Swale Borough Council has confirmed that it will be sending an update on the Highsted Park planning applications to parish councils and local groups.
The council states that the two planning applications for the development are "currently not lawful as they needed to include an environment statement setting out the significant effects of the proposals on the environment".
The council say they have taken expert evidence on the sufficiency of the statement and has issued notices seeking further information. "The application is unlawful until the required information on issues such as archaeology and the impact on nationally important habitats is received" the council say.
The update also includes a summary of legal advice received on the application for a new motorway junction for the M2. This advice says that a planning application is not the correct procedure for a new junction. The legal view is that it should be pursued though a development consent order as it would be a nationally significant infrastructure project. These are determined by the Secretary of State, not the local planning authority.
The applicant is also required to consider alternatives to a new motorway junction and demonstrate the strategic need for one as national policy aims to minimise junctions on safety grounds.
The implication of this advice is that the junction should be removed from the planning application, and the two current planning applications should become three. The strategic case for a new junction would need to be established before the planning applications could be determined.
The council is required to ask that alternatives to, and alternative routes for, the two relief roads be considered. It is also asking for options and alternatives for the location of any new motorway junction, a no interventions option, and an option that gains access off the new junction 5 of the M2.
This will require a new round of traffic modelling to inform consideration of strategic planning applications and the local plan, as well as meeting the concerns of Natural England.
Natural England has expressed two concerns about the proposals. Firstly, the scale of further recreational pressure from additional population will need to be mitigated over and above the proposals in the current scheme. They are seeking what are known as “sites of alternative natural green space” to divert pressure away from the coastal special protection areas which include internationally important sites.
Secondly, they have concerns about the effect of air pollution from additional traffic along the A249 which could affect local bird populations. This affects not only this scheme, but other developments being promoted through the local plan process.
"All this means that the strategic need for infrastructure, alternative options for the infrastructure, and mitigating impacts on the important wildlife sites must be resolved before any detailed consideration of any specific planning application" the council says.
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