The government inspector who could eventually agree Swale Borough Council's Local Plan has published her interim findings.
The Local Plan is currently being examined by the Planning Inspectorate, who heard evidence from the council, developers and local groups about the council's proposed Local Plan, at the end of 2015.
Following a series of hearings, the inspector has now published her interim findings, which include:
• A target of 776 dwellings per year being built, for which the council needs to allocate sufficient additional sites;
• The Local Plan period is revised to 2014-31, making a total housing target of 13,192 dwellings over the whole 17 year period;
• The evidence base, particularly the Strategic Housing Market Assessment and Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment were found to be compliant and sound;
• The Plan's settlement strategy of two planning areas is confirmed with the focus of development on the Kent Thames Gateway part of the Borough. A ‘proportional' boost to allocations in Faversham and rural areas in a sensitive way, without detriment to the settlement strategy is also recommended.
• Indicates the new housing need figure can be met without incursion on local landscape designations, but notes that this does not preclude use of countryside gap areas
• The Duty to Cooperate with neighbouring districts and key service providers during plan preparation and on the additional work to inform proposed modifications has been found to be met.
• There is no need to rely upon an early Local Plan Review and the Plan should plan positively for the full period to 2031.
Commenting on the findings, Cllr Gerry Lewin, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning at Swale Borough Council, told SFM News:"Throughout this part of the examination in public, we presented the case for 540 dwellings per year. It is therefore disappointing that the housing target has been increased and our concerns about the deliverability remain. But we have no choice but to plan for the new target. Some comfort can be gained from knowing that the inspector did not accept the arguments put to her by others that the target should have been in the region of 900-1200 dwellings per year. The approach we are taking to housing distribution has been found to be sound, so means we can now work towards identifying suitable sites to meet this higher target. This will not be easy - suitable brownfield sites have already been allocated and the new target will inevitably mean that additional green field sites will also need to be considered."
There will now be a six week public consultation on modifications to the plan during the summer and any responses to the consultation will be sent to the Inspector before she issues her final report.
The Inspector's Interim Findings, plus all of the Local Plan documents and evidence, an indicative programme and all the objectors' statements can be viewed at www.swale.gov.uk/examination-document-library.