I’m a little behind in seeing the the triumphant lead article in this week’s Kentish Express …but am today delighted to see the headline news that the Ashford Local Plan 2030 will be 400 rural homes fewer than originally proposed by Ashford Borough Council.
This news comes on top of last month’s announcement by Gladman Developments that they have withdrawn three appeals seeking planning permission – bringing huge relief to Brabourne Lees, Charing and Biddenden. Now Hothfield and High Halden join the list of reprieved villages, whilst others will see the developments included in the Local Plan in their location much reduced, making them much less attractive to developers. Hooray!
Whilst the process of finalising the Local Plan is not yet over, there is already a feeling of change in the air that gives rural residents hope.
Nine months ago, when Rural Means Rural (RMR) started it’s campaign, many people expressed their frustration at a local Council and planning process which they felt dismissed their concerns about increasingly urban building styles in rural locations, and a slow, little by little erosion of quality of life in many villages. This week’s announcement by Ashford Borough Council validates people power and underlines the value of participating in the planning process, however frustrating it may appear to be.
During the various consultation stages of the Local Plan and the Examination in Public by the Planning Inspectorate many Parish Councils, Borough Councillors, local residents, CPRE Kent and Rural Means Rural stood up to express their views or to represent the concerns of their neighbours, members or residents. The RMR petition gathered over 2000 signatures of support for revision of planning policy for building in rural locations. If these voices had not been raised, if they had not been amplified in the local press and on social media – maybe the news would be different…
Following the examination hearings, Ashford Borough Council has renewed strength from confirmation that it has identified enough land to meet it’s housing targets and it’s five year land supply targets, both of which are set by Government. In last month’s Planning Meeting several very contentious planning applications were debated and the Leader of the Council said; ‘we must listen to the people’s views.’ The message is getting through! Planning is of course, a continuous process and there will be further causes for concern – but for now, we can celebrate.
The Planning Inspector is expecting the Main Modifications to the Local Plan from Ashford Borough Council during August, which will then go out once more to public consultation. Cllr Paul Clokie, portfolio holder for planning, said in the Kentish Express that ‘ Although the final report will not be complete until November, I remain confident that our planning strategy will meet the needs of our growing borough.’ We certainly hope so. Ashford is a rural borough so we hope that the Local Plan will meet our needs.
Rural relief is a quiet celebration – but enjoy the moment and ready yourselves for next time!