W H E R A

The White Hart Estates Residents Association

2014 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

Earlier this year the committee suffered a sad loss as Pat FitzGerald died after a long illness. Pat was one of our most active members and he covered the Planning Applications with an unrivalled expertise as well as involving himself with the Amenities of the area and he will be greatly missed.

Our Chairman, Gerry Wood, stepped down at the AGM as he is moving out of the area. I would like to thank Gerry for guiding and supporting the Committee for the last 5 years with such efficiency and conscientious attention to the affairs and running of the Association and we wish him and his family every happiness in their new abode.

Unfortunately we were unable to find a permanent replacement for the Chairman position at the AGM for 2013 in April so we still have a long list of volunteering opportunities from 2013 as listed below. We are maintaining our monitoring of Planning Applications with two volunteers who are willing to take over in due course.

We are maintaining our Neighbourhood Watch activities and we do now have an active Speed Watch team who both report below.

The website, www.whera.org.uk, is being kept up to date as far as possible. In the absence of an Amenities Officer we are relying on our remaining 14 Road Representatives for monitoring the amenities of their areas.

Volunteering opportunities

As explained above we still have more need of volunteers as follows.

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.

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 road representatives for parts of The Rise, White Hart Wood and Garth Road.

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

Please do look at our website for more detailed information about the Association.

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.

David Lewis, Acting Chairman

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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.

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:

Ø any main building other than a detached private residence;

Ø 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);

Ø three storey buildings (or building within a pitched roof if it adds significantly to the height and mass that results, relative to its neighbours);

Ø 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)

Ø 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;

Ø excessive scale of the building and its appearance in relation to the size of plot;

Ø failing to fit in with the broad character and size of neighbouring properties;

Ø 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 The Rise, White Hart Close, White Hart Wood, Garth Road, Brattle Wood, Cade Lane, Weald Road, Shenden Way, Turners Gardens, Fernside Lane, Gracious 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 Sevenoaks Residential Extensions (SRE) Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) and the Sevenoaks Residential Character Area Assessment (SRCAA) 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, 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.

2) 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).

Peter Kinsler, Acting Planning Officer

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AMENITIES

These are factors in the public sector, but which we rely upon for the maintenance of our pleasant surroundings, such as roads, pavements, lighting, drainage etc. We have road representatives in all roads who monitor the amenities in their part of the road. There are some other general problems which we, as residents, can do something about.

Hedges

Private hedges overgrowing the footpath are a continuing source of annoyance to walkers. The KCC are entitled to cut them back and charge the owners responsible. When planting a front hedge please ensure that they are planted sufficiently far back to avoid this happening.

Parking

Please do not park on the footpath. The footpath is for people. Apart from the fact that it is a nuisance to pedestrians and it damages the path, it contravenes the Highway Code which says drivers “should not park partially or wholly on the pavement” (Rule 244). We should discourage non-residents from doing this as well.

Grass Verges

The actions of those residents who look after and cut the verge outside their properties is much appreciated. The Council seem to cut the grass, and that`s all they do, in a very haphazard manner and only occasionally. Thank you. It really improves the appearance of our surroundings.

Vacant position, Amenities 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 and four attempted burglaries. One car was stolen and there were three thefts from cars. The total number of incidents represented an increase of nearly 50% on 2012 and they continue to remind us that we need to remain vigilant at all times.

Knowledge about local crime is a first step. As Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator, I can forward to you by email information I receive from the police about local crimes, warnings about criminal activity, including financial scams of all sorts and sometimes requests for information from the public. I 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. We have even had a case where two cars were stolen, probably to order, from an occupied property at night when the house was entered and keys were found downstairs.

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 very 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

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SPEEDWATCH

This year our volunteer team have performed Speedwatch checks at sites on Weald Road and Tonbridge Road. In the first six weeks of this year`s campaign we logged over ten hours in Weald Road which you have told us is your priority, especially when children are travelling to school.

At the start of our campaign we found that in one hour 30 or more drivers were speeding. By the end of June this had reduced to 16.

Speedwatch is about educating drivers. It is conducted under police guidance by trained volunteers in approved locations. We use “SID”, a Speed Indicator Display. This is a screen which shows drivers of oncoming traffic what speed they are doing. A speeding vehicle`s details are passed to Kent Police who issue advice letters on second and subsequent incidents or for speeds over 50% above the limit.

Since May the police have sent 23 letters from our data. Some were for fourth detection and some for speeds in excess of 50mph. At least one such driver passed us while looking at his passenger.

We welcome suggestions as to when and where we might operate, but sites must be approved by the Police.

Volunteers are welcome; Training takes less than two hours and is usually conducted at the District Council Offices. Please contact me or the Safety Team at Sevenoaks District Council.

Jonathan Drury, Speedwatch Team

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 in 2013 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). As this was not required last winter we hope that this salt will still be available should it be needed next winter.

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 has now refused our application for a Right of Way across the White Hart forecourt. Negotiations are in course between the owners of the White Hart and KCC for installing a pavement to join 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:

Ø Planning

Ø Planning Principles

Ø Amenities

Ø Road Representatives

Ø Neighbourhood Watch

Ø 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:

Ø Newsletters

Ø AGM agenda and minutes

Ø Committee members

Ø Road Representatives

Ø Accounts

Ø 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 to everyone in 2012. 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 in April 2015 at Weald Memorial Hall. The meeting will be followed by a Wine and Cheese evening. Actual date to be advised next year. 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 voluntary 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

David Lewis (Acting Chairman)

Peter Kinsler (Acting Planning Officer)

David Lewis (Treasurer)

David Wigg (Membership Secretary)

Stephen Rapicano (Website Manager)

Jonathan Drury (Speedwatch Team)

Your Road Representative is:

Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbourhood Watch Description

Amenities

Amenities description

Road Representative

Road Representatives

Road Representatives Description