Introduction by Brian Pain
In the following section we have provided additional information to illustrate the problems, challenges and scale of the changes that Faversham is to undergo in the next decade.
A large number of people have already engaged with the public consultation now underway in the town. It is hoped that many more will contribute, not only endorsing current proposed objectives, but also adding their own contributions.
The Faversham Eye deeply regrets that so many new houses are proposed and also concerned that the essential uniqueness of the town is under severe threat. However, given that we seem to have little choice in the matter it is vitally important that we exercise the little democratic power that we have and ensure that the least worse outcome is achieved.
The government recently announced an ambitious aim to reduce our carbon emissions by one-third by 2030. Among many other things, this will require much higher standards applied to house building. It is generally felt that, up to now, our planners have been less than robust with developers over the design and quality of new builds. For instance, while it is recognised that gas and other fossil-fuel heating needs to be phased out in favour of air and ground source heat pumps, why is it that the present glut of houses currently being built are nearly all gas centrally heated, with no solar panels and no greywater systems? We should expect much better in future.
Please have your say now. It will be too late in a few months’ time.
Your input is sought
Residents in Faversham should now have received a survey to complete on the Neighbourhood Plan. This, along with the recently held exhibitions, provides a chance to influence the plan. We will use the responses and engagement to create policies that address the needs and desires of our town. We have been overwhelmed by the positive interactions so far and would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to make their views known.
By Cllr Kris Barker and Cllr John Irwin
The Swale Borough Council Local Plan
The Swale Local Plan, which guides housing developments across the borough, is aiming to reach the public consultation stage in January 2021. The proposed Local Plan will see an additional 3,500 homes built around Faversham by 2038. On the 29th October the Swale Local Plan Panel met, and agreed, in principle, the three sites to the east of Faversham that will drive the vast majority of these houses:
South of Watling Street / A2 and East from Macknade, proposed by the Duchy of Cornwall (SLA/226)
East of Love Lane and South of Graveney Road (SLA/091)
North of Graveney Road (SLA/135)
Plan showing the areas agreed in principle for development to the east of Faversham. These sites will drive the vast majority of new housing.
Faversham Neighbourhood Plan Response
The Faversham Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group is deeply disappointed at the scale of the developments proposed and has several concerns that it will be addressing through the Neighbourhood Plan and planning process.
Site plans must include the provision of additional infrastructure to support the increase in population. We recognise the need, and support the provision of, a new secondary school and new primary schools in the east of the town.
There is risk that the developments will become housing islands (with road and wall perimeters) lacking coherence and connectivity with each other and the countryside. We will seek to ensure the developers work together to achieve permeability between sites and put policy in place to ensure a consistent approach to design and build quality, green spaces and ecological standards.
Given that the new sites will in parts be nearly two miles from the centre of Faversham, we will be working with developers and Swale to ensure there are plans for transport links (walking, cycling and driving) between the sites and to/from Faversham centre.
The capacity and safety of the surrounding roads including Love Lane, Watling Street, Graveney Road and Brenley Corner also remain a concern. Addressing these is a complex issue involving KCC, Swale and Highways England, and we will be calling on all parties to work with us and each other to solve existing problems and prevent the emergence of new ones.
In the meantime, we have begun conversations with each of the developers to discuss the collective planning ambitions. While it’s early days, the two developers we have met with to date, appear sensitive to the impacts on Faversham and we are hopeful that, together, we can aim for the best possible outcome for such a significant volume of housing.
Additional Issue recognised
While each of the sites has a proportion of their area within the parish of Faversham, none of them comes completely within the jurisdiction of the proposed Neighbourhood Plan.
Faversham Town Council have requested that Swale Borough Council conduct a Community Governance Review to the existing town boundaries, so that the all the new proposed housing proposed for Faversham is recognised within the parish of Faversham.
Sport and Recreation
By Cllr. John Irwin & Geoff Wade
Ensuring There’s a Place to Play - early support for expanding sport and recreation provision
What does Faversham’s growth mean for the town’s sports people? Where are teams playing now and what are the needs looking forward? Local sports clubs are being consulted to assess the challenges for sport and recreation in the future.
Swale Borough Council has previously assessed needs and, in its Playing Pitch Strategy, sets out a framework for the improvement/provision of sports pitches and support facilities to 2026. This strategy has not, however, factored in our now confirmed housing growth. The neighbourhood planning process presents an opportunity for our community to ensure that it gets the pitch provision it needs. Taking this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is critical if we are to promote healthy communities through sport and recreation.
Faversham Strike Force is one of the most successful grassroots football clubs in East Kent with more than 26 teams: children to adults. In addition to their home at the Mount, the teams train and play across four sites. The first team currently plays ‘home’ games at Rochester United FC’s ground. The club, like all grassroots sports, is mainly self-funded and run through the dedication of 98 volunteers. Teams rely on low-cost sports pitches and grounds rented from the council or other landowners.
Children playing football at a match organised by Faversham Strike Force.
By David Melville, Chair Faversham and Oare Heritage Harbour Group
The Creek is unique in Faversham planning terms in that the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan (FCNP) was established after referendum as the legal planning document in 2016/17 through to 2031. The new town-wide neighbourhood plan will supercede this, but we have the opportunity to build on it and improve it.
The public consultations showed significant support for the development and increased use of the Creek with strong views expressed on arresting further housing development close to the Creek. A positive vision for development of the Creek appeared in the FCNP as follows;
‘to encourage regeneration of the creek as a working waterway and marine hub that conserves heritage and creates new potential for recreation, employment and tourism’.
A number of key issues for further consideration have emerged in discussions in the Faversham Creek Trust, the Faversham Society and the newly formed Faversham and Oare Heritage Harbour Group.
The Creek as an integral part of the town, and as a destination, through greater visibility, connected walk and cycle ways, and signage
An opening bridge with sluice gates, retaining water in the basin and allowing access by heritage and other vessels
Development of the Creek basin with a wharf and associated Creek-side developments for nautical-related business and leisure activity
Restoration to local ownership of the Town Quay along with the grade 2* listed TS Hazard and other buildings on it
Development of moorings and slipways including the town jetty and town quay to allow and encourage a wide range of water users.
Opening up pedestrian/cycle/visual connections throughout the length of the Creek through a Creek-edge route and into the adjoining marshland. Maintaining and maximising green spaces
Substantial improvements to water quality and flow, enabling safer use and encouraging wildlife
Giving greater prominence to Faversham’s unique maritime, industrial and landscape heritage
Ensuring future Creek-side developments are focused towards maritime-related employment, leisure and public access, with no further housing within a specified distance from the Creek-edge.
Sailing in Faversham Basin - just to prove you can!
By Matthew Hatchwell
Let the rivers fill: broad support for rewilding Faversham
Responses to the recent exhibitions in the town hall and to the special edition of Faversham Eye showed broad support in the community for maintaining and, where necessary, restoring the balance between built and natural environments in Faversham.
The public made more comments on the natural environment than on any other topic, every one of them – 139 at the last count – supporting the principle that connecting people to nature should be a key element of the new Neighbourhood Plan, and that all new residential and business development around Faversham should be designed to enhance the town's rich natural heritage, restore natural habitats and connectivity, and contribute to higher species diversity and abundance.
Specific actions to connect people more closely to nature could include:
Providing more information to residents and visitors about Faversham’s natural heritage and the nearby salt marshes, for example on the internet (e.g. via Faversham Town Council, Faversham Society and other websites), through additional signage along the Creek and elsewhere, setting up an environmental education centre, and through developing walking tours using new technology (QR codes, What3Words, Bluetooth, etc)
Taking greater advantage of Faversham’s location at the confluence between two large protected areas – the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Swale Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) – to promote the town as a gateway to nature
Identifying, protecting and expanding the green and blue corridors connecting blocks of natural habitat in and around the parish, for example, by requiring all new residential or business developments to upgrade existing Public Rights of Way a) to improve pedestrian and cycle access between the town centre and outlying countryside and b) to help them function as corridors for wildlife, or – in the absence of existing PRoWs – contribute to the creation of new ones
Designating new Local Green Spaces, Local Wildlife Sites, etc., as the town expands in order to maintain the balance between built and natural environments
Highlighting the natural and historical importance of the freshwater springs that characterise the north Kent coastal landscape and attracted early settlers
Restoring natural habitats (“rewilding”), for example through tree-planting, wildlife gardening to attract pollinators, installing more eel passes and bat boxes, and improving water quality and restoring water levels in natural watercourses such as the Westbrook, Cooksditch and in Oare Gunpowder Works Country Park.
Local volunteers and groups have created and maintained many environmentally important projects in Faversham.
Other points raised by members of the public were that no residential or business development should be allowed on land at high risk of flooding as a result of climate change and rising sea levels, and that – as a matter of principle – any development should respect existing habitat and landscape designations including Local Green Spaces, Local Wildlife Sites and Areas of High Landscape Value, as well as the results of the Landscape Sensitivity Assessment published by Swale Borough Council in 2019.
Climate change in the 21st century will affect not just sea levels but pretty much every aspect of life in Faversham. Housing and transportation are two of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Faversham has the opportunity to set an example by requiring that all new residential and business developments be designed and built in a way that minimises their environmental impacts, for example, by incorporating solar, heat pump and/or water-saving technology, as well as electric vehicle (EV) charging points as standard equipment, provision for future EV car-share schemes, and access to public transport and improved cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.
Faversham Creek and Stonebridge pond are all part of Faversham's extensive natural heritage of salt marshes, waterways and streams.
Faversham and the A2
By Tim Stonor, Tim Ingrams, and Chris Wright
WATLING STREET (A2) AND FAVERSHAM
Our previous article drew attention to the problems that Faversham will need to overcome if it’s to retain its charm as a medieval market town where people can walk around and enjoy the streets free from the noise and pollution of road traffic. Now it’s time to look more closely at Watling Street (the A2) which will become the central spine as the town expands to the south, and also to feature some alternative possibilities for movement within the town as a whole.
Watling Street - Problems
Watling Street itself will change as the town expands, with appreciable growth in vehicle traffic. It will also become an important corridor for pedestrians moving between housing estates in the south and the town centre in the north. At the moment there are only two designated crossing places over the whole 2.5km length lying within the town boundary, and pedestrians in the Ospringe area face a bleak, discouraging and unhealthy travel environment.
The Neighbourhood Plan should aspire to create a more pleasant environment in sympathy with the residential character of the street frontage, and support the changing role of Watling Street as a streetscape asset and a central corridor that rewards active travel.
Early morning traffic on the A2 in Ospringe, one of Faversham's long standing traffic management problems
Footways on both sides along the whole length within the Town boundary, configured to encourage walking rather than car use.
Improvements to key junctions could make them ‘pedestrian-friendly’ and ‘cycle-friendly’, for example, the junction with the Ashford Road.
More crossing places away from junctions.
A 20 mph speed limit.
Access to the Abbey School at surface level – that does not discriminate against the disabled, pedestrians with pushchairs, or cyclists.
Car traffic peaks during the morning and afternoon school run
ACTIVE TRAVEL IN FAVERSHAM
Several problem areas relating to mobility were raised in the previous issue of the Faversham Eye. Here, we’ll return to a specific issue that is going to become more important with the growing need to combat climate change: ‘active travel’. The Paris Agreement effectively requires that we reduce private car mileage by almost a half within the next 10 years. It means walking and cycling more, and driving less. How can we achieve this in Faversham?
Peripheral housing estates create disproportionately more vehicular traffic across the town that restricts people’s freedom to walk around; in fact “The more cars in the street, the fewer friends people have who live in that street” (Mary Creagh, Chief Executive of Living Streets).
Car traffic peaks during the morning and afternoon school run. According to a recent YouGov poll, it’s a chore that around 60% of parents don’t actually enjoy.
Faversham is divided into four sectors by the railway system. There are limited facilities for crossing the lines for pedestrians and cyclists: all the footbridges have stairs that exclude families with pushchairs, and cyclists.
With re-designed approach ramps, the footbridge across the old railway yard could link three sectors of the town.
Promote community co-operation to encourage active travel, through, for example:
2. Promote compact housing developments within walking distance of the Town centre along joined-up purpose-designed walkways and cycleways. The layout should include bus routes integrated with neighbouring areas.