Draft minutes of the Parish Meeting January 2016



Present: John Lowings, Mark Wilson, Pete Watts, Jocelyn Craig, Sarah Ellison, Brian Bristow, John Atkins, Geraldine Dyer and Catherine Stanley (Clerk).

132 Parishioners were present.

1.         APOLOGIES

Gill Bromley and Cliff Ridley

Mark Withers


John welcomed Parishioners to the meeting and thanked Gwen and Sue Brooker at the Zion Chapel for the use of the Chapel this evening.

Catherine gave an update on the correspondence which had passed between Gladman and the Parish Council. Catherine explained that they had repeatedly asked for a ‘closed meeting’ with the Parish Council to discuss the site. This was refused as the Parish Council do not participate in closed meetings.

John urged Parishioners to send the Parish Council a copy of their letter of objection to Gladman as there will be no independent audit of letters that Gladman receive.


John explained that this matter is a planning issue and although there is currently no formal planning application to consider at this stage there may well be later on. The emerging Local Plan is currently undergoing the draft process with Ashford Borough Council (“ABC”) and the land adjoining the Charter Hall is a green field site and would not receive planning permission for development at this moment in time.

Sarah gave an overview of the process that has taken place over the last three years and which will result in a Local Plan for the Borough of Ashford of which Smarden Parish is part of.

In 2013 ABC issued a call for sites direct to all landowners via local papers, contact with landowners that had previously been in touch with ABC regarding development on their land, and other channels.  This call for sites bypassed all Parish Councils and the Parish Council were then notified once this period had ended of all the sites that had been put forward.  The Parish Council were then asked  by ABC to facilitate a Parish Exhibition in the Charter Hall for Parishioners to see the sites that had been put forward and for everyone to give their views on the sites and have their say. ABC advertised this event through the same channels that they advertised all similar events in all the villages, and in addition the Parish Council put notices up in the village shops, local doctors, pubs, parish notice boards, parish magazine etc.   This took place in May 2014.  It is the result of this consultation which was forwarded to ABC with the purpose of forming the basis of their local plan to 2030 in each Parish.

In October 2014 the Parish Council received a letter from the Planning Policy Manager of ABC informing us that the Council had carried out an initial appraisal of housing sites in rural areas based on a series of objective environmental and social criteria such as how close the site is to local services such as GP’s, Schools and shops and if the site is within any designated areas such as conservation areas, wildlife sites and flood zones.  This has resulted in a list of sites in various rural settlements in the Borough which may be appropriate to allocate for general demand housing development in the Local Plan and are therefore worthy of further more detailed assessment.  The short listed sites in Smarden are: WN4 land adjacent to Village Hall and WN6 Ware Field.  These sites are not proposed to be a definite list of Local Plan site allocations.  The final list of proposed site allocations to be included in the new local plan will only be determined after highways, water companies etc. have been consulted and the Parish Council are now waiting for the draft document which will show whether these sites have been taken forward.

It has been possible for landowners to submit sites after the cut-off date and the Parish Council do believe this has happened in Smarden, such as the land known as the ‘Scrimshaw Wright land’ which is at the end of Chessenden Lane to the right.  The Parish Council currently do not know the status of this land in terms of the Local Plan, but have had some developers in touch regarding building 10 affordable dwellings, rent and shared equity and 5 age related affordable dwellings.   Clearly this style of development would be called an exception site, and is not subject to the Local Plan.   However if the land appeared in the Local Plan it would open it up for open market housing.  The Parish Council are waiting for confirmation of what designation this land has.  Only a proportion of the land would be required for the Local Needs dwellings but clearly the Parish Council need to understand its designation as if it appears in the Local Plan it could be further developed into open market housing.

Furthermore the site in Mill Lane which came out as the first choice in Smarden can be taken back to ABC on Appeal by the landowner during the next stage as this was discounted at the first stage by ABC

As an aside this Local Plan will not only contain all development sites that are approved in the Borough but will contain all planning and building regulations, and will be a one stop shop for everything to do with building and planning in the borough.  The size of the task has inevitably resulted in delays.

At the moment the Parish Council have a publishing date of late April / early May of this draft document.  Once this document is out for public scrutiny, Parish Councils, Parishioners and interested parties, will have an eight week period to respond in writing to their recommendations.  There will also be a further consultation and exhibition in the villages that have been allocated development.  Depending on the number of affected villages and the level of objections this might engender, it would either be village specific or perhaps two villages at the same exhibition.  The Local Plan to 2030 is a document which should represent in the main the wishes of the Parishes in the Borough and as a result of the exhibitions in 2014 tempered with the need for building in the right places with the right infrastructure.  A democratic process will be considered to have taken place.

This eight week period will also be an opportunity for those landowners who put sites forward which have now been discounted to appeal the decision. (Such as the site in Mill Lane which came out as the Parishes preferred site, but ABC discounted).    The Parish Council do not know for sure whether Smarden will be granted any additional building at this moment in time, the Parish Council are simply assuming the Parish will get some development.  The Parish Council have to bear in mind in the Parish there are already approximately 8 barns of various sizes approved for conversion to homes in the Parish with more waiting decisions.  There are three small new homes approved in the Village Street for build and two larger houses approved for build on the outskirts of the Parish,  so the Parish Council are already fairly proactive on New Builds.

The site under discussion tonight is on the land next to the village hall which the parish consultation suggested was acceptable provided it was for some development away from the Charter Hall.   The Gladman proposal which has been put forward is clearly totally against all that the Parish Council have put forward to the local plan and is not what is wanted.  Sarah reported that she has spoken at length on various occasions regarding this to ABC and reported the following:  ABC are aware of Gladman and have told Gladman that the Local Plan is due out at the end of April or early May for the Borough.  The Local Plan consultation will include policies for the sites they wish to take forward with development numbers.  If Gladman choose to submit a planning application prior to this the application will be assessed against their current adopted policies including TRS1 – Minor Development and Infilling.  An application of this size does not meet the criteria and would likely be refused.  Gladman may try to suggest that ABC do not have a 5 year housing land supply to counter this policy however ABC’s position is that they do have a five year supply of land.    Gladman might then decide to take this application to Appeal and this appeal would likely came in after the Draft local plan was published at the end of April.   An Inspector would see that ABC had an emerging plan and this development clearly did not fit the criteria.  ABC feel that at the current time they have not received anything from Gladman and they would struggle to achieve all this before the Draft Local Plan is published.   Sarah confirmed that from the Parish Council’s experience with Appeals, there is usually a 6 month delay from the lodging of an appeal to the appeal being heard at least.  All this being said no one can see into the future but ABC do feel they could fight any development trying to circumnavigate the Local Plan, and the Parish Council would certainly do the same if this is what the Parish want.

Parishioners will recall that they did confirm they would like the opportunity for one or two small developments of open market housing to fit a certain criteria within the village spread over a couple of  sites which it is hoped should be reflected in the Local Plan when it is published in late April early May.   This does not include Local Needs Housing which is built on exception sites such as Dadson Court and Ashenden.  The Parish Council have to demonstrate a need for this and it is a totally separate issue and one which will continue to be discussed at the Parish Council.

John thanked Sarah.


The recent Gladman proposal for the land adjoining the Charter Hall has concerned a number of Parishioners and the following comments were made by Parishioners:

Stephanie Atkins who is the Chair of the Governors of Smarden Primary School advised that the Executive Head Teacher has stated that the School cannot accommodate the number of children who may be associated with such a large scale development put forward by Gladman.

It was thought that it would be beneficial to ask ABC what will be in the Local Plan given that there are extenuating circumstances.

The Parish needs to be prepared for an Appeal

It was questioned whether the existence of a Smarden Neighbourhood Plan would be of assistance. It was thought that this was something for which grants are available.

It was suggested by one Parishioner that any response to the Gladman proposal should be sent as soon as possible. It was suggested that direct questions should be posed showing clear flaws in the proposal.

John Atkins queried what effect the Neighbourhood Plan would have on the speed of the emerging Local Plan. It was feared that it could cause delay and that this would be counterproductive to the opposition to the Gladman proposal.

There was a show of hands to support a Neighbourhood Plan.

It was agreed that the Parish Council would try and find out more about a possible Neighbourhood Plans and how helpful it may be in this situation.

John urged Parishioners to send in their letters of objection and to copy them to the Parish Council.

Another application of concern was raised which was the proposed Business Park on land off Bell Lane (15/01574/AS). It was agreed to discuss it at the Parish Council meeting which would follow immediately after this meeting. It was thought likely that the Parish Council would object.

It was agreed that there Parish Magazine article would be amended to advise Parishioners how they can sign up for ‘daily alerts’ from ABC.

John thanked everyone for coming tonight.

There being no further business the meeting closed at 9pm.