(1) Traditional farm buildings were the most numerous type of building in the countryside, contributing to local distinctiveness and sense of place for visitors and local people alike, providing habitats for wildlife and offering a range of uses that benefited local economies and communities. The Kent Farmsteads Guidance provided landowners, planners and applicants with simple guidance for understanding the key issues to inform sustainable development including conversion, new build and the provision or restoration of habitats.
(2) The Guidance would help to achieve two of the ambitions in Bold Steps for Kent: ‘To help the Kent economy grow’ and ‘To put the citizen in control’. It would also help to achieve the aims of the Kent Environment Strategy, particularly Theme 3: Valuing our Natural, Historic and Living Environment, by helping to find sustainable uses for historic farms.
(3) The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) emphasised the delivery of sustainable development whilst stressing the importance of understanding local character and distinctiveness in determining planning applications, plan-making and decision-taking, as well as local economic and community circumstances; it noted the importance of landscape character assessment in helping to deliver this.
(4) The Kent Farmsteads Guidance was subdivided into six parts summarised in Appendix 1 to the report. The Guidance aimed to inform and achieve the sustainable development of farmsteads, including their conservation and enhancement. It could also be used by those with an interest in the history and character of the county’s landscape and historic buildings, and the character of individual places. Traditional farmstead groups and their buildings were assets which made a positive contribution to local character.
(5) It provided a framework for assessing and understanding the character of farmsteads in Kent. It was intended to speed up the planning process for proposals within historic farmsteads and to avoid wasted time and money through the submission of schemes which might be found unsuitable. In line with the NPPF it aimed to facilitate sustainable development, indicating where development might be appropriate whilst retaining and enhancing the character of the environment.
(6) Initial consultation with stakeholders took place at a workshop in January 2010. The Guidance documents were extensively redrafted and simplified following the consultation. They were also updated during 2012 to reference the new NPPF. The Guidance was adopted by the Kent Downs AONB Joint Advisory Committee in 2012. Now that the NPPF and Duty to Co-operate were fully in place it was appropriate to bring the Guidance to Cabinet Committee for endorsement. It was intended to launch the Guidance jointly with Kent Downs AONB at a stakeholder event in late June or early July 2013. A joint press release would be prepared and presentations would be made to key bodies.
(7) RESOLVED that:-
(a) the Cabinet Member for Transport & Environment be recommended to formally endorse the Guidance by Kent County Council, in order to encourage its use by landowners, applicants and planners and to achieve the aim of promoting sustainable development; and
(b) as KCC was no longer able to adopt supplementary planning guidance, the Cabinet Member for Transport & Environment recommends the adoption of the Guidance by the district planning authorities and Medway Council as supplementary planning guidance to their local plans.