21 December 2020

Strategic Planning
Maidstone Borough Council

21 December 2020

Dear Sir / Madam,

Maidstone Borough Council: Local Plan Review Regulation 18b Preferred Approach.

Policy SP4(b) Development North M2 / Lidsing

I am writing on behalf of the Medway Green Party to strongly object to any proposal to identify agricultural land around the hamlet of Lidsing as a future ‘garden village’.

The site is adjacent to the Medway Council Area and part of a swathe of open countryside that was intended to link the Kent North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with the Medway Estuary.

We recognize that recent misguided pressure, from Central Government to build more and more houses, has led to a frenzy of planning applications being made on agricultural land all over the South East of England.

Maidstone Borough Council, no doubt, now realize and acknowledge that the philosophy driving the demand to build more houses in the South East was mistaken and the housing need assessment algorithm generating the numerical demand was totally ill-conceived.

The Government has now had the good sense to recognize the errors associated with their previous housing policy and on Wednesday 16 December, 2020 issued details of a new policy that while creating homes for people to live in, will address many of the social problems and inequalities in society that have been highlighted by the current Covid-19 pandemic.

During the current pandemic we have realised how fragile our food supply chain is and in a post Brexit Britain we will need every square metre of available farmland to grow or own food.

The new housing policy calls on Local Authorities to make the most of vacant buildings and underused land in order to protect green spaces, with a focus for building on previously developed sites.

This approach will protect our farmland and at the same time make our urban areas more viable in terms of community with people once more living in our towns and cities. It will also help us to make our journeys more environmentally friendly, reduce carbon emissions and improve our air quality.

A housing needs assessment designed around population growth rather than mutant algorithms would show that Maidstone Borough Council needs to build many fewer houses than are currently shown in the Local Plan.

The population growth assessment produced by the Office for National Statistics suggests that Maidstone Borough Council would need to build 574 houses per year.

According to information from the House of Commons Library, 1,192 houses per year have been built in Maidstone over the past three years.

Apart from how many houses we build, what is more important for the future is how we build. The current Building Regulations are inadequate and we urgently need to reinstate the standard of insulation and construction that the previous Labour Government introduced under the UK Code for Sustainable Homes.

We were on track to be building net zero carbon houses by 2016. In the years between the policy being scrapped by the previous Coalition Government, millions of houses have been built that will now need to be expensively retrofitted to meet our international binding commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050.

The need to retrofit virtually every single building that has ever been built, is a salutary recognition that not only helps us appreciate the naivety of constructing buildings with such a reliance on fossil fuels to make them tolerable, but the accumulative impact on our environment and health.

The Royal Institute of British Architects and other professional institutes are calling on the Government to legislate for all new buildings to be net zero carbon from now on. The longer this change to our construction methods is left, the more expensive will be the measures needed to rectify it.

Local authorities may not have the ability to produce their own building regulations, but planners can encourage house builders to facilitate retrofitting, by appropriate good design.

Yours faithfully,

Bernard Hyde. DipArch.RIBA.DipTP
On behalf of Medway Green Party

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