Published: 06:00, 17 December 2020
| Updated: 07:12, 17 December 2020
An explosion of house-building in Faversham will "change the nature of town" forever, opponents claim.
Thousands of extra homes are set to be constructed as government targets are ramped up, with most new properties concentrated to the south and east of the town.
Housing estates will stretch all the way to Brenley Corner as part of what has been described as the "largest expansion of the town since the Victorian era".
The future growth comes as a result of Swale Borough Council being told by the government to add 10,000 homes to its Local Plan - the authority’s blueprint for what land should be developed over the next 18 years.
The additional 10,000 is on top of the 14,000 already allocated in 2014, and the historic market town is to bear the brunt of Swale's extra requirements.
It means the number of new homes to be built in Faversham will easily surpass 5,000, before including windfall sites not allocated in the Local Plan, which could hit four figures.
The draft decision to allocate the majority of the extra homes in Faversham was made by the borough council at an extraordinary meeting at the end of October, but the plan has yet to be rubber-stamped.
A number of potential sites in all four corners of the town were considered by the council before it was agreed to heavily concentrate the extra 3,410 homes in the south east.
The largest plot will hold a 2,500-home development on 320 acres of land south of the town belonging to the Duchy of Cornwall’s royal estate in Selling Road, between the A2 and the M2.
Also allocated is an additional 600-home scheme to the east of Love Lane, an extra 70 homes for the Preston Fields site, and 240 north of Graveney Road.
Currently, Faversham's population stands at about 19,500 residents, but could rise to more than 30,000 by 2038 as a result of the town's expansion.
Town councillor John Irwin, who chairs the Faversham Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, says the impact of the changes to the council's plan are huge.
"This isn't simply adding a couple of housing estates; this will change the nature of Faversham," he said.
"It's hugely significant. It is the largest expansion of the town since the Victorian era.
"We were pushing and lobbying hard for a much more realistic allocation.
"Bearing in mind we're probably in the region of 7,000 to 8,000 homes in Faversham currently, that really gives the scale of the increase and how significant this is.
"We felt it was far too many for a single town to take. But it was decided upon by Swale, so it is what it is."
Swale council says traffic and safety at the notoriously busy Brenley Corner "is a concern" but is being addressed by Highways England through its Road Investment Strategy programme. It is expected that a decision on the funding and designs for the junctions improvements will be made in the coming years.
The changes to the Local Plan are set to come into play from 2022 and run until 2038, when all of the homes are envisaged to be complete.
Challenges in delivering the plan revolve around the fact 60% of land in Swale is exempt from development, either because of it being a wildlife habitat, a Site of Special Scientific Interest or at risk of flooding.
The borough therefore faced difficulties in finding sufficient areas and distributing allocations across all its towns.
Faversham has ended up taking on 35% of Swale's additional 10,000 - a huge hike from the previous drafting of the Local Plan when it was given the task of delivering about 15% of the borough's required housing.
Cllr Irwin says the massive increase is "unfair and unwarranted", yet concedes the "ship has sailed" and it is now time to focus on ensuring Faversham gets the infrastructure it needs.
He therefore says it is critical a town-wide neighbourhood plan is drawn up and consulted on.
Faversham already has a Creek Neighbourhood Plan, adopted by local referendum in 2017. However, a new designation will extend the area of influence to the whole town, including areas of marshes to the north, and farmland to south, west and east of the town.
"We think this whole thing is unwarranted, we think it's unnecessary and we think it's unfair," Cllr Irwin said.
'We'll be pushing for a new secondary school and between two and three new primary schools...'
"However, it's really important people get involved and get the infrastructure they want by having their say.
"We could say it's absolutely disastrous and terrible and gnash our teeth and wring our hands, but we need to get on top of it and make sure we get the best development we can - it's about making the best out of a situation which is not ideal.
"I think one of the victories for us was that the proposed developments encircled Faversham. We instead lobbied for more of a focus on the east rather than the west, because in the west we already have significant problems with congestion and air quality around Ospringe.
"So it's a small victory that the homes are concentrated in the east where we have better access and problems can be better mitigated.
"What we're going to be driving for is that there are appropriate resources in the east. For instance, we'll be pushing for a new secondary school and between two and three new primary schools.
"Now, the worst thing that could happen is that the developments take a lot of the energy and focus away from the town centre."
Neighbourhood plans give communities power to influence where, shops, offices, industrial sites and other development should be built.
Once approved, it will become a statutory document that must be considered when Swale council decides whether or not to approve planning applications.
The redrafting of the Local Plan will see the council commit to building 1,038 homes in the borough each year between 2022 and 2038. The figure currently stands at 776 per year.
A string of housing developments across Faversham are already under construction, making it one of Kent's fastest moving towns for development.
Schemes at Perry Court, Oare, Love Lane and Graveney Road are all progressing.
Away from the town centre, developers have recently drawn up a 1,750-home scheme covering 178 acres of farmland off the A2, close to Dunkirk, Boughton and Selling.
The land is not earmarked in the Local Plan, but that has not deterred the applicants, Shaptor Capital, from publicising its proposals for the new village, called Winterbourne Fields.