Garden Community Proposals around Faversham threaten our town

17 January 2019

Members of Swale Green Party have written to local Councillors and our MP stating our concerns regarding the proposed Garden Communities around Faversham. We encourage anyone concerned about these developments to do the same:

 

Dear Councillor

There have now been two “Garden Community” proposals for land around Faversham and these have, understandably, been met with deep concern by the local community. Having read the Government’s “Garden Communities Prospectus”, it repeatedly states that any proposal must be “locally-led” and “locally supported”, anything less would not be in the spirit or the letter of the Government’s proposals and should not be permitted. As our representative, I respectfully remind you that it is your duty to ensure that these proposals do not go ahead unless they have satisfied us, the community, that they meet the requirements of the Prospectus and should be permitted. Neither of these proposals meet the Government’s requirements and therefore we cannot support them.

The prospectus states that “All proposals should have the backing of the local authorities in which they are situated, including the county council in two-tier areas”.

Please do not back these proposals; they do not have community support and do not meet the requirements of the Prospectus, for many reasons, including the following:


1. Neither of the proposals have been “holistically planned” because they do not take into account their impact on the existing character, history, facilities and infrastructure of Faversham;


2. There is no indication that they will deliver the necessary employment or infrastructure to make them anything less than a residential extension of the existing town, putting more strain on our already inadequate infrastructure;


3. There is no provision for public transport, or suggestion as to how the proposals will support economic growth, (in fact, by building on farmland, they will do quite the opposite);


4. There is no analysis of how these developments will impact on the wider provision of healthcare in Swale, (the local NHS Trust is one of the worst performing in the country), drainage or water supply, which is already classified as severely stressed;


5. It is a nonsense to suggest that they will be “self-sustaining” or “self-sufficient” because, as we all know, Faversham is a commuter town and it is very likely that most of the new residents will commute to London or other towns in Kent;


6. The developments will be built on prime Grade 1 & 2 agricultural land, (no brownfield land at all), and there is no analysis of how they will impact on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty surrounding them. A recent proposal for a solar farm on some of the same land at North Street was turned down on the grounds that it was inappropriate to develop Grade 1 agricultural land. Surely the same applies to the current proposal?

It is not surprising that developers have jumped at the chance to take up the Government’s offer of assistance with funding and delivery of these developments, but the two developments proposed around Faversham do not meet the criteria set out in the Prospectus and therefore Swale Borough Council must not give them the support they require.

Section 2 of the prospectus states that “…this is not about creating dormitory towns, or places which just use ‘garden’ as a convenient label”, but both of these proposals are doing exactly that.

The Prospectus states that any proposals for new development must demonstrate the necessary consideration of the Garden Communities Prospectus, including the following:

“We can – and must – have …. well-planned, well-designed, locally-led garden communities ….”

3. “Each will be holistically planned, self-sustaining, and characterful”.

5. “These new garden communities should offer opportunities for significant long-term housing and economic growth in a local area”… [The Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government] “…will prioritise proposals for new Garden Towns (more than 10,000 homes), but will consider proposals for Garden Villages (1,500-10,000 homes) which are particularly strong in other aspects. For instance, demonstrating exceptional quality or innovations, development on predominantly brownfield sites, being in an area of particularly high housing demand, or ability to expand substantially further in the future”.

9. “All proposals should demonstrate how the new garden community fits with wider strategies to support economic growth and increase productivity. We expect to see ambitious proposals which create a variety of new jobs and the timely delivery of infrastructure necessary to underpin this”.

12. “We are clear that local communities – both current and future residents – must have a meaningful say in developing the proposal from design to delivery”.

13.b [Garden communities should be] “built at a scale which supports the necessary infrastructure to allow the community to function self-sufficiently on a day to day basis, with the capacity for future growth to meet the evolving housing and economic needs of the local area”.

13. e [Garden communities should have] “Strong local vision and engagement – designed and executed with the engagement and involvement of the existing local community, and future residents and businesses. This should include consideration of how the natural and historic environment of the local area is reflected and respected”.

13. f [ Garden communities should be] “Transport –integrated, forward looking and accessible transport options that support economic prosperity and wellbeing for residents. This should include promotion of public transport, walking, and cycling so that settlements are easy to navigate, and facilitate simple and sustainable access to jobs, education, and services”.

13. g [Garden communities should be] “Healthy places – designed to provide the choices and chances for all to live a healthy life, through taking a whole systems approach to key local health & wellbeing priorities and strategies”.

Furthermore, The Government states in the Prospectus that:

14. It is “important for us to have confidence that proposals are deliverable, with an integrated approach to infrastructure, housing, business investment, employment and development”.

15.b [Proposals should demonstrate consideration of] “Infrastructure requirements – including access to road, rail, utility considerations (including high-speed broadband, flood, water supply, sewerage and waste), and plans for health, education, and other core social infrastructure”.

Neither of the proposed developments demonstrate the necessary consideration of these requirements. When asked, both developers denied having any strategy or influence on additional infrastructure to support the developments. In both cases, they stated that this was the responsibility of the Local Authority. This is not “holistic planning”.

It is not a foregone conclusion that these developments will go ahead, the prospectus is clear that “Proposals submitted by private sector partners must be expressly supported by the local authority”. We must stand against these proposals.

Councillor's emails can be found here: https://services.swale.gov.uk/meetings/mgMemberIndex.aspx…

helen.whately.mp@parliament.uk