Aldington, near Ashford, Kent, has grown 68% in the last 10 years.
This is a village with a strong identity, where people go to live to be part of a community, to be immersed in nature, bothered only by the seasonality of agriculture and the sound of animals. There are two shops, a pub, a primary school, a church and a village hall. Aldington lies 3 miles from the A20, 5 miles from junction 10 of the M20, making it a rural idyll that is very well connected – which brought it to the attention of many developers and the Borough Council as a convenient spot for what town planners deem to be “sustainable living”
Cumulative effects from continuous development led Aldington Parish Council and Ward Councillor Jane Martin, to commission Peter Brett Associates
, infrastructure specialists, to help develop a local plan policy position for Aldington. Prof Kathryn Moore,
Landscape Professor at Birmingham University contributed robust environmental evidence into the process.
There followed much activity in Aldington, during which Peter Brett Associates conducted a Detailed Landscape Assessment and villagers were recruited to collect information; they monitored traffic flow around the rural lanes and main roads into the village, they reviewed the number of households, the number of houses built, where and when. They sat in fields to see the wildlife that lives there, counted bird species and rummaged in hedgerows to photograph wild flowers. The local primary school joined in, the children helping with the data gathering. Altogether a picture of rural living in Aldington began to emerge.
Cllr Jane Martin began working with Borough Council and the Planning teams to prepare the Landscape Protection Policy for the Ashford Local Plan 2030. It was hoped that Aldington would pioneer a process that would empower ALL villages in the Ashford area to define and protect the the rural character of their area, and to ensure that development, when it came, was appropriate for their community.
In Autumn 2016 Ashford Borough Council published its draft Local Plan 2030 for Public consultation. It did not contain the Landscape Protection Policy as hoped. During the consultation period Cllr Jane Martin and several Aldington residents put forward their support for the policy along with arguments as to the value it would contribute.
Approved Changes to the Ashford Local Plan 2030 were published and approved by the Council to be passed to the Planning Inspectorate. It was clear that, though paragraphs from the policy had been included in various other Policy sections, the Policy in it’s entirety had fallen out of favour.
The Ashford Local Plan is currently with the Inspectorate for final review. The Rural Means Rural campaign aims to present the Landscape Protection Policy to the Inspectorate and argue for it’s inclusion into Ashford Borough Council’s Local Plan. Aldington’s Landscape Protection Policy can be viewed here