Introduction & Policy Context

The Isle of Thanet

The Isle of Thanet is an attractive and pleasant coastal District situated at the eastern end of Kent in the south-east of England and in close proximity to the Continent. The area contains the attractive and historic seaside towns of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs, each with their own identity and character and with a wealth of history and historic buildings. Thanet has a number of interesting and agreeable coastal and rural villages and possesses a long coastline lined with cliffs and containing many sandy bays and beaches. The area benefits from a mild and dry climate.

The District has a population of just over 127,000 people, mainly resident in the towns, which spread around the coast. The Island is connected to the rest of Kent by three main roads and rail routes leading to Canterbury, Dover and along the north coast direct to London. Communication with London in particular has improved significantly over the last few years with the dualling of the A299, the Thanet Way. The recently privatised Kent International Airport (Manston) and the international ferry port at Ramsgate add to the facilities and appeal of the area and represent significant opportunities for investment.

Despite its location in the south-east of England and its attractive environment, Thanet has suffered from long-term economic and social problems. Unemployment has, for many years, been well above the Kent average and social deprivation exists in many parts of the District. The decline of the tourist industry, the concentrations of cheap property and the relative remoteness of the area, along with other factors, have all contributed to these persistent and difficult problems. There is also a preponderance of small, low-skill based companies in Thanet offering relatively low wages.

In itself this Local Plan cannot resolve the economic and social problems being experienced. What it can do, however, is, in land use terms, provide the policies and guidance that will facilitate the investment necessary to reduce these problems while protecting the fine natural and built environment which the Island enjoys.

Background to and Purpose of the Plan

The first District-wide Local Plan for Thanet was adopted in April 1998 and was designed to run until 2001, although many of the policies will remain fully relevant beyond that date. This first review Plan will replace and supersede that Plan and is designed to give guidance to 2011.

One of the purposes of a Local Plan is to identify the issues and opportunities that are arising in an area and then to set out the Council’s views on how they would like to see the area develop over a period of time. A Local Plan should provide the following:

  • Guidance for local people, developers and other interested parties in relation to the District Council’s land use policies and proposals.
  • Encouragement to inward investors by providing a degree of certainty on which they can make informed decisions.
  • Control over the location and impact of new development on the local environment.

Format of the Plan

A Local Plan comprises the following:

  • Written Statement: This sets out the text of the District Council’s policies and proposals for future development. In this plan these policies and proposals are distinguished by the use of capitals and bold text. The text around the policies and proposals gives a reasoned justification for the policy or proposal. 
  • Proposals Map: This map identifies, on an Ordnance Survey base, the areas to which particular policies and proposals apply. It consists of a District-wide map at a scale of 1:15,000 and inset maps, which are shown on the reverse of the Main Map and give a more detailed and clearer picture, at a scale of 1:5000, of certain parts of the District.

The plan also incorporates a number of maps within the text designed to give a clearer picture of the application of certain policies and proposals.

This Plan, together with the Structure Plan, Minerals Local Plan and Waste Local Plan forms the Development Plan for the area.

Policy Context

The Plan must also take account of National, Regional and County planning policies and guidance and of the resources likely to be available for implementation.

Government guidance and the Structure Plan recognise the economic problems that Thanet has experienced over the years, and encourage greater levels of economic activity and the creation of new jobs. They also recognise the environmental quality of the area – the coast, good air quality, high quality agricultural land, important nature conservation areas, rich historical heritage, and so on – and seek to ensure the continued protection of these environmental and social assets.

Regional Planning Guidance

Regional Planning Guidance seeks to promote the sharing of the region’s prosperity, improving access to jobs, housing, transport, education, health and leisure, and public participation and decision making.

Within this framework, Thanet is identified as a Priority Area for Economic Regeneration. This reflects the fact that Thanet has had Tier 2 and Tier 3 Assisted Area status under the Regional Selective Assistance programme and Objective 2 status under European Structural Funds. In such areas, the draft Strategy seeks to reduce unemployment year-on-year towards the regional average. This approach would take into account the “environmental wealth” of these areas, and, in particular, development would be constrained by national and international environmental designations.

The Guidance also recognises that there are areas of wildlife habitat resource of national and international importance. It states that development plans must take these into account and give priority to their protection. It also states that development plans should ensure that the best and most versatile agricultural land is given an appropriate level of protection from development.

The SEERA Strategy

In June 2001 the South East England Regional Assembly published its strategy, entitled “A Better Quality of Life in the South-East”, with a vision of a prosperous region delivering a high quality of life and environment for everyone, now and in the future.

The strategy contains 25 objectives to achieve this vision and those most directly related to land-use planning amongst these are the following:

  • To ensure that everyone has the opportunity of a decent and affordable home
  • To stimulate economic revival in priority regeneration areas
  • To improve efficiency in land use through the re use of previously developed land and existing buildings and encourage urban renaissance
  • To conserve and enhance the Region’s biodiversity
  • To ensure high and stable levels of employment so everyone can benefit from the economic growth of the Region
  • To sustain economic growth and competitiveness and ensure a better distribution of economic activity across the Region

The Kent Structure Plan

The Kent Structure Plan, adopted in 1996, takes a very similar approach to the approach of this Local Plan. Policy EK2 identifies the need to address the long term economic problems of the area through the development of business parks and infrastructure. This is balanced by the need to protect the separate identities of the Thanet towns, the high quality agricultural land and the areas of national or international importance for nature conservation.

The Kent Structure Plan encourages local planning authorities to “seek to achieve a sustainable pattern and form of development which will reduce the need to travel, facilitate the conservation of energy and other natural and environmental resources, and minimise pollution”.

The Kent Structure Plan is soon to be replaced by the Kent and Medway Structure Plan (KMSP). It is anticipated that the KMSP will continue the general strategic approach to Thanet, and recognise the need to cater for development that will reduce the District’s reliance on other centres for employment, retail and other economic and social needs.

The Council’s Corporate Plan

The Corporate Plan sets out a number of specific objectives, which relate to different aspects of the Council’s activities. This Local Plan reflects the Corporate Plan’s vision for Thanet as an economically successful, visually attractive, safe and stimulating place in which to live and work, and aims to help deliver certain of its objectives. 

Sustainable Development in the Local Context

The Council has given a commitment to look at sustainable development issues in more detail in this Review. The most widely accepted definition of sustainable development is:

“…development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

The Government sets out four aims for sustainable development: 

  1. Effective protection of the environment (not just minimising the impact of development)
  2. Maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment
  3. Prudent use of natural resources and
  4. Social progress, which recognises the needs of all

Government advice is that local plans should contribute to sustainable development. It states that a sustainable planning strategy should:

  • provide for the nation’s needs for commercial and industrial development, food production, minerals extraction, new homes and other buildings, while respecting environmental objectives
  • use already developed areas in the most efficient way, while making them more attractive places in which to live and work
  • conserve both the cultural heritage and natural resources, taking particular care to safeguard designations of national and international importance and
  • shape new development patterns in a way which minimises the need to travel.

The Council believes that, in drawing up its Plan Strategy to develop a “selfcontained” community in Thanet, it has taken an innovative, but balanced approach to implementing the Government’s guidance on sustainable development.

The Plan has also been subject to strategic environmental appraisal, in which sustainable development has been a key component, across a range of issues.

Monitoring and Review

The current Local Plan review comes at a critical time when the key strands, ingredients and opportunities underpinning sustainable regeneration need to be drawn together. The Plan covers a wide range of land-use planning issues and will significantly influence public and private sector investment programmes and land-use decisions. Land-use needs and considerations can only be projected ahead for a short time as a result of changing social and economic circumstances. It is therefore essential that matters which may affect the development and planning of the District are kept under review and that the relevance and effectiveness of policies are monitored to ensure that the Local Plan continues to provide an up to date, responsive and effective local planning strategy.

Under the new planning system introduced by Government in 2004, the Council proposes to undertake and publish annual reviews of policy performance against Plan objectives through an Annual Monitoring Report. In preparing such reviews the Council will involve a range of stakeholders to ensure that the process is transparent and based on appropriate evidence, and to strengthen commitment to delivery of objectives.

The Council will review the development needs and pressures, availability of resources and investment programmes in all sectors, implications of prevailing government advice and strategic policy, and the Council’s and community's aspirations, as an essentially continuous process. This will involve collection and analysis of information and intelligence from a wide range of sources.

This Plan is intended to cover the period to the year 2011. It thus only identifies land use provisions related to development needs envisaged within that period. The Council aims to review the Plan in its entirety at least every five years, and a comprehensive review will commence almost immediately on adoption of this Plan. Changes in circumstances e.g. evolving strategic policy, new development opportunities that need to be accommodated, circumstances affecting investment programmes by all sectors and the need to conform to changes in strategic policy, may trigger the need for more frequent review and alteration of certain aspects of the Plan. The Council will therefore pursue review/alteration of all or parts of the Plan at any time, as may be necessary. It will carry out public consultation in line with appropriate legislative procedures in advance of any proposals for policy changes.

The critical aims of the Plan are to accommodate needs for sustainable economic and other essential development while safeguarding and enhancing the built and natural environment. Thus, fundamental aspects requiring regular review include the adequacy of land provision in respect of projected development needs for employment and housing land (which are monitored on an annual basis), and any impact on a range of environmental assets e.g. wildlife habitats lost to development. Environmental Appraisal of the Plan will, in itself, inform monitoring and review of the environmental aspects of local plan policies.

Monitoring will indicate whether the Local Plan is achieving its stated objectives, and help to identify where policies and proposals need to be strengthened, maintained or changed. It will also inform decisions on which aspects of the Plan may need to be reviewed and when. The Plan therefore contains a range of targets against which progress in implementation and the effectiveness and continued relevance of specific policies can be monitored. These targets aim to provide meaningful yardsticks for monitoring, and are related to specific areas of policy.

Each target includes an indicator stating the factors against which the achievements can be measured, together with a monitoring source from which the indicator will be obtained. The inclusion of targets will also help the Council in fulfilling its commitment to the principles of Best Value.

It has not been possible to establish measurable and meaningful targets for all aspects of the Plan. In certain instances indicators and monitoring sources are still included to provide helpful indication on plan implementation and trends. These may enable additional targets to be established in the future. Existing targets can be augmented or refined as appropriate on reviewing the Plan. 

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