Design and the Built Environment

At the first public workshop for the Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP), I decided that as I had been in construction all my working life, I could perhaps contribute most to the Housing Design Group and so this is where I have been concentrating my efforts over the last few months.

Our first task was to assess the character of the dwellings we have in the parish and to decide where we would look to review this character.  We chose to concentrate on reviewing the design of housing in the three main settlements in the parish: Benenden village, Iden Green and East End.  We split our group into three, with each one surveying every house, in every road, in each area, making a note of the characteristics of each house, with the intention of providing a guide for future developers to build houses that would fit in, aesthetically, to the surrounding neighbourhood.

To begin with, we decided to walk through Benenden village to have an understanding of the amount of detail that we needed to obtain, to provide evidence that would support our development guide.  It became obvious that the survey of so many houses would require an easy tick-box survey sheet to identify the main characteristics of each dwelling and I designed a spreadsheet to cater for this, which I circulated to our group.  For each house where they could be seen from the road, we have made a note of the type of dwelling – house, bungalow, flat – the type of roof tiles used, the treatment of the front and side elevation – hanging tiles, weatherboarding, brick – whether or not there is a porch or canopy over the front door, the boundary treatment – hedge, fence or open – and the estimated age of the property.  From this survey, we produced a statistical analysis for each design element for each settlement (Character Area).  We are intending to use this analysis to create design codes within the NDP for developers.

During our walk around the locality, we were all quite surprised to find that, while we all had a distinct impression from driving through these three Character Areas that Benenden village was all old, tiled-front housing with peg tile roofs, Iden Green was all white weather-boarded houses with peg tile roofs and East End was mainly the hospital complex with a few brick-built semi-detached houses, the actual assortment of dwellings was very varied in each.

There is a complete mix of types and looks of buildings in all three areas and it is this blend that we want to try to emulate in any development.  Not only that, but there are various policies within the Local Plan, previously produced by TWBC, and the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) that govern the way buildings are developed within the landscape, and we have produced design policies for the Neighbourhood Development Plan which also take these into account.

While there are a lot of people who feel our voices will not be heard by the authorities, I do believe there is merit in what we are trying to achieve and the authorities are duty bound to take our Neighbourhood Development Plan into consideration when assessing the look and design of housing in our parish.  We will therefore continue to work tirelessly to provide future developers with a blueprint of how we as a community want to see the parish develop and what we believe will ensure that future generations will benefit from still being able to enjoy the beautiful area we live in for years to come.

Graham Beveridge, Chair Housing Design Group NDP