W H E R A

     The White Hart Estates Residents Association

      2017 Newsletter 

          WHERA prepares for the future

 Dear Neighbour,

 Good News

The exciting news is that, thanks to the initiatives of new younger volunteers, we aim to improve our use of modern media to facilitate communication amongst our members. We plan to open the website for active participation, plus Facebook and Twitter for those so inclined.

Regular readers will know of my concerns about the difficulties of canvassing the consensus of your views over the last three years. I trust that these improvements will resolve that problem for my successors and enable you to participate more easily.

For those of us who are wary of such tools, please be assured that conventional communication will not be abandoned. After experiences working with victims of sexual abuse, I will never use Facebook.

I look forward to the means for us to alert each other of urgent issues including suspicious activity, blocked sewers, highway dangers and road works etc.

Bad Olds

I hesitated to label this matter "News" since the decades of neglect of our amenities and infrastructure would be more accurately called "Olds". Our Estates and Town are far from unique in suffering this, and in fairness it is far less of an issue here than in many other parts of the country. Nevertheless you will see in the Amenities section some examples of the situations we are likely to experience.

Similarly, the pressures facing our levels of governmental representation have been escalating for at least fifty years from my observation. Two levels of our local government are under ever increasing financial constraints so services that we have always taken for granted become, at best rationed, often without our realising it. The third seems unaware of the real world and increases its precept from our council tax. We have a County Councillor who is very supportive of those she represents and one each at District and Town level who reply and communicate with us well.

The most important lesson I have had reinforced whilst representing you, is the need to cut through the obfuscation and obstruction inherent in the organisation and inter-relationship of the three different levels of Local Government.

One example of this is the Parking situation. All attempts to moderate the growing parking problem have been thwarted by a total deferment of such considerations, at least until Buckhurst 2 is completed. I fear that this and financial limitations will prove troublesome in efforts to follow our AGM resolution to improve safety on Tonbridge Road. The preferred options were to seek a reduction in speed limit followed by a pedestrian crossing or central refuge.

Several local Residents Associations are starting to work together in the common interest especially over planning, and, with similar intent, WHERA has rejoined The Sevenoaks Society.

The new "local listing", presents another Supplementary Planning Document to protect valued features but already it is being undermined by applications. How long before it is treated as an irrelevance just as the other SPD's on which time and money was spent?

SDC seem to have a good strategy to protect us from the worst impacts of central government's local plan requirements but the final decisions can be imposed by inspectors appointed centrally.

The Planning aspect of WHERA's function often presents a dilemma. Our founding principles include a commitment to protect the neighbourhood's character. This has the potential to put WHERA in conflict with an individual member whose application, or worse, development without permission, meets disapproval from neighbours. That character is steadily being eroded by the patterns of development filling all the spaces and building to the boundary.

Campaigns to reduce the disparity across our estates of Broadband and Mobile services are in hand.

Your Executive Committee

As always I have to thank my fellow committee members for all they do for you. In length of "service" sequence:-

David Lewis has been a committee member for as long as I can remember. He has been our treasurer for most of that time and twice kept the association going by stepping in as acting chairman. He has indicated that this is his last year.

David Wigg has been multi-tasking for us for nearly as long. He has been cutting down and last year stepped back from Membership Secretary. Incoming support is allowing him to reduce his website role. He must have felt lonely sometimes in his valiant efforts to keep this going, especially with such a Luddite as I in the chair. Fortunately for me, alongside co-ordinating Neighbourhood Watch, he continues to plug innumerable gaps!

Peter Kinsler as Planning Officer has developed a good understanding of the complexities of local planning practice including which of its own policies SDC chooses to ignore.

Ian Marsh as a member "without portfolio" provides an important local perspective and has almost single handed preserved our bus services.

Colin Drage, who has taken over the Membership Secretary role, is preparing a data base to use the planned developments of our website and other media to speed communication and consultation among our members.

Unfortunately Allen Mills has had to resign as Speed Watch Co-ordinator on health grounds. He was the inspiration for creating the WHERA Speed Watch team and I miss his company at the roadside.

Neil Wood has joined us this year and brought fresh vigour especially to our use of modern communication.

I had not expected to be writing this year's "Introduction from the chair", but in the absence of another volunteer and without committing to always be available I agreed to continue as "acting chair". I do not know how much I shall be able to contribute in the future as I have other increasing responsibilities for extended family. I hope that any changes we introduce will make things easier for my successors.

There are major challenges ahead, please share your views and consider how you can support or contribute.

Jonathan Drury, Acting 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

White Hart Estate Residents Association examined 13 planning applications in the last year and commented on 7 of which 2 were refused. One of these concerned the proposal to create a new access onto the Tonbridge Road through the Seven Oaks at the southern boundary of the town. This application met with considerable local opposition.

Most requests for garages in front gardens are now routinely passed despite the provisions of the planning documents above. In recent times we have been concerned about the increasing tendency of developers to propose building up to or close to the boundary between properties (5 cases in last 2 years). In our view this practice is at odds with the SCRAA which seeks to maintain the open nature of the estate.

Local Plan 2015-35

The following is taken from SDC’s website:

“The new Local Plan will be clear that the Green Belt will continue to be protected. In order to do so, new housing will need to be accommodated, at higher densities, within existing settlement boundaries (or under the existing rural exceptions sites policy) other than in the following cases:

  • Where the development will result in the sustainable re-use of brownfield land in the Green Belt 
  • Where a convincing ‘exceptional circumstances’ case can be made in accordance with national policy”

The proposed timetable for the production of the Plan is from now through to Adoption in Summer 2019. STC`s call for new building sites remains open.

More information

https://www.sevenoaks.gov.uk/info/20014/planning_policy/247/new_local_plan_2015-35

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 still 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.

Parking

The problems arising from the inadequate and expensive parking provision especially for Sevenoaks Town and Station continue to impact the whole area and spread. Turners Gardens eventually achieved the measures residents had sought for years. All other considerations are now blocked for a minimum of two years. This is especially offensive to residents of The Rise against whom this step seems to have been specifically targeted. Their safety campaign will by then be entering its fifth year.

In 2016, after years of pressure from residents, and our County Councillor for an "holistic review" of ALL local issues, the Sevenoaks Joint Transportation Board commissioned "a report to consider parking provision in Sevenoaks town as a whole", to be presented in March 2017. On 14th June, under the changed heading of "Sevenoaks Residents' Parking Review", The Board accepted recommendations to defer this study of parking throughout Sevenoaks "as a whole".

The disingenuous reasoning included, "The Council wishes to ensure the needs of residents are balanced with the needs of others who also need to park in Sevenoaks town centre. Work is planned to increase parking capacity in the town, after which a first principles review of all parking provision is planned."

Previously, with the one notable exception of a wide straight road adjacent to an identified problem but included because of predicted displacement, existing dangers had to be evidenced before steps leading to the introduction of counter measures could be initiated.

Nevertheless, our prediction of displacement from that very scheme, increasing existing problems in Weald Road and The Rise, was ignored. Neither is straight or wide, one is a Bus Route, the other has had incidents reported whereby Emergency Vehicles had to find alternative routes when obstructed by parked cars.

Our only possible consolation is that Cllr Margaret Crabtree obtained agreement for her to use her divisional budget to fund a safety review of selected streets.

The "planned" work to increase parking capacity refers to Buckhurst 2, for which at that time not even an application for planning permission had been made. If that development proceeds the disruption will be considerable and opinions vary as to just how much benefit it may eventually provide with some dire predictions of consequent traffic issues for Sevenoaks.

Street Lighting

Tonbridge Road will be one of the last in Kent for LED conversion.

Parts have been re-ordered, so for the first time in years the speed limit signs on Tonbridge Road by the Gracious Lane junction may become legally compliant for more than a few hours.

Sevenoaks Common

Kent Wildlife Trust`s consultation after securing funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to improve the Greensand Commons ends on 11 August. See http://www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/sevenoaks-greensand-commons.                                                 

Refuse Collection

There have been more reports of problems with refuse for collection put out 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 Cleaning

The eight weekly cycle is under threat, roads where access is obstructed may well be dropped. At time of writing the central parts of our Estates are next due to be swept on Friday 25th August, the peripheries one week later.

Skips

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.

Sewers

Information obtained when one such was being unblocked suggests at least two other locations where Sewer Pipes have a short stretch with less than 50% capacity of an immediate upstream section. By my estimation we already have more than 50 extra homes than were planned when these sewers were laid. This subject provides a prime argument for a prompt communication system.

Storm Gulleys

KCC apply annual maintenance only where there is a known (to them) issue.

Fire Hydrants

At least one of our Fire Hydrants was completely seized (as were 127 "locally"). According to the workmen who replaced it, most of these had "not been serviced since privatisation". We have participated in an exercise to locate and identify Fire Hydrants. Low water pressure is a concern on parts of our Estates.

Rats

Earlier this year a number of residents raised the issue of a rat problem, now seemingly resolved. This arose when the Knole House renovations disturbed the sewers and their rat population.            

Broadband

There are vast differences in the Broadband speeds delivered to different parts of our Estates. We are questioning KCC who administer the "superfast" rollout locally.

Mobile Phones

There are similar discrepancies in signal services to be investigated.

Electricity Power Cuts

Recent power cuts often affecting only two or three (not adjacent!) houses revealed the poor state of some parts of the electricity supply infrastructure. One "fuse" which had blown was fitted in 1959 to an assembly whose manufacturer, (English Electric) ceased trading in 1968.

402 Bus

In April Arriva increased the number of 402 bus services between Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells to four an hour, three going via Riverhill and one via Weald and Weald Road, extending the Weald service to Bromley. Only five weeks later Arriva announced that they would be withdrawing the service through Weald completely from the end of July. KCC then agreed to subsidise a much reduced Go Coach service of four buses a day in each direction, weekdays only, between Sevenoaks and Tonbridge.

Weald Parish Council are in discussions with Arriva and KCC with the objective of Arriva agreeing to reinstate the full Weald service with a subsidy from KCC. In the meantime the existing Arriva service will end on 23rd July being replaced by the reduced Go Coach service referred to above.

Finally, many thanks

We would particularly like to thank those residents who,

Look after the grass in their part of the verge which is such an important feature of our Estate,

Cut back their front hedges to the boundary to prevent the growth overflowing on to an adjacent footpath forcing pedestrians to walk in single file or even onto the verge itself,

Prevent their hedges encroaching on and often obliterating the verge spoiling the view for everyone else.

As we said last year, the verges do not belong to individual residents and should not be paved, enclosed or used for hedges.

 

SPEED WATCH

We have run out of volunteers! This is a shame as we had evidence that regular sessions, especially on Weald Road measurably reduced speeding. Tonbridge Road where speeds over 60mph were regularly measured, always needed a third volunteer to record all the details so received less attention.

I fear it is only a matter of time before there is a fatality or serious injury inflicted in an incident on Tonbridge Road. A school child seems the most likely victim. Please find out more and consider joining in!

 

MEMBERSHIP

With 373 households in our Estate area, who are all considered members whether contributing or not, it is gratifying that so many still support the Association with the modest contribution of £3 per household.

The voluntary subscription will be collected as usual by your Road Representative when the newsletter is delivered.

Income exceeds expenditure but the funds available to us (about £5,500 – about £15 per household), though growing slowly, would not be adequate to meet any serious expenditure that might arise.

As will be seen elsewhere in the Newsletter, the Committee are trying to improve our communication channels with residents and a membership data base is being built with the email addresses collected last year.

Colin Drage, Membership Secretary

 

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

19 criminal incidents were noted in our area in 2016. 10 were burglaries, 6 were thefts from sheds and just 3 car related, compared to a total of only 8 incidents last year.

What you can do

A good motto for us is “Be aware and take care”. 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.

Please just drop me a line at asking to be put on the Neighbourhood Watch list.

Other things you can do

Co-operation with your neighbours is recommended. When going on holiday if you let them 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 in the evening.

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

An intruder security light is also a good deterrent outside the house.

Scams

The number and variety of financial scams continues to increase.

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.

To keep up to date please just drop me a line at asking to be put on the Neighbourhood Watch list.

For instance

A particularly nasty and usually expensive scam has been seen in relation with house buying where crooks are monitoring email accounts. 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. It has been done and is still being done. Always check bank numbers independently with the recipient first when dealing with large sums of money.

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.

 

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

Proposals

We are looking forward to a few exciting changes to the website. We plan to enable members to modify their personal details, including how they would like to receive WHERA communications.

We also want to reach out to our members through social media. This will enable members to effortlessly receive news, notifications and updates across all their devices.

To facilitate this we are launching a Facebook group for sharing news, notifications and updates; an Instagram account for sharing photographs and a Twitter feed for news, notifications and updates.

David Wigg, Website Manager

AGM 2018

The next AGM will be held at The White Hart on Tuesday 13 March 2018 at 7:30pm for 8:00pm. Please make a note of the date and come along to join in and hold us to account and afterwards, we hope, to meet one or more of our local Councillors.

 

COMMITTEE

Officers of the Committee

Jonathan Drury (Acting Chair)

   

Peter Kinsler (Planning Officer)

   

Neil Wood (Deputy Planning Officer)

   

Colin Drage (Membership Secretary)

   

David Lewis (Treasurer - Retiring)

   

David Wigg (Neighbourhood Watch Coordinator and Website Manager)

   

Ian Marsh

    01732 453545

Vacancies exist for;

Chair

Vice-Chair

Secretary

Amenities Officer

Treasurer for 2018

Speed Watch Coordinator

 

Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbourhood Watch Description

Amenities

Amenities description

Road Representative

Road Representatives

Road Representatives Description