Agenda item

Questions and answer session for members of the public


Question to the Chairman from Councillor Taylor-Maggio, Langley Parish Council:


“Is the Borough Council aware of the excellent quality of the landscape between the Len Valley and Langley village, as evidenced in the recent Langley Parish Council report, Landscape of Local Value, dated 17 November 2015?”


The Chairman responded as follows:


“I think we all did receive a copy of your lobbying material and we declared that at the beginning of the meeting.


Yes, I can say that the Council is aware of the quality of the landscape in this area.  In particular, there have been two specialist reports to provide landscape evidence for the Local Plan; the Landscape Character Assessment (2013) and the Landscape Capacity Study Sensitivity assessment (2015).


Representations were made to the regulation 18 consultation requesting that this area be included as a Landscape of Local Value.  This is a matter before the Committee and I do not want to prejudge what the decision the Committee will yet take.


I would also note a crucial point to underline is that all countryside areas, that being areas outside settlement boundaries, will be protected from inappropriate development through the Local Plan.  Policy SP5 specifies the limited circumstances when development will be acceptable in the countryside.  Policy ENV28, the predecessor of SP5, has already been used successfully a number of times to protect the village of Langley from a number of speculative planning applications.”


Councillor Taylor-Maggio asked the following supplementary question:


“Will the Borough Council, therefore, support the extension of the Landscapes of Local Value notation to include areas 30 to 1 and 30 to 9 in the Landscape Character Areas Assessment report as requested by the Parish Council.”


The Chairman responded as follows:


“For the reasons given previously I cannot give you a direct answer, but I’m sure Members have taken on board your request to them.”


Alan Smith, Tovil Parish Council asked the following question:


“On the agenda tonight, Members are being urged by officers to approve two housing sites in Tovil, for a total of 502 homes, to be submitted directly to Regulation 19 consultation. Given that there has so far been no public consultation on these proposals, and that Members have not had the opportunity of hearing the views of Tovil Parish Council or of residents on the many reasons why these two sites should not be developed, will the committee agree either to drop the proposals entirely, or to insist that a further round of Regulation 18 consultation be held, of four weeks length equal to the October Regulation 18 consultation, so that Tovil residents are not denied the democratic rights given to other parts of the borough?”


The Chairman responded as follows:


“The inclusion of these sites for Regulation 19 consultation is a matter for decision tonight so I cannot, at this point, anticipate what the Committee’s decision will be.


I believe it is proper and appropriate that officers should give to us options to consider.  But I will make it absolutely clear that the decision making is by the elected members of this Committee, the referral Committee above or full Council.


I would also note it has been our protocol throughout this process to consider sites for allocation through a Regulation 18 consultation and whether it is appropriate or otherwise to consider that again for these sites, again, is a matter for the Committee to decide.  But it is clear that elected members will make that decision.”


Alan Smith, Tovil Parish Council asked the following supplementary question:


“We are all keen to see the conclusion of the local plan process, but the borough will have to go through another local plan preparation at some stage in the future.  In deciding whether to fast forward these applications from DHA Planning straight to a Regulation 19 consultation, will this committee consider what message this will give to other planning consultants in the future, who may have controversial allocations who would benefit from cutting out one level of public scrutiny?”


The Chairman responded as follows:


“I’m not aware that we have received any applications for these sites, but I am aware that as part of Regulation 18 consultation responses the sites have been submitted for consideration.  I would not possibly begin to predict the manner in which the next local plan, post 2031, will be conducted and there are many possibilities that the regulations will be changed between now and then, but I do believe that this Council is committed to the fullest, highest community engagement under the planning policy framework.”


The Chairman read the following question on behalf of Mr J Talbot:


“The National Planning Policy Framework provides detailed guidance to local planning authorities on plan making. In order for a plan to proceed to adoption it must be found to be "sound" by an independent Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State. The test of "soundness" requires, amongst other things, that plans should be justified. In so far as the proposed allocation of land to the south of Tovil for circa. 452 new homes is concerned how can such an allocation be justified when the Kent County Council as Highways Authority have objected in the strongest possible terms. For Members benefit the letter from Barbara Cooper, Corporate Director for Economy, Growth and Transport at the County Council to the Borough Council clearly states that the traffic and highways impact of the proposed allocation would be detrimental to local residents, the travelling public and the ability of Maidstone's economy to function effectively.”


The Chairman responded as follows:


“Members are aware of the correspondence and numerous consultation responses and in considering this site members will take into account all representations when making their decision.


Paul Brailsford of Freeths (representing Tovil residents):


“The allocation of land south of Tovil results in a numerical oversupply of housing i.e. it is more than is actually required. Without this allocation the shortfall is only 188 homes. That shortfall reduces again to 106 homes if the planning appeal in respect of land at Ham Lane is successful. It would therefore seem reasonable to assume that level of development could be easily dispersed across other sites which would obviate the need for such a significant incursion into the open country side in a location which is wholly unacceptable in highway terms. Is it therefore possible for the Committee to direct Officers to revisit those sites which have been discounted, thus far, as identified in Appendix C of the report - and which do not appear to be subject to such severe objections from a technical and public perspective - with a view to reporting back to this Committee at a later date? Such a report should identify what alternative allocation strategy could be advanced so that Members can make an informed choice regarding the allocation of land south of Tovil.”


The Chairman responded as follows:


“I believe what you are asking is, what are the options available to us should the final choices for allocations proceeding to Regulation 19 fall short of the objectively assessed housing need number.  I believe there are a number of options available and they include reconsideration of discounted sites, reconsideration of suggested densities, a further call for sites or to proceed with a shortfall.


It will be a matter for members to consider this evening how they wish to proceed at this point in the plan making process.