Revised draft Local Plan ditches zones and bypasses proposals

After more than 2,000 people gave 24,000 individual views on Canterbury City Council’s last draft Local Plan, its Cabinet is to be asked for permission to consult on a revised version later this month.

The draft Canterbury District Local Plan To 2040, which builds on feedback from the three previous consultations including the last one held in October 2022, is contained in a report to Cabinet published today (Friday 1 March).

Once formally adopted by the council and after being approved by a government-appointed Planning Inspector, the Canterbury District Local Plan To 2040 will form Canterbury City Council’s official planning blueprint for the following 15 years, allocating land for new homes, jobs, new schools, primary care facilities and capacity and community infrastructure as well as new rules designed to boost biodiversity, protect valued open spaces over the long term, minimise its contribution to climate change while mitigating against it effects and improving the quality and density of development.

Following a huge amount of work by a cross-party working group of councillors, which spent more than 50 hours over 16 sessions examining consultation feedback and vast amounts of evidence, the new draft is different to the last by proposing:

  • removal of the proposed Canterbury Circulation Plan which contained the suggestion that the city should be zoned
  • to remove the proposal for an Eastern Movement Corridor, better known as the Eastern Bypass, in Canterbury
  • removal of the proposed strategic site to the east of Canterbury which provided land for a part of the Eastern Movement Corridor and funding
  • remove the use of Rough Common Road as part of an outer city ring road
  • to reduce the plan period by five years to cover the period to 2040 rather than 2045
  • a fall in the number of new homes proposed to be built by a total of 4,149 – from 13,495 to 9,346 over the life of this plan compared to the previous draft plan period
  • to remove the proposal for a new settlement at Cooting Farm near Adisham

A raft of proposals have also been added to the draft or strengthened, including:

  • putting tackling climate change and boosting biodiversity even more firmly at the heart of the plan
  • more protection for the Blean Woodland and Old Park
  • a draft transport strategy that now focuses on better bus services as well as the promotion of walking and cycling to help people to leave their cars at home, rather than building more roads
  • prioritisation of brownfield development sites such as Wincheap
  • a renewed emphasis on monitoring, compliance and enforcement around new developments
  • a new settlement on land to the north of the University of Kent in Canterbury which can build on transport links and includes a new primary school

Leader of Canterbury City Council, Cllr Alan Baldock, said: “There was an absolutely enormous response to the last draft of the Local Plan and some of the ideas it contained.

“Those views have been listened to and, thanks to the work of the cross-party councillor working group, we’ve made some radical changes to the new draft.

“These include removing the idea of zoning the city, taking out plans for an eastern bypass along with the proposed sites in the east of the city that were needed to pay for it, and ditching plans for thousands of homes at Cooting Farm in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) next to Adisham.

“Among the thousands and thousands of responses to the last draft, there was widespread and heartfelt support for many of the policies designed to protect the environment and fight climate changes.

“We’ve kept those in this draft and in many cases have strengthened them.

“The council is working to a government-imposed deadline of 30 June next year to get this plan over the line so we’re keen to hear everyone’s views and will be working hard to give people the opportunity to have their say.

“People can rest assured that all of the responses we received in the consultation we carried out in October 2022 have been carefully analysed and will be shared with the planning inspector that will eventually examine this plan.

“Finally, thank you to the endless hours of work put in by the working group and thank you to officers too. Large amounts of work went into the last draft and a large amount of work has gone into this one too – it’s not often you have to produce two draft Local Plans in the space of two years.”

The draft plan is designed to deliver a swathe of new facilities and infrastructure across the district including:


  • four new primary schools
  • a new Special Educational Needs and Disabilities school to serve the district
  • land and transport links to support future improvements at the Kent and Canterbury hospital
  • new and improved waste water treatment works, with major developments building their own waste water treatment works to clean water, plus innovative schemes such as wetlands in place to clean water emanating from smaller sites
  • new developments at relatively low average densities outside of the city and town centres, with open space requirements met in full within the site for large proposals, providing spacious and well-designed new communities
  • measures to ensure the district’s heritage assets, which make a significant contribution to the economy, culture and quality of life in the district, are preserved and enhanced
  • the delivery of the highest-quality digital infrastructure, including Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) broadband and support for the highest possible standards of mobile data networks
  • improved public transport connectivity across the city, with bus priority measures, enhanced park and ride infrastructure and upgrades at Canterbury West and Canterbury East railway stations
  • new developments should ensure easy and safe pedestrian and cycle connectivity is available including segregated cycle lanes with high levels of connectivity to the wider network, both within and between neighbourhoods
  • new developments should be designed to help improve the air quality of the district as a whole
  • upgrades at the A2 junction at Harbledown and at Rough Common Road
  • new A2 access to the Kent and Canterbury Hospital and links to the A28 at Thanington


  • 16ha of new publicly-accessible sports pitches and new and improved facilities for Canterbury Rugby Club and Canterbury City Football Club – an international-sized football pitch is about 0.8ha
  • enhanced public realm and pedestrian environment on key routes and within the city centre
  • focus on brownfield urban development where viable


  • two new six-form entry secondary schools with sixth forms
  • the delivery of a comprehensive network of cycle routes and cycle parking infrastructure, with links to the city and rural areas
  • the provision of a park and bus facility and new A299 access at Whitstable, completion of the Crab and Winkle Way to the harbour and improvements to the public realm to improve the town centres


  • commitment to supporting Neighbourhood Plans as a method to engage local knowledge and opinion
  • maintaining the character of rural settlements through sensitive growth
  • a new reservoir at Broad Oak to include a new country park
  • extra protection for the Blean and Old Park
  • strengthened policies on the use of agricultural land and change of use for energy and carbon sequestration purposes

The draft plan also works hard to enhance the environment and tackle climate change including:

  • developers being required to incorporate measures to deliver a minimum 20% biodiversity net gain
  • new developments of 300 homes or more being required to incorporate a minimum of 20% tree cover across the site and all developments should incorporate new trees and hedgerows
  • 153ha of new publicly-accessible open space including natural space, parks, allotments and play facilities
  • Kent’s first Sustainable Design Guide Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) which pushes developers to build carbon neutral homes
  • measures to comprehensively upgrade the district’s bus, rail and walking and cycling networks, to reduce the reliance on cars and provide the infrastructure needed to enable more low carbon, healthy journeys
  • measures, such as the provision of electric charging infrastructure, shared transport initiatives, improved active travel connectivity as well as green infrastructure such as green roofs and walls, hedges and street trees to help to reduce air pollution and exposure

The current Local Plan, the Canterbury District Local Plan, was adopted in July 2017.

A number of complex factors have to be taken into account when formulating a Local Plan including the need to demonstrate it will deliver the number of homes the government decides the district needs using a calculation known as the standard methodology.

Cllr Baldock said: “The number of homes we need to deliver is driven by a government formula based on data from 2014, which is a source of great frustration to councillors from across the political spectrum and across the country. That needs to change.

“Just as they did before the last draft Local Plan, government announcements about housing numbers have only served to muddy the waters and have given people false hope that the council can limit the numbers of housing being built because they are only advisory, that councils can plead exceptional circumstances, like an area’s character, to protect the countryside and agricultural land.

“As is always the way, the devil is in the detail and you have to look beyond the soundbites.

“The rules we have to follow have not changed and if we do not decide where houses are built and what infrastructure they should come with by the government’s deadline, a government-appointed planning inspector will instead.”

When pulling together a Local Plan, officers must ensure the process follows the appropriate legislation, there is robust expert evidence to justify a particular decision and the views of key statutory stakeholders have been taken into account, such as Kent County Council which is the lead authority on issues like transport and education.

The views of the public must also be taken into account.

The new draft of the Local Plan has been informed by the following extensive public consultations as well as continuous engagement with stakeholders including:

  • a consultation on the issues the council ought to consider in reviewing its plan in the summer of 2020
  • a further consultation exploring a number of possible options to tackle those issues in the summer of 2021
  • a 12-week consultation in October 2022 under Regulation 18 on the previous draft Canterbury District Local Plan To 2040

The report to Cabinet states: “The feedback from all of these previous consultations, including the proposed new Regulation 18 consultation, will be included in the final submission to the Planning Inspector for consideration.

“Views expressed previously will therefore form a part of the overall decision-making process and show where the council has adjusted its thinking based on people’s consultation responses.”

Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) like Canterbury City Council are required by the government to provide a long-term Local Plan that sets out how it will meet the district’s development needs in the future.

The report to Cabinet states: “The government dictates Local Plans need to be reviewed every five years and has set a deadline of 30 June 2025 for the district’s next plan to be submitted.

“Failure to meet this deadline would lead to government intervention and potential penalties.

“It is important to note that not having a Local Plan does not mean development cannot take place.

“In fact, without a plan, our planners and/or Planning Committee may find they are unable to resist some developments they deem unacceptable – because, in their view, they will be in the wrong place or have insufficient community infrastructure.

“If they refuse development that accords with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), they may find their decision overturned on appeal by a Planning Inspector with further avoidable associated court costs incurred.

“Failure to adopt a Local Plan could mean central government steps in to write one for the council including the policies that decide where growth or development will take place.

“They will then dictate the quantity, quality and density of new development and the rules our planners and Planning Committee would follow in making future decisions.”

The Cabinet will make its decision on whether to carry out the 12-week consultation during a special meeting at 7pm on Monday 11 March at the Guildhall in St Peter’s Place, Canterbury.

Published: 1 March 2024

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