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Ashford launches commission to tackle Kent sprawl

Words: Huw Morris
Kent Downs / Shutterstock: 1094560880

Ashford Borough Council has set up a commission to protect Kent’s countryside and tackle rural and urban sprawl.

Ashford has the largest land mass of Kent’s 12 districts, with 580 square kilometres - enough to fit 19 of the 32 Greater London boroughs.

The Greater Ashford Borough – Environment and Land Mapping Commission will inform future strategies, including the council’s corporate plan and the Ashford Local Plan, identifying suitable locations for “well-designed housing to meet the growing population and to create economic growth to support local communities”.

Its brief includes determining future uses of broad areas of land “in such a way that ensures that rural villages are protected from becoming merged into suburbs of Ashford”, while delivering as much urban green space as possible.

The commission will also identify areas that deserve further protection to increase biodiversity and enhance their natural beauty, especially where wetland parks can be created to tackle the ongoing adverse effects of nitrates and phosphates entering water courses and help in flood mitigation.

“The government has continued to increase the demands for higher and higher housing delivery growth, to the extent of even reducing the very necessary checks and balances that existed within the planning system,” said Ashford’s executive leader Gerry Clarkson. “We have for many decades based our housing and economic growth on an Ashford Plan-led approach which, combined with other districts in Kent, has contributed significantly to the scale of housing delivery in the UK.

“Unfortunately the government has concentrated on the lower tier authorities to provide the vast bulk of the housing delivery without themselves embracing a more strategic approach.”

Paul Clokie, a Conservative councillor at Ashford, will chair the commission while Noel Ovenden, leader of the borough’s Independent Party and the largest opposition party, will be vice-chair to ensure bi-party participation.

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