Published: 09:45, 13 September 2021
| Updated: 09:46, 13 September 2021
Protest groups may have another chance to oppose controversial developments after Swale council looks set to go back to the drawing board on its Local Plan.
The panel tasked with overseeing a review of the blueprint, which will guide development in the borough for the next 18 years, is proposing further public consultation on the document before it is presented to a government inspector for approval.
Opposition members say the delay has been caused by the administration’s own errors.
But deputy council leader Mike Baldock (Swale Ind) insists it is because changes to the government’s National Planning Policy Framework in July were not considered in the current draft plan.
In addition, he said the effects of the pandemic are also becoming clearer, with the potential impact on certain employment sectors, the office market, and particularly the retail and leisure sectors.
Consultation on the draft Local Plan had already been an area of contention. Initially residents were given six weeks, the minimum required, to comment on the document, which is more than 1,000 pages long.
That was extended to 12 weeks after complaints. Concerns over insufficient evidence, including air quality and traffic modelling, were also aired.
The previous draft document also contained proposals to build around 1,400 houses in Lynsted and Teynham – plus a bypass south of the A2 in Lynsted, which attracted major opposition from residents and parish councils.
Opposition councillors believe the U-turn has been made due to errors in the current plan.
Speaking at the Local Plan Panel meeting on Wednesday, Cllr James Hunt (Con) said: “I’m pleased that it has been taken into account and realisations have been made that we need to go back.”
However, he fears the new window for public feedback is still too small.
If agreed by cabinet next Wednesday, the consultation will take place in late October for four weeks, with a revised draft Local Plan set to be published in February.
Anyone who has responded to previous consultations will be notified of its launch.
Speaking after the meeting, Julien Speed, chairman of Lynsted with Kingsdown Parish Council, said: “Lynsted residents are highly relieved that the weight of argument against the Local Plan has been acknowledged.
“By going back, the community can properly debate the issues and options, instead of only being allowed to comment on technicalities such as soundness and legal compliance.”