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

Chapter 7 - Ensuring New Development Respects Local Distinctiveness


Supporting Evidence

  • Village Design Statements
  • Residential Character Area Assessments
  • Landscape Character Assessment 2016
  • Parish Plans
  • Conservation Area Appraisals 

High Quality Design

7.1 Development should contribute to making better and more attractive places for people of all generations to live, work and relax. It is important to maintain and enhance the quality of the environment and to ensure that each new development conserves or enhances the quality, character and distinctiveness of the local area.

7.2 A distinctive feature of the District is the high quality of the natural and built environment. Sevenoaks District contains two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and other areas of attractive landscape (see The Landscape Character Assessment 2016). The built and historic heritage of Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas, Historic Parks and Gardens (registered and local), Scheduled Ancient Monuments and sites of archaeological interest, shape the District's cultural heritage and special character.

7.3 The Planning Policy Team will continue to support local communities who wish to develop neighbourhood plans and will encourage these to include well considered and evidenced character assessments and design policies. Alternatively communities will be supported to create or update an existing village design statement or character area assessment. The character assessments and design statements will be adopted as Supplementary Planning Documents and used when assessing planning applications.

7.4 High quality and low carbon design can respond to the challenges of climate change as well as wider environmental issues whilst also creating an attractive and inclusive identity for the District. By designing and constructing buildings to a high standard of low carbon design, developments can reduce energy consumption and the District's overall carbon footprint. Layouts that encourage walking, cycling and access to public transport and avoid convoluted vehicle routes contribute to these objectives.  This can also contribute to the overall improvement of public health throughout the District with better designed places and an increased provision of shared public spaces.

7.5 "Building for Life 12" is a nationally recognised industry standard, endorsed by Government, for well-designed homes and neighbourhoods that local communities, local authorities and developers can use to assess the quality of new housing. The Council have been using the Building for Life standard to assess completed housing schemes and to help determine larger scale housing schemes during the development management process. The questions within the standard assist in ensuring many aspects of design are considered however, additional design aspects including sustainable drainage systems, climate change measures, green infrastructure and access for all should also be included. The design policy combines all these design aspects with more detailed information and requirements set out in Appendix 1.

7.6 Applicants will be expected to set out in a supporting statement, together with necessary bespoke assessments or reports, how a thorough design process has led to the proposals submitted and how all of the requirements of the policy have been thoroughly considered and achieved for any proposed development.

Design Review Panel Process

7.7 Mike the plannerThe District has a high quality built and natural environment and it has been recognised that a design panel should be used to fully assess the design of new development. This will involve an independent panel of experts to review proposed designs. We will work closely with Design South East to facilitate the process. Design South East manages the Design South East Panel and a series of local design panels, supporting local planning authorities, developers and communities through impartial, constructive and expert design review of policies, plans and projects.

7.8 It is expected that the Design Review Panel process will be paid for by the applicant and all elements of the scheme including the built and natural environment will be assessed and a satisfactory outcome at the design review panel will be expected to be achieved.  A Design Review Panel SPD will be produced to provide guidance on which sites will be subject to the Design Review Panel Process and how the process will work to ensure the process is not onerous and a barrier to development.

More detail on the role of Design South East as a Design Review Panel can be found at

Residential Amenity and Noise

7.9 All development should provide an acceptable standard of amenity for its occupants and does not result in significant harmful effects to surrounding uses. These harmful effects can include overlooking, loss of privacy or light, noise and pollution.

7.10 The Noise Policy Statement for England (DEFRA, March 2010) seeks to promote good health and a good quality of life through the effective management of noise within the context of Government policy on sustainable development.

7.11 Noise sensitive developments should be located away from existing sources of significant noise, and potentially noisy developments should be located in areas where noise will not be such an important consideration or where its impact can be minimised. Acceptable noise levels will be based on technical guidance and the advice of noise specialists.

7.12 The DEFRA statement references "significant adverse" and "adverse" that are currently being applied to noise impacts. These levels can assist local planning authorities in their consideration of sensitive and noise related development.

7.13 Conditions may be attached to any planning permission to ensure adequate attenuation of noise emissions or to control the noise at source.

Outdoor Lighting

7.14 Artificial lighting is essential in some locations for reasons of safety and security. However, insensitive lighting can cause what is termed as "light pollution". Sevenoaks District, as a predominantly rural area, is sensitive to light pollution through sky glow which can affect the character of the countryside and have a negative impact on biodiversity.

7.15 External lighting is needed for commercial use and for some community and sports facilities such as floodlit sports pitches. Whilst the lighting has to be adequate for the purpose, it is important that there is no significant nuisance to the amenity of surrounding properties or the wider countryside. This may require the use of planning conditions to limit the times when lighting is used to minimise the disturbance. The use of low energy lighting will be encouraged.

7.16 In assessing the impact of lighting that affects the outdoor environment or neighbouring uses, the current level of lighting will be taken into account. 


Policy EN1 - Design Principles

Proposals must exhibit high quality design and respond to the distinctive local character of the area. New development must create safe, inclusive and attractive environments that meet the needs of users, incorporate principles of sustainable development and maintain and enhance biodiversity. Developments must all be designed to promote healthy living opportunities both mental and physical.

Applicants will be expected to follow a thorough design process appropriate to the scale of development proposed. This should include survey and analysis of the site and its wider context including policy, guidance and character assessments, early engagement with the community and other relevant stakeholders, establishment of clear design principles for the site and exploration of design options.

All new developments must meet the following design criteria and set out how this has been achieved in a supporting statement. The additional details set out in the Design Appendix also needs to be addressed:

Design consideration

Design criteria

Key question/s




1. Character

The proposal must not result in the loss of buildings, open spaces or blue green infrastructure that would have an unacceptable impact on the character of the area;

While towns and villages need to evolve to accommodate increased densities, the form of the proposed development must be sensitive to the scale, height, materials and site coverage of the area.

Account must be taken of adopted guidance including Supplementary Planning Documents, the Kent Design Guide, Conservation Area Appraisals and Management Plans, Neighbourhood Plans, KCC PRoW Good Design Guide, and relevant AONB Management Plans and associated design guidance.

Does the scheme create a place with a locally inspired or otherwise distinctive character?

How has the relevant design guidance been used to determine the distinctive character of the scheme?




2. Working with the Site and its Context

The design of new buildings and the layout of streets and spaces, including footways, car and cycle parking areas, must be permeable and provide connectivity with neighbouring areas, creating a connected network of streets as places expand;

The layout of the proposed development must respect the topography and character of the site and the surrounding area and sensitively incorporate natural features such as trees, hedges and ponds within the site;

Does the scheme integrate into its surroundings by reinforcing existing connections and creating new ones, while also respecting existing buildings and land uses around the development site?

Does the scheme take advantage of existing topography, landscape features (including water courses), trees and plants, wildlife habitats, existing buildings, site orientation and microclimate?



3. Natural Landscaping, Blue Green Infrastructure, Biodiversity and Flooding

The proposal must incorporate within the design opportunities for increasing biodiversity potential, and retaining and enhancing blue green infrastructure features including sustainable drainage systems.

Proposals that affect a site's existing biodiversity and Blue green Infrastructure must be designed in a way that avoids or mitigates any potential harm;

The proposal must seek to decrease and must not increase the volume or rate of surface water runoff and flooding on the site through landscape-based rather than engineered systems.

Does the scheme retain existing habitats and incorporate new ones?

How has surface water runoff been considered from source to site exit in the scheme?

Have areas at risk of flooding been avoided before mitigation measures have been considered?



4. Well Defined Streets and Spaces inc. Car Parking,

The proposal must create or enhance a network of streets with an appropriate sense of enclosure and good surveillance achieved through principal elevations facing each other and the street;

Are buildings designed and positioned with landscaping to define and enhance streets and spaces and are buildings designed to turn corners well?

Is the car parking well integrated so that it does not dominate the street?


5. Streets and Access for All inc. Active Design and Travel

New development must be inclusive and where appropriate make satisfactory provision for the safe and easy access for all, including people with physical, sensory or intellectual impairments and other vulnerable groups;

Are streets designed in a way that encourage low vehicles speeds, allow them to function as social spaces?

Is the development easy to navigate and does it provide easy access for all?


6. Public and Private Spaces

The design of new development must result in the creation of a safe and secure environment discouraging crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour, in the first instance through passive surveillance and well-used public spaces, then through additional security measures;

All new flatted development must provide communal or private amenity space on site.

Are public and private spaces clearly defined and designed to have appropriate access and be able to be well managed and safe to use?


7. External Storage and Utilities including Broadband, Cycle Storage, Green Technologies

New developments must include infrastructure that meets modern communication and technology needs and restricts the need for future retrofitting. Such infrastructure should include Broadband, high speed internet cabling, digital TV cabling and provision of a power supply that would support green technology initiatives such as in home electric car charging points.

Is there adequate external storage space (including convenient refuse and cycle storage)

Is there appropriate broadband and electric car-charging infrastructure?

Proposals for adverts, signage lighting and other security features to be fit for purpose, fully integrated with the design, and do not adversely affect the visual amenity of the street scene, the countryside or the amenity of neighbours. 

Design Review Panel Process

New development will be subject to a Design Review Panel Process as set out in the Design Review Panel SPD.

Residential Amenity and Noise

Proposals will be permitted where they would provide adequate residential amenities for existing and future occupiers of the development and would safeguard the amenities of existing and future occupants of nearby properties by ensuring that development does not contribute to and avoids areas where occupiers of the development would be subject to, excessive noise, vibration, odour, air pollution, activity or vehicle movements, overlooking or visual intrusion and where the built form would not result in an unacceptale loss of privacy, or light enjoyed by the occupiers of nearby properties.

Proposals which meet the following criteria will be permitted:

  1. Development would not have an unacceptable impact when considered against the indoor and outdoor acoustic environment including existing and future occupiers of the development and the amenities of existing and future occupants of nearby properties; and
  2. Development would not result in unacceptable noise levels from existing noise sources that cannot be adequately mitigated.


Where proposals for high noise generating development would affect Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or open countryside or sites designated for their biodiversity value, development will not be permitted if it would undermine the character or harm the biodiversity of these areas.

Outdoor Lighting

Proposals for lighting that affect the outdoor environment which meet the following criteria will be permitted:

  1. where associated with a wider development, the proposal would be well integrated within the scheme;
  2. any impact on the night sky would be minimised through time-limited and user activated lighting, the alignment of lamps, provision of shielding and selection of appropriate lighting type and intensity;
  3. there would be no harmful impact on privacy or amenity for nearby residential properties;
  4. the proposal would preserve or enhance the character or appearance of any Heritage Asset which may be affected;
  5. any potential impacts on wildlife would be avoided or adequately mitigated where avoidance is not possible;
  6. where proposals affect Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or open countryside, it can be demonstrated that the lighting is essential for safety or security reasons. Where these criteria are met, proposals incorporating the use of low energy lighting will be encouraged; and
  7. Street lighting in new developments must be designed alongside tree planting plans to ensure there are no conflicts.


Performance Indicators for Ensuring New Development Respects Local Distinctiveness

Adoption of Parish Plans (Implement adopted Parish Plans)

Neighbourhood Plans (Implement adopted Neighbourhood Plans)