In June last year the Government Inspectorate reviewed the Ashford Local Plan to 2030 over a period of 3 months. I spoke at 3 of the hearings, and together with Cllr Doug Mariott and Jane Mariott, challenged the inclusion of Shottenden, Crundale, Bilsington, Ruckinge, Godmersham into policy HOU3a.
Policy HOU3a – Residential windfall development within settlements:
“Residential development and infilling of a scale that can be satisfactorily integrated into the existing settlement will be acceptable within the built-up confines of the following settlements:
Ashford, Aldington, Appledore, Appledore Heath, Bethersden, Biddenden, Bilsington, Boughton Lees, Brabourne Lees/Smeeth, Brook, Challock, Charing, Charing Heath, Chilham, Egerton, Egerton Forstal, Great Chart, Hamstreet, Hastingleigh, High Halden, Hothfield, Kenardington, Kingsnorth*, Little Chart, Mersham, Newenden, Old Wives Lees, Pluckley, Pluckley Thorne, Pluckley Station, Rolvenden, Rolvenden Layne, Ruckinge, Shadoxhurst, Smarden, Stone in Oxney, Tenterden (including St Michaels), Warehorne, Westwell, Wittersham, Woodchurch and Wye.
*Existing Kingsnorth village”
It is monumental that the Inspector heard our arguments and removed Shottenden, Crundale, and Bilsington from this policy. It is regrettable that Old Wives Lees and Ruckinge have remained in the policy. Residential development means any development of any size, and whilst it is unlikely that a development of 100 plus homes would be considered, Old Wives Lees, already has applications that increase the village by more than 10 properties. The policy leaves no control on the pace, number and scale which can be used to develop in an area and is extremely concerning.
Shottenden, by nature of its remoteness and lack of proximity to basic services is wholly inappropriate for any development other than extensions or rebuilding on existing footprint with minor expansion.
The challenge with the above policy is that because each development is decided on it own merits and therefore in isolation to other applications, no consideration is given to how much development and area has had in a given period as a whole. A village could therefore have 10 small developments of say 4 homes in the space of a few years- delivering 40 homes, which would be considered unacceptably large for such an area if just one development- but be permitted because they were individual. The result is to exponentially increase the size of the village without any provision or finance for infrastructure, whilst at the same time damaging the characteristic and rural setting of the area.
I have always considered this policy not fit for purpose. Shottenden is lucky that it has been excluded Old Wives Lees has unfortunately not been so lucky.
Lets fight to keep our rural areas rural