Sunday, 30 September 2012

Core Strategy Strategic Site Allocations

Core Strategy Strategic Site Allocations 

Maidstone Green Party Submission to the Consultation 

The number of households on Maidstone Borough Council’s housing waiting list has risen from 769 in 1997 to 3442 in 2011, i.e . a 4.6x increase, and 5.5% of households are on this list yet the Site Allocation plan would provide just 1200 affordable or social homes. The average deposit for home buyers has increased ten-fold over the past 21 years from £6,793 to £65,924 while income has risen two and a half times.

While recognising the need to protect greenfield sites, we believe that the planned rate of housing growth should be reviewed to ensure that it meets the needs of the people. Farm land should be used for food production and employment. Expansion into rural areas is unnecessary if high density homes were planned for within the existing footprint of the town.

We do not accept that the Council should be planning 3000 new houses on greenfield sites. The document should be proposing an increase in housing density within current urban areas instead of expansion into rural land. Increased housing density helps with infrastructure needs as well as ensuring that surrounding land is available for food production. An increase in housing density in the current urban areas of around 15% could accommodate the increased housing, this would equate to new developments having an average density of about 125 dph.

In order for this density to be acceptable to communities, supporting community measures need to be in place. These include close access to parks, cultural facilities, cafes etc. and good-quality design features of new builds which foster a sense of security. Maidstone needs to move towards a more European feel in its design and begin to model itself on high quality / high density cities in our neighbouring countries. This would improve community cohesion, protect our countryside, reduce our traffic congestion and energy needs.

We also believe that the need for affordable homes and social housing should drive a 60% requirement for these homes in planning applications. This should be mandated for all developments of 5 or more dwellings. Based on the proposal for 3000 homes this would deliver 1800 affordable / social homes.

Finally, the consultation should describe what housing looks like at various densities in order to form a judgement as to whether it is reasonable. Furthermore, the document doesn’t describe the mix of densities within the sites. Our calculations suggest that if 40% are affordable, then 12 are built at 60 dph and 18 at 22.5 dph. This mean that the majority of houses will be large detached properties. The public should be shown examples of what 22.5, 30, 60 and 125 dwellings per hectare looks like.

From this calculation it can be seen that building on greenfield sites gives a presumption that large executive homes will be built, however the urgent need for the town is for high density housing.

We are very aware that there are over 500 long term empty properties in the borough and these should be the initial focus for housing, i.e. ensuring that they are brought into use.

Development at Junction 7 should be halted and the land left for farming. Out of town shopping centres damage the town centre and promote travel by car. The new hospital will take services away from Maidstone Hospital further downgrading the NHS services to the town.

Junction 8 should remain as farm land. The document suggests that there is no interest from businesses in expanding the existing industrial park at Park Wood and we therefore suggest that the demand for the type of industry suggested is unproven. Furthermore, industry and offices should be provided within the existing footprint and towards the centre of town to reduce travel needs.

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