Planning history has been made by a Kent district council which is the first in England to win government approval for key policy documents under the new-look local development plan system.
The planning authority celebrating this success is Maidstone Borough Council which has been told by the Planning Inspectorate that two of its Draft Development Documents, produced as part of the Local Development Framework (LDF) process are "sound".
The documents – one on affordable housing and the other on open space - were the subject of an independent examination earlier this year.
Maidstone took the unusual step of producing these draft policy documents in advance of its core LDF strategy because the council was already planning to set out new policies in these areas to meet priorities in the borough.
The council argued that its existing adopted development plan provided an adequate Core Strategy to allow work to proceed on both policies.
The new affordable housing policy seeks to negotiate a minimum of 40 per cent affordable housing for all sites of 15 units or more or larger than 0.5 hectares. Some 60 per cent of this provision will be used to provide socially-rented affordable housing.
The new open space policy lowers the threshold for requiring open space contributions and enables that threshold to be applied to eight types of open space identified in the borough.
Michael Thornton, the council's planning policy and environment manager, said: "As well as allowing us to make rapid progress on local priorities, we recognised that preparing two smaller development policy documents (DPDs) at the same time, focusing on single policies in advance of the core strategy would be a great opportunity for us to get to know the LDF system. It allowed us to learn lessons that will smooth the path for the preparation of larger documents."
12 October 2006