House-building rates in a Kent district must “triple” and the potential of greenfield sites has to be “maximised”, a council has been told.
Sevenoaks District Council (SDC) has an “acute” need for thousands more homes, but councillors fear the infrastructure needed to support a bigger population may not come in time.
The local authority is preparing to consult residents on its local plan – which guides what can be built and where in the district until 2040.
In 2020, the council’s previous local plan was rejected by the government’s Planning Inspectorate for not meeting housing needs.
Hannah Gooden, planning policy chief, speaking to the Development and Conservation Advisory Committee on October 31, said: “We need to address these very real development needs for housing, for example for affordable housing, housing for older people, for strategic infrastructure.”
Sevenoaks is 93% green belt land, where stricter planning rules make it harder for developers to build.
The planning officer went on: “Clearly the more we build within our settlements the less green belt needs to be released.”
“We know we need affordable housing, we’re crying out for it...”
She added that the exceptional circumstances of the area’s “acute” housing needs means redrawing the green belt boundary and building on it is a must.
“We need to plan for 712 homes a year,” she said.
“So over the 15-year plan period that’s about 10,500 homes.
“Bearing in mind that we currently build about 250 homes a year you can see it really is a step change in housebuilding, roughly tripling what we’re doing at the moment.”
As part of the local plan, a whole new settlement of 2,500 homes at Pedham Place, near Farningham and Swanley, is proposed.
The same area is also set to host a new 20,000-seater stadium for rugby giants Wasps, plus a hotel and training facility.
Cllr Rachel Waterton (Ind) told the committee her ward of Crockenhill adjoins the site of the planned new settlement.
She said: “We struggle with the village being used as a rat run in general.”
Cllr Susan Camp (Lib Dem) said: “We know we need affordable housing, we’re crying out for it.
“If we don’t provide it, it’s going to be disastrous.”
The council’s policy is that 40% of homes on new developments should be affordable.
Chief planning officer Richard Morris stressed to members: “Greenfield sites have the capacity to deliver much higher levels of affordable housing than brownfield sites because of the absence of abnormal costs, or costs of demolition of existing structures.
“So the chances of delivering higher percentage and levels of affordable housing on greenfield sites is an opportunity that I think we need to maximise.”
A spokesman for pro-housing campaign group PricedOut said: "The green belt is the single greatest marketing tool of the last century.
“It has convinced an entire population that it acts to protect the beautiful British countryside when the reality is there are countless green belt-designated sites that are just urban decay, fit for development.
“We must build more homes and the only way we're going to get that done is through planning reform..."
“We have a housing shortage of 4.3 million homes with young renters expecting to be at least 37 before they’ll be able to afford their own home.
“We must build more homes and the only way we're going to get that done is through planning reform."
The committee voted to recommend that the cabinet press on with its consultation on the local plan.
The consultation, where residents can give their views on the development plans, will open on November 23 and close on January 11, 2024, subject to cabinet approval on November 9.