Kent Design Guide Consultation
- Meeting of Strategic Environment Cabinet Committee, Thursday, 9 December 2021 7.30 pm (Item 86.)
- View the background to item 86.
The Committee were informed that the consultation was being run online by KCC and was available at https://letstalk.kent.gov.uk/kentdesignguide and the Kent Design Guide was available at https://kentdg.wpengine.com/ as an interactive website.
The Assistant Director (Planning) gave Members an overview of the consultation and outlined the key points concerning the Kent Design Guide.
- The draft Kent Design Guide followed the format of design guidance that was set out in the National Design Guidance published in 2019. It was predominantly set design guidance around 10 key characteristics that were there to help shape spaces and communities
- The districts of Kent were working together to reinvigorate the Kent Design Guide through the consultation but it had taken a long time as different Councils wanted different things and various Council already had their own guides in place for such things as parking standards or cycling and walking etc
- The Kent Design Guide acted as an overarching framework which gave some degree of certainty to developers who desired consistency across Kent; developers didn’t like that each Council may have different standards which created more work for the developers to follow each districts standard. The Kent Design Guide allowed them to know what rules were in place and what was expected of them as a minimum
- Gravesham had its own page on the Kent Design Guide website which showed the Borough in a positive light
- The Assistant Director (Planning) highlighted that the website includes new Kent parking guidance due to be adopted in Spring 2022. She brought this to Member’s attention as KCC@s assumption was that these would supersede all other parking standards including the SPG4 which is the adopted standard used by Gravesham
- Another issue was whether or not Gravesham could adopt the Guide as it was fluid document; that meant that Gravesham might agree with the document on day one and adopt it but some time after the document could change and the Council may be inherently supporting a document that was now unsuitable for Gravesham
- Version document control would also be key as the policy had to be locked in place for planning appeals
The Assistant Director (Planning) advised that the consultation was due to finish on 17 January 2022 and Members could request for more generalised comments to be submitted to the consultation if they wished.
In response to Members questions, the Assistant Director (Planning) explained that:
- The decision to adopt the guide was down to the administration but it wasn’t unreasonable to endorse a certain version of the fluid document and clarify what the Council accepted and what wasn’t accepted. That way would allow for some manoeuvrability if the original document that was endorsed was significantly changed from what was agreed
- The Council had had issues in the past with other documents such as ‘Growth without Gridlock’ which the Council largely supported but couldn’t support the part regarding the Lower Thames Crossing. The Assistant Director (Planning) agreed to raise the issue of the Council only agreeing to a certain version of the document if there were later changes that the Council couldn’t support, in the consultation
- Gravesham were asked to give material for the web page but the Council did not provide any information for case studies as it was not known what criteria KCC used to determine case studies. Further clarification would need to be sought from KCC with regards to the decision making aspects. In the past there was a Kent Design Partnership which Kevin Burbidge was apart of and all decisions were made through that Board but that was when the County had Strategy Planning responsibilities i.e. development of the Structure Plan and this is no longer the case
- The website and the approach were completely new and it needed to be viewed in a fresh manner to see if the new style guide met the needs of officers, Members and developers. The Assistant Director (Planning) advised that the new Assistant Director (Strategic Regeneration) was a practical architect and his advice would be key in determining how useful the policy was and if it would allow for better planning applications to be submitted
- The Assistant Director (Planning) assumed that the response submitted regarding the Kent Design Guide would be submitted on behalf of the whole Council, not individually although it was up to Members if the response was Member led or officer led. A Kent Chief Planners meeting was scheduled for next week to provide informal advice and the Kent Chief Planners were a key stakeholder for the Kent Design Guide
- The national design guide was guidance only but the Government had made it clear in their own guidance that the model should be given weight in the planning system. Members could endorse the guide as formal guidance or formally adopt it as guidance; the issue underpinning the most recent guidance was that it expected all Councils to have their own local design guides. The Leader had previously highlighted the approach taken in Ebbsfleet and felt something similar should be progressed by Gravesham
- With regards to promoting the Councils own developments, the Assistant Director (Planning) advised that once developments such as those at Valley Drive, Whitehill and the Charter were completed they would be put forward for case study as they were strong promotions of the Councils best developments and affordable housing
- The Assistant Director (Planning) agreed to look into the five key principles listed under ‘Suitable Designs’ and check to see if they had been referenced against the Councils climate change ambitions and if they were robust enough
Members thanked the Assistant Director (Planning) for an informative presentation.