Consultation on planning system reforms

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is consulting on two sets of reforms to the planning system.

The first, Changes to the current planning system, includes:

  • changes to the standard method for assessing local housing need
  • securing of First Homes through developer contributions
  • temporarily lifting the small sites threshold
  • extending the current Permission in Principle to major development

This is likely to increase the assessed need for housing in Ashford.

The second, Planning for the future, relates to the wider changes that have been announced by the government. The Government press release states that the proposals include:

  • plans to overhaul outdated planning system and reform the way the country builds
  • Plans to streamline process, cut red tape and harness technology to deliver homes faster
  • Valued green spaces protected for future generations, with more building on brownfield land
  • Building beautiful homes with communities at heart of new planning system
  • 30% discount through First Homes, with an emphasis on key workers

Stagecoach Back to School Services

Stagecoach logo

As schools re-start Stagecoach are doing all they can to get pupils get there safely. They are also making some changes to our bus services and times.

As well as increasing our cleaning measures and introducing social distancing on board buses, they’ve added extra dedicated school buses and drivers, which means they can keep more of you moving safely.

What you need to know about dedicated school buses:​

Extra School Services 

  • Stagecoach have added dedicated services just for school pupils
  • Please check the front of the bus which will indicate if it’s a school service..
  • All seats are available for use on the dedicated school services. Find out more here. 

Staying Safe

  • Stagecoach have enhanced onboard cleaning and are doing allthey can to make buses safe. Find out more in our travel with confidence video.
  •  They recommend that adults & children over the age of 11 years should wear a  face covering on school dedicated services, unless exempt.
  • Keep a safe distance when queuing at bus stops
  • Use contactless payments or have exact fares, where possible

Plan Ahead

  • If you’re not travelling for work or school please try to avoid school travel times
  • Check their app for more information on the busiest bus times

At this difficult time Stagecoach’s priority is to protect the safety of children, passengers and colleagues. Below is an update with the latest advice and information about travelling by bus.

No change issued on buses

Stagecoach have been listening carefully to feedback on what extra steps they can take to help people feel safe onboard their buses. One of the measures they’ve taken is to minimise cash handling by not issuing change on the bus. They are continuing to accept cash on our buses, but drivers are unable to give change back. Any over-payments are donated to Demelza Hospice Care for Children. Some of you will have purchased a KCC Travel Saver pass, this can be scanned on the bus as usual. However some of you didn’t want to commit to a long-term ticket in such uncertain times.

Don’t worry, there are still lots of options for you.

  1. Pay with the exact change
  2. Buy a monthly ticket on the Stagecoach website
  3. If you have a mobile smartphone, you can download the stagecoach app and buy day or weekly tickets straight to your phone. Find out more here.


The government require all passengers using public transport aged 11 years or more, to wear a face-covering unless medically exempt. Our drivers will remind passengers of this requirement, but it is the responsibility of your child to comply. Our drivers will not refuse travel or apply any enforcement measures, but we appeal to students and parents to ensure that this is taken seriously and that a face-covering is worn at all times when on the bus.

Bus service levels

Every available bus will be out on the road when schools and colleges return. Stagecoach will be running all usual school day bus services. Their depot teams across the region will be working flat-out to get buses to where they are needed and they’ll continue to work closely with the County Council, and schools, to do everything we can to maximise capacity. They have a range of measures in place to ensure buses are clean, safe and ready to help get you to and from school from the start of term.

This year Stagecoach will be running some school day bus journeys as ‘dedicated schools services’. This means they will only be available for young people to board if travelling to and from their place of education. The general public will not be able to use them, and, in line with government instructions, these buses will be able to carry more people. Unlike normal service buses which now have a limited seating capacity, these dedicated schools services will allow the near maximum seated capacity of the bus.

All dedicated schools services will have a special destination display that shows ‘School Service’ at the front of the bus, alternating with the route number and destination. As these ‘dedicated schools services’ are for students only, morning journeys will only stop to pick-up students and drop them at school/college. On the way home in the afternoon the ‘dedicated schools service’ will collect students from school/college and then operate as drop-off only at all other stops. You can find a list of all the dedicated schools services in the area tabs below.

Regular service buses have government capacity restrictions. This means a double decker bus can only carry up to 32 people. Some regular bus journeys will be shadowed by another bus running behind. These buses will be operated by a different bus company contracted by Stagecoach and funded by the County Council. They will be there to provide back-up capacity, if needed. Stagecoach been working with the County Council to decide which journeys will be shadowed, based on which routes are usually busier. When students return they’ll be keeping a close eye on the busiest journeys so if necessary we can change the allocation of these shadow buses to suit demand.

Stagecoach are urging everyone to check their schools buses web page for the latest timetable information. Please also check their Twitter feed @StagecoachSE for updates as they happen.

Timetable details are published below, but may be subject to change. You can also use ‘Plan a journey‘ on the Stagecoach website. We’ve listed the schools area by area in the tabs below and you can view and download a PDF timetable showing indicative bus times that operated last year (most of which will remain the same from September). Please note that some of the times shown will be subject to adjustment – we will update these as soon as we are able to do so.

Download timetables for: 

** DEDICATED SCHOOLS SERVICES** in Ashford are routes: 124, 15S, 18A, 515, 516, 517, 518, 519, 925, 921, 1A (Chartham to Spires morning journey only).

Stagecoach buses 27 August 2020:

Stagecoach services from 31st August

Stagecoach logo

On Bank holiday Monday 31 August   a normal Sunday/Bank Holiday service (pre-COVID) will operate on all Ashford Stagecoach routes.

From Tuesday 1 September full pre-COVID timetables will resume  for all Ashford bus routes, with the following exceptions;

  • Route 10X – On Mondays to Fridays the first journey to Maidstone and the first journey to Ashford will run up to 20 minutes earlier compared to pre-COVID for reliability.
  • Route 111 – Will continue to use the revised timetable shown above.

Oakleigh House Meeting Notes

Consultation Period extended to 31st August
Participate using link at foot of notes

Oakleigh House Development

Date     Tuesday 11 August 2020

Time    19:00

Venue   Online


Committee:                         R. Shrubb (Chair), J. Shrubb,

Councillors:                         Cllr L. Suddards (ABC, Beaver), Cllr C. Suddards (ABC, Victoria)

Council Officers:                  ABC: M. James, G. Holloway, L. Mason

Other Attendees:                 Names of ordinary members and other attendees are withheld to maintain privacy

1            Welcome

Bob Shrubb (BS) opened the meeting welcoming attendees and introduced councillors and council officers.

2            Proposals

BS displayed drawings of the proposals from the PRP consultation video.

Features brought to the attention of attendees were:

  • Extent of site including existing Oakleigh House site, adjacent ‘Star Block’ and surrounding land, grassed area between Watercress Lane and Cross Stile
  • Main block: 3 storeys reducing to 2 storeys near to adjacent housing
  • Single storey ‘Mews cottages’ adjacent existing properties
  • Disabled adult accommodation (on plot between Watercress Lane and Cross Stile) 2½ storeys.
  • ‘Shared space’ (tabletop crossing) between entrances to buildings.
  • Opportunities for community landscape improvements on ‘avenue’ between disabled unit and existing houses and opposite side of Beaver Lane

3            ABC introduction to scheme

Giles Holloway introduced the scheme, raising the following points:

  • The single storey mews cottages will distance the main block from adjacent properties.
    • ABC are considering making these available for sale on the open market.
  • The scheme is part of ABC’s strategy for addressing the needs of the ageing population; by 2037, in Kent, only Dartford is expected to have a higher number of residents exceeding 65 years.
  • The existing building is obsolete and not fit for purpose; accessibility is poor, the building is not dementia friendly, does not address the needs of the partially sighted. The site layout and presentation of Oakleigh Court and the Star Block are poor.
  • Those given priority for renting the units in the independent living accommodation are:
    • People 60+ in good health.
    • 50+ with health needs
  • Units will be adaptable for ambulant disabled and wheelchair users
  • This development will compliment existing facilities at Farrow Court and Danemore (Tenterden) and those in progress at East Stour Court (Willesborough) and Poplars (Kingsnorth Road).
  • Provision has been made for parking spaces in Cross Stile to address the issue of parking on the grassed area.

4            Councillor’s Comments

Cllr Lyn Suddards said she supported the concept of the scheme but was concerned about the impact of the loss of green space on existing residents.

5            Residents’ Comments

The meeting was opened for comments from residents.

  • The main issue that concerns residents is the loss of the green space, which it was said is used by those with young families and offers an area where they can play safely under supervision.

It was asked whether the adult disabled accommodation could be separated from the independent living block and placed on one of the derelict sites close by.

Mark James responded that the two buildings were one project. There will be benefits for the Council in having a second adult disabled unit close to Cherry Tree Court (adjacent to Farrow Court). It was also hoped that an intergenerational relationship could be created by having the two adjacent to each other. Whilst not excluding acquiring land for the purpose this was land that ABC already owns. They accept loss of green space is a contentious issue but having to buy land can add £ millions to project costs. The resident was invited to send details of the land referred to, so Housing could check whether it is in ABC ownership.

  • A comment was made regarding the short notice for the meeting and asked whether another could be held for those that are away at the time of the meeting.

Bob Shrubb responded that SACF only had about ten days to arrange the meeting and with no income, limited funds and resources there was a limit to what they could achieve. They had wanted to arrange the meeting before the end of the Council’s consultation.

Giles Holloway responded that this was only part of the consultation and the Council would like to reach those that had not been able to participate in the meeting

  • Concern was raised about dust and noise during the construction period and impact this would have on property prices.

Giles Holloway responded by saying that ABC subscribe to the Considerate Contractor Scheme which sets out how the contractor addresses issues which affect neighbours, such as dust, noise, traffic movement, liaison with neighbours and schools and offered to introduce the resident to existing sites.

  • The potential for vehicles to park on the inside of the bend on Beaver Lane, as a result of the development, where with vehicles that now park on the outside of the bend could result in reduced visibility and available road width.

Giles said that Kent Highways would be consulted and issues such as this addressed with them.

6            Consultation process

Cllr Charles Suddards asked about the consultation process and how residents affected by the development were contacted.

Mark James said that normally the Council would have held a consultation event in a local community hall, with the information from the PRP Video displayed, giving residents the opportunity to discuss the proposal with the Council and Architects.

With the current restrictions on holding public events they had put the consultation for Oakleigh House online and had distributed leaflets to 200 properties around the site.

As concern had been raised about older people who may not have online access, he suggested a paper questionnaire might be distributed.

Cllr Lynn Suddards asked whether boards could be displayed at a local venue, such as St. Francis Church, for a day allowing residents to visit in their own time. Mark confirmed this could be arranged subject to arrangements with the Church.

Mark said although there had been problems with the Council’s email system at the beginning of the week, he has replied to everybody that had commented on the consultation portal.

When all of the consultation responses had been examined and any amendments made to the proposal, they would post details of comments that had been addressed by changes and the reasons that any comments could not be addressed.

A planning application would then be submitted when residents would have the opportunity to comment formally.

7            Close

Bob Shrubb closed the meeting thanking everybody for joining and asking that residents participate in the survey on the Council’s Consultation portal –

East Stour Park appeal

image of development

The developer of the proposed East Stour Park development at junction of Romney Marsh Road and north of, Norman Road has appealed the decision by Ashford Borough Council to refuse the application.

The Council’s planning committee voted to refuse the application against officer recommendations following representations from South Ashford Community and a local resident. The Ward Councillor also spoke against granting permission. The reasons given for refusal rested primarily on the site’s location in Ashford’s Green Corridor.

The developer has asked for the appeal to be considered at a hearing rather than by submitted representations, citing a complex mix of considerations and claiming that Ashford Borough Council no longer have a five year housing land supply.

Homeplus development amendments

A revised set of plans has been posted on the Ashford Borough Council planning website for the redevelopment of the Homeplus site.

A decision on the planning application was deferred by the Planning Committee when the application was considered on 17th June 2020: for Officers to seek clarification and scheme amendments as necessary from the applicant to deal with Improvements to the overall quality of design across the whole site based on Members’ comments on design issues.

The amendments to the scheme include a reduction by one storey of the Beaver Road block and changes to the roof line, which to an extent addresses comments by South Ashford Community Forum. Materials have been changed across the design and heights have been adjusted in other parts of the proposal.

The changes result in a reduction of seven in the number of flats proposed.

Addressing another comment made by SACF, the amended documents include an Energy Strategy that shows an improvement on Building Regulations maximum carbon emissions of 22% compared with 5% for the previous scheme.

A revised Financial Viability Assessment asserts that the developer would be unable to pay the S106 contributions requested by the Council (valued at £1.3m).

ABC Planning case ref: 19/01597/AS

Stagecoach changing social distancing

Stagecoach are changing social distancing on buses in the South East

As lockdown restrictions continue to ease and more people are travelling Stagecoach have reviewed their seating guidance so they can safely carry more passengers.

There will be posters and signage onboard the bus to help you find where to sit. Once on board you’ll be able to sit:

  • One person per double seat
  • Leave the seat behind and next to someone empty
  • Only sit with somebody if they’re in your household or bubble.

See below example plans so that you can see the zig zag seating arrangement:

Lower level seating plan example
Upper level seating plan example

We know you’ve got lots of questions so we’ve put together some answers relating to this new process when travelling on our services.

Q Why is it safe now to sit so close to others on the bus?

A With the virus now more controlled, the alert level has been reduced and there has been a relaxation of social distancing measures across other sectors in England. Now that everyone who can is wearing a face covering on board it was time for us to make a few changes. Along with other public transport operators, we’ve done a risk assessment which means one person can now sit on each double seat, in a zig-zag formation. This will allow more people to safely travel on our services.

Q I haven’t seen this in the Government guidelines, is this allowed?

A In line with the reduced risk level, the Government has relaxed social distancing measures across a wide range of sectors and worked with individual sectors to apply the new measures to that industry. We’ve consulted with government and The Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT) that this change in social distancing on board public transport is allowed and is necessary to help get the country moving again.

Q What if the person in front of or behind me isn’t wearing a face covering?

A There will be people who aren’t wearing face coverings because they’re exempt for various reasons so please remember to be kind. If you feel uncomfortable sitting in front of or behind them, choose a seat further away or across the aisle.

10-steps to staying safe when you travel:

1. Plan ahead, allow extra time for your journey and try to travel at off-peak times, where possible.

2. Wear a face covering. 

3. Use contactless, smartphone, smartcard, or  have the exact change.

4. Buses will have limited capacity. If your bus has a BUS FULL sign please be prepared to wait for the next bus.

5. Let people off the bus before you get on. Be considerate of the impact of restrictions on the needs of fellow passengers who may have impairments, disabilities or mobility issues.

6. Keep a safe social distance from others, at the bus stop and on board.

7. Only one person can sit on a double seat, unless you’re with a member of your household or bubble.

8. Leave the seat next to you or behind someone empty.

9. Don’t stand on the bus.

10. Wash or sanitise your hands before and after your journey.

Stagecoach timetable changes

Stagecoach are increasing more of their services in the South East from Monday 29th June 2020

Stagecoach thanks all of their customers who have given valuable feedback in recent weeks.

They have listened to this and made changes where they can to bring services back to the communities of Kent and East Sussex.

The services changing on the 29th June 2020 include:

  • Ashford; 2, A, B, C, D & AD.

Please note that timetables are being updated more frequently than usual at this time, so please check the latest temporary timetables below before you travel:

Temporary timetables >

As more people return to work, to help keep everyone safe the number of seats available on buses has been reduced to promote social distancing.

Please plan ahead and avoid the busiest times of day if you can and see below our 10-steps to travelling safely at this time.

  1. Plan ahead, allow extra time for your journey and try to travel at off-peak times, where possible.
  2. You must wear a face covering.
  3. Use contactless to pay or have the correct change.
  4. Buses will have limited capacity. If your bus has a BUS FULL sign please be prepared to wait for the next bus.
  5. Let people off the bus before you get on.
  6. Keep a safe social distance from others, 2m apart where possible – at the bus stop and on board.
  7. Sit in the window seat, leaving the seats in front and behind you empty and don’t sit directly behind the driver.
  8. Only one person can sit on a double seat, unless you’re with a member of your household.
  9. Don’t stand on the bus.
  10. Wash or sanitise your hands before and after your journey.