Draft Thanet Local Plan to 2031 - Preferred Options Consultation

A) Thanet Preferred Option Draft Local Plan

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The Rural Economy

10.1 The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires that Local Plans support the sustainable growth and expansion of all types of business and enterprise in the rural areas, promote the development and diversification of agricultural and other land based rural businesses, support sustainable rural tourism and leisure developments that benefits businesses in the rural area and promote the retention and development of local services and community facilities. There is also the requirement for the Local Plan to address the needs of the food production industry and any barriers to investment that planning can resolve. The Council wishes to support a sustainable rural economy and rural economic development of an appropriate scale and the following policies seek to address this.

New build development for economic development purposes in the rural area

10.2 The NPPF states that planning policies should support economic growth in rural areas in order to create jobs and prosperity by supporting sustainable growth and expansion of all types of business and enterprise in rural areas, through well designed new buildings.

Policy E15 - New build development for economic development purposes in the rural area

Well designed new build development for economic development purposes will be permitted within the identified confines of the villages and at a scale and form compatible with their character.

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Conversion of rural buildings

10.3 An important consideration for the rural economy and rural diversification is the reuse of redundant buildings. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that planning authorities should support the expansion of all types of business and enterprise in rural areas through the conversion of existing buildings.

10.4 Such conversions might be particularly desirable where buildings are listed, or have other landscape value, and their long-term retention may be sought for these reasons.

10.5 Disused rural buildings may hold species such as bats or barn owls, protected by the Wildlife and Conservation Act 1981 and other legislation. The conversion of such buildings should make provision for their continued use by protected species which are present. If this is not possible, mitigation should be provided nearby.

Policy E16 - Conversion of rural buildings for economic development purposes

Where it can be demonstrated that the building is not needed for agricultural use the conversion of rural buildings to other uses for economic development purposes will be permitted where all the following criteria are met:

1) Their form, bulk and general design are in keeping with the character of the surrounding countryside.

2) The proposed use is acceptable in terms of its impact on the surrounding area and the local highway network.

3) It can be demonstrated through a structural survey that the building is capable of conversion.

4) Any alterations associated with the conversion would not be detrimental to the distinctive character of the building (or its setting), its historic fabric or features.

5) If the building forms part of a complex of agricultural or industrial buildings, a comprehensive strategy is put forward which shows the effects on the use of the remaining complex, and on any listed buildings and their settings.

6) Where the building currently contains protected species, mitigation should be provided.

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Farm Diversification                                                                          

10.6 The NPPF requires that planning policy should promote the development and diversification of agricultural and other land-based rural businesses.

10.7 The Council wishes to support proposals for diversification that will strengthen and protect the productive base of the farm unit that allows the farmer to continue to farm. An example would be a farm retail unit. The Council will expect an outline farm plan to be submitted with any planning application, indicating how the new diversification schemes integrates with and contributes to the overall business plan for the farm. By granting planning consent for acceptable diversification projects, the Council is indicating its long term support for a continuing viable agricultural community in Thanet.

10.8 However, farm diversification projects have the potential to result in adverse effects, for example, traffic and landscape impacts, and the depletion of financial and land resources. Applicants will therefore need to carefully assess the implications of new proposals, both for their own benefit, and to enable the Council to give support to acceptable and viable schemes.

The following seeks to achieve this balance:

Policy E17 - Farm Diversification

Proposals to diversify the range of economic activities on a farm will be permitted if all the following criteria are met:

1) The proposal is complementary to the agricultural operations on the farm, and is operated as part of the farm holding.

2) There would be no irreversible loss of best and most versatile agricultural land.

3) The likely traffic generation could be safely accommodated on the local highway network.

Proposals should where possible utilise available existing farm buildings.

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Best and most versatile agricultural land

10.9 The Agricultural Land Classification system (ALC) provides a method for assessing the quality of farmland to enable informed choices to be made about its future use within the planning system and the presence of best and most versatile agricultural land should be taken into account alongside other sustainability considerations when determining planning applications.

10.10 The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires that planning authorities should take into account the economic and other benefits of best and most versatile land. Where significant development of agricultural land is demonstrated to be necessary, local planning authorities should seek to use areas of poorer quality. The majority of agricultural land in Thanet is best and most versatile and therefore the following policy applies.

Policy E18 – Best and Most Versatile Agricultural Land

Except on sites allocated for development by virtue of other policies in this Plan, planning permission will not be granted for development which would result in the irreversible loss of best and most versatile agricultural land unless it can be clearly demonstrated that:

1) the benefits of the proposed development outweigh the harm resulting from the loss of agricultural land, and

2) there are no otherwise suitable sites of poorer agricultural quality that can accommodate the development.

Applications for solar parks on best and most versatile agricultural land should comply with Policy CC07 - Solar Parks

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Agricultural related development

10.11 The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires that Local Plans support the needs of the food production industry. Agricultural related businesses are those that are not part of a farm business, such as producing and packing operations. These value adding operations are an important part of the rural economy but their scale and location should respect the character and appearance of the rural area.

Policy E19 - Agricultural Related Development

Development related to the agricultural industry will be approved subject to landscape, traffic and other planning considerations, and the scale of the development being acceptable.

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