BUILDING A ROUTE TO SUCCESS – UNLOCKING SWALE’S POTENTIAL

Unlocking the potential of the Swale borough has been a key driver for the local council for decades, but for various reasons many of the same issues that have held back the area remain.

A lack of strategic infrastructure has meant the council is falling behind in delivering the number of homes and jobs identified as being needed in the Local Plan. As well as planning for infrastructure, housing and employment it is the role of the Local Plan to improve matters such as air quality and reduce deprivation.

It is the role of an independent Planning Inspector to review how the council allocates land and is strategically planning for the borough’s future. In allowing the Swale 2017 plan to be adopted, the inspector required a quick review to resolve the inherent infrastructure deficit the borough has.

According to the latest version of the Local Plan, 13,192 homes need to be built by 2031. Swale Borough Council are now in the process of reviewing where an estimated 10,000 to 16,000 additional homes will need to be built by 2037.

Millions of pounds of investment are needed to improve junction 5 of the M2 and upgrade the A249 to unlock growth in the local current local plan and resolve existing capacity issues.

Both projects are delayed, which will slow down or stop the delivery of much-needed homes at those sites already earmarked for housing in the short to medium term. It will also further constrict the supply of homes to buy or rent and push up house prices.

The 2017 local plan safeguards the route of the Northern Relief Road and seeks to ensure it is completed in the plan period, which is the end of 2031.  A number of references are made in the same plan about the delivery of a Southern Relief Road, making it clear that this will be front of mind in the Local Plan Review process that has been underway for over three years.

This is all important background for considering our proposals at Highsted Park – the delivery of a southern and northern relief road for Sittingbourne and a new second motorway junction has been a long-term ambition for over two decades.

The council has carried out detailed and significant work, supported by consultants, to assess the garden community proposals we have put forward.

Their conclusions demonstrated how they formed a sound approach to future growth in the borough and that the proposals at Highsted Park represent the only option that delivers strategic benefits for the whole of Swale borough.

Timeline

2006

The expansion of Kent Science Park as ‘an innovation hub and technology/knowledge based cluster’ is supported in the Kent and Medway Structure Plan, setting out options for future growth across Kent and Medway.  Improved access is identified as being required before that can happen.

2006

The Swale Borough Transport Strategy includes a pledge ‘to examine opportunities for the further development of Sittingbourne town centre’ including detailed consideration of a need for a new A2/M2 link road.

2008

Swale Borough Council publish The Swale Core Strategy, identifying the Northern Relief Road as ‘fundamental new infrastructure’.

2009

South East Plan, which looks at areas for future growth from a regional perspective, references the Northern Relief Road and includes a policy on the ‘intensification and expansion’ of Kent Science Park.

2010

Kent County Council’s report Growth without Gridlock: A transport delivery plan for Kent includes a proposal for the ‘expansion of Kent Science Park with a possible new link to the M2 (south) and A2 (north).’

2011

Local Transport Plan for Kent, produced by Kent County Council, identifies the potential for expansion of the science park.

2013

Swale Borough Council produces its latest Draft Swale Core Strategy. It includes a draft policy on the Sittingbourne Southern Relief Road (SSRR), but puts the proposals on ice, subject to a potential future review.

November 2013

Gordon Henderson, MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, expressed his support in the House of Commons for a new motorway junction (J5A), a new Southern Relief Road and completion of the Northern Relief Road.

2015

Cllr Roger Truelove called it a moral duty to deliver the Northern Relief Road (Still unfinished 12 years after construction started)

2017

The adopted ‘Bearing Fruits’ Local Plan for Swale includes a commitment to the longer-term completion of the Sittingbourne Northern Relief Road (SNRR) due to the benefits in traffic distribution and air quality improvements, and how it could be complemented by a Southern Relief Road.

2017

The Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund outlines how a new junction on the M2, along with the completion of the Northern Relief Road and the creation of the Southern Relief Road would create a major opportunity for new development.

2018

The Economic Regeneration Framework set out to secure investment and ‘push for completion of the Sittingbourne Northern Relief Road and a new A2-M2 link, to help address issues on the A2 and create the capacity for future growth.’

February 2018

Choices for Housing Growth recognises that ‘the A2/M2 link could unlock a large amount of development land to the south and east of Sittingbourne, as well as help solve congestion and air quality problems.’

April 2018

Swale Borough Council invited submissions for new Garden Communities of between 2,500 and 10,000 homes.

November 2018

Swale Borough Council submitted a bid to join the government’s Garden Communities programme.  Outlining the need for strategic scale growth that can deliver the infrastructure needed to unlock the boroughs potential.

December 2018

AECOM’s Scoping Report for the Swale Borough Local Plan Sustainability Appraisal (SA) mentions the completion of the building of a new junction on the M2 (J5a), the creation of the Southern Relief Road and the completion of the Northern Relief Road.

March 2019

Swale Borough Council’s first assessment of New Garden Communities submissions is published. Carried out independently by Peter Brett Associates (now part of Stantec) the document encouraged Quinn Estates to progress their work on proposals for Highsted Park.

October 2019

Swale Borough Council’s second assessment of New Garden Communities submissions identified that three of the four sites should progress to consultation. The Local Plan Panel and Cabinet resolved to progress proposed garden community sites, alongside other sites to a new draft local plan.

February 2020

The Local Plan Panel endorsed a timeline that will see a submission draft of a refreshed strategic plan for the borough prepared for early 2021.

May 2020

The Council publishes its pool of sites to meet housing need (SHLAA) that it will draw from to produce a development strategy that forms the new local plan.  Highsted Park is one of the sites considered suitable for consideration.

October 2020

Consultation period for Highsted Park