Minutes of the November 2017 Executive Committee

Minutes of the 285th Executive Committee meeting held on Saturday 4 November 2017 at CPRE Protect Kent offices in Charing.

Present: Jessamy Blanford (WKPS); Crispin Davies (Hythe and KFAS Acting Secretary); Philip Robinson (Associate member and Hon. Treasurer); Alastair Tod (Tunbridge Wells); and, John Walker (Canterbury and Ramsgate and KFAS Chairman).

Apologies: Christine Furminger (Rochester and KFAS Secretary).

1          Minutes of 284th Executive Committee meeting on 15 July 2017 – These had been previously circulated, were agreed and signed by the Chairman.

2          Matters Arising:

2.1     Review of National Planning Policy Framework (minute 4.5) – JVW reported that the Historic Cathedral City Network had submitted its concern that cathedral cities were allocated inappropriate and higher housing allocations than the cities could reasonably assimilate without altering their character to DCLG.  JVW also reported that the NPPF review was likely to be launched in early 2018.

There then followed a discussion about the levels of housebuilding and the many factors that affected the speed of housebuilding.  This was not just the level of planning consents that Government believed but the local housing market, skill shortages, material shortages and negotiation with planners over the detailed implementation of planning consents and lengthy discussions over s106 agreements.  Smaller builders were favouring work on house extensions rather than the building of new units. 

3        Chairman’s Report – John Walker reported on the recent Civic Voice annual conference in Wakefield attended by some 160 delegates.  There was much focus on the 50th anniversary of conservation areas.  JVW had personal concerns over the subscription scales that provided about 50% of Civic Voice funding leaving Civic Voice at the mercy of grant or project income for the balance.  Associate members, such as KFAS, will now be charged a £50 annual subscription.  It was agreed to become an associate member of Civic Voice.

4        Actions Taken in between Meetings – CD reported that he and the Chairman had met in late September to progress issues as the Committee had not met as planned earlier in the month. Committee members were circulated with the decisions shortly after the meeting.  The decisions included progressing KFAS activities and steps needed to activate the website.

5        Events Programme:

5.1     Margate Society and Civic Voice Event – The Margate Society has accepted an offer from KFAS to publicise its planned event at the Turner Centre in April 2018.  ACTION – JVW to liaise with the Margate Society.

5.2     Communications Workshop – The workshop has been postponed from 28 October 2017 until Saturday 19 May 2018 at Harrietsham Village Hall.

5.3     Annual Meeting 2018 – This will be included with the event on 19 May 2018 at Harrietsham Village Hall.

5.4       President’s Lunch – This has been arranged in conjunction with the President for Friday 13 July 2018 at the aBode Hotel in Canterbury.

5.5     Woolford Lecture 2018 – The President, Laura Sandys, has agreed to give the Woolford Lecture on 13 July 2018 as part of the Lunch. 

6        Treasurer’s Report – An income and expenditure summary to the end of September 2017 had been circulated in advance of the meeting showing a deficit of £386 for the year to date.  The report was noted.

7          County and Local Issues:

7.1     Merger of District Councils in Kent – The proposals for mergers in both east and west Kent have been shelved but co-operative delivery of services is continuing.

7.2     Review of Parliamentary Boundaries – The revised proposals from the Boundary Commission for England were made public in mid-October and this second consultation period ends on 11 December 2017.  The major changes are to reduce the total number of MPs from 650 to 600 and to equalise the number of electorate in each constituency.  ACTION – Acting Secretary to inform members via the website.

7.3     Canterbury Local Plan - Canterbury City Council formally adopted its Local Plan in July 2017 despite two judicial reviews yet to be heard.  One result is the formation of a widely based sustainable transport forum with the aim of reducing private car usage. 

7.4     Tunbridge Wells BC Business Plan – AT reported that this has recently been published including the development of a town centre site dependent upon TWBC borrowing £72m to finance the development.

7.5     Tunbridge Wells Cinema Site – AT reported that a planning application for this important central site, vacant for 16 years, has been granted consent.  The proposal is considered unacceptable by the Tunbridge Wells Civic Society.

7.6     110 Bed Hotel in Tunbridge Wells – TWBC is being taken to a judicial review by an adjacent landowner as this consent adversely affects adjacent listed buildings and is contrary to TWBC planning policies.

7.7     Ashford Housing Issues – JB reported on 3 major sites in villages surrounding Ashford where, in the absence of an up to date local plan as the Examination in Public for the revised Local Plan is anticipated in early 2018, have been submitted on a speculative basis.

7.8     Shepway Local Plan – CD reported that the submission draft is expected before Christmas.

7.9     Otterpool Garden Town – CD reported that a second round of public consultation had recently taken place despite the Core Strategy and the revised Local Plan not referring to the proposal for some 12,000 houses and associated development.  SDC has just received a second tranche of Government funding (£155k) to assist work towards a planning application.

7.10    M20 Lorry Park – CD reported that the judicial review, originally to be heard in June then October, has been postponed to December 2017.

7.11    Princes Parade, Hythe – CD reported that SDC had submitted the long awaited planning application, contrary to existing policy, for the development of a sensitive site of 17.5 acres between the seafront and the Royal Military Canal (a scheduled ancient monument) owned by SDC.

8        National Issues:

8.1     Housing Targets – CD referred to a Government consultation paper on “Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places” issued in September 2017 and with the consultation closing on 9 November 2017.  This includes a revision to the way in which standardised housing targets for each local authority area are calculated resulting in increased targets for all councils in Kent and Medway except one. 

8.2     Airports – CD reported on the recent publication of a revised draft Airports National Policy Statement and a call for evidence from the Transport Select Committee.  The Government consultation closes on 19 December 2017 and the call for evidence on 30 November 2017.  The revision has resulted from further research into aspects of the Davis Commission’s report.  One revision has resulted in an increase in benefit to the national economy of expansion at Gatwick airport.  This will be of interest to societies in west Kent.  ACTION – Acting Secretary to inform members via the website.

9        Secretary’s Report – In the absence of the Secretary there was no report. 

10      Website – The Chairman and Acting Secretary have obtained access to the website and minor changes and new material is being posted.  ACTION – CD and JVW.

11      Lack of Democracy in Reaching Planning Decisions – AT expressed his disquiet at the lack of influence of Councillors in making planning decisions as officers make so many commitments with applicants as part of pre-application discussions that it has become increasingly difficult for Councillors to overturn officer recommendations at Committee.  There was general sympathy with this view particularly with officers using the threat of costs being awarded against planning authorities on appeal.

12      Date of Next Meetings – Saturdays 6 January, 3 March, 12 May (apologies from AT), 7 July, 1 September and 3 November 2018 at the CPRE (Protect Kent) offices in Charing.  ACTION – Acting Secretary to book accommodation.

The meeting closed at 11.55am.