Plans to build 450 homes on Green Belt land in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Fort Halstead near Sevenoaks have been slated as totally unjustified by CPRE Kent.
Sevenoaks District Council has not considered alternatives to this mass housing plan which a developer claims is needed to secure employment prospects at the site.
Our comments come as part of the consultation into modifications to the council’s Allocations and Development Management Plan. A planning inspector has ruled that the site should be used for employment purposes, but accepted that would need “some level” of residential development to make it viable. However, officers misrepresented this to council members and said the inspector had accepted “significant residential development”.
CPRE Kent is very concerned that the Council then simply accepted the developer’s figure of 450 homes and relied on the developer’s own assessments rather than doing its own research, as asked for by the inspector.
“We agree that the site should continue to be used for employment,” said CPRE Kent Senior Planner Brian Lloyd. “However, it cannot be justified to build 450 homes in a remote area, without services and facilities, to support them. The council needs to carry out a proper assessment of how many homes are required and come up with alternative plans more in keeping with this sensitive site.”
If 450 homes were built it would equate to 15.5 hectares of residential development, plus additional land for open space and a village centre, all to achieve just four hectares of land for new employment. We fail to see how this would comprise an ‘employment-led’ development, as claimed by the council.
We are also doubtful of the claims that the area cannot attract businesses when its proximity to the M25 would make it attractive to potential employers. We ask why more remote sites in less prosperous parts of Kent, such as the Kent Science Park near Sittingbourne, are thriving and growing without the need for residential development to support them?
The site is in a prominent and sensitive position on the top of the scarp of the North Downs. Currently the development is low density and activity is largely confined to daytime.
“Building 450 homes would change the character of the site dramatically and forever,” said Brian Lloyd. “There must be better options.”