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Our Garden Village – Local People Shaping the South of Ashford Garden Community

On the 25 September 2020, Ashford Borough Council asked people local to the South of Ashford area to share their stories during the Covid-19 pandemic, and to shed some light on what worked and what didn’t work during the lockdown. At this webinar, some of these stories where shared alongside presentations about the South of Ashford Garden Community and a discussion about how a vision can bring together different partners to ensure our communities are better designed to meet our needs in the best and worst of times. You can watch a recording of the event here with further background below. 

Overview

Between August and October 2020, Ashford Borough Council organised a series of consultation activities to help write a Five Year Vision & Strategy for the South of Ashford Garden Community (SAGC). Despite the challenges of social distancing measures, Ashford Borough Council reached out to local people in the Wards, Parishes and wider areas most likely to be impacted by the proposed developments within the Garden Community.

The aim was to produce a Vision & Strategy which joins up the proposed developments with these existing communities, including the new residents currently moving into Chilmington Green. Through surveys, focus groups, webinars and a dedicated webpage, local input was taken seriously.

The Vision & Strategy, now being drafted, should reflect these consultations so that it works to benefit existing and new residents in the South of Ashford.

Background

According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), since 1998, the ratio of average house prices to average earnings has more than doubled. That means the most basic of human needs – a safe, secure home to call your own – isn’t just a distant dream for millions of people. It’s a dream that’s moving further and further away. As demand for homes outstrips supply, they’re faced with ever-increasing rents – the average couple in the private rented sector now send roughly half their salary to their landlord each month making it nigh on impossible to save for a deposit.

For this reason, the current Government is trying to support Small to Midsize Enterprise (SME) house builders to bridge the gap in housing delivery. Their aim is to see 300,000 homes built on average per year across England. While housing construction at Chilmington Green has seen delays in light of Covid-19, they are now working at pace with new residents moving in each month. Many partners involved in the project, including Ashford Borough Council, Kent County Council, Homes England and the developers continue to work together to ensure timely delivery of infrastructure alongside housing. Bringing forward developments such as Chilmington Green will help to fill the gap in housing provision, but it must also be a great place to live, work and play.  

It was with the Garden Community designation in 2019 that development partners, Parishes, Ward Councillors and community members began discussing how Chilmington Green would need to look beyond its redline boundaries to future sites which were allocated in the Ashford Local Plan 2030. Whether the sites of Court Lodge and Kingsnorth Green receive planning permission or not (to be determined at Planning Committees late 2020 / early 2021), there’s good reason for community members to look at the South Ashford and consider the challenges such developments may bring, and also the potential benefits.

For these reasons two public workshops were held that year which were hosted by the Homelands Football Club. One was held in March and another in September. The roundtable discussions focused on a mix of broad topics such as transport and more specific planning challenges around open space management. From the workshops a series of key themes were drawn up and reported back to participants. These are the themes which will be discussed further through this consultation.

Where this is going 

To ensure continued participation and influence in this process, a series of online focus groups, webinars and surveys were launched in September 2020.  Local people had an opportunity to participate in different formats depending on their interests. The outputs of each activity were shared via a public webinar on the 25 of September (see recording above and below). The draft strategy will be shared publicly before a final version is published to a dedicated page on the Ashford Borough Council website by January 2021.

By building on the tested principles of English garden towns, a vision for the South of Ashford Garden Community can bring together multiple communities and neighbourhoods through shared governance and stewardship. The key themes created to date are the building blocks of the Strategy which must guide developments such as Chilmington Green and future proposed developments within the area. Equally this work will help inform the masterplanning of Discovery Park, a 142 hectare strategic park which sits within the Garden Village. This is a park for the whole Borough, and it is anticipated the first designs for it will begin to appear in early 2021.

Further reason why the timing is right for this vision & strategy to set the bar for quality placemaking, ecological preservation, healthy living and community-led governance. It will include an action-plan with different people, organisations and businesses playing a role. The final version will be presented to Ashford Borough Council’s Cabinet members for adoption in December 2020. 

Timeline to creating the Vision & Strategy for the SAGC

12 March 2019 

First Public Workshop at Homelands Football Club

April to July 2019

Design revisions to Court Lodge 

30 September 2019

Second Public Workshop at Homelands Football Club

12 November 2019

Issue of Report Back on workshops and next steps

2 September - 2 October 2020

Public survey open

7, 9 and 10 September on Teams

Community Focus Groups – Small groups representing voices from across the South of Ashford area gather to tackle specific topics relating to the SAGC.

17 September 2020 18.00 to 20.00 on Teams

SAGC Community Stakeholder Group – Local residents meet with ABC Planning Officers, Parish and Ward Councillors to discuss local issues and wider SAGC planning, ALL WELCOME.

25 September 2020 14.00 to 15.30 on Teams 

Our Garden Village Event

A virtual event to hear local stories from lockdown, the good and the bad, and what might be needed most with the arrival of a new community, a garden community to the South of Ashford. This event has now concluded. You can watch a recording of the video in full below.

9 November 2020

Draft Vision & Strategy made available for public review

19 November 2020 18.00 to 20.00 on Teams

SAGC Community Stakeholder Group – Local residents meet with ABC Planning Officers, Parish and Ward Councillors to discuss local issues and wider SAGC planning, ALL WELCOME. If you are not already on the contact list, please write to dan.daley@ashford.gov.uk 

30 November 2020

Final issue of Vision & Strategy submitted to Cabinet

17 December 2020

Presentation of Vision & Strategy to Full Council and hopeful adoption of the strategy

2021-2025

Implementation of Vision & Strategy's Action Plan

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