Sevenoaks District Draft Local Plan Consultation July 2018

Document Section Draft Local Plan July 2018 Executive Summary 1. Finding Places for New Homes [View all comments on this section]
Comment ID DLPP839
Respondent Andrew Lewis ID-310 [View all comments by this respondent]
Response Date 10 Sep 2018
Current Status Accepted

A target of 13,960 homes represents an increase of 29% on the 48,000 dwellings which currently exist within the district.

Taking Sevenoaks town as an example, only two of the schools within the Sevenoaks academic catchment area were not oversubscribed in 2017 – one of those was in Edenbridge, some 10 miles away. Under current legislation, a Local Education Authority cannot build new schools; the provision of any new education facility relies on finding a suitable sponsor for either a free school, or an academy. If the schools serving Sevenoaks are already over subscribed now, they clearly will not be able to accommodate the additional pupil numbers that will result from a 29% increase in housing. Similarly, the transport infrastructure serving Sevenoaks is already overstretched. The main roads which serve the town appear on maps of the town dated 1797 – the road surfaces may have been upgraded, but the road network is immediately recognisable from that which served the town over 200 years ago. Even the newer roads from post war developments were designed to serve a much smaller number of houses, which is why the road network cannot cope with the existing, let alone increased traffic levels. Modern technology means that it is possible to observe levels of traffic congestion on a digital device. On a daily basis during the school term traffic queuing to get into Sevenoaks is backed up from the bottom of Tubbs Hill, through Riverhead, through Bessels Green and out onto the slip road for the M25 – a distance of one and a half miles. All it takes currently is one extra set of temporary traffic lights backing up traffic somewhere around the town to create gridlock, yet the starting point for this Local Plan seems to be an acceptance that it will somehow be possible to accommodate a 29% increase in the number of homes – the residents from which will all both add to the problems with and need to rely on an already overstretched transport network.

As the draft Local Plan records, Sevenoaks District is 93% Green Belt; this constraint impacts directly on the district's capacity to accommodate new homes, yet SDC appear to be accepting a national, top down, target that makes no reference to any Green Belt constraint. SDC's consultative survey of resident's opinions last year showed that an overwhelming 90% of resident's favoured maintaining protection for the Green Belt. Instead of simply accepting an arbitrary target, SDC could instead represent the views so clearly expressed by it's residents, identify how many homes can be built without further exacerbating the existing problems and argue the case for a more realistic target. If not, then I pose a simple question: if an increase in the number of homes of almost a third isn’t too many, just how large would the target have to be before it was regarded as unacceptable?