The growth options identified above could be distributed across the District in many different ways. The identification and selection of spatial options for distributing development needs to be guided by:
- Compliance with national planning policy, as set out in the NPPF.
- The current distribution of development in the District such as; where the location of the main towns and transport links are; how urban or rural the area is; and the role and function of settlements, including the relationships between them and with settlements in neighbouring authorities.
- Development that is already planned, such as where planning consent has been granted but not yet implemented.
- The environmental assets and constraints in the District, in order to ensure that the most important environmental assets are safeguarded, and where possible the environment is improved.
- The objectives of the Council, insofar as they relate to the Local Plan, such as ensuring there are enough of the right type of homes and employment land to meet people’s needs, supporting economic development and jobs, addressing the needs of more disadvantaged communities, minimising carbon emissions and dealing with air quality issues that can affect human health.
With this in mind, the Council carried out the following exercises:
- Review of existing plans and strategies at a national, regional and local level – including the existing growth strategy set out in the Core Strategy and Land Allocations Local Plan.
- Review of the existing evidence base to identify key issues to be addressed as part of the growth strategy.
- Review of existing environmental constraints, for example landscape designations, flood risk, historic assets.
- Initial stakeholder and community engagement workshops to discuss issues and opportunities to be addressed in the new Local Plan, and options to manage them.
To date, this has led to the definition of five reasonable spatial options for growth (i.e. the pattern and extent of growth in different locations), set out below, which have been subject to Sustainability Appraisal.
- Spatial Option A: Distributing growth to the District’s suitable and potentially suitable housing and employment site options (informed by the HELAA and ELR).
- Spatial Option B: Distributing growth proportionately amongst the District’s existing settlements based on their population.
- Spatial Option C: Distributing growth proportionately amongst the District’s existing settlements based on the District’s defined settlement hierarchy (informed by the Settlement Hierarchy Topic Paper).
- Spatial Option D: Distributing growth in the same way as the adopted Local Plan, focussing most growth in and around Dover.
- Spatial Option E: Distributing growth more equally across the District’s settlements: Dover, Deal, Sandwich and Aylesham, as well as the rural villages.
These identified spatial options may need to be supplemented with other reasonable options at a later stage in the plan-making process, in light of new evidence.
Spatial options including the allocation of a new settlement have been raised and discussed during the Council’s early Local Plan workshops. Options to allocate a new settlement in the Local Plan have been discounted at this stage for the following reasons:
- The Council has enough suitable and potentially suitable promoted site options to meet needs and aspirations of the Local Plan period, without the need for a new settlement.
- No sites have been promoted through the Council’s ‘call for sites’ exercises and assessed through the HELAA that are large enough to be considered new settlements in their own right.
- In the absence of suitable new settlement site options, the process of identifying reasonable and sustainable locations for a new settlements is time consuming and resource intensive. Proceeding with such an option would require a longer plan programme. In addition, due the likely lead in times for actual delivery of a new settlement, this would not deliver housing in the short term, and would be likely to cause difficulties with short term supply of land.
Consideration of the need for a new settlement will be explored in more detail when planning for the next plan period.
The conclusion of the SA was that Spatial Options C (settlement hierarchy) and D (adopted Plan Dover focus) generally perform the most strongly against the SA objectives, particularly when delivering the baseline growth scenario.
Spatial Option C (settlement hierarchy) focuses growth in line with the District’s settlement hierarchy, directing more growth to the settlements with the best range and access to services, facilities and job opportunities. This could have benefits in terms of reducing the need to travel by car, encouraging more active healthy lifestyles and limiting air pollution and carbon emissions.
Spatial Option D (adopted Plan Dover focus) focuses the vast majority of growth in and around Dover Town, and only distributes the remaining need to the most accessible service centres in the smaller, more rural settlements. This approach also helps to address the pockets of higher deprivation within Dover, but would be less effective at making positive use of the other larger settlements beyond Dover, such as Aylesham, Deal and Sandwich. Conversely, focusing growth in and around Dover Town helps to maximise the use of the District’s brownfield land, protecting the natural environment elsewhere in the District. However, concentrating such a significant scale of growth at a single settlement increases the likelihood of adversely affecting known congestion and air quality issues in the town, for example, along the A2/A20.
With regards to the other options, Spatial Option A (suitable sites) focusses growth on identified sites in the HELAA, the majority of which are in and around Dover Town. Relatively few suitable and potentially suitable sites have currently been identified at Deal and Sandwich, protecting natural resources, ecological and historic assets in and around these settlements. The remaining growth under this option is dispersed amongst sites identified in the District’s rural villages. Developing all suitable and potentially suitable sites in the rural villages would result in a higher number of residents having to travel regularly to access services, facilities and jobs, which is likely to adversely affect congestion and air quality. It is also likely to result in greater greenfield land take and a greater potential for adverse effects on the historic environment, given the character of many of the District's rural settlements.
The distribution of development set out through Spatial Option E (more even settlement focus) and Spatial Option B (population based) are similar. These spatial options result in the lowest scales of growth at Dover, in favour of greater growth at Deal and the wider network of small settlements. Both spatial options direct growth to the more flood prone and ecologically sensitive north eastern part of the District. The growth accommodated by the District’s smaller rural settlements would generate the same notably significant negative effects identified for Spatial Option A above.
Given this, the Council's preferred option for the distribution of housing growth will comprise a combination of options A (HELAA sites), C (settlement hierarchy) and D (Dover focus). The distribution of housing growth in the District will therefore primarily be based on the settlement hierarchy, and influenced by site availability, environmental constraints and factors of delivery.