Proposed Submission Version of the Local Plan

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

Chapter 3 - Supporting a Vibrant and Balanced Economy


Supporting Evidence

  • Economic Needs Study 2016
  • Sevenoaks District Council Economic Development Strategy 2018-2021
  • Strategic Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (SHELAA) 2018
  • Sevenoaks Urban Area Economic Study 2018
  • Site Appraisals
  • Retail Study 2016
  • Tourist Accommodation Needs Study 2015
  • Settlement Hierarchy 2018
  • Viability Evidence Base 2018
  • The Use Class Order (See glossary for further details).  

Economic Land and Development

3.1 Sevenoaks District has a vibrant and varied economy with a high level of employment, an economically active population and a skilled workforce. The rural economy is a vital aspect of the wider economy, and many jobs are provided in rural areas, often on smaller sites. The District's economy relies on smaller businesses with approximately 91% with less than 10 employees. All non-residential sites have a part to play in supporting the District's economy and provide valuable jobs for all.

3.2 There are 30 existing large employment sites (over 0.2ha) which provide  land for office accommodation, warehousing and industrial uses. These employment allocations along with the smaller employment sites, both urban and rural, across the District are vital to supporting the local economy as set out in the Economic Needs Study. We know that existing sites may not always be fit for purpose, therefore we encourage redevelopment of these areas to provide for new high quality non-residential premises where feasible and in keeping with the local character of the area.

3.3 The District's economy is expected to grow over the next 20 years and new land for employment uses has been identified to ensure that Sevenoaks District remains economically competitive and continues to meet the needs of the residents and workforce. It is vital to cultivate a growing economy to provide jobs and opportunities for future generations.

3.4 The Rural economy is an important aspect of the District. This includes agriculture, tourism and small scale employment.  It is essential that the rural economy continues to thrive to provide jobs, local produce and opportunities for diversification.


Economic Land Needs up to 2035 for Sevenoaks District

Total Need

B1a/b need

Industrial B1c/B2

Warehousing and Storage






3.5 The location of economic and employment land, and therefore jobs, is particularly important. Workers need to be able to have access to jobs and services and the employment providers need to have good access to transport links, especially where large and heavy good vehicles are necessary.


3.6 Sustainable employment land is also best placed in areas where the potential employment use will not have an unacceptable impact on the living conditions of existing and future residents.

3.7 Following these principles, the strategy for identifying new sustainable employment land is as follows:IMG_7749

  • Sites close to the existing transport network, particularly the strategic road and rail network
  • Sites adjacent to, or close to, existing protected employment land
  • Sites on the edge of existing settlements


3.8 Sites are not considered sustainable if they do not meet any of these criteria.

3.9 Employment land can also be provided as part of mixed use schemes subject to type of use and layout. This is particularly true for office accommodation which can relate well to residential development and for which the District has a particular need.

3.10 We have been working with our neighbouring authorities through the Duty to Co-operate process to establish if they have land available to meet our future employment needs. With a particular focus on the authorities within our Functional Economic Market Area (FEMA) (Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge and Malling), as well as those authorities with whom we share strong economic links such as Bromley, Bexley and Dartford. Unfortunately, to date, no other authorities have identified any ability to assist Sevenoaks with any unmet employment need.

3.11 We have seen a substantial amount of office floorspace lost to residential conversion since the changes to permitted development rights in 2013. However the Economic Needs Study states that the District should retain our existing employment offer to maintain our employment baseline.  To ensure the office accommodation across the District is fully protected, we will be serving Article 4 directions on all office accommodation on allocated sites to remove permitted development rights in regard to office to residential conversions. This would mean that any office space to residential conversions on these sites would require planning permission and would ensure that all schemes are fully assessed and subject to all Local Plan policies and the Community Infrastructure Levy.  


Policy EMP1 - Supporting a Vibrant and Balanced Economy

Non-residential use of land and/or buildings will be retained unless it can be demonstrated that the use is no longer feasible or viable. For any proposed redevelopment or conversion all employment generating uses will need to be fully considered before a residential scheme. This includes considering the location, existing use, heritage value and local needs of the site and surrounding area. Redevelopment of employment sites no longer fit for purpose to provide for high quality non residential premises will be supported where the economic value of the site is retained, either through an equivalent amount of floorspace or total number of jobs, demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Council.

Employment sites (allocated or non-allocated) will be retained in existing use to support the vibrant and balanced economy of the District. Applicants seeking to redevelop existing employment sites (allocated or non-allocated) must provide sufficient information to show that the site has been proactively marketed, at the appropriate price and using all relevant publications, for potentially suitable uses of the existing buildings, or the partial or comprehensive redevelopment of the site. Marketing must be for a period of at least one year at a time when the site is available or will be available shortly. In addition, applicants must demonstrate that forecast changes in market conditions will not result in the take up of all or part of the site.

Where it has been demonstrated, to the Council's satisfaction, through an independent assessment, that the current use is no longer viable and that there is no reasonable prospect of their take up or continued use during the Plan period, proposals for redevelopment must consider these uses in the following in order:

  1. Other business uses (B1a, B1b, B1c, B2, B8 or A2)
  2. All other non-residential, employment generating uses
  3. Residential employment generating uses (C1, C2)
  4. Wholly residential schemes C3


Redevelopment of employment sites (allocated or non-allocated) for mixed use may be permitted where such development:

  • would facilitate the regeneration of the site to more effectively meet the needs of modern business, and
  • where the employment capacity of the site, represented by commercial floorspace, is maintained,
  • and where a mixed use development would represent a sustainable approach consistent with the general distribution of development.


All office accommodation on allocated sites will be served an Article 4 direction to retain important business space to meet the needs of the District's economy.

The following sites, will be retained, intensified and regenerated for employment use.

Ref EMP1

Site Address

Total Area (hectares)

Employment Use

Sevenoaks - Urban Area   


Vestry Road, Sevenoaks




Bat &Ball Enterprise Centre, Sevenoaks




British Telecom, Sevenoaks




Erskine House, Sevenoaks




Hardy’s Yard, Riverhead




High Street, Sevenoaks 1.5 B1-B8
7 London Road, Sevenoaks 4.0 B1-B8
8 Morewood Close, Sevenoaks 3.7 B1-B8
9 South Park, Sevenoaks 0.2 B1-B8
10  Lime Tree Walk, Sevenoaks 0.6 B1-B8


Wested Lane Industrial Estate, Swanley




Swanley Town Council Offices, Swanley




Swan Mill, Goldsel Road, Swanley




Media House, Swanley



15 Moreton Industrial, Swanley 1.8 B1-B8

Ref EMP1

Site Address

Total Area (hectares)

Employment Use

16 Park Road Industrial Estate, Swanley 1.3 B1-B8
17 Southern Cross ind. Estate, Swanley 1.9 B1-B8
18 Teardrop Industrial Estate, Swanley 3.4 B1-B8
19 The Technology Centre, Swanley 1.9 B1-B8
20 Broom Hill, Swanley 4.3 B1-B8



Station Road, Edenbridge




Edenbridge/Warsop Trading Centre



Other settlements    


Westerham Trading Centre, Westerham




Blue Chalet Industrial Park, West Kingsdown




West Kingsdown Industrial Estate, West Kingstown

 0.5  B1-B8


Horton Kirby Trading Estate South Darenth



 The following sites are allocated as employment land. This land will be retained for employment use as set out in the table.

Site Reference EMP1 - Address Site Area (hectares) Employment Use
Sevenoaks Urban Area
27 Sevenoaks Garden Centre, Main Road, Sundridge 1.68 B1(a)
28 Bartram Farm, Old Otford Road, Sevenoaks 11.92 B1-B8
29 Former Park and Ride, Otford Road, Sevenoaks 0.75 B1

The development of the new allocations, and other new employment units for small to medium businesses in suitable locations, will be supported. Proposals for the creation of employment uses on allocated or non-allocated sites must consider the following:

  • The impact on the natural environment, landscape character and existing green infrastructure features in and around the site
  • The layout, scale and bulk of development
  • Operational impacts including noise, air quality and lighting
  • Impact on the transport network
  • Amenity of nearby properties and development


Development which supports the maintenance and diversification of the rural economy including development for agriculture, forestry, small scale business development and rural tourism projects, and the vitality of local communities will be supported provided it is compatible with other local plan policies.      

Major Developed Employment Sites in the Green Belt

The following sites, within the Green Belt, are considered to be important employment generating sites and will be retained in employment use. Proposals consistent with Green Belt policy will be supported.

Site Ref EMP1 -



North Downs Business Park, Dunton Green


Chaucer Business Park, Kemsing


Town and Local Centres

3.12 National policy and guidance places emphasis on creating sustainable places through strong local economies, creating employment opportunities, and vibrant town and local centres for communities and future generations to enjoy. The NPPF identifies the aims of town centres and suggests that the main uses which should be focused within them are retail development, leisure and entertainment facilities, offices and arts, culture and tourism development. To reflect this, the Local Plan will adopt a flexible approach to encouraging different town centre uses to meet the needs of the residents and communities who use our town and neighbourhood centres. 

3.13 The 2017 Retail Study forecasts that the District requires an additional 32,000m2 of retail floorspace up to 2035. This is split between 10,400m2 for convenience (food) and 21,700m2 for comparison (non-food) floorspace. In line with Government guidance and policy, the Local Plan will look to allocate and maintain retail provision according to the general distribution of development. This will broadly fall across the District's main settlements, according to the Settlement Hierarchy:

  • Principal Town: Sevenoaks
  • Towns: Swanley, Edenbridge & Westerham
  • Local Service Centres: Hartley, New Ash Green & Otford
  • Villages & Hamlets: See Settlement Hierarchy


3.14 New development will focus on the larger settlements in line with national policy and the principles of sustainability. 

Sevenoaks High Street

3.15 Defined town centre boundaries in previous Local Plans have worked well in focusing town centre uses in areas where there are the best opportunities for linked trips and access by public transport, cycling and walking. Residents are also served by smaller areas of retail, service and community facilities and we recognise the value that these provide in supporting the community as an important facility for local shopping provision. In these localised shopping centres, small scale retail development should be allowed appropriate in scale to the settlement.

Town Centres

Sevenoaks Town

Swanley Town

Edenbridge Town

Westerham Town
Local Centres

Hartley – Cherry Trees

New Ash Green Village Centre

Otford - High Street & Bubblestone Parade

Neighbourhood Centres






Neighbourhood Centres

Sevenoaks – Northern St. Johns

Sevenoaks – Southern St. Johns

Sevenoaks – Tubbs Hill and Station Parade

Sevenoaks – Otford Road Retail Area North

Sevenoaks – Otford Road Retail Area South

Dunton Green – London Road

Riverhead – London Road

Riverhead – Aisher Way

Swanley – Manse Parade

Swanley – Azalea Drive

Swanley – Birchwood Corner, London Road

Kemsing – The Parade

Seal – High Street

Brasted – High Street and the Green

Crockenhill – Broadway

West Kingsdown – Hever Road

Badgers Mount – Polhill Garden Centre

Knockholt – Coolings Nursery, Rushmore Hill

Hextable – Upper Main Road

Eynsford – High Street

Hartley – The Parade, Ash Road

South Darenth – Esparto Way, Holmesdale Road and Horton Road

3.16 National policy adopts a "town centres first" approach with local planning policies encouraging the redevelopment of town and local centres to ensure vibrancy and vitality with different town centre uses. The Retail Study 2017 recognises that the town and local service centres contribute positively to the varied retail offer, despite strong competition from surrounding out-of-District locations (e.g. Tunbridge Wells, Bluewater, Maidstone, Bromley).

3.17 A sequential test is used to determine the retail impacts on town and neighbourhood centres where there is a proposed retail development in an edge-of-centre or out-of-centre location. National policy states those developments which are proposing 2500m2 floorspace or more, should be subject to a retail impact assessment where no locally set threshold is set. Our retail evidence base suggests that the Local Plan should look to set a lower locally-set threshold to continue to protect our town, local and neighbourhood centres from adverse negative impacts.

3.18 It is essential that the District's Town centres and other retail based centres remain economically strong, competitive and fit for purpose recognising that this can include a broad range of leisure and recreational uses as well as the traditional retail offering. It is therefore key to provide a flexible approach to Town Centre uses, minimising the proportion of vacant units, reducing "dead frontages" and providing for a diverse range of services and facilities that best meet the needs of residents.

3.19 Encouraging new town centre uses in appropriate locations will encourage regeneration and redevelopment of existing town and local centres. The Swanley and Hextable Master Vision highlighted the importance of creating a vibrant Swanley town centre, improving the retail provision as well as leisure offering to make the town more competitive with surrounding town centres outside of the District. The Retail Study 2017 recognises that New Ash Green village centre is an important local centre which supports a number of smaller surrounding villages, but improvements to the village centre would ensure a more vibrant centre.

3.20 We will also continue to support the provision and enhancement of markets, in accordance with the NPPF. We will continue to seek to broadly maintain the existing parking provision within our existing town centres.

Loss of Services and Community Facilities

3.21 Community facilities and services provide for the health and wellbeing, social, educational, spiritual, recreational, leisure and cultural needs of the community. The provision of local community facilities such as post offices, banks, public houses, schools (and redundant school buildings), surgeries, churches, community facilities, and public transport, help to build sustainable communities by supporting the local economy and/or providing day-to-day facilities in locations where there is less need for people to travel by car.SH113397

3.22 This Local Plan seeks to retain local services and facilities in appropriate locations, to maintain the sustainability of our towns, local and neighbourhood centres, and ensures that communities continue to maintain access to day-to-day services and facilities. The policy should be applied to retail units considered to be addressing a need outside of established town and neighbourhood centres.

3.23 Community Right to Bid and Assets of Community Value, which were introduced in the Localism Act 2011, give communities powers to help them buy local facilities threatened with closure, which might offer communities an alternative option to retain community facilities.

Visitor Economy

3.24 Hever Castle 2The Sevenoaks District is already a popular tourism destination due to the attractive environment, historic towns and villages, and nationally recognised historic estates. It boasts a number of key heritage assets including Knole House, Chartwell, Hever Castle and Penshurst Place, as well as the Kent Downs and High Weald 'Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty' making up 60% of the District.

3.25 Tourism is a vital part of ensuring the District continues to have a vibrant economy and it is important to support the accommodation and attractions which are already excelling across our District. We want to strengthen and protect these existing attractions, as well as expanding and encouraging tourism within both our urban and rural areas. 


Policy EMP2 - Town and Local Centres

The distribution of additional retail floorspace required over the course of the Local Plan will be allocated according to the most sustainable locations as defined by the Settlement Hierarchy and Retail Study. Proposals will encourage the reuse of existing retail units, where appropriate, to ensure active frontages.

Within the defined town centre boundaries of Sevenoaks, Swanley, Edenbridge and Westerham, town centre uses which meet the needs of the town they serve will be permitted. Town centre developments which include a residential element will be permitted, providing that the residential element is not proposed at the ground floor.

New development in the town centre should be of a scale consistent with the existing character of the centre and should contribute to improving the quality of the town centre environment. Town centre car parking will be managed to ensure adequate and convenient provision for shoppers and appropriate provision for long stay car parking. Charging points for electric vehicle charging will be provided where possible.

Within the defined local centres boundaries of Hartley, New Ash Green and Otford, appropriate small scale town centre uses which better meets the needs of the town centre that they serve will be permitted. New development in the local centre should be of a scale consistent with the existing character of the centre and should contribute to improving the quality of the town centre environment.

Proposals to develop new retail provision in neighbourhood and village centres will be permitted, where the development is of a scale consistent with the existing character of the centre and does not undermine the balance of existing uses.

New development for town centre uses outside of the defined town or local centre boundary will be assessed in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework sequential test. An impact assessment will be required for any proposed retail development with a net floorspace of 1,000 sqm.

Within village and neighbourhood centres a range of shops (A1 Class use) and facilities (A2, A3, A4 and A5) will be maintained to meet the day-to-day retail needs of the communities which they serve.

Protection of Community uses

The loss of local services and facilities will be resisted where they are serving a local need. Exceptions will be made where equivalent replacement facilities equally accessible to the population served are provided, or where it is demonstrated, through evidence submitted that the continued operation of the service or facility is no longer needed or financially viable.

Where school and community buildings become vacant or redundant and there is no requirement for an alternative educational use or the existing community use, priority will be given to reusing the buildings or site to address local need for community facilities.

Proposals for change of use or redevelopment for alternative non community uses will only be considered if it is demonstrated by the applicant that there is no identified community need that can be facilitated through the site, or that community facilities that meet the identified need are incorporated into a wider mixed use scheme.


 Policy EMP3 – Tourism & Visitor Economy

Tourism & Visitor Economy

Proposals to provide new sustainable tourism development including hotels, guesthouses, bed and breakfast, outdoor accommodation, self catering accommodation and new visitor attractions will be supported after consideration of the following criteria:

  1. The anticipated traffic generation and whether the location is readily accessible by a range of means of transport including walking and cycling and by public transport;
  2. The impact on local and landscape character and amenity;
  3. The relationship to existing tourism development and whether the proposal is for the upgrading of those facilities;
  4. Whether the proposal will contribute to the diversification of tourist attractions in the District


Performance Indicators for Supporting  a Vibrant and Balanced Economy

Proportion of additional employment floorspace in Urban Confines (No annual net loss of employment floorspace across the district)

Maintenance of Employment Allocations and Major Developed Employment Sites in the Green Belt (No loss of Employment Allocations in the Green Belt)

Change in Employment Floor Space by type (The overall stock of employment land is to be maintained)

Change in Employment Floor Space in the Main Settlements (The overall stock of employment land is to be maintained)

Change in Employment Floor Space in non allocated sites (No annual net loss of employment floorspace across the district)

Settlement Hierarchy (No loss of services and facilities that serve the local community within rural settlements)