Thanet's New Local Plan - Options consultation

Issue 16 - How can we provide high quality homes, developments and neighbourhoods?

Introduction

Why do we need to address this issue?

Good design can help improve and enhance areas by ensuring high quality developments, and can help reduce the opportunities for crime and the fear of crime.

National planning policy places a high importance on good design stating that pursuing sustainable development involves seeking positive improvements in the quality of the built, natural and historic environment, as well as in people's quality of life. Planning should seek to secure high quality design and a good standard of amenity for all existing and future occupants of land and buildings. Permission should be refused for development of poor design that fails to take the opportunity to improve the character and quality of an area.

What evidence we have on this issue

The Council has prepared a Quality Development Topic Paper which provides more detail and evidence relating to the issues of general design principles, heritage assets, Areas of High Townscape Value, housing density, development on garden land and sustainable design and construction (although the consultation questions for this are dealt with in the Climate Change section)

Key Facts and Information

The following key facts are important when considering how we can use design policies to help create homes and communities that people will be attracted to and want to live in

Thanet's towns, villages, coast and countryside enjoy a diverse and rich built heritage which contributes significantly to the District's unique sense of place and identity. There are 21 conservation areas and approximately 2500 listed buildings - the highest concentration in the South East. There are also Areas of High Townscape Value which have valuable characteristics. However there are some areas in the district where the townscape quality is not quite so good, with developments of mediocre and poor quality, and areas of neglect. The historic town centres contain a high concentration of listed buildings. The urban areas have been developed to a high density, with high numbers of flats - largely due to the availability of large properties formerly used as hotels which lend themselves to conversion to flats, and the subdivision of larger family homes. Some of the urban areas boast a rich architectural heritage including attractive Victorian terraces and Regency squares and large and attractive and art deco properties along the coasts. Some suburbs and the rural villages are characterised by lower density development, with large, well-spaced properties and a number of tree lined streets.

General Design Principles

Planning policy has been used to ensure appropriate design in developments since the adoption of the 1998 Isle of Thanet Local Plan. The 2006 Thanet Local Plan design policy (D1) has been saved, is still being successfully used and has been supported by planning inspectors at appeal.

Areas of High Townscape Value

Areas of High Townscape Value (AHTVs) were first identified in the Isle of Thanet Local Plan 1998, and were also included in the Thanet Local Plan 2006. The AHTVs are considered to possess certain characteristics meriting special recognition, mainly the separation between buildings, the open form of development and the contribution made by landscaping.

Thanet Local Plan policy D7 identifies 11 AHTVs and only allows development that is complimentary to the special character of those areas.

The existing areas are:

Callis Court Road, Broadstairs

Holly Lane, Northdown

Canterbury Road, Westgate

Palm Bay Avenue, Cliftonville

North Foreland, Broadstairs

Royal Esplanade, Broadstairs

Royal Esplanade/Prince Edward's Promenade, Ramsgate

South Cliff Parade and Western Esplanade, Broadstairs

Kinsgate Avenue, Broadstairs

Park Avenue, Broadstairs

Sea Road, Westgate

Area including Shakespeare Road, Constable Road, Wilkie Road, Nasmyth Road, Colman's Stairs Road and Spencer Road, Birchington

Cliff Road and The Parade (part), Birchington

This policy has been successfully used and supported by planning inspectors at appeals.

Considering how we provide high quality homes, developments and neighbourhoods

Along with the key facts and information above, the following are factors to take into account and to help you consider how we can use design policies to help create homes and communities that people will be attracted to and want to live in

Green Infrastructure/Landscaping

Green Infrastructure can be created through landscaping and through design - there is potential for the creation of wildlife corridors and stepping stones in new developments. Landscaping can soften the impact of new buildings, lend a sense of maturity to new development and help to establish a sense of place. It also has a crucial role in terms of wildlife habitat creation and improving biodiversity, particularly in urban areas. However it should be an integral part of the design of a development, rather than consisting of 'offcuts' of leftover land or as a way of camouflaging poor design.

Safe places and communities

There are opportunities to facilitate meetings between members of the community who might not otherwise come into contact with each other, including through mixed-use developments, strong neighbourhood centres and active street frontages which bring together those who work, live and play in the vicinity. Safe and accessible developments with clear and legible pedestrian routes and high quality open space will also help achieve this by encouraging the active and continual use of public areas.

Thanet suffers higher crime rates than the average for Kent. Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 places a duty on councils to do all they reasonably can to reduce crime and disorder locally and improve people's quality of life as a result.

Design can help achieve a safer environment including the following ways:

  • Well defined routes, spaces and entrances
  • Ensuring different uses do not conflict
  • Ensuring publicly accessible spaces are over-looked
  • Places that promote a sense of ownership
  • Physical protection (i.e. security features)
  • Places where human activity creates a sense of safety
  • Future management and maintenance

Advertisements

Advertisements need planning permission, and it is important that they are controlled through planning policy as they can form an integral part of the streetscene providing gaiety and colour, or they can be alien, intrusive and discordant. It is also important to make sure that they are not a danger to the public or highways. It is particularly important to consider their impact when they are located in conservation areas, since there are a significant number of commercial premises in conservation areas in Thanet's historic town centres.

Density

Density is a measure of the number of dwellings which can be accommodated on a site or in an area. Housing density can affect the streetscene in a number of ways including:

  • The space between buildings
  • Amenity and private access
  • Parking
  • Provision/retention of trees and shrubs
  • Surface water run off

The 2006 Thanet Local Plan requires special justification for developments of less than 30 dwellings per hectare, and for less than 50 units per hectare for developments in town and district centres and other locations with good public transport accessibility.

To give an idea of the context of housing densities, Table 12 below shows the densities achieved by different types of housing form:

Table 12 - Densities of different forms of Housing

Dwelling type

Dwellings per hectare

Detached houses

10

Semi-detached houses on street

16

Semi-detached houses on cul-de-sac

31

Terraced houses - medium frontage

53

Terraced houses - wide frontage

44

Flats - 4 storey perimeter blocks

155

Flats - 4 storey cluster blocks

67

Mixed houses and flats

140

Source: Llewelyn-Davies, 2000, cited in http://cibworld.xs4all.nl/dl/publications/Pub281/14Chapter-10.pdf

Higher density developments could have positive or negative impacts:

Positive:

  • Conserves land by reducing the loss of open countryside/Greenfield land.
  • Where located in a built-up urban area they will be well served by public transport, with many journeys achievable by foot or bicycle, thus reducing the need for car travel.
  • Cost of providing infrastructure for utilities such as water, gas, electricity and waste disposal reduces.
  • Creates vitality and diversity.

Negative:

  • Large numbers of flatted developments could lead to a transient community (as has happened in Cliftonville).
  • Large numbers of flatted development result in small, poor quality developments, properties owned by absent landlords so poorly maintained.
  • Lack of open spaces/landscaping.
  • If located in more rural areas there is potential for traffic congestion due to reliance on private car.

Thanet has some areas which are already densely developed. Some areas such as Cliftonville have seen significant numbers of conversions of large buildings (often previously used as hotels) into flatted accommodation which has, in some areas, had a detrimental impact due to small, poor quality developments, absent landlords, and a transient population. It could be argued that setting a lower density in such areas could reduce the proliferation of flats. However, due to the nature of some sites available for development in these areas, it may not be possible to develop anything other than at a high density.

Other areas of the district, such as AHTVs, benefit from lower density developments due to the character and appearance of the area - it could be considered appropriate to limit the density of new developments in these areas.

Development on Garden Land

In June 2010, national planning policy was changed removing private residential gardens from the definition of previously developed land. This gave the Council more flexibility to be able to refuse the inappropriate development of garden land which could result in 'town cramming', and protect the character of residential neighbourhoods.

In Thanet, applications have been refused for development on garden land due to the impact development would have on the character and appearance of the streetscene. Some parts of the district enjoy a high quality environment, with spacious surroundings, and a development within a garden could have a detrimental effect. Residential gardens also form part of Thanet's green infrastructure - the district is deficient in areas of open space (discussed in more detail in the Natural Environment paper) so development of garden sites may not be appropriate, and may be unnecessary, if there is still a supply of housing sites available. There could also be instances where a development within a garden could be beneficial to the streetscene, where the property would be a frontage development.

Other Design Issues

We consider the following issues are also important and have included them in previous design policies :

  • Residential Amenity Value
  • Character and appearance of surrounding area
  • Compatibility with and impact on neighbouring buildings
  • Pedestrian/Cyclist/vehicle movement
  • Provision for disabled access
  • Integration of public art
  • Provision for clothes drying facilities and refuse disposal/dustbin storage
  • Incorporation of sustainable drainage systems

Areas of High Townscape Value

There may be other areas in Thanet worthy of Area of High Townscape Value designation, or the areas that are currently designated may no longer be appropriate. There may also be areas of special character that should be enhanced by planning policy.