Words by Matthew Hatchwell
Faversham sits on a strip of fertile land that runs between the chalk downs of north Kent and the Thames Estuary. Those three elements – along with a line of pure freshwater springs just inland from the coast – go a very long way to explaining what attracted the first settlers to this landscape and remains key to understanding Faversham today.
Faversham retains important blocks of natural habitat, as well as corridors linking them. Some of that habitat, and some corridors, are at least partially protected through formal landscape designations. As the town expands in future, more land will have to be protected in order to maintain the balance between the built and natural environments. The time to decide which areas should be protected is now, before they are developed.
Land use in the past was defined to a great extent by local conditions and the town’s place in the landscape. The Neighbourhood Plan gives us the opportunity to ensure that local people continue to have a say in decisions about future land use.
Rising sea levels will have a major impact on lower-lying parts of the parish in coming years. The threat is not only environmental: climate change will affect all aspects of life in Faversham.
Many of the remaining blocks of natural habitat around Faversham are linked by waterways (Blue Corridors), or the strips of vegetation that grow along footpaths, tree-lined streets, railway embankments, hedgerows, and even the M2 (Green Corridors). Such corridors provide important connectivity for wildlife and – in many cases – access to nature for people, both within the parish and from the town out into the wider landscape.
Maintaining and extending these living arteries could be one of the goals of the Faversham Neighbourhood Plan. Improving access to the south will also require increasing the number of places where pedestrians can safely cross Watling Street (A2). Currently there are just two: in Ospringe and, for those who can manage the steps, at the Abbey School.
The built-up areas of Faversham (shown in white on the map) are surrounded within the parish by woodland to the west, marshland to the north, and arable land to the east and south. The woodland and marshes in particular provide important natural habitats for wildlife.
The corridors provide important connectivity for wildlife and – in many cases – access to nature for people
Maintaining and extending these living arteries could be one of the goals of the Faversham Neighbourhood Plan
Climate change and rising sea levels
This map shows the flooding that can be expected in 80 years’ time as a result of rising sea levels caused by climate change. Dark blue areas are predicted to flood at least once a year.
The lighter blue areas are predicted to flood more rarely, for example as a result of exceptional storm surges. The map does not take into consideration any measures to adapt or raise the level of existing sea defenses – which would be ineffectual in any case in protecting low-lying parts of town along Faversham Creek, the Westbrook and Cooksditch.
Much of the land around Faversham and within the parish is recognized as being important for wildlife and habitat conservation. The marshland north of the town is protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Ramsar wetland (protected under the terms of an international treaty), and an EU Special Protection Area. South of the town, beyond the M2, lies the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), protected since the late 1960s for its landscape value. Developing closer links between Faversham and the AONB is one of the ideas that we can explore as part of the new Neighbourhood Plan.
Other existing designations, which provide weaker protection under the law than the legislation underlying AONBs and SSSIs, include areas of High Landscape Value, Local Wildlife Sites, and Local Green Spaces. Those designations should be respected in any future development that occurs around Faversham and new Local Wildlife Sites and Green Spaces should be established to ensure that each new housing development incorporates opportunities for people to connect to nature.
In 2019, Swale Borough Council commissioned an assessment of the sensitivity of landscapes across the borough to the levels of residential and commercial development anticipated by 2038. The results of the landscape sensitivity assessment included the following map, which shows that five out of seven blocks of land identified around Faversham were judged as being at the highest level of sensitivity. One more, which would also be unsuitable for development for access reasons, was shown to be “moderate to high.” The clear conclusion of the report is that urban growth should be concentrated in areas of low landscape sensitivity. In the same way that it should avoid development on land susceptible to flooding as a result of rising sea levels, the Borough Council should not approve residential or commercial development in areas designated as being of either “high” or “moderate to high” landscape sensitivity.
The clear conclusion of the report is that urban growth should be concentrated in areas of low landscape sensitivity.