The impossible position for Swale was that it had produced its own housing needs assessment based on population growth and its draft local plan, and there was a marked discrepancy between the two.
Whilst the needs assessment required 760 new homes s year, the draft plan only provided site allocations for 540. Developers at the review jumped all over this.
Swale tried to mitigate the shortfall with three arguments (1) that a 760 figure would bring about environmental damage and the loss of good agricultural land (2) that the borough does not have the infrastructure to support so many new houses and (3) that our local knowledge of the housing market and the viability of developing estates here meant that 760, even if allocated, would not be delivered.
The Inspector has set aside these arguments and the new figure for the revised period from 2014 is 776 houses a year. This means, inevitably, that sites omitted from the draft Local Plan will have to be revived.
Since the Inspector rejects the idea of this shortfall being disproportionately assigned to Faversham, sites in Sittingbourne and Sheppey will come into the reckoning. This may mean Barton’ Hill in Minster and Cryalls Lane in Sittingbourne.
Our fear is that more site allocations will not mean more houses but an enhanced opportunity for developers to pick the most viable sites.
In these circumstances, the enormous North West Sittingbourne proposal is certain to go ahead and possibly even increased in density.
Councillor Roger Truelove