W H E R A

 

 The White Hart Estates Residents Association

 

2016 Newsletter

 

So Much Change

 

Dear Neighbour,

      In what should be my last "Introduction from the chair" for our newsletter, I believe I should draw your attention to several serious issues and seek your guidance as to WHERA's stance.

     Please look at what is happening on and around our estates, think about the local government circumstances through which they arise and then let us know what action you consider WHERA should take about them?

     When WHERA was founded to protect the quality of life here, there was a clear collective response to two identified challenges. It may just be a matter of awareness, but presently there seem to be a much wider range of threats and less unanimity as to what is now wanted.

     For example, WHERA's longstanding decision, as reconfirmed at the AGM, to support local Planning Policy, may put WHERA in opposition to some of its own members. I repeat my apology to any of you with whom we failed to discuss this. How can WHERA comply with its own principles without causing offence to either those members on whose decisions these are built or those whose wishes, at least technically are in breach of them?

     You will see from the Planning report mention of the "local plan", which includes "offers" to build 346 new homes immediately around us. This may be the most dramatic "headline" issue facing us but not necessarily the most insidious.

The Executive Committee  

     I am grateful for the work of everybody who has helped voluntarily on your behalf. You all have an immediate Road Representative but additionally the executive committee do much more. As I wrote previously, this is a far smaller executive body than the original three sub committees, yet we have probably had the busiest year in our history.

     Peter has put in much study and labour to maintain our existing agreed strategy to protect the character of our Estates in an evolving legislative framework. It may be time to review how your committee acts on your behalf.  

     David Lewis, as well as being Treasurer has twice stepped into the breach to act (reluctantly) as Chairman. As our longest serving officer, his perspective and memory of previous contentious matters is invaluable.

     David Wigg has quietly and faithfully kept it all together, adding numerous extra tasks to his various roles involving amongst others the website, planning, this newsletter and neighbourhood watch.

     Colin has taken over as Membership Secretary and you will see that he has ideas to improve communication. Please consider sharing your email address.

     We co-opted Ian, who gives us the benefit of his years of local knowledge and commitment predating WHERA.

     Allen has taken on Speed Watch co-ordination, but we have unfortunately lost nearly all our volunteers for this important activity. I am usually happy and able to join in virtually any session proposed.

     WHERA's policy is for the Chair to hold the position for two years before being succeeded by the Vice-Chair. In the absence of such a person, I do not know what you may decide at the AGM or what role might be mine. I have attempted to represent the consensus or majority view.

     This becomes increasingly difficult to ascertain. I suspect that the isolated abuse and threats I have received are a minority but vocal view.  Whoever takes on a role as a WHERA officer needs to know your views so as to represent you, so please let us know!

History    

     WHERA is, I believe, at 373 households the largest Residents Association in the area. Some others have closed down in recent years, with detrimental effect according to those living there. Many remaining groups are attempting to work together in support of local representation and looking to WHERA to play an active part.

     I have learnt many interesting facts about our Estates through investigating matters that you have referred to me. Ours is a collection of Estates, for example, my locality is White Hart Meadow Estate, from the meadow attached to the Stables, when The White Hart was a Coaching Inn. One resident described to me feeding the horses here as a child. Another section is called White Hart Farm Estate. I am interested to learn more, can you tell me?

     I had hoped to include in this issue other memories of earlier life here but space does not allow, beyond the heart-warming story of the World War One survivor of gas attacks who owned the fields on Gracious Lane where 320 new homes are now proposed. I am told that between the wars he kept horses there for the sheer pleasure of seeing children learning to ride. This told to me by a former resident of Fernside House who helped look after the horses.

     In some ways, they seem idyllic days; let us hope that we may continue to enjoy living here through the challenges to come.

     It has been a privilege and usually a pleasure representing you.

     Thank you.

 Jonathan Drury, Chair.

Whera`s Objectives

To safeguard the residential character of the area and to conserve its amenities.

To secure, as far as possible, the safety of its roads, unobstructed footpaths and litter-free environment.

To liaise on these matters with the appropriate authorities and especially with our local councillors.

To bring to the attention of WHERA members any proposed developments which might detract from the environmental quality of the area.

PLANNING

Guidelines    

     The SDC planning policies, which can be seen on the Planning Section of the SDC website www.sevenoaks.gov.uk, are listed below and guide us in all planning situations. The contents of these documents are considered to be “material considerations”.

     SP1 and SP2 from the Core Strategy adopted in February 2011 ;

     EN1 and EN2 from the Allocations and Development Management Plan adopted in February 2015;

     Sevenoaks Residential Extensions Supplementary Planning Document (SRESPD) adopted in 2009; and

     Sevenoaks Residential Character Area Assessment (SRCAA) Supplementary Planning Document adopted in 2012.

 Developments    

     We indicated in the Newsletter last year the committee’s concern that the existing policies are inadequate in their capacity to provide clear unambiguous parameters against which a judgment can be made in applications concerning overdevelopment of a site and privacy in particular with respect to overlooking from balconies. In an attempt to meet these concerns the committee sent a letter to the Chairman of the Development Control Committee in January 2016 in which we also raised questions about the number of successful applications for garages forward of the building line (now 5 out of 7 in the last 2 years), which according to the SPDs mentioned above should not normally be allowed.

Meeting with Planners

     To cut a long story short the Chairman and our Planning Officer eventually had a meeting with Mr Turner, Development Manager at SDC. We learned that there are over-riding considerations in favour of sustainable development as indicated in the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) document published in 2012 in the minds of planning officers when they assess planning applications. An excerpt from the NPPF Para 14 is reproduced here :

“At the heart of the National Planning Policy Framework is a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which should be seen as a golden thread running through both plan-making and decision-taking. For decision-taking this means10 approving development proposals that accord with the development plan without delay.” (Footnote 10; Unless material considerations indicate otherwise)

     This footnote encourages us to continue to oppose developments which we feel do not accord with the SDC planning documents mentioned above.

Meeting with Councillors

     As a result of the committee’s decision to invite Councillors to meet with residents following the last AGM in April good contact has now been established and this has to be seen as a positive development. In the same way relationships with Councillors have recently been fostered by the participation of committee members at Town Forum meetings.

Local Plan

     The present development of the local plan was put in context at the Town Forum meeting on the 14th September 2016 when Mr Anthony Lancaster, Strategic Planning Officer at SDC, explained that the Government’s publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) document in 2012 impacted significantly on   SDC’s Core Strategy, which had only been put in place the previous year with the expectation that it would be viable for some years. As a result of the initiative from the Government work on a new Local Plan started in 2015 by gathering evidence and once established will cover up to 2035. Essentially each district in the country is required to build more houses.

More homes in Sevenoaks

     The headline figure for SDC is to build 12400 houses in the whole of the Sevenoaks District in the next 20 years (620/year). The rate of house building in the district over the last three years has been 200, 200 and 400. Councillor Fleming, in the Chair at the Town Forum, indicated that the headline figure was unachievable and did not believe that it was a target. Nonetheless, SDC have issued a call for building sites from landowners and offers of a number of parcels of land from around the town and on Green Belt have been received. 96% of the sites agreed for further consideration are on Green Belt. 436 of the new homes offered lie within 900 yards of the White Hart Estates boundary, of which 360 would only be accessed from Gracious Lane.

     Mr Lancaster also indicated that the Local Plan covered land for employment and the retail needs of the district as well as housing.

Peter Kinsler, Planning Officer.

AMENITIES

Introduction

WHERA has operated for some time without a dedicated Amenities Officer a post which is crucial to maintaining the Estate in the way we would wish to see it. Most of the sterling amenity work reported below in this Newsletter has been done by Jonathan, our Chairman, but he cannot continue to operate at this level unaided.

We require an Amenities Officer to join the committee. We recognize that this is a major role and we would like to create a small team of volunteers who would act as assistants to the Amenities Officer as well.

A glance at the various issues which follow on from this section of the Newsletter defines the sort of issues which need to be handled by the Amenities Team.

Please let us know by contacting a member of the executive if you would like to consider volunteering for the team and whether you would wish to consider being the Amenities Officer or sharing the role.

Rain Gulleys and Refuse

     There have been 5 blocked Gulleys reported with at least 3 properties affected by flooding. One blocked gulley was found to be full of plastic food wrappings indicating a problem with refuse collection in bags. These are being attacked by foxes and birds. One solution is to buy a light weight bin to use when putting the bags out. We are grateful to those residents who clear the litter around their frontages.

Street Lighting

     It has taken more than 2 years to reinstate the lighting on the section of Tonbridge Road between Gracious Lane and The Rise, after it was turned off following an unlawful process.

     Our primary reason for persisting with this is for the safety of children using the school buses. This section of Tonbridge Road is now alone in being illuminated all night.

     Jonathan has asked for the "partial switch off" as originally consulted, to be implemented with a 12.30am switch off to respect staff from The White Hart who walk home. Do you agree?

     In contrast to Tonbridge Road which will be amongst the last roads in the programme, ours was one of the first parts of Kent to benefit from the LED conversions. Currently these have not been "programmed" but one of the features is that these can be individually set for on and off timings. What would you like, both for your road and the neighbourhood?

Sevenoaks Common

     Contrary to the report in SDC`s summer `In Shape` (SDC have been asked to publish a correction), most of this common is owned and managed by Sevenoaks Town Council (STC). We consider that, generally they do this well.

     There are concerns however about vehicles being driven across the common, and horses being ridden off the permitted bridleways, both of which, apart from the dangers, churn up the paths. Some object to cycling, and building private accesses or children`s camps. As yet, we know of only one group staying overnight in a vehicle but after recent other local experiences, worries are being expressed. How should WHERA work with STC over this and with which priorities?

Footpath in front of The White Hart

     The campaign to achieve this received funding from Cllr Crabtree's divisional budget and agreement from Brunning and Price (the owners) to donate a strip of land so long as the old Yew tree was not disturbed. When KCC Highways measured, there was insufficient space to make a footway without encroaching on the space required around the tree.

Borehole

     In response to much anxiety over the safety and legality of this, Jonathan approached the bodies required in law to sanction in advance, the drilling of boreholes. They all expressed ignorance of the matter. Persistence extracted a response from The Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirming that there had been a failure to comply with legislation but stating that this is of no consequence. 

Speeding and Road Safety

     You may recall that following our Speed Watch campaigns, Cllr Margaret Crabtree (of KCC) offered to fund, from her Divisional Budget, a VAS (Vehicle Activated Sign) on Tonbridge Road. Following feedback from residents elsewhere that these have proved ineffective, she has asked for confirmation of what we, as local residents, consider best value for the money in this regard. Please, tell us what you wish for all our safety?

     Ideas include the following:

1) One VAS with a selection of approved mounting sites,

2) painted roundels on the road surface,

3) increased Repeater signs on both roads.

     After many years, we finally had the broken speed limit sign from the south on Tonbridge Road replaced. The following day the illuminated sign opposite failed!

     Jonathan has re-reported three missing and one other un-illuminated speed limit signs as well as getting those on Weald Road re-fixed so that vandals could no longer reverse them.

     We have been asked to petition for a number of road safety measures.

     Suggestions include:

1)  Reduction to 30 mph for Tonbridge Road,

2)  modification of the Weald Road - Tonbridge Road junction (specifically concerning the use of the bus stop/layby by emerging traffic),

3)  modification of the Letter Box Lane - Tonbridge Road junction (specifically introducing no left turn off the main road).

     How many of these would you support or are we missing something?

 Grass Verges

     The situation remains that, in the main these are registered to Sevenoaks District Council (SDC). SDC claim that Highway Rights "have accrued" to Kent County Council (KCC). Legislation seems clear that this cannot be so but Highways Authorities do have rights and duties about land adjoining the highway. The arguments concerning protection of this publicly owned asset continue.

     One thing is clear though, the verges do not belong to individual residents and should not be paved, enclosed or used for hedges.

Footway surfacing

     Jonathan resumed pressure on KCC to complete this and an associated project from several years ago. This is now satisfactorily completed apart for a small section in Brattle Wood.

Local Representation

     Our local Councillors are listed on the Information Card supplied.

     In an attempt to bridge the communication gap between some of them and those whose interests they are elected to represent they were all invited to join residents after our last AGM. Some of you reported finding that useful. The suggestion has been made to organise a separate meeting for residents with them. Would you be interested in that?

     STC publishes its "Town Crier" quarterly. A copy is being delivered with this Newsletter. For further copies see the STC website.

     WHERA has re-joined The Sevenoaks Society. Their overview is useful to our specific aims, just as we share many general concerns with other Residents` Associations.

Local Transport Plan

     KCC is obliged to produce a Transport Plan for the next 15 years. The draft is, at the time of writing, ten weeks into a sixteen week consultation. The Chair email account is registered for transport consultations but has yet to receive any information. The Sevenoaks District has eight items within the plan. The closest and most relevant to WHERA is optimisation of traffic lights in Sevenoaks.

     We understand that in 1966, criticism was repeated in the Sevenoaks Chronicle for there being no coherent traffic management plan. In recent years many Residents Associations have been seeking some unified measures to control the widening impact of parking problems and increasing congestion. Latterly our KCC Councillor has been advocating the need for an holistic approach. She is attempting to unify the Associations and other parties to work for this.

     In the meantime we are faced with fifteen years without any plan to tackle impending traffic gridlock and strangulation of surrounding areas by uncontrolled parking.

Parking Measures

     Despite procedural obstructions and delays, with Cllr Crabtree's support and finance offers from her Divisional Budget, proposals for restrictions in Turners Gardens and the bottom of The Rise are progressing. Measures for The Rise were further delayed by SDC. Amongst other reasons, they imply that the introduction of measures in Turners Gardens may improve the situation in The Rise.

     We regret the introduction of yellow lines and notices but the residents in those locations have a clear majority consensus that such measures are important for safety.

     It seems inevitable that the problem will merely be displaced. This is a topic for which a co-ordinated approach rather than individual lobbying is strongly recommended as the process seems loaded against residents.

Skips

     Four unlicensed skips without cover, safety lighting or cones have been reported to KCC, two by immediate neighbours. A quiet word regarding a licensed but unlit skip resolved that problem. All skips on the highway have to be licensed by KCC Highways and comply with safety rules. If in doubt, please contact KCC and ask.

Gas Mains

     This work is now completed locally with remarkably few (compared to other areas), recalls required for correction. If you are aware of any further issues and have mislaid the company's contact details, KCC and WHERA have them.

Street Cleaning

     After suggestions that SDC may cease sweeping any roads which are impeded by parked cars, Jonathan ascertains the dates our roads are due for sweeping and emails this information to road representatives about one week in advance.

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.

Reports

     There were 8 criminal incidents reported in our area in 2015 being 7 burglary related and 1 car related, a welcome further reduction from 16 incidents in 2013 and 11 in 2014. Are we becoming more security conscious?

What we can do

     Co-operation with neighbours is recommended. When going on holiday if you let your neighbours know, they can be aware not only of anything untoward happening next door but could help remove some of the clues by clearing post from the front porch or even drawing the curtains.

     If you have an intruder alarm it is recommended to set it whenever the house is left empty even during the day.

     We have had cars stolen during the day when thieves were able to extract keys from view in the hallway so it is best not to leave keys visible.

News and information

     Knowledge about local crime is a first step. 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. There are usually only one or two messages a week so your IN box will not be overwhelmed.

Scams

     If you get an offer through an unsolicited phone call, email etc. that looks too good to be true then 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”.

For instance

     A particularly nasty and usually expensive scam has been seen in relation with house buying where crooks are monitoring email accounts (presumably by finding or guessing passwords). If you need to transfer a large sum from your bank account to an Estate Agent for instance don`t rely entirely on the payee bank and account number given to you in an email. Some really clever crooks could have intervened to change the payee information to their own account. If you want to make a bank transfer always check the bank numbers independently with the recipient first.

Websites

     There is more information about Neighbourhood Watch on our website at www.whera.org.uk.

     West Kent Neighbourhood Watch Association publish a Newsletter, “Watchout”, three times a year available on their website at www.wknwa.org.

     Also available from this website is the “e-watch.co Newsletter” published twice weekly containing a lot of useful community information and advice.

David Wigg, Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator.

SPEEDWATCH 

     The small team of volunteers carried out sessions in Weald Road and Tonbridge Road throughout the year. Because of a limited number of volunteers and ill health there were fewer sessions than previously.

     We had some difficulty initially in uploading the data to Kent Police but we managed to send data for 3 sessions on Weald Road to Kent`s Speed Watch Community database. 52 observations of speeding vehicles were added to the database.

     These generated 5 letters of advice from Kent Police. 3 for second detection of mid-range speeding, one for third detection of mid-range speeding and one for high-end (+50%) speeding.. This vehicle was travelling at 46mph.

     The higher speeds on Tonbridge Road take three volunteers to record all the data needed.

     We need more people to assist in these sessions. It does make drivers aware of their speed on these roads and may help to reduce accidents.

Allen Mills, Speed Watch Co-ordinator.

OTHER WHERA ACTIVITIES

Website

     Residents with access to the internet are encouraged to visit the WHERA website at www.whera.org.uk which contains information about the following:

  • Home - Introduction
  • Planning
  • Amenities
  • Road Representatives
  • Neighbourhood Watch
  • Newsletters
  • Committee
  • Website
  • Volunteering opportunities
  • Local Contacts and websites

Information and Contacts Card

      A card with local information and contacts was distributed to residents in 2012 and a revised version for 2016 is being issued with this Newsletter.

Membership

     There are 370+ households in the Estate and all residents are automatically considered to be members of 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 (under £5,000 - about £13 per household), though growing slowly, would not be adequate to meet any serious expenditure that might arise.

Email addresses

      We would like to be able to contact residents individually or collectively to provide you with useful information throughout the year which is why your Road Representative will be asking this year for an email address if you have one.

AGM 2017

     The next AGM will be held at the White Hart on Tuesday 21 March 2017 at 7:30pm for 8:00pm. Please make a note of the date and come along to hold us to account and afterwards, we hope, to meet one or more of our Councillors.

COMMITTEE

Officers of the Committee

Jonathan Drury (Chair)  

Peter Kinsler (Planning Officer) 

Colin Drage (Membership Secretary) 

David Lewis (Treasurer) 

David Wigg (Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator and Website Manager) 

Allen Mills (Speed Watch Co-ordinator) 

 

Your Road Representative is: 

 

Contact:

 

Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbourhood Watch Description

Amenities

Amenities description

Road Representative

Road Representatives

Road Representatives Description