Published: 05:00, 06 October 2021
| Updated: 16:02, 06 October 2021
A heavy wave of continual house-building has gripped Faversham in recent years, and now the biggest plans of all - from the royal estate fronted by Prince Charles - have been laid bare...
For a well-known lover of all things nature and green, the idea of Prince Charles’ royal estate building 2,500 homes in the Faversham countryside is somewhat difficult to digest.
Yet the Duchy of Cornwall, the estate headed by the future King of England, has unveiled its masterplan to turn 320 acres of farmland into a huge housing development.
It is confident the transformation of the site, which is very much focused on a sustainable way of living, will be an improvement to what is currently there and not cause further harm to the town’s traffic woes.
Should the project go ahead, it will become the largest housing scheme the town has ever witnessed.
The new homes would stretch from Salters Lane all the way up to the Brenley Corner junction, with a new primary school, cricket pitch, shops and business spaces all being created.
The Duchy, which prides itself on striving to “nurture and improve” its land, acquired the sprawling plot to the south-east of the town about 20 years ago.
It was proposed in response to Swale Borough Council’s call to landowners for potential housing sites back in 2018, and now three years down the line, the masterplan has been unveiled.
Dubbed an “urban extension”, the mammoth project is planned to start in 2024/25 and will take years to complete.
Estate director at the Duchy, Ben Murphy, said: “We are a royal estate and it’s not comfortable for us to see greenfield and good quality land going out of production.
“But if the local authority deems this is the best location for an urban expansion of the town, then it’s about how can we make this the most sustainable community that we can.
“We are following the Prince’s vision and trying to actually improve the land for the benefit of the local people.
“It’s a bit incongruous for people to think a development adds to the biodiversity of a natural site, but done correctly, we will be strengthening people’s connections to nature.”
The Duchy envisages creating one job for every house built - therefore, 2,500 jobs are planned at various ‘local centres’ on the development and at a more industrial-focused area on the eastern side of the scheme near to Brenley Corner.
Developers say trees will line every street in the “landscape-led” neighbourhood which “starts from the earth up”.
As well as having a network of roads on the development, a new link road is proposed to connect the homes with the A251. The route would also pass through the neighbouring 250 homes at Preston Fields which are under construction.
Mr Murphy also says a high street similar to Tenterden’s will be constructed and Macknade Farm buildings will be repurposed as a commercial and employment area.
The vision is to ensure everything a resident needs for a way of life will be accessible on the development. And should they need to head into town via bus, they will be able to due to revised routes taking in the Duchy site.
It is hoped a “walkable community” can be created.
“It’ll be designed more around the pedestrian than the car,” Mr Murphy said.
“We won’t deny the existence of cars but we will not give people the reason to use their car.
“That will be done by making the place more accessible. Most of your daily needs can be met on foot or on bike- everything will be within 20 minutes.”
The developers also state an intention to upgrade the A2 and turn it into a “high quality” street which is safe for pedestrians and cyclists to cross.
Upgrading the safety of the A2 has long been mooted, and so too have much-needed improvements to Brenley Corner.
The four-pronged junction plays a major role in the county’s road network, with access being gained to both the A2 and M2/Thanet Way.
Faversham MP Helen Whately previously outlined her fears that the integral junction “could be permanently gridlocked” if thousands of extra homes are built before Brenley Corner is upgraded.
But Mr Murphy says traffic modelling shows the Duchy’s plans are not dependent on the junction improvements being carried out.
“The Brenley Corner upgrade is a sub-regional development which is needed regardless of whether our work goes ahead,” he said.
“It’s something we are of course very supportive of happening as it needs to be addressed.
“That’s well over £100 million so it’s far more than any development can support. That’s why the money needs to come from the Department for Transport or Highways England.
“It’s in the pipeline as far as we know but it is beyond our control.
“We’re not generating the same amount of traffic that other developments do as it’s pedestrian-led.”
The Duchy land planned for the homes is not yet allocated in Swale council’s Local Plan, yet its inclusion is due to be finalised next year when an additional 10,000 homes are officially earmarked for construction in Faversham.
As part of the Duchy’s plans, the three-form primary school is proposed to be centrally located in the development, while Faversham Cricket Club will be relocated from its Selling Road base and incorporated into the “heart” of the new estate.
Meanwhile, the town’s football club will remain at its current home but a new 3G training pitch will be delivered.
Every home on the site, which will range from one-bed to five or six-bed properties, is planned to be fully powered by renewable energy and “cost very little to live in and produce no emissions”.
Of the 2,500 homes, 30% will be affordable as per government guidelines.
The Duchy says open green spaces, meadows, orchards and allotments will also be created.
'The Prince and the Duchy care greatly about the communities we’re involved in and have long-held an interest in the naturally built environment...'
The plans were revealed during a public meeting at St Mary of Charity Church last Wednesday, followed by a drop-in consultation event at the Assembly Rooms on Thursday, where a steady stream of people pored over visual presentations.
“People are recognising the fact we’re respecting the town, it’s character and heritage,” Mr Murphy said.
“We’re meeting local housing need, providing a primary school, supporting sports clubs. All the things people are saying are important to them, are the things we’re focused on.
“The Prince and the Duchy care greatly about the communities we’re involved in and have long-held an interest in the naturally built environment.
“As owners we are the land steward and have the best interest in not just building a community, but also helping it grow.
“This is a long-term vision for us. It makes good business sense that we want a healthy, thriving community.
“We’re looking at a significant net biodiversity gain from what those fields already offer.
“We’ve got a really good opportunity to build a truly sustainable community for Faversham.”
What is the Duchy of Cornwall?
It is a royal estate established by Edward III in 1337.
Ever since, the Duke of Cornwall - which is eldest surviving son of the reigning monarch - has taken leadership of the estate.
Prince Charles currently oversees its management and Prince William will be next in line.
The revenue from the estate is used to financially support the Prince, his children and their families and support charity work. The annual income stands at about £21 million.
It is made of 130,000 acres in the UK, spread across 23 different counties but mostly focused in the south-west.
Should the Faversham development come to fruition, it will be just the third housing project the Duchy has overseen.