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

What is the District Like?

Sevenoaks District is located in West Kent, with the edge of Greater London to the north-west, Surrey to the west and East Sussex to the south. The District covers almost 143 square miles and 93% is designated Green Belt. The towns are Sevenoaks, Swanley, Edenbridge and Westerham, where about half of the 118,409 residents (2015 mid-year population estimates, Office for National Statistics [ONS]) in the District live. There are over 30 villages and smaller settlements of which the largest is New Ash Green.

The District has a high quality landscape with a mostly rural character. 60% of the District lies within the KeOak leavesnt Downs or High Weald Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are many areas of woodland much of which is designated as Ancient Woodland, two Country Parks and a large network of public rights of way. Parts of the District afford impressive views over Kent and the South East particularly from the North Downs and the Greensand Ridge. The District also is rich in biodiversity with many Wildlife Reserves, designated areas as well the River Darent and Eden.

There are many historic settlements in the District as reflected in the high number of conservation areas and listed buildings. The District also boasts many nationally recognised heritage assets including the historic estates of Knole, Chartwell, Hever Castle, Penshurst Place and Lullingstone Castle. Other places of interest include the National Trust village at Chiddingstone, Eynsford Castle ruin, Lullingstone Roman Villa, Otford Palace and Toys Hill (the birthplace of the National Trust). There are many tourist opportunities within the District and it is particularly popular with day visitors. The settlements contain well used village greens, sports pitches, play facilities for children and young people and parks and gardens.

The population of the District is expected to grow by more than 20,000 people over the plan period 2015-35 (ONS). This is in line with other authorities in Kent and the South East and reflects people living longer, an increasing birth rate and internal migration patterns (largely people moving out of London into Sevenoaks). In respect of international migration and particularly any impact 'Brexit' may have, the number of people expected to enter the District over the plan period is roughly the same as the number of people expected to leave, therefore having zero or very little impact. 20% of the District's population are currently aged 65 or over and this figure is expected to grow to 25% over the plan period. This growing population and changing age structure presents a key challenge for the District. There are areas of affluence in the district as well as pockets of deprivation. The Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) is the official measure of relative deprivation for small areas in England. The IMD uses information about income, employment, health, education, crime and living environment to rank every small area in England from 1 (most deprived) to 32,844 (least deprived). According to the IMD the District is the second least deprived local authority in Kent, although there are areas which are within the 20% most deprived in the country.

The District has generally high house prices. The average house prices in the District are around £175,000 higher than in Kent making it very difficult for first time buyers and young families to remain in the District. There is a central government requirement for 13,960 new homes over the plan period to meet the needs of the growing population. This includes a high proportion of affordable homes and specialist accommodation for older people.

The District is a popular place to live, partly because of its proximity to London and the continent. Major transport links are provided by the M25, M26, M20, A21, A20 and A25. Stations throughout the District provide rail access to London in under an hour. However, future investment in this transport infrastructure is needed to ensure it remains fit for purpose. The District is also well located for Gatwick and Heathrow airports as well as the Channel Ports, Ashford and Ebbsfleet International stations.

We want to ensure the District is a safe place for all to live, work and travel, while encouraging healthy lifestyles and providing people with access to good quality healthcare. There are two minor injury hospitals; Sevenoaks Hospital and Edenbridge & District War Memorial Hospital. There is no major medical facility within the District for residents. Residents have to travel out of the District to Tunbridge Wells Hospital, Queen Mary's Hospital (Sidcup), Darent Valley Hospital (Dartford), Maidstone Hospital and London hospitals.

Education provision within the District is varied with a mixture of state and private, primary and secondary provision. While there are 42 primary schools, there are only 4 state secondary schools within the District with many children being sent outside the District or privately for their secondary education.

The District has the lowest level of unemployment in Kent. The residents of the District are generally well qualified with only 8% of the population having no qualifications. There are a number of employment areas within the District. The majority of residents work in the West Kent area with more than 40% working within Greater London. The District also has a strong rural economy, and many residents work from home, but issues of connectivity and broadband are common.

The District has vibrant town centres with many independent shops and a good retail offering. There is strong competition from nearby areas including Bluewater and Tunbridge Wells. Some areas are in need of regeneration including Swanley Town Centre and New Ash Green Village Centre. Areas outside towns are served by local facilities within villages. These services are of great value to local communities and contribute to the District's rural economy.