Draft Local Plan July 2018

5 Providing for Housing Choices


Homes to suit all incomes

With the District’s growing population, it is important that we provide housing choices for all. This is a once in a generation opportunity to provide affordable housing for first-time buyers, young families and older people. We also need to make sure new housing is near towns and villages to reduce loneliness and isolation. 


Supporting Evidence

  • Draft Revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) including standardised methodology for calculating Local Housing Need 2018
  • Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) 2015
  • Strategic Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (SHELAA) 2017 and 2018
  • Local Housing Needs Study (LHNS) 2017
  • Housing Strategy 2017
  • Gypsy & Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA) 2017
  • Survey of Employers' Housing Needs 2017
  • Affordable Housing SPD 2011 and update 2017


Market and Affordable Housing Mix

5.1 A mix of homes of different sizes and types to meet the needs of the current and future population is essential to help create inclusive and mixed communities. The District is home to a variety of household types including families, singles, older people, people with a range of disabilities, and people wishing to build their own homes. Our evidence in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) and Local Housing Needs Study (LHNS) tells us that the structure of the population is expected to change over the plan period. This means that we need to accommodate the changing needs of households in order to provide choice for existing and future generations and to promote healthy and sustainable communities.


5.2 The District has a high proportion of large homes, with three, four and five bedroom homes making up nearly 70% of the total housing stock. Population projections suggest that household sizes are expected to fall over the plan period, particularly as a result of a growing older population who may wish to downsize in the future.

5.3 Equally as important is providing for the needs of younger people. Given the District's ageing population, the ability to retain young people will assist in providing a more balanced demographic profile as well as providing a vital part of the local workforce. Evidence in the SHMA shows that household formation rates, particularly for those aged 25-34, have fallen and this is likely to be linked to increasing affordability pressures.

5.4 The evidence therefore points to a shift towards a requirement for smaller dwellings (one and two bedrooms) relative to the distribution of existing housing. Additional smaller units will increase the proportion of lower cost housing available to buy so that first time buyers and young families have greater choice in the market, as well as enabling older people to downsize.

5.5 Encouraging older people to downsize can play an important role in releasing larger homes for growing families. However, consideration must be given to the needs of this group in order for downsizing, or 'rightsizing', to be an appealing option. Not all older people require specialist accommodation and it is becoming increasingly clear that many small properties offered by the market do not meet their needs, possibly because they are simply too small. Therefore, in boosting the supply of smaller dwellings (one and two bedrooms) consideration should also be given to providing larger room sizes to enable older people to downsizeIMG_0412.

5.6 The SHMA recommends targets for meeting housing size needs for both market and affordable homes. There is a need for all house sizes, reinforcing the existing profile, but a greater need (40-45%) for 3 bedroom market homes and for 1 and 2 bedroom affordable homes (30-35%). Whilst this blanket approach is acceptable, it is also recognised that the requirement for different sizes of homes differs across the District and this has been explored in the LHNS and the Housing Strategy. Depending on the geographical location of development sites, proposals for new dwellings are expected to take account of the evidence set out in the LHNS.

5.7 A challenge in delivering additional smaller units is the ability to retain them, as households may wish to extend their homes rather than moving to a larger home. In order to retain a more balanced housing market, smaller units in the form of apartments and small town houses are encouraged.


Options for the elderly, vulnerable and homes for life

5.8 20% of the District's population is aged over 65 and this number is expected to grow substantially, to 25%, over the plan period. Particularly strong growth is expected in those aged over 75 driven by improving life expectancy.

5.9 The housing stock needs to adapt to meet the requirements of an ageing population, and to provide choices for older people who may be thinking of moving or who may need to move as their current home no longer matches their needs. A growing older population is also expected to result in a substantial growth in people with dementia and mobility problems, and some of these households will require adaptations to properties to meet their changing needs whilst others may require more specialist accommodation or support.

5.10 In order to provide homes for life, to meet the needs of young families and looking forward to the needs of an ageing population, new homes need to be provided that enable people to continue to live independently for longer, reduce the need for home adaptations and give greater choice to disabled people who cannot achieve independent living due to a lack of suitable housing. This can be achieved through the design features of the optional technical standards set out in the Building Regulations under M4(2) accessible and adaptable dwellings and M4(3) wheelchair user dwellings. There is strong local evidence in the SHMA and the LHNS to suggest that all new homes should be constructed to M4(2) standard and the LHNS recommends that 5% of new homes should be built to support people with physical disabilities and therefore constructed to M4(3) standard.

5.11 BonneyWayWeb-1019In addition to independent living options, there is a requirement for more specialist accommodation to meet the needs of the elderly population, and to ensure choice as circumstances change. The SHMA identifies a requirement for 66 specialist housing units per year in the form of extra care and sheltered housing, and a requirement for 26 units per year in the form of bedspaces in registered care homes. We are keen to diversify the range of more modern and appealing housing options for older people in the future and given the level of need identified for retirement accommodation, this could be provided in the form of a retirement village.

5.12 It is also recognised that loneliness amongst older people is a growing issue and housing options that will help to reduce this are encouraged. In many cases family support networks are essential in providing informal care and combating loneliness and isolation. This means housing options need to be provided in all settlements, including rural villages, to ensure older people may remain within their existing communities.

5.13 At the other end of the age spectrum, a specific requirement has been identified for a supported housing scheme for younger people, approximately nine self contained homes, to provide assisted living for vulnerable young people, including care leavers. We will work with partners and landowners to identify and bring forward a suitable site, well-connected to one of the District's town centres.

Micro homes

5.14 Modern micro homes deliver high density development through creative design and efficient use of land. Given the high house prices in the District they offer an affordable and increasingly fashionable housing solution for the District's younger people and first time buyers. Normally under 37m2 and creatively designed to optimise space, micro homes offer a unique solution in diversifying the District's housing stock. The Housing Strategy explores the potential for micro homes (and other innovative housing solutions) in order to provide both market and affordable housing.

5.15 The Local Plan encourages the provision of micro homes, providing they are located in sustainable locations, close to public transport, walking and cycling routes, local services and community facilities.

People wishing to build their own homes

5.16 In addition to the provision of developer-built housing, we are keen to encourage people to build their own homes as a mainstream housing option. People may choose to do this for various reasons - their current and/or future needs aren't being met through volume housebuilding, it may allow a more bespoke or flexible design, and in some cases it may present a more affordable option. Whilst self and custom build currently only occupies a small sector of the housing market, it does have potential to grow.

5.17 To monitor demand for self and custom build housing we operate a 'self build register'. The Local Plan encourages the provision of self build plots, providing they are located in sustainable locations, close to public transport, walking and cycling routes, local services and community facilities. 


Policy 8 - Market and affordable housing mix

New housing development, including through conversion and change of use, will be expected to contribute to a variety of housing types to reflect and respond to the identified needs of different groups, and to help support the creation of mixed, balanced and inclusive communities. This includes housing for essential workers and people wishing to build their own homes.

New housing development, including through conversion and change of use, will be expected to contribute to a variety of house sizes in line with the below requirements, where appropriate, to increase the proportion of smaller units across the District:


1 bed

2 bed

3 bed

4 bed











All dwellings





New housing development specifically designed for older people, including specialist retirement accommodation and registered care homes (particularly dementia-specialist) both market and affordable, will be supported where they are in sustainable locations close to services, facilities and transport links. Flatted developments must incorporate an accessible lift. Proposals for retirement villages will be supported where they meet an identified need.

All new build housing development will be expected to meet the optional technical standard M4(2) for accessible and adaptable dwellings, as set out in the Building Regulations, in order to provide homes for life.

On new build housing developments of 20 units or more, at least 5% will be expected to meet the optional technical standard M4(3) for wheelchair user dwellings, to support people with physical disabilities.

New build housing development will be expected to meet the minimum nationally described space standards unless it can be demonstrated that there are unique circumstances why some, or all, of these requirements cannot be met (for example micro homes).

Provision of Affordable Housing

5.18 Affordable housing is provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market and includes social rented housing, affordable rented housing and intermediate housing.

5.19 Affordability is a key issue in the District given the high house prices relative to incomes. In 2016 the median house price in the District was £392,500, the highest in Kent, and house prices were 13 times annual earnings, compared with 6.5 times across England. This means that many people are unable to afford their own home in the District on the open market and therefore require assistance. High housing costs have led to an increase in the number of households privately renting and the out-migration of younger and economically active groups in search of cheaper housing elsewhere, including essential workers.

5.20 For as long as house prices continue to rise, more of the District's housing stock becomes unaffordable to an increasing number of people. Building new affordable homes will help ensure that those requiring assistance receive it, and the increase in the supply of affordable housing will help to slow down the rise in housing costs, allowing those who aspire to own their own home the ability to get onto the housing ladder.

5.21 The evidence set out in the SHMA supports the provision of affordable housing. It identifies a net annual need of 422 households that require financial support to meet their housing needs. This is a significant proportion of the overall housing need. However, given recent delivery rates of affordable housing it is considered that this amount is not realistic without significantly increasing the overall annual housing requirement. In view of the scale of need the SHMA recommends a target of at least 35% affordable housing for all suitable sites. It is considered that, subject to viability testing, a target of 40% affordable housing for all suitable sites is realistic and achievable in light of the evidence, and will go some way in meeting the identified affordable housing need. We are also exploring an alternative approach which would introduce a lower affordable housing target. On this basis, where a scheme is submitted that proposes policy-compliant affordable housing, applicants will not be required to submit viability information.

5.22 Whilst a blanket affordable housing target across the District is acceptable, it is also recognised that affordable housing needs differ across the District and this has been explored in the LHNS and the Housing Strategy. Depending on the geographical location of development sites, proposals for new dwellings are expected to be in accordance with the recommendations set out over:

  Of the 40% affordable housing target (subject to viability testing):

Affordable housing % by area

Affordable housing
1-2 bed

Affordable housing
3+ bed

Affordable housing
Older persons

Sevenoaks and surrounds





North East





North West










Upper Darent Corridor





Darent Valley





5.23 In terms of the tenure split of affordable housing, there are three types: social rented, affordable rented and intermediate. The SHMA uses information on household incomes and housing costs to estimate the proportion of need in each tenure. There is a degree of overlap and the analysis shows that both social and affordable rented housing is likely to be targeted at the same group of households. The recommended split is 76% social/affordable rented and 24% intermediate.

5.24 The LHNS also identifies that many people across the District aspire to own their own homes. This is in line with the Draft Revised NPPF which sets out that at least 10% of affordable housing should be expected to be available for affordable home ownership i.e. intermediate housing. As such the Local Plan takes a flexible approach.

5.25 The provision of affordable housing is not just important in responding to housing need, it is also important to the economy. The Survey of Employers' Housing Needs found that the lack of affordable housing is an important challenge for both local organisations and the wider local economy with the main impact being on recruitment of staff. The Survey recommended additional affordable housing for younger people and key workers to give the District's business an edge.

5.26 There is a high proportion of small sites in the District, particularly within the rural areas. Government policy now prevents us from seeking affordable housing on developments of 10 units or less (apart from in the AONB where contributions can be sought on schemes of 6 to 10 units) which means that it is more difficult to provide affordable housing. However, local evidence suggests that a relatively large proportion of new housing delivery in the District is from sites of 10 units or less, and the development of these sites makes up a significant proportion of the housing supply. Given the affordability pressures in the District, our ability to deliver affordable housing would be severely compromised if we cannot seek affordable housing or financial contributions on small sites.

5.27 Prior to the change in Government policy an affordable housing contribution was successfully sought on all developments with a net residential addition, based on a sliding scale. It is therefore argued that there are local circumstances to justify a lower threshold. Subject to viability testing, it is expected that this level of contribution can continue to be secured and so will be re-introduced irrespective of where the scheme is located. 


Policy 9 - Provision of affordable housing

New housing development will be expected to contribute to the delivery of affordable housing (including social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing) as follows:

Number of new homes in the development

% affordable housing required

Type of provision required

0-5 and gross internal area is under 1,000m2


Financial contribution






0-5 and gross internal area is 1,000m2 or more


6-9 and gross internal area is under 1,000m2


6-9 and gross internal area is 1,000m2 or more


10 and gross internal area is under 1,000m2


10 and gross internal area is 1,000m2 or more




To be provided on-site unless the District Council advises that a financial contribution is preferred





* Subject to viability testing.

Where there are differing affordable housing needs across the District, as set out in the LHNS and in the supporting text above, proposals will be expected to address the localised identified need.

Where an element of affordable housing is required, the preferred tenure mix is 76% social/affordable rented and 24% intermediate housing, unless it can be demonstrated that an alternative mix meets an identified local need.

Expectations of the developer:

On the rare occasions that it is demonstrated to the Council's satisfaction through an independent assessment of viability that on-site provision in accordance with the policy would not be viable, a reduced level of provision may be accepted or, failing that, a financial contribution towards provision off-site will be required.

Expectations of the District Council:

On the rare occasions where on-site provision is not achievable, the Council will consider the following options in order;

  1. Provision of the required number of affordable units on an alternative site within Sevenoaks District, to be identified by the Council;
  2. A reduced level of provision on-site;
  3. A financial contribution towards provision off-site, where the sum reflects the cost of providing the number, type and size of affordable units that would have been provided on-site. 

Housing in Rural Areas

5.28 Opportunities to provide housing (especially homes suitable for older people) in rural areas of the District are much more limited than in the urban areas because of the Green Belt. Less scope for development in rural areas generally means fewer housing choices for those in need. However, rural exception housing can provide homes to meet local housing needs as an exception to other Local Plan policies. It means that sites that would not normally be suitable for development because of planning policy constraints can be developed solely for housing to serve small rural communities. Given the extensive network of rural settlements in the District, rural exception housing is a really important part of the housing stock. The LHNS confirms an increased level of demand for housing in rural areas.

5.29 In order to be eligible for rural exception housing households must have a local connection to the parish. For the purposes of the policy, local connection is defined as (in order of priority):

  • Lives in the parish and has done so continuously for the last 10 years to date;
  • Lives in the parish and has done so continuously for the last 5 years to date;
  • Is employed in the parish on a permanent basis continuously for at least the last 3 years to date and whose main place of work is within the parish;
  • Has previously lived in the parish for a period of at least 5 years continuously and is a close family member of a household that currently lives in the parish and has done so continuously for the last 5 years to date, and the eligible person wishes to return to the parish as they give/receive essential support to/from a family member of the resident household and this support will continue for the foreseeable future;
  • Has previously lived in the parish for a period of at least 5 years continuously and is a close family member of a household that still lives in the parish and said household has been resident in the parish continuously for the last 10 years to date;
  • Has lived in the parish for a period of at least 5 years continuously during the last 10 years to date;
  • Has lived in the parish continuously for the last 2 years to date;
  • Is employed in the parish on a permanent basis continuously for at least 1 year to date and whole main place of work is within the parish;
  • Will be taking up permanent employment in the parish and the Parish Council has determined the need to live locally is a necessary and/or desirable factor in said employment.

5.30 To understand the level of need for rural exception housing, all parishes will undergo a five year rolling programme of rural housing needs surveys, carried out in10A partnership with Action with Communities in Rural Kent (ACRK). Where a survey shows evidence of need, we will work with the local community and preferred housing provider to identify and assist in delivering suitable sites that meet the criteria in Policy 10. The development of land in the Green Belt (both greenfield and brownfield) for rural exception sites will only be acceptable where there is evidence of a local need in the parish, identified through the rural housing needs survey, that could not be met by developing non Green Belt land.

5.31 Historically, sites released through the rural exceptions policy have been made available exclusively for affordable housing to meet strictly defined local needs. However, in order to increase the amount of affordable housing in rural areas to meet identified needs a more flexible approach is required, and it is considered that on rare occasions allowing some market housing would facilitate the provision of additional affordable housing to meet local needs. Market homes for sale could go towards meeting identified needs, including housing for essential workers, older people and plots for self build. Any market homes, in the first instance, would be marketed to those who meet the local connection criteria.

5.32 We will work with landowners of rural estates to bring forward suitable rural exceptions housing to meet identified needs. This may be through a housing association partner or directly through the landowner. The planning agreement attached to such development sites will ensure any landowner-led housing is delivered at the same cost to the tenant and held in perpetuity to meet identified housing needs. 


Policy 10 - Housing in rural areas

Proposals for housing in rural areas to meet a specific local need will be permitted as an exception to other Local Plan policies providing the following criteria is met:

  1. The local need has been identified in an up to date rural housing needs survey;
  2. The local need identified cannot be met by any other means through the development of non Green Belt sites within the parish or, where appropriate, in the adjacent parish; and
  3. A thorough site options appraisal has been carried out.

The Council expects rural exception housing schemes to provide 100% local needs housing to meet identified needs. However, on rare occasions proposals may include an element of market housing to facilitate delivery. In these circumstances, the applicant will need to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Council that a scheme that doesn't rely on market housing has been fully considered, why it has been discounted or considered to be unviable.

Where the Council is satisfied that an element of cross-subsidy is required, the market housing will be required to meet identified needs including housing for essential workers, older people and plots for self build.

Proposals for increasing the provision of almshouses will be supported where a local need is identified. 

Gypsies & Travellers

5.33 We must plan for the housing needs of the Gypsy and Traveller community in the District in the same way as for the settled community. The Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment identified the need for additional pitches up to 2035. To meet this need sites have been identified where additional permanent pitches could be provided.

5.34 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 Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs. Unfortunately, to date, no other authorities have identified any ability to assist Sevenoaks District with any unmet need for pitches.

5.35 A strategy to identify locations for additional permanent pitches has been developed, subject to site sustainability and suitability:

  • Identifying existing temporary pitches on suitable sites that can be made permanent
  • Identifying additional permanent pitches on suitable sites with existing pitches within the current site boundary to achieve a higher density
  • Identifying additional permanent pitches on suitable sites with existing pitches with small scale minor boundary amendments in consultation with Local Members 

5.36 In order to ensure the best land is allocated for new permanent Gypsy and Traveller pitches the draft Local Plan has identified sites that add up to a greater number of pitches than is needed. This will ensure that the public has the opportunity to comment on all the proposed options and gives the potential for the number of sites, or the number of proposed pitches on each site, to be reduced.

5.37 All proposed sites have existing pitches or are adjacent to sites with existing pitches.

5.38 The policy sets out the following:

Existing Permanent Pitches (EPP) - the number of pitches currently on the site with permanent authorised planning permission

Existing Temporary Pitches (ETP) - the number of pitches currently on the site with temporary authorised planning permission

Existing Unauthorised Pitches (EUP) - the number of pitches currently on the site (to the best of the Council's knowledge) without authorised temporary or permanent permission. These are sites which have previously had permission for temporary pitches that have expired since 2017.

Proposed Number of Additional Permanent Pitches - the number of new permanent pitches proposed through the Local Plan to meet the GTAA need.

Total Pitches - the total number of pitches on the site with permanent pitches if the proposed Local Plan pitches gain permanent permission.


Policy 11: Provision for the Gypsy and Traveller Community

The following sites, as defined in Appendix 3, are proposed for consultation.

Site Ref





Proposed number of additional permanent pitches

Total pitches on site


Bournewood Brickworks, Stones Cross Road, Crockenhill







Early Autumn, East Hill, Shoreham







St George's Stables, Well Hill, Shoreham







Station Court, London Road, Halstead







Alexis Place, Hockenden Lane, Swanley







Merry Lees, Billet Hill, Ash







Knatts Valley Caravan Park, Knatts Valley Road, West Kingsdown







Hollywood Gardens, School Lane, West Kingsdown







Two Barns, Knatts Lane, West Kingsdown







Fordwood Farm, New Street Road, Ash







Seven Acre Farm, Hever Road, Edenbridge







Park Lane Farm, Park Lane, Swanley Village, Swanley







Land south west of Broomhill, Button Street, Farningham







Land west of Romani Way, Edenbridge (part of mixed use scheme adjacent to existing site at Hever Road)











* At Romani Way, Hever Road, SDC site

Sites for Gypsy and Traveller pitches should take account of the following criteria:

  1. The site should be located close to services and facilities and access to public transport.
  2. The site will provide an acceptable living environment for future occupants in terms of size, noise and air quality and is not located within an area likely to flood.
  3. Safe and convenient vehicular, pedestrian and cycle access can be provided to the site.
  4. The development will minimise the potential impacts on the surrounding landscape (including in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and biodiversity.
  5. Associated buildings, including amenity blocks, must be proportionate in scale and bulk to the pitches proposed

Housing Density

5.39 Housing density describes the number of homes developed within a particular site area and it is calculated by the number of dwellings per hectare (DPH). Increasing the density of development in sustainable locations can help to ensure that land is used in the most efficient way, and ultimately that less land overall is used for development. In Sevenoaks District, there are competing demands for use. The need for new homes is high, but the Green Belt covers 93% of the District. It is therefore crucial that the limited amount of land within settlement boundaries and other brownfield land is used efficiently when considering proposals for new development.

5.40 However, it is recognised that high density development will not be appropriate in all locations. The Local Plan takes a flexible approach to density, allowing the purpose of the development, the context of the site and the defining characteristics of the surrounding area to lead the process, taking the opportunity to achieve high density development where it is appropriate. 


Policy 12 - Housing density

All new housing development will be expected to make the most efficient use of land. In the recent past development has been delivered at an average density of approximately 60 DPH across the District. New development will be expected to be delivered at higher densities, on average.

Proposals for housing development will be permitted at higher densities than those typically found in the surrounding area where it can be adequately demonstrated that the proposal:

1. Is of high quality design and respects local character;

2. Includes a mix of housing types and sizes that reflect identified needs;

3. Is well served by public transport, walking and cycling routes, local services and community facilities; and

4. Demonstrates that the area is able to accommodate additional development.

For all other proposals for housing development the density of the development should be at least equivalent to that in the surrounding area, with no unacceptable impact on local character.