On Thursday(19 May) members of Swale Council’s Local Development Framework panel face a daunting task. Because of Government pressure to increase housing sites in Swale, members have got to up the target figure from 540 to 776 homes a year and in so doing consider sites previously firmly rejected by Councillors, both Labour and Conservative.
In drafting a Local Plan, sites at Bartons Hill in Minster, Iwade and in the Cryalls Lane area of Sittingbourne were rejected for a wide range of valid reasons. I am afraid I did not get cross party support for limiting the massive development area between Quinton and Grovehurst.
The Government, through its National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has assumed that local planning is the cause of the under supply of housing. It is not. Shortages of capital, house price inflation due to the influx of foreign money and the widespread practice of developer land banking are more serious problems.
Last week, two Parliamentary reports, one from the House of Commons and one from the Lords, agreed that the NPPF is far too amenable to the interests of developers and has weakened the capacity of local councils to manage development. Parliament complains that the NPPF is all about building houses, not places. It is allowing developers to override their responsibilities for infrastructure, for good design and environmental standards and to provide adequate levels of affordable housing. They say that developers are over exploiting the arguments about market viability and that there is too much deregulation and too much reliance on market forces rather than planning sustainable communities.
Without a change of thinking by the Government, we are heading for chaos.
Councillor Roger Truelove