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Councillors reject housing application in Sevenoaks Green Belt

The construction of two houses on Green Belt land has been rejected after councillors were urged to think with their heads over their hearts.

Colin Smith applied for permission to build two three-bedroom houses in Lombard Street, Horton Kirby, near Sevenoaks, in the heart of an industrial estate.

An Illustration of how the two houses in Lombard Street, Horton Kirby, would have looked
An Illustration of how the two houses in Lombard Street, Horton Kirby, would have looked

This triggered a debate on what was considered Green Belt land, as planning officers argued that although it was a brownfield site, it was still in the Green Belt and opposite an open field.

Some councillors however weren’t convinced and argued the scheme would be an improvement on the derelict garages it would replace.

On Thursday, Sevenoaks District Council’s development committee met to decide the fate of the application.

One member keen to see the area improved was Cllr Philip McGarvey who claimed the houses would be a “welcome gateway to the village.”

He said: “I did come to this with an open mind, but the more I hear the more I believe this should be permitted."

Cllr Philip McGarvey
Cllr Philip McGarvey

He added: “Yes it’s in the Green Belt, but it’s an improvement on the derelict garages on site at the moment.

“It’s an opportunity to provide a couple of homes in the area. It’s very difficult to find suitable spaces in Horton Kirby and South Darenth so this gesture is welcomed.”

Cllr Avril Hunter meanwhile was less impressed. She said: “I can’t believe anyone would want to live slap bang in the middle of what is a big industrial estate.

“There’s nothing of any merit there. I think it would be horrendous. Yes, they might look across the road to green fields, but think of the mess, the dust, the noise.

“Do you want to live there? I certainly wouldn’t. I think it would be wrong to provide housing in such a poor location.”

Cllr Avril Hunter
Cllr Avril Hunter

While planning officers said the Green Belt status was a major problem for the proposal, they also said the houses would be too tall in comparison to the garages they would replace and they would be out of character for the area.

Cllr Alan Cheeseman hit back at claims the houses would be unfit for the area.

He said: "It’s not our job to do the marketing for this place.

"This could be the kick-start for that area to improve, and I think we should be approving it.”

"As some members had strong opinions about Lombard Street’s future, Cllr Simon Reay said the decision could only be decided through policy: “I have mixed feelings on this. We need houses but we should be deciding on planning grounds.

Planning committee chairman Gary Williamson
Planning committee chairman Gary Williamson

Cllr Cheeseman said: “Our role isn’t to decide what improves or doesn’t improve an area, and I warn members gently if they are to approve this because they’re going to have to find very special circumstances to do it.

“As the officers have already pointed out it is in the Green Belt, it doesn’t comply with policy.”

In a final message to the committee chairman Cllr Gary Williamson urged councillors to vote with their “heads over their heart.”

The proposal was rejected, by nine votes to four.

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