Slowly slowly catch the monkey…

Looking back through my blogs, they seem to be getting more and more gloomy. I am very aware that nobody wants to hear someone as lucky as me complaining non-stop. Therefore back in April I promised myself that I wouldn’t write another blog until I’d cheered up and had something good to report.

I haven’t totally cheered up I’m afraid, but I do have something good to report. My exciting news is that we got planning permission for the site at the top of the farm hill. I am nearly feeling good about it, but still suffering from a bit of PTSD about how stressful it was. I have learnt many, many things dealing with the application, not least patience. As my grandmother used to say; slowly slowly catch the monkey.

In this case, slowly means ten years. The monkey is our dis-used farm site, a monstrous eye sore (the two blue silos can be seen for miles around) made up of corrugated iron, breeze blocks and asbestos buildings. None of the buildings are fit for use any more; rats and pigeons enjoy a run of the place.

I was convinced that if I involved all the interested parties from the beginning, I would be able to come up with a solution for the site that everyone would get behind (that’s the mediator in me!). So the conversations began; with neighbours, parish councils, planning officers, councillors, politicians and the local press. Initially the signs were good, we all pretty much agreed that it would be lovely if we could have the sort of buildings that would have been found on the site before the current blight was erected. A farmhouse, some cottages, a barn and a granary. We spent good money drawing up plans of a beautiful development we could be proud of. Policy said no. Policy said that what we were asking for was a “pastiche” which was not welcome and that what we should want was a direct conversion of the buildings as they were into dozens of live-work units

We did our best with the new designs (more good money); they looked almost exactly like prison blocks. Policy loved them, really loved them. I couldn’t bring myself to move forward with such a plan. Luckily Policy had had enough time to move forward an inch or two, so we were nudged towards a partial conversion of just the steel frames of the buildings. The resulting plan (need I mention the expense again?) was attractive, but the designs would be more at home in the Alps. The neighbours understandably hated it.

But here’s the thing. Policy had very very slowly edged forward and indicated a slight change of heart. My original plans were taken from the filing cabinet, dusted off and presented. No immediate objection. We tiptoed forward. By this stage our neighbours had lost faith in the entire project and me, but even they didn’t stridently object.

The final stand was one of the most terrifying couple of hours of my life. The planning committee talking about my plans as if I wasn’t in the room and as if my real evil intention was to build a B&Q distribution centre in the heart of the estate sending HGVs all around our country lanes (honestly, that was discussed). Despite this, the committee voted almost unanimously in favour of the application. Thank you thank you thank you.

Now the only problem is that it’s cost us so much to get to where we are, and we’ve agreed to so many conditions in order to keep everyone happy, it doesn’t really make any sense financially to go ahead with the project at all. I’m sure we’ll work something out, but right now I’m wondering whether it’s more a case of slowly slowly caught the sloth.


A St. Clere Estate, Kemsing, Sevenoaks, Kent TN15 6NL
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