Borsetshire Issues and Options

Cliftonville DPD - Preferred Options Report

Issue 2 - The Adopted Cliftonville Policy

Cliftonville West and Margate Central wards contain a substantial proportion of larger properties, many previously used as hotels or large dwellings reflecting the popularity of the resort in Victorian times.  With the decline of the traditional seaside holiday, many of these properties became neglected and/or occupied by dependent and vulnerable people. (For example multiple occupation, DSS bed and breakfast, asylum seekers, people placed by outside authorities and homeless people in private rented accommodation). The presence and availability of cheap housing has helped the area to become a destination of choice for a transient population, ranging from the homeless to those attracted by the "seaside" lifestyle. The effect of the "Dole on Sea" era continues to be reflected in the statistics confirming the area as Thanet's, and one of the South East Region's, most deep seated pocket of deprivation.

The proportion of rented accommodation in these wards significantly exceeds the proportion for Thanet, and is also much higher than in adjoining Districts, the County and the Region

 

All households

% rented accommodation

Source

Cliftonville West Ward

3,002

52.96

Census 2001

Margate Central Ward

2,316

59.15

Census 2001

Thanet District

55,228

29.65

Census 2001

Canterbury District

55,584

27.54

Census 2001

Dover District

44,314

28.32

Census 2001

Kent County

546,742

26.36

Census 2001

South East Region

3,287,489

26.04

Census 2001

The presence of a large number of small flats, many of which are poorly maintained, means that there is a plentiful supply of cheap rentable property which attracts vulnerable and transient people to the area and compounds the deprivation cycle. The concentration of small units in Cliftonville West and Margate Central is thus a key factor in the area's deprivation and perpetuates the deprivation cycle.

Historically the area attracted an element of transience due to the high number of hotels.  However, many of these were subsequently used as hostels and the transient characteristic has not been shaken off due to small, poor quality units providing cheap accommodation which is easy to access by a transient population. 

An increasing quantity of accommodation in these wards has been, and is continuing to be, converted to bedsit accommodation and small flats. While this may represent investment in property and potentially better standards of accommodation than say multiple occupation, many such proposals are for conversion of hotels/dwellings to bed-sits/1 bedroom flats. In an already deprived area such increases in the stock of small accommodation are, in the foreseeable future, likely to be at the low end of the market and serve to fuel the deprivation cycle through importation of an increasing number of dependent and vulnerable people. The building stock offers substantial scope for such conversion to continue. The Council therefore considers that the amount of property in these wards being converted to bed-sits and one-bed flats is actually fuelling the importation of socially and economically dependent people. It therefore believes that specific and strong policy action is needed to prevent this situation from continuing and to complement (or at least not undermine) other emerging programmes for restoring a more balanced, sustainable and less vulnerable community structure.

Government guidance (reflected in adopted Local Plan policy), generally encourages conversion of larger buildings and dwellings no longer suited to modern living requirements to smaller dwelling units. This helps to make more efficient use of brownfield land, minimises the amount of greenfield land needed to accommodate new homes, and remains an appropriate policy objective for Thanet in general. The Council's Flat Conversions Guide sets out standards for such conversions including one-bedroom units. Local Plan Policy, while not wishing to encourage proliferation of non-self contained accommodation such as houses in multiple occupation, acknowledges that this can provide an inexpensive source of rented accommodation. It sets out criteria to be applied in deciding planning applications to regularise or establish such accommodation. Thanet has a substantial shortage of affordable accommodation and the policy currently remains generally appropriate for the district as a whole.

Government planning policy for housing does, however, expect local planning authorities to "provide wider housing opportunity and choice and a better mix in the size, type and location of housing than is currently available and seek to create mixed communities". Government guidance places increased emphasis on the need for housing and planning policies to support mixed and sustainable communities, and seeks to ensure that everyone has the opportunity of living in a decent home, which they can afford in a community in which they want to live.

The Council considers, as a result of the concentration of dependent and transient people in Cliftonville West and Margate Central wards and the attendant deprivation cycle, that this area is one where most individuals would not choose to locate. The preponderance of dependency among the population is the very antithesis of a mixed community. In these circumstances, and bearing in mind the magnitude of deprivation, the Council adopted a policy for Development Control purposes resisting provision of further one bedroom flatted accommodation and non self contained accommodation in order not to further fuel the deprivation cycle.

The policy was adopted on 14th December 2006 and reads as follows:

"Thanet District Council will resist further proposals to provide single bedroom flatted accommodation, bed-sits and non self-contained accommodation (houses in multiple occupation) within the area of the declared Cliftonville West Renewal Area. This includes provision by way of conversion of existing buildings and by way of new build. The Council will have particular regard to this policy objective in exercising its development control functions and planning applications to provide such accommodation in the Renewal Area will be refused."

Options - The Adopted Cliftonville Policy on small flats

Option 2.1
The policy adopted in 2006 should continue to be implemented.

Option 2.2
The policy should be deleted

Option 2.3
The policy restricting one-bedroom flats as adopted in 2006 is appropriate in principle but requires insertion of exceptions, as there may be circumstances where it is appropriate to allow for smaller units of accommodation to be developed.

Preferred Options and Reasoned Justification
The clear message from the community through the various public consultations and engagements that took place offered very strong support for this policy.  Following two appeals determined in 2007, the policy has been considered by a Planning Inspector, and on both occasions the Inspector has supported the policy and dismissed the appeal.

The Council has carefully considered whether or not there may be exceptional circumstances which should be included in the policy to allow for the development of small flats in certain circumstances.  However, it is not possible to easily identify or qualify such circumstances and any attempt to do so could undermine its application and uncertainty could lead to a large number of exceptions being made.  The current policy is clear and concise and leaves little room for misinterpretation.  Any truly exceptional circumstance could be dealt with as a departure to the development plan.

Action

Accept Option 2.1

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