The Government defines “garden villages” as being of between 1,500 and 10,000 homes. They can be new, freestanding settlements or a new neighbourhood created through a major extension to an existing urban area. According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government “High quality place-making is what makes garden communities exemplars of large new developments, and all proposals must set out a clear vision for the quality of the community and how this can be maintained in the long-term, for instance by following Garden City principles. Although we are not imposing a particular set of development principles on local areas, we do expect proposals to demonstrate how they will meet and embed the key qualities below;
a. Clear identity – a distinctive local identity as a new garden community, including at its heart an attractive and functioning centre and public realm.
b. Sustainable scale – built at a scale which supports the necessary infrastructure to allow the community to function self-sufficiently on a day to day basis, with the capacity for future growth to meet the evolving housing and economic needs of the local area.
c. Well-designed places – with vibrant mixed-use communities that support a range of local employment types and premises, retail opportunities, recreational and community facilities.
d. Great homes – offer a wide range of high quality, distinctive homes. This includes affordable housing and a mix of tenures for all stages of life.
e. Strong local vision and engagement – designed and executed with the engagement and involvement of the existing local community, and future residents and businesses. This should include consideration of how the natural and historic environment of the local area is reflected and respected.
f. Transport –integrated, forward looking and accessible transport options that support economic prosperity and wellbeing for residents. This should include promotion of public transport, walking, and cycling so that settlements are easy to navigate, and facilitate simple and sustainable access to jobs, education, and services.
g. Healthy places – designed to provide the choices and chances for all to live a healthy life, through taking a whole systems approach to key local health & wellbeing priorities and strategies.
h. Green space – generous, accessible, and good quality green and blue infrastructure that promotes health, wellbeing, and quality of life, and considers opportunities to deliver environmental gains such as biodiversity net gain and enhancements to natural capital.
i. Legacy and stewardship arrangements – should be in place for the care of community assets, infrastructure and public realm, for the benefit of the whole community.
j. Future proofed – designed to be resilient places that allow for changing demographics, future growth, and the impacts of climate change including flood risk and water availability, with durable landscape and building design planned for generations to come. This should include anticipation of the opportunities presented by technological change such as driverless cars and renewable energy measures.”
Maidstone Borough Council is currently undertaking a Local Plan Review. Through this exercise, the Council will need to assess progress to date with the current plan, extend it, and plan for additional housing growth with effect from 2022. Therefore, it is appropriate for the Council to consider different spatial strategies that could accommodate this housing growth as well deliver the required associated infrastructure. A garden community is not the only option, but one that it is appropriate to explore. With this in mind, the Council did publish a “garden communities” prospectus in the Spring as part of the “call for sites” exercise for the Local Plan Review. Therefore, it is possible that there will be other non-council led garden community proposals to consider in other areas of the borough too.
By acting as the master-developer, the Council would broadly undertake the following tasks;
The Council undertook a borough wide analysis of possible locations for a garden community, considering the various opportunities and constraints of each to include environmental, landscape, infrastructure, heritage and topography considerations. The land to the east of Lenham was not the only possible suitable location, but simply the one favoured by the Council to explore further in terms of a Council led proposition. However, the analysis is at a relatively early stage and more in-depth studies will be required in due course to better understand the development potential. These will include the following assessments; Transport and highways, ecology, heritage, flood risk, ground conditions, air quality, utilities and services, topography, landscape and visual impact and minerals.
No. This proposal will be evaluated by the Council’s Strategic Planning & Infrastructure Committee in due course along with all the other proposals that will have been received through the call for sites exercise, that forms an early stage of the Maidstone Local Plan Review. Therefore, all the different sites and proposals will be considered by the Strategic Planning & Infrastructure Committee that performs the Local Planning Authority function of the council, and in due course the Planning Committee itself.
If the proposal is supported through the Local Plan Review, this would not be confirmed until April 2022. In order to reach this stage, the proposal would be subject to two stages of public consultation, the first of which would commence early in 2020, as well as finally an Examination in Public in respect of the Local Plan Review itself. Were the proposals to get the go ahead, the first homes could start to be built around 2027 and the project itself would be built out over a long-term period.