Chatham residents create Kent's first urban Neighbourhood Plan

26 May 2024In Chatham3 Minutes
The front cover of the Arches Chatham Neighbourhood Plan. Photo: Arches Chatham Neighbourhood Forum

A resident-led plan shaping the future of Chatham is now in place.

The Arches Chatham Neighbourhood Plan sets out planning policies for a corner of the town – covering The Brook, Luton and Shipwrights Avenue areas.

It is the first plan of its kind in an urban part of Kent.

With policies on housing, transport, the environment and the economy, it outlines the type of development that residents would like to see up to 2040.

The neighbourhood plan's boundary, covering The Brook, Luton and Shipwrights Avenue. Photo: Arches Chatham Neighbourhood Forum

Developers and housebuilders must stick to the policies when they submit planning applications in the area.

Medway Council is also required to use the plan to help it decide planning applications, alongside its own borough-wide Local Plan and national policies.

Residents started work on the plan in 2019 when they set up the Arches Chatham Neighbourhood Forum (ACNF), named after the historic Luton Arches railway bridge.

After several consultations and iterations of the plan, it went to a local referendum on 2 May where it secured a successful result of 88% voting in favour.

Following the vote, Medway Council unanimously agreed to bring the community’s plan into place at an Annual Council meeting on 15 May.

Luton Arches railway bridge in Chatham

Commenting on its triumph, ACNF said: “We created a Neighbourhood Plan born out of a need to get a better outcome from the planning system.

“Our plan has limitations as we can’t override local or national policy, such as being anti-development, nor do we have the power to demand the vital infrastructure improvements we need.

“But the plan is a significant step towards addressing some of our challenges.

“It ensures that affordable housing is indistinguishable from market housing, protects family homes against conversion, and preserves Chatham’s historic architecture to make soulless London-style developments a thing of the past.

“Without our Neighbourhood Plan, we’re helpless and poor quality development would otherwise continue.”

Neighbourhood plans were introduced by the Localism Act 2011, giving communities more of a say in how their local area should develop.

Over 700 neighbourhood plans have been made in England to date, typically by parish councils in rural areas – making Chatham’s plan a historic outlier in Kent.

The Arches Chatham Neighbourhood Plan is the second plan created in Medway, after Cliffe and Cliffe Woods Neighbourhood Plan was approved last year.