The following is my recollection of some of the key points addressed at the public meeting in the church last night:
- Councillor Tony Shoults explained the progress of the Neighbourhood Plan (NP). There has already been widespread consultation and draft plans have been drawn up featuring possible development in the village over the next 20 years – in order that we should produce an evidence-based plan. Imperial College, the largest landowner in the area, have said that they will take a lot of notice of the NP. However we should recognise that Imperial’s principle aim is to make money from its assets (including Wye 3) in order to fund its educational objectives.
- Councillor Shoults explained that the plan would have to conform to planning rules and would also have to be approved by at least 50% of the village in a referendum. He explained that it has cost £17,500 so far and the majority of this money has come from the council’s reserves – a decision having been made by councillors not to use the annual parish precept for this purpose.
- Councillor Shoults said that it was vital that people should let the Neighbourhood Plan Planning Group (NPPG) know what they think – in order that the plan can prove involvement of the community (as is required for Neighbourhood Plans) and that the final version has a chance of passing referendum.
- Mark Hanton, the landscape architect who has been commissioned to draw up the draft plans for the village, explained the context of the NP. He explained that housing allocation is passed down from central government and is then assigned by Ashford Borough Council to particular areas. Wye was allocated 45 houses in phase 1 (up to 2015) of the Tenterden and Rural sites Development Plan (Wye 1 and Wye 2) but no houses were allocated in phase 2 (up to 2021) because of uncertainty concerning the Imperial College site (Wye 3).
- Ashford will publish their new core strategy in 2014. This will set down allocations and policy until 2030. The NPPG’s intention is to influence this core strategy through an evidence-based process.
- Mark Hanton explained that the Imperial draft Masterplan of 300 houses would see 16 houses per year constructed on the Wye 3 site every year up until 2030. Recently the village has constructed 7/8 houses a year. He talked through the NPPG’s two options for Wye 3: option 1 featuring 58-74 units (3 houses a year to 2030); and option 2 featuring 113-145 units (7/8 houses a year to 2030).
- Councillor Andy Macfee explained that, as an architect, he does have experience of sitting on the developers’ side of the table. It is his opinion that Imperial bought Wye College as a financial rather than an educational investment, and that they will pursue every avenue to realize that investment.
- He said that he thought that the 300 houses proposed by Imperial at this juncture were far more acceptable than the thousands that had been suggested for Wye Park – but that 300 was still too many, given the infrastructure constraints of the village.
- Yet the fact that it is more credible makes it in some ways more difficult to oppose. It was up to us, through the Neighbourhood Plan, to unite behind a credible and evidence-based alternative – acceptable for the village, ABC and, indeed, to Imperial (who would dismiss anything that was too low.) Andy MacFee presentation 20 May
After a number of questions from the floor which are documented on Wyeweb, the meeting closed at 9.30 pm.
In order to facilitate access to the draft Neighbourhood Plans, I’m posting them as a page on this site. They will always be available on the top lefthand side of the page. (And Mark Hanton has also sent me some feedback from Workshop 4 which is also now on this page.)