Draft Thanet Local Plan to 2031 - Preferred Options Consultation

A) Thanet Preferred Option Draft Local Plan

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Thanet's Profile and key issues

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

The following profile of Thanet provides an overview of the key characteristics, problems, issues and opportunities that need to be addressed.

Thanet lies at the eastern end of 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

Thanet in East Kent 1

The district has an area of 103 square kilometres and a resident population of 134,400[1]. 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, with 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 (59.6%) of 16-64 year olds than the county (62.6%).

Thanet is a unique and vibrant coastal area, with an attractive environment and a number of unique features. There are 32 kilometres 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, and Specials Areas of Conservation. These areas are protected by legislation to prevent harm to them from development change and other activity.

Thanet is also rich in history, with around 2,000 listed buildings and 21 Conservation Areas. Its historic landscape contains many archaeological sites dating back to pre-historic times.

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

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.

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.

The district benefits from excellent road access to and from the M25 and London via the M2 and dual carriageway A299. Access to Dover and beyond is via the A256, with the recently completed 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 rail links to London, Canterbury, Dover and Ashford. Since 2009 High Speed domestic rail services operate from Thanet to London St Pancras using the High Speed 1 route via Ashford.

Ramsgate is a major cross channel port with opportunities for passenger and freight services to Belgium. It has also recently established itself as a base for servicing offshore wind farms. Thanet has an international airport whose recent activity has been predominantly in the freight market, but with some passenger services. The recent announcement regarding the closure of the airport makes its future role for the district uncertain.

The tourism sector has continued to grow over the last couple of years, compared with declines in the South East and England. However, Thanet has a generally weak economic and employment base, and is underperforming when compared to the region. Productivity is below the county average and Thanet experienced a steeper decline in total employment in 2011 than the South East and England. Thanet’s Business Parks have been slow to develop, and there is a significant amount of undeveloped employment land.

The towns’ high streets have continued to suffer, particularly Margate, with vacancy rates significantly above the national average. However, 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.

Map 2 - Rank of Lower Super Output Areas

Indices of Multiple Deprivation 2010

The district is ranked as the 49th most deprived district out of 326 authorities in England with the highest average proportion of households in poverty within Kent (Index of Multiple Deprivation 2010). Average skills levels of Thanet’s residents are lower than the rest of Kent and England, with unemployment levels (claimant count 2012) at 6.2%, twice that of Kent. Wage levels are also lower than the national and regional average.

The overall quality of life of Thanet’s residents is extremely 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.

In relation to Thanet’s specific places and towns the following map summarises the key issues and opportunities that need to be addressed.

Map 3 - Key Issues and Opportunities

place based issues



[1] ONS mid-year population estimates (2011)