SEVENOAKS TOWN COUNCIL RECOMMENDS REFUSAL OF SEVENOAKS GASHOLDER PLANNING APPLICATION AND ADVISES DEVELOPER TO REFER TO DESIGN GUIDANCE IN DRAFT STNP
Published: 24 March 2023
On 20th March 2023 Sevenoaks Town Council’s Planning Committee provided recommendation for refusal of the planning application 21/01254/FUL – Sevenoaks Gasholder Station, Cramptons Road
. The recommendation (see below for details) was forwarded to Sevenoaks District Council as per the Town Council’s role as a Statutory Consultee on applications received within Sevenoaks Town.
The planning application in question proposes 136 new homes to be built on the former Gasholder-turned-brownfield site, including a ten storey rotunda tower and 10 townhouses. The below image, extracted from the Design and Access Statement available to view on the Planning Portal, shows a projection of what the development would look like if approved and built.
Local residents may recognise the proposals from May 2021, and subsequently July and September 2021, when previous versions of the planning application were reviewed by the Planning Committee for recommendation. As noted by Councillor Shea during the meeting held on 20th March 2023, the amended application did not introduce any material changes to the previously proposed works, rather it provides additional information regarding ground conditions as requested by the Environment Agency.
With this in mind and with the Planning Committee’s previous concerns being unaddressed, it was unanimously voted that Sevenoaks Town Council continue to oppose the planning application. A summary of the grounds for refusal are bullet-pointed below, and the full recommendation can be read via this link (see pages 575-576).
- Layout and density being inconsistent with the Allocated Development Management Plan 2015 and the Local Plan, being significantly taller and more dense
- Scale and massing and height being inconsistent with the Sevenoaks Town Neighbourhood Development Plan Policy D1
- The ten-storey rotunda tower being overdeveloped, overbearing and out of character to the surrounding four storey high locality
- Design and materials are out of keeping with the Residential Character Area Assessment
- Intrusive to the Green Belt and adjacent SSSI
- Impact of the rotunda tower on visual amenity including at night
- Overlooking and loss of privacy to neighbouring homes from the mismatched design of the proposed townhouses
- Insufficient parking provision
In addition to its recommendation for refusal, the Planning Committee encouraged the developer to refer to Town Council’s draft Sevenoaks Town Neighbourhood Plan (STNP – due for Referendum in May 2023), which sets out design guidance for the Sevenoaks Gasholder site should it be put forward for planning development. The Town Council requested in its recommendation that the developer use this guidance as a set list of minimum requirements for the site.
For information, Policy D1 of the STNP identifies 12 vacant or under-utilised sites within Sevenoaks that have the potential for future development. It provides for each site a brief summary of the issues that would need to be addressed and the potential land uses that may be acceptable, and also provides a list of community benefits that should be secured through the design, layout and use for these sites. In relation to the Sevenoaks Gasholder site, Policy D1 states that planning applications should demonstrate “a scale and massing that responds to the context (i.e. two storey buildings on Cramptons Road but with potential for four storeys on Otford Road)”.
Although the STNP has not yet been formally adopted by the Local Planning Authority, the Town Council expressed the opinion that the development guidance in Policy D1 of the document should be given weight both by the District Council in deciding the application, and the developer when shaping its proposals. This on the grounds that the STNP is due to be adopted after 4th May 2023 if successful at Referendum. It has been extensively publicly consulted on over the past few years, signed off by the District Council for Referendum, and has been approved by the Independent Examiner in his report, where he described Policy D1 as being “of significant value to the decision maker (as well as to, for example, local residents and businesses)”.
The full STNP document, as well as a summary of its content and policies can both be accessed via the following link: https://sevenoaksndp.wordpress.com/
The STNP is due to be voted on via Public Referendum on 4th May 2023 by Sevenoaks Town residents. Should it receive over 51% positive votes, it will be adopted by the Local Planning Authority and become a Statutory planning document when considering planning applications within the Town.
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