1. Plan Strategy

1.1.

Background Situation

Thanet is an area of high unemployment and is also an area with high levels of social and economic deprivation. In March 2002 the unemployment rate in Thanet was 7.0% compared with the average for Kent of 2.6% and a national figure of 3.1%. The DETR indices of deprivation for 2000 show that Thanet was ranked as easily the most deprived District in Kent and as the 60th most deprived District in the whole of England (out of 354 Districts). Pier Ward in Margate is ranked as the 77th most deprived ward in England (out of 8,414 wards), with Ethelbert Ward, also in Margate coming 194th. For income levels Pier Ward is the 16th most deprived ward in England and for employment is 12th.

1.2.

Against this background, the Council sees the Local Plan as a key component in the regeneration of the economy of Thanet.

1.3.

It is the Council’s view that, essentially, Thanet is an area capable of sustained regeneration through development of its inherent advantages. An outstanding environment, attractive historic towns and seafronts, a coastline of exceptional quality, proximity to European markets and improving access to London - all make for the components of what should be an attractive and desirable location both to live and to invest.

1.4.

If this view is correct, then one has to ask why has the regeneration of the economy not already taken place? The answer is principally that the market does not yet appreciate what is available. Despite major efforts by the Council and its regeneration partners to break down the perception of a peripheral location, the area is still regarded by the London-based development industry as somewhat isolated from the main area of economic activity in London and the M25/M4 corridor. However, it is the Council’s view that Thanet is an opportunity waiting to be discovered.

1.5.

The strategic thinking behind the development of this Local Plan will provide the basis and the opportunity for that discovery to take place and for the sustained economic regeneration of the area. It will not happen overnight. The Plan period is 10 years and whilst every effort will be made to achieve a sustainable economic recovery in a shorter period, experience shows that progress towards matching the economic success of other areas will take time. However, it is the Council’s view that, with support from Central Government, the Regional Development Agency, Kent County Council, and other locally-based private and public sector partnerships, which the Council has developed, the time is right.

1.6.

The Strategy

Thanet as a Single Development Opportunity

Successive Local Plans have tended to err on the cautious side - caught between a desire to see new development opportunities occur while trying to protect all aspects of the environment. This dilemma has previously resulted in an unwillingness to take risks or to provide the necessary bold steps towards recovery. Competition for resources between the component towns in the District has resulted in efforts to take a single bold development step forward being thwarted by misguided even-handedness. The result has been a rather bland and unexciting strategy together with a set of plan proposals, which have failed to ignite the interest of national developers and investors.

1.7.

This Plan proposes a new and radical approach in that, whilst it recognises and encourages the essential differences between the component towns and villages, it does not attempt to treat the component areas even-handedly. Thanet is principally a relatively compact single urban area and the development opportunities, to be sufficiently attractive, must be considered in a Thanet-wide context. Development sites are, therefore, identified where they will best serve the entire community and where achieving those development opportunities will also achieve the maximum economic and social benefits for the whole of the community.

1.8.

To that extent the Local Plan looks at Thanet as a single opportunity and not as a collection of individual towns and villages – much as those towns and villages will continue to be nurtured for their contribution to the quality and diversity of the social and environmental mix that is Thanet. One of the objectives of the Local Plan is to manage the change being promoted in a confident but sensitive manner to ensure the necessary development is promoted and achieved while conserving that which is best of the natural and man-made qualities of the area.

1.9.

A Comprehensive Approach to Regeneration 

Experience has told us that potential inward investors have aspirations not unlike those of the local population. In seeking to direct the location of new investments, the availability of grant aid and proximity to similar investment opportunities, are important. But so too are the issues of quality of life – the availability of an attractive environment, opportunities for good quality housing, quality retailing and leisure opportunities and a wide range of training and education facilities. These are all part of the fabric of a society that makes for an attractive place to live, work and to invest.

1.10.

To that end this Local Plan takes an approach to regeneration that seeks to address all of these issues simultaneously and strives to create the opportunities to improve the quality of life of all of its citizens. It endeavours to address these matters in a bold, open, and upfront way, that perhaps has not been reflected in past approaches. It will, if successful, upset the status quo and in doing so will undoubtedly upset some of those who wish to see slow or no change to this area. No apology is made for this approach. It is the Council’s view that it owes it to future generations to provide the quality of life that the majority of its citizens wish to enjoy - to firmly focus on achieving an equal footing with other areas in the South-East such that we can tap the latent attractiveness and opportunities that have not, as yet, been realised.

1.11.

A Self-Contained Community 

The strategy approach is to provide for a self-contained community where all of the opportunities associated with the quality of life issues referred to above, are available locally. The people of Thanet have the right to expect to be able to find the quality and quantity of services they seek within their own locality, without the necessity to travel elsewhere to obtain them. At present, Thanet is a net exporter of employees to other areas with 11,000 people living within the Thanet area travelling every day to seek employment elsewhere, whilst only 2,000 come to Thanet to seek employment.

1.12.

In addition, every week, thousands of people travel to centres outside the District to avail themselves of the leisure and retail experiences that those higher quality centres provide. Those other centres are no bigger than Thanet in population, but offer a wider range of retail and leisure opportunities which attract large numbers of the Thanet population. In the year 2000 some £99 million of retail expenditure went outside the District to Canterbury and other centres. This is not only damaging to the Thanet economy but also contrary to the aims of Government policy. This Plan sets out clear policies to address and correct these issues and to offer the people of Thanet the opportunity to find their employment, retailing, education, training, housing and environmental needs locally, if they so choose.

1.13.

A self-contained community, more self-sufficient, but without being isolationist, is what we wish to foster through the policies set out in the following chapters. A self-contained community, less reliant on the services offered at more distant locations, but still wishing to participate in all that is good in the wider Kent area, will result in a community that is more economically buoyant and self-confident and is less dependent on having to travel out of the area to find the facilities to support the quality of life its citizens desire and deserve.

1.14.

A key element in achieving this strategy will be reconciling the implementation of development proposals set out below and the maintenance of a quality environment that will ensure the area remains attractive to visitors, residents and inward investors alike. This plan contains a significant number of policies designed to safeguard and protect the most important aspects of the environment and these are an integral part of the approach to securing a better quality of life for all within Thanet.

1.15.

Summary of Local Plan Approach

The Council believes that the “self-containment” approach to new development opportunities, together with a comprehensive approach to the regeneration of the area, is reflected in the Policies contained in the Local Plan. There are four main development proposals in the Local Plan, which underscore this approach:

  1. The continued emphasis on employment development, particularly the development of the Central Island Initiative – the airport and the adjacent business parks. More rapid development will help strengthen and broaden the area’s economic base, making it less vulnerable to economic change in the future, and reduce the level of commuting from the District to other centres. 
  2. The development of a new town centre at Westwood, with expanded retail and leisure facilities to serve the District. This will not only strengthen the local retail base, improving services and facilities for local people, and retain a greater proportion of retail expenditure within the District, but will also help to reduce the need to travel to other centres to fulfil these demands.
  3. The development of additional housing in the Westwood area to cater for the housing needs generated by the enhanced employment opportunities in East Kent during the Plan Period. The additional housing, to be located adjacent to the new town centre, will help to reinforce a mixed town centre approach at Westwood, and provide a more sustainable location for new housing in the District, in pursuance of the Government’s sustainable development objectives.
  4. The promotion of mixed-use developments with an emphasis on leisure and tourism at Ramsgate, Margate and other areas.

Targets

A measure of the success of the Local Plan Strategy (and other corporate activities) will be:

  • A reduction in unemployment in Thanet to that of the corresponding Kent average, during the Plan Period 
  • An increase in average wages in Thanet to that of the Kent average by 2011
  • An increase in GDP in Thanet to match the Kent average GDP, during the Plan Period
  • A reduction in the percentage of retail expenditure by Thanet residents outside the District to 25% of the gross retail expenditure by 2011

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