Response to Planning Inspectorate
 
APP/V2255/W/15/3067553 – London Road, Newington, Kent
Application: 15/500671/OUT
Outline application for residential development of up to 330 dwellings plus 60 units of extra care (including a minimum of 30% affordable), an allocated 1/4 acre of serviced land for potential doctors surgery, demolition of farm outbuilding, planting and landscaping, informal open space, children's play area, surface water attenuation, a vehicular access point from London Road and associated ancillary works. (Access being sought)
Application 15/500694/LBC
Listed Building Consent for the demolition of redundant farm outbuildings to the listed Pond Farm, in association with outline application for residential development covered under 15/500671/OUT
 
Newington Parish Council would like to submit the following objections to the above application:
 
The site is outside both the current and the emerging Local Plans for Swale.  Pond Farm has never been considered suitable for development.  Indeed the planning application is contrary to policies E1 and H2.  Under the terms of the National Planning Policy Framework the site is not sustainable and the application is contrary to the Development Plan and the NPPF.
 
Pond Farm is a working farm with ‘best and most versatile’ soil, ‘mineral rich’, fronted by buildings which are integral to ‘classic’ setting of the historic Pond Farm and its Grade II listed farmhouse; the pattern is part of Kentish heritage, with few examples still remaining. The Local Plan would never countenance the removal of listed buildings such as these.  The proposal for their demolition is merely a convenience – allowing access to the housing development that will destroy the adjacent farmland. Also, it must be considered that KCC, in their Strategic Waste and Mineral Policy, recognise the importance of the earth availability for brickearth extraction. 
 
Pond Farm is part of the ‘green belt’ between Newington and the Medway towns
 
The 2011 census shows a Newington population of 2551 in 1089 household spaces.  Since then there have been planning applications approved for 12 flats and 32 houses;  applications are currently in progress for 12 further houses, giving an organic increase in population (approx. 130 spaced over the first four years of the decade since the census), which the Parish Council believes to be right for the Village.  The Planning Application for 330 homes to replace Pond Farm would bring a sudden population increase of approximately 1000 people, representing a 40% increase in the population of the Village.  Newington Parish Council believes that the approved applications described above, those in progress and those likely in the next few years, make a contribution to the housing needs of the Borough appropriate to a village of our size and amenities.  For this reason the LDP proposed a growth of 1.3% for Newington; very different to the increase that the Gladman proposals would bring about.
 
Access and egress at the proposed Pond Farm development is directly onto the A2 London Road.  This very busy road leads westwards to Rainham, two and a half miles away, with traffic congestion at the start and end of each working day.  Travelling eastwards, the site is 400 yards from the Village centre, well-known as the narrowest part of the whole A2, where it is not possible for lorries to pass at the same time as vehicles from the opposite direction (a frequent problem due to a large cold store two miles to the west).  Traffic collisions as this point have necessitated the replacement of the pedestrian-safety railings on three occasions so far this year.  The road continues to Key Street which KCC have highlighted as a point of congestion especially at the start and end of each working day.  This junction feeds the A249 which, southbound, leads to the Stockbury roundabout, designated for a future traffic intersection with the M2 when funds permit.  This road is at standstill several times each day at this point.  Conditions will deteriorate further when ‘Operation Stack’ is in force (as it has been for much of this summer) as traffic is re-routed from the M20 along the northbound A249 to join the M2 en-route to Manston. Further south the A249 reaches a busy intersection with the M20 motorway and the route into Maidstone; again this is heavily congested in morning and evening rush hours.  Newington was seen as a priority for a bypass by KCC, due the congestion through the Village; the programme was stopped by national government in 1997.
 
The Newington Village centre is monitored for air pollution where levels of NO2 pollutant consistently exceed EEC safety limits.  The factors the applicant describes as causing this (canyon effect and congestion) are constant factors due to narrowness of the road and proximity of unbroken buildings; the Pond Farm development could only increase congestion and so cause greater harmful air pollution to pedestrians and village-centre residents.
 
Assuming a proportion of the residents of the proposed development would be primary-age children, these would have a hazardous walk to school, crossing and along the busy A2.  Probably most parents would choose to drive: increasing congestion and pollution on the A2 before hitting the standstill in Church Lane, a narrow and busy ancient thoroughfare, each morning and afternoon to reach the school.  Newington School is close to capacity (Ofsted May 2015, 184 children in 6 classes and nursery), meaning many children would have to make longer journeys to Rainham or Sittingbourne, encountering and creating further traffic congestion.  Parents choose Newington School because of its small size; any significant increase would be unpopular.
 
Public transport to and from Newington is limited: one slow train per hour to London or Dover; a poor bus service, with no buses at all on Sundays.
 
Newington does not have a doctor’s surgery or dentist.  The Gladman proposals include land for a surgery, but this would be left for a practitioner to invest. In reality the size of the development and the lack of willingness from the existing population to switch from their current doctor means this would not be an attractive option for GPs to invest in a multi-purpose health centre of the type favoured by NHS England.  We know from recent cases in Rainham and Sittingbourne that the NHS do not support single GP practices.  Our hospital, Medway Maritime Hospital, is already over-stretched and just starting to emerge from ‘special measures’
 
The draft Local Plan states: ‘(4.3.20) Newington: Despite its role and level of services, development opportunities are very limited due to the valued and important heritage, landscapes and habitats to the north of the village, poor pedestrian connections between north and south of the village, a restricted internal road network, poor air quality and surrounding high quality agricultural land’. 
 
The Parish Council believes the Inquiry will show that Newington does not have the infrastructure to support a development of the scale of the Gladman proposals.  Newington Parish Council has been led to believe that the Local Plan has the status of ‘Material Planning Consideration’ and on this basis the Gladman proposal to develop a housing estate on Pond Farm must be rejected.
 
Locally, Gladman have recently submitted a revised planning application following rejection of their initial application by the local authority and whilst referral to the Planning Inspectorate was in progress.  If the same expedient was followed with the Pond Farm application we request the Inspectorate consider the applications in tandem as, we understand, has been the case in Thaxted.
 
Newington Parish Council would like the opportunity to speak at the Inquiry.