Protection of Open Space

4.57 Thanet's urban areas are interspersed with a variety of areas of open space. These include parks, informal recreation green space, natural and semi-natural green space, amenity green space, outdoor sports facilities, play areas, cemeteries and allotments. These form part of Thanet's Green Infrastructure network and are shown on the Policies Map.

4.58 The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that existing open space, sports and recreational buildings and land (including playing fields) should not be built on unless it can be demonstrated that they are surplus to requirements, the loss would be replaced by equivalent or better provision or the development is for alternative sports and recreation provision. The NPPF also states that planning policies should protect and enhance public rights of way (PROW) and access. Kent County Council's Countryside and Coastal Access Improvement Plan identifies the need for planning policies to protect or enhance PROW.

4.59 Open space is a scarce commodity within Thanet's urban areas. Once such areas are lost to development, it is very difficult to provide satisfactory replacements within the immediate vicinity. Open spaces can provide for a wide variety of activities from organised sport to simple relaxation and opportunities for walking. Open space and amenity areas are vital for people's health and quality of life and their visual importance can often contribute to the quality of the local environment. Smaller areas of informal open space on residential estates can provide important local resource, particularly in the more built up areas where there is less opportunity for larger open spaces. Sometimes these areas are too small to be identified on the policies map for protection, therefore any proposed development on open space areas of this nature will need to be justified.

4.60 The Open Space, Indoor and Outdoor Sports Facilities Strategy 2017 (Open Space Strategy) has been carried out and includes recommendations and action plans to be implemented corporately. The draft strategy identifies an under provision in the 5 typologies of open space - amenity greenspace, provision for children and young people, allotments, natural and semi-natural greenspace and public parks and gardens - at 2016 and also by 2031. The figures are set out in table 12 and are based on population figures of 141,00 at 2016 and 161,500 by 2031.

4.61 In line with the draft recommendations, the Council will expect all new developments to make provision for new open space in line with the Fields in Trust Guidelines for provision, accessibility and equipped play space. Table 12 sets out the provision guidelines, table 10 sets out the accessibility criteria and table 11 sets out the Quantity Benchmark Guidelines for equipped/designated play space. This is set out in Chapter 12.

4.62 For the strategic sites the relevant policies set out the general open space requirements, for the specific typologies of open space the Council will expect developers to apply the Fields in Trust guidelines to determine the precise requirements.

4.63 For other developments, where provision cannot be made on site, or where an existing play space lies within the walking distance guideline of a proposed development the Council will seek a financial contribution either towards new provision or improvement of an existing facility. Applicable schemes may include the improvement of facilities at Hartsdown and improved provision at Jackey Baker's sports ground and proposed expansion.

4.64 The following policies meet the objectives of promoting physical and mental well-being, safeguarding and enhancing the geological and scenic value of the coast and countryside, retaining the separation between Thanet's towns and villages and enhancing biodiversity and the natural environment.

Policy SP29 - Protection of Open Space

Proposals which would result in the loss of protected open space as shown on the policies map either through built development or a change of use will only be permitted if:

1.  It is for an open recreation or tourism use and is of appropriate scale and design for its setting. Any related built development should be kept to the minimum necessary to support the open use, and be sensitively located.

2. There is an overriding need for development that outweighs the need to protect open space which cannot be located elsewhere. In this case provision of alternative open space of at least an equivalent size and quality must be provided in a suitable nearby location.

3. There would be no material harm to the contribution the protected open space makes to the visual or recreational amenity of the area.

New development that is permitted by virtue of this policy should make a positive contribution to the area in terms of siting, design, scale, use of materials and biodiversity.