Proposed Submission Version of the Local Plan

Document Section Sevenoaks District Local Plan Proposed Submission Version Regulation 19 Consultation (including Appendices 1-4) A Balanced Strategy for Sustainable Growth in a Constrained District Policy ST2 - Housing and Mixed Use Site Allocations [View all comments on this section]
Comment ID LPS2076
Respondent Now Planning Ltd (Nora Galley… [View all comments by this respondent]
Response Date 19 Feb 2019
Current Status Accepted
Do you consider the Plan is Sound? No
Do you consider the Plan is Legally Compliant? No
Do you consider the Local Plan is Compliant under the Duty to Co-operate? No
If you consider the Local Plan unsound, indicate your reasons:
  • The Local Plan has not been positively prepared
  • The Local Plan is not justified
  • The Local Plan is not effective
  • The Local Plan is not consistent with national planning policy
Please provide your reasons below Our full submission is attached and comprises the following:
i) An overview statement by Now Planning Ltd on behalf of Squerryes Estate that sets out why we consider the Local Plan (SDLP) fails each of the NPPF’s soundness tests and outlines the remedies we consider are needed if the plan is to be capable of being found sound. We reach our views with reference to:
• the relevant provisions of the NPPF;
• the Council’s stance, given its 93% Green Belt coverage and a very significant increase in the Local
Housing Need (LHN) since the Core Strategy was adopted, on what amounts to the ‘exceptional
circumstances’ required to justify the release of Green Belt land and major development in the AONB;
• the Council’s inconsistency in applying that test to specific sites;
• the plan’s failure to deliver its own spatial strategy, and with the failure to provide for its LHN, to achieve
the basic obligation to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development;
• the substantial gap that remains between the district’s objectively assessed local housing need (LHN);
• the absence of a five year supply of deliverable sites to meet the district’s LHN that the NPPF obliges;
• the absence of the evidence that the NPPF obliges to demonstrate the deliverability of the sites that the
SDLP allocates for the first five years or that the sites for the further periods are developable;
• the relevant parts of SDC’s Local Plan evidence base in determining including the flawed appraisals of
candidate sites for allocation;
• the evidence set out in the submissions made to the Council in July 2018 on the WWW proposals on
behalf of Squerryes Estate; and
• the SDLP’s spatial strategy that directs most development, so as to achieve a sustainable pattern of
development, to the district’s Tier 1 and 2 towns but fails to allocate any significant quantum of housing to Westerham, one of just three Tier 2 towns in the district.ii) The assessment in January 2019 by RPS of the housing need and supply position adopted by the SDLP (and
included in the full representation on behalf of Squerryes) which finds in brief: the plan is not supported by the evidence the NPPF requires to demonstrate a five year supply of deliverable housing sites; the great
likelihood is that the plan provides for no more than 1.6 years of housing supply against the LHN (and less than five years even if the target is set at 75.7% figure of the LHN that the SDLP contends it provides for; and it is likely the SDC would fail the Housing Delivery Test. As a consequence, the SDLP would be out of date virtually the moment it is adopted (given the overwhelmingly optimistic timetable set for its adoption) and the NPPF’s tilted balance would be engaged – confounding SDC’s purpose for putting a new local plan into place as soon as possible.
iii) The submissions made on behalf of Squerryes Estate in July 2018 – which are provided by SDC on their website.
The submissions – on planning policy, transport, air quality, noise and vibration, ecology and the environment, socio-economics, demographics, masterplanning, landscape, heritage, air quality, flood risk and viability – informed the preparation of the WWW proposal and justify it from each of the perspectives considered. The submissions consider the need for each element of the WWW proposal, including the relief road to divert the A25 around the town centre. The relief road is needed in any event to accommodate
background traffic growth and address the fact that the London Road/A25 junction is already operating beyond capacity. There is no alternative to the relief for remedying this bottleneck on a key arterial route in the district, and Kent County Council concur.
The WWW proposal now includes a retirement village for 150 dwellings of different types together with a high dependency unit and common facilities. The common facilities, including a restaurant and a gym, would be open to membership from non-residents. The 150 dwellings would be located close to the town centre within the WWW site HO374 to allow residents to walk into town. Squerryes is in detailed discussions with a well-established and reputed operator and heads of terms are in the process of being negotiated (from 28
January 2019 and in progress at 3 February 2019).
iv) Three further papers: two that were prepared subsequent to the July 2018 submission - a rebuttal by Rummey Design and Rummey Environmental to the comments made to SDC by Natural England (provided to us by SDC) following a visit to the WWW site, and a rebuttal by Air Quality Consultants to the paper by PBA submitted by Westerham Town Council; and the response by Kent County Council in August 2018 to a final set of technical notes on the relief road prepared by Phil Jones Associates in June 2018.
v) A statement on the Site Appraisal that summarises what we understand to be the reasons why SDC decided to exclude the WWW proposal from the Proposed Submission Local Plan.
In brief, we find the SDLP unsound because it does not contribute to achieving sustainable development. The SDLP:
• fails to meet the district’s objectively assessed local housing need (LHN) and does not allocate
development for the 75.7% share of the LHN it proposes to meet in locations which would deliver the
SDLP’s spatial strategy;• does not justify or explain in a robust and transparent manner why the housing supply figure falls short of
the LHN;
• does not address the district’s serious housing affordability problem;
• does not identify a five year supply of deliverable sites (whether measured against the LHN or the housing
supply figure on SDLP page 33);
• adopts an overly restrictive definition of exceptional circumstances which militates against achieving the objects of national planning policy, and stands in the way of meeting the LHN and the positive planning of the district’s tier 2 town;
• is not informed by the evidence required by national policy and guidance to demonstrate the deliverability of the sites it claims achieve a five year supply or that the sites proposed for later years are developable; and
• provides insufficient evidence to justify the reliance on the Pedham Place “broad location for growth”, yet includes the 2,500 dwellings in the housing land supply figure. There must be doubts that: Pedham Place can accommodate as many as 2,500 dwellings; that Pedham Place could contribute to the regeneration of Swanley which is some way distant and separated from Pedham Place by the M25; and the significant highway works required to accommodate development on that scale would be achievable within the plan period.
If the 2,500 dwellings for Pedham Place are excluded, the SDLP would provide for just 57.8% of the district’s LHN.
For these and the other reasons set out in our full submission, we find the SDLP to be neither positively prepared, effective, justified nor consistent with national planning policy.
Because SDC has not published a Statement of Common Ground as it is obliged to do at this stage in plan-making, and because the SDLP falls very far short of meeting the district’s LHN, it is also questionable as to whether the SDLP is legally compliant
Please set out what modification(s) you consider necessary to make the Local Plan legally compliant or sound, having regard to the matters that you have identified. For the plan to be sound, the following changes are needed:
• SDC must give the weight obliged by national planning policy to meeting its objectively assessed housing needs. The Council cannot simply say it cannot do so – and it has not demonstrated that doing so would cause demonstrable and significant harm to the interests protected by national policy.
• SDC must reconsider its approach to defining what constitutes exceptional circumstances. The test adopted (“contribute to meeting an existing infrastructure need”) is too simple, too restrictive, inconsistent with national policy, stands in the way of delivering the SDLP’s spatial strategy (the majority of growth focused on the Tier 1 and 2 towns), is applied inconsistently in the site appraisals (the decisions as to which sites to include or exclude and, for example, has obliged SDC to choose between options that extend Edenbridge because three sites were proposing to meet the same or similar “existing need for infrastructure”), and is not applied at all to smaller greenfield Green Belt sites and “brownfield” Green Belt sites (for which no exceptional circumstances have been defined). Even on this test, the WWWproposal complies: the relief road and surface water flood attenuation works are needed, on the evidence, now.
• SDC must identify a five year supply of deliverable housing sites – and produce and publish the evidence
on the deliverability of these sites that it is obliged to.
• SDC must reconsider the opportunities to focus growth on its Tier 2 towns – by working more collaboratively, and with full regard to evidence and national planning policy, with landowners and
developers, local communities and agencies to plan positively for these towns’ growth and resolve constraints to deliverability.
• Fundamentally, once a full understanding of the SDLP’s housing policies is achieved, it becomes critical for SDC to revisit the question of whether exceptional circumstances warrant the acceptance of the WWW
If your representation is seeking a modification, do you consider it necessary to participate at the oral part of the Examination? Yes
Why do you feel it is necessary to participate at the oral part of the examination? Squerryes is fully supportive of the Council’s efforts to put a sound Local Plan in place, but objects to the Local
Plan as conceived and drafted.
We believe that we can assist the Inspector and the Council with the evidence needed to make – and justify – the
modifications to the local plan which in our view are required if it is to be capable of being found sound.
A key concern is the decision to exclude the WWW proposal from the SDLP. That decision in our view does not
stand up to objective scrutiny either on SDC’s own test of exceptional circumstances (“meet an existing need for
infrastructure”), on the evidence (provided by the local plan evidence base and by Squerryes’ professional team),
or with respect to the obligations that statute and policy place on the Council to prepare a plan that will
contribute to achieving sustainable development.
The SDLP spatial strategy directs growth to Sevenoaks and to the district’s Tier 2 towns, of which Westerham is
one of just three. Yet the SDLP allocates just two housing sites to Westerham for a total of 36 dwellings, of which
26 are allocated to a site that is not deliverable unless a covenant that restricts the site to its current use
(allotments) is lifted.
The WWW proposal had been included in the July 2018 (Reg 18) Consultation Draft Local Plan as a candidate
allocation “subject to further information”. That “further information” would appear to explain why the WWWproposal has been excluded from the Proposed Submission Draft Local Plan. The only reasoning for the decision is
that provided in the Site Appraisal November 2018 of the WWW proposal. The Appraisal, however, includes both
errors of fact and misconstructions of evidence. Even setting these aside, the Appraisal’s key conclusions do not
follow from the statements within the appraisal, most particularly in respect of the comments by Kent County
Council. Even on SDC’s restrictive view of exceptional circumstances, the evidence shows as a matter of fact that