KCC should ensure social housing at Kiln & Osborne Courts

12th August 2022
Details of the sale notice can be found here

Dear Councillor Oakford,
The Faversham Community Land Trust (FCLT) is an organisation primarily concerned with
the acquisition and development of land or buildings within Faversham for the good of the
community. Our principal objective is to provide a perpetual supply of truly affordable
housing for local people.

A Housing Needs Survey (HNS), specifically addressing the Faversham Parish, was
commissioned to identify the focus of activity for the trust to meet their objectives. The Arc
4 Housing Needs Survey, published in August 2020, provides a significant body of evidence for
the Faversham Town Council and the Community Land Trust to resist housebuilding that is
not needed by local people and prioritise that which is needed. The survey revealed that in
2020 there were 721 hidden homeless in the Faversham Parish with 211 people sofa surfing.
We understand that when Kiln & Osborne was placed on the market the Ward Town
Councillor, with the support of Faversham Swale councillors, wrote to you and proposed
that given the history of the site KCC should give significant additional consideration to
proposals which deliver higher numbers of new homes for affordable and social rent when
considering bids.

We were told that this proposal was rejected and that officers were given delegated
approval to negotiate to secure the best financial bid, taking into consideration the S106
agreement financial contributions. Given the history of the site, there is considerable
disquiet rumbling amongst Faversham residents. They are aware that that historically this
site was gifted to charity for community benefit and allege that KCC nefariously and
unilaterally transferred title from the charity to KCC at less than market value. (Please see
extract from the Faversham Eye pasted below that details this sorry saga).

The Faversham Community land Trust are disappointed that a decision to sell to the highest
bidder was taken and request that it is reconsidered. It should be recognised, particularly in
the context of historical charity use, that the wider public interest of people, not only in
Faversham but in Kent as a whole, should be served by delivering the maximum amount of
social housing that would add community value. Affordable housing generates social value
over and above other forms of housing development. Demonstrating this can help make
the case for the release of public land and inform the valuation of such sites. The benefits
can be appraised, utilising the Bristol City Council calculator, that demonstrates the social
value and financial savings generated to support the achievement of this.

We understand that the County Council has not specified the tenure of the affordable
housing to be included within any scheme and that this would fall to the local planning
authority to direct when considering a planning application for the site. We are well aware
that Swale’s current affordable housing policy is that sites should deliver 35% of the mix as
affordable housing and that 90% of this allocation should be social rented housing. As far as
we can establish, and despite the provisions of this policy, no social rented tenure housing
has been delivered within the 1000 plus new homes brought forward in Faversham under
the current local plan. Because of this the Trust is actively campaigning on current
applications where developers have been endeavouring to reduce the allocation of social
rented tenure and in doing so deny the local community their full planning gain entitlement
from S106 agreements. (Two Lady Dane applications from Fernham Homes and Crest

Any application submitted for Kiln & Osborne Court will receive similar scrutiny, with
representation through the application process and an active local campaign focussing on
the loss of community benefits that were granted under the original charitable grant. In the
light of this we suggest that it would be prudent for KCC to cover the financial consequences
of a policy-compliant scheme with 90% of the affordable as social rented tenure in any land
sale contract with the preferred bidder.
Please do not hesitate to contact me should you wish to discuss anything we have said in
this representation in further detail.

Yours sincerely

Stephen Atkins
Land Director stephen.atkins@favershamcommunitylandtrust.org


KILN COURT – Extract from FAVERSHAM EYE Feb 2020
When KCC briefly had control of Benstead’s charity they sold a chunk of the Kiln Court land to
themselves at what now looks suspiciously like a knock-down price.

The basic facts are not disputed.
When the Faversham workhouse was closed in 1929, the buildings became a Public Assistance

Institution under the control of Kent council. In 1948, the Poor Laws were finally abolished. Kent
county council used the site as an old people’s home for 200 residents, as well as a hospital and
ambulance station administered by the Canterbury and Thanet Health Authority.
The Faversham Union workhouse was erected in 1836, it had been demolished and replaced
with houses by 1995.

By the early 1980’s, KCC assumed they owned the site. Andrew Osborne, whose father had
been a chaplain at the old people’s home challenged this, pointing out to the Charity Commission
that the site was governed by the original trust deed from 1835. The 2.62 acres of land were
owned by the charity. KCC did not own the land, it was controlled by the original deed.
What happened next was extraordinary. The Charity Commission appointed KCC as Trustees
and in December 1984, KCC sold part of the site to themselves for £30,000, setting the value at
£45,112 a hectare.

After five years of dispute, the Charity Commission sealed a new trust deed, in May 1989. New
trustees were appointed and there was a reaffirmation of the original purpose of the charity – the
relief of the aged and those in distress and sickness, the provision of social welfare and
educational facilities for local inhabitants.

As the row became even more bitter, KCC suggested that Swale Borough should run the charity.
Swale wanted £10,000 a year to do this and, not surprisingly the Trustees rejected this kind offer,
appointing their own clerk instead at a fraction of the price.

The Trustees then put in two planning applications. In what looks like spite, Swale rejected them
both. The application went to appeal, the charity won and planning permission was granted in
May 1991. Bensted’s then sold the land to John Mowlem Homes for £475,000, having had to
knock £40,000 off the price because of the further deterioration of the site caused by the delays
when Swale rejected two planning applications.

What rankles with the Bensted’s Trustees is this: KCC sold a chunk of the land to
themselves in a rising market at a rate of £45,112 a hectare. Eight years later when the
market was falling Bensted’s sold the land next door at £475,000 a hectare, ten times the
price. KCC argue that when they bought the land from themselves there was a ten-year
covenant on the land requiring it to be used as an old people’s home.

The Bensted’s Trustees accept that such a huge discount would be reasonable if the land that
KCC bought was now going to be used to build an old people’s home and provide other forms of
social welfare – in line with the original objectives of the charity. That is not the case. KCC is
looking to develop the site for housing at a massive profit.

Bensted argued that KCC has a moral obligation to share some of that with the charity, to be
spent in accordance with the wishes of the original trust deed in 1835. Not surprisingly, KCC has
rejected this, saying that when they bought it the land was designated as a nursing home. Ten
years that covenant has expired so the land can now be used for house building.

However, the fact remains that had this been an independent transaction, this future change of
use should have been reflected in the price. It was not.
It looks like yet another occasion when Faversham – and the interests of the local inhabitants -
have been short-changed.

Letter sent to KCC

KCC's Reply is here

"Per the Council's constitution, I took a Key Decision to allow the disposal of the
sites you refer to. The Council has both a fiduciary and a statutory duty to obtain
best consideration in the disposal of its surplus property assets. This facilitates
the reinvestment of capital receipts back into the Council's priorities and ensures
we continue to deliver against our statutory duties. To this end, the Council has
recently adopted a Freehold Asset Disposal Policy which confirms the Council's
policy with respect to surplus assets."

"The Council holds the legal title to the sites being disposed of and disposal is
taking place in line with our adopted policies and duties. The disposal of this site
will generate a capital receipt which will be used to fund vital community
infrastructure and services. The release and redevelopment of the site will
generate much needed homes, including a policy compliant level of affordable
homes, in a highly sustainable brownfield location which will be of benefit to the
residents of Faversham."

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