Shaping the Future of our Town

The 28 February 2023 event “Shaping The Future Of Our Town”, demonstrated the huge frustrations that many local people were feeling about the Planning Process, and the inability to secure proper engagement in planning decisions that were increasingly affecting Deal and the surrounding villages.

Below is a summary of that meeting with some links to helpful documents.

Summary of meeting on 28th February

The Deal Society was given a mandate by residents and their respective social groups to lead on, and develop, better ways to secure involvement and engagement, with the Society:

  • Acting as an umbrella group for other groups/networks concerned with Planning issues, and
  • Being the driving force to galvanise the action of others.
    More specific aspirations voiced included:-
  • Bringing together Planning Issues across Dover District to maximise impact of community action.
  • Networking with all Dover District towns/parishes, and maybe beyond if issues require.
  • Want Deal Network to include Walmer, Ringwould, Mongeham, and Sholden, so that they get considered with a Deal (rather than Dover) overview.
  • Ensure easier access to Planning Information/Applications.
  • Link up with specialist forums, such as Campaign for Rural England
  • Develop a closer working relationships between Deal Society, Deal Town Council, and Dover District Council.

The now emerging Deal Planning Network is seeking to address these aspirations,

  • providing a platform for sharing knowledge and information,
  • developing expertise together through networking and engaging around common concerns,
  • guiding people on how planning systems are supposed to work,
  • collecting together the learning experiences of different campaigns ….. what worked & what didn’t,
  • engaging with specialist groups/agencies around key issues, arranging briefing sessions with them,
  • holding events around issues that are worrying a growing number of people/communities, etc.

This is a learning process for all of us, but the more we work together the stronger and more influential our local communities can become. The important thing is we start the journey and keep learning.

Consequently, this document and others we’re making available at this time are just a starting point from which the Network can grow, develop, refine. All will be subject to continuous improvement reflecting the input from you all ….. so please feel free to contribute your own views, perspectives, and ideas along the way.


Planning is a highly regulated process with all manner of rules and regulations. It’s based upon Government-issued national guidelines, and a pyramid of plans at County level then feeding through to Local Plans in each planning area/district that map out the anticipated developments over the next 5/10 or even 20 years.

In some areas towns and parishes have developed plans at a very localised level, but not in the Dover District that we’re part of…… at least not yet.


The intention of Local Plans is that they are agreed in consultation with local communities, been through a process of public inspection, then fully adopted by the planning authority. The Plan is then used by developers to identify sites that are “ripe” for development, and then proceed to put together proposals to meet the requirements set out for the site. Dover District Council has issued a very useful guide to how you can get involved in planning, which is worth looking at as it sets out the steps in the process. The special relevance here is that many residents are concerned that these processes have not been fully adhered to on development proposals they are concerned with.

On that basis, if a planning application is made, you might reasonably expect the site to feature in the Local Plan, but does it?

  • If it does, then the issues at stake are not usually about whether the development proposal is allowable on the site, but about the detail of the proposal and meeting the stated local needs, but
  • If it isn’t, there is a whole series of questions you might reasonably ask yourself to determine “How has this got to this point in the planning process?”


Around Deal, Walmer, Sholden, Mill Hill, and in Great Mongeham we’ve been seeing more and more developments that are not on the Local Plan; typically, where a developer has bought a couple of fields from a local farmer/landowner at a much higher price than if it were agricultural land.

The resulting housing developments can provide “windfall” ways for a Council of meeting the huge housing need, but as it’s not part of the Local Plan there has been no discussion previously with local people about whether it is the right place or not.

We all know there is a need for affordable housing that helps our young people get on the housing ladder but most of these developments are for much larger houses which are, of course, at the more expensive end of the market.

In an ideal world, you might expect that in their initial assessment of planning applications, Planning Officers would filter out those that are not abiding by the appropriate rules and criteria, but resources in local authorities are now very limited following 14 consecutive years of budget cuts.

So, whilst some issues do cause planning applications to be stopped by Officers, a great many more are not, and you must be vigilant in order to ensure objections are submitted that convince the Planning Committee not to give permission.

You have probably reached this point because you share common views with other residents that a particular planning application should not be permitted.  In many instances this will be primarily because it is on a site we don’t think appropriate but, we might just as easily be thinking it is …..

The wrong type of development, or maybe ….

The wrong scale of development, or perhaps …

The wrong design of development,

But there might be all manner of other reasons too: expressing them in the most effective way in setting out your objections is going to be of key importance.  

Getting the Objection format and content right 

Before we consider the details of our collective fears/concerns about a planning application, and what we do about it, it is important to understand the process by which you must make an effective objection. It is also important to understand how objections will be viewed by Dover’s Planning Officers and Planning Committee.

Planning Officers will ……..

  • Look at objections to see how substantial they are.
  • They will ignore any that just say, “I support” or “I object”.
  • They will look at objections that are just lists of the same things copied by many people, and only count them as a single objection.

So, whilst it is important that we share knowledge, expertise, advice, important facts, and the latest intelligence so we are best informed, make them personal views of yours and use your own words; and then add in anything that you can which demonstrates that it is a personal perspective.

People must object individually. Don’t send objections as a network’s views or expect a local Society’s views to hold greater sway with Planning Officers or a Planning Committee as they only count as one objection.

Guidance and Training to Councillors

Across all of the wide range of potential factors, there is one issue that stands out above all others, that being the importance of the roles of Planning Officers in assessing and evaluating applications, and in Planning Committee Councillors making decisions, based only on material considerations, and not as a consequence of any inappropriate information and/or interference.

Much relies upon the Councillors knowing and understanding the planning process, and the Planning Officers giving them sound advice and making recommendations against the material considerations. So, whilst the Council will itself have issued guidance, these are primarily founded upon the guidance and training that is provided by bodies such as the Local Government Association Planning Advisory Service (LGAPAS). 

Three of the LGAPAS guides are of particular relevance, and you might want to take look at these along the way:

  • How planning works: Introduction for Councillors
  • Planning and GDPR guide
  • Probity in Planning

Developers Trying To Get Their Planning Application Right

Of course, its all much easier if Developers follow the rules of the Planning “game” to the letter, but if they did we wouldn’t be worrying so much about proposals that they put forward. Considering Planning from a Developer’s perspective is, however, a useful exercise to undertake as it can highlight issues that you might not normally think about.

With that thought in mind, you may find the Planning House company of interest. They are based up in Durham and are highly regarded in how they get results for developers by doing things right from the outset. They also produce a series of guides on Town Planning but with a developers’ slant, and you can find these here …..

The Basics…FREE eBooks – National Town Planning Consultancy based in the North East ( .

But what is especially useful is that they have produced a much more extensive list of what might be regarded as material objections to a planning application, which is very useful as a checklist if you are going to object. A copy of this is attached. It quickly becomes obvious why they are so good at what they do (and must be a joy to work with from the Officers and Councillors point of view). 


So where do you start? Looking at the Planning House long list of material objections is a good point of departure, as is a development not being in the Local Plan, though the not being in the Plan issue will typically need much more additional detail to show why it should not go ahead.

Here are a range of other areas you might want to take into account:

1/ Has DDC’s Guide to Community Involvement in Planning been followed; errors in not following the due process can often be quite powerful reasons to object.
2/ Look at the Local Plan anyway, because

  • it may draw attention to why an additional development is inappropriate in particular locations,
  • it may give descriptions of a town/village/neighbourhood that the development clearly conflicts with,
  • it may be adding population to an area which Dover DC hadn’t identified as appropriate for that, or
  • it may highlight issues over locations that are not fit for certain kinds of development.

3/ Be aware of other local developments and draw links/connections with them, especially if together they are creating a much larger change to an area hasn’t been subject to the proper Local Plan-making process.

4/ Is the site in question one where existing structures are registered Assets of Community Value (which places substantive restrictions on the disposal of and/or use of the site)? If not, should it be registered (and swiftly pursued to register it)?

5/ Is it in a Conservation Area? ….. What does the Conservation Area assessment say? Overall context of Area, buildings, open spaces, facilities, street furniture, road layout, parking facilities ….. etc.

6/ As with any proposed development, and over-riding rule of thumb should be “Does this proposal enhance the Area, does it need amendment to make it appropriate, or is it totally inappropriate and damaging to the Area?

6/ What do the Council’s own stated Strategic Objectives say?

Look at these and you may identify issues that the proposal conflicts with. The 5 themes are,

  • Improving our housing.
  • Growing our economy.
  • Protecting our environment.
  • Supporting our communities.
  • Modernising our Council.

Each theme identifies a range of actions that are planned in to successfully deliver the objectives, and again it can be quite a powerful argument if a proposal clearly has a detrimental effect on what the Council is committed to doing. All themes could be relevant, and worth checking, but it is the areas of Housing, of Environment, and of Communities that will likely be most significant. (COPY OF OBJECTIVE THEMES and ACTIONS ATTACHED).

7/ Developments Causing Statutory Nuisance

Statutory Nuisance arises from an act that endangers the life, health, property, morals or comfort of the public or obstructs the public in the exercise or enjoyment of rights. Local Councils are responsible for monitoring complaints and taking action to enforce cessation or remedial action, depending on the nuisance. (COPY ATTACHED)

Any building development is going to cause temporary nuisance, but once completed they might cause/ leave permanent problems……. On the site or on neighbouring areas.

In most instances, nuisance arises from industrial, trade or business premises; but it can and does happen at a domestic level and any development should be ensuring that the risk of nuisance is minimised.

Looking through the list of nuisance themes, there are some that are very familiar to some of us with troublesome neighbours …… smoke from bonfires; smelly waste/composting in the garden; noise from loud music & parties, or from carrying out car/motorcycle mechanics at home; far too powerful security/floodlights; poor upkeep of house/garden causing infestations; etc.

But for developments there could be many effects causing future nuisance

  • Disturbing particular nature sites
  • Air pollution from increased traffic
  • Loss of air quality in sensitive locations (schools, nurseries, clinics, etc)
  • Light pollution affecting people and protected wildlife
  • Important views being compromised (sight lines that need protecting from key locations
  • Contaminated Land insufficiently “cleaned” for new purpose, effects on drains/surface water gulleys
  • Prospective of additional rainwater run-off caused by concreting over, causing Flooding, increased incidence of sewage overflow due to limits on water treatment capacity.


The extent of Global Warming ….. it feels like our area is going to be developed, and developed, until every bit of land that won’t be flooded over time is built upon. (DETAILS & LINKS ATTACHED). East Kent will look very similar to how it did when the Romans and Saxons arrived, with Thanet as an island again: Great Mongeham was a boatbuilding centre on a tidal inlet, so might it become so again?

  • National Biodiversity Networks Trust 2023 report “The State of Nature UK”, tells a sorry tale about the demise in UK wildlife and the need to protect more. The UK Government has recognised it and is revising National Planning Guidelines accordingly. A brief summary is on the copy attached, along with a link to the report itself. Betteshanger Park objections, and those for the Fairfield site in Great Mongeham, will inevitably draw much from this, illustrated by what people know about the wildlife that is present on the sites and on adjoining land.

A Quick Reminder of Objecting Properly/Effectively

·         Remember to put the points you want raise into your own words in your objection.

·         It might be helpful to create a storyline that includes the things most important to you ….. it’ll come across more passionately rather than just a list of points.

·         DO point out where something conflicts with DDC policies, processes, and objectives …. It’s an embarrassment to them if they ignore it and someone feels motivated to pursue it (journalist, maybe?).

·        DO use references to the responses provided by important bodies such as Wildlife Trusts, Environmental Agencies, Societies with specific professional expertise (e.g. Georgian Society) ….. and especially to the reports from major studies.

So, that’s an extensive start for your journey into the world of Planning, which we hope you will find useful. We’ll keep the information and guidance under continuous review in light of our learning, and the learning you share with us/each other. Let’s hope that we can begin to have greater influence in shaping the places in which we live, work and play, from this point forward,

Ian Redding

Deal Society

6 March 2024

PS  Finally, Looking further forward – The Levelling-up Act

We’ve all heard about this legislation, but not necessarily what it will do.

But the promise is that as it rolls out it will provide for greater empowerment of residents and their communities, and the Local Government Association has issued some initial guidance to its members.

 A copy of this is attached: one thing that will become increasingly important is that all of us who are or have been active in planning issues network together, to form an alliance of informed local people who can act as the expert community body that Dover DC will need to partner-up with to ensure real engagement with communities.

 That’s why the Deal Planning Network is being created and, hopefully, will be able to support all those wanting to be active in planning issues, in the times ahead.