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Councillors throw out HLM's Swanley high-rise plans

U I development Swanley Square
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Plans by HLM for an 11-storey housing-led development in a Kent town centre have been unanimously rejected by councillors

A planning report to Sevenoaks District Council had recommended approval for the hybrid mixed-use application proposed by developer U+I in Swanley.

But councillors on the authority’s development control committee threw out the plans, due to concerns about parking, the visual impact and loss of light on neighbouring properties.

Committee member Michael Horwood, Kent county councillor for Swanley and Hextable, told the KentLive website: ‘The proposals put forward would have made this one of the tallest buildings in the whole of Sevenoaks District and Dartford Borough, making Swanley feel like a London borough, rather than a proud Kentish country town.’

A detailed application for part of the site proposed 210 homes with no affordable housing in three blocks rising to 11 storeys, plus retail/commercial floor space and a multistorey car park.

It was combined with an outline application proposed a further 93 homes plus commercial space and a surface car park.

Planners, in their report, admitted that the size of the development would cause an impact on the landscape, but said: ‘The development would result in the provision of new contemporary urban architecture adjacent to more traditional built form and would introduce a distinct character and aid legibility for visitors and future residents of the town centre.

‘The development would add variety and interest to the character and appearance of the town.’

Responding to the news, Marcello Burbante, senior development manager at U+I said: ’We are disappointed that the application was rejected by councillors and remain committed to investing in Swanley town centre. We are now considering the feedback received, before agreeing next steps.’

Comment from HLM:

The scheme is contemporary in style and high in placemaking qualities, as recognised by the Council’s Officers but was also substantially larger in scale than the existing town centre buildings in the Kent Market Town.

The design, which requires substantial investment to overcome many layers of physical, technical and legal complexity, would deliver high quality mixed-use buildings and public realm and would unlock an under-utilised and underperforming brownfield site; while also promoting higher density forms of development in response to prevailing Planning Policy and the severe need for housing. As a direct consequence therefore, the new town centre would become larger in scale than the surrounding provincial town context.

‘The refusal highlights the challenges facing developers, architects and even planning officers’

The refusal highlights the challenges facing developers, architects and even planning officers in developing regeneration solutions to help solve the nation’s housing crisis; while Planning Committees priorities are more naturally focussed on the views of local communities, which are intrinsically reluctant to see change in their own area.

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