WHITE HART ESTATES RESIDENTS ASSOCIATION

Newsletter 2018

Covering 375 Households in the Estates

(A Corporate Member of The Sevenoaks Society)

What do you want from WHERA?

WHERA OBJECTIVES:-

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.

Your feedback guides our actions.

https://www.whera.org.uk/

FROM THE CHAIRMAN

Dear Neighbour,

It has been pleasing that in recent times I and the Committee have received various compliments on the work we do to support the quality of our Estates; there are of course grumbles from time to time that we are not doing enough or we are not doing the right things. We do listen to and try to act on all feedback and continue to do our best as we see it. You can always come to the AGM and vote us out!

As I see it, the quality of our lives here is under even more threat now than when WHERA was formed some thirty years ago.

Local Plan

One immediate example is the central government's "Local Plan" directive requiring all local planning authorities to address the housing needs for the next generation. The directive states, amongst other things, that, if a lone government inspector so chooses, all the excellent local considerations by Sevenoaks District Council "SDC" may be overruled. In that event, for example, from developers’ plans already put forward, it is likely that there would be many scores of new dwellings built off Gracious Lane and Ashgrove Road. I hope we all expressed our opinions in the public consultation invited by SDC. The Draft Local Plan was published in July and is available on SDC’s website. WHERA has obtained a hard copy for scrutiny.

SDC under Councillor Robert Piper have implemented a good strategy to try to protect us from the worst impacts of central government's Local Plan requirements but as I have already mentioned the final decisions can be imposed by one inspector appointed centrally. Other planning authorities have referred enviously to SDC’s strategy as one of the two best responses in the country.

From my understand the number as well as nature of public responses to the consultation will be a factor in whether the inspector can overrule SDC's plan and thereby permit rejected sites such as those around us to be heavily developed without any consideration of infrastructure inadequacies.

Drop in session SDC Offices 2-8pm 5 September 2018

Deadline for comments 5pm 10 September 2018

www.sevenoaks.gov.uk/draftlocalplan

This is your final chance to make your views known on the future of our district.

Our Council Representatives

We are well represented by Margaret Crabtree on Kent County Council "KCC"; she has always been supportive with both advice and finance when appropriate from a limited divisional budget.

WHERA’s experience of the contributions of our SDC and Sevenoaks Town Council "STC" representatives is more varied. District and Parish /Town council elections are in May 2019. PLEASE use your vote. Each of the 4 people currently representing us, in the 5 seats, individually has the opportunity to make much more direct impact on our lives than does even our one Member of Parliament.

WHERA maintains contact with other Residents Associations to work to protect and enhance Sennockian life.

Committee

I am grateful to the presently small band of officers and their predecessors for all that they do for WHERA. We are seriously in need of a Vice Chairman and more support to cover Amenities, Planning, Website and IT, Speed Watch, and Secretarial matters.

This brief acknowledgement of our current Committee does not really do them justice:-

David Wigg oversees the Website, coordinates Neighbourhood Watch, and monitors planning applications.

Colin Drage took over as Membership Secretary two years ago and has also helped to prepare WHERA for GDPR and new methods of communication.

Richard Hann joined us as Treasurer a few months ago and has already proved to be a valuable and positive contributor to our Committee.

Ian Marsh is our expert on the Common, Public Transport and local history.

Frances Wells is involved in editing the Newsletter.

Most of the Committee also act as Road Representatives.

We rely on Road Representatives for closer communication with you. It is they who deliver newsletters and notices of meetings, and collect the voluntary subscription. Until we have a more direct individual arrangement in place it is to them we turn for information and guidance, including concerning planning applications. They are volunteers and remain our mainstay without whom we could not properly function. Of course, we welcome input from all members, especially offers to help!

WHERA AGM 2019

Tuesday 19th March 2019 7pm for 7.30pm at The White Hart, Tonbridge Road, Sevenoaks.

Please make a note of this date and come along and join in meeting neighbours and WHERA members and afterwards, we hope, to meet one or more of our local Councillors.

PLANNING

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. We do not take sides but we do try to be objective by following the criteria and definitions set by the area character assessments in SDC's supplementary planning document. Since we have been without a Planning Officer, the applications against which we have objected have broadly fallen into three categories:

1 Blatantly in breach of the area character assessment. That character is steadily being eroded by the patterns of many developments filling all the spaces and building to the boundary lines. It is pleasant to be able to report that recently WHERA has been approached by a number of residents to discuss interpretation prior to making their applications.

2 Interfering with public space, the highway or protected woodland.

3 Retrospectively seeking permission for that which has been built without or in excess of permission and which falls foul of the above or other planning rules.

We have also reported failure to comply with planning conditions such as privacy screening to protect neighbours from direct overlooking, including into bedroom windows.

We are in correspondence with Planning Officers regarding what seem to us to be glaring inconsistencies between permissions given (or refused) in advance and the retrospective acceptance of what has been built. We consider this to be serious failure of SDC’s duty to ensure consistent application of and compliance with their own stated policy and are considering what formal action can be taken to maintain such standards.

AMENITIES

Sevenoaks Common

STC maintain most of the common, and the work of their team draws more positive comments from residents than all other local services combined. They have opened up some areas for biodiversity. In one such area they have planted the first of yet another set of seven oaks and set a bench there for anyone wishing to watch it grow.

There are two fresh outbreaks of Japanese Knotweed which are being treated with Glyphosate spray. We understand that this method usually takes two seasons to be effective. Once the spray is "touch dry" it is deemed safe for humans and animals.

Japanese Knotweed is one of the most invasive plants imported to this country and it is of concern that it has reappeared. It spreads underground so the suspicion is that a root or seed bank may have remained in the soil from previous invasions.

When informing those living closest to the Common of the above, I received several questions about Honey Fungus. The SDC Tree Officer reports "none has been reported", we know of a local outbreak ten years ago.

Refuse Collection

There have been continuing complaints about refuse for collection put out in bags. These are being attacked by foxes and birds which spread the refuse around. 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 and also those who clear litter thrown out of vehicles on the Common.

Street Cleaning

The eight weekly cycle is under threat, roads where access is obstructed by parked cars, vans etc may well be dropped. The central parts of our Estates are next due to be swept on Friday 14th September and the peripheries one week later.

Sewers

The noxious gas safety vent ("stink pipe") from the sewer between The Rise and Garth Road had not been inspected since the 2012 regulations were introduced (previously this had been an annual procedure) . SDC denied ownership of the land until, after being confronted with a copy of the land registry records, they have agreed to clear access. Thames Water "TW" do not have this vent and pipe listed as an "asset" transferred to them when they became responsible for sewers locally but have agreed to inspect. SDC and TW are still communicating on this through WHERA.

Discussion with TW of their "assets" served by this vent and pipe, disclosed that a number of properties, both original and recent are not listed as having access into the public sewer.

TW’s plans do not indicate the pipe diameters but conversation with their operatives when clearing blockages gives the impression that there are probably several pinch points where pipe size reduces such as that in Parkland Close which is the most frequent but not only site of a regular blockage. By my estimation we already have more than 50 extra homes than were planned when most of these sewers were added to or replaced the pre-existing Victorian pipes.

Water Supply

Low water pressure is a concern on parts of our Estates, affecting Fire Hydrants as well as domestic supply. South East Water deduced from the usage pattern leaving Garth Road pumping station that there must be a significant leak in the area. Listening rods identified a number of minor leaks, all now fixed, we believe, but no major leak as indicated by the usage. However one "anomaly" was recognised requiring specialised equipment to define. They would not specify the location but confirmed our own suspicions. The information is awaited.

When a leak or repair interrupting supply is reported to WHERA, unless it only affects the household from which it was reported, the information is passed directly to the Road Rep for further dissemination.

Parking

All considerations of public parking issues are blocked pending completion of the Buckhurst 2 Car Park under the reasoning that this will solve all the problems. The official claim is that parking is displaced further and further from town centre or station purely because of space, when most of those commuters who park here in our roads will admit to the reason being cost alone.

This deferment which coincided with the decision to grant restrictions in Burntwood Road, which did not meet any of KCC’s or SDC’s criteria is especially irritating to residents of The Rise against whom this step seems to have been specifically targeted. Their safety campaign will be entering its fifth year by the earliest date for their road to be reconsidered.

Thanks to Margaret Crabtree's intervention and use of her divisional budget a safety survey gained the concession that parts of Weald Road were dangerous for pedestrians, there being no footway. Some limited marking is expected.

"Parking" as a regulatory issue has become a politically complex topic. My understanding after extensive questioning is that the authoritative position appears to be:

SDC is "The Parking Authority". This gives it the power to collect charges and penalties for parking. This can provide a significant income. It also has the discretionary responsibility for dealing with illegal parking. If such a matter is reported to SDC, the probability is that they will refer you to KCC Highways, who in turn will tell you that SDC is The Parking Authority. To date the only concession I have received from SDC is that they are indeed doing this "on behalf of KCC". Police Officers will tell you, correctly, I understand, that when SDC became The Parking Authority, this responsibility together with some budget was removed from the Police.

MEMBERSHIP

375 households presently comprise our Estates area with the modest contribution of £3 per household collected via Road Reps when delivering this Newsletter.

We hope also to keep those residents who provide an email address with various news updated about matters considered relevant to the Estates. We have presently about 172 email addresses and we hope that more residents will provide an email address; you can do this through your Road Rep or to .

Speed Watch and Road Safety

Our Speed Watch activity is in abeyance presently for lack of volunteers. When we were active, we knew that we had a significant impact on speeding in Weald Road and in Tonbridge Road.

There is new administration by Kent Police requiring every volunteer to undergo new online training, followed by a practical session with the equipment. We have two new younger volunteers and if we can engage two more we could train individually and arrange a joint practical to get started again. Please contact me if you can offer some of your valuable time for this role

We 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 or a bus passenger. A working group met Margaret Crabtree and the agreed course of action was to start by campaigning for a pedestrian refuge, probably opposite the footpath behind The White Hart from The Rise. If successful this might assist efforts to get the speed limit reduced.

NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH

Reports

15 criminal incidents were noted in our area in 2017, 8 were burglaries and 7 were car related. The latter were a spate of attacks on cars which used the Remote Keyless Entry feature; criminals had discovered a way of subverting it. These attacks continued into early 2018 but fortunately none recently.

Security

During this recent spate of BMW break ins, a number of affected residents sought to improve local security, one idea is to introduce CCTV to our estates. Opinions are divided but may gain favour.

Scams - What you can do

If you provide your email address, we can forward occasional emails received from the police and similar sources about local crimes and financial scams. All email contact details are securely kept for WHERA purposes only and will not be shared with third parties in line with GDPR directive.

"The Seven Oaks"

In spite of several press reports attributed to STC, Sevenoaks did not gain its name from the seven oaks on The Vine. These were first planted in 1902. "The Seven Oaks" are now those at the Tonbridge Road entrance to the town, just before The White Hart pub. The original trees have been replaced over the years. Contrary to the statement issued by Cllr Eyre and quoted in The Sevenoaks Chronicle, the land under "The Seven Oaks" is not part of the Common. This parcel of land was transferred to SUDC as part of the "permission" to develop the White Hart Estates in the 1930s.

"The Seven Oaks" were identified by that name in the 1871 Ordnance Survey. In 1955 they were felled by SUDC under the false claim that they were diseased, and according to residents around at the time, a manufacturer of oak furniture was paid to remove them. They were believed to be over 200 years old and records suggest that they and the land were purchased by the Knole Estate on 11th December 1807 for £78.

The following sign believed to be engraved on a piece of one of the old trees was placed behind them and remained there at least until the land was transferred to STC on local government reorganisation.

"Sevenoaks Urban District Council

Notice

The town of Sevenoaks was known in Saxon times as SEOUANCA meaning Seven Oaks. This is the traditional site of the seven trees from which the town got its name and the existing trees were the gift of Major General the Rt. Hon. The Lord Sackville and were planted on the 20th March 1955".

STC has indicated that they would consider replacing the sign if we can agree on wording, in an attempt to make more of a feature of this entrance to town. Sevenoaks Society is unhappy with the "traditional site" wording because it is strictly not true.

WHERA List of Current Committee Members

Chairman Jonathan Drury 01732 455113

Membership Secretary Colin Drage 01732 459339

Treasurer Richard Hann

Website Manager and Neighbour Watch Co-ordinator David Wigg 01732 455446

Committee Member Ian Marsh 01732 453545

Committee Member Frances Wells 01732 461855

The following posts are currently Vacant: Vice Chairman, Secretary, Planning Officer, Amenities Officer

and Speed Watch Co-ordinator.

WHERA Representatives will help to direct your questions and concerns to the appropriate authority or website.

Please let us know your email addresses for better communication.

Your Road Representative is:                                                               Contact No:

Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbourhood Watch Description

Amenities

Amenities description

Road Representative

Road Representatives

Road Representatives Description