Everybody who lives and works in Westerham wants the town to be the best place it can be.
Many want, and need, Westerham to be a prosperous, environmentally sustainable, historic town. A distinctive, vibrant place that offers a very special quality of life, nestled in scenically beautiful surroundings and offering access to habitat-rich countryside and improved community facilities. We want Westerham to be loved and enjoyed by all who live and work in the town. We share that vision.
Challenges and solutions
To achieve the sustainable future of the town for the people that live here now, and in the future, Which Way Westerham has identified 12 need-based challenges and solutions – all to be delivered by taking a town-wide, community-focussed approach.
Challenge 1: Westerham suffers from impact of traffic congestion.
Solution: A relief road is needed now. Levels of traffic in the town are continuing to increase. By diverting the bulk of the A25 traffic around the town, removing the bottleneck, it would improve trading conditions for local businesses, air quality and enhance the historic town centre.
Drivers on the A25 would enjoy shorter, more predicable journey times and it would be possible to make the improvements in the town centre needed to secure its long term vitality – including parking and public realm.
Challenge 2: The future population of Westerham will fall, with a disproportionate loss of school and working age people, and an increase in those who are retired. High house prices also make it difficult for young people and families to live locally.
Solution: It’s proposed to build 360 market and 240 affordable homes to rent to bring in new residents needed to sustain the town centre, including local services, shops and primary school. This will enable young people, key-workers, second-steppers and downsizers to live locally. Each new home would be sympathetically designed in four sustainable neighbourhoods.
Challenge 3: Local health services are under pressure.
Solution: Which Way Westerham has made a commitment to improving the local GP practice by delivering a building for a modern multi-clinic health centre. It would increase the range of health services available and reduce the need to travel beyond Westerham for routine and specialist care.
Challenge 4: The local primary school is under subscribed.
Solution: The new homes, many for families, would boost the pupil numbers and sustain the school.
Which Way Westerham is working with Churchill Primary School and Kent County Council to identify what’s needed to improve the school’s facilities, including providing a second access via the relief road.
Challenge 5: Supporting the town centre.
Solution: Reducing town centre traffic levels, via the relief road, will enhance the experience of visiting for residents and tourists. It will help Westerham retain an economically vibrant, distinctive and independent town centre, and rise to the national challenges facing High Streets.
Challenge 6: Local businesses are struggling to recruit and retain employees.
Solution: Improved travel-to-work times, thanks to the relief road and reduced congestion, will make Westerham a more attractive place to work – and help businesses attract employees and improve the efficiency of their operations. The combination of new homes will help people live and work locally, further reducing traffic levels.
Challenge 7: Successful towns need growing businesses to support the local economy.
Solution: Westerham is already punching above its weight economically in the district, and new employment space, accessed via the relief road, would provide the premises for local firms looking to grow and help create more high-quality jobs, helping people to live and work locally.Putting the new business space within walking distance of the town centre and close to the new homes, will help support other local businesses.
Challenge 8: Surrounded by countryside but public access is limited.
Solution: More than 25.2 hectares of new Common Land in the Green Belt would be created – that’s equivalent to 35 football pitches. In total 50.3 hectares of Green Belt land would be open and accessible to the public, enriched environmentally and protected in perpetuity from future development.
Challenge 9: Ensuring our existing countryside is resilient to climate change.
Solution: Working with environmental groups, Which Way Westerham is proposing to support extensive landscape restoration and biodiversity enrichment works elsewhere in the Green Belt, including along the River Darent.
Challenge 10: Parts of the town suffer from flooding causing damage to property.
Solution: The situation is only expected to get worse due to climate change so local action is needed. By taking a town wide view, involving new homes as well as environmental management, enables Which Way Westerham to tackle the issue of flooding and at the same time improve the landscape.
Challenge 11: How to reduce the M25’s impact on the town’s noise and air pollution.
Solution: Which Way Westerham is proposing the creation of an environmental screen 1.5km (0.9 miles) long and up to 10 metres high. The earth form to the south of the M25 would be planted with trees and hedges, joining up the woodland and reducing noise and pollution and benefiting the primary school particularly as well as nearby residents.
Challenge 12: How can we all help Westerham be the place we all want it to be?
Solution: Westerham will only be sustainable if the community, economy and environment are considered at the same time. Which Way Westerham brings a single solution to the challenges. It meets the need for more homes, reduces congestion, improves the town centre, provides much-needed community facilities, and enhances the local environment and Westerham’s landscape.
As with Green Belt land, national planning policy accepts major development in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) only in exceptional circumstances. For development on AONB land, there is a further test: despite the great weight to be given to conserving the landscape and scenic beauty, the development proposed must be demonstrably in the public interest.