Chaper 5 – Topic Policies
Section E – Community Facilities
COM1 Meeting the needs of the community (2016 Draft / 2017 Main Changes)
The provision of good quality community infrastructure and services designed around people and their cultural, leisure, health, learning, social and wellbeing needs is fundamental to the creation of strong, vibrant, healthy and sustainable communities. As Ashford grows and the demand for new or enhanced community infrastructure increases, there is a need to apply strategic policies to ensure appropriate and sustainable provision that supports this demand. This will mean that some community facilities and services may be locally based and aimed at meeting the needs of the local residents in that particular area, whilst others may be more strategic and will need to be delivered in larger facilities and spaces which serve the wider town or Borough.
It has been proved that community infrastructure that offers a range of services at one site, or ‘Hub’, helps to establish a focal and active point that benefits the area and community life. It also enables land to be better used with toilets and kitchens as well as parking and green space shared by a number of users. In general, such a model of provision is also more viable to maintain.
The Council’s approach will be to continue to work with developers and providers and community groups to ensure the provision of community infrastructure in the right locations and at the right time. The Council recognise that – in practice – it will need to adopt a pragmatic approach as large amounts of community provision is subject to planning approval, but has not actually been implemented yet – something which the Council cannot control. Therefore, contributions from new developments may be needed to expand or enhance infrastructure that is already being planned or is in the early stages of being implemented. This may also involve monies to secure the early delivery of such infrastructure where it is appropriate to do so. Adopting this approach ensures that provisions are in place that will support the communities as they develop – a key planning objective of this Local Plan.
Retention of Existing Facilities
Retaining existing facilities wherever practical is the most sustainable way of enhancing and expanding provision. This position is supported by the NPPF which recognises the importance of community and social facilities and requires that LPAs guard against the unnecessary loss of this valued provision, particularly where this would reduce the community’s ability to meet its day to day needs.
The Council therefore aims to protect social and community infrastructure and to guard against unnecessary loss unless there are strong reasons why this is no longer viable or where provision is replicated nearby.
The Arts and Creative Industries
Ashford’s offer has been enhanced recently through the development of a new arts and performance space at St Mary’s Church (in the centre of town) which attracts regionally and nationally significant touring artists and is developing a local audience. The establishment of the internationally renowned Jasmin Vardimon Dance Company has also elevated Ashford’s position as an emerging key destination for the arts. The draft Strategy acknowledges that while Ashford enjoys these facilities, and also enjoys a wider programme of cultural opportunities such events across the Borough, including local festivals, there is a marked lack of spaces such as galleries, multi-use art facilities, theatre and production and rehearsal spaces.
The following strategic arts spaces are identified in the draft Strategy to meet the current deficit and provide a wide range of creative activities and opportunities as Ashford grows:
- Revelations St Mary’s: as Ashford’s occupancy increases this venue will be a significant space to meet the demands of the local audience and a key strategic centre for presenting a high quality arts programme that enhances the economy of the town centre;
- Rehearsal and production centre: a large space for touring companies and local community groups to create and show work and smaller spaces for educational sessions. This will aim to drive innovation in the arts and the provision of excellent arts experiences;
- Making and exhibiting workspaces: a space (or collection of spaces) where creative designers can co-locate, make and present their work in a gallery and offer associated spaces for the community to engage in the arts and crafts;
- Arts use in community hubs: helping to ensure urban and rural community hubs cater for arts and are well equipped and design to support a range of creative activity.
The Council expects that these projects will largely be funded by way of CIL receipts. S106 contributions will however be used where local community buildings/ indoor sports buildings are required, as stipulated through various site allocations in this Local Plan. These buildings will be required to be designed in a way that allows for a variety of users, including art and creative industries.
The Voluntary Sector
Over recent years the voluntary and community sector (VCS) has become increasingly involved in managing many community facilities and delivering public services. The VCS in the Borough is vibrant and diverse comprising in the region of 850 organisations providing a wide range of services and has been shown to bring considerable advantages and benefits deriving from its value-driven motivation and focus on social needs.
Given the wide nature of the sector, it is accepted that projects which are needed to allow the voluntary sector to continue to play a role in meeting the communities needs will come forward over the lifetime of this plan. Where these projects can be costed and shown to be deliverable, the Council will seek proportionate developer contributions or the delivery of space/ provision on site. It is likely such provision will be focused in and around Ashford Town Centre, but is not limited to this boundary.
The Education Sector
The residential developments proposed in this Local Plan will create a requirement for additional school places and thus for existing primary and secondary schools to be expanded and for new schools to be built. Wider demographic trends also affect the need for school places. The Council’s longstanding approach has been to require developer contributions on behalf of the education authority where new primary and secondary schools or extensions to existing ones are needed to cater for the influx of new children from housing development. The contribution sought is based on ‘pupil product figures’ provided by Kent County Council for the number of primary and secondary school children likely to arise from each new housing development.
The Health Sector
The Ashford Health and Wellbeing Board, comprised of health professionals, local government officers and patient representatives, was established in 2013. The board offers a fresh look at the way the health and wellbeing of Ashford’s residents is observed and measured. It also has an influence over the commissioning decisions made across public health and social care in the borough. It looks at improving the health and wellbeing of the people living in Ashford through joined up commissioning across the National Health Service, social care, borough council, public health and other services that are directly related to health and wellbeing.
Health issues are addressed in policies across this Plan, including those on design, transport, economic development, employment skills and training and provision of cultural and local services. Proposals for new health facilities in sustainable locations will generally be supported.
Community Leisure Buildings
The Council has a long established tradition of delivering ‘multi-purpose community leisure buildings’ which fulfill the needs of emerging and established communities. Recent provision takes into account the scale of the development, the nature of the place being delivered, and the proximity of nearby facilities and its offer. This Local Plan adopts this robust approach, supported by the Council’s, and partners experience, of what kind of facilities are deliverable and viable over the longer term particularly in response to some of the larger site allocations being proposed.
In addition, where indoor sporting facilities are proposed, they should generally provide space for a mixed use of community activity as part of their delivery to make the most efficient use of these buildings and also help with their on-going viability.
Policy COM1 – Meeting the Community’s Needs
Infrastructure and facilities required to meet the needs generated by new development, including sports, arts, community (including youth) and voluntary sector space, education and health provision, open space and play areas shall be provided as the community is established.
Infrastructure or facilities designed to meet localised needs should normally be provided on-site. Other needs will be delivered in liaison with the relevant stakeholders and service providers to ensure that the provision is supplied in a way that meets their requirements and supports sustainability.
Development monies will be secured via S106 where provision relates to a localised need or as identified through the site allocations in this Local Plan. Otherwise, CIL receipts will be used to deliver strategic provision.
Where the need for developments to contribute to, or provide, particular infrastructure or facilities is dependent on their size, floorspace, traffic generation or any other attribute or impact exceeding a specified threshold and any site is brought forward as two or more separate schemes of which one or more falls below the relevant threshold, the Council will seek from each scheme a proportionate contribution of the level of provision so as to match in total the requirement that would apply if the site came forward as a whole.
In the Borough as a whole, the loss of existing community infrastructure will be resisted unless sufficient evidence has been submitted to demonstrate that they are no longer required or are obsolete and that suitable replacement provision is being provided or is located nearby.