Safe under us?

Safe under us report coverA report, published today, shows how government housing and planning policies have led to an unprecedented scale of threat to London’s Green Belt

The London Green Belt Council and CPRE London have published a joint report “‘Safe Under Us?’ An investigation into widespread threats from housebuilding in the London Metropolitan Green Belt”

The report shows that government policies and sanctions appear to be forcing councils to release Green Belt land for development.

Drawing on local evidence provided by CPRE branches in Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, London and Surrey, the report demonstrates that the London Green Belt is likely to be under greater threat than ever. There are now plans for 203 sites within the London Green Belt including proposals for 123,528 homes.  Within the 42 local planning authorities that were surveyed covering nearly 84% of all London Green Belt land, the majority of the proposed homes (94%) are on sites allocated by councils in their Local Plan documents. The London Green Belt is also under pressure from infrastructure such as schools and roads.


Lullingstone Park, photo by Susan Pittman

Lullingstone Park, photo by Susan Pittman

The report finds that there is national pressure being applied to Local Planning Authorities to deliver inflated housing targets. These targets are being inflated by unrealistic economic growth forecasts, forcing councils to give up Green Belt land.

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New interactive map of threats to the Green Belt

London Green Belt Council with CPRE London and seven other CPRE branches have made an interactive map showing threats to the London (Metropolitan) Green Belt. It is a worrying picture.

Screenshot of Threats Map

Campaigners have today published a map of threats to London’s Green Belt. It shows nearly 200 sites under threat from development and proposals for building over 110,000 houses on protected green belt land.

Catherine Maguire, Green Belt Campaigner, said: “London’s Green Belt has saved our countryside. It is hugely valuable – more so now than ever, with more and more pressure being piled on the South East. If it had not been for the London Green Belt preventing urban sprawl, London could have followed the example of Los Angeles, and now spread from Brighton to Cambridge, with millions of people car-dependent and horrendous traffic and pollution problems.

“The planning system has been weakened to the extent that even the ‘strongest protection’ afforded to green belt land is being ignored on a widespread basis. Even though the government has clarified that housing needs cannot ‘trump’ green belt, it has also piled pressure on councils to release land for new homes and does not take action when protected green belt land is released. This is flagrantly hypocritical.”

You can view the map here. To find out more about the Green Belt, its history and legal status, have a look at the London Green Belt Council website.

May 24th 2016

Shepway’s Otterpool Park – huge intrusion on landscape and villages

Shepway District Council (SDC) has announced plans for a “Garden Town” which would engulf Westenhanger, Newingreen, most of Lympne and some of Sellindge, together with up to 700 hectares (1730 acres) of countryside, bordering on the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Somehow, the council expects local residents to support this while the leader, Cllr David Monk, answers his critics with words like “It is not green space. Most of the time it’s brown, it’s mud, brown mud. It’s cockalooloo land. It is agricultural fields. You can’t say we can’t build on fields. It hardly affects anyone.” (quoted in Folkestone Herald 12/5/16).

Sheep in fields at Otterpool

Everything in this view, as far as the windmill (white tower), would be urbanised, photo by Graham Horner

CPRE fought hard to halt the urbanisation of this area through the examination of Shepway District’s Local Plan and the inspector agreed with us, throwing out proposals for just 400 houses on the Folkestone Racecourse site.  Now up to 12,000 houses are contemplated in the same area.  Shepway seem intent on filling up all land which is not AONB or on the Marsh with housing or allowing it to be concreted over for lorry parks.

Hilary Newport said “The garden city/village principles have merit, but CPRE believes that housing delivery should focus on putting effort into the regeneration of those brownfield sites that blight urban areas and communities. This site, by contrast, is in open countryside, near villages that are already struggling under the pressure of overdevelopment, and would be a huge intrusion on the landscape – indeed the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (a nationally important designation, equivalent in importance to a National Park) surrounds this area on three sides: walkers and riders on the North Downs Way national trail to the north would have their views across open landscape blighted.”

Otterpool Park 4 Otterpool Park 2


Photos by Graham Horner

May 16th 2016.

Nominate your Local Green Space

CPRE Kent is encouraging everyone to think about open areas in their neighbourhood and nominate them as “Local Green Spaces”. If adopted by local planning authorities in their local plan and/or in a neighbourhood plan, these areas will enjoy a status equivalent to Green Belt.

As all planning authorities in Kent are now updating their plans, now is your chance to get protection of the green spaces you love against building development. Shepway, for example, is calling for nominations in its latest consultation document here. The consultation closes on 11 March 2015.

Shorne Village, photo by Roy Dinnis

Shorne Village, photo by Roy Dinnis

There is no minimum or maximum size specified for a Local Green Space in the National Planning Policy Framework and CPRE Kent is opposing such restrictions being imposed in Local Plans.

Have a look around you and get your nominations in!

March 3rd 2015.

Date set for Heritage Symposium at Turner Contemporary

Margate Civic Society and the Margate Neighbourhood Plan Forum are hosting a symposium at Turner Contemporary on 17th March 2015 for all who are interested in preparing Local Lists of historic buildings.  This is a follow-up to our own meeting last November, targeted at the East Kent area, but open to all to attend.  It is an all-day event that will explore the process in more detail.

The keynote address will be given by James Kennell of the University of Greenwich Business School, who has written extensively on coastal cultural regeneration and tourism.  The Sevenoaks Society will update us on their local listing project in Sevenoaks Town, and our own Historic Buildings Committee will illustrate the need for Local Lists with some recent case notes.  The agenda is on the Margate Civic Society website.

Local Lists will be a record of the buildings which are treasured by the community and will help district councils in preparing their heritage policies for Local Plans and in determining planning applications.  CPRE Kent Historic Buildings Committee wants to see all planning authorities in Kent and Medway adopting such lists and is keen to get all civic societies and local historical societies involved, as well as those preparing Neighbourhood Plans.

To register your interest in the symposium, contact Geoff Orton at Margate Civic Society.

Your Built Heritage – Update

Our meeting in November brought together a number of people and organisations from all over the county with an interest in helping district planning authorities prepare local lists of heritage assets.  Members of the Sevenoaks Society described their project to list historic buildings in Sevenoaks town and the meeting discussed how similar projects could be progressed elsewhere.  The record of the meeting is here.

Things are moving on in Thanet, with a follow-up meeting being organised for February/March.  Representatives from the main civic societies in Thanet are involved, as well as colleagues in Sandwich and Deal.  If you want to be kept informed, contact our Historic Buildings Committee at

Your Built Heritage

CPRE Kent is encouraging everyone in the county to take more notice of the quality and history of the buildings where they live. More than 30 people representing heritage and amenity associations from across Kent attended a workshop today (Thursday 13 November) to find out about getting involved in drawing up Local Lists.

KHB workshop VE 007KHB Workshop VE (7) (3)


There are more listed buildings in Kent than in any other county, but there are many thousands more which are worth protecting from demolition or unsympathetic conversion.  At best, they might enjoy the protection of a conservation area, but most do not and their value may not even be recognised by the community.

Sittingbourne mill_1918Blue Boys Postcard mid c20

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Manston – while we have never opposed the development of Manston as a regional airport, we remain sceptical about its ambitions to become a successful international airport.  It has been operated as a fully commercial airport since 1992, and yet a succession of owners have not been able to make it a prosperous going concern.  Even though the latest owners Infratil have encouraged KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to fly from Manston, they are still proceeding with its sale.  The continuing promise of jobs that are never realised is just maintaining false hopes amongst Thanet’s residents.  We also remain opposed to night flights, believing that the disruption to the sleep of local residents and possible associated health aspects are untenable impacts from this very small gain in custom for the airport.

Innovative Rennie building reprieved at Sheerness

Mast House NE

Mast House north-east face

The CPRE Protect Kent Historic Buildings Committee is always on the lookout for threats to the County’s unmatched stock of listed and other valuable buildings. It speaks on these issues on behalf of the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) who recently described the Committee as one of its most active agents.

Early this year, the Committee joined with a number of other heritage conservation organisations to oppose the demolition of the Grade II* listed Working Mast House at Sheerness Docks to make way for a wind turbine manufacturing plant. The developer (Vestas) touted the environmental benefits of wind power and job creation as reasons why the demolition should be considered “wholly exceptional” under the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This argument was accepted by Swale Borough Council who voted to approve. We could not accept, though, that the demolition was absolutely necessary to obtain these benefits. We had submitted three alternative layouts for the facility, clearly demonstrating that there were solutions which did not involve loss of the heritage assets.

Sketch 2

One of the layouts submitted to the Planning Committee

Before the approval was issued Vestas withdrew but the port itself (supported by the Borough and County Councils) was keen to get planning consent so as to attract alternative investors. Swale now accepted our argument that any new developer might have very different ideas about how to lay out the site. The demolition applications for the Mast House and the Pumphouse for the dry-docks were withdrawn and outline planning permission for the rest has now been granted. Probably, the case for demolition will be made again should a new developer emerge.

The Working Mast House (1826) is one of the few remaining buildings from the time of the re-building of the Royal Naval Dockyard which John Rennie Snr designed. It is a brick-walled two-storey building with a cast iron internal structure and roof. The modular scheme developed by architect Edward Holl, and perhaps Rennie himself, was innovative and must have made for very economic and quick construction. Although parts of the structure are missing, as are many windows, the building still says a lot about the early days of metal-framed structures and the latter days of wooden shipbuilding.

The case raised a number of issues about the balance between public benefits and harm to an important heritage asset. In particular, the CBA’s specialist conservation team questioned the legitimacy of using the environmental benefits of wind power to outweigh any heritage arguments. There was also much debate about the value of reconstructing the building on a remote site, divorced from its associated structures, all of which are now hidden from view. The developer convinced the Council and English Heritage that it was better to spend money on smartening up the remaining heritage assets in the Dockyard (including the Grade I Boat Store) and providing for some public access to them. In our opinion however, what was proposed barely exceeded the port’s existing obligation to protect and preserve the heritage in the Docks.

Hythe Lifeboat Stations Saved

Hythe Lifeboat

The 1936 building (1893 building beyond).

The two lifeboat station buildings on Hythe’s Fishermans Beach were proposed to be demolished as part of a beach-side development.  The development was opposed by local residents because of the very intensive use of the site and the loss of these buildings and other facilities used by the small remaining fishing fleet.  If lost, the last remnants of infrastructure associated with the maritime activities of this Cinque Port would be gone.

The Historic Buildings Committee submitted an application for listed status for the lifeboat buildings, which was successful, and they are now being re-used in the development (which has also been scaled down).  It was the historical connections of the buildings to the lifeboatmen (mostly fishermen) and the community, rather than the architectural merit, which persuaded English Heritage to support the application.  Their military role (they were used as a watchtower for doodlebugs and for maintaining the land mines along the beach during WW II) was also considered important.