> SAVE FORGE FIELD! - The campaign to save Forge Field for future generations …


Welcome to the 'Save Forge Field' website. The Forge Field Society has taken on the difficult task of saving this beautiful field in the heart of our village.


Many of you may have heard or seen in the press news of the success of the Judicial challenges to planning permissions granted on Forge Field. Both planning approvals were quashed by Justice Lindblom in the high courts.

The main reasons for the judgement in our favour were those that we have been stating for around four years, namely, that the harm caused by building on this protected site was not properly balanced against the benefits accruing, and that alternative sites were not properly investigated.

This hiatus will hopefully give all parties a chance to reconsider the location of these affordable houses and to work with the community in deed rather than in word only, to achieve the desired outcome.

The full judgement can be seen via tab to the right.


Forge Field in the papers

The Times for Friday 13th July

The Times, Friday 13th July
Click this link to view it (PDF - 658kb)

Kent & Sussex Courier Friday 13th July

Kent & Sussex Courier, Friday 13th July
Click this link to view it (PDF - 156kb)

AOL Friday 13th July

AOL, Friday 13th July
Click this link to view it (PDF - 163kb)

Daily Telegraph for Monday 24th March 2014

Daily Telegraph, Monday 24th March 2014.
Larger version PDF on the right of this page.

Click this link to see it on-line:

Daily Telegraph for Tuesday 8th November

Daily Telegraph, 8th November 2011.
Larger version PDF on the right of this page.

Click this link to see it on-line:

1. The Rural Exceptions Policy H9

This lists 9 criteria that have to be met to allow development on highly protected land for affordable homes that include:

2).The identified local housing need cannot be met through development on allocated sites or other land …

3) The type and number of units proposed directly correlates to the identified local need …

5) The identified site … is acceptable in landscape, environmental and highway terms …

8) Preference will be given to the use of suitable derelict land or buildings …

2. Policy SP4

a. the local need identified through the rural housing needs survey cannot be met by any other means through the development of sites within the defined confines of a settlement within the parish or, where appropriate, in an adjacent parish …

c. the proposed site is considered suitable for such purposes by virtue of its scale and … there are no overriding countryside, conservation, environmental or highway impacts …

Under National, regional and local planning policies and guidance these are absolutely prime 'material planning considerations'.

We believe there are other areas for this development (which does not have to be all in 1 place), that other brownfield sites exist, that the landscape, conservation and highway impacts do outweigh the benefit of developing a part of Forge Field, that the scale of this proposal is not suitable and finally that the identified local need was for approximately 5 homes, not 6 (the sixth being suggested as a caretakers by Smiths Gore, whose name is on the plans …)

More considerations …

The Local Planning Authority (SDC) has 'a duty to preserve or enhance the character or appearance of conservation areas … to conserve buildings listed as being of special or historic interest and their settings …'

The LPA 'must not give rise to developments which … increase the risk of flooding or flood damage'

Visual amenity 'is a general term that is used to describe the character of a place: its appearance, environmental quality and even its ambience … factors that can affect amenity include the existing landscape … of the area, land use, the siting, layout and external appearance of development …'

Forge Field abuts The Old Smithy (a.k.a. Forge Garage, grade II designation) and lies directly opposite Star House (Grade II* designation) and these two significant buildings in English Heritage's own words form "part of a larger, historically significant ensemble of vernacular revival buildings in the centre of Penshurst"
English Heritage, Listing designation notice, 10 Feb, 2011 by Authority of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport)

David Cameron, Prime Minister, said in his letter to the National Trust in late September, 2011:

"Of course, we must ensure the appropriate protections for our magnificent countryside. This is why our reforms will maintain protections for the green belt, for National Parks and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty. It will introduce a new local green space designation which local communities can use to protect open places they value"

You can read his letter in full here.

Areas that are most relevant to Forge Field and material planning considerations:

  1. Forge Field is in Penshurst's Conservation Area. It is also within An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Green Belt and as such is highly protected from development.
  2. Forge Field sits opposite Star House, a Grade 2* Listed property.
  3. Forge Field sits beside Forge Garage, Listed earlier this year. (Forge Field sits between Forge Garage and Star House and is very much part of the 'ensemble' of that area)
  4. Half of the field sits within a potential flood plain which forces the developer to build nearer the top half of the field … so closer to the 2* Listed home
  5. David Cameron, as Prime Minister, has made clear, in what could be considered national planning guidance, that, under material planning considerations, AONBs will continue to have full protection
  6. All of the other sites that were initially considered which belonged to the Penshurst Estate were dismissed because the Estate would only release Forge Field. Penshurst Place boasts on its website of 'over 2,500 acres of parkland, woodland and farmland'. Under the strict H9 policy which allows for development of affordable housing on highly protected rural sites there must be no other land available. We believe there are several sites, owned by The Estate, that would be suitable. Land can be purchased under a compulsory purchase order hence making these sites a possibility, rendering the development of Forge Field under the H9 exception policies invalid.
  7. There were other available sites. These were dismissed by WHKA as too small, too far from the village, and suffering from difficult road access. We do not consider these reasons valid.

There are, of course, other reasons for objection (environmental, road traffic, lack of infrastructure etc.)


Alternative ways forward

There has been pressure throughout the last year's consultation process to rush. Some might even see this as unseemly, the desire to destroy so quickly something that has flourished for centuries.

No doubt there is a funding window and the possibility of changing legislation. However, as stated earlier, exceptional and historic villages cannot be newly created and it is a heavy responsibility to irreversibly alter one.

Thoughtful consideration to alternative sites and timescales needs to occur. It might be wiser to accept that the need for affordable housing is something to address over a longer period as appropriate sites become available.

There is even the question why affordable homes in these small numbers have to be built in clusters at all. Sites for one or two units will be easier to find and over time, and the result will be more socially inclusive.


If you would like to discuss any issue with SFF please contact the Forge Field Society on: info@saveforgefield.com

Forge Field Society contact number: 01892 870823

Thank you.
The Forge Field Society


SFF: Save Forge Field
SGC: Steering Group Committee
PPC: Penshurst Parish Council
SDC: Sevenoaks District Council
WKHA: West Kent Housing Authority
AONB: Area of outstanding Natural Beauty

  • The Full Judgement

    In the High Court of Justice
    Queen's Bench Division
    Before: Mr Justice Lindblom
    - 12 June 2014 -

    Click here to download in Adobe Acrobat PDF format

  • Penshurst News

    The July article in full.

    Click here to download in Adobe Acrobat PDF format

  • The Times
    Friday 13th July

    The Times for Friday 13th July

    Click here to view

  • Kent & Sussex Courier
    Friday 13th July

    Kent & Sussex Courier for Friday 13th July

    Click here to view

  • Aol
    Friday 13th July

    AOL Friday 13th July

    Click here to view

  • The Daily Telegraph
    Monday 24th March 2014

    Daily Telegraph for Monday 24th March 2014

    Click here to view

  • Latest AONB report
    on new plans

    You MUST read this …

    Click here to download in Adobe Acrobat PDF format

  • CPRE Letter

    "Let the Villagers decide …"

    Click here to view in JPEG format

  • The Daily Telegraph
    Tuesday 8th November

    Daily Telegraph for Tuesday 8th November

    Click here to view

  • How the Parish Council voted

    Only one single cllr from the Penshurst Ward (out of 5 elected) voted to support the project (cllr Broad) the other 4 'yes' votes came from the cllr's from Fordcombe who are also permitted to vote on this.

    The four cllr's from Fordcombe were appointed unopposed to their positions (as only 4 people stood for the 4 seats)

    This means the entire development, that affects the Villagers of Penshurst so deeply, has been approved by a single elected member from that Ward and 4 from an adjacent Ward.

  • "I would expect any such proposal to require the support of the majority of Villagers before it could be considered acceptable"

    Richard Morris
    Development Control Manager, SDC