Draft Thanet Local Plan - 2031 - Pre-Submission Publication, Regulation 19

Green Wedges

4.5 The coastal towns of Thanet are separated by three particularly important areas of open countryside which are known as the Green Wedges indicated on the policies map.

4.6 The Green Wedges are significant in shaping the character of Thanet which has historically been a 'horseshoe' of built development wrapping around the coast. The Green Wedges provide a clear visual break when passing between the towns, giving a recognised structure and identity to Thanet's settlements. The Green Wedges are distinct from other types of open space as they provide a link between the open countryside and land which penetrates into the urban areas.

4.7 The three Green Wedges differ in size and character. The largest is the one that separates Margate and Broadstairs. Substantial areas of this Green Wedge consist of high quality agricultural land in large open fields without fences or hedgerows. Other parts have isolated belts of woodland. The other two Green Wedges which separate Birchington and Westgate, and Broadstairs and Ramsgate are considerably smaller but perform a very significant function and, due to their limited extent are also potentially more vulnerable to development pressures.

4.8 There is very limited built development within the Green Wedges. The areas have level or gently undulating landform and generally sparse vegetation. The public perception of space, openness and separation is largely gained from roads and footpaths that run through or alongside the Green Wedges in undeveloped frontages. These factors allow many extensive and uninterrupted views across open countryside, enabling people to find the recreational, scenic or amenity resources they require without having to travel long distances. This is important as it adds to the quality of life and well-being perceived by people in the community.

4.9 The aesthetics of the Green Wedges are varied, and they are not always accessible to the public. There is an opportunity to enhance the Green Wedges by creating and enhancing wildlife habitats, for example working with landowners to encourage farmland birds, and to make the areas more accessible, potentially for recreation use. This may require changing farming activities. Funding may be available for environmental land management through Natural England's Stewardship Schemes.

4.10 Local Plan policies have historically been used to prevent urban sprawl, maintain the separation of the Thanet towns and prevent their coalescence, preserving their unique identities. The Green Wedge policy has been consistently and strongly supported at appeals. Inspectors' comments in appeal decisions, and the Inspector's Report to the Thanet Local Plan Inquiry, highlight the significance of the open countryside between the Thanet Towns, in providing visual relief in a highly urbanised area.

4.11 Some areas of the Green Wedges are vulnerable to development pressures, and some sites within them have been suggested as housing allocations. The Council has assessed the sites put forward in the Green Wedges and found that the allocation of some sites proposed in the Green Wedges would cause less harm than others. However, although allowing some small scale development may not significantly diminish the Green Wedge, the cumulative impact of several small scale developments could be of detriment to the Green Wedges and cause new development pressures where there are currently none. It could also set a precedent of releasing Green Wedge sites and result in further development within the Green Wedges which would diminish their functions.

4.12 The Council considers the Green Wedges still perform a highly significant function which overrides the need for development, and should continue to be protected through planning policy and meet the strategic objective of retaining the separation between Thanet's towns and villages with the following policy.

Policy SP22 - Safeguarding the Identity of Thanet's Settlements

Within the Green Wedges new development (including changes of use) will only be permitted if it can be demonstrated that the development is

1.  not detrimental or contrary to the following aims to:

    • Protect areas of open countryside between the towns from the extension of isolated groups of houses or other development.
    • Ensure physical separation and avoid coalescence of the towns, retaining their individual character and distinctiveness.
    • Conserve, protect and enhance the essentially rural and unspoilt character, and distinctive landscape qualities of the countryside that separates the urban areas, for the enjoyment and amenity of those living in, and visiting, Thanet.
    • Increase access and usability without compromising the integrity of the Green Wedges.Or

2.  essential to be located within the Green Wedges.

Open sports and recreational uses will be permitted subject to there being no overriding conflict with other policies, the wider objectives of this plan and the stated aims of this policy. If granted, any associated built development must be kept to a minimum, essential, small in scale and be necessary to support the open use. It should also be well related to adjacent urban edge and sensitively located to retain openess of the area.

Proposals for policy compliant development that include measures that will create or enhance wildlife habitats and biodiversity within the Green Wedges, or will improve the quality of the Green Wedges by providing high quality public amenity space will be supported.