is clear that either individually, or in concert, that Garden Settlement/ Strategic development locations do not have the ability to meet all need across the borough. It is possible to meet local need without any garden settlements. An overdependency on garden settlements would increase risk in terms of ensuring developable land comes forward in the earlier parts of the Plan period. A blend of garden settlement/ strategic development locations and traditional sites in mature urban and rural locations will be required to meet development throughout the Plan period.

 

Policy SP4 – Garden Settlements

 

1)      The Council supports the development of appropriate Garden Community developments, subject to them, as well as having regard to other policies in this Plan:

a)      Creating a distinctive place to live at a sustainable scale which responds to local character in the heart of Kent;

b)      Providing a clear, holistic masterplan that integrates the new development with its surroundings;

c)      Giving residents the best opportunities to follow healthy lifestyles, allowing activity to be built into their daily lives and providing opportunities to buy and grow healthy food along with ensuring that health services are close at hand;

d)      That generous amounts of green space, landscaping, trees, and hedgerows are integrated into the design of the development - with the purposes of achieving biodiversity net gain, an attractive setting for development, informal recreational space, and attractive walking and cycling links;

e)      Integrated and accessible transport choices, with a particular emphasis on active modes (walking and cycling), public transport and low emission technologies

f)       Buildings and places designed with a strong focus on energy efficiency, reduced carbon emissions and climate change mitigation;

g)      Exceptional connectivity through superfast broadband;

2)      Additionally, in order to demonstrate that a Garden Community proposal is sustainable and deliverable, the following requirements will need to be met:

  • Masterplanning statement, including:
    • Design Code;
    • Role of a Master developer;
    • Opportunities for multiple suppliers including SME builders to accelerate and sustain delivery rates;
    • Evidence of collaboration between landowners, including an acceptable statement of the value captured on the site to provide new local development and services;
    • Satisfactory engagement with utilities and other infrastructure providers to secure high quality local services;
  • Evidence of Deliverability
    • Detailed viability statement, having regard to the appropriate existing land use value and a phased approach to local price elevation and value capture
    • Comprehensive costings for all new infrastructure and utilities
    • A phasing plan for the delivery of infrastructure improvements alongside new homes and jobs;
  • Evidence of community engagement:
    • Engagement with and future roles for local communities;
    • Identified future local governance arrangements.
  • Development Mix containing:
    • Not less than 1,500 new homes;
    • Appropriate local retail and services, taking into account the local and surrounding populations and levels of service provision;
    • A good local employment offer, across a range of job types, with a benchmark target of 1 new job for each new home delivered;

 

SP4(a) Heathlands Garden Settlement

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

6.71 Heathlands offers a substantial opportunity for sustainable growth as a stand-alone garden settlement. It is the only such proposal within the borough that has passed the suitability and deliverability test set out in the Garden Settlements Assessment.

6.72 The site has many of the preconditions for a strategically located development. There is access to road by the A20 to the north, and potentially to the Maidstone-Ashford rail line. It’s location at the foot of the North Kent Downs will provide a very attractive setting for the new residents, but care must be taken to ensure that the impact on views from and to the Downs are minimised and mitigated.

6.73 There is much work to be done in terms of bringing a masterplan together for this site, but there is the potential for an exemplary new settlement at this location, utilising the A20 and existing rail links, as well as contributing towards the business case for a new M20 junction. There is particular uncertainty around the delivery of the western portion of the site due to an existing minerals allocation, the impacts from the Lenham Waste Water Treatment facility potential for convergence with the village of Lenham, and potential AONB impact.

 

6.74 The requirement for a new rail station does however increase the strategic value of the land north of the currently proposed site. It is conservatively assumed that this has the potential for an additional 2,000 new homes, with a mix of employment and services to the north of the rail line. It will be particularly important that this part of the site is carefully designed to ensure the impact to the setting of the AONB is appropriately managed, as well as ensuring that new links to the A20 are established.

 

Reasonable alternatives tested

6.75 All garden settlement-scale allocations have been tested individually, as a typology of development, and in various combinations to explore their sustainability, transport impact, and potential ability to help meet overall needs

6.76 It is clear that either individually, or in concert, that Garden Settlement/ Strategic development locations do not have the ability to meet all need across the borough. A blend of garden settlement/ strategic development locations and traditional sites in and on the edge of mature urban and rural locations will be required to meet development throughout the Plan period.

 

Policy SP4(a) Heathlands Garden Settlement

1)      The new settlement should be Masterplanned and designed to garden Settlement standard as set out in Policy SP4. This should be prepared in agreement between the landowner(s) and the Council

2)      Phasing & Delivery

a)      Starting in approximately 2030

b)      A mix of sizes of land parcels to enable development by a range of types and sizes of developers.

c)       Ensure that environmental mitigations are delivered in advance of construction

3)      Housing:

a)      5,000 new homes;

b)      A minimum of 40% affordable housing;

c)       Range of types including across tenures, mix, including for generational living

4)      Masterplanning and design parameters:

a)      Design Code, Building typologies, rhythm and street layout

b)      Landscape study to inform design parameters including views into/ from the AONB;

c)       Interfaces with existing buildings which will be retained on and around the site;

d)      How the settlement’s shape is designed with regards its relationship to Lenham, Lenham Heath & Charing;

e)      Investigating how density can be optimised, particularly around the areas with the best access to the new rail station, district centre, and high quality open spaces

5)      Employment/ Commercial

a)      Development should aim to provide for as close to 5,000 new jobs as feasible and viable;

b)      A new District centre focused on a new railway station

c)       Local Centres where the site extends >1.2km from rail station (diagram)

d)      Knowledge focused B1 focused around the new district centre

e)      New B2/B8 space

i)        adjacent to A20 junction,

ii)       or potential future M20 junction

6)      Infrastructure

a)      Bespoke infrastructure funding agreement based on the value captured by the development, expected to be higher than that which would ordinarily be captured using a borough CIL approach, and should be spent on infrastructure locally, and in the surrounding areas, particularly Lenham and Charing, where suitable.

b)      New primary school

c)       Address future development of Lenham Waste Water Treatment Works

d)      50% of the site area will be publicly accessible open space, meeting all of the standards set out in Policy SP13 (c) on-site.

7)      Transport Connections

a)      A new rail station will be provided on the Maidstone-Ashford rail line;

b)      2 new A20 connections will be established to the north of the development, on routes which successfully span the Maidstone-Ashford rail line to connect with the southern part of the site.

c)       A new bus route linking Improved bus routes

d)      Cycling & Walking links to the new district centre

e)      Potential connection  to a new M20 junction as a result of cumulative development between M20 Junction 8 & Ashford

8)      Environmental

a)      A new country park/wetlands area around the Stour River south of the site and its ability to filter nitrates & phosphates arising upstream, having regard to the future operation of the Lenham Waste Water Treatment Works, having regard to Natural England’s advice in July 2020 regarding nutrients entering the River Stour;

b)      Climate Change

c)       20% biodiversity net gain will be expected to be achieved on-site

d)      There are several areas of potential archaeological sensitivity across the site, and these should be surveyed to ensure their  (west of the site) + other areas

e)      Flood Risk Assessment will be required

 


 

SP4 (b) Development North of M2/Lidsing

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

6.77 The Lidsing proposal Provides a large, deliverable development that could come forward in the early years of the LPR period. It has been assessed as being potentially suitable and deliverable through the Garden Settlement Assessments. Development should be designed to garden Settlement standards set out in Policy SP4.

 

6.78 The current proposal includes a significant employment offer as part of the development mix, and the Council considered that this is appropriate given the strategic access granted to the M2 via Junction 4. Additionally there is potential to add a new arm to the M2 J4 roundabout, which aims to improve how that junction functions as well as providing a new direct access to the motorway network from North Danes Way.

 

6.79 At present there is little connection between the Lordswood and Hempstead areas on Medway, and this proposal aims to not only link them via orbital bus route, but provide an additional service note to complement the existing facilities.

 

6.80 The site adjoins the North Downs AONB to the South, as well as the Capstone Valley to the north, which is of considerable local value. A section of the AONB would be required to establish a new arm to M2 J4, and the proposal includes a substantial potential enhancement to the AONB to mitigate this impact. Further mitigation should include how the junction improvement is designed to minimise impact both there and across the site.

 

6.81 There is the potential for the site to make a positive contribution to the reframing the Capstone Valley as a country park, and in particular by establishing enhanced walking an cycling links north-south through the valley.

 

6.82 The Council recognises that many aspects of this site have at least as much of an impact of the urban areas within Medway as Maidstone borough. The Council will engage in Duty to Co-operate discussions to ensure that issues are discussed, solutions are proposed, and areas of common ground and disagreement are identified.

 

Reasonable alternatives tested

6.83 All garden settlement-scale allocations have been tested individually, as a typology of development, and in various combinations to explore their sustainability, transport impact, and potential ability to help meet overall needs. It is clear that either individually, or in concert, that Garden Settlement/ Strategic development locations do not have the ability to meet all need across the borough. A blend of garden settlement/ strategic development locations and traditional sites in mature urban and rural locations will be required to meet development throughout the Plan period.

 

Policy SP5(b) Development North of the M2/ Lidsing

1)      Should be Masterplanned and designed to garden Settlement standard as set out in Policy SP4. This should be prepared in agreement between the landowner(s) and the Council.

2)      Phasing & Delivery

a)      Starting in approximately 2027

b)      A mix of sizes of land parcels should be provided to enable development by a range of types and sizes of developers.

c)       Ensure that environmental mitigations are delivered in advance of construction.

3)      Housing:

a)      2,000 new homes;

b)      A minimum of 40% affordable housing;

c)       Range of types including across tenures, mix, including for generational living

4)      Masterplanning and design parameters:

a)      Design Code, Building typologies, rhythm and street layout

b)      Landscape study to inform design parameters including views into/ from the AONB;

c)       Interfaces with existing buildings which will be retained on and around the site;

d)      How the settlement’s shape is designed with regards its relationship to the Medway urban area, as well as the AONB and Bredhurst;

e)      Investigating how density can be optimised, particularly around the areas with the best access to services and high quality open spaces

5)      Employment/ Commercial

a)      Development should aim to exceed 2,000 new jobs due to the area’s excellent connectivity to the SRN;

b)      A new Local Centre should be created on an orbital bus route linking Lordswood & Hempstead, as well as the Medway town centres;

6)      Infrastructure

a)      Bespoke infrastructure funding agreement based on the value captured by the development, expected to be higher than that which would ordinarily be captured using a borough CIL approach, and should be spent on infrastructure locally, and in the surrounding areas where suitable.

b)      New primary school

c)       50% of the site area will be publicly accessible open space, meeting all of the standards set out in Policy SP13 (c) on-site.

7)      Transport Connections

a)      A new connection to the M2 at Junction 4 will be created, enabling improved connections to the north of the site;

b)      A new orbital bus route linking Lordswood & Hempstead, and linking to the Medway town centres will be created;

c)       Cycling & Walking links throughout the site, and strategically north-south along the Capstone Valley should be created;

d)      New M20 junction as a result of development between M20J8 & Ashford

8)      Environmental

a)      A new country park/wetlands area around the Stour River south of the site and its ability to filter nitrates & phosphates arising upstream, having regard to the future operation of the Lenham Waste Water Treatment Works;

b)      Climate Change

c)       20% biodiversity net gain will be expected to be achieved on-site

d)      There are several areas of potential archaeological sensitivity across the site, and these should be surveyed to ensure their  (west of the site) + other areas

e)      FRA will be required

 

SP5 (Potential)Strategic Development Locations

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

6.84 The current Local Plan 2017 has Broad Locations for growth at Maidstone Town Centre, Invicta Barracks, and Lenham. These locations have and will continue to make an important contribution to growth within the Plan period. Invicta Barracks and Lenham continue to be progressed and are set out in Policies SP5(b) and (c) below.

 

6.85 There is potential for strategic development to assist in the delivery of a new road linking the M20J8 with the A274 around Langley. The consideration of how this new highway could be delivered is a requirement of Local Plan 2017 Policy LPR1.

 

Policy SP5 – Strategic Development Locations

1.       Strategic Development Locations will be delivered across the Plan Period for:

a.       1,300 units at Invicta Barracks

b.      1,000 units within the Lenham broad location for housing growth

2.       A potential strategic development location will be safeguarded for delivering a new Leeds-Langley Relief Road.

SP5 (a) Potential Development in the Leeds-Langley Corridor

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

6.86 The reconsideration of the business case for the delivery of an Leeds- Langley relief road is a requirement of the existing Local Plan 2017 Policy LPR1. At the current time the delivery of a new road is not confirmed by the highways authority (Kent County Council). Discussions are ongoing however regarding how a scheme may be designed.

 

6.87 Local landowners have identified a significant amount of land within the corridor which may be able to contribute towards the funding of the new route both by contributing land and potentially financial contributions as part of new development along any future route.

 

6.88 The Council considers that a strategic approach is required to ensure that a range of options remain viable in the medium to long term. With this in mind, a safeguarded area is proposed which required prospective developments in this area to demonstrate that they do not prejudice the future creation of a new route. This covers a deliberately wide area to ensure that a range of alignments can be considered. The safeguarding direction does not preclude development in this area. Existing permissions and allocations remain extant, but upon renewal or variation of consents, the new policy would expect to be enforced. 

 

6.89 Discussions between KCC, MBC, local landowners and other stakeholders will continue, with the potential for a future AAP to be produced to guide development of the route in partnership with landowners & KCC created. There is not currently a timeframe for this, and there is additionally not any development associated at the current time.

 

Policy SP5(a) Development in the Leeds-Langley Corridor

Development Land within the corridor, as defined on the policies map, will be safeguarded for potential future delivery of a new highway linking the M20 junction 8 with the A274. This is an indicative area of search to facilitate further work between Regulation 18 and Regulation 19 production stages to enable conversations on potential safeguarding between MBC, KCC and relevant developers and landowners. As part of a wider transport strategy alternatives to a potential relief road will also be considered.

Development proposals which come forward in the defined corridor will be assessed for their potential to prejudice the delivery of a new highway. Proposals for new residential and commercial development coming forward in the defined corridor will need to be accompanied by a masterplan demonstrating how the development of the site potentially contributes to and does not inhibit the delivery of a Leeds Langley relief road.

SP5a – LLRR Safeguarding Indicative Area of Search

SP5 (b) Development at Invicta Barracks

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

6.90 Invicta Park Barracks covers a substantial area (41 ha) to the north of the town centre. It comprises a range of military buildings, including army accommodation, set within expansive parkland. The site is currently home to the 36 Engineer Regiment.

6.91 The MoD keeps its property portfolio under regular review. As part of the MoD review (November 2016) Invicta Park Barracks will be released by 2027.The local plan identifies Invicta Park Barracks as a broad location which is unlikely to come forward for housing growth until the end of the local plan period. The site has the potential to deliver in the order of 1,300 new homes, of which a minimum 500 dwellings will be delivered within the plan period. The council is working with the MoD to encourage an earlier delivery of the site.

Reasonable alternatives tested

6.92 Due to this site’s allocation in the 2017 Local Plan, the potential significance/nature of the development and it’s scheduled completion across the Review period, it is not considered that there is an alternative to including this site.

Policy SP5(b) – Invicta Barracks Strategic Development Location

Invicta Park Barracks is identified as a broad location in accordance with policy H2 for up to 1,300 dwellings towards the end of the local plan period (post 2026). Should the site within the growth location, as defined on the policies map, be released before the local plan is reviewed, the following criteria must be met in addition to other policies of this local plan:

1.       Preparation and submission of a development brief and a master plan prepared in conjunction with and for approval by the council to guide development;

2.       Integration of new development within the existing landscape structure of the site (supported by ecological, arboricultural, and landscape and visual impact assessments together with the identification of detailed mitigation measures where appropriate);

3.       Ensuring requisite community facilities, which may include neighbourhood shopping and health facilities in addition to a new primary school, are delivered where proven necessary and in conjunction with housing;

4.       Provision of publicly accessible open space, including natural and semi-natural open space, as proven necessary, and/or contributions;

5.       Off-site highway improvements as necessary to mitigate the impact of development;

6.       Securing a network of public footpath and cycling routes through the site;

7.       Preservation of features of ecological importance, including the retention and enhancement of wildlife corridors, and ensuring that connection with ecological features and corridors outside the site is maintained/enhanced;

8.       Enhanced walking, cycling and public transport connections to the town centre and local area;

9.       Preservation of Park House (Grade II*) and its setting, in particular the parkland to the north and east of Park House to include removal of existing built development at 1-8 (consecutive) The Crescent to enhance/restore the parkland setting; and

10.   Development proposals must demonstrate that the necessary sewerage infrastructure is either available, or can be delivered in parallel with the development.

 

 

SP5(c) - Lenham broad location for housing growth

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

6.93 The rural service centre of Lenham was identified as a broad location in the Local Plan 2017 to accommodate 1,000 dwellings post April 2021. Transport links to Maidstone and other retail and employment centres by bus and rail are good. Master planning of the area will be essential to achieve a high quality design and layout, landscape and ecological mitigation, and appropriate provision of supporting physical, social and green infrastructure. Housing site allocations and associated infrastructure requirements will be made through the Lenham Neighbourhood Plan and/or the local plan review.

6.94 It is important that development of Lenham takes place in a manner that is well integrated with the existing communities of Lenham, so that they are seen as, and function as, the village which they adjoin, rather than stand-alone communities. In order to ensure a coordinated and planned approach, proposals for development within Lenham which come forward prior to an agreed Neighbourhood Plan and/or the local plan review being adopted will be refused.

6.95 Housing site allocations and associated infrastructure requirements have been made through the Lenham Neighbourhood Plan, which complements how environmental, social, design and economic objectives of the local plan will be met and to demonstrate the physical and functional integration of the site(s) within Lenham.

Reasonable Alternatives tested

6.96 In addition to the sites identified in the Lenham Neighbourhood Plan, a significant number of other sites were proposed in and around Lenham. At the current time it was not considered reasonable to add to the 1,000 units in this area. This is in part due to the risk from market saturation in the local area.

SP5(c) - Lenham broad location for housing growth

Implementation and future revisions to the Neighbourhood Plan will incorporate and address the following principles in the delivery of 1,000 homes as per the Lenham Neighbourhood Plan:

1.      Make efficient use of land and provide a broad range of housing choice by size and tenure (including market and affordable housing) and cater for people with special housing needs;

2.      Outline measures to mitigate the traffic impacts from development on the strategic and local road networks;

3.      Identify appropriate provision of, or contributions towards infrastructure improvements;

4.      Incorporate primary school(s) and secondary school(s) if the scale of development justifies on-site provision, or if not, contributions to provision off-site in order to meet the needs generated by the broad location;

5.      Ensure development is fully integrated with the surrounding village through shared community uses, and a variety of transport modes including walking, cycling and public transport;

6.      Provide, commensurate with the scale of development, a network of open spaces and green infrastructure for amenity, play, sport and recreation, including allotments, local nature reserves woodlands, green spaces and wildlife corridors. Such provision should respond positively to the wider area to ensure enhanced linkages and networks;

7.      Incorporate appropriate landscape treatment which ensures that developments can be satisfactorily assimilated into the surrounding area;

8.      Protect and, where possible, enhance any features of biodiversity value on site or which are off-site but might be affected by the proposed development;

9.      Incorporate an appropriate flood risk management strategy and measures for its implementation; and

10.   Ensure adequate provision is made for enhanced and comprehensive sewerage infrastructure.

SP6 Rural Service Centres

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

6.97 Outside of Maidstone town centre and urban area, rural service centres are considered the most sustainable settlements in Maidstone's settlement hierarchy. The planned development and maintenance of sustainable communities underpins the council’s approach to rural areas where the primary aim is to direct development towards rural settlements that can best act as service centres for their local population and surrounding rural communities. Rural service centres play a key part in the economic and social fabric of the borough and contribute towards its character and built form. They act as a focal point for trade and services by providing a concentration of public transport networks, employment opportunities and community facilities that minimise car journeys.

6.98 The Settlement Hierarchy is established in Policy SS1 and is unchanged in regard to the Rural Service Centres as identified in the 2017 Local Plan. The 2018 Settlement Hierarchy Assessment considered the services and facilities available in each settlement, and recommends that they remain unchanged.  The Rural Service Centre settlements are as follows:

·           Harrietsham

·           Headcorn

·           Lenham

·           Marden

·           Staplehurst

6.99 The rural service centres will continue to be focal points where improved infrastructure and the strategic location of new development will reduce the need to travel and will help to maintain and improve on the range of essential local services and facilities. It is important that the rural service centres remain sustainable settlements with the services and facilities necessary to support a growing population. Additional infrastructure will be required as the plan continues to be developed, to respond to the additional growth set out in this spatial strategy., At the current time the infrastructure requirements are carried forwards from the Local Plan 2017.

6.100 Rural service centres are considered to have high deliverability due to their land price-house price balance.   There is a need to ensure that sufficient land is allocated to meet need across the borough and across the plan period, and to meet the needs of the individual settlements.

Reasonable alternatives tested

6.101 Whilst Maidstone town is a focus for new development it does not have the capacity to meet all of the boroughs needs over the plan period.  The sustainability appraisal and transport assessment show that development in the rural service centres with associated infrastructure improvements is considered to be generally more sustainable than the ad-hoc growth in and around smaller settlements and the countryside. There is not considered to be a reasonable alternative in which there is no development in rural locations, but the identification of Garden Settlements will reduce this by consolidating in specific locations.

6.102 In terms of individual site selection on a settlement by settlement basis, whilst each Rural Service Centres generally had a range of potential sites from which to allocate, the sites included in the plan were selected in consultation with ward members, taking into consideration the site assessment outcomes in the Sustainability Appraisal.

 

Policy SP6 Rural Service Centres

Within the designated rural service centres of Harrietsham, Headcorn, Lenham, Marden and Staplehurst, the council will:

1)      Focus new housing and employment development within the settlements when it is:

a)      An allocated site in the 2017 local plan or Local Plan Review;

b)      Minor development such as infilling; or

c)       The redevelopment of previously developed land that is of a scale appropriate to the size of the village.

2)      Retain and improve existing employment sites and encourage new employment opportunities provided the site is in an appropriate location for, and suited to, the use.

3)      Resist the loss of local shops, community facilities and green spaces, whilst supporting new retail development, community services and green spaces to meet local need.

 

SP6(a) Harrietsham

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

6.103 Harrietsham provides a range of key services. Provision of and access to schools and community facilities in the village are adequate, and will grow commensurate with any increase in population. The village has good public transport connections to Maidstone and other retail and employment centres. There is a local aspiration for replacement almshouses to support the local elderly population and for additional retail and play facilities, which are currently limited.  Harrietsham has seen a number of new developments arising from the 2017 Local Plan, which alongside new housing has also helped to deliver new retail premises withing the settlements.

Policy SP6a Harrietsham

At the rural service centre of Harrietsham, as shown on the policies map, key services will be retained and supported.

1)      In addition to minor development and redevelopment of appropriate sites in accordance with policy SP5, approximately 149 new dwellings will be delivered on three allocated sites (H1(33), LPRSA071 and LPRSA101).

2)      Two existing sites are designated as Economic Development Areas in order to maintain employment opportunities in the locality (policy SP11a).

3)      Key infrastructure requirements for Harrietsham include:

a)      Improvements to highway and transport infrastructure including improvements to the A20 Ashford Road, improvements to Church Road and the provision of additional pedestrian crossing points in accordance with individual site criteria set out in policies H1(33), LPRSA071 and LPRSA101.

b)      Provision of a one form entry expansion at either Lenham or Harrietsham primary schools;

c)       A minimum of 1.32 hectares of publicly accessible open space will be provided; and

d)      Improvements to health infrastructure including extension and/or improvements at Glebe Medical Centre.

4) The loss of local shops, community facilities and green spaces will be resisted, and new retail development, community services and open space will be supported to meet local needs in accordance with policy SP11c.

Diagram

Description automatically generated

SP6(b) Headcorn

Introduction to the Policy

6.104 Headcorn has a diverse range of services and community facilities which are easily accessible on foot or by cycle due to the compact form of the village. There are local employment opportunities and there is a local wish to ensure that existing employment sites are kept in active employment use. A regular bus service runs between Headcorn and Maidstone and the village has good rail linkages to other retail and employment centres, including London. Flooding is an issue in Headcorn. The Strategic Flood Risk Assessment advises strict controls on the location of development within Flood Zones 2 and 3. The village lies within a landscape of local importance where proposals should seek to contribute positively to the conservation and enhancement of the protected landscape in accordance with policy SP14. Headcorn is surrounded on three sides by the functional floodplain of the River Beult and its tributaries and additional capacity will be required in the sewer network and may be required at the wastewater treatment works in the period to 2031.

Policy SP6b Headcorn

At the rural service centre of Headcorn, as shown on the policies map, key services will be retained and supported.

1)      In addition to minor development and redevelopment of appropriate sites in accordance with policy SP6, approximately 402 new dwellings will be delivered on three allocated sites (policies H1(36), H1(38) and LPRSA310.

2)      Two existing sites are designated as Economic Development Areas in order to maintain employment opportunities in the locality (policy SP11a), and a further 5,500m2 employment floorspace is allocated (policy EMP1(1)).

3)      Key infrastructure requirements for Headcorn include:

a.       Improvements to highway and transport infrastructure, including junction improvements, a variety of measures to improve sustainable transport infrastructure and improvements to pedestrian and cycle access, in accordance with individual site criteria set out in policies H1(36), H1(38) and LPRSA310

b.      Provision of a one form entry extension to Headcorn Primary School;

c.       A minimum of 3.96 hectares of publicly accessible open space will be provided;

d.      Additional capacity will be required in the sewer network and at the wastewater treatment works if required in the period to 2031; and

e.      Improvements to health infrastructure including extension and/or improvements at Headcorn Surgery.

4)      The loss of local shops, community facilities and green spaces will be resisted, and new retail development, community services and open space will be supported to meet local needs in accordance with policy SP11c.

 

Map

Description automatically generated

SP6(c) Lenham

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

6.105 Lenham has the key services and community facilities expected of a rural service centre. The village performs the best in terms of education facilities, with a primary school and nursery school located on the same site, and is the only village to have a secondary school within the village boundary. Transport links to Maidstone and other retail and employment centres by bus and rail are good. There is a local aspiration for housing development in the village to sustain the thriving village centre and local businesses in general. The need for housing is centred on young people to ensure long term sustainability.  Lenham lies within the setting of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it is recognised that there is a need to balance the benefits of utilising the most sustainable locations on the borough with the need to respect the setting of the AONB.

6.106 Lenham has a post examination Neighbourhood Plan which allocates land for circa 1,000 dwellings across three areas (7 sites including H1(41)).  A new garden settlement at Heathlands to the east of Lenham, at Lenham Heath, is proposed as part of this plan.  It is also recognised that the village of Lenham is a suitable settlement to deliver a select number of smaller scale sites.

Policy SP6c Lenham

6.107 Outside the Maidstone urban area, rural service centres are the second most sustainable settlements in the hierarchy to accommodate growth. At the rural service centre of Lenham, as shown on the policies map, key services will be retained and supported.

1)      In addition to minor development and redevelopment of appropriate sites in accordance with policy SP6, approximately 145 new dwellings will be delivered on one allocated site (policy H1(41)), in addition to six allocations in the Lenham Neighbourhood Plan which will deliver around 1,000 new dwellings.

2)      Two pitches are allocated for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation in accordance with policy GT1(8).

3)      Three existing sites are designated as Economic Development Areas in order to maintain employment opportunities in the locality (policy SP11a).

4)      Two new employment site allocations (LPRSA260 and LPRSA285) will deliver 3,296m2 employment space.

5)      Key infrastructure requirements for Lenham include:

a)      Improvements to highway and transport infrastructure including junction improvements, a variety of measures to improve sustainable transport infrastructure, and improvements to pedestrian access in accordance with individual site criteria set out in policies H1(41);

b)      Provision of a one form entry expansion at either Lenham or Harrietsham primary schools;

c)       Provision of 0.34 hectares of natural/semi-natural open space through Policy H1(41) and additional open space as specified through the Neighbourhood Plan allocations.

d)      Improvements to health infrastructure including extension and/or improvements at The Len Valley Practice.

6)      The loss of local shops, community facilities and green spaces will be resisted, and new retail development, community services and open space will be supported to meet local needs in accordance with policy SP11c.

 

SP6(d) Marden

Introduction to the Policy

6.108 Marden is a successful service centre, particularly in terms of employment opportunities, and also has strong key community facilities such as a medical centre, library and village hall. Marden has frequent rail connections to London and other retail and employment centres, which has created a demand for new development. This has to be balanced with the desire to ensure local people have access to affordable housing. Public transport connections to Maidstone are less frequent and require improvement. Flooding is an issue in Marden and the Strategic Flood Risk Assessment advises strict controls on the location of development within Flood Zones 2 and 3.

Policy SP6d Marden

At the rural service centre of Marden, as shown on the policies map, key services will be retained and supported.

1)      In addition to minor development and redevelopment of appropriate sites in accordance with policy SP6, approximately 237 new dwellings will be delivered on five allocated sites (policies H46, -LPRSA295 and LPRSA314.

2)      Two pitches are allocated for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation in accordance with policy GT1(9).

3)      One existing site is designated as an Economic Development Area in order to maintain employment opportunities in the locality (policy SP11a), and a further 21,300m2 employment floorspace is allocated on two sites (policies EMP1(2) and EMP1(3)).

4)      Key infrastructure requirements for Marden include:

a)      Improvements to highway and transport infrastructure including railway station enhancements, a variety of measures to improve sustainable transport infrastructure, and improvements to pedestrian access in accordance with individual site criteria set out in policies H1(46), LPRSA295 and LPRSA314;

b)      Provision of 0.6 form entry expansion at Marden Primary School;

c)       A minimum of 1.74 hectares of publicly accessible open space will be provided; and

d)      Improvements to health infrastructure including extension and/or improvements at Marden Medical Centre.

5)      The loss of local shops, community facilities and green spaces will be resisted, and new retail development, community services and open space will be supported to meet local needs in accordance with policy SP11c.

Reasoned Justification/ Reasonable alternatives tested

Diagram

Description automatically generated

SP6(e) Staplehurst

Introduction to the Policy

6.109 Staplehurst is the largest of the rural service centres in terms of population and size, and has a number of the key community services and facilities one would expect, including good health care services consisting of a health centre, pharmacy, optician and chiropractic clinic. The village also has more employment providers than most of the other service centres with the exception of Marden. Current transport infrastructure in Staplehurst is good and includes a train station but improvements to transport infrastructure are essential to cope with high levels of demand at peak times. Local aspirations for Staplehurst express a need for improvement to highways infrastructure in line with any new large-scale housing developments.

Policy SP6e Staplehurst

At the rural service centre of Staplehurst, as shown on the policies map, key services will be retained and supported.

1)      In addition to minor development and redevelopment of appropriate sites in accordance with policy SP5, approximately 837 new dwellings will be delivered on three allocated sites (policies H1(48) to H1(50), LPRSA066 and LPRSA114).

2)      Four pitches are allocated for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation in accordance with policies GT1(10) and GT1(11).

3)      One existing site is designated as an Economic Development Area in order to maintain employment opportunities in the locality (policy SP11a).

4)      Key infrastructure requirements for Staplehurst include:

a)      Improvements to highway and transport infrastructure including junction improvements, a variety of measures to improve sustainable transport infrastructure, and improvements to pedestrian and cycle access in accordance with individual site criteria set out in policies H1(48) to H1(50) LPRSA066 and LPRSA114;

b)      Provision of 0.5 form entry expansion at Staplehurst Primary School;

c)      A minimum of 11.78 hectares of publicly accessible open space will be provided; and

d)      Improvements to health infrastructure including extension and/or improvements at Staplehurst Medical Centre.

5)      The loss of local shops, community facilities and green spaces will be resisted, and new retail development, community services and open space will be supported to meet local needs in accordance with policy SP11c.

 

Map

Description automatically generated

SP7 Larger Villages

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

6.110 The overall amount of development that will be acceptable in larger villages will be less than in the Rural Service Centres as they are comparatively less sustainable locations for meeting the development needs of the borough as a whole.

6.111 The assessment of population, village services and facilities has identified five villages that can be designated as larger villages, these are:

·         Boughton Monchelsea

·         Coxheath

·         Eyhorne Street (Hollingbourne

·         Sutton Valence

·         Yalding

6.112 Based on the analysis of population, services and facilities, all five settlements are considered sustainable locations for limited new housing development provided that it is of a scale in keeping with their role, character and size. An appropriate increase in population would help to support village services and facilities. The continued sustainability of these settlements as places to live and work is dependent on the retention of local services that meet community needs coupled with the retention of adequate transport services to enable access to larger centres for those services that are not available locally.

6.113 Similar to the rural service centres, all five villages have different characteristics and there is variation in the limited range of services and facilities they provide.

Policy SP7 Larger Villages

Within the designated larger villages of Boughton Monchelsea, Coxheath, Eyhorne Street (Hollingbourne), Sutton Valence and Yalding, as shown on the policies map, the council will:

1)      Focus new development within the settlements when it is:

a)      An allocated site in the local plan or a Neighbourhood Plan;

b)      Minor development such as infilling; or

c)       The redevelopment of previously developed land that is of a size appropriate to the role, character and scale of the village.

2)      Resist the loss of local shops, community facilities and green spaces, whilst supporting new retail development, community services and green spaces to meet local need.

Reasonable alternatives tested

6.114 There is a need to ensure that sufficient land is allocated to meet need across the borough, and these locations are considered very deliverable due to their land price-house price balance.  Whilst the balance of development is focussed on Garden settlements and Maidstone urban area, proportionate development in larger settlements can make a positive and sustainable contribution to the borough’s Housing Land Supply. Development in Larger villages can also contribute to that settlement’s longer-term sustainability and viability through increased demand for infrastructure and services.

 

6.115 There is not considered to be a reasonable alternative in which there is no development in rural locations, but the identification of Garden Settlements will reduce this by consolidating in specific locations.

 

6.116 In terms of individual site selection on a settlement by settlement basis, whilst each Rural Service Centres generally had a range of potential sites from which to allocate, the sites included in the plan were selected in consultation with ward members, taking into consideration the site assessment outcomes in the Sustainability Appraisal.

 

SP7(a) Boughton Monchelsea

Introduction to the Policy

6.117 Boughton Monchelsea lies to the southeast of Maidstone’s urban edge adjacent to the scarp face of the Greensand Ridge, and is a village that comprises and is characterised by a number of distinct groups/clusters of dwellings. The settlement performs well in the audit in terms of education and childcare, with a primary school, play group, nursery and nearby secondary school. It performs poorly in terms of healthcare, with no GP surgery or other health care service. The village has a local shop, post office, village hall and recreation areas. Although the village is close to the urban area, public transport connections to Maidstone town centre are infrequent, and this is not helped by the fact that residential areas within the settlement are quite dispersed. Local employment opportunities in the settlement are also limited

Policy SP7a Boughton Monchelsea

At the larger village of Boughton Monchelsea, as shown on the policies map, key services will be retained and supported.

1)      In addition to minor development and redevelopment of appropriate sites in accordance with policy SP7, approximately 92 new dwellings will be delivered on four allocated sites (policies H1(52) and H1(54), LPRSA122, LPRSA360).

2)      One pitch is allocated for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation in accordance with policy GT1(2).

3)      Key infrastructure requirements for Boughton Monchelsea include:

a)      Improvements to highway and transport infrastructure will be made in accordance with individual site criteria set out in policies H1(52), H1(54) LPRSA122, LPRSA360. Key schemes include junction improvements and a variety of measures to improve sustainable transport infrastructure; and

b)      A minimum of 0.75 hectares of publicly accessible open space will be provided.

4)      The loss of local shops, community facilities and green spaces will be resisted, and new retail development, community services and open space will be supported to meet local needs in accordance with policy SP11c.

 

Diagram

Description automatically generated

SP7(b) Coxheath

Introduction to the Policy

6.118 Coxheath has the advantage of a compact urban form and a good offering of key services and facilities to support a growing population. Healthcare services in the village are particularly strong and include two GP surgeries, a dentist, community trust clinic, chiropractic clinic and a pharmacy. However, the GP surgeries are currently at capacity and any further development in Coxheath will be expected to contribute towards ensuring healthcare facilities can meet the demands of future growth. Coxheath does not have a train station but it has a regular bus service which connects the village to Maidstone town centre. Coxheath also has the advantage of being in close proximity to the town centre, which affords good access to a number of secondary schools and other facilities.

Policy SP7b Coxheath

At the larger village of Coxheath, as shown on the policies map, key services will be retained and supported.

1)      In addition to minor development and redevelopment of appropriate sites in accordance with policy SP7, approximately 295 new dwellings will be delivered on five allocated sites (policies H1(58), LPRSA005, LPRSA084, LPRSA202 and LPRSA257

2)      Key infrastructure requirements for Coxheath include:

a)      Improvements to highway and transport infrastructure, including junction improvements at Linton Crossroads, a variety of measures to improve sustainable transport infrastructure, and improvements to pedestrian access in accordance with individual site criteria set out in policies H1(58), LPRSA005, LPRSA084, LPRSA202 and LPRSA257;

b)      A minimum of 3.17 hectares of publicly accessible open space will be provided; and

c)       Improvements to health infrastructure including extension and/or improvements at Orchard Medical Centre and Stockett Lane Surgery.

3)      The loss of local shops, community facilities and green spaces will be resisted, and new retail development, community services and open space will be supported to meet local needs in accordance with policy SP11c.

Map

Description automatically generated

 

SP7(c) Eyhorne Street (Hollingbourne)

Introduction to the Policy

6.119 Eyhorne Street (Hollingbourne) is a linear settlement which lies to the northeast of Maidstone’s urban area in the setting of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The primary school, pre-school and one of the local playing fields are approximately 0.5km from the village centre. The village does not have a GP surgery or healthcare facilities apart from an osteopath clinic, but does have some good key facilities, including a village hall, local shop, post office, pubs and a restaurant. Rail connections to Maidstone town centre and other retail and employment destinations are good, and the village also has a regular bus service to the town centre.

Policy SP7c Eyhorne Street (Hollingbourne)

The larger village of Eyhorne Street, as shown on the policies map, key services will be retained and supported.

1)      In addition to minor development and redevelopment of appropriate sites in accordance with policy SP7, approximately 26 new dwellings will be delivered on three allocated sites (policies H1(63) and LPRSA204).

2)      The loss of local shops, community facilities and green spaces will be resisted, and new retail development, community services and open space will be supported to meet local needs in accordance with policy SP11a.

A picture containing shape

Description automatically generated

SP7(d) Sutton Valence

Introduction to the Policy

6.120 Sutton Valence lies to the southeast of Maidstone’s urban area on a plateau above the Greensand Ridge. The settlement performs well in the audit in terms of education facilities. There is a pre-school, primary school and the Sutton Valence boarding school, which caters for children from the age of 3 to 18. In terms of services and community facilities there are pubs, a church, a village hall, mobile library service and good playing pitches. The village has a medical practice but no dentist or pharmacy. Public transport connections to Maidstone town centre and Headcorn are good due to a regular bus service. The village does not have a train station.

Policy SP7d Sutton Valence

At the larger village of Sutton Valence, as shown on the policies map, key services will be retained and supported.

1)      In addition to minor development and redevelopment of appropriate sites in accordance with policy SP7, approximately 100 new dwellings will be delivered on three allocated sites (policies LPRSA021, LPRSA078 and LPRSA335).

2)      The loss of local shops, community facilities and green spaces will be resisted, and new retail development, community services and open space will be supported to meet local needs in accordance with policy SP11c.

3)      Key infrastructure requirements for Sutton Valence include:

a)      Improvements to health infrastructure including extension and/or improvements at Sutton Valence Surgery and Cobtree Medical Practice.

b)      Improvements to highway and transport infrastructure, including junction improvements at Linton Crossroads, a variety of measures to improve sustainable transport infrastructure, and improvements to pedestrian access in accordance with individual site criteria set out in policies H1(63) and LPRSA204

c)       A minimum of 6.24 hectares of publicly accessible open space will be provided

 

Map

Description automatically generated

 

SP7(e) Yalding

Introduction to the Policy

6.121 Yalding has a number of the key services and facilities expected of a larger village. The village has a local shop, post office and GP surgery. The village is served by a nearby train station and has connections by bus to Maidstone town centre, which is essential in terms of access to secondary education. Yalding also has sustainable connections to nearby Paddock Wood, which also has a range of services and facilities, including a secondary school.

6.122 In addition to allocated development within the settlement, the council will support the redevelopment of the brownfield former Syngenta Works site, which lies to the west of Yalding village. It is important to ensure that safe and sustainable linkages between the Syngenta site and the village are provided if this development comes forward. Robust flood mitigation measures will have to form an essential part of any development proposal in the settlement. The size of the Syngenta site offers an opportunity for a sustainable drainage mitigation approach to flood prevention. Subject to the findings of the flood risk assessment, potential suitable uses for the site could include employment (B classes), leisure, commuter car parking and open space (in accordance with policy LPRSAEmp1.

Policy SP7d Yalding

At the larger village of Yalding, as shown on the policies map, key services will be retained and supported.

1)      In addition to minor development and redevelopment of appropriate sites in accordance with policy SP7, approximately 165 new dwellings will be delivered on two allocated sites (policy H1(65), and LPRSA248.

2)      Key infrastructure requirements for Yalding include:

a)      Improvements to highway and transportation infrastructure will be made in accordance with individual site criteria set out in policy H1(65) and LPRSA248. Key schemes include improvements to pedestrian access; and

b)      Improvements to health infrastructure including extension and/or improvements at Yalding GP Practice.

c)       A minimum of 1.77 hectares of publicly accessible open space will be provided

 

3)      The loss of local shops, community facilities and green spaces will be resisted, and new retail development, community services and open space will be supported to meet local needs in accordance with policy SP11c.

 

A picture containing text, map

Description automatically generated

SP8 Smaller Villages

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

6.123 Smaller Villages are those rural settlements that are not defined as Larger Villages or Rural Service Centres. These settlements rely heavily on community-focused services. Community facilities can include clinics, health centres, day centres, playgrounds, playing fields and sports facilities, children’s nurseries and schools, village halls and places of worship. Together with local village services, particularly with respect to village shops, post offices, healthcare facilities and public houses, provision of a basic level of community  facilities are essential if small rural settlements are to remain vital and viable.

6.124 There has been a continued decline in local village services and the local plan will continue to resist any further losses. Any proposal for the re-use or re-development of an existing local village service will be required to be supported by clear evidence of non-viability, such as marketing the building or facility for a period of time to test whether another community interest, operator or owner could be found.

6.125 For sustainability reasons, the local plan priority is to locate new or improved community facilities in areas with a greater range of higher-order services; rural service centres and larger villages. However, in small villages new facilities may be permitted to serve the local community provided a clear need is demonstrated. Additionally, development which can be shown to positively support local services, as agreed with local communities, will be supported.

6.126 The local plan will resist the loss of any community facility that meets an essential community need and which is not available or reasonably accessible elsewhere. In all cases, another beneficial community use should be sought before permission is granted for the removal of these facilities.

6.127 Development on remote sites, or sites which do not appropriately reflect the existing envelope of smaller villages, is unlikely to be acceptable due to impact on the setting of the settlement within its countryside setting. As in other rural centres, infilling and the redevelopment of brownfield sites is encouraged. 

6.128 Whilst some smaller villages have a limited range of services, consideration will be given to the public transport links to Rural Service Centres, Larger Villages and Maidstone.  In appraising proposals for development in smaller villages, consideration will therefore be given to, the range of facilities and infrastructure offered, and its connectivity to services in larger settlements by means of public transport.

6.129 With the exception of Eyhorne Street, all of the rural service centres and larger villages are designated neighbourhood areas.  Other designated neighbourhood areas located in the countryside, together with non-designated rural settlements, can offer a limited opportunity for new development to support the continued sustainability of the settlement in accordance with policy SP8.

Reasonable alternatives tested

6.130 Whilst small scale infill development in smaller villages can make a limited contribution towards the supply of land, it nevertheless represents an opportunity to balance development across the borough in a proportionate way.  These sites can help maintain the viability of services in smaller settlements and provide vital opportunities to bring forward smaller brownfield sites for development.

6.131 It is right, however, for communities to be given the opportunity to identify sites through the Neighbourhood Planning process, therefore this policy encourages local communities to bring forward Neighbourhood Plans or other strategies to support their local services and demographic pressures.

6.132 The Local Plan Review does not seek to allocate sites in Smaller Villages to allow time for those communities seeking to take a proactive approach to new development in their areas to do so through a Neighbourhood Plan. If, when the Local Plan is reviewed there is not delivery against this policy, the Council will consider allocating sites where need is identified.

Policy SP8 – Smaller Villages

  1. The Council will resist the loss of local shops, community facilities and green spaces, whilst supporting new retail development, community services and green spaces to meet local need.
  2. Smaller villages offer a limited opportunity for new development which can support the continued sustainability of the settlement. This is estimated to be 289 units, in the last 10 years of the Plan period.
  3. Within the Smaller Villages small scale housing development will be acceptable where:

a)      The scale of the development is proportionate to the size of the settlement and the type and level of local services available

b)      The development design takes account of landscape impact having regard to the setting of the settlement within the countryside.

c)       It can be linked to the retention or expansion of specific infrastructure or service assets within the settlement;

d)      It has community support, either through a Neighbourhood Plan, or other Parish endorsement;

e)      Where it is apparent that smaller villages are not set to meet the 289 unit allocation of residential units, the Council, through a future review of the Local Plan, will allocate sites to make up the shortfall

 

SP9 Development in the Countryside

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

6.133 Maidstone borough is predominantly rural with a large proportion of the population living in villages as well as on the fringes of the urban area. Much of the rural landscapes are of high quality with valuable agricultural and ecological resources within the borough. The countryside areas are highly accessible to those living and working in the urban areas, complemented by a wide and well-used public rights of way network. They also act as a major asset to attract new investment into the borough. However, this proximity to the urban area brings with it pressures arising from an increased level of demand for houses, recreation and jobs in the countryside.

6.134 The countryside is defined as all those parts of the plan area outside the settlement boundaries of the Maidstone urban area, rural service centres and larger villages with defined settlement boundaries and is depicted on the policies map. The countryside has an intrinsic character and beauty that should be conserved and protected for its own sake. However, there is also a need to ensure a level of flexibility for certain forms of development in the countryside in order to support farming and other aspects of the countryside economy and to maintain mixed communities. This needs to be mitigated in a way that maintains and enhances the distinctive character of the more rural parts of the borough.

Rural economy

6.135 Maidstone’s rural economic character is diverse and complex in nature. The number of rural and agricultural businesses found within villages and rural service centres and the wider countryside account for a significant proportion of all firms in the borough. Small businesses are a particular feature of rural areas, as is homeworking, home-based businesses and live-work units.

6.136 Agriculture remains an important influence, fulfilling a number of important and varied roles in the countryside, contributing to the local economy, and managing and maintaining much of the valued landscapes. It benefits from the fact that much of the soil within the borough comprises the most high grade and versatile agricultural land. However, in line with other businesses, agriculture needs to be able to react to new and changing markets and developments in technology. A more recent trend in agriculture is the response to demand for produce to be available on a year-round basis. This leads to land being put under intense pressure for almost industrial scale development that can have an adverse impact on the wider landscape and natural assets, such as wildlife, soil and water resources that require protection within the landscape. Another trend is the increasing interest in smaller-scale renewable energy installations. Further advice and guidance on the landscape implications of these activities will be given in the Landscape Character Guidelines SPD.

6.137 Many rural businesses have begun to diversify away from traditional rural activities primarily through the re-use of farm and other buildings for commercial non-agricultural purposes. This has not only helped to retain economic activity within rural areas but has enabled a number of farms to remain operational. Tourism is of great importance to the local rural economy with the countryside providing ample leisure and open-air recreational opportunities. As well as sustaining many rural businesses these industries can be significant sources of employment and can help support the prosperity of rural settlements and sustain historic country houses, local heritage and culture. To a lesser degree, the winning of minerals such as sand and chalk has also taken place as a diversification activity, but these activities are largely confined to relatively small-scale sites on the North Downs and Greensand Ridge.

6.138 The local plan will continue to recognise the importance of supporting small-scale rural business development. Its priority is to locate these businesses within the defined rural service centres. However, there are employment sites already located outside of these settlements and it is important to offer these businesses a degree of flexibility.

Small villages

6.139 The attractiveness of the countryside is partly due to its scattered settlement pattern and buildings. The overall settlement pattern across the borough is characterised by a large number of small villages scattered across the countryside surrounding a handful of larger, more substantial settlements. It is important these settlements retain their individual identities as there can be a delicate balance between settlement proximity and separation.

6.140 There may be a need for some development to help ensure the sustainability of these smaller settlements, and this is covered in SP8.

Design

6.141 The countryside is a sensitive location within which to integrate new development and the council will expect proposals to respect the high quality and distinctive landscapes of the borough in accordance with policy DM30. In order to assist in the successful integration of new development into the countryside the council will ensure Landscape and Visual Impact Assessments are carried out as appropriate to assess suitability and to aid and facilitate the design process.

Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and its setting

6.142 A large part of the northern part of the borough lies within the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). This is a visually prominent landscape that contributes significantly to the borough’s high quality of life. It is an important amenity and recreation resource for both Maidstone residents and visitors and forms an attractive backdrop to settlements along the base of the Kent Downs scarp. It also contains a wide range of natural habitats and biodiversity. Designation as an AONB confers the highest level of landscape protection. The council has a statutory duty to have regard to the purposes of the designation, including the great weight afforded in national policy to its conservation and enhancement. Within the AONB, the Kent Downs AONB Management Plan 2014-2019 provides a framework for conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the area. The council has adopted the Management Plan and will support its implementation. Open countryside to the immediate south of the AONB forms a large extent of the setting for this designation. In Maidstone this is a sensitive landscape that is coming under threat from inappropriate development and is viewed as a resource that requires conservation and enhancement where this supports the purposes of the AONB.

6.143 The council will ensure proposals conserve and enhance the natural beauty, distinctive character, biodiversity and setting of the AONB, taking into account the economic and social well-being of the area. Rural diversification and land-based businesses in the Kent Downs AONB will only be acceptable where they help improve the special character of the AONB and are in accordance with the Kent Downs AONB Management Plan, supporting guidance and position statements. Economic development within the AONB should be located in existing traditional buildings of historic or vernacular merit in smaller settlements, farmsteads or within groups of buildings in sustainable locations.

6.144 New development in the AONB should demonstrate that it meets the requirements of national policy. This will require high quality designs as set out in policy DM30. To help developers produce designs of a suitably high quality, the council will continue to encourage the use of the Kent Downs AONB Unit’s design guidance and publications.

6.145 The above considerations apply to the setting of the Kent Downs AONB. The Management Plan states that the setting of the Kent Downs AONB is ‘broadly speaking the land outside the designated area which is visible from the AONB and from which the AONB can be seen, but may be wider when affected by intrusive features beyond that.’ It makes it clear that it is not formally defined or indicated on a map.

6.146 The foreground of the AONB and the wider setting is taken to include the land which sits at and beyond the foot of the scarp slope of the North Downs and the wider views thereof. It is countryside sensitive to change, with a range of diverse habitats and landscape features, but through which major transport corridors pass. Having due regard to the purposes of the designation is part of the council’s statutory duty under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. National policy (NPPF and NPPG) directs that great weight should be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty in the AONB. The duty is relevant to proposals outside the boundary of the AONB which may have an impact on the statutory purposes of the AONB. Matters such as the size of proposals, their distance, incompatibility with their surroundings, movement, reflectivity and colour are likely to affect impact. The Kent Downs AONB Management Plan advises that ‘where the qualities of the AONB which were instrumental in reasons for its designation are affected, then the impacts should be given considerable weight in decisions. This particularly applies to views to and from the scarp of the North Downs.’ It is considered therefore that it is not necessary to formally define the setting of the Kent Downs AONB and that the impact of development can be appropriately assessed through the criteria of the policy.

High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and its setting

6.147 The High Weald AONB lies beyond the southern boundary of the borough adjacent to the parishes of Marden and Staplehurst, within the administrative area of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. Its closest point to the borough is at Winchet Hill in the southern part of Marden parish. The council has exactly the same statutory duty to conserve and enhance the setting of this AONB as it does with the Kent Downs AONB and will apply the same policy considerations for any proposals that may affect its setting.

Metropolitan Green Belt

6.148 Green Belts afford protection to the countryside from inappropriate development, and policies for their protection are set out in the NPPF. A small area (5.3km2) on the western edge of the borough is included within the Metropolitan Green Belt. The designation extends up to the borough boundary, contiguous with the Green Belt boundary in Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council’s administrative area; and lies between Teston and Wateringbury and west of the River Medway, which includes the settlements of Nettlestead and Nettlestead Green. The council has undertaken a review of its Green Belt boundary (Maidstone Borough Council Metropolitan Green Belt Review, January 2016), which concluded there were no exceptional circumstances for revising the Green Belt boundaries within the borough.

6.149 A small area to the west of the borough lies within the Metropolitan Green Belt (MGB), incorporating the villages of Nettlestead and Nettlestead Green. The fundamental aims of the MGB are to prevent urban sprawl and to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment. The local plan will support sustainable development within the MGB provided it is not harmful to the open character of the designation in accordance with the NPPF.

Landscapes of local value

6.150 The council will seek to conserve or enhance its valued landscapes. The Kent Downs AONB and High Weald AONB and their settings and other sites of European and national importance are considered to be covered by appropriate existing policy protection in the NPPF, NPPG and other legislation. As well as this national policy guidance and statutory duty, the settings of the Kent Downs and High Weald AONBs are also afforded protection through the criteria of policy SP17 and no additional designation is therefore necessary. In addition to these areas, the borough does include significant tracts of landscape which are highly sensitive to significant change. Landscapes of local value have been identified and judged according to criteria relating to their character and sensitivity

i.        Part of a contiguous area of high quality landscape;

ii.       Significant in long distance public views and skylines;

iii.     Locally distinctive in their field patterns, geological and other landscape features;

iv.     Ecologically diverse and significant;

v.      Preventing the coalescence of settlements which would undermine their character;

vi.     Identified through community engagement;

vii.    Providing a valued transition from town to countryside

 

6.151 Development proposals within landscapes of local value should, through their siting, scale, mass, materials and design, seek to contribute positively to the conservation and enhancement of the protected landscape. Designated areas include parts of the Greensand Ridge and the Low Weald, and the Medway, the Loose and the Len river valleys. These landscapes were highlighted as areas of local value by the public through local plan consultations.

6.152 The Greensand Ridge lies to the south of Maidstone and is defined by the scarp face of the Ridge with extensive views across the Low Weald to the south. It is characterised by frequent small blocks of coppice and deciduous woodland, extensive orchards and frequent oast houses, with ragstone being a predominant material in walls and buildings.

6.153 The Medway Valley is characterised by the wide River Medway and steep valley sides where the valley incises the Greensand and is crossed by distinctive ragstone bridges. The area lends itself to much recreational land use including the Medway Valley Walk, although some sections are more wooded and remote in character. The Loose Valley lies to the south of Maidstone and is characterised by the Loose stream, mill ponds and springs with steep wooded valley sides, mature native woodland and traditional mill buildings and cottages. The Len Valley lies to the east of Maidstone and is bordered by Bearsted to the west. It is characterised by the River Len, historic mills and a network of pools with remnant orchards.

6.154 The Low Weald covers a significant proportion of the countryside in the rural southern half of the borough. The Low Weald is recognised as having distinctive landscape features: the field patterns, many of medieval character, hedgerows, stands of trees, ponds and streams and buildings of character should be conserved and enhanced where appropriate.

Reasonable alternatives tested

6.155 The countryside is a highly valued local resource, and is utilised by both urban and rural populations within and around the borough. It is appropriate that its valued features are protected, and to this end development has been directed to the more sustainable settlements across the borough. This plan identifies a small quantum of growth within smaller settlements within the countryside, but this will be required to maintain the overall character of both the settlement and the countryside overall.

Policy SP9 Development in the Countryside

The countryside is defined as all those parts of the plan area outside the settlement boundaries of the Maidstone urban area, rural service centres and larger villages defined on the policies map.

1)      Development proposals in the countryside will not be permitted unless they accord with other policies in this plan and they will not result in harm to the character and appearance of the area.

2)      Agricultural proposals will be supported which facilitate the efficient use of the borough's significant agricultural land and soil resource provided any adverse impacts on the appearance and character of the landscape can be appropriately mitigated.

3)      Great weight should be given to the conservation and enhancement of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

4)      Proposals should not have a significant adverse impact on the settings of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

5)      The Metropolitan Green Belt is shown on the policies map and development there will be managed in accordance with national policy for the Green Belt.

6)      The distinctive landscape character of the Greensand Ridge, the Medway Valley, the Len Valley, the Loose Valley, and the Low Weald, as defined on the policies map, will be conserved and enhanced as landscapes of local value.

7)      Development in the countryside will retain the separation of individual settlements.

Account should be taken of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Management Plan and the Maidstone Borough Landscape Character Guidelines Supplementary Planning Document.

 


7.          

7. Thematic Strategic Policies

SP10 Housing

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

7.1 The council has identified the levels of growth in it’s spatial strategy in Chapter 5. It is important to note that the emerging plan housing target does not include a contingency amount. This is due to the considerable current uncertainty around the future planning regulations, as well as the market uncertainty created by Brexit and covid. Bearing these influences in mind it was not considered prudent to allocate a surplus of land.

7.2 A  call for sites has been undertaken during the preparation of the plan, whereby landowners, developers and the public were asked to submit sites to the council for an assessment of their development potential. As part of the assessment, all of the sites submitted were subject to site visits, and an appraisal of each site's suitability for development was undertaken.

7.3 The appraisal examined site topography, conditions and surrounding land uses. To protect the best of Maidstone's urban and rural heritage, the appraisal considered the impact that development would have on the landscape, ecology, ancient woodland, heritage, archaeology, and the loss of best and most versatile agricultural land. Safety is a prime concern, so the access to each site was evaluated, together with the impact of development on the wider highway network. The need for infrastructure to support new development is a key consideration, so the assessment looked at access to schools, community and health facilities, shops, open space, public transport, and utilities. The impact of development on existing residential amenity was also an important factor. Site conditions can constrain development or require mitigation, so the appraisal looked at the impact of air quality, noise, land contamination and flooding. A number of infrastructure providers and other organisations input to the process, including the Environment Agency, water companies and Kent County Council; and the council's evidence base was supplemented in order to inform decisions.

7.4 Individual site assessments were recorded on pro forma to ensure consistency in the process, and made public. Each site has been subject to independent sustainability appraisal, which has assisted in decisions. The results of site appraisals have been recorded in the council's Strategic Housing and Economic Development Land Availability Assessment, which lists all sites that have potential for development and the sites that have been rejected. Sites that are located within the plan's settlement hierarchy have been allocated for housing in the local plan.

7.5 The site appraisals have informed the policy criteria that each development site must meet. Of the sites listed, some can be developed with minimal infrastructure provision, whereas others will need more intervention. Some sites contain features which should be retained, such as trees or ponds that are worthy of retention for landscape, screening or ecological reasons. Other sites may have access restrictions or will need to contribute toward highway improvements to relieve congestion. The requirements for each housing site, including development guidance, mitigation and infrastructure contributions, are set out in detailed site allocation policies in the plan.

7.6 Policy RMX1 identifies the retail and mixed use allocations and, where housing forms part of the development split, the residential element of these sites is included in the table below. The dwelling yield in the final column is an estimate and the actual number of dwellings on each site could be higher or lower following the detailed consideration of a planning application.

SP10(a) Housing Mix

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

7.7 The key requirements for a mixed community are a variety of housing, particularly in terms of tenure and price, and a mix of different households such as families with children, single person households and older people. The borough is made up of a variety of household types including, for example, older people who have specific housing needs that are different to the needs of large families and different again to those of disabled people. Maidstone Borough Council recognises that to truly promote sustainable communities there must be a mix of types of housing that are provided in any given development or location. Through providing a mix of housing types the borough will be able to accommodate the needs of an increasingly diverse population within the borough. The council will actively seek to balance communities where particular house sizes or tenures have become prevalent beyond an evidenced need.

7.8 Evidence detailed in the Maidstone Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) 2015 guides the profiles of development that are required in urban and rural locations. This evidence is valuable in determining the local housing picture and as a consequence which types and tenures of housing are required. The council will not, however, set specific targets within policy because these would result in inflexibility and a situation where imbalances could begin to occur over time.

7.9 Custom and self-build housing is housing built or commissioned by individuals or associations of individuals for their own occupation. National planning policy and guidance sets out the need for local planning authorities to identify and take account of such housing need in their area when planning for a mix of dwellings. Whilst the SHMA has not identified a need for custom and self-build housing to be strategically allocated in Maidstone, it is clear that this sector can play a key role in helping achieve a higher level of home ownership, and that policies should be flexible to take account of changing market conditions over time.

7.10 Developers will need to access a range of sources, including the SHMA, to help shape their proposals. Local stakeholders, including parish councils, may often be able to provide targeted information that assists an applicant to submit a locally relevant scheme. Neighbourhood plans can also be used as a mechanism to allow some flexibility and local context while contributing to the overarching strategic needs of the borough. Where affordable housing is proposed or required, the housing register will provide additional guidance.

Reasonable alternatives tested

7.11 Consideration was given to the potential to enact highly locally-specific tenure and mix targets in the preparation of the Plan. While there is undoubtedly some value in incorporating neighbourhood-level needs data into this policy, the granularity of data is not currently in the Council’s evidence base to support it. The Council considers that the more appropriate method will be for these highly local mixes to be proposed and tested through the Neighbourhood Planning process.

 

Policy SP10a – Housing Mix

Maidstone Borough Council will seek to ensure the delivery of sustainable mixed communities across new housing developments and within existing housing areas throughout the borough.

1.       In considering proposals for new housing development, the council will seek a sustainable range of house sizes, types and tenures (including plots for custom and self-build) that reflect the needs of those living in Maidstone Borough now and in years to come.

2.       Accommodation profiles detailed in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment 2015 (or any future updates) will be used to help inform developers to determine which house sizes should be delivered in urban and rural areas to meet the objectively assessed needs of the area. In relation to affordable housing, the council will expect the submission of details of how this information has been used to justify the proposed mix.

3.       Where affordable housing is to be provided, developers should also take into consideration the needs of households on the council’s housing register and discuss affordable housing requirements with the council’s housing team at the pre-submission stage of the planning process.

4.       Large development schemes will be expected to demonstrate that consideration has been given to custom and self-build plots as part of housing mix.

5.       The council will work with partners to support the provision of specialist and supported housing for elderly, disabled and vulnerable people.

6.       Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople accommodation requirements will form part of the borough need for housing.

 

SP10(b) Affordable Housing

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

7.12 The Maidstone Strategic Housing Market Assessment supports the approach of seeking a proportion of dwellings to be provided on-site for affordable housing needs. The council has a net affordable housing need of 5,800 homes from 2013 to 2031, equivalent to 322 households each year. This is a significant need for the borough and a clear justification for the council to seek affordable dwellings through new development schemes.

7.13 The Ministerial Statement published 28 November 2014 refers to the introduction of a threshold for infrastructure contributions. The NPPG refers to circumstances where infrastructure contributions through planning obligations should not be sought from developers: affordable housing should not be sought from developments of 10 units or less, and which have a maximum combined floorspace of 1,000m2. The council's viability testing has assumed the national threshold of 11 dwellings for affordable housing. To support community integration,affordable housing will be provided on-site, and alternative provision will not be accepted unless there are exceptional circumstances that justify it. Any proposals for off-site or financial provision must be made at the time of the application.

7.14 Affordable housing requirements will differentiate across the borough by geographical area; this is due to relative issues such as sales values and policy considerations. Local Plan 2017 viability testing confirmed that the rural areas in Maidstone are more viable than urban locations, and brownfield sites (previously developed land) within urban areas are less viable than greenfield sites. This viability testing demonstrated that a 40% affordable housing rate can be achieved in the rural areas and a 30% rate within the urban area.

7.15 In order to respond to the identified need for affordable housing of different tenures through the period of the plan, the council will seek an indicative target of 70% affordable rented or social rented housing, or a mixture of the two, and 30% intermediate affordable housing (shared ownership and/or intermediate rent). This ratio was used for strategic viability testing purposes and has been shown to be viable. The SPD indicated a preference for social rent and the viability assessment needs updating in preparation for the publication of the Plan.

7.16 The Government has introduced a vacant building credit to incentivise brownfield development on sites containing vacant buildings. In considering how the vacant building credit should apply to a particular development, the council will consider whether the building has been made vacant for the sole purposes of redevelopment and whether the building is covered by an extant or recently expired planning permission for the same or substantially the same development.

7.17 To  ensure proper delivery of affordable housing, developers are required to discuss proposals with the council’s housing department at the earliest stage of the application process, to ensure the size, type and tenure of new affordable housing is appropriate given the identified needs. Where economic viability affects the capacity of a scheme to meet the stated targets for affordable housing provision, the council will expect developers to examine the potential for variations to the tenure and mix of provision, prior to examining variations to the overall proportion of affordable housing.

7.18 Developers will be required to pay for viability assessments and any cost of independent assessment. The council will only consider reducing planning obligations if fully justified through a financial appraisal model or other appropriate evidence.

7.19 Retirement homes (sheltered housing) and extra care homes (assisted living) are not as viable as other residential uses in Maidstone. A 20% affordable housing rate will be sought for such developments, which will allow for an appropriate balance between affordable housing need and supporting infrastructure provision.

7.20 The Affordable and Local Needs Housing Supplementary Planning Document contains further detail on how the policy will be implemented.

Reasonable alternatives tested

7.21 Application of greater local distinctiveness was considered, with a view to enacting a more detailed, locally distinctive policy. However the affordability information the Council currently has does not provide the granularity of evidence required to support it.

Policy SP10c – Affordable Housing

On major development sites or mixed use development sites where 10 or more homes will be provided, or the site has an area of 0.5 hectares or more the council will require the delivery of affordable housing.

1.        The target rates for affordable housing provision within the following geographical areas, as defined on the policies map, are:

a.    Maidstone urban area 30%, with the exception of policy H1(11)

b.    Countryside, rural service centres and larger villages 40%.

2.        Affordable housing provision should be appropriately integrated within the site. In exceptional circumstances, and where proven to be necessary, off-site provision will be sought in the following order of preference:

i.      An identified off-site scheme;

ii.     The purchase of dwellings off-site; or

iii.   A financial contribution towards off-site affordable housing.

3.        The indicative targets for tenure are:

a.    70% rented affordable housing, either social rented housing or a mixture of the two; and

b.    30% affordable home ownership products.

Developers are required to enter into negotiations with the council’s Housing department, in consultation with registered providers, at the earliest stage of the application process to determine an appropriate tenure split, taking account of the evidence available at that time.

4.        The council will seek provision of 20% affordable housing for schemes that provide for retirement housing and/or extra care homes.

5.        The council has set a zero affordable housing rate for fully serviced residential care homes and nursing homes.

6.        Where it can be demonstrated that the affordable housing targets cannot be achieved due to economic viability, the tenure and mix of affordable housing should be examined prior to any variation in the proportion of affordable housing.

The Affordable and Local Needs Housing Supplementary Planning Document contains further detail on how the policy will be implemented.

 

SP10(d) Gypsy & Traveller Site Allocations

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

7.22 A new GTTSAA has been commissioned and survey work for this study commenced in winter 2020.  Owing to the Covid-19 lockdowns and subsequent public health advice, the survey work was put on hold until the surveyors are safely able to interview residents.

7.23 Sites allocated in the Local Plan 2017 will remain as allocations where these have not yet been delivered.  Additionally, policy DM 15 (Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople accommodation) will be retained in order to ensure that in the interim period, suitable sites can come forward for GTTS development. Policy DM15 (Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople accommodation) will therefore be maintained to guide the determination of planning applications and the allocation of specific sites.

7.24 The table below details the LP2017 allocations and their status.

Allocations complete                           

 

Allocations partially complete

Allocations not started

                               

GT1(3)

GT1(4) – 2 delivered

GT1(1)

GT1(10)

GT1(5)

GT1(13) – 2 delivered

GT1(2)

GT1(11)

GT1(7)

GT1(14) – 2 delivered

GT1(4)

GT1(13)

GT1(12)

 

GT1(6)

GT1(14)

GT1(15)

 

GT1(8)

GT1(16)

 

 

GT1(9)

 

These policies have been delivered and will not be retained when the Local Plan Review is adopted.

These policies are partially complete and will therefore be carried through to the Local plan review at a reduced allocation.

These policies have not yet been started and are expected to be retained in the Local Plan Review.

 

 

 

7.25 Whilst work on the GTTSAA is at an early stage, discussions with consultants undertaking the GTTSAA have indicated that there will be a significant need for new pitches in Maidstone over the plan period to 2037. The Call for Sites exercise invited the submission of Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople sites, however only a small number were put forward for inclusion in the plan.  As a consequence Maidstone is facing a significant shortfall of sites. 

7.26 On the basis that the GTTSAA has not been completed and there will be a likely significant shortfall in sites that will not be met by Call for Sites submissions, it is felt that the most appropriate course of action is to undertake a separate Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople DPD, with targeted Call for Sites work, so that the needs of the community can be adequately and appropriately addressed and appropriate engagement can take place.

Reasonable alternatives tested

7.27 Until the new GTTSAA and associated DPD has been produced it is appropriate to continue the current approach to Gypsy and Traveller development with existing site allocations and a criteria-based policy

Policy SP10d – Gypsy & Traveller Site Allocations

1.       The sites allocated under policies GT1(1) to GT1(16) will continue to deliver approximately 41  pitches (22 remaining)  for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation to assist in meeting needs up to 2031. Development will be permitted provided the criteria for each site set out in the detailed site allocation policies are met.

2.       A new Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople DPD will be created to manage emerging need.


 

SP11 Economic Development

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

7.28 The local economy is characterised by its strong base in administration and professional services, as well as public services, stemming in particular from Maidstone’s county town role. The town centre is an established focus for shopping and leisure activities, drawing trade from both within the town and beyond, in particular the Malling area, Medway and Sittingbourne. The qualifications profile is relatively low in Maidstone with just over one third of residents qualified at NVQ Level 4 or above. This is below the South East (41.4%) and national (38.6%) averages. More people in Maidstone are also qualified at below level 2 compared to Kent as a whole. At the same time, the proportion of Maidstone’s population holding ‘other’ or no qualifications is higher than the South East but lower than the UK. The 2011 Census shows that some 1,180 more people were leaving the borough for work than coming in, a reversal of the situation in 2001 when more people commuted into Maidstone to work. More out-commuters are working in managerial, professional, and technical occupations, while those commuting into Maidstone tend to be in skilled / semi-skilled occupations. Whilst the average earnings of those who commute out of the borough is higher than that of those who work in the borough, because of the prevalence of higher paid jobs in London as well as a preponderance of lower wage employment in the borough, the gap has been narrowing over recent years In general unemployment in the borough is low when compared with the Kent and national picture.

7.29 For Maidstone Borough to grow in a sustainable manner the increase in house building has been aligned with growth in local employment. Economic growth will be achieved through a range of provision and for the purposes of the local plan, and in line with the NPPF, economic development includes the following uses:

  • Uses within Class E and B of the Use Class Order including offices, research and development, warehouses and industry;
  • Public and social uses such as health and education; and
  • Town centre uses such as retail, leisure, entertainment, arts, cultural and tourism development.

7.30 The net additional land requirements for E and B class uses and retail to 2037 are to be delivered through the allocation of sites and the granting of planning permissions. Other economic growth will be created through tourism, social infrastructure provision such as education and health care, construction and other small scale opportunities such as the conversion or extension of rural buildings that will not necessarily require the allocation of land. The council’s adopted Economic Development Strategy (2015) sets out an economic vision for the borough in 2031 through its ‘ambition statement’. The strategy goes on to identify five priorities to capitalise on the borough’s economic assets and to create the right conditions for growth. These are 1) retaining and attracting investment; 2) stimulating entrepreneurship; 3) enhancing Maidstone town centre; 4) meeting skills needs and 5) improving the infrastructure.

7.31 A significant proportion of Maidstone’s growth in E and B class uses is expected to come from office-based employment. The first choice location for new office development will be the town centre. The council is aiming to create the right conditions for growth in the town centre through a comprehensive approach, improving accessibility, enhancing the public realm and encouraging a range of commercial uses, primarily retail, office and leisure related. This is directed through the specific policies of the local plan. A particular issue is the quantity of long-term vacant office stock in the town centre and the identification of appropriate alternative uses for such stock. Analysis suggests that some 25,000m2 of the borough’s stock of office floorspace is long term vacant. Such stock, which is no longer fit for purpose, is unlikely to be fully re-occupied and its loss to other uses is unlikely to adversely impact on the borough’s economic growth.

7.32 In addition to town centre office sites, there is a complementary role for offices at beyond centre sites which are well connected to the highway network, such as Eclipse Park in recognition of the differing market demand that such sites meet.

7.33 The proposed strategic site allocation at Junction 7 (Local Plan Policy RMX1(1)) is a particular opportunity to create a hub for medical related businesses, capitalising on the development of the Kent Institute of Medicine and Surgery, to attract high value, knowledge intensive employment and businesses as a boost to the local economy. This site will also deliver additional general office space in a high quality environment. Outline consent has been granted for the medical hub. The further specific sites allocated for additional employment development, including storage, warehousing and industrial development in line with identified needs, will help provide for a range of jobs of differing skill and wage levels as a way of helping to maintain a low unemployment rate going forward.

7.34 With the exception of some of the secondary office stock within the town centre, existing business sites and industrial estates are an important and appropriate part of the business stock for the future which can also help to provide for the range of employment needs. Policy SP11(a) directs the retention, intensification and regeneration of the identified Economic Development Areas. In addition, there is a significant stock of commercial premises outside these designated areas which also provide for local employment. Within Maidstone urban area and the Rural Services Centres the first preference will be for such existing sites to remain in employment generating uses.

7.35 Retail development makes a big contribution towards the economic health of the borough and reinforces Maidstone’s role as County Town. Maidstone Town Centre is the primary focus for retail development within the borough with the rural service centres also providing appropriate local levels of retail facilities as set out in the Centre Hierarchy. Retail provision elsewhere in the borough currently comprises district centres and a degree of out of town development.

7.36 Within the countryside economic development will be permitted for the conversion and extension of existing suitable buildings and established sites, farm diversification and tourism where this can be achieved in a manner consistent with local rural and landscape character in order that a balance is struck between supporting the rural economy and the protection of the countryside for its own sake. Policy CD7 sets out the considerations which will apply when established rural businesses want to expand their existing premises. There is also a trend towards greater homeworking which allows for a reduced impact on transport infrastructure.

7.37 Opportunities for further tourist related development will be supported in particular within the town centre as well as small scale initiatives that support the rural economy. The council will also promote education, leisure and cultural facilities, again within the town centre in particular, to retain a higher proportion of young and well educated people within the borough and in turn enhance the prospects of creating a dynamic local economy.

Reasonable alternatives tested

7.38 There are a number of potentially suitable employment growth locations across the borough. These include in the town centre, at strategic highway locations such as motorway junctions, within the borough’s network of villages, as well as within new garden settlements. Whereas this could have been seen as a choice between locations, the Council is choosing to increase the supply of employment space at a number of different locations to ensure that there is flexibility for investors and businesses.

Policy SP11 – Economic Development

The council is committed to supporting and improving the economy of the borough and providing for the needs of businesses. This will be achieved through the allocation of specific sites and through:

  1. The retention, intensification, regeneration of the existing industrial and business estates identified as Economic Development Areas as defined on the policies map;
  2. The retention, intensification, regeneration and expansion of the existing economic development premises in Maidstone urban area and the   rural service centres provided the site is in an appropriate location and suited to the economic development use in terms of scale, impacts and economic viability;
  3. Enhancing the vitality and viability of Maidstone town centre and maintaining the hierarchy of retail centres;
  4. Supporting proposals that encourage highly skilled residents to work in the borough to reduce out-commuting;
  5. Improving skills in the workforce in particular by supporting further and higher education provision within Maidstone’s urban area;
  6. Supporting improvements in information and communications technology to facilitate more flexible working practices;
  7. Prioritising the commercial re-use of existing rural buildings in the countryside over conversion to residential use, in accordance with policy Q&D 5; and
  8. Supporting proposals for the expansion of existing economic development premises in the countryside, including tourism related development, provided the scale and impact of the development is appropriate for its countryside location, in accordance with policy CD7.

 

SP11(a) Retention of Employment Sites

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

7.39 In addition to new allocations of employment land, it is important that a stock of existing employment sites is maintained. A range of well located commercial premises and sites need to be secured so that they can continue to be available to meet the needs of existing and modernising businesses. Policy SP22 identifies Economic Development Areas across the borough designated specifically for B class uses, which include sites with planning permission as well as established, existing employment locations.

7.40 The demand for office, manufacturing and warehouse premises can be expected to fluctuate over the plan period in line with changes in the economic cycle. It is important that these designated, good quality and productive sites are not permanently lost to alternative uses as a result of only short term changes in demand, whilst recognising that the permanent protection of a site that has no prospect of coming forward for its designated use is counter-productive for the local economy. Recent changes to the General Permitted Development Order enable the conversion of office space to residential use without the need for planning permission. Policy SP11 identifies locations with higher quality office floorspace for retention in the longer term, recognising that in the short- term conversion to residential use could happen without consent. The recent General Permitted Development Order changes also allow up to 500m2 of B1 floorspace to be used for B8 uses without the need for planning permission.

7.41 Planning applications which seek alternative non B class uses to E(g), B2 or B8 in identified Economic Development Areas will be supported only where there is clear evidence that substantiates why the site should not be retained for its designated use. This must include evidence of, and the outcomes from, the concerted marketing of the site for its designated uses for a continuous period of at least 12 months prior to the applicant's submission via relevant commercial property publications and websites. In addition, applications should include an analysis of the on-going suitability of the site for its designated uses and its commercial viability for those uses. Both the suitability and viability assessments should evidence current market conditions and also the future prospects for the sectors for which the site is designated. The analysis of future prospects should look ahead at least 5 years to  ensure  a  medium term view of market trends and employment land requirements is taken.

7.42 Exceptionally, a mixed use scheme which incorporates an element of non B or E(g) class uses may be a means to achieve an overall upgrade in the quality of B class business floorspace on a designated site or bring underused premises into more productive use. The overall employment capacity of the site should be maintained or increased by such a scheme as measured by either the employment-generating floorspace provided or the number, permanence and quality of the jobs created. Any proposals for retail or leisure would also need to comply with policy CD1.

7.43 There is also a significant stock of B and E(g) class employment premises and sites outside the designated Economic Development Areas. In the Maidstone urban area and the rural service centres, the redevelopment or expansion of existing sites for employment-generating uses will be supported. Redevelopment of such sites for non-employment generating uses will be permitted where the existing use has an adverse impact on residential amenity, causes highway safety issues or causes over-riding visual harm or where it is proven through the submission of a viability report that there is no realistic prospect of its commercial reuse.

7.44 In the town centre specifically, there is a significant stock of office premises however the quality of these is mixed. A review of the town centre office stock reveals that the better quality stock is not focused in a single or limited number of locations, rather it is dispersed through the town centre. Notwithstanding the current, changes to permitted development rights, it is considered important to retain the better quality office premises to help sustain the town centre’s role as an employment location. The larger scale (above 1000m2) higher quality office premises are included in Policy SP22 as their loss to alternative uses would have the greatest significance for the town centre’s employment role.

Reasonable alternatives tested

7.45 At the current time there is an identified need for additional employment floorspace across the borough, and as such there is not considered to be a justification to release allocated employment sites at this time.

Policy SP11a – Retention of employment sites

  1. The following locations, as defined on the policies map, are designated Economic Development Areas for use classes B1, E(g), B2 and B8:

i.             Lordswood Industrial Estate, Walderslade;

ii.            Aylesford Industrial Estate, Aylesford;

iii.           20/20 Business Park, Allington;

iv.          Parkwood Industrial Estate, Maidstone;

v.            Tovil Green Business Park/Burial Ground Lane, Tovil;

vi.          Station Road/Lodge Road/Honeycrest Industrial Park, Staplehurst;

vii.         Pattenden Lane, Marden (extended to include EMP1(3) as site is now developed);

viii.        Detling Airfield, Detling;

ix.          Lenham Storage, Lenham;

x.            Marley Works, near Lenham;

xi.          Barradale Farm, near Headcorn;

xii.         Station Road, Harrietsham;

xiii.        Viewpoint, Boxley;

xiv.       Ashmills Business Park, Lenham;

xv.         Tenacre Court/Roebuck Business Park, Ashford Road, Harrietsham;

xvi.       Hart Street Commercial Centre, Hart Street, Maidstone;

xvii.      Hermitage Mills, Hermitage Lane, Maidstone;

xviii.     Bearsted Green Business Centre (The Old Forge), Bearsted;

xix.       Gallants Business Centre, East Farleigh;

xx.         Headcorn South, Biddenden Road, near Headcorn;

xxi.       Woodfalls Industrial Estate, Laddingford;

xxii.      Warmlake Business Estate, near Sutton Valence;

xxiii.     Bredhurst Business Park, Westfield Sole Road, Walderslade;

xxiv.    The Old Brewery, London Road, Maidstone; and

xxv.      Brooklyn Yard, Sandling, Maidstone.

  1. The following locations, as defined on the policies map, are designated Economic Development Areas for use class  E(g) or B1:

                                i.            South Park Business Village, Maidstone;

                               ii.            Turkey Mill Court, Maidstone;

                             iii.            Eclipse Park, Maidstone;

                             iv.            County Gate, Staceys Street, Maidstone;

                              v.            Medway Bridge House, Fairmeadow, Maidstone;

                             vi.            23/29 Albion Place, Maidstone;

                           vii.            Victoria Court, Ashford Road, Maidstone; and

                          viii.            West of Lower Stone Street comprising Gail House, Link House, Kestrel House and Chaucer House.

  1. Within designated Economic Development Areas, change of use or redevelopment of a site or premises to non B or E(g) class uses will not be permitted unless it can be demonstrated that there is no reasonable prospect of their take up or continued use for the designated uses in the medium term, based on a viability assessment and a robust marketing exercise.
  2. Within designated Economic Development Areas, mixed use proposals incorporating an element of non B or E(g) class uses may exceptionally be permitted where such development would facilitate the regeneration of the site to more effectively meet the needs of modern business and where the overall employment capacity of the site is maintained.
  3. Outside the designated Economic Development Areas, the redevelopment and expansion of existing B or E(g) class employment premises in Maidstone urban area and the rural service centres for employment-generating uses will be supported.
  4. Within designated Economic Development Areas, the redevelopment of premises and the infilling of vacant sites for business uses will be permitted.
  5. Within designated Economic Development Areas located within the countryside proposals should ensure high quality designs of an appropriate scale and materials are accompanied by significant landscaping within, and at the edge of, the development.

SP11(b) District and Local Centres

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

7.46 Local convenience shops and other such facilities can play an important role in sustainable development, by meeting the day-to-day needs of local communities. The NPPF seeks to guard against the unnecessary loss of valued facilities and services, particularly where this would reduce the community’s ability to meet such needs.

7.47 Whilst the council recognises the importance of securing viable uses for premises, this must also be balanced against the needs of the community. Changes in the economy sometimes lead to public houses becoming vacant and alternative uses being sought. However, for some communities, especially in rural areas, these facilities provide both important services and leisure opportunities.

7.48 Where the loss of a local convenience shop or facility is proposed, the council will expect such an application to be supported by a viability report, prepared by a qualified professional within the relevant industry, together with financial accounts and marketing information illustrating that the use is no longer viable. Accounts should, where possible, cover a three year period. The council will also give consideration to the availability of comparable alternative facilities. In assessing this, the feasibility of such alternatives being used will be considered, including not only the distance from the potential users, but also the attractiveness and likelihood of the route being used. The impact of the loss of a local facility may be greater in village locations, where alternatives are less accessible. Well located local facilities can be positive assets, which are available to all, including those without cars and with mobility problems.

7.49 Within the borough, the council has identified district and local centres which fulfil the function of providing essential local facilities as a group. District centres serve a wider catchment than a local centre and will typically cater for weekly resident needs. A district centre will usually comprise groups of shops, often containing at least one supermarket or superstore, and a range of non retail services, such as banks, building societies and restaurants, as well as local public facilities such as a library. Local centres include a range of small shops serving a small catchment. Typically, amongst other shops, a local centre might include a small supermarket, a newsagent, a sub-post office and a pharmacy. Other facilities could include a hot-food takeaway and launderette. In rural areas, large villages may perform the role of a local centre. Additionally, there are small parades of shops throughout the borough of purely neighbourhood significance.

7.50 The council wishes to maintain the existing retail function together with supporting community uses in these locations, in the interests of securing sustainable, well-functioning communities. Within the defined district and local centres, new non E or F use classes will be resisted at ground level in order to maintain the retail role of the centres. The provision of additional retail and/or community facilities, plus a new local centre to complement the new residential development scheme at Langley Park, will be supported for similar sustainability reasons.

 

Policy SP11(c) District and Local Centres

1.                  The council will seek to maintain and enhance the existing retail function and supporting community uses in the following district centres, as defined on the policies map:

i.                Mid Kent Centre, Castle Road, Allington;

ii.               Grovewood Drive, Grove Green;

iii.             Heath Road, Coxheath;

iv.            The Square, Lenham;

v.              High Street, Headcorn;

vi.            High Street and Church Green, Marden; and

vii.           High Street, Staplehurst.

2.                     The council will seek to maintain and enhance the existing retail function and supporting community uses in the following local centres, as defined on the policies map:

i.             Ashford Road, Bearsted;

ii.           The Green/The Street, Bearsted;

iii.          Marlborough Parade, Beverley Road, Barming;

iv.         Cherry Tree, Tonbridge Road;

v.          Boughton Parade, Loose;

vi.         Egremont Road, Madginford;

vii.       Parkwood ParadeSandling Lane, Penenden Heath;

viii.      Senacre Square, Woolley Road;

ix.         Northumberland Court, Shepway;

x.          Snowdon Parade, Vinters Park;

xi.         Mangravet, Sutton Road/Mangravet Avenue;

xii.       High Street/Benover Road, Yalding; and

xiii.      Hermitage Walk, Hermitage Lane

xiv.     Langley Park

3.                     A new local centre will be provided as part of a new residential development scheme at Langley Park

Reasonable alternatives tested

7.51 Service centres close to residential areas is a key facet of sustainable development. It is recognised that retail patterns are changing, but the Council considers that local retail will continue to be a key contributor to local placemaking and residents’ quality of life. As such no local centres are recommended to be removed during this Plan period, and where there is substantial growth, new centres will be created.

SP11(c) Employment Allocations

Introduction to the Policy/Reasoned Justification

7.52 As well as the remaining existing employment allocations carried forward from the 2017 Local Plan, the Strategic Employment Land Availability Assessment assessed the potential of a range of sites to accommodate new office, industrial and warehousing/storage development. Sites assessed as suitable, available and achievable and appropriate for allocation in the Local Plan Review are listed in the table below.

EMP1(4) Woodcut Farm

7.53 There is a unique opportunity in the borough to provide a prestigious business park at Junction 8 of the M20 that is well connected to the motorway network and that can provide for a range of job needs up to 2037. The Woodcut Farm site will meet the ‘qualitative’ need for a new, well serviced and well connected mixed use business park in the borough which can meet the anticipated demand for new offices, small business orientated space, stand-alone industrial and manufacturing space built for specific end users and smaller scale distribution businesses. This site will overcome this ‘qualitative’ gap in the borough’s existing portfolio of employment sites and will thereby help to diversify the range of sites available to new and expanding businesses. The key priority for the Woodcut Farm site is the delivery of new office/research & development and warehousing floorspace (B1a/b). Outline permission was granted in 2018 for a mixed-use commercial development comprising B1(a), B1(b), B1(c) and B8 units, with a maximum floorspace of 45,295m². The split is approximately 50/50 B1 and B8 uses and will contribute significantly towards the evidenced need for 74,330m2 of this type of floorspace by the end of the plan period. Whilst the site is yet to deliver floorspace, works are occurring on site relating to pre-commencement conditions attached to the outline permission and should deliver over the next couple of years. As such, this site will be kept under review as the Local Plan Review progresses.  At this stage, it remains important to continue to set out allocation specific detail regarding the development of the Woodcut Farm site, should the current permission fail to deliver or a new application were to come in.  The site will provide at least 10,000m2 of B1a/b floorspace, thereby contributing significantly towards the evidenced need for 24,600m2 of this type of floorspace by the end of the plan period. High quality office development is sought providing complementary provision to the town centre. As the viability of office development may be challenging in the shorter term, land will be safeguarded specifically for B1a/b uses, and for no other purpose, pending the viability position improving in the later part of the plan period. This approach will help ensure that the site delivers a genuine mixed B class use business park, which is what is required, rather than a logistics park or conventional industrial estate. Industrial (B2) and distribution (B8) uses are nonetheless appropriate as part of the mix of uses on the site and, in addition to the office requirement, the allocation will help deliver the quantitative need for the 7,965m2 additional warehousing floorspace which is needed in the borough by 2031.

 

7.54 The site, which is some 25.8ha in total, is situated to the west of the A20/M20 junction (junction 8). It comprises the wedge of land lying between the M20 to the north east and the A20 to the south west. The site is agricultural land, divided into fields by hedgerows which predominately run in a north-south direction. The site is also bisected north-south by a watercourse which eventually runs into the River Len to the south of the A20. The land is undulating, the ground rising up from either side of the watercourse. To the south the site borders a number of dispersed properties which front onto the A20 (Ashford Road). To the south east the site is bounded by Musket Lane. To the north west lies Crismill Lane and a substantial tree belt which fronts onto this lane. The site boundary then follows the hedge belt which adjoins Crismill Lane approximately half way down its length and links to the complex of buildings at Woodcut Farm and turns south to the A20, running along the eastern boundary of the fields which front onto the Woodcut Farm access.

7.55 The site is located in the countryside and lies within the setting of the nationally designated Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The site falls within the White Heath Farmlands landscape character sub-area where landscape condition is poor overall, partially because of the fragmentation caused by the existing highway infrastructure. Landscape sensitivity for the character sub-area is recorded as moderate, the landscape providing the setting of the Kent Downs (AONB).

7.56 The site itself was specifically assessed in the Maidstone Landscape Capacity Study (2015). This found that the site has a high degree of sensitivity in landscape terms and an accordingly low capacity to accommodate new employment-related development.

7.57 This being the case, any future development proposals must be planned with very careful attention to the site’s visual and physical relationship with the AONB, responding to the site's topography and natural landscape features in terms of the scale, design, siting, use, orientation, levels and lighting of buildings and associated development, alongside infrastructure and landscaping requirements.

7.58 To achieve a high quality scheme in this prime location, a campus style development will be delivered in a parkland setting. This will be created through the retention and enhancement of existing tree and hedge belts, including those subject to Tree Preservation Orders no. 19 of 2007 and no. 17 of 2007, and substantial additional structural landscaping within the site in the form of shaws and woodland blocks. This should include the retention and reinforcement of the streamside vegetation. Landscape buffers will also be established along the principal site boundaries, including to help provide a setting to the Grade II listed Woodcut Farmhouse and to help secure the residential amenity of nearby residential properties.

7.59 Buildings will cover no more than 40% of the site. This figure excludes the western most field, of some 9ha in area, which is reserved as an undeveloped area to include an enhanced landscape buffer to establish a clear and strong boundary between the development and the wider countryside to the east of Bearsted. This area should be managed and structured as open woodland with associated biodiversity benefits and the potential to establish woodland pasture in the future.

7.60 The flatter area of the site, to the east of the stream, is better able to accommodate larger footprint buildings up to 5,000m2 with heights restricted to a maximum of 12m. To the west of the stream the land rises and is suited to smaller footprint buildings of up to 2,500m2 and up to 8m in height. The siting, scale and detailed design of development within this area must also have particular regard to the setting of Woodcut Farmhouse (Grade II listed). On the highest part of the site, as shown on the policies map, building footprints will be limited to 500m2.

7.61 There are archaeological remains in the immediate vicinity of the site, including an Anglo-Saxon burial site. Measures appropriate to the actual archaeological value of the site, revealed by further survey as needed, will be addressed. There are no statutory or non-statutory sites of nature conservation importance within the site and the County Ecologist advises that the potential for impacts on designated sites is limited. As is normal practice for a proposal of this nature, an ecological scoping study will be required to establish the presence of, and potential for, any impacts on protected species

 

7.62 Vehicular access to the site will be taken from the A20 Ashford Road and a Transport Assessment will identify the scope of improvements required to the junctions (and associated approaches) at

  • the M20 Junction 8 (including the west-bound on-slip and merge); the A20 Ashford Rd/M20 link road roundabout;
  • the A20 Ashford Rd/Penford Hill junction;
  • the A20 Ashford Rd/Eyhorne Street/Great Danes Hotel access; and the Willington Street/A20 Ashford Rd junction.

7.63 The site is located on a bus route (A20) but without significant additional dedicated measures it is highly likely that workers and visitors travelling to and from the site will be highly reliant on their private cars. A Travel Plan will be required to demonstrate how development will deliver significantly improved access by sustainable modes, in particular by public transport but this could also include cycling, walking and car share initiatives.

 

LPRSAEmp1 Former Syngenta Works, Hampstead Lane, Yalding

7.64 The former Syngenta Works site near Yalding is a large, flat brownfield site (19.5ha) about one kilometre to the west of Yalding village and adjacent to Yalding Railway Station. The site was previously used for agro-chemicals production and was decommissioned in 2002/2003. The site has been cleared of buildings, apart from an office building at the site entrance, and the land has been remediated to address the contamination resulting from its previous use. Immediately to the east of the site is a canalised section of the River Medway. The whole site lies within Flood Zone 3a.

7.65 The aim of the Sequential Test method set out in the NPPF is to steer new development to areas with the lowest probability of flooding. If, following application of the Sequential Test, it is not possible for the development to be located in areas with a lower probability of flooding, the Exception Test can be applied. Crucial to any redevelopment of this brownfield site is the identification of a comprehensive scheme of flood mitigation which addresses the identified flood risk. Subject to such a scheme being achievable, the site is potentially suitable for employment uses.

LPRSA260 Land at Ashford Road, Lenham

7.66 This site is proposed for a mix of employment uses including offices, industrial and warehousing. It is positioned between an existing Economic Development Area (Ashmills Business Park) and Local Plan 2017 housing allocation H1(41), Tanyard Farm. As such, any uses would need to be appropriate to the neighbouring residential uses. This allocation would provide approximately 3,108m² of employment (E(g), B2, B8 use) floorspace.

LPRSA273 Land between Maidstone Road and Whetsted Road

7.67 This site is considered suitable for mixed employment uses (B1, B2, or B8 uses), plus suitable flood mitigation SUDs measures. The site would form part of Paddock Wood extension proposed in the Tunbridge Wells draft Local Plan and as such, would need to be comprehensively masterplanned.

LPRSA285 Land at Dickley Court, Lenham

7.68 This site adjoins the Marley Works designated Economic Development Area. There is currently a   residential care home on the site, however the owners have indicated that site may come forwards for office redevelopment in the future. Given the site’s suitable location for employment uses, it is allocated for approximately 188m² of office (E(g) use) floorspace. 

Policy SP11(c) Employment Allocations

The sites allocated under policies EMP1(1), EMP(2), to EMP1(4), RMX1(4), LPRSA260, LPRSA273 and LPRSA285 will deliver approximately 146,967m2 employment floorspace to help meet employment needs during the plan period. Development will be permitted provided the criteria for each site set out in the detailed site allocation policies are met.

Reasonable alternatives tested

7.69 The Council has considered the recommendations contained in the emerging Employment Needs Study, as well as the early implications of Covid and Brexit. There is considerable uncertainty around the role of employment land and floorspace, which is tied up with new patterns of home working, social distancing and improved telecommunications infrastructure. The Council considers that there remains an important role for employment floorspace, and we are seeking to capitalise on any working pattern flows from larger employment location such as London. To this end we are seeking to ensure that there is adequate provision of employment land and floorspace across the Plan period to give the market the best chance possible to grow in the borough.

SP12 Sustainable Transport

Introduction to the Policy /Reasoned Justification

7.70 Working in partnership with Kent County Council (the local highway authority), Highways England, infrastructure providers and public transport operators, the council will facilitate the delivery of transport improvements to support the growth proposed by the plan. An Integrated Transport Strategy (ITS), prepared by the council, will have the aim of facilitating economic prosperity and improving accessibility across the borough and to the town centre, in order to promote Maidstone as a regionally important transport hub. The ITS needs to address a number of transport challenges as set out below.

Highway network

7.71 Maidstone borough has an extensive highway network which provides direct links both within the borough and to neighbouring areas including Ashford, Tonbridge and Malling, the Medway Towns, Tunbridge Wells, Swale and London. Four north-south and east-west primary routes pass through the town centre and numerous secondary routes run in concentric rings around the town, providing local links to the rural parts of the borough. Maidstone also enjoys good connections to the motorway network, including direct access to four junctions of the M20.

7.72 The principal constraint on the borough’s urban road network is the single crossing point of the River Medway at the town centre bridges gyratory, where the A20, A26 and A229 meet. From this point, congestion spreads along the main radial approaches to Maidstone during the morning and evening peaks, leading drivers to seek alternative routes for longer journeys around the periphery of the town.

7.73 The policies for individual site allocations set out the requirements for contributions towards strategic and local highway infrastructure at key locations and junctions, and key improvements include:

  • Capacity improvements and signalisation of Bearsted roundabout and capacity improvements at New Cut roundabout. Provision of a new signal pedestrian crossing and the provision of a combined foot/cycle way between these two roundabouts.
  • Traffic signalisation of the M20 J7 roundabout, widening of the coast bound off-slip and creation of a new signal controlled pedestrian route through the junction.
  • Capacity improvements at M2 J5 (located in Swale Borough).
  • Upgrading of Bearsted Road to a dual carriageway between Bearsted roundabout and New Cut roundabout.
  • Interim improvement to M20 junction 5 roundabout including a white lining scheme.
  • Traffic signalisation of M20 junction 5 roundabout and localised widening of slip roads and circulatory carriageway.
  • Provision of an additional lane at the Coldharbour roundabout. Capacity improvements at the junction of Fountain Lane and the A26 Tonbridge Road.
  • Bus prioritisation measures on the A274 Sutton Road from the Willington Street junction to the Wheatsheaf junction, together with bus infrastructure improvements.
  • Improvements to capacity at the junctions of Willington Street/Wallis Avenue and Sutton Road.
  • Package of measures to significantly relieve traffic congestion on Sutton Road and Willington Street.
  • Improvements to capacity at the A229/A274 Wheatsheaf junction.
  • Highway improvements at Boughton Lane and at the junction of Boughton Lane and the A229 Loose Road.
  • Linton Crossroads junction improvements.
  • A20 Ashford Road highways improvements to include carriageway narrowing, reduction of the speed limit and pedestrian crossing facilities at Harrietsham. Signalisation of the Kings Road / Mill Bank junction at Headcorn.
  • Capacity improvements at the junction of A229, Headcorn Road, Station Road and Marden Road at Staplehurst.
  • Capacity improvements at Hampstead Lane/B2015 Maidstone Road junction at Yalding.

7.74 The details of these schemes and further highway and transport improvements, including provision of a circular bus route to serve the north west Maidstone strategic development area, are set out in detail in the Integrated Transport Strategy and the Infrastructure Delivery Plan.

Leeds-Langley Relief Road

7.75 Consideration of the potential construction of a LLRR is a requirement of Policy LPR1 of the review of the Local Plan Review. The case for the justification of the construction and the delivery of a LLRR lies with the County Council as the highway authority. To date, the detailed costings (estimates vary between £50 and £80 million), environmental and route appraisals and also an assessment of whether future housing requirements would necessitate and also support construction of a LLRR which will be required to progress the proposals, have not yet been undertaken.

7.76 At the present time the case has not been made, but early work suggests that it is likely that a quantum of new development would be needed to help fund it, therefore masterplanning via a business case for the whole corridor should be considered. An approach to ensuring that a strategic approach to delivery of new development and a potential new route is set out in SP5.

Car Parking

7.77 The provision of an adequate supply of well-located and reasonably priced car parking is essential to support the borough’s