Agenda item

Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy update report

Report to be presented by Darren Bridgett, Principal Planning Officer, to consider two issues relating to the preparation of the Green and Blue Infrastructure (GBI) Strategy and make recommendations as necessary.


·  Issue one: to consider key issues raised in the responses to the Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy stakeholder engagement;


·  Issue two: to consider progress of the open space audit.


Councillor Chittenden returned to the meeting for consideration of this item.  


Rob Jarman, Head of Planning and Development, explained the Green and Blue Infrastructure (GBI) Strategy was a corporate strategy that covered the borough’s open spaces and water bodies. The committee noted that the strategy had been prepared for a number of reasons:


-  To bring increased certainty about the importance of this part of the borough’s environment.


-  To maximise the number of overlapping benefits of green and blue infrastructure by looking holistically at each area.


-  To act as a basis for attracting resources including grant funding and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).


-  To form the basis for GBI delivery.


The committee was informed that a number of issues had been raised during a stakeholder engagement exercise, held during December 2013 – January 2014. Mr Jarman advised the committee that while the preparation of the Green and Blue Infrastructure was in itself supported, some concerns had been raised in relation to both process and content.


The committee was informed of developments in relation to an open space audit. The committee noted that this provided a key piece of evidence to underpin the GBI Strategy. Mr Jarman advised the committee that the audit allowed open spaces to be assessed by quantity, quality and accessibility.


It was noted that the last time a comprehensive audit had been conducted was in 2004. It was explained that the methodology for the 2014 audit had been amended to more accurately reflect the desired outcomes of local plan policy. Changes to the methodology included:


-  The open space must be publicly accessible.


-  The open space types must be quantifiable.


-  The recording of open space types should accurately reflect fine grain differences within a given open space site.


-  The open space type must be something that is appropriately delivered through/in connection to local plan policy. 


Mr Jarman informed the committee that the Parks and Open Spaces team had completed the quantitative element of the open space audit in May 2014. This element of the audit had involved re-categorising open space sites subject to the revised methodology.


In terms of the qualitative element of the audit Mr Jarman explained the council had commissioned consultants to undertake this work, with initial results expected at the end of October 2014. It was noted that the accessibility element of the audit, a desktop exercise, would be completed in house in line with the qualitative audit.


Mr Jarman concluded his presentation by explaining that both stakeholder comments and the results of the open space audit would be used to amend the GBI strategy and to develop an action plan for implementation.


During discussions the following points were explored:


-  Previous national guidance notes in relation to Planning for Open Space, Sport and Recreation, including PPG17 published in 2002, and the impact of the National Planning Policy Framework in relation to the assessment of open spaces.


-  The links between GBI delivery and policies in the Maidstone Borough Local Plan and supplementary planning documents.


-  The Maidstone Landscape Character – a document used to identify landscape types and landscape character areas in the rural parts of the borough.


-  The methodology used in the open space audit including the reasoning behind the 2014 methodology in relation to parks and gardens, green corridors, and cemeteries and graveyards.


-  The use of accessibility information in relation to the open space audit including how this had been used in relation to concerns about biodiversity.


-  The importance of corporate policy aligning to open space planning policy. For example, the provision of cemeteries and graveyards and the treatment of closed cemeteries.


-  Ways to preserve wildlife population viability. 


In terms of green corridors Mr Jarman explained that it would be difficult to deliver a green corridor through local plan policy intervention. The committee was informed that for the purposes of the audit and on-going strategy, green corridors were more accurately assessed as their component types. For example, natural and semi-natural green space or amenity green space. It was noted that these areas could still be identified on a strategic scale within the GBI strategy. 




1.  The Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy Update Report be noted. 


2.  The Cabinet Member for Planning, Transport and Development be recommended, through emerging local plan policies and the Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy, to acknowledge the importance of migratory transport corridors to preserve wildlife population viability.


Supporting documents: