Countryside life in Kent: Plan for Progress

PUBLISHED: 11:39 21 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:55 20 February 2013

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Countryside life in Kent: Plan for Progress

Plan for progress


With nearly 30 per cent of Kents population living in rural areas, villages should be actively encouraged to plan their own Local Development Framework


The current planning system can act as a brake on much-needed development in the countryside in the misplaced belief that this helps communities and the environment. The result is that some rural communities have become unsustainable because of restrictions to economic development.

According to Kent Rural Network, nearly 30 per cent of Kents population lives in rural parts of the county more than 390,000 people. The average in the south east is just 22 per cent. Whats more, some 38 per cent of Kents businesses are rurally based.

A pivotal issue is the definition of sustainable development, to which the Government says it is committed. Sustainability needs to be a balanced interaction between the economy, community and the environment.

Environmentally good land management produces a valuable backdrop for inward investment and tourism, but the management can only be sustained on the back of profitable use of land and buildings.

This use generates jobs and incomes which lead to the need for housing in all rural settlements, remote or not. This housing, if allowed, supports retention of rural services and maintenance of the landscape.

Planning authorities sometimes find this hard to grasp. Officers often have little understanding of the rural environment and decisions are made based on existing services and a mantra often set out in policy that the countryside is protected for its own sake.

Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark, the Minister for Decentralisation, is passionate to promote the coalitions localism agenda, which is encouraging.

The idea of allowing villages to plan their own Local Development Framework subject to the support of 75 per cent of the community, is a refreshing change from the dead hand of bureaucracy weve lived with for so long.

Another change is the abolition of our Regional Development Agency, SEEDA. The White Paper, published in November 2010, ratified the local Enterprise Partnership. The LEP is intended to be a partnership between business and the public sector.

These partnerships will be given the powers over planning infrastructure and inward investment. There will be a duty to cooperate over planning between different local authorities.

Kent will team up with East Sussex and Greater Essex, one of the first 24 approved LEPs nationwide, out of 62. But funding will be limited and the Regional Growth Fund is a much smaller pot than the RDAs had at its disposal.

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