Despite an elaborate and high profile campaign the Which Way Westerham (WWW) project – aimed at bringing new homes, a relief road, and improvements to the town’s GP surgery and primary school- has been left out the Sevenoaks Local Plan.
WWW was spearheaded by Henry Warde of Squerreys Estate who said : ” “We are obviously disappointed as we believe we have a strong evidence-based planning case that tackles long-terms concerns over the sustainability of the community of Westerham.
“Our proposals would have delivered the much-needed relief road, a piece of infrastructure that KCC acknowledges would solve the congestion problems for the town centre against a background of growing traffic and address the fact that the London Road junction with the A25 already operates above capacity.
“We also addressed the issues over how to sustain Westerham with new homes and improvements to the GP surgery and the Churchill CE Primary School. Our project team is going through the decision, and we are considering our position and next steps.”
The opposition to the WWW proposals was provided by the Keep Westerham Green Residents Group who said: “WWW did not meet the evidence-based exceptional circumstances criteria. Thames Water said that the massive development would mean more sewerage pipes. The Kent Downs AONB Unit and Natural England said that WWW would totally compromise Westerham’s characteristic fields and pastures.
“But it’s far from over. When the Planning Inspector looks at all this early next year WWW will argue its case again. Residents need to stay motivated. There’ll be yet another consultation this Christmas. Once again people will need to send in their well-evidenced comments.”
Sevenoaks District Councillors will soon consider a new Local Plan that has just four greenfield sites proposed for much needed community infrastructure and new homes. The Government has told the Council it must plan for its housing needs up to 2035. While the Council will prioritise brownfield land and build at higher densities, with 93% of the District in the Green Belt, and the remaining 7% close to being fully developed, it was required to consider greenfield sites put forward by landowners.
Of the 400 greenfield sites put forward, the Council rejected 388 and, over the summer, asked for residents’ views on the remaining 12 sites in the first draft of the Local Plan. After it considered the 8,500 resident comments from this consultation, and further expert reports and feasibility studies on the sites, the Council has now published an update to the Local Plan and is proposing just four strategic greenfield sites for new homes.
These are: • Tarmac Quarry, Sevenoaks (Sevenoaks Northern Masterplan) • Land east of London Road in Dunton Green • Land south of Four Elms Road, Edenbridge • Pedham Place near Swanley and Farningham as a broad location for growth, subject to further work
Cllr Robert Piper, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning says: “To ensure we can continue to protect the Green Belt, it is vital that we submit a robust and consistent Local Plan to the Government Planning Inspector, who will make the final decision. “Government told us we need to plan for up to 14,000 new homes up to 2035. However, Sevenoaks District is overwhelmingly in the Green Belt, restricting where new homes can be built.
“We have carried our extensive consultations and listened carefully to our residents and followed a rigorous, consistent process. Based on all of the evidence, we are proposing to deliver 70% of the new homes sought by Government as we are determined to do all we can to protect the much loved and treasured Green Belt.
“If the Planning Inspector approves our Local Plan, developers and the Council will work closely with residents to make sure they get the right community and infrastructure improvements they need.”
The latest version of the Local Plan will be debated by the Council’s Planning Advisory Committee on 22 November and Cabinet on 6 December. If approved by Cabinet, there will be a final consultation, known as a ‘Regulation 19 Publication’, starting mid-December. The final decision to approve the Local Plan will be taken by the Planning Inspector at a public examination in 2019.
If residents wish to speak at the examination, which is at the Planning Inspector’s discretion, they will need to register their interest during the consultation period.
After this consultation closes, the Council will submit residents’ comments and the draft Local Plan to the Planning Inspector for consideration.
Residents can view the latest version of the Local Plan, and find out how to take part in the final consultation, at www.sevenoaks.gov.uk/localplansubmission
Photo Henry Warde