Some 150 residents attended a meeting at Birchington Village Centre on Friday (September 14) to discuss Thanet’s Draft Local Plan and its impact on the village.
The draft plan – a blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure on the isle up until 2031 – is currently out for public consultation after being approved in July for the publication and public comment stage.
Many residents are concerned at the number of houses proposed for the isle.
A total of 17,140 homes are earmarked for completion by 2031. Of that number 2,182 have already been built (up to March 2018) with 4,500 scheduled for delivery by 2021; 5,500 between 2021 and 2026 and 5,585 between 2026 and 2031. A proportion of these already have planning permission – 4,294 – some are ‘windfall’ sites – 2250- and 357 are empty homes. Around 8939 still need to be accounted for.
A vote aimed at retaining aviation at Manston airport-a U-turn on the mixed-use development including 2,500 homes that was recommended in a version of the draft plan voted down in January – means the 2,500 homes have been reallocated to new sites.
The reallocation resulted in an extra 600 homes for Birchington, making a total of 1,600.
At the meeting, hosted by Birchington Parish Council, chairman Neville Hudson presented a thorough run down of the current draft and gave residents the information they needed to submit objections during the consultation which ends on October 4.
BPC member Phil Fellows (pictured) said: “Everyone had their own concerns and we heard some very passionate feelings from residents on how they think their lives and the village will be affected by the impact of the proposed mass development of the greenfields surrounding Birchington.
“There was also a presentation from John Barar about the forthcoming Neighbourhood Plan being put together in Birchington to try to negate the impact of the mass housing and the importance of input from residents on that. BPC thanks everyone for coming along.”
The question of water supplies
Mr Barar and the neighbourhood plan committee have also drawn up a report on how the local plan could affect the provision of water.
Mr Barar said: “The water in East Kent is sourced mainly from aquifers. About 93% of our water is supplied by this method which relies on rainfall percolating through the ground, eventually collecting in the aquifers. The south east is the driest area of the UK with some years having less than 500mm of rain.
“The local plan has 18,000 to possibly 21,000 new homes in Thanet. Assuming each dwelling has on average 3 occupants, using the lower figure the population of Thanet will increase by 54,000. At present the population stands at roughly 140,000 and will increase by about 38.5%. Using Southern Water’s own figures each person uses on average 178 litres per day. Multiply this figure by 365 days in the year and then by 54,000 new inhabitants we will require a further 3,508,380,000 litres of water in an area which is already water stressed.
“Where will this extra water come from? We have no control over rainfall so what plans are in place?
“Recent local plan presentations have not provided definitive answers. Building a new reservoir or piping water long distances from other areas of the UK would involve tremendous financial outlay so the issue has been largely ignored. We need to have plans in place rather than the “build first, worry about that later” attitude that seems to prevail. In the event of water shortages it will be the consumers who would be expected to either pay more to discourage use or have restrictions imposed upon them.”
Comment on the Draft Local Plan
The draft Local Plan, passed by councillors in July, is now open to public comment for 6 weeks, running up until 5pm on Thursday, October 4. The comments received on the Local Plan at this stage will be sent directly to the Planning Inspector for consideration. Anyone who does provide feedback at this stage may be invited to speak at the public examination of the Plan, expected to begin in February 2019.