Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category
At yesterday’s Cabinet meeting of Sevenoaks District Council a report was presented outlining the recent attempts by the Council to secure essential work on the village centre in New Ash Green. An Environmental Visual Audit of the area in March revealed a number of issues that need attention and these are being pursued with the relevant people. Already the blocked drains have been cleared and some repairs have been carried out but more are still awaited. It was reported that a meeting will be held in may between the Council’s Regeneration Adviser and the landowner, together with the architect who has been engaged by the landowner – this will be to discuss the landowners’ future intentions for the centre. A report on this meeting will be prepared for all residents if there is any firm information to pass on.
At the elections in May, 18 new councillors were elected to the District Council. They have quickly joined the returning councillors to seek to deliver on the Conservative manifesto commitments. Financial self sufficiency has been a driving force. Members have taken some bold decisions to ensure that the Council stands on the brink of setting a budget for 2016-17 that will make Sevenoaks District Council the very first in the country to be self-sufficient of Government grant. This gives us certainty in our planning and puts the Council in a great place to continue to deliver on its priorities for residents and businesses.
Helping us to achieve this goal has been the Property Investment Strategy. The decisions that councillors have taken have enabled the Council to move quickly to secure investments in Swanley and Sevenoaks that will generate at least £450,000 a year in additional income. With the bold decision taken to develop a hotel and work ongoing to improve car parking capacity in Sevenoaks, there are exciting developments to come in 2016 and beyond. The decision to develop a Masterplan for the regeneration of Swanley and Hextable is a great opportunity to make a real and lasting difference for local people.
We are supporting this by continuing to make savings – £500,000 in 2016-17 and additional income or savings to the value of £100,000 in each year after. Working with officers, councillors have already identified all but £13,000 of the savings we will require next year. This is being achieved without any reduction in front line services.
Elsewhere in the Council there have been significant challenges to face in relation to planning. The decisions of Government continue to make managing the development we need in our District more challenging. Progress is being made with a revised Local Plan and the adoption of an Enforcement Policy. The increasing need for housing in our rural District and the call for sites are not always palatable news but essential to enable us to continue to make progress. The decision to grant planning permission at Fort Halstead, although circumscribed by detailed legal agreements, will provide for much needed housing and business premises.
Council services have continued to deliver for residents. Improvements have been made to increase our focus on customer service within our revenues service and the parking team are working quickly to respond to residents’ requests to address local planning issues.
Councillors are also committed to ensuring that actions to improve the health of the District are embedded across all of our services and we look forward to delivering on those ambitions next year. Early next year a new Trading Company ‘Quercus 7’ will be incorporated, opening up new opportunities to generate more of our own income and we are hopeful that the Licensing Partnership will be expanded to a fourth partner next year to bring more efficiency savings.
All this will ensure that Sevenoaks District Council remains one of the most efficient and forward looking councils in the country, delivering first class services for all its residents.
Yesterday I went to a Traffic and Transport workshop run by London Resort Company Holdings to seek the views of local people on their proposals for the London Paramount Entertainment Resort on the Swanscombe Peninsula.
The opening of a theme park in 2020, including hotels and restaurants, attracting 15 million visitors a year and with 27,000 employees, on a restricted site is bound to have an impact on traffic in a wide area, including Ash and New Ash Green.
We were told what is to be done to minimise the impact, including encouraging the use of public transport and separating resort traffic from local traffic with a dedicated dual carriageway road from the A2 Ebbsfleet junction. A new Fastrack bus road would link Ebbsfleet Station to the site so buses between Gravesend and Bluewater could be diverted to transfer people between trains and the resort as well as providing transport for employees. River transport would be encouraged, including for construction traffic. Only cycles, pedestrians, buses and emergency vehicles would be allowed to enter the site from the immediate area.
However, although the workshop participants acknowledged the work done so far to mitigate traffic impacts, they felt more should be done in a number of areas:
- Look at the traffic impacts beyond the A2, including the M25 and Dartford Crossing, taking note of the frequent congestion caused by traffic problems.
- Improve north-south routes so people, especially employees living south of the A2, are not forced to join the busy A2 in order to use the access road.
- Keep the link from Ebbsfleet to Park Corner Road and Betsham which would be cut by the current link road proposals.
- Look at improvements to public transport from the south, as well as the east-west rail and bus links already considered, including a direct link from Longfield and the Victoria-Chatham rail line.
- Develop robust contingency plans for when the single access road is blocked for any reason.
- Improve footpaths linking to the proposed riverside walkway around the edge of the site.
- Consider a pricing structure for car park fees and entry to the resort that will not encourage people to park in local roads and car parks, including Ebbsfleet Station or Bluewater.
- Develop incentives for using public transport.
- Provide a car park on the Essex side of the Thames with a ferry or cable car link into the site to relieve pressure on the Dartford Crossing.
- Take care not to discourage other bus users because of excessive numbers of people using buses into the resort, or longer journey times.
The impression given at the workshop was that the developers were genuinely listening to our views. It remains to be seen how much is carried forward to the planning application and eventually put in place.
I’ve just delivered 243 questionnaires to Caling Croft and Farm Holt. The rest will be going out in the next few days to every house in the Parish. Make sure you fill in yours and return it to the collection points set out in my earlier post.
Or fill in the online questionnaire.
The Ash-cum-Ridley Neighbourhood Plan will help to determine where residents live, work and play. It is being produced by the Parish Council and New Ash Green Village Association with help from Sevenoaks District Council. Local councillors are heavily involved in preparing the Plan which will cover the whole of the parish. Our Plan:
- will complement the planning documents for the Sevenoaks area, adding more local detail,
- when finished, will go to an independent examiner and a referendum for approval by the whole community,
- will add more local detail to the documents for the whole of Sevenoaks,
- must be taken into account in planning decisions when it has been approved.
So it really will make a difference.
We are also asking some extra questions to find out what other issues are important for local people, to help us to lobby for better facilities.
We need to ensure that as many people as possible have opportunities to give us their views on what should be in our Plan. As a first step we have developed a questionnaire to seek the opinions of parish residents about our future. It is being delivered to every household in the parish. Please answer it as carefully as you can on behalf of everyone in your household.
Alternatively you may fill in the online version of the questionnaire which is available on the following link:
If you need further paper copies of the questionnaire as a PDF document you may download this file:
If you do not have enough space to write everything on the questionnaire form and if any of your household, including the younger people, have particular interests or concerns, please attach a separate sheet of paper and say clearly which section the comments relate to. If they prefer they could fill in their own online questionnaire using the link above.
Here’s a good news story and a cautonary tale, depending on your viewpoint.
Four fraudsters who conned unsuspecting individuals into buying Green Belt plots with no development potential have each been jailed for six to seven years following an investigation by Trading Standards Officers supported by Sevenoaks District Council planners.
The individuals set up companies called Countrywide Landholdings and Regional Land to sell small plots of Green Belt land in Ash falsely claiming that they could be developed, even though Council planning policies protect Green Belt land from development.
Once planners learnt about the scam they served a legal notice (called an Article 4 direction) which prevented the land from being physically subdivided into small plots by erecting boundary fences. A warning was also posted on the Council’s website highlighting that the land concerned had no development potential. This prompt action prevented unauthorised development from taking place.
The planners also alerted Trading Standards Officers who, with the police, launched a fraud investigation which resulted in the individuals concerned being jailed last month. Council planners provided a witness statement to support the investigation.
The main lesson to be drawn is that the Council is vigilant in protecting the Green Belt throughout the District so do not be taken in by similar frauds. If you own land in the Green Belt and you want to carry out any development, do talk to the Council or one of your councillors because we will be happy to help.
Plans for the new fire station on Chapel Wood Road opposite Beechcroft Farm have been approved by Sevenoaks District Council. Planning permission is granted for the erection of a new single storey fire station, providing garaging for 1 appliance, charging point for a 2nd appliance, with office, training/community room and other ancillary accommodation, external training area, car parking, underground storage tank, lighting, landscaping and fencing. The permission is however subject to 11 conditions. These conditions include a requirement for further details to be submitted for approval to cover the protection of the trees on the site, the method of boundary enclosure and the external lighting scheme. The training facilities on the site can only be used on one evening a week (excluding Sundays and Bank Holidays) and only for a 2-hour period between 7:00pm and 9:00pm on that evening; live fire training is not allowed at any time. These conditions are designed to minimise any adverse impact on local residents and mitigate possible highway concerns.
Of the 27 or so trees on the site, only 5 will have to be removed and most of the other hedging around the edge of the site will be retained along with new planting of native hedgerow species around the site. All the new planting will have to be maintained and replaced if it dies for 5 years until it becomes established.
This permission will now enable the Fire & Rescue Service to proceed with their plans for recruiting a team of firefighters in the area and providing the promised improvements to response times in Ash, New Ash Green and Hartley sometime next year.
The proposal for residential use of the North Ash Manor site was debated at the Council’s Local Development Framework Advisory Group this week. After local councillors attended the meeting to explain to the Group the reasons for not wanting to lose this important employment site in New Ash Green, the members of the Advisory Group voted unanimously to exclude the proposal from the draft Allocations and Development Management Plan.
This is great news for New Ash Green but whilst this battle has been won, the war is not yet over because there may be pressure from Bovis or others to reinstate the residential allocation before the Supplementary Planning Document is finally approved.
If you have been following posts here you will have seen the earlier one about the inclusion of North Ash Manor – the Bovis Homes office in North Ash Road – in the draft Sevenoaks District Council Allocations and Development Management Plan as a potential site for housing redevelopment. The consultation on this took place during the summer and local councillors all made submissions opposing the change of use from employment land. As a fall back position we put forward some suggestions for reducing the impact of any redevelopment. We have also met planning officers to explain our concerns.
A revised draft Plan has now been published and it is being considered by the Council’s Advisory Group on Tuesday 9 October. The revision has taken account of some of our comments. The number of residential units that might be allowed has been reduced from 50 to 30 and there are references to the need to tie redevelopment into the New Ash Green management structure. But the principle of change of use has not been amended. We firmly believe that this site should be retained in office use if at all possible and we are not convinced that Bovis Homes will move if there is no redevelopment potential for the land. So we are continuing to argue as strongly as possible for the site to be removed from the draft Plan so that local employment opportunities can be protected. A paper explaining the importance of the employment site to the village has been sent to all members of the Advisory Group and I hope to attend the meeting next week to explain in more detail if necessary.
The plans for the proposed Ash-cum-Ridley Fire Station have now been published and can be seen on the Sevenoaks District Council Planning Portal. Comments are invited from anyone who has an interest and should be made through the ‘Make a Public Comment’ link in the Planning Portal by 8 October.