15-505906 GRAFTY GREEN_update report

Item 20    , Page 82 – 99




Grafty Green Garden Centre, Headcorn Road, Grafty Green




The following further comments have been received from the applicants representative DHA Planning in respect of the contents if the Committee Report and the recommendation for refusal

Whilst the  recommendation for  refusal of this full  application was not  unexpected, it was with some surprise that I read that the Council now consider that they are in a position to demonstrate a five year supply of housing land, and as such, significant weight  has been applied to policy ENV28 of the Maidstone Borough Wide Local Plan (2000).


The  Committee  report   refers  to   monitoring  which  was  'carried  out   at  1  April   2016'  that demonstrates a 5.12 year supply of housing land. This information comes from a Local Plan Housing Topic Paper (2016) which  shows that the Council have seen 2,860 completions over the past five years (572 per annum)- at a time of significant economic activity  within  the housing  sector. This has been a significant under delivery over this period, and therefore  results in the Council needing to demonstrate a housing land supply for some 6,741 dwellings  over the next five years (1,348 per annum). This is clearly a significant  uplift. In order to achieve this, the Council has included  sites within  the  draft  local plan, which  have no resolution, or in  some instances where  no planning application has been submitted.


Whilst Appendix C (table 8.10) of the aforementioned document sets out the extant permissions, and suggested build  out rates, it also indicates the yields that the Council expects from  the draft local plan allocations, which has now been submitted to the Secretary of State.


This draft local plan  has not yet been assessed by the Inspector, and no interested  parties have been able  to  debate  the  robustness  of the  policies  or  housing  trajectory  assumptions  of  the document.  For this reason, we consider  the  inclusion  of these allocations  as premature  at this




dha planning Eclipse House, Eclipse Park, Sittingbourne Road Maidstone, Kent   ME14 3EN


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We do acknowledge that Maidstone Borough Council has taken great strides in order to meet their Objectively   Assessed  Need  (OAN),  however,   as  a  decision   making   body   we   consider   it inappropriate for you to  include  draft allocations in order to  meet the short term  housing  need, which have not yet been fully  debated within an Examination in Public, or for which an Inspector has been able to provide his or her opinion upon.


This position is backed up by appeal decisions such as Land West of Audlem Road, Cheshire where the Inspector was critical of the Council in that case trying to rely on uncommitted and untested draft  Local Plan allocations  as part  of  its 5 year supply. The Inspector  in  that  case stated  at paragraph 89 of the decision:


"At  the Inquiry, a considerable  amount  of the assumed [5 year] supply  was from  sites without planning permission.  These sites  included   some  development  proposed  to  be  delivered  on strategic sites identified in the [draft Local Plan]. These sites have yet to be considered through the local plan examination process and I am aware that there  has been opposition to some of the allocations. I appreciate that the inclusion of these sites in the [draft Local Plan] shows some sense of commitment on the part of the Council, to taking them forward to fulfil the future needs of the Borough. It seems premature  though, to place such a considerable emphasis on such sites in the calculation  of housing  supply. This is particularly  so, as the anticipated  time scale for the adoption of the [draft Local Plan] may be optimistic. Therefore,I consider there is insufficient  clear evidence to  convince  me, in  the  circumstances  of  this  appeal,  that  the  inclusion  of  the  uncommitted strategic sites in the deliverable housing supply is justified.


You state within  paragraph  9.5 of your report that the emerging  policies can be given 'significant weight in the consideration of applications.' We do not disagree that these policies should be given weight  in shaping the development that  is coming  forward. It is clear that the Council has made significant efforts to ensure the policies bring about suitable infrastructure and high quality design. Given the lack of a five year supply in the recent past, this has been the most appropriate way for applications  to  be assessed by Officers and Members. However, there  is a significant  difference between  giving  the  policies weight  to determine  planning applications, and assuming that they will come forward  within  the next five years. It is for this reason that we will be putting forward  a view that until the examination  opens, and the Inspector provides an indication of his or her view, these allocations should not be used for the evaluation of the five year housing land supply.


Irrespective of the five year supply issue,we are also of the view that the level of weight afforded to policy  ENV28 of the Maidstone  Borough  Wide Local Plan (2000) within  the Committee report  is disproportionate given its age. The policy is now 16 years old since adoption, and whilst  in part accords with the objectives of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2012, should not be given more weight than this document.


The NPPF is clear that priority  should be given to the effective use of land, by reusing land that has been previously developed (core planning principles, para. 17).This is re-iterated  within  paragraph

111 of the NPPF.










Throughout our discussions with the local authority, we have always acknowledged that this is a balanced proposal. The site is relatively  detached  from  the existing  settlement  of Grafty Green, however it has had (and could once again have) a very intensive commercial use.It was hoped that the Committee  report would greater reflect this balance, and would  have included reference to the NPPFs core  principle of  reusing  brownfield land,  alongside  the  concerns  with  regards  to  its relationship with existing development.


I would  also like to take this opportunity to raise a few more detailed points  with you concerning the report. I would  be grateful if these concerns (as well as those set out above) were reported  to Members within an urgent update report.


1)   Boughton  Malherbe  Parish Council support  the application - within the report  you state that  they  raise  no objection. Throughout the  pre-application  process, and  since  the application was submitted, the Parish have unanimously supported the proposal, seeing it as the most appropriate use of this brownfield site.

2)   It is noted  that two  letters of support  have been received, however  you do not highlight the contents of these letters as you have for the objection letters received. Again, to ensure that Members are provided  with a balanced view, I would recommend that the contents of these letters be provided.

3)   Your comments on the highways  issues do not provide  a direct comparison between  the

existing/previous vehicular movements,and that generated by this proposal. To my mind the types of vehicular movements, whilst a material consideration,should also be assessed alongside the amount  of movements. This is certainly one of the reasons why the Parish support  the application- as they acknowledge the reduction in vehicular traffic  through their village.

4)    Concern is raised within the report with regards to the design of the proposal -and that it appears 'suburban'  in character. The reason behind  the low density, is to ensure that the development is able  to  provide  a  significant  increase in  internal  landscaping  to  that currently within the site. We acknowledge that this is a rural site, and the building designs and landscaping  have been formed to  respond  positively  to this. We do understand  that design is subjective, but  ultimately both  ourselves, and the Parish believe  that this is an acceptable form of development for this location.


Finally, you have suggested that we would  be unwilling to sign a legal agreement  that would not accord with our proposed  heads of terms. As with  any application we have put forward a proposal, and should  Members  decide that the  monies  should  be redirected  elsewhere, we would  be open to accept any such amendments. The contributions that we have proposed are significant,  but   seek to  address   number   of  local  issues and  concerns,  rather  than  to concentrate  on  one  specific  matter  i.e. affordable  housing.  These heads  reflect  the  rural location ofthe site and have been formulated to make the development acceptable. We do not therefore  agree that they fail to comply  with the CIL regulations. However, should Members disagree with our proposal, and would  wish to see the proposed  contributions disaggregated differently we  would  be flexible  on this  matter.  I would  be  grateful  if  this  could  also be highlighted to Members.



Officer Comment

The Committee Report sets out the Officer assessment of the merits of the application and recommendation




My recommendation remains unchanged.