Faversham needs both affordable starter homes and homes for social rent.

The Duchy of Cornwall has submitted its planning application for SE Faversham seeking consent for 2,500 new homes to be built at a rate of 125 a year across a 20-year period.  At least 875 of these will be affordable,  amongst which 400 will be for social rent and built to the same quality standard as the market-rate homes

There are more than 350 technical documents and plans posted on the planning portal, which runs to hundreds of pages, and this is difficult to navigate.   Inevitably, objections have been logged on the planning portal, and many negative comments are appearing on social media.  We paste below the Duchy’s infographic highlighting the key elements of their proposals. We are still wading through their submission to check out the details against the headlines in this infographic.

In the view of the FCLT this is an exemplary scheme, unlike any of the others being promoted by the predatory speculators and housebuilders circling the town, who are driven by the pursuit of profit.  In 1984 Prince Charles published his book “A Vision of Britain’ in which he decries the soulless identikit housing schemes designed to a template dictated by the car.  This leads to housing layouts designed by highways engineers rather than Urban Planners.  Towards the end of the last millennium, he found the answer to address these concerns when his attention was drawn to the New Urbanism movement. They focus their design philosophy on community building, placemaking, and walkable neighbourhoods with an emphasis on higher-density housing to secure the efficient use of land and make more public open spaces available for the enjoyment of residents. Poundbury, the first Duchy new community located on the outskirts of Dorchester, was founded on these principles. Thirty years on, as the development nears completion, it has been acclaimed as a great success.

The Faversham Community Land Trust has been campaigning for developers to design a balanced mix of housing following a spate of schemes in recent years with an emphasis on 4-bed homes designed to appeal to incomers from the metropolis. Very few of the more affordable one and two-bedroom homes have been built in the town, and barely a handful of apartments.  The Duchy has listened and taken note of this, and as a consequence, the housing mix for the fully designed first phase is balanced and weighted in favour of smaller, more affordable units.

HOUSING MIX - DETAILED APPLICATION

The FCLT has campaigned  to persuade  the housebuilders  to provide a policy compliant volume and tenure mix of affordable housing. Again, the Duchy have committed to this.  The volume housebuilders strive to minimise their affordable delivery  as they are obliged to subsidise these forms of tenure which impacts  their sole mission  to optimise profit.

Prince William, who has taken over the reins from his father on Duchy matters,  was introduced to the issues surrounding homelessness as a young boy when he visited the  Centrepoint homeless charity with his mother. Over the last 15 years, as a sponsor of Centrepoint,  he has met dozens of the young people they support. His focus has always been clear. He wants, above all, to challenge misconceptions about homelessness and celebrate the enormous potential of those who find themselves trapped in what is often a vicious cycle. The Prince launched Centrepoint’s  Homewards initiative in Sheffield last month, the first of six projects to be undertaken around the country. The Prince, through the Duke of Cornwall’s Benevolent Fund, has provided £3,000,000 to fund a homeless project with St Petrocs in Nansledan, the Duchy of Cornwall’s urban extension of Newquay.

The debate in the town relating to the Duchy proposal is likely to be polarised between two equally important causes: the Housing Crisis, evidenced by homelessness, and Food Security. Unfortunately, these are mutually exclusive. It can be seen from the map below that Faversham is entirely surrounded by quality agricultural land.

Swale Council is required by law to prepare, maintain and publish a register of previously developed (brownfield) land that meets the relevant criteria to be considered appropriate for residential development.  This reveals that there are no substantive undeveloped brownfield sites in Faversham. Across the Borough, less than  4% of the land on the register suitable for housing development is on brownfield land

Is it too much to ask that the 335 acres comprising the Duchy site be developed when we have 92,993 acres devoted to agricultural use in the borough? This is about one-third of one per cent of all the agricultural land in Swale.   

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In common with many other Local Planning Authorities, Swale's Local Plan is in flux. The Duchy has made it clear they will deliver a policy-compliant affordable mix. At present, affordable policy is in a state of flux. All will be clear and disclosed when Swale confirms its policy, which will inform the emerging new plan. We do not know when this will be.

Less than  50% of the development is going to be concreted – the balance will be biodiversity enhanced by 20% (policy is 10%) from the existing agricultural use base.

New housing does not increase the population – we have a national  shortfall of 4.3million homes compared to Western European averages which is a major reason why we have a housing crisis.

2 comments on “Faversham needs both affordable starter homes and homes for social rent.”

  1. Yes, it is too much to ask that 335 acres of Grades 1-3 best and most versatile agricultural land, which is not subject to flooding, is concreted. Decreasing our sovereign future food security and increasing the population by a further few thousands.

    I object to the planning application on the basis that the application is for 2499 dwellings for market housing, there is NO specified split of residential dwellings proposed
    (i.e. no Social, Affordable or Intermediate Rent dwellings OR Affordable Home Ownership) on the Duchy’s application form.

    This application does not follow the form of other applications made for large mixed sites in Swale since 2020, examples of which are 21/506465/HYBRID and 21/503906/EIOUT, which both tick the boxes for varied housing categories.

    The suggestion (from The Duchy of Cornwall) that this will be sorted out between the Duchy of Cornwall and Swale Borough Council as the application progresses is unacceptable for neighbouring residents, parish councils directly affected and goes against transparency and the Government stated ideals of public contributions to local planning.

    1. Tenure, dwelling type and identified need relating to policies in the Faversham Neighbourhood Plan, and Swale Borough Local Plan.

    From the Faversham Neighbourhood Plan Regulation 14 document, dated December 2022 and referencing Bearing Fruits 2031 - The Swale Borough Local Plan (2017)
    "Policy DM 8 Affordable housing establishes: • A 35% affordable housing target for Faversham • The size, tenure and type of affordable housing should meet local needs."

    On that basis at least 35% (40% in rural parishes) of the 2499 market housing dwellings proposed by The Duchy of Cornwall should be Social, Affordable or Intermediate Rent Dwellings OR Affordable Home Ownership.

    That equates to at least 875 houses in those categories, preferably 1000. We understand that The Duchy of Cornwall is a landowner and developer and not a charity, but we do expect them to be held to the same standards as every other developer, for the good of the community.

    For the Phase 1 application it should mean 40% as this land falls outside of the built up boundary of Faversham, in this case it would equate to 105 dwellings being “affordable”.

    Furthermore Page 26 says "Policy ST 1 Delivering sustainable development in Swale: • Calls for a wide choice of homes by meeting local housing need."

    Page 27 references:
    "Faversham Housing Needs Survey 2020 by the Faversham Community Land Trust for the Neighbourhood Plan, August 2020":

    The key evidenced findings of the report include: "Faversham needs a significant additional supply of affordable housing to meet the requirements of its existing households and households that are likely to form from existing residents over the next 5-years. 1 and 2-bedroom affordable rented houses flats and bungalows are needed which is consistent with the needs of an ageing population and a large number of new households that are expected to form. There is also a need for housing for those with disabilities. The scale of need for genuinely affordable home ownership housing is significant. Entry level market housing in Faversham is not affordable to many households. Average house prices in Faversham are higher than the average prices in the rest of Swale district. In particular, junior key worker households would struggle to become homeowners of entry level housing because of local prices. Only households with more than one income or with significant savings would be able to afford entry level prices or market rents."

    And further more on Page 29:
    AECOM Housing Needs Assessment 2022 is referenced, stating that:
    "The Housing Needs Assessment (HNA) 2022 summarised that over the last decade house prices have consistently risen in the area over stating that market housing, even with the benefit of a higher-than-average income is likely to remain out of the reach of most. Adopted Local Plan policy has a requirement of 35% affordable housing where the policy is triggered. The HNA identified that of that 66.2% is required for affordable rent and 33.8% for affordable home ownership."

    Policy FAV3 outlines the required Residential Mix and Standards according to identified need.

    2. Tenure, dwelling type and identified need relating to policies in the adopted Boughton and Dunkirk Neighbourhood Plan. Dated February 2023.

    P.19 5.10.1 states that:
    "Since May 2016, the Neighbourhood Plan Team has been working on the understanding from Swale Borough Council that no further sites will be allocated by Swale Borough Council within the Boughton and Dunkirk area, and any further allocation will be determined by the Neighbourhood Plan. This is exclusive of any allocations through the Local Plan Process. Consequently, it is understood that the Neighbourhood Plan would be the ONLY plan to allocate land within its designated area."
    5.10.2 goes on to say
    "It is necessary to point out that this responsibility is relevant to the 26% of the land within Boughton Parish boundary that is embraced in the Duchy proposal....The impact on the villages would be huge."

    5.11 Call For Sites
    5.11.1. "The Neighbourhood Plan Team carried out a call for sites (BD13) and 23 sites were submitted, which did not include Duchy land."

    P21 Policy H3 specifies that:
    "Developments of 11 or more new dwellings must provide 40% affordable housing, in accordance with the Borough Council's policies and Housing Strategy."

    Section 5 Housing points out that the Questionnaire and Housing Needs survey reveals that affordability is a main concern and there is an established need for small development, low rise and low density. with Page 18 specifying 11 social rented or shared ownership properties are needed for local people meeting the criteria of the Borough Council's Housing Allocation Policy. All 4 sites to provide necessary houses have been allocated.

    5.5.2 on Page 18 deals with the issue of protecting the rural gap between the settlements of Faversham and Boughton acknowledging that this is Grade 1 agricultural land and that the NP will "resist any attempt to encroach on existing Parish Boundaries".

  2. FCLT Response to Carol Goatham

    Farms, Fields & Fresh air has not put in an objection as a group. So how can FCLT say that we’ve said those things about this development?
    RESPONSE - We note that FFFA is an unconstituted single issue campaigning group and that you, as a founding member, are the acknowledged leader.

    With 1400 members people comment sometimes without having read the documents on the planning portal, we can’t control those comments, but do correct incorrect assumptions when we notice inaccuracies.
    RESPONSE-We all struggle to locate documents on the portal which is by no means user friendly! We cannot say that we have noticed any corrections. Our Fact Tracker has been set up to correct misunderstandings in planning objections and on social media. We think it is important that the Town has an informed debate on the issues in contention.

    I have started calculating just how much BMV agricultural land in Swale it takes up. BMV is key, not just any old agricultural land. Grades 1-3.
    RESPONSE - Please post your conclusions. Have any soil quality tests been undertaken?

    Solar we’ve stated in the past it should be on rooftops but we’ve not said it isn’t included in this proposal.
    RESPONSE - Your followers have posted this numerous times in the context of SE Faversham. Surely the Greens amongst them will be delighted that the Duchy are not the same as the volume housebuilders who consciously water down even the minimum sustainability standards to maximise cost savings? Fernham Homes had to have their arms twisted to deliver car chargers and then only offered to beef up the mains. The charging stations are a buyer retrofit. The Duchy have presented a ground breaking, exemplar, carbon neutral, smart zero energy strategy.

    Affordable housing – what we have stated is correct - the application form only ticks the box for market housing.
    RESPONSE-this is of course a subject that is dear to our hearts. Ticking the box is not material in the context of the application. We have clearly stated the Duchy’s proposals as set out in the Planning and Design and Access Statements. Our next blog will address in detail the planning context of the proposal, mix and affordability issues in a lot more detail. Please note the post that you made in relation to the unaffordability of First Homes (discounted homes) , with an example of a £500,000 purchase, is flawed. The price of First Homes outside London is capped at £250,000.

    In reality this is rural and should have 40% affordable housing - 1000 dwellings. And Duchy are out of touch thinking 30% off people on waiting list can afford to buy! Which I quote from the email the Duchy sent me.
    - Please see comment above

    Sewage - iffy sending lorry loads of sewage off to the nearest non nutrient-neutral sewage works as they are at Thanet or Medway! The Duchy sewage treatment works will not be ready till the first 60 houses are built.
    RESPONSE - This is a temporary solution and is no different and de minimis compared to the emptying and disposal of the hundreds of cesspits across the rural hinterland. Achieving nutrient neutrality often requires mitigation as part of development, either in the form of on-site treatment of wastewater and surface water runoff, or by offsetting any increase in nutrient loading by converting land on or off-site with woodlands or wetlands or through other means of mitigation designed to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen entering into the river. This is precisely what the Duchy are proposing with their Water Treatment Plant and Sustainable Urban Drainage system. The scheme has been designed so that no water will be going into rivers or waste into the sewage works.

    I, personally, still think an experimental sewage works built by Severn Trent is going to be problematic.
    RESPONSE - Pioneering solutions often are but at least they are striving to do something to fill the void created by the water companies. A bonus is that the cost will not be appearing as a surcharge on our bills!

    Nutrient Pollution is a real and current problem in Boughton’s drinking water supply and 26% of the development falls into that parish.
    RESPONSE - Nutrient contamination is an awful problem - how do you address it other than by installing a nitrate removal plant at the waterworks?

    The Duchy acknowledges pollution of the water table under their land but FCLT think it will be solved in 20 years when the estate is finished!
    RESPONSE-Nitrate pollution from the site will cease when intensive agricultural use ends The contamination from historic agricultural pollution will remain in the ground. The Duchy Land is not designated as being in a vulnerable nitrate protection zone, and as such there is no bar on these grounds against development.In reality this is rural and should have 40% affordable housing - 1000 dwellings. And Duchy are out of touch thinking 30% off people on waiting list can afford to buy! Which I quote from the email the Duchy sent me.
    - Please see comment above

    Sewage - iffy sending lorry loads of sewage off to the nearest non nutrient-neutral sewage works as they are at Thanet or Medway! The Duchy sewage treatment works will not be ready till the first 60 houses are built.
    RESPONSE - This is a temporary solution and is no different and de minimis compared to the emptying and disposal of the hundreds of cesspits across the rural hinterland. Achieving nutrient neutrality often requires mitigation as part of development, either in the form of on-site treatment of wastewater and surface water runoff, or by offsetting any increase in nutrient loading by converting land on or off-site with woodlands or wetlands or through other means of mitigation designed to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen entering into the river. This is precisely what the Duchy are proposing with their Water Treatment Plant and Sustainable Urban Drainage system. The scheme has been designed so that no water will be going into rivers or waste into the sewage works.

    I, personally, still think an experimental sewage works built by Severn Trent is going to be problematic.
    RESPONSE - Pioneering solutions often are but at least they are striving to do something to fill the void created by the water companies. A bonus is that the cost will not be appearing as a surcharge on our bills!

    Nutrient Pollution is a real and current problem in Boughton’s drinking water supply and 26% of the development falls into that parish.
    RESPONSE - Nutrient contamination is an awful problem - how do you address it other than by installing a nitrate removal plant at the waterworks?

    The Duchy acknowledges pollution of the water table under their land but FCLT think it will be solved in 20 years when the estate is finished!
    RESPONSE-Nitrate pollution from the site will cease when intensive agricultural use ends The contamination from historic agricultural pollution will remain in the ground. The Duchy Land is not designated as being in a vulnerable nitrate protection zone, and as such there is no bar on these grounds against development.

    In reality this is rural and should have 40% affordable housing - 1000 dwellings. And Duchy are out of touch thinking 30% off people on waiting list can afford to buy! Which I quote from the email the Duchy sent me.
    - Please see comment above

    Sewage - iffy sending lorry loads of sewage off to the nearest non nutrient-neutral sewage works as they are at Thanet or Medway! The Duchy sewage treatment works will not be ready till the first 60 houses are built.
    RESPONSE - This is a temporary solution and is no different and de minimis compared to the emptying and disposal of the hundreds of cesspits across the rural hinterland. Achieving nutrient neutrality often requires mitigation as part of development, either in the form of on-site treatment of wastewater and surface water runoff, or by offsetting any increase in nutrient loading by converting land on or off-site with woodlands or wetlands or through other means of mitigation designed to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen entering into the river. This is precisely what the Duchy are proposing with their Water Treatment Plant and Sustainable Urban Drainage system. The scheme has been designed so that no water will be going into rivers or waste into the sewage works.

    I, personally, still think an experimental sewage works built by Severn Trent is going to be problematic.
    RESPONSE - Pioneering solutions often are but at least they are striving to do something to fill the void created by the water companies. A bonus is that the cost will not be appearing as a surcharge on our bills!

    Nutrient Pollution is a real and current problem in Boughton’s drinking water supply and 26% of the development falls into that parish.
    RESPONSE - Nutrient contamination is an awful problem - how do you address it other than by installing a nitrate removal plant at the waterworks?

    The Duchy acknowledges pollution of the water table under their land but FCLT think it will be solved in 20 years when the estate is finished!
    RESPONSE-Nitrate pollution from the site will cease when intensive agricultural use ends The contamination from historic agricultural pollution will remain in the ground. The Duchy Land is not designated as being in a vulnerable nitrate protection zone, and as such there is no bar on these grounds against development.

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