In a dramatic turn of events, Kent Highways have highlighted to the governments Independent Inspector at the recent Public Inquiry that the scale of development now planned for the Borough until 2031 will have a severely adverse cumulative impact on journey times and safety along the A2 corridor between Teynham, through to Key Street and onwards to Newington.
In short this is a clear admission that the Local Plan is technically unsound on transport grounds.
However, in a bid to salvage the plan the Council is appealing to the Inspector for a stay of execution in the hope that over the next couple of years they can find some kind of solution.
Tim Read, head of transportation for Kent Highways has written to Swale Borough Council stating that it now considers that, whilst the local highway network can accommodate the likely traffic impact of the local plan growth within the next 5 years (to 2022), it cannot accommodate the likely impact from local plan growth toward the end of the plan period.
However rather than wait for the Inspectors verdict the Council have already announced that they will be proceeding with an early review of the plan to be completed by March 2022 meaning that it could commence almost immediately after it is adopted.
Rather surprisingly then Councillor Gerry Lewin, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning has this to say:
“We believe the Local Plan provides a solid basis upon which to consider the future planning and development of the borough.”
“We have worked hard to get the right balance between meeting housing and employment needs, whilst at the same time conserving and enhancing the natural and historic environment that we are blessed with.”
“Should the plan be found sound and formally adopted, we will not rest on our laurels. We will continue to review how best we can accommodate development that ensures further growth and prosperity without putting unworkable pressure on local infrastructure.”
This might be considered a brave move in light of the Inspectors previous commentary where she has stated that
“There is no justification to rely on an early Local Plan review and the Plan should plan positively for the full Plan period.”
“Advice by the Planning Advisory Service in ‘Early Reviews’ and Local Plans suggests that they cannot be used to resolve matters critical to the Plan’s strategy.”
A point which we put to the Council and their response was
“There has always been an intention for a review/trigger policy to cater for non-performance of the plan, whether housing delivery not meeting targets or delays to Junction 5 M2 reconfiguration.”
I find this a quite extraordinary statement; sure Local Plan’s are now more of a work in progress than the final static documents they once were. However, reviews for non-performance are supposed to occur if and when the plan hasn’t performed.
You can’t pre-empt non-performance, unless you already know the plan won’t work and in that case, you would already know that it is unsound and possibly undeliverable.
The Council wish to proceed as though the whole plan can be made to work, so much for an evidence based approach to planning. This includes the very same additional housing allocations which tipped the plan over the edge.
The Council refuses point blank to consider a re-think on the location of development and the wholly unfair and unjust split planning zones suggesting “this is a problem which relates to the whole of the Borough in the sense that it cannot be addressed by alternative distribution of development or the allocation of alternative sites”
The notion is that we can plough along with a series of temporary fixes in the hope that some serious funding is found for significant transport improvements.
But what if this fails to materialise; will stop notices be executed on half completed housing developments?