W H E R A

The White Hart Estates Residents Association

2011 Newsletter

Chairman’s Introduction

You will recall that it was agreed that the Chairman of the association would be elected to serve a two year term.  My term will end at our AGM in November at which a new chairman will take over.  The idea is that this will provide continuity and encourage residents to participate in running the association without making an open-ended commitment to undertake the (limited) workload so, if you would like to be involved in the running of the association and would like to find out more about the role of the chairman please contact me or any other officer of the committee (you’ll find our contact details at the end of the newsletter).

WHERA’s objectives 

Bearing in mind that many residents are new to the area, I thought it would be helpful to restate the aims and objectives of the association as follows:

  1. To safeguard the residential character of the area and to conserve its amenities.
  2. To secure, as far as possible, the safety of its roads, unobstructed footpaths and litter-free environment.
  3. To liaise on these matters with the appropriate authorities and especially with our local councillors.
  4. To bring to the attention of WHERA members any proposed developments which might detract from the environmental quality of the area.

In respect of item 4, WHERA has adopted a set of planning principles which can be found under the planning section.

Neighbourliness

Your committee continues to undertake a wide range of activities in support of the aims and objectives of the association, many of which are summarised later in this newsletter.  The overall theme for this edition of the newsletter is “neighbourliness” which is defined as “showing a helpful and friendly attitude towards people, especially neighbours”. Good neighbourly relations are essential to maintain a happy, secure and respectful neighbourhood. I believe that the vast majority of residents in our area share these values.  Regrettably, there is a tiny minority who, judged by their actions, demonstrate a lack of neighbourliness and, in extreme cases, a disregard for their neighbours.  Allow me to share some examples with you, together with some suggestions as to how this could be avoided:

  • The sudden removal of a mature tree which is a feature of the area.  It may have been shading a house or garden and lose a lot of leaves in the autumn which then had to be swept up but it may also have been part of the character and amenity of the area and its changing appearance during the year provided enjoyment to many residents.  We live in an area that was formerly part of Sevenoaks Common and a defining characteristic, and one of the main attractions of our area, is the large number of mature trees often forming part of original woods (hence the names White Hart Wood and Brattle Wood).  Before phoning the tree surgeon or reaching for your saw, please have a chat with your neighbour.  Alternatively, if there’s a tree in your garden or in your neighbourhood that you consider is a feature of our area why not apply for a Tree Preservation Order?  If the tree is subsequently protected it cannot be pruned or felled without permission and the planning authority will consider the risk to the protected tree and its amenity value before granting permission for a planning application.
  • Allowing overgrown hedges to block footpaths which forces pedestrians to use the verge or the road.  All that’s required to avoid this is regular hedge cutting and pruning of trees and shrubs.  KCC highways are entitled to cut back hedges that obstruct pavements and to recover the cost from you so it makes sense to get this done before it becomes a problem.  If you’re aware that it is beyond the capabilities of an elderly neighbour to keep their hedge trimmed why not offer to do it on their behalf?
  • There are some sections of roads in our area where speeding is frequent and dangerous.  This is often exacerbated by inconsiderate parking.  Not all of the speeders and inconsiderate parkers are residents but we can all set an example by watching our speed and parking considerately and by asking tradesmen and visitors to watch their speed and advising them about the best place to park.  Cars, vans and lorries are often parked with two wheels on the pavement or verge.  While it is understandable that people wish to avoid causing an obstruction to other road users, this can cause unseen damage to our ageing gas, water and sewage pipes as well as creating unsightly ruts in both pavements and grass verges.  Inconsiderate parking which forces pedestrians to walk in the road is dangerous, particularly for people with pushchairs or with visual impairments, and the Highway Code says you should not do it unless there are signs that permit it.
  • Smoky bonfires.  There are always alternatives to lighting a bonfire to remove garden waste.  SDC will collect your garden waste in sacks or wheelie bins fortnightly for a modest fee (currently £42pa which works out at c£1.60 per collection).  Alternatively, most garden waste can be composted and, if not, stacked in a corner of your garden or taken to the recycling centre at Dunbrik.  If it’s not practical for you to use any of these alternatives, before starting a bonfire please consider the time of day and the wind direction and, if in doubt, please consult your neighbours before you light it.
  • Planning Applications. It is always a good idea to specifically alert and consult with your surrounding neighbours before submitting a planning application. This is only good manners and shows respect for your neighbours. No one likes to be faced with a sudden unexpected development next door with no warning or consultation beforehand. In addition, you never know, your neighbours may make suggestions which will improve the end result for you as well as for everyone else.
  • Loud fireworks (other than during early November or on New Year’s Eve).  No-one wants to stop anyone from celebrating but the noise and disturbance caused by fireworks (often late at night) seems to be more frequent.  A word over the garden fence or a note through the door of your neighbours would warn them in advance and enable them to make appropriate arrangements for their pets.
  • Halloween is becoming increasingly popular and many of us enjoy the fun.  However, some elderly people, many of whom live alone, find a group of children at their door after dark in fancy dress for a “trick or treat” unwelcome and intimidating.  All it takes is a quick check beforehand with any such neighbours to make sure that they are happy to join in the excitement and give them time to have some sweets ready by the front door.

These are just some examples and there are always different points of view but it seems to me that the root cause of many difficulties which arise is the absence of prior consultation.  And this is the whole point: please consult your neighbours before you act.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that a consensus will always be reached but I’d suggest that a helpful and friendly attitude towards discussing your plans, large or small, with your neighbours is likely to enhance your enjoyment of living in this area and will foster a community spirit to the benefit of us all.  In our neighbourhood, as in any community, I believe that we all have an interest in thinking of others, and not just ourselves.

Public footpath in front of The White Hart

When the forecourt of the White Hart was fenced last year, David Wigg and David Lewis submitted an application for an officially registered Public Right of Way across the forecourt on the grounds that it had been used freely by local residents for more than 20 years. In discussions with the owners of the White Hart it appeared hopeful that they would provide a footpath along the roadside at the front of the White Hart but this has not yet materialised.

At the time it was known that KCC had a long backlog of Public Right of Way applications and that we would be in for a long wait. Our application is now third from the top of the list and we now hope it will be processed before the end of this year.

WHERA website

I’m pleased to let you know that WHERA now has a website which I encourage those of you with access to the internet to visit.  The address is:

http://www.whera.org.uk

The website has been developed by a WHERA resident and a feature of the website is an area for “Registered Residents” which contains information which is intended exclusively for WHERA residents.  The registration process is very straightforward and will enable access to the following information:

  • Newsletters
  • AGM agenda and minutes
  • Committee members
  • Road Representatives
  • Accounts
  • Volunteering opportunities

The current version of the website is very much the start and the intention is to extend the site in response to demand from residents so please send us your suggestions.  You can let us know what you’d like to see and/or would find useful on the website by contacting any officer of the committee or by contacting your road representative (you’ll find our contact details at the end of the newsletter).

Volunteer requested to assist with Amenities

I’m pleased to report that we currently have road representatives for every road.  However, there is a vacancy on the committee for the Amenities member.  The term Amenities relates to the management of the grounds and infrastructure outside the gates of our houses which are in public ownership.  A summary of the Amenities role is at the end of the newsletter; if you would like to volunteer, or wish to discuss what is involved, please contact me, Pat FitzGerald or Stuart Bird (you’ll find our contact details at the end of the newsletter).

AGM

This year’s AGM will be held on Thursday 17th November at 8.00pm in the Undercroft at St Nicholas Churchand refreshments will be provided.  We rely on residents to be the eyes and ears of the association so please make a note in your diary and come along and share your thoughts and ideas.

Finally, I’d like to thank all of the committee and road representatives for their continuing efforts, in particular, Pat FitzGerald for the amount of dedicated work he has carried out in relation to both Planning and Amenities, Stuart Bird as Vice-Chairman and assisting Pat on Amenities and David Wigg for his continuing commitment to Neighbourhood Watch.

Gerry Wood

Chairman


PLANNING

Set out below are the Planning Principles agreed for some time now by the residents of the White Hart Estates area through the Residents’ Association. These principles have been adopted by the Association to guide the Committee’s response to planning applications in respect of properties within the Estates.  It is hoped that they are self-explanatory.  Re-examination or revision may be required in future years in the light of experience.

 

WHERA’s objective is to maintain the character and visual amenity of the area within the agreed Local Plan.  Within the context of individual proposals, therefore, WHERA will generally support arguments against the following aspects of planning applications and will seek support from the planning authority for this view:

  • any main building other than a detached private residence;
  • doubling up of properties to increase the number of houses relative to existing plots (except in rare cases where a plot is of commensurate scale in relation to its neighbours and the buildings proposed);
  • three storey buildings (or building within a pitched roof if it adds significantly to the height and mass that results, relative to its neighbours);
  • infilling with extra properties by building on gardens from existing properties, especially extra properties behind the established line of buildings (whether or not the forward buildings are replaced)
  • extension forward of the generally established line of buildings unless of a minor nature or commensurate with the positioning of neighbouring properties and street scene;
  • excessive scale of the building and its appearance in relation to the size of plot;
  • failing to fit in with the broad character and size of neighbouring properties;
  • failing to provide sufficient off-street parking to preserve safety and amenity, or causing significant additional hazard to the flow of traffic taking into account bends, hills, sight-lines, road junctions, etc.

WHERA does not seek to impede the extension, improvement or replacement of buildings which support these principles and recognises the value of sympathetic and considerate renewal respecting the character of the area.

The objective of these principles is to retain the pleasant and open nature of this residential area and, where possible, to enhance the harmony and balance of the area, keeping and improving the visual amenity.

In order to preserve the character of the area it is always a good idea to consult with your neighbours – front, side, and to the rear – before submitting a planning application, as mentioned in the Chairman’s Introduction.

For those who may not be familiar with planning issues we set out below some of the main considerations when planning applications are assessed.

  • Street Scene– This is the view that a person has travelling up or down the road where you live. Applications are assessed as to whether they respect, not distort, the area – for example by size, bulk, scale, height of proposal and effect on visual amenity.

    Examples would be whether the general building line is respected as an important part of the open nature of our area is the fact that houses are generally well set back from the road and pavement.  This is also set out in the covenants imposed by the Sevenoaks Land Company (part of the Sackville Estates) – the original owners of the land - to which all properties are subject individually.  These covenants set out the sense of a pleasant and open residential space and are very relevant today.

  • Character of the Area– this represents the open, almost rural, character which we as residents appreciate.  The environment is not urbanised as in a London suburb and houses generally have reasonable space between their side boundaries and are not “hugger mugger”.  This is an essential part of keeping an open and spacious feel to the area.
  • Bulk, Size, Scale and Height– these are obvious considerations but often ignored by applicants. The White Hart Estates residential area is characterised by detached houses which are not overbuilt / overdeveloped so that they sit comfortably on their plots with adequate layout and density.  Ridge heights are a particularly sensitive issue together with retaining the typically Kentish look of adequately sloping roofs (the catslide roof is a particular feature).  Proposals which are overbearing and dominant are very obvious and should be avoided.
  • Design – Fit with the local environment is important together with the overall design including quality of materials and items such as the pitch of roofs.
  • Amenity– This covers both visual amenity – the ability of the resident to enjoy their surroundings and the nature of their locality – and the privacy which most of us take for granted.  Privacy covers the ability not to be overlooked, as well as protection from such issues as noise and loss of light.  Some examples have occurred recently where residents have intruded into the privacy of neighbours – for instance by cutting down screening trees or producing plans which are overbearing and have a dominant overlooking view of their neighbours.
  • Landscaping– Substantial development of houses in this area with its mature trees and vegetation and proximity to Sevenoaks Common and Knole Park requires a sensitive approach to using land which is part of our heritage environment.  It is also full of wildlife using the openly natural area as a migratory route to and from Sevenoaks Common. Thus it is advised that any substantial development should have a detailed and accurate landscape plan in which mature trees and vegetation are retained as far as practically possible and, additionally, the natural landscape enhanced with new plantings.  This is a particularly important consideration when planning front gardens and not overpaving the front garden for vehicle parking and thereby depriving it of wildlife. Ecological surveys have been called for – particularly in respect of houses near Sevenoaks Common.
  • Water– Water conservation, adequate drainage and avoidance of pollution are essential aspects of any development.  Bath, shower and toilet facilities associated with including additional bedrooms have increased in redeveloped properties which means that the drain systems for foul sewerage have to be able to cope with the extra load. The drain infrastructure is elderly throughout the White Hart Estates area and there are an increasing number of very unpleasant overflows which occur through blockage and overuse/lack of capacity. Residents are asked to bear this in mind when considering their facility requirements.

    In terms of conservation well planned development will include soakaways for (often increased) water fall from roofs and permeable surfaces for new driveways. The use of water butts is advised to save water.

  • Construction Issues– Everyone recognises that it is inevitable that construction in progress will cause some disturbance.  However, it is the responsibility of the owner of the property to ensure that construction takes place in a considerate and tidy manner and that dust and noise are kept to a minimum.

-          Driveway crossovers are the responsibility of the house owner, so, if they become damaged during construction, the pavement area must be made safe or properly diverted for pedestrians, and the crossover repaired as soon as possible during or post construction to the standards and material strengths set out by Kent Highways.

-          Construction traffic should not park on pavements or grass verges for obvious reasons and to preserve the infrastructure and pleasant appearance of the neighbourhood.  This also applies to residents and their visitors as there is adequate parking space on the drives of most properties.

-          All building materials must remain within the curtilage of the construction site and not on verges or pavements so that they do not obstruct the pavement, verge or road. Similarly, where at all possible, skips should be placed inside boundaries to avoid roads becoming “skip allies” and thereby maximise road and pavement safety.

-          Gullies at the side of the road can become blocked with a combination of builders’ rubble, cement, and gravel.  Kent Highways clear the sludge from gullies on a timed rotational basis and the cooperation of householders with their builders to reduce/eliminate these blockages is requested.

The majority of these points are a mix between the objectives of householders, professional planning help, and, above all, a good measure of common sense applied to the area where you live.  Controversy can usually be avoided by careful thought in working up plans together with local neighbours and giving consideration to the environment in the area that has developed over many years.

WHERA examines each planning application submitted in the White Hart Estates area and has reasonable experience in looking at most of the planning issues arising in our area.  The Sevenoaks Local Plan (Policy EN1) sets out formally the policies by which the Planning Authorities in the District operate.  This is available for public inspection at the Council Offices. 

AMENITIES

Whilst we all like to think that our Council Tax covers everything to do with our public amenities from street lighting to clearing leaves and gritting the roads, the fact is that the District and County authorities are often only as good as the reporting based on the “eyes and ears” of the public.  Therefore, as residents, we have a responsibility to report incidents or malfunctions/omissions in order that the relevant authority can deal with it.  Local Authority cuts are not helping, so self help, in terms of using our eyes and ears, is sensible.  Recurring issues are:-

  • Rubbish Collection – rubbish should be put out the morning of collection, not the night before. Scavenging wildlife make a mess and the bin men will not clear it up.  This is a householder responsibility.
  • Reporting of drains malfunctions/overflows – This tends to happen when there is heavy rainfall and/or a blockage and the surface water drains cannot cope. The surface water can then leak into the foul sewerage drain (but not vice versa we are assured!) and overflows occur.  It is requested that residents report these incidents as soon as possible to Thames Water on 0845 920 0800.
  • Street lighting failures – These should be reported to KCC Highways (tel: 0845 824 7800) by the nearest resident, giving location of the street lamp and its number which is printed on the lamppost for identification.
  • Leaf clearing – Leaves on footpaths can be dangerous, particularly in autumn.  Residents can call the leaf clearing team at KCC Highways at any time (tel: 01959 567364).  The response to date has usually been quite prompt.
  • Salt distribution – KCC Highways are responsible for salting roads.  Owing to the delay between snow falling and roads being gritted, WHERA is investigating the possibility of purchasing salt bins for use by residents.
  • Parking on the road – on many occasions it is not necessary to park on the road as most houses have adequate drives in which to house vehicles.  A clear road makes for a safer road.
  • Road representatives can be contacted for assistance with serious or recurring incidents, but residents can do much to address issues which arise in our area.

NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH

David Wigg (455446) is registered with the local police as a Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator and is receiving information by e-mail from them about local crimes, warnings about criminal activity and requests for information. The police would very much like this weekly information to be forwarded to all residents with e-mail access. Please ask David at to be put on a special WHERA e-mail list so he could forward these messages to you.

For more Neighbourhood Watch information please see the last page of this newsletter and visit the new WHERA website.

402 BUS SERVICE THROUGH WEALD

The 402 bus service between Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Weald and Sevenoaks ceased operation abruptly on 8 May, apart from one school bus in each direction morning and evening. The bus company, Arriva, said that the route via Weald village and Weald Road was not financially viable; KCC had refused to subsidise it which meant the company, as a commercial organisation, had no option but to withdraw the service. The 402 service between Tunbridge Wells and Bromley along Tonbridge Road and Riverhill continues.

Initial representations to KCC led by Weald Parish Council were brushed aside with the response that the KCC transport budget was fully spent and the three times a day substitute service between Weald and Sevenoaks which they had put in place should be sufficient. This ignored the fact that many residents want to travel in the Tonbridge rather than the Sevenoaks direction.

Further discussions and negotiations and a sustained and vigorous letter writing campaign in which WHERA participated, eventually led to an offer from KCC and our local District Councillor, Nick Chard, to subsidise a restored service on a trial basis for six months during which time the community would have to increase the number of passengers using the service to a level which would make it commercially viable for Arriva to continue. If not, the service would again be stopped (and be unlikely ever to be restored again).

The KCC offer was accepted at a meeting attended by 120 people in Weald on 13 July. The service is due to resume on 5 September. The bus provides a vital transport link for the elderly and others who do not drive who live in Weald or along the route into Sevenoaks. But the service will not survive beyond the six months unless additionalpassengers use it. WHERA members who live near the route are therefore strongly urged to patronise the restored service.  A leaflet with more information and suggestions for how to make good use of the bus is being distributed to homes near the route.

And finally…

 

Membership - there are 350+ households in the estate and all residents are automatically considered to be members of WHERA.

The Membership Secretary also looks after the road representatives. Road reps are allocated 20-30 houses each which they ‘look after’ not only by delivering Newsletters and collecting the annual (voluntary) contributions from their ‘patch’ but by looking out for and dealing with local amenity problems which might arise in their road. Road reps are encouraged to attend Committee meetings to meet Committee members and other road reps.

WHERA Subscription - the subscription this year remains at £2 per household for the year and will be collected by your Road Representative when the newsletter is delivered.

Income exceeds expenditure but the funds available to us (something over £3,900 – about £10 per house), though growing slowly, would not be adequate to meet any serious expenditure that might arise.

 

Officers of the Committee

Gerry Wood (Chairman)        tel: 741 382

Stuart Bird (Vice Chairman)    Tel: 456 514

Pat FitzGerald (Planning)       tel: 462 989

David Lewis (Treasurer)        tel: 454 348

David Wigg (Membership)          tel: 455 446

 

Your Road Representative is:



neighbourhoodNeighbourhood Watch does not only deter crime, it can also bring residents together and create communities that care. The activity of Neighbourhood Watch members can foster community spirit, whilst knowing that your neighbours are keeping an eye on your property.

Did you know that 5 properties in the White Hart Estates area have been burgled so far this year?

Please take advantage of the Neighbourhood Watch scheme running in your area. As a resident in the White Hart Estates area you can be warned about crimes occurring in the local area, receive useful crime prevention advice, and information about various types of scams that we are aware of. If you have internet access this information can be forwarded to you by e-mail. If you are not already receiving this information please register for it by contacting your Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator, David Wigg, at .

We would also like to take this opportunity to make you aware of some crime prevention advice for in and around your home. Making just a few changes can make a big difference in keeping your home safe from burglary.

Here are a few tips:

  • hide all keys, out of sight. Do not leave them near windows or your front door.
  • install a burglar alarm.
  • install good outside lighting.
  • leave radios or lights in your house on a timer when you go away on holiday.
  • store valuable items (eg. passports, driving licenses, bank statements) out of view.
  • make sure the fences around your garden are in good condition.
  • do not leave ladders/tools outside where they could be used to enter your home.
  • lock any side gates, to prevent access to the back of your property.
  • arrange with neighbours to monitor each others’ property when away.

Remember that it is also possible to buy property marking kits for items in your home – these are very easy to use, cost £20 and mark up to around 100 items (including televisions, computers, satnavs, mobile phones, jewellery). For more information or to order a kit, please contact Suzanne Daniell (Neighbourhood Watch Liaison Officer) on 01732 379 373.

For more information about the local Neighbourhood Watch see

www.wknwa.org and www.westkentwatch.com.

But Neighbourhood Watch is not a substitute for the local Police.

To contact your local Neighbourhood Policing Team (PCSO Hayley Elliott) please call 01732 379 371.

To report non-urgent incidents/crimes, ring 01622 690 690.

In an emergency, call 999.

 logokentpoliceProtecting and serving

the people of Kent

Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbourhood Watch Description

Amenities

Amenities description

Road Representative

Road Representatives

Road Representatives Description