W H E R A

 

The White Hart Estates Residents Association

 

2013 Newsletter

Whera’s Objectives

Bearing in mind that many residents are new to the area, we think it is 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. The intended result of the association undertaking activities relating to the above objectives and to the planning principles is that all residents are able to continue to enjoy the character and amenities of the area.

Chairman’s Introduction

I’d like to start this year’s newsletter with a focus on some of the things that we can do individually and collectively to conserve and enhance the natural landscape of our area. Last year’s AGM was followed by a talk about the Sevenoaks Living Landscape (SOLL) Project by a member of the SOLL Project Team. SOLL is a Kent Wildlife Trust initiative to increase the involvement of local people in wildlife conservation. The WHERA area is in the middle of the SOLL area which stretches across the south of Sevenoaks from Ivy Hatch to Bough Beech. Sevenoaks Common and Knole Park form the natural boundaries to our area and our gardens are an important “green corridor” for wildlife which is why we need to consider the needs of wildlife when we plan extensions to houses and choose what we want from our gardens.

Our garden, for example, is used by over 30 species of birds and is home to many different species of moths, bees, hover flies and other insects. Bats feed on the insects and slow worms feed on the slugs and worms. Many creatures depend on our relatively small pond as part of their lifecycle; grass snakes, for example, prey on the newts and frogs. However, a single wildlife garden is like a nature reserve surrounded by buildings, roads and railway lines - there is nowhere else for the wildlife to go and their numbers are restricted by the capacity of the reserve.

Every garden is a possible haven for wildlife so, if we all consider the wildlife when gardening, then we have chance to conserve and protect our native flowers, trees, insects, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians on a much larger scale. SOLL will help anyone to make the best use of their garden for the benefit of wildlife and you can find out more from their website: www.sevenoakslivinglandscape.org

Kent Wildlife Trust runs a Wildlife Gardening Award scheme called “Wild About Gardens” which is now in its 11th year. I encourage you consider entering the scheme because it is free to enter and you will receive a visit from one of Kent Wildlife Trust’s volunteer gardening advisors who may recommend your garden for an award and, perhaps more importantly, will offer you advice on wildlife gardening.

For more information please visit the “Wild About Gardens” pages on the Kent Wildlife Trust website: www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk .

Finally, in relation to wildlife, Sevenoaks District Council is running a “Trees to Treasure” project to encourage residents to apply for free trees to brighten up living and working spaces in the Sevenoaks District. Community groups and not for profit organisations in the Sevenoaks District are being encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to obtain free foliage to improve public spaces. SDC is inviting applications for trees to be planted wherever they would bring about positive benefits and applications should demonstrate how the trees will positively benefit the community and enhance the area.

The project not only supplies free trees, but will also assist residents with support and training regarding planting and maintaining their trees. The deadline for applications is 31st October 2013 and there is no limit on number of applications so please contact your Road Representative or any member of the WHERA committee with your suggestions for public spaces within the WHERA area that you think would benefit from free trees.

Volunteering opportunities

Last year, instead of a newsletter, it was decided to distribute a request for volunteers to help run the association. As a result, I’m pleased to report that we now have three new road representatives and a new website manager. However, there are still vacancies for the following:

Chairman The Chairman serves for two years   and is involved in all the activities of the association and represents the   association within the Sevenoaks community.
Vice Chairman The Vice Chairman serves for two   years and assists the Chairman and deputises for the Chairman as necessary.
Amenities Officer The Amenities Officer monitors the   maintenance of the roads, pavements and verges, street lighting, drains,   refuse collection, leaf clearing and trees.
Speed Watch Speed Watch volunteers monitor the   speed of traffic using equipment supplied by SDC and report speeding vehicles   to Kent Traffic Police.
Secretary The Secretary arranges committee   meetings and the AGM and prepares the agenda and the minutes of meetings.
Road Representative Road representatives provide local   knowledge and spread the load of delivering newsletters and annual   subscriptions from their “patch” once a year and look out for and deal 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. We currently need a road representative for part of   Brattle Wood (37-51, 56-82).

There is more information about the roles of the above on our website, www.whera.org.uk

The current WHERA Committee members have served the Association for many years and, like many organisations, we’ve reached a point where we need some new people to help take things forward. Please take a look at the list of volunteering opportunities above and consider whether you could help share the load. None of these roles would take much of your time but the combination of more people each doing their bit will reduce the demands on others. If you’d like to help we’d be delighted to hear from you and every member of the Committee will be happy to share their knowledge and experience with you while you’re learning the ropes.

Without your help there is a risk that WHERA will be disbanded so, if you value the activities that WHERA carries out on behalf of residents and you’re willing to contribute a small amount of your time, please contact any member of the Committee for more information.

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 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 Planning Principles

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.

We are still seeing a steady stream of planning applications in the White Hart area (comprising TheRise, White Hart Close, White Hart Wood, Garth Road, Brattle Wood, Cade Lane, Weald Road, Shenden Way, Turners Gardens, Fernside Lane, Parkland Close, Letter Box Lane, Beechmont Road, Windmill Road – incorporating over 350 properties).

These are mainly upgrading improvements to existing properties with some being very substantial. A number of the latter category have triggered objections from local residents and WHERA on the basis of not being in accordance with the Sevenoaks Local Plan (EN1), the Residential Extensions Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) and the Sevenoaks Residential Character Area Assessment (SRCAA) Supplementary Planning Document (SPD). These planning policies and guidelines are agreed documents for the purpose of the Planning Department of Sevenoaks District Council (SDC) and potential planning applicants and can be found on the Planning Section of the SDC website: www.sevenoaks.gov.uk

Whilst most residents submitting a Planning Application will be using an architect or land agent we urge both residents and professionals acting for them to pay regard to these policies and guidelines which incorporate clear guidance on planning issues such as spacing and light, boundaries, height, mass, design, amenity (privacy) including visual amenity, building lines, street scene and character of the area including soft landscaping.

Residents’ Associations, including WHERA, have been consulted and had an input to all these documents so they are very relevant and specific to your local area in order to retain the pleasant environment in which we live.

As we have mentioned before, it is much appreciated if residents consult with their immediate neighbours both either side and in front and behind their properties before submitting a Planning Application, as this can reduce, and even avoid, comments or objections when neighbours are presented with a surprise local Planning Application. Communication with neighbours during works is also important.

The fit with the character of the area and soft landscaping around houses are particular issues which have arisen in applications. It is worthwhile emphasizing how lucky we are to be living in an area which is semi-rural in nature (see SRCAA document) bounded on two sides by Sevenoaks Common, which is both Green Belt and governed strictly by the Commons Act 2006, and Knole Park on one side which is both Green Belt and a Conservation area. There are several areas of Protected Woodland within the White Hart Estates area including the substantial strip of the Brattle Wood between Brattle Wood and Weald Road and White Hart Beeches between the lower part of Brattle Wood, The Rise and White Hart Wood. These must be respected and are policed by the Sevenoaks Town Council, but all residents are asked to keep an alert eye to any damage in these areas

Our area therefore contains many mature trees which form a very attractive feature of the neighbourhood bringing essential wildlife, interesting plants and protection from noise – particularly from the A21 and the Tonbridge Road. Many of these mature trees are subject to Tree Preservation Orders and WHERA is most keen to ensure that these are preserved for future generations where they are healthy and part of the semi rural environment of our area. WHERA has an ongoing dialogue with Les Jones, the SDC Tree Officer. Serious action is likely to be taken by Sevenoaks Town Council against anyone who damages the Common land of Sevenoaks Common and by the Sevenoaks District Council in the case of Protected Trees and Woodland.

It follows therefore that soft landscaping around properties is an important feature of the continuing rural, rather than urbanized, landscape in this area. Front gardens with hedges, vegetation and trees and side boundaries with hedges (rather than bland fences) add to the attractiveness of the area and its distinctive feel although some non-native species such as leylandii, if not managed, can appear to be unnatural barriers in an otherwise open street scene. Beech, laurel, yew, fagus together with a mix of smaller trees are alternatives which are easy to maintain and are more friendly to wildlife. Likewise, it is a pity when front gardens are paved over in an urbanized way to accommodate vehicles rather than providing a good staging post for wildlife migrating to and from the green areas surrounding us.

We remind residents on two aspects of the infrastructure of our neighbourhood:-

  1. The grass verges are well defined in most parts of the neighbourhood. These belong to Kent County Council Highways, and it is their responsibility to maintain them. Equally where there is a change of ownership of property the owner is not entitled to take over this land comprising the verge. This should be checked specifically on purchase/sale. However, given the infrequent cutting of the verges by KCC, we encourage residents to maintain their verges as well as their hedges as pathways should always be kept clear for pedestrians. KCC have the power to cut back overgrown hedges and to recover the cost from the resident.
  1. Kent County Council (KCC) Highways have overall responsibility for the maintenance of crossovers, but only when resurfacing of pavements is taking place, as is currently the case. However this happens rarely. Therefore in the meantime between this maintenance the ongoing condition of vehicle crossovers over the pavement into the drives of properties are the responsibility of the owners of the property. These are required to be of a substantial hard mix in order to bear the load of vehicles (pavements do not have the same make up as they are not designed to bear the weight of vehicles parking on them – hence the very good reasons not to park on them). Some crossovers in the area are in poor condition (particularly where redevelopment has occurred) and of course if an accident (normally to a pedestrian – particularly the elderly or young children) were to occur the property owner could be held liable. Builders, architects and land agents are all aware of this when planning applications are being considered and works are in course.

Finally, there have been a number of complaints in the White Hart area about construction work and associated noise at weekends and Bank Holidays.  The rules are that such commercial work is usually limited to weekdays from 8am to 6pm and Saturdays 8am to 1pm with no working on Sundays and Bank Holidays (for obvious reasons of peace and quiet for residents at these times). However, work can be undertaken on Sundays and Bank Holidays, unless specifically prevented in the Grant of Planning Permission, providing there is no disturbance by way of noise. Any undue noise should be settled first by approaching the relevant neighbour. However, if this is not possible, then the Environmental Health Officer (EHO) should be informed (tel: 01322 343160) or in off peak times the Duty Officer at Sevenoaks District Council (tel; 01732 227000). We understand that, in extremis if the noise becomes a statutory nuisance, an Abatement Notice can be issued by the EHO under the Control of Pollution Act or the Noise Act. To date, to our knowledge, all disturbance noise at these out of hours times in our area has been settled amicably (as one would expect).

 

Pat FitzGerald, Planning Officer


NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH

Neighbourhood Watch exists to help us to help ourselves. It not only deters crime but it fosters a spirit of co-operation between residents when we keep an eye on our neighbour’s property as well as our own.

In our area there were eight burglaries last year. In fact our area is vulnerable to burglaries and vehicle crime and these burglaries remind us that we need to remain vigilant at all times.

Knowledge about local crime is a first step. Our Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator, David Wigg, can forward to you by email information he receives from the police about local crimes, warnings about criminal activity, including financial scams of all sorts and sometimes requests for information from the public. He can be contacted at . There are usually only one or two messages a week so your In box will not be overwhelmed.

The best protection for the house, apart from securely lockable doors and windows, is an Intruder Alarm which needs to be set whenever the house is left empty even during the day. We have had instances of burglaries during the day. We have lost cars through burglaries when the keys have been found and the car taken from the drive so it could also be a good idea not to leave keys lying around for someone else to pick up.

Co-operation with neighbours is recommended. When away on holiday, neighbours can help to remove some of the clues by clearing the post from the front porch, or can reset the alarm if it goes off by accident as they do occasionally.

Unfortunately, detailed information about us leaks into the wider world and criminals try to take advantage of this with a variety of scams intending to persuade us to part with our money directly or indirectly for nothing. Basically if you get an offer through an unsolicited phone call, email etc. that looks too good to be true it probably is too good to be true. Never be persuaded to release your account numbers or PINs to anyone else. A good motto for us is “Be aware and take care”. Please see our website (www.whera.org.uk) for further information about Neighbourhood Watch.

David Wigg, Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator


OTHER WHERA ACTIVITIES

Road Salt

Road salt had been distributed to residents who had volunteered to spread it when necessary and this had proved effective but patchy. It would not be possible to purchase enough salt to cover the full length of every road so it was agreed that WHERA would purchase a further supply of salt and distribute it to volunteer residents to spread where it would be most effective (eg on slopes and bends).

Public footpath in front of The White Hart

When the forecourt of the White Hart Pub was fenced off in 2009, 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.

The KCC Countryside Access Service have examined the evidence of use and we believe they are prepared to grant a Public Right of Way but they are now waiting to see if Kent Highways would be prepared to provide a footpath along the roadside instead to join up the existing pavements on either side of the White Hart.

WHERA website

Residents with access to the internet are encouraged to visit the WHERA website which contains up to date information about the following topics:

  • Planning
  • Planning Principles
  • Amenities
  • Road Representatives Introduction
  • Neighbourhood Watch
  • Website Introduction

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 provides access to the following additional information:

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

We would like 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).

The WHERA website address is www.whera.org.uk

Information and Contacts Card for Residents

An information and contacts card for WHERA residents was distributed with the Notice of last year’s AGM. It is hoped that these are a helpful reminder to residents of the objectives of the association as well as providing contact information for committee members, councillors, KCC, Thames Water and the West Kent Neighbourhood Watch Association.

New date and location for the AGM

The next AGM will be held at 8.00pm on Wednesday 30th April 2014 at Weald Memorial Hall. The meeting will be followed by a Wine and Cheese evening. Please make a note in your diary and come along and share your thoughts and ideas with other residents.

 

 

 

And finally…

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

WHERA Subscription - the subscription this year remains at £3 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 £4,000 – about £11 per household), 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

Pat FitzGerald (Planning)     tel: 462 989

David Lewis (Treasurer)      tel: 454 348

David Wigg (Membership)   tel: 455 446

 

 

 

 

Your Road Representative is:


STOP PRESS - Pavement improvements

Everyone living in Brattle Wood, Garth Road, The Rise and White Hart Wood will be aware of the pavement resurfacing that is being carried out by KCC Highways. This provides an opportunity for householders to upgrade their cross overs at reduced cost. Assuming that you’ve received this newsletter before the work on the pavement near your house is completed and should you wish to discuss the possibility and cost of upgrading your cross over please contact KCC Highways on 0300 333 5539.

Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbourhood Watch Description

Amenities

Amenities description

Road Representative

Road Representatives

Road Representatives Description