Sevenoaks District Draft Local Plan Consultation July 2018

Draft Local Plan July 2018

7 Ensuring new development respects local distinctiveness


Designing and protecting attractive places

It is important that all design across the District is high quality and low carbon. We aim to set up a Design Review Panel to aid new planning applications. We also need to ensure that heritage assets are protected to maintain local character.


Supporting Evidence

  • Village Design Statements
  • Residential Character Area Assessments
  • Landscape Character Assessment 2016
  • Parish Plans
  • Conservation Area Appraisals
  • Sevenoaks District Historic Environment Review 

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 new development conserves or enhances the 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 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 create or update an existing village design statement or character area assessment. These will be adopted as Supplementary Planning Documents and will be 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. 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" 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 additional questions set out in Appendix 6.

7.6 Applicants will be expected to set out in a supporting statement, together with necessary bespoke assessments or reports, 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 in accordance with advice in the National Planning Practice Guidance. 


Policy 15 - 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

All new developments must meet the following design criteria and set out how this has been achieved in a supporting statement. The additional questions and detail is set out in Appendix 6 also need 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;

The form of the proposed development must respond to the scale, height, density, materials and site coverage of the area

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

2. Working with the Site and its Context

The design of new buildings and the layout of spaces, including footways, car and cycle parking areas, must be permeable and provide connectivity with neighbouring areas;

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, where possible, 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.

Does the scheme retain existing habitats and incorporate new ones?

How has surface water runoff been considered 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 ensure satisfactory means of access for vehicles and pedestrians and provide adequate parking;

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 of all, including the elderly, the disabled and less able;

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 and incorporate adequate security measures and features to deter crime, fear of crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour;

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 and appropriate broadband infrastructure?

8. Design and Character Guidance

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

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

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 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 and avoid 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 unacceptable 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; and
  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.

Historic Environment

7.17 These policies seek to draw together a comprehensive approach to conserving and enhancing the District's Heritage Assets.

7.18 The historic environment is a valuable asset which can contribute to wider strategic objectives such as economic development, urban regeneration, high quality urban design and planning, tourism, leisure, education and sustainability. It is important that planning decisions consider heritage assets in the District in the round, alongside wider objectives as set out in this Plan.

7.19 The Historic Environment Review for Sevenoaks District examines the District's historic environment to form the basis for conservation and heritage local planning. It recommends that the review of heritage assets should be prioritised for areas of high vulnerability (including conservation areas without up-to-date appraisals) or areas facing development pressure. As well as focusing on specific assets, it is important to consider the main themes and characteristics which help to form the District's local distinctiveness and which make a significant contribution to its heritage as summarised in the Historic Environment Review. 


Social Economic and Cultural Activities



Policy 16 - Historic Environment

Proposals for development will be required to reflect the local distinctiveness, condition and sensitivity to change of the historic environment as defined in the following guidance:

  • Local Plan policies relating to design, heritage assets and landscape character
  • Other relevant principles in the hierarchy of local guidance including the Kent Design SPD and the Local List SPD
  • Findings as set out in the Sevenoaks District Historic Environment Review, Conservation Area Appraisals, Sevenoaks Landscape Character Assessment

All new development should demonstrate an awareness and commitment to the overall protection and, where possible, enhancement of the historic environment of the District by making positive reference to the themes in the Historic Environment Review and demonstrating the following in Planning Statements or Design and Access Statements:

  1. Clear consideration of the relationship with the historic evolution of the District and local area;
  2. A broad appreciation of the historic character of the local area including current conditions;
  3. An understanding of the presence of heritage assets and their associated significance, vulnerabilities and opportunities; 

Heritage Assets

7.20 'Heritage Assets' is the term used to describe the highly valued components which make up the historic character of the District, they can be buildings, monuments, woodland, particular street scenes or areas, landscapes or outstanding views. Heritage assets can be nationally or locally designated by the Local Planning Authority, or those identified during the determination of planning applications.

7.21 Sevenoaks District is characterised by a significant legacy of historic towns and villages, with many listed buildings, Conservation Areas and extensive areas of ancient woodland. These Heritage Assets and their settings are a key feature of the District, as they provide interest, variety, local character and distinctiveness to the many settlements and wider countryside.

7.22 A Designated Heritage Asset is an asset protected by national legislation and includes:

  • Scheduled Monuments
  • Listed Buildings
  • Conservation Areas
  • Registered Historic Parks and Gardens

7.23 Non- designated heritage assets, such as Locally Listed Buildings and unregistered parks and gardens, are buildings, monuments, sites, places, areas or landscapes identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions but which are not formally designated heritage assets. Non-designated heritage assets have no statutory protection but they do receive protection under the National Planning Policy Framework because of their contribution to the wider landscape and to the wider social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits that conservation of the historic environment can bring. In some cases, during the assessment of a planning application a site may be identified as a non-designated heritage asset if it is considered to make a positive contribution to the area’s character and sense of place through its heritage value.Sev 220

7.24 Some of these Heritage Assets and features are protected by other policies or legislation, for instance if they are a listed building, Scheduled Monument or covered by a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). However, the complex history of the landscape means that there are many sites and features which do not have a specific designation. Nevertheless these should also be conserved and enhanced because of their contribution to the wider landscape and to the wider social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits that conservation of the historic environment can bring. To ensure this, regard should be given to the  Sevenoaks Countryside Assessment SPD.

7.25 Heritage Assets are an irreplaceable resource and they should be conserved and enhanced in a manner appropriate to their significance. Any harm or loss will require a clear and convincing justification. Substantial harm to or loss of heritage assets of the highest significance, such as scheduled monuments, grade I and II* listed buildings, grade I and II* registered parks and gardens, will be wholly exceptional.


7.26 Scheduled monuments are protected against disturbance, and therefore prior consent from the Secretary of State is required for all works affecting such monuments, whether or not those works require planning permission. Some types of work, generally related to agriculture or gardening, where these activities are already being carried out, are allowed to proceed without such consent.

7.27 Owners are encouraged to maintain their Scheduled Monuments in good condition by adopting sympathetic land uses. However, as scheduling is not comprehensive, this Plan makes provision for the protection of future Scheduled Monuments and archaeological sites, as well as those that have already been identifiedCottage

Listed Buildings

7.28 National legislation provides for the protection of Listed Buildings under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. There is a presumption in favour of retaining Listed Buildings so permission to demolish will be the exception and only allowed if all other options to retain the building are demonstrated to have been thoroughly explored.

7.29 The repair, renovation, alteration and extension of a Listed Building should not be at the expense of its intrinsic value. It is important to guard against unnecessary change or over-restoration. In any change, materials should be sympathetic to those used in the original building. In particular the District Council will resist applications that result in the loss of traditional features that could be preserved.

7.30 Listed Buildings may become vacant and derelict if no acceptable use can be found and therefore buildings must have an economic future. The original use may be the most appropriate and will be encouraged where possible. Alternative uses for a listed building, compatible with its character and built form, will be encouraged where the original use of the building is no longer viable. Where this is not practicable the alternative use proposed must not require alteration to the extent that the character and historical importance of the building is destroyed or materially harmed.

7.31 Where the District Council considers that a proposal would have an impact on the setting of a Listed Building, it will require the submission of illustrative and technical material to allow that impact to be properly assessed. This will include details to show the existing situation and the precise effect on the fabric and character of the Listed Building and its setting.

7.32 Planning permission will be refused where the District Council considers that the proposal would dominate the Listed Building or buildings within its curtilage by scale, form, mass or appearance or harm the visual relationship between the Listed Building and its formal or natural landscape setting.

Locally Listed Buildings

7.33 A Local List SPD has been prepared which comprises a database of buildings across Sevenoaks town which are now locally listed. This approach is being extended to other areas of the District. It is also important to note that some buildings might not qualify for local listing but still play a role in contributing to local historic character.

Conservation Areas

7.34 Sevenoaks District has 42 designated Conservation Areas which vary greatly in their nature and character. Their special distinctiveness is derived not only from the quality of the buildings but the historic layout of roads, paths and boundaries, the building and paving materials and the strength of relationship between the historic settlement and its rural landscape.

7.35 Local authorities are legally obliged to review their conservation areas from time to time. The last appraisals undertaken in the District were about 15 years ago and therefore we are committed to the review of Conservation Areas Appraisals and Management Plans. These will be prioritised according to the relative level of development pressure in the area, and the degree to which assets or their settings are considered to be vulnerable. The Council is reviewing their approach to appraisals, prioritising more rapid methodological techniques and community involvement. In addition to the statutory requirements in relation to content, there is an increasing emphasis on historic character and implications for capturing the essence of an area for the purposes of broader place-making (as well as the protecting and enhancing Conservation Areas).

7.36 Once designated, special attention must be paid in all planning decisions to the desirability of conserving or enhancing its character and appearance. The choice of materials and detailed design are vital elements in achieving new buildings which preserve the local character and distinctiveness which typifies the District's Conservation Areas. In order to assess the impact of proposals whether for redevelopment or alterations/additions to buildings, the District Council will require an appropriate level of detail including drawings or other pictorial material which shows the proposed development in its setting.


Policy 17 - Heritage Assets

Proposals that affect a designated or non-designated Heritage Asset, or its setting, will be permitted where the development conserves or enhances the character, appearance and setting of the asset.

Applications will be assessed with reference to the following:

a) The historic and/or architectural significance of the asset;

b) The prominence of its location and setting; and

c) The historic and/or architectural significance of any elements to be lost or replaced.

Where the development would lead to less than substantial harm to the significance of a designated or non-designated heritage asset, this harm should be weighed against the public benefits of the proposal, including securing its optimum viable use. It is recognised that the economic future of buildings should be preserved where possible.

Any development that might affect the significance of a listed or locally listed building, conservation area, registered park of garden, scheduled monument, historic landscape or an archaeological site will be required to submit a Heritage Statement with any Planning Application. This includes development affecting their setting. The assessment of proposals should make reference to the Sevenoaks District Historic Environment Review and relevant guidance.

Where an application is located within, or would affect, an area or suspected area of archaeological importance an archaeological assessment must be provided to ensure that provision is made for the preservation of important archaeological remains/findings. Preference will be given to preservation in situ unless it can be shown that recording of remains, assessment, analysis report and deposition of archive is more appropriate.