How to deal with Faversham’s pressing housing numbers – get on the front foot!

Faversham is attractive to housebuilders. Its chocolate box good looks put it ahead of Sittingbourne and Sheppey in the Swale Borough Council urban beauty parade. 
The planning inspector’s recent decision to allow housing south of the A2 – overturning Swale Council’s refusal – has opened a stable door.

The housing is coming!

Swale Borough Council’s quite reasonable response is to commission a high level “Character Assessment” to make it more difficult for developers to justify future proposals.

But the inspector’s decision means that the stable door has not only been opened but the horse may already have bolted. Character Assessment or not, even more housing is very likely.

And so – to borrow the analogy used by one speaker at this evening’s Local Engagement Forum – the Character Assessment may prove as useful as a chocolate fire guard.

If so, how should Faversham respond? Because it looks like the housing is coming.

Should we continue an “organic” approach (aka a haphazard, defensive and unpredictable one)?

My view is that we should skip off our back foot and get onto the front.

If the housing is coming then what Faversham needs is not an entrenchment but a plan for its future. Not just a housing plan but a plan for its education, health care, business, retail and civic facilities. A plan to take Faversham forward for the next 50 years. A plan for the place as a whole, not only its “objectively assessed housing needs”.

And this means an infrastructure plan for transport, energy, water, waste and data.

Otherwise Faversham faces an ever tightening noose of traffic gridlock. To counter this, it is highly likely that roads will be needed; perhaps another junction with the M2; a public transport plan; an active travel plan to promote walking and cycling.

A Faversham Plan to set an agenda for the town:

– to take to the market

– to promote sites that the market may not have yet seen the viability of

– to coordinate a future for the town in a way that may never have been done before but which is needed now more than ever because of:

– the special circumstances that have been created by the pressing national housing needs

– the national government’s will to deliver housing numbers

– and Faversham’s particular attraction to housing developers.

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