Sevenoaks District Draft Local Plan Consultation July 2018

Draft Local Plan July 2018

6 Supporting a Vibrant and Balanced Economy


Creating Local Jobs and Better Town Centres

As part of the Local Plan we need to provide new and exciting job opportunities. We want to support a range of leisure and recreational facilities to create a vibrant town centre, as well as looking after existing businesses. 


Supporting Evidence

  • Economic Needs Study 2016
  • Sevenoaks District Council Economic Development Strategy 2018-2021
  • Strategic Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (SHELAA) 2017 and 2018
  • Site Appraisals
  • Retail Study 2016
  • Tourist Accommodation Needs Study 2015
  • Settlement Hierarchy 2018
  • The Use Class Order (See glossary for further details).  

Economic Land and Development

6.1 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.

6.2 There are 30 existing large employment sites (over 0.2ha) which provide 89.1ha 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. 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.

6.3 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.

6.4 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






6.5 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.

6.6 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.

6.7 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

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

6.9 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.

6.10 In order to ensure the best land is allocated for employment, the draft Local Plan has identified sites that add up to a greater level of employment land than is needed. This will ensure that the public has the opportunity to comment on all the proposed options and it should not be assumed that all the land identified will be included in the final draft of the plan.

6.11 In addition, some sites may be identified in the final draft of the plan with a reduced site area due to site specific or sustainability issues or because areas do not accord with the strategy.

6.12 As the District is highly constrained with 93% Green Belt and 61% AONB it is unlikely that all of the additional 11.6ha will be able to be accommodated in the 7% of land not designated as Green Belt. 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 (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.

6.13 We have seen a substantial amount of office floorspace lost to residential conversion since the changes to permitted development rights in 2013. 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 13 - 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.

We will be serving Article 4 directions on all office accommodation on allocated sites.

Appendix 5 sets out the existing employment allocations to be retained, intensified and regenerated for B1-B8 uses.

The following sites, as defined in Appendix 4, are proposed for consultation.

These include mixed use sites which have an employment portion as part of the wider scheme.

Site Reference


Site Area

Eployment Use

Sevenoaks Urban Area   


"Dunbrik Hub A25" - Main Road, Sundridge:
Construction Yard;
Sevenoaks Garden Centre;
Land at A21/M25 Interchange;
Coblands Nursery, Dryhill Lane (brownfield portion only)


B1-B8, A1


Bartram Farm, Old Otford Road, Sevenoaks




Former Park and Ride, Otford Road, Sevenoaks




Sevenoaks Community Centre, Otford Road, Sevenoaks





Land at Pedham Place, Swanley




Upper Hockenden Farm, Hockenden Lane, Swanley




Land at Pedham Place, Swanley*





Land at Breezehurst Farm, Edenbridge*




Land west of Romani Way, Hever Road, Edenbridge*





Westerham Garage and land to rear, London Road, Westerham


B1-B2, SG


Land north and east of Westerham (Which Way Westerham)*




Other Settlements



Land South of High Street, Brasted




The White House and land to the rear, High Street, Brasted




Land west of Chaucer Industrial Park, Honeypot Lane, Kemsing




Land at Broke Hill Golf Course, Sevenoaks Road, Halstead*



*part of greenfield exceptional circumstance site to be tested

The development of the new employment 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.          

Town and Local Centres

6.14 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 (NPPF paragraphs 23 to 27 inclusive). To reflect this, the Local Plan will adopt a flexible approach to encouraging different town centre uses to meet the needs of the communities which use our town and neighbourhood centres. 

6.15 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

6.16 Sevenoaks High StreetThe 2017 Retail Study forecasts that the District requires an additional 32,000m2 of retail floorspace up to 2035 (subject to confirmation of the level of housing to be included in the draft Local Plan). This is split between

  • 10,400m2 for convenience (food) and
  • 21,700m2 for comparison (non-food) floorspace. 

6.17 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. Each town centre boundary has been reviewed and any proposed changes are shown in Appendix 7 and outlined in the table below.

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. These areas have also been identified and the majority are already protected by adopted policy. Details of the Neighbourhood, Local and Village centres are also shown in Appendix 7.

Town / Village /

Town Centre
Removal of primary and secondary frontages from town centre, to allow a more flexible approach to town centre uses. Town centre boundary remains unchanged.
Otford Road
Retail Area North.
New allocation (neighbourhood centre) in recognition that the retail provision in this location is a destination in its own right.

Town / Village /


Otford Road
Retail Area South,

New allocation (neighbourhood centre) in recognition that the retail provision in this location is a destination in its own right.
Town Centre
Removal of primary and secondary frontages from town centre to allow a more flexible approach to town centre uses. Town centre boundary remains unchanged.
Azalea Drive,
New allocation (neighbourhood centre) to recognise that the shops and facilities available serve the existing community’s day to day needs.
Birchwood Corner,
London Road,
New allocation (neighbourhood centre), to recognise that the shops and facilities available serve the existing community’s day to day needs.
Town Centre
Removal of primary and secondary frontages from town centre, to allow a more flexible approach to town centre uses. Town centre boundary remains unchanged.
Town Centre
Extension of the town centre boundary to include Winterton House, Russell House and GP surgery to the south of A25. This is in recognition of adopting a more flexible policy towards town centre and community uses.
Polhill Garden Centre,
Badgers Mount
New allocation (neighbourhood centre) in recognition that the retail provision in this location is a destination in its own right.
High Street,
New allocation (neighbourhood centre) to recognise that the shops and facilities available serve the existing community’s day to day needs.
The Parade,
Ash Road,
New allocation (neighbourhood centre) to recognise that the shops and facilities available serve the existing community’s day to day needs.
Coolings Nursery,
Rushmore Hill,
New allocation (neighbourhood centre) in recognition that the retail provision in this location is a destination in its own right.
Aisher Way,
New allocation (neighbourhood centre) in recognition that the retail provision in this location is a destination in its own right.
Esparto Way,
Holmesdale Road
& Horton Road,
South Darenth
New allocation (neighbourhood centre) to recognise that the shops and facilities available serve the existing community’s day to day needs.

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 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).

6.19 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, village and neighbourhood centres from adverse negative impacts.

6.20 It is important 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 important 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.

6.21 Encouraging new town centre uses in appropriate locations will encourage regeneration and redevelopment of existing town and local centre. The Swanley and Hextable Master Vision highlights 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.

6.22 We will also continue to support the provision and enhancement of markets, in accordance with the NPPF (paragraph 23). We will continue to seek to broadly maintain the existing parking provision.

Loss of Services and Community Facilities

6.23 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

6.24 This Local Plan seeks to retain local services and facilities in appropriate locations, to maintain the sustainability of our towns, villages 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.

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

Visitor Economy

6.26 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.

6.27 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 14 - 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.

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.