Words by Brian Pain
As most readers are acutely aware, the Town is being swamped with new house building and much of our immediately adjacent green fields are being turned into or threatened to be turned into acres of unremarkable expensive houses. It is also the case that we are al-most certainly going to have many more unnecessary and unsustainable houses over the next 20 years.
As we wrote in Faversham Eye 4, Swale Borough Council is required by Central Government to commission independent consultants to determine the future housing need in the area over the next 20 or so years. These same ‘independent’ consultants regularly work with developers and land owners to win hugely financially lucrative planning permissions to develop greenfield sites. The methodology employed by them is at best questionable and probably given unpredictable events (such as a worldwide pandemic, say), likely to be highly inaccurate. To quote a partner in the consultants who produced the 2015 report for Swale:
“Everyone knows that the current method for assessing housing need is hopeless, complicated, confused and costs the earth.”
The depressing result of this central government driven approach to determining ‘housing need’ is that Swale is told that over a certain period of time it must ensure that it gives permission to developers to build X thousand new houses. Developers prefer greenfield sites as there are not the clear-up costs associated with brownfield sites and there is no VAT paid on the construction. Also, they get a higher price for a housing estate in a pretty semi-rural location and a greater profit on larger detached houses rather than more modest two bedroom terraces.
This means that the real housing need of local people is not met as the housing provided is both inappropriate and unaffordable. More newcomers move into the area buying these new builds and this in turn puts a greater strain on the local infrastructure, increases pollution and traffic congestion and swallows up agriculturally productive land. Yet the real housing crisis continues unabated.
In an effort to try to ensure the least worst outcome, a Faversham Neighbourhood Plan is being developed to influence the location, design and type of housing built and to try to ensure that our town retains its unique identity.
The Faversham Eye’s mission is to champion the town and promote local democracy. Therefore this special edition contains none of our usual features and has been written by Town Councillors and other contributors chosen by the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group to inform the people of Faversham about the Neighbourhood Plan and how to participate in determining its content.
We realise that this serious special issue of our paper presents content which is more factually demanding than is usual, but we hope it will provide readers with sufficient insight of the challenges necessary for them to make informed contributions to the evolution of this plan. We also hope that it will enable them effectively resist future unwanted speculative development in and around the Town.
We will return to our usual format with Faversham Eye 12, the bumper Christmas issue, which will be published in December.
We hope that our readers will appreciate the vital importance of increasing the awareness of the need for the people of Faversham to make their views known now, as there will be little point in anyone wondering in a few years time how to complain about developments which, what by then, will have been given the green light to proceed.