By Kasia Banas, Account Director
Chelgate has recently had the pleasure of speaking to Cllr Clive English about the measures that Maidstone Borough Council is taking to continue planning and local plan processes amidst the current pandemic. We learned that not only did planning not stop in Maidstone but also that the council received above average application numbers for this time of year.
Maidstone Borough Council has been able to adapt to the social distancing rules while maintaining their service at almost normal levels. Approximately 95% of applications are progressing through the planning process, with only 5% having been deemed too high-risk to take on at the moment. Interestingly, in the first 4 weeks of the lockdown, the council received above average application numbers for this time of year, with this trend now dropping to normal level. This is an encouraging sign showing that the development sector is keen to keep going, even in these extraordinary times.
Site visits are being carried out unaccompanied and virtual communication tools are being used to enable discussions on applications, pre-applications and PPAs to continue. There is also increased communication through letters and direct mail. Applications being determined remain on average for this time of year which shows that the council is well-resourced and is working effectively. This is quite a feat for a team, over half of which have had suspected Covid-19.
Local Plan Review
In line with government advise, which sees Local Plans progressing through the system as a vital means for supporting economic recovery, the Council is making good progress on the Local Plan Review work.
As the Full Council had not had a chance to adopt the Local Development Scheme, an addendum was placed on the Local Plan Review web page, setting out the new timetable recommended by the Strategic Planning and Infrastructure committee. Other work on the main spatial strategy matters, sustainability appraisal and transport modelling has been progressing to time. Work has also continued on assessments of the call for site submissions and consultants have been commissioned to undertake a first stage appraisal of Garden Communities proposals. Work is ongoing to commission the second stage appraisal and the council will soon be liaising with infrastructure providers on the deliverability of proposals, as well as the work on the spatial strategy.
Neighbourhood Planning (NP) has suffered more at the hands of Covid-19. The Lenham NP examination is slightly delayed as key consultees struggle to sign off their representations. Boughton Monchelsea NP public consultation has also been delayed with the Parish Council’s agreement. There are some good news from Marden where adoption of the plan is expected at the next SPI Committee meeting.
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