Thanet's Profile and Key Issues

9 In order to inform the Plan for the future, we must have a good understanding of the characteristics of Thanet today, and the opportunities and issues that it presents. These are set out in the evidence and background papers supporting this document.

10 The draft Local Plan seeks to maximize the opportunities available and deliver policy support to respond to the issues facing the area.

11 Thanet is located in East Kent, in close proximity to continental Europe. It has three main coastal towns of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs. The built up area is densely populated and forms an almost continuous urban belt around the north east coast. This is separated by areas of countryside between the towns and providing relief in the built area. There are also attractive coastal and rural villages.

Map 1 - Map of Thanet

 

12 The district has an area of about 40 square miles (103,300ha) and a resident population of about 140,000. About 30% of the district is urban with 95% of the population living in the main urban area around the coast. Thanet is the fourth most populated district in Kent, and has the second highest population density. Thanet is a popular area for retired people to live, and has the highest number of over 65 year olds in the county whilst having a lower proportion of 16-64 year olds than the county average.

13 Thanet is a unique and vibrant coastal area, with an attractive environment and a number of unique features. There are 20 miles of coastline with attractive chalk cliffs and beautiful sandy beaches and bays, many of which have been awarded European Blue Flag status. Much of the coast is also recognised for its internationally important habitats, including coastal chalk and significant populations of coastal birds. This is reflected in the coast’s designation under international and national legislation, including Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Special Protection Areas, Special Areas of Conservation, and a Marine Conservation Zone. These areas are protected by legislation to prevent harm to them from development change and other human activity. There are also areas of Thanet which have a functional relationship with the Special Protection Areas, and the Council recognises the importance of protecting that relationship in the longer term.

14 Thanet is also rich in history. This is recognised today in the identification of around 2,000 listed buildings and 27 Conservation Areas. Its historic landscape contains many archaeological sites dating back to pre- historic times.

15 Outside of the urban area, much of the land is high quality and intensively farmed agricultural land.

16 Thanet has some areas which are at risk from flooding. These are confined to the low lying areas of the countryside to the south west of the district, and along the very edges of the coast, affecting small areas of Margate and Ramsgate. It accounts for approximately 11% of the district area.

17 In 2005, a new town centre was established at Westwood. This brought many retailers not previously represented in Thanet, and in turn has significantly reduced the leakage of retail spend from the district. The centre continues to attract investment, with further development planned over the next few years. The area does however suffer from traffic congestion and accessibility around the centre, particularly on foot, is not convenient.

18 The district benefits from excellent road access to and from the M25 and London via the M2 and the A299 Thanet Way. Access to Dover and beyond is via the A256, with the East Kent Access Road providing dual carriageway for the majority of the route. Access to the nearby cathedral city of Canterbury and to Ashford is via the single carriageway A28. Thanet has regular rail links to London, Canterbury, Dover and Ashford. Since 2009 High Speed domestic rail services operate from Thanet to London St Pancras using HS1.

19 Ramsgate is a cross channel port with capacity for passenger and freight services to mainland Europe. It has also recently established itself as a base for servicing offshore wind farms.

20 The tourism sector has grown substantially over the last few years, compared to other parts of the South East and England, and there has also been significant growth in the creative sector. However, Thanet also has some economic challenges to deal with, and the Council’s Economic Growth Strategy is one step in responding to those challenges. For example, Thanet’s business parks have taken time to develop, and there remains a significant amount of undeveloped employment land. The Council is part of a partnership with KCC (East Kent Opportunities), seeking to accelerate the delivery of key sites. More recently, that area has seen growth in the number of start-ups, particularly in the cultural sector.

21 Nationally, “High Streets” face a range of challenges, particularly with vacancy rates. However, following a completed Townscape Heritage Initiative and alongside the opening of the Turner Contemporary Gallery in April 2011, Margate’s Old Town and lower High Street have seen a significant number of new businesses opening.

22 The district has some significant difficulties. Average skills levels in the district are lower than the rest of Kent and England, with unemployment levels higher than the Kent average (KCC Business Intelligence publications). Wage levels are also lower than the national and regional average. However, the Council and a range of other organisations have a clear strategy to encourage both local business growth and inward investment and are working with industry partners to achieve this.

23 The overall quality of life of Thanet’s residents is varied. Some residents enjoy a very high quality of life, including living in high quality residential environments. However, Thanet also has a number of highly deprived wards with many people with support needs. These areas are also characterised by pockets of urban decline and poor housing stock. A key challenge is to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities by reducing inequalities in the area and improving quality of life for all. The Council and relevant other organisations are working to deal with these issues through different initiatives.