Agenda item



Councillor Braidwood asked the Leader the following question:


“The inclusion of greenfield in the current Local Plan is negatively impacting local tenant farmers and farmer/landowners alike. Their livelihoods rely on being able to continuously farm year on year. Parcelling off sections for development reduces viability of the remaining farmland, forcing them to consider other ways of maintaining their income, including turning farmland into solar installations. This decision is a direct result of the Local Plan including land for development on our grades 1, 2 and 3 agricultural land.

 Does this administration accept this and what steps are being taken to ensure no further farmland is included in the Local Plan review even though it may be offered up in the latest call for sites?” 


The Leader responded with the following points:


·  The Council, as local planning authority, is required to meet the housing needs for the district, as identified through the Government’s housing “standard method”.

·  In the 2006 Local Plan, the Council had to meet a lower housing target and was able to allocate on largely brownfield sites. In the five years following the adoption of the Plan, over 95% of completions were on brownfield land. Partly as a result of the successful “brownfield first” approach taken in that Plan, the district does not now have a significant stock of available brownfield sites, and the 2020 Plan had to accommodate a much higher housing requirement.

·  As part of the Local Plan process, the Council carried out an extensive brownfield land search. In the absence of sufficient alternative sites to meet the housing requirements, the Council had to consider the use of farmland.

·  The Council only allocates sites that have been submitted to it through the “call for sites” process, by landowners and their land/planning agents, who sometimes already have options agreements with developers/development agents.

·  The scale of housing that needs to be met, and the extent to which agricultural land can be protected from development, are largely determined by Government guidance in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and Planning Practice Guidance (PPG).

·  In March 2023, the Council made comments in response to the Government’s consultation on the Levelling-Up & Regeneration Bill and proposed revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework. That response has been published on the Councils’ web-site.

·  In that response, the Council argued that the current housing “standard method” used by the Government to determine housing targets requires urgent review, and questioned the evidence for the Government’s annual housing target of 300,000 dwellings.

·  The Council also argued that proper protection should be provided in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for all best and most versatile farmland, pointing out that in Thanet, Grade 1 agricultural land comprises some 40% of the district area.

·  Unfortunately, both the NPPF amendments and the review of inputs to the housing “standard method” have been delayed until 2024. The extent to which local planning authorities can protect farmland in future will be determined by whatever changes the Government makes to the current guidance.


Councillor Braidwood followed up his question by asking if the council had been in touch with local farmers to ask if there were any derelict farm buildings that are no longer used, which could be renovated to provide more housing in the district?


The Leader responded that this course of action had not be ruled out, and could be looked into.