Design and Heritage




4. Design & Heritage


4.1       From a historical perspective, the parish’s heritage is above all a Kentish Wealden one. It includes the great Wealden forest, the Anglo-Saxon ‘dens’ recalled in names such as Swattenden and Turnden, centuries of agriculture including hop growing and a surviving traditional High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) setting as described in the Landscape & Natural Environment section of this plan. Within that green environment, Cranbrook, with Sissinghurst, established itself as a remarkable and distinctive settlement, its population and wealth much increasing thanks to a major cloth industry in the late medieval and Tudor periods, from which many buildings still survive.


4.2       As other Kent towns continued to grow, Cranbrook did not keep pace, but remained a small town achieving near self-sufficiency, partly superseded by rail contact and some middle-class prosperity after the 1840s. This left behind a commercial and even industrial heritage, in addition to fine late Victorian architecture. Nevertheless, employment, incomes and the character of the parish remained primarily rural and agricultural until well into the 20th century. The following policies place most emphasis on the semi-urbanised population centres and their conservation areas. The rural heritage is described more fully by High Weald AONB.


Overall Policy Aims

     To promote the highest quality of design, efficiency, and appearance

     To retain the local historic settlement pattern

     To prioritise and optimise the use of previously developed land (“brownfield sites”) for new housing development that seek to enhance and improve these areas.

     To preserve, enhance and revitalise the historic centres of Cranbrook and Sissinghurst, strengthening their roles at the heart of the community for future generations

    To maintain and enhance the townscape setting of Cranbrook town centre, its roofscape, landmark buildings and views

    To maintain and enhance the surrounding setting of Sissinghurst village centre, its roofscape, landmark buildings and views

    To maintain and enhance the surrounding historic farmsteads and farmyards


    To create living and working environments that complement the rich and outstanding heritage of Cranbrook and Sissinghurst

    To ensure that any new development should have regard for the rich heritage within the parish

    Rectify the mistakes of the past through high quality redevelopment of existing poorly built assets

    To encourage innovative design fit for the future



Draft Policy DH1.1

Design Guidance

All proposals should meet the criteria outlined in the National Design Guide (2019)[1], the Kent Design Guide, the High Weald AONB Design Guidance (2019)[2] and the Parish Council Eco-Design Guide (See Appendix).


Policy Supporting Text

4.3       Design Guidance and supporting policies seek to create future places which become good places to live, work, play and visit through the principles of sustainable place-making. Close attention should be paid to these design principles, including an understanding of:


       Context – the relationship between the historic landscape and built form

       The typical historic street pattern and street hierarchy, with a diverse typology of built forms interspersed with narrow twittens

       Building form, layout, mass, proportions and framing of spaces between buildings

       The relationship between private and public spaces

       The distinctive and varied local vernacular and architectural details

       The characteristic green feel to the street scape and abundance of green spaces.


4.4       Applicants should be able to demonstrate their design process, from inception to first iteration. Applicants for larger sites will be expected to work closely with the community throughout all stages of the design evolution (see policy below). Close attention should be paid to local design character and the heritage design policies in the Design & Heritage chapter. The plan would also encourage innovation in design, modern or contemporary architecture. Such designs are applicable across the parish on individual sites for single dwellings, small scale and large-scale developments when done in sympathy with their town and/or landscape setting.


4.5       To address the climate emergency, the Parish Council wishes to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and has produced an Eco-Design Guide, which all applicants should adhere to in their proposals.



Draft Policy DH1.2

The Design of New Buildings Within, or Adjacent to, Conservation Areas

a)    New buildings within or abutting the conservation areas in Cranbrook and Sissinghurst Parish should respect local styles and use vernacular materials as detailed in Cranbrook Conservation Area Appraisal (CCAA) 2010[3], Sissinghurst Conservation Area Appraisal (SCAA) 2012[4] and Wilsley Green Conservation Area Appraisal (WGCAA) 2012[5].


b)    Development that would rise above the roofline of existing buildings or contrast negatively with the existing roofscape will not be permitted.


Policy Supporting Text

4.6       This policy does not require repetitive, ‘pattern book’ copies of existing buildings. Innovative design that respects Cranbrook and Sissinghurst’s sense of place, with appropriate materials, will be welcomed. Imaginative layouts, using terraces, courtyards, and varied height buildings, as appropriate to the site and location, will be essential to replicate the current diversity and densities of dwellings.


4.7       Cranbrook and Sissinghurst’s attractiveness as town and village is in large part due to their gradual development since the Middle Ages and to the diversity and quality of their buildings particularly in the conservation areas. Although there are buildings of many ages, they are linked by common materials drawn from the local countryside, such as bricks, clay tiles and weather boarding. There are other common features, such as: gables, dormer windows, timber frames, and most buildings are 2-3 storeys high. Together these different styles and ages of building form a harmonious whole.



Draft Policy DH1.3

Place-Shaping, Design and Community Involvement on Large Scale Developments

a)    Proposals for new housing developments on strategic sites should adhere to the place-shaping principles and design guidance in the National Design Guide (2019), the Kent Design Guide, the High Weald AONB Design Guidance (2019) and the Parish Council’s Eco-Design Guide.


b)    Developers should seek to engage with the community at an early in the design process, through collaborative participatory approaches such as co-design of master plans, workshops, and other engagement methods.


c)    Developers should continue to evolve their plans in consultation with community aspirations.


d)    Developers should adhere to design codes written by the community



Policy Supporting Text

4.8       The unique character and rich heritage of the parish’s built environment developed in harmony with an historic landscape of the High Weald AONB characterised by dispersed historic settlements of farmsteads and hamlets, and late medieval villages needs to be protected and learnt from. It provides an important model for future development that has been lost in recent years. Developments over the past seven decades have not followed the model of organic growth nor paid any regards to heritage. Mass housing estates of often low quality and poor architectural merit have been permitted in response to a growing population.


4.9       National housing targets and borough allocations threaten the further degradation of landscape and town settings if current planning and building trends are continued.



Draft Policy DH1.4

Making Efficient Use of Land Through Appropriate Densities

a)    In village and town centres and in greenfield sites adjacent to them, higher density, well designed and innovative developments will be expected.


b)    The same standards for high density and quality for proposals which seek to bring forward a higher proportion (over 50%; see AECOM Housing Needs Assessment 2017) of affordable housing throughout the parish will be supported.


c)    In locations outside the main settlement centres the density should reflect the character of the existing built form as well as the availability and capacity of infrastructure and services.


Policy Supporting Text

4.10   Cranbrook town centre and Sissinghurst village are both high-density settlements and derive much of their character from that feature. If the development of greenfield sites cannot be avoided, the most efficient use of land should be made to limit urban/suburban sprawl and the area of countryside lost to development.


4.11   Concentrating activity at the heart of settlements creates more opportunity for walking and cycling, rather than relying on the car to travel longer distances. The social interaction made possible by high density is another important feature, as the opportunity for informal conversations increases as people pass by one another, therefore enhancing the community spirit of the parish as a whole.



Draft Policy DH1.5

Avoidance of Light Pollution

a)    All exterior, street, and public lighting should comply with The Institute of Lighting Professionals Standard E1[6] for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A suitably qualified ecologist should work alongside a lighting engineer to produce an appropriate solution and evidence of this input should be provided.


b)    Impacts of lighting upon biodiversity should be identified and considered. Any negative impact should be avoided either by eliminating lighting altogether or through appropriate site and lighting design. Planning conditions and obligations should secure such avoidance measures and ensure appropriate lighting management in perpetuity.


Policy Supporting Text

4.12   The High Weald has some of the darkest skies in the South East, which have been identified as worthy of conservation by the International Dark Sky Association (IDSA). However, light pollution is rapidly increasing, and our dark skies may not exist for much longer[7]. Lighting can have an adverse impact on species, disrupting natural behaviour and reducing fitness, particularly for nocturnal invertebrates and mammals.


4.13   This includes bats, which are abundant in the parish. Potential impacts include roost/flight path/foraging area abandonment, later roost emergence time, impacts on habitat connectivity and increased risk of predation from avian predators. Lighting can draw insect prey away from dark areas if it has an ultra-violet component or high blue spectral content, reducing prey availability for rarer, light-avoiding species. Lighting must either be avoided altogether, or measures applied to eliminate impacts and protect important habitats. The principles that should be applied are as follows, and should be updated in accordance with any changes in best practice:


         Avoid lighting important habitats through sensitive site configuration

         Design in dark buffers and lighting zonation

         Establish and maintain appropriate lux limits

         Avoid UV lighting

         Specify LED where possible (this has a sharp cut off, lower intensity, good colour rendition and dimming capability

         Use recessed, bollard or low-level luminaires

         Use baffles and cowls to reduce light spill

         Use glazing treatments if light spill is likely from windows onto sensitive habitats

         Apply dimming or part-night lighting

4.14   A suitably qualified ecologist should work alongside a lighting engineer to produce an appropriate solution; evidence of this input should be provided with planning application.



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Dark Skies Map


Draft Policy DH1.6

Protect & Enhance the Historic Public Realm[8]

a)    The historic features of the public realm should be protected and maintained. Development which harms such features or their contribution to the conservation areas’ character or appearance will not be permitted, unless it can be demonstrated that it will deliver substantial community benefit.


b)    Any development that has an overbearing effect on any historic assets or harms their contribution to the conservation areas’ character will not be permitted. The context of the conservation areas should be protected, to ensure that any new adjacent development does not detract from it.


c)    Proposals that enhance the architectural interest of Cranbrook town centre, providing they demonstrate a sensitive and appropriate scheme of exceptional quality which respects local materials, site and context, will be supported.



Policy Supporting Text

4.15   The quality of public realm provision makes an important contribution to the character of the conservation areas, especially its open spaces. In Cranbrook, the York stone paving and double height pavement in the High Street, stone marks, church steps and the iron railings in the town centre are all worthy of protection. The network of twittens that typifies the historic core of Cranbrook is identified as an area of particular sensitivity to change, due to its distinctive local character and the town’s medieval settlement pattern. In Sissinghurst, the York stone paving outside the church, the brick paving along the street, and the many traditional iron railings to properties should, likewise, not be removed. The absence of yellow-line parking restrictions also contribute to the essential character of Sissinghurst village.


4.16   As stated in the CCAA 2010, “the heart of the conservation area was badly served by architects, designers, developers and planners in the 1960s”. In order to prevent such mistakes from occurring again, the highest quality of design materials and planning will be essential when considering any development within the historic Cranbrook town centre. Contemporary additions to the area can be designed in a sympathetic manner while still providing for the needs of the present day. The High Weald AONB Design Guide (2019) provides further details.


Draft Policy DH1.7

Creation of a New Town Square for Cranbrook

Proposals to provide a new outdoor public realm space for Cranbrook, a new “town square”, will be supported



Policy Supporting Text

4.17        An idea which emerged from the Visioning Events and Design Forum was to identify an outdoor public realm space which will act as a new civic focus for the town. For centuries Cranbrook undoubtedly had a central space large enough at least for a market cross and trading. Recent temporary revival of such space as an outdoor café on the south side of Stone Street was much appreciated by the community.


4.18        In addition to the wonderful facilities that Cranbrook has to offer the surrounding villages the proposed town square would provide the opportunity for a larger array of external events, catering for different tastes, and benefitting residents for example outdoors markets and live music events. Local individuals and organisations could have the space to enjoy cultural activities and connect with other members of the community.



Draft Policy DH1.8

Protection of Key Views

a)    Views of key buildings, roofscapes and landscapes should be protected and not harmed by new development, while opportunities to improve vistas and views of significant buildings within the parish will be encouraged.


b)    Planning applications should demonstrate the impact on views of relevant buildings and features including, but not limited to, the list below, and detail how they will retain visual prominence:


       The windmill

       St. Dunstan’s Church

       The cupola of Cranbrook School

       The Providence Chapel

       The war memorial

       The historic character and streetscape

       The medieval roofscape behind Stone Street and the High Street in the conservation areas (from within the town).

       The visibility of open countryside and green spaces within the town (from within the built-up area).


       Sissinghurst Castle

       Trinity Church

       The former primary school

       The Milkhouse Pub

       The former Wesleyan Chapel

       The medieval roofscapes and chimneys along the street

c)    Proposals will be required to demonstrate that development does not harm a series of protected views, as described in the supporting document “Cranbrook and Sissinghurst Neighbourhood Plan – views to be protected” [9] that are considered distinctive to the parish. Positive and active planning in this respect will be supported.


Policy Supporting Text

4.17   Cranbrook has many fine landmark buildings, visible both from within and outside the town. These all contribute to the heritage quality of the town and its sense of place. Likewise, Sissinghurst has many listed buildings, medieval roofscapes, chimneys, and impressive views of Sissinghurst Castle lying to the east on the edge of the settlement.

4.18   Engagement with residents has identified many of the precious views of both landscapes and buildings enjoyed and valued by locals and these are scheduled in the findings from the Cranbrook and Sissinghurst Landscape Character Assessment[10]. These views vary from far-reaching views of landscapes and distant horizons, such as can be seen from the ridges at Hartley, Mount Ephraim and Folly Hill, to more intimate glimpses of the historic parklands, like those of Great Swifts and Hartridge House[11].

4.19   The resonance felt by the appreciation of these views is clear and evident; quite simply, they make us feel better. In order to make a positive contribution to the landscape, developers should demonstrate and respond to this appreciation. How new development sits within these treasured views is a vital consideration, to be guided by the Housing and Design policies in this plan.



Draft Policy DH1.9

Protection & Enhancement of Shopfronts

a)    Proposals to maintain and improve shop fronts in Cranbrook and Sissinghurst will be supported.


b)    The promotion of traditional shopfronts, compatible in size and style with the building in which they are located, and the inclusion of features such as signage, painted lettering on wooden fascia boards, stall risers and fascia mounted pull-down awnings, will be supported.


c)    Proposals for new shopfronts, or alterations to existing ones will be supported, provided they align with the High Weald AONB Colour Study[12] and the TWBC Local Plan 2006 EN6 (shopfronts) and subsequent revisions of said policy.


Policy Supporting Text

4.19   Cranbrook has many independent shops with varied shopfronts which contribute to the vitality and uniqueness of the town. However, not all shopfronts are attractive – some have been marred by large plastic fascia boards, inappropriate windows, or overuse of company logos. This should be discouraged, and shopkeepers should be guided in the use of appropriate signage and fascia.

4.20   The few shopfronts in The Street, Sissinghurst, along with other former shopfronts, contribute to the interest of the village scene. However, not all shopfronts are of a traditional design with appropriate lettering. The TWBC Local Plan 2006 provides the following guidance: “Proposals for new shop fronts, or alterations to existing shop fronts, will be permitted provided all of the following criteria are satisfied:

a)    The proposal would be in sympathy with the architectural style, materials, and form of the building(s) of which it would form part, except in cases where the building itself is architecturally incompatible with the character of the area


b)    The proposal would be in sympathy with the predominant architectural style and materials of the surrounding area


c)     The shop front would be related to the width of the property or a logical vertical sub-division created by the upper storey. Where a single unit of occupation has been formed by amalgamating shop units, shop front design should relate to the original unit widths


d)    Where a fascia is to be applied, it would be of an appropriate height which would be in scale with the overall height of the shop front and other elements of the building and would not intrude over the first-floor level


Draft Policy DH1.10

Protect & Enhance the Conservation Areas

a)    All structures referred to in the CCAA 2010, WGCAA 2012 and SCAA 2012 of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Local Development Framework and the Historic England list of buildings of historic interest should be protected and enhanced.


b)    Buildings and features identified as heritage assets nationally and locally should be retained, protected, and enhanced[13].


Policy Supporting Text

4.21   Cranbrook has grown organically since medieval times and its many listed buildings contribute to the unique identity of the town. The historic centre is attractive and important to residents and visitors alike, particularly the long steep High Street and unusual L-shaped design, with views towards St Dunstan’s Church on the corner running down to Stone Street and leading up the Hill to the historic windmill.

4.22   Its distinctive design and architectural influences should be protected. The dispersed rural settlement of Wilsley Green, with its cluster of late 16th and 17th Century houses and cottages, has attractive wooded surroundings which should also be protected, as well as the Parish’s surviving Hop Gardens, Oast Houses and Hoppers’ Huts which are reminders of its exceptional hop-growing importance in the late 19th Century.

4.23   From medieval times, until relatively recently, Sissinghurst has expanded slowly , and its conservation area, at the heart of the village, greatly contributes to its identity. The wide and straight aspect of The Street with its historic buildings on both sides is the core of Sissinghurst. It is identified as an area of particular sensitivity to change, due to its distinctive local character and medieval settlement pattern.

4.24   Sissinghurst village has many listed buildings with interesting architectural features. The Street is fortunate that over the years it has not been visually spoilt with yellow parking lines or pedestrian crossing markings and street furniture. Other than the occasional rebuild, the village buildings have changed little in appearance over the decades. There is widespread local support to maintain the status quo, as evidenced at public engagements throughout the process.



Draft Policy DH1.11

Protection & Enhancement of Heritage Buildings

a)    Heritage buildings and structures outside the designated Conservation Areas should be protected and enhanced.


b)    Development proposals should preserve and enhance the historic buildings, structures and agricultural areas within the parish in accordance with the High Weald AONB Management Plan 2019-24[14].


Policy Supporting Text

4.25   Although many buildings in the parish are protected within the conservation areas, there are many heritage buildings outside these designated areas. These include buildings such as cloth halls, farmhouses, historic farmsteads, oast houses, hoppers’ huts and agricultural buildings, as well as small-scale structures such as cow byres and pig sties.


4.26   The High Weald AONB unit is particularly concerned about smaller agricultural structures (pre-1950) as these are becoming increasingly rare, through conversion, replacement, or demolition. There is also concern over the threat to historic farmsteads through insensitive over-development without due attention to the underlying archaeology.



Draft Policy DH1.12

Protection of Agricultural Heritage Assets

a)    Proposals that protect the built agricultural heritage (historic farmsteads) by the avoidance of division of the farmyard curtilage around which the buildings stand will be supported.


b)    Proposals that will preserve the relationship between the farmyard space and the buildings surrounding it will be supported.


c)    Proposals that will protect and enhance the diminishing number of historic small agricultural buildings, especially cattle sheds and unconverted barns will be supported.


Policy Supporting Text

4.27   There is an opportunity to protect and enhance the significant agricultural heritage within the parish and create interesting development with real character. Through preserving the medieval field patterns and the space of farmyards themselves in relation to the buildings around them, the local area will retain its pockets of unique interventions within the landscape.


4.28   Development centred on these historic farmsteads should be sympathetic to their heritage and character. Contemporary additions can be designed in such a way that draws out the best qualities of the site while adding something new for the 21st century, retaining the small buildings which may otherwise be overlooked and demolished.



Draft Policy DH1.13

Cranbrook Windmill

a)    The character, operation and fabric of the windmill should be protected.


b)    The potential impact of any development on the mill’s access to wind shall be determined using the Dutch mathematical model called ‘Molen Biotoop’ (windmill living space).[15]


Policy Supporting Text

4.29        Cranbrook Windmill is an iconic landmark within the town. Visitors and residents alike love to see it ‘come alive’ with the sweeps turning by wind power, which is a rare sight in the modern day. Access to the wind is a vital part of the windmill’s heritage value. Protecting the windmill and its surrounding area is essential for the local identity of the parish.


4.30        The Molen Biotoop Model specifies that no development within 100m of the mill should be higher than the existing or adjacent buildings and no existing building should be extended upwards to be higher. At distances between 100m – 400m from the mill, development should not be allowed if it affects the wind speed at the mill by more than 5% in any direction, as calculated by the Molen Biotoop Model.



Draft Policy DH1.14

Retention & Restoration of the Providence Chapel

a)    The Providence Chapel should be restored and revitalised so that it becomes an integral part of the social and community life of the town.


b)    Planning applications for conversion to use class A1 Shops, A2 Financial and Professional Services, or A3 Restaurants and Cafes will be considered to facilitate restoration.


Policy Supporting Text

4.31   The Providence Chapel is in a central location in Cranbrook. It is an important heritage building, listed Grade II* because of its original construction method in the early 19th century, using prefabrication. The Chapel is a landmark within the town centre and attracts tourist attention.


4.32   There is widespread support locally to restore this iconic building. The Providence Chapel is listed on the 2019 ‘Heritage at Risk South East’[16] register compiled by Historic England. Its condition is described as ‘very bad’ which threatens its historic character and detracts from the aesthetic appearance of the historic town centre. The dilapidated condition of the Providence Chapel has also been highlighted in CCAA 2010 and warrants immediate attention.






Design & Heritage Eco-Design Guide

4.33   Cranbrook & Sissinghurst Parish Council NDP promotes the highest standards of eco-design and construction in refurbishments and new developments; use of local resources in construction; and environmental enhancement of development sites, including biodiversity restoration and carbon offsetting through tree planting.


4.34   The Eco-Design Guide is provided as a guide to homeowners, builders and developers when designing refurbishments, extensions, new buildings, and developments. The energy efficiency aspect of the Eco-design Guide is based on the internationally recognised Passivhaus Standard ( for energy efficient, healthy, comfortable buildings. The standard is more stringent in terms of energy efficiency than current UK building regulations. Construction costs are on average 5% higher but benefits are accrued through a 15% premium on market value over conventional buildings and energy running costs are typically 90% less, providing lifetime savings.


4.35   The standard is widely accepted by self-builders, local authorities, and housing associations. To comply with the standard buildings must meet the following criteria:


a)      Space heating energy demand does not to exceed 15 kWh per square metre of net living space (treated floor area) per year or 10 W per square metre peak demand


b)      Renewable primary energy demand (total energy used for all domestic applications – heating, hot water, and domestic electricity) does not exceed 60 kWh per square metre of treated floor area per year


c)       Airtightness, a maximum of 0.6 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals pressure as verified by an onsite pressure test


d)      Thermal comfort is met for all living areas during winter as well as in summer, with not more than 10% of the hours each year over 25°C


4.35   The above criteria are achieved through intelligent design and a combination of:


·          Low air infiltration enough to provide extremely high air quality without unnecessarily cooling


·          High thermal insulation of the opaque envelope of the building ( U-value of 0.15 W/m²K), low heat transfer glazing ( U-value of 0.80 W/m²K) and absence of thermal bridges


·          Passive solar collection by having most of the glazing to the south and designing windows with high solar heat-gain coefficients


·          Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) system that provides high quality ventilation while recovering over 80% of the heat from outgoing air


Other considerations

4.36   Other energy efficiency and environmentally friendly measures are advocated including:


         Wood burner heating systems with balanced flue chimneys to conserve energy and make use of a cheap, plentiful, and local carbon dioxide neutral fuel – for when the Passivhaus Standard is not adopted in full


         Rainwater recycling to minimise water consumption


         Energy and water efficient appliances such as washing machines and shower heads


         Local materials such as timber, bricks, tiles, stone, and natural insulation from local suppliers to reduce delivery miles, support local enterprise and help fit with vernacular aesthetics


         Electric vehicle charging points to encourage zero emission mobility


         Composting areas


         Outdoor clothes airers


         Environmental protection and enhancement of development sites and carbon offsetting by tree planting, where applicable.


[7] See Dark Skies Map, page xx

[8] “The Public Realm embraces the external places in our towns and cities that are accessible to all. These are the everyday spaces that we move through and linger within, the places where we live, work and play”.

[9] “Cranbrook and Sissinghurst Neighbourhood Plan – views to be protected” – see NDP website

[10] See evidence gathered at the Landscape and Character Assessment Workshop held in February 2017, in which the public specified valued views within the parish to be protected. See also Design Forum evidence from May 2017.


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