A printable PDF version of this newsletter can be downloaded from HERE
The annual meeting of the Faversham Society this year is at 7pm on Thursday, 24 September. For the first time in history, it will be a virtual AGM.
This is, we hope, a unique opportunity for people living away from the town to attend,but I am sure that I am not alone in hoping that next year we shall be back to meeting in a hall with a guest speaker.
You need to tell us that you are attending the AGM – you can do this easily online here: favershamsociety.org/AGM-2020/
Please join us. We shall be discussing the major challenge posed by the imposition of housing targets on us by central government. We have seen what happens if we just say no to housing: the inspectors will overrule Swale on the grounds that there is an inadequate land supply or that Swale is failing to meet the central government’s targets for delivery.
It is important to remember that Swale does not build houses. It allocates land to private developers who then determine the rate of house building. They will build only when they can realise the price they seek. They will not build at a rate that would reduce their sale prices.
We shall be discussing the usual business of an AGM, plus Covid-19 and the repairs to the roof. We shall also be discussing the Neighbourhood Plan and the implications of government housing targets for Faversham. As I have written here before, the town faces the same scale of expansion that we experienced with the coming of the railway in the Victorian age. Major change is imminent we need to influence what is created for the future of our town.
Central government is imposing a target of 10,000 new houses on Swale for its next Local Plan. Under the previous Local Plan, Bearing Fruits, Swale had to find land for 14,000-plus houses – 24,000 in total across Swale. Central government imposes these targets, based on national demand. Under Bearing Fruits, Faversham sites were identified for 15.75% of the Swale total and there was a windfall target (of sites that unexpectedly become available) of 8.6%.
The Faversham Community Land Trust secured a grant from Swale to commission professional research on housing need. This provides hard evidence about the volume and kind of housing required. And, of course, this is housing for people already living here: couch-surfing, married, but living back apart with their respective parents and delaying having children, and in one case (there may be more), living in a shed in their parents’ garden. They are already registered at the health centres and using the schools.
There is local housing need in Faversham. The survey identified 211 people now sofa-surfing in Faversham and many Faversham people wanting to find accommodation to raise their family. Over the next five years, 1,881 really affordable housing units are needed for Faversham families, 376 every year. The need is mostly for one and two-bedroom units. So there is substantial housing need in Faversham. You can find a link to the Faversham Community Land Trust Housing Needs Assessment here: favershamsociety.org/housing-in-faversham/
Central government imposes the housing target. Swale has then to identify sites. That process is now under way as Swale develops the new Local Plan to determine the location of nw housing in Faversham from 2026 to 2038. Final decisions will be made by the Swale cabinet and then the full council. The most likely outcome at the moment is Option C: under which Faversham gets 35%, 3,500 more houses and a proportion – probably a large part – of the windfall, 30%, potentially a further 3,000 houses.
Last month’s newsletter contained an invitation to comment on the society’s site assessments. They are available on our website favershamsociety.org/the-swale-and-neighbourhood-plans/. The board will decide its preferences for new sites at its October meeting. Please lobby Swale councillors, and our MP, with your views and let us know your views by commenting on our website, our Facebook page or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Please engage with this debate. There are three issues:
i) What proportion of Swale’s central government target should Faversham have to accept?
b) Which sites should be selected?
c) What kind of houses should be built?
I think the continued existence of large extended families in Faversham, many of them able to trace ancestry back several centuries, is a big part of what makes Faversham special. If we build smaller accommodation units, flats and starter homes, we can accommodate our share of the housing on less land and benefit our community. Just think how popular the St Mary’s, St John’s and Park Road area is. Could we build a 21st-century version for local people.
The Faversham Neighbourhood Plan exhibition is taking place in 12 Market Place from Tuesday, 22 September. There will be links from the society website to those elements of the exhibition which are put online to enable more people to engage with the issues in the context of the pandemic.