Frequently Asked Questions from the Consultation Feedback
Why are the proposed homes situated in Bough Beech?
Chiddingstone Parish Council, in partnership with the Rural Housing Enabler at Action with Communities in Rural Kent (who carried out the two housing needs surveys) and English Rural, undertook a detailed site search in 2017. A number of sites were originally identified and the shortlist of those suitable and available for local needs housing, were the subject of a consultation event in February 2018. The Parish Council was keen to spread the provision of local needs housing across the Parish rather than build all the units in one area. This site was identified for Bough Beech.
What about the lack of facilities in Bough Beech?
The affordable homes on this development are for local people with a connection to Chiddingstone Parish, and for local people who wish to stay or return to the Parish where they have family, friends or employment connections. Local services and facilities are available in the Parish and the opportunity to have an affordable home within the Parish is the most important factor.
Why are open market houses included in the proposal?
Open market cross subsidy on rural exception sites is part of the current National Planning Policy Framework and is also supported by Sevenoaks District Council’s emerging Local Plan and an existing policy under the Core Strategy 2011, as per the update to the 2011 Affordable Housing Supplementary Planning Document. Without this cross subsidy, it would not be possible to provide the affordable homes for local people. Any planning application will have to justify, via a comprehensive financial appraisal, why the number of open market properties is required.
Why is the proposal on Green Belt land?
To ensure the homes remain affordable for local people in perpetuity, local needs housing is built on Rural Exception Sites. This is land that wouldn’t usually gain planning approval for housing, however the Rural Exception Site planning policy permits such development, provided the homes meet the in-perpetuity/ local connection criteria. Therefore, in the Sevenoaks district such sites will inevitably be in Green Belt. It is not possible to restrict affordable housing built on brownfield sites to local people in perpetuity.
How will you ensure that the design of the homes reflect the rural location?
As a rural specialist housing association, English Rural is aware that rural exception sites are located in sensitive rural areas and recognise the need to ensure that the design and build quality reflect the local vernacular. This is why we always seek comments and local feedback from the Parish Council and wider community, on the preliminary designs.
Are the housing needs surveys that have been carried out still relevant?
Housing needs surveys in Kent are carried out by an experienced, independent Rural Housing Enabler working at Action with Communities in Rural Kent. It is widely accepted that housing needs surveys have a ‘shelf-life’ of five years. The first housing needs survey was carried out in December 2015 and identified a housing need from eleven local households. The Parish Council commissioned a second stage survey in 2018 to support the aim to have three local needs housing developments in the Parish. The second survey identified a need for nineteen homes.
Is 11 homes too many for the site?
Because of the significant housing need identified, the Parish Council wanted to see at least eight homes on each of the two main sites in the parish. This provision of affordable homes required the cross subsidy of the three open market homes.
What about the ecology of the site?
English Rural have commissioned extensive ecological surveys of the site, these have been looking for and recording evidence of (amongst other species) reptiles, including slow worms, bats and dormice. Slow worms have been identified on the site and work is underway in establishing a local receptor site for their relocation. All works are being carried out and overseen by a fully qualified and very experienced consultant Ecologist. The relevant reports will be submitted as part of a planning application.
Is the site in a flood plain?
No. The Environment Agency’s flood mapping service confirms that the site is in the lowest category of concern for flooding, flood zone 1. As part of the design process, we have commissioned soakage tests to be carried out at the site to confirm geology and inform the drainage strategy that will be submitted with the planning application.
What are you doing about sustainability?
One of our key aims is to provide homes for local people that are not only affordable to build and maintain, but affordable for residents to live in. Where mains gas is not available, such as here, our solution is to provide each home with an air source heat pump to provide heating and hot water. These low carbon technology units are between 250 and 400% efficient and do not burn fossil fuels at point of use. Whilst these units are typically double the cost of a gas boiler installation, air source heat pumps can help residents avoid the fuel poverty trap. Hard surfaces such as drives will be permeable where ground conditions allow, and we install a water butt to every home. Our homes are well insulated, and we have a requirement that they reach an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating of ‘B 85’. We install triple glazed windows throughout our new homes.
How will foul drainage be dealt with?
It is proposed that foul drainage for this small development will be self-contained and dealt with on-site via a sewerage treatment plant(s). These modern units are compact with only a manhole and a control kiosk normally visible. They are very efficient at digesting foul waste. The only by-product from the plant is clean, filtered water that will be managed on site. As well as building the affordable homes, English Rural will manage them too, and in perpetuity. Regular maintenance (usually annually) of sewerage treatment plant will be undertaken by specialist contractors working on our behalf which will prevent odours and will ensure the equipment runs efficiently.
How many parking spaces have you allowed for each dwelling?
Parking provision will exceed that required by Kent County Council Highway policy, all homes are being provided with a minimum of two parking spaces. Additional visitor parking spaces are also being provided to ensure parking is catered for on-site. In addition, English Rural provided secure cycle parking to all our homes to reduce vehicle trips and encourage healthier forms of travel.
What about disruption during the build process?
We recognise that building work can create some noise and disruption at times, but we aim to keep this to an absolute minimum. Any granting of planning permission will normally include a condition that strict working hours must be adhered to. We expect any appointed building contractor to be courteous and understanding throughout the construction process and to communicate amiably with neighbours prior to and during the construction process.
Who is designing these homes?
We feel it is important to maximise local connections wherever possible. We have appointed Pentar Design, who’s offices are located adjacent to the site, for their design expertise and local knowledge, whilst supporting a local business. More detailed drawings are currently being prepared and these will of course be scrutinised by Sevenoaks District Council Planning Officers to ensure they meet the high quality of design expected. We have strict technical requirements for our homes that ensure they are well built, affordable to run and maintain.