Proposed Submission Version of the Local Plan

Sevenoaks District Local Plan Proposed Submission Version Regulation 19 Consultation (including Appendices 1-4)

Chapter 5 - Protecting, Conserving and Enhancing Green Belt, Landscape and the Natural Environment


Supporting Evidence

  • Landscape Character Area Assessment 2016
  • Kent Downs AONB Management Plan and associated documents and position statements
  • High Weald AONB Management Plan and associated documents and positions statements
  • Green Belt Assessment 2017
  • Development in the Green Belt Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) 2018

Landscape and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)

5.1 Sevenoaks District is an attractive place to live and work for all generations. The diverse landscape and strong historic features have contributed to the special and distinctive character of the District. More than 60% of the District lies within the Kent Downs or High Weald Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and 11% of the District is covered in irreplaceable Ancient Woodland (compared with the UK average of 2%).

5.2 The Landscape Character Assessment 2016 provides a detailed review of the entire District including the AONBs. 

5.3 The distinctive character of the AONBs plays an important part in defining the overall character of Sevenoaks District. The AONB Management Plans and associated guidance set out a range of measures to conserve and enhance the distinctive features of each AONB. Proposals should take account of the relevant Management Plan and associated guidance to produce sensitive and carefully designed schemes.

5.4 The landscape and natural environment is an important asset which is deserving of care and management. Projects which provide improvements to the natural environment, increase public enjoyment and provide health benefits both at the landscape scale, such as the Darent Valley Landscape Partnership Scheme and the Sevenoaks Greensands Commons Project, and at the local scale, such as woodland management projects, are supported by the Council. 

Policy LA1 - Landscape and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty 

The landscape character of the District and the countryside, including areas of tranquillity, will be conserved and the distinctive features that contribute to the special character will be protected and will be enhanced where possible.

The Kent Downs and High Weald Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and their settings will be given the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty.

Proposals within the AONB and their settings must conserve and enhance the character of the landscape and its special qualities with regard to the relevant management plan, associated documents and position statements. It must be demonstrated that consideration has been given to the:

  • Rural economic impact, either positive or negative
  • Historic use of buildings, site and surroundings
  • The historic landscape and impact on the historic environment
  • Impact on scenic beauty.


Developments must demonstrate appropriate:

  • Scale and form
  • Layout in relation to adjacent settlements and settlements patterns
  • Use of materials and colours


Enhancement may include but is not limited to:

  • Improvement of scenic beauty e.g. the removal or improvement of currently detrimental buildings or features; or by obscuring or distracting from negative features such as pylons, substations and major roads.
  • Restoring historic features and replacing existing materials with more appropriate and local materials
  • Supporting the local economy e.g. using local materials, including features reliant on local materials such as wood for biomass boilers, supporting new rural business etc
  • Restoring historic settlement patterns, historic field patterns or historic routeways
  • Allowing new appropriate public access
  • Restoration of native planting and natural features including trees, hedgerows, meadows and grassland.
  • Improving tranquillity and reducing the existing impact of noise and lighting.

Green Belt

5.5 Sevenoaks District adjoins London and is predominantly rural in character with 93% of the District designated as Metropolitan Green Belt, the third highest percentage in England. The particular function of the Green Belt in Kent is to form a buffer to the outward growth of London, preserving the open countryside between the edge of London and the settlements of West Kent.

5.6 The general purposes of the Green Belt is to:Hills between shoreham and lullingstone

  • check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas;
  • prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another;
  • assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment;
  • preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and
  • assist in urban regeneration by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

5.7 The most important attribute of the Green Belt is its openness and the fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to keep land permanently open. The 2017 study assessing the District's Green Belt finds that all areas continue to perform against at least one of the five purposes of Green Belt making its continued designation appropriate unless 'exceptional circumstances' are clearly identified.

Extensions and replacement buildings in the Green Belt

5.8 It is reasonable for those living or working in the Green Belt to be able to extend or replace their existing dwelling, to cater for changing family needs or to provide updated facilities and accommodation. Proposals to extend or replace dwellings in the Green Belt are not inappropriate development provided extensions are proportionate and replacements are like-for-like or 'not materially larger' in scale. Previous versions of the Local Plan have included a policy that allows the extension of a dwelling by up to 50% above the floor area of the original dwelling. Floor-space alone does not reflect the impact of the development of the openness of the Green Belt, but the percentage should be used as a guide, where extensions or replacements that result in an increase of more than 50% above the original floor-space are unlikely to be acceptable. The principles that determine the acceptability of a scheme are based on design and the impact that the form and appearance of the extension/replacement have on the openness of the Green Belt.

Basements in buildings in the Green Belt

5.9 The construction of basements in buildings in the Green Belt would not generally impact on the openness of the Green Belt in terms of their physical presence, providing that the basements are located entirely underground, are not visible externally and are not artificially raised above natural ground level or result in the re-grading of the site.

Dwellings permitted as Rural Exceptions in the Green Belt

5.10 Rural exception schemes are permitted based on a proven local need for housing of a certain size and type, as identified through rural housing needs surveys. As these developments have been allowed as an exception to normal Green Belt policy, to meet identified local housing needs, it is reasonable not to allow future extensions and additions which would impact on the size and affordability of these units or their suitability to meet specific housing needs. 


Policy GB1 - Development in the Green Belt

Extensions and replacement of existing dwellings in the Green Belt

Proposals to extend or replace existing dwellings in the Green Belt will be permitted where the design of the proposal does not materially harm the openness of the Green Belt through disproportionate scale, bulk or visual intrusion. As a guide, the total floorspace of the proposal, together with any previous extensions, should not result in an increase of more than 50% above the floorspace of the original dwelling (measured externally). Extensions should be subservient to the original building and replacement buildings should not be materially larger than the existing dwelling they replace.

Basements in buildings in the Green Belt

Proposals for the provision of basements in buildings in the Green Belt will be permitted where

  1. The basement would be situated entirely underground with no part of it visible at any point externally and there would be no external windows, light wells, entrances or exits to the basement; and
  2. The building would not be artificially raised above natural ground level and the topography of the site would not be altered/re-graded to accommodate the basement 


Dwellings permitted as Rural Exceptions in the Green Belt

Applications to extend dwellings, or erect or extend outbuildings to dwellings that have been permitted as part of a rural exception scheme, will not be permitted.  

Ashdown Forest

5.11 Sevenoaks District is rich in biodiversity and wildlife due to its range of different habitats and protected areas. There are no internationally important sites in the District although there are four such sites within 10km of the boundary of the District, the most significant of which is Ashdown Forest which lies approximately 6km south of the District boundary. It is internationally important for nature conservation, reflected in its designation as a Special Protection Area (SPA) due to the presence of breeding Nightjars and Dartford Warblers and as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), primarily due to heathland habitats. The European designations cover around 3,000ha. The District's nearest settlement to Ashdown Forest is Edenbridge, which is approximately 12km from the site and a 2016 visitor's survey found that less than 1% of visitors to the Forest are from within Sevenoaks District.Yellow and purple 2

5.12 The Local Plan is accompanied by a 'Habitats Regulations Assessment' (HRA) which concludes that no adverse effect on the integrity of the European sites, is expected to result from development provided by the Plan, even in combination with other plans and projects. We will continue to work proactively with Natural England, neighbouring authorities and any other relevant bodies to understand the impact of the Local Plan on the Ashdown Forest. We are members of the Ashdown Forest Officer Working Group and have signed a Statement of Common Ground to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to joint-working on this important issue.

5.13 To date, neighbouring authorities have sought modest developer contributions towards mitigating the impact of recreational pressure from new development, within a 7km zone of the forest. This zone just reaches into the District (a very small area around Fordcombe and Cowden), but there is no development proposed in these areas as it is entirely washed over by the Green Belt. However, due to the possibility of windfall development, Natural England has recommended that Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMMs) contributions are sought, to allow any windfall development within the 7km zone to proceed, whilst addressing their impact on the forest. As there are no proposed site allocations within the 7km zone in the District, a strategic Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) is unlikely to be feasible. Tariff guidance is set out in the following document and is currently set at £1,170 per new residential unit,uk/downloads/file/1140/ashdown_forest_special_protection_spa_strategy_tariff_guidance


Policy AF1 - Ashdown Forest

Any residential development within the 7km zone of Ashdown Forest (see map) will provide a Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMMs) contribution, to address visitor impact on Ashdown Forest, in line with the SAMM strategy.

If any major development is proposed in or adjacent to the zone, applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis to determine any additional mitigation requirements. 

Any proposals considered likely to have a significant adverse effect on the Ashdown Forest Special Protection Area (SPA) will not normally be permitted.


Performance Indicators for Protecting, Conserving and Enhancing Green Belt, Landscape and the Natural Environment

Proportion of residential Green Belt applications overturned at appeal for extensions (No refused proposals for residential Green Belt applications overturned at appeal for extensions and basements)

Dwellings permitted as Rural Exceptions in the Green Belt (No permissions for extensions or outbuildings to rural exception housing in the Green Belt)

Countryside Projects (Progress in implementing countryside projects in the District, including AONB)