Sometimes the scariest thing to do is the right thing. This week St Clere has submitted our plans to build housing in Kemsing. For years the pressure has been mounting, and the pressure comes from two (or more) sides.
On one side we all know that we need housing that our key workers and children can afford to buy, that central government (whichever party is in power) will demand houses are built in every part of the south east, and that Sevenoaks District Council will allocate a fair share of their allocation (of 14,000 houses) to Kemsing Parish.
On the other side, we all like Kemsing just as it is! In fact, if anything, there’s already too many cars on our roads (which haven’t changed over the centuries from the tracks made by horse and carts), central Kemsing is a bit of a war zone at pinch points in the day, and our infrastructure could be described as ‘vintage’.
So far our plan in Kemsing, like many other green belt communities, has been fingers-crossed-if we-keep-very-quiet-perhaps-the-housing-monster-will-go-away. But we’ve already had a taste of what is to come if we continue to push reality to one side. Legislation is increasingly turning in the developer’s favour and the authority will be taken from district and parish council hands. If we don’t start coming up with plans we can get behind, we will be bombarded by planning applications for unpopular small developments wedged into crazy gaps in our already congested village with very little benefit to the community and when our parish refuses to support them the district will have no choice but to grant them. Even if the district refuse to grant them, central government will grant appeals because their view is that if we can’t get organised with some good developments, we will get what we are given.
So, Kemsing Station Development. We are proposing 300 houses on a 24 hectare site that sits North of Kemsing Station. The railway line lies along the south border of the site, the M26 along the north border, woodland to the West and Watery Lane/Chaucer Business Park to the East. 300 is slightly less than the number repeatedly mentioned as the likely allocation Kemsing will be given when the district is forced to fulfil its housing obligation.
The advantage of building the vast majority of Kemsing’s likely allocation in one place on St Clere land is that we will be able to afford to do it right. Some of ‘doing it right’ will be clear, immediate community benefits; improvements to the station, links to the rest of the parish with cycle paths and footpaths, recreation ground and allotments, road improvements etc. But there is another side to ‘doing it right’. The point comes in any development when the decision has to be taken about whether to squeeze every pound from the development. Pretty much every developer takes the decision to maximise profit at all costs (pressure of shareholders etc) and the way they do that is either to build expensive large houses, or cheap tiny ones that get packed into the space.
Generations of St Clere owners have helped Kemsing develop into this lovely and popular corner of the world. St Edith’s Hall, the Vicarage and the Common Field are all part of the village thanks to St Clere. For me personally, that adds a lot of pressure from a third side. I can think of nothing better than contributing to the expansion of the parish in a positive way, and nothing worse than being the first owner of St Clere to have a negative impact on Kemsing.
I am attaching the ‘vision’ showing the basics of what is being proposed. I have spoken to anyone who has shown an interest in the project and tried to make this proposal as positive for Kemsing as possible. I am waiting to hear back from the Housing Needs Survey that has gone out to all Kemsing parishioners so that I can adapt the vision to ensure what we propose is what is actually needed.
This is going to be a hugely challenging project but the more I look at it, the more I believe it is the best option for Kemsing. It’s the right thing to do.