Thanet farmland targeted by Gladman

The red arrows mark where Gladman would like houses to be built

Tonight (Wednesday, April 21) Thanet District Council will decide whether planning permission should be granted for the building of 450 houses on agricultural land on Margate’s Shottendane Road.
The applicant, land agent Gladman Developments, has already cut affordable housing on the site from 30 per cent to 10 per cent so is not addressing the issue of providing affordable housing for local people.
The planned development is linked to proposed housing schemes at nearby Westgate and Birchington via Section 106 payments for a new ‘inner circuit’ road. Together, they would mean the loss of some 750 acres of farmland.
The attractive character of central Thanet’s undulating chalk farmland will be changed forever by the proposed housing, roadbuilding and streetlighting, while open views from footpaths enjoyed by so many will go, with some of the footpaths absorbed into new housing estates.
Farmland birds such as skylarks and other wildlife will lose their habitat. And another chunk of Thanet’s long farming heritage will be lost.
CPRE Thanet has put in a strong objection to the proposed development, while you can read the submission from Margate Civic Society here

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

No cheer on Princes Parade

This stretch of the Royal Military Canal, a scheduled historic monument, is already looking very different

Proposals to develop Princes Parade in Hythe are still being pushed along despite the divisive nature of the scheme.
It was in August 2018 that Folkestone and Hythe District Council awarded itself permission to develop land it owns on the site, its planning committee approving an application for up to 150 houses and associated buildings including a leisure centre, hotel and café or restaurant.
Despite this, the campaign to block the scheme, spearheaded by Save Princes Parade, refused to die, although protestors were dismayed when in February 2019 the government announced it would not be calling in the council’s decision.
Undeterred, campaigners forced a judicial review. There was a substantive hearing in the High Court in March last year, but some three months later they learnt this had been dismissed by the High Court.
And in December, permission to appeal that review was refused, causing Folkestone and Hythe District Council to declare: “There is no other route of appeal against the decision and the Princes Parade development can now go ahead.”
However, so contentious is the scheme, which borders a stretch of the Royal Military Canal, that some councillors have still not given up the fight. During the local authority’s cabinet and full council meetings on Wednesday, February 24, one asked that almost £29 million be removed from its General Fund Medium Term Capital Programme, effectively denying the funds required for the project to proceed.
The councillor suggested focus should move instead to building a leisure centre elsewhere in the town, “probably at Martello Lakes”.
His amendment was, however, voted down by 16 votes to 13.
Work has now begun on clearing the site, by the Royal Military Canal – the upsetting scene of trees and vegetation being chopped down sparked a protest to which the police were called.
There is also concern that the powerful weedkiller glyphosate is reportedly being used to kill the stumps left by the tree-chopping on the north bank of the canal. It has been pointed out that there are no signs or barriers warning the chemical is being used in an area where children and dogs could come into contact with it.
It would, also, of course be far more environmentally desirable to leave the stumps to degrade naturally.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Sevenoaks knocked back again in Local Plan dispute

Sevenoaks now wants to meet Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick

The latest attempt by Sevenoaks District Council to defend its Local Plan has fallen in the High Court.
The local authority in November failed in its judicial review of a planning inspector’s refusal to approve its Local Plan.
The local authority had brought the review of inspector Karen Baker’s conclusion that it had failed to comply with the required duty to cooperate when preparing its Plan.
But in the Planning Court, Mr Justice Dove rejected the council’s challenge, saying Sevenoaks had engaged fully with neighbouring local authorities only when it became clear at the Reg 18 stage that housing need could not be met, rather than as part of the whole process.
Sevenoaks went on to contest that verdict, but on Friday, April 9, a High Court judge dismissed the challenge.
Peter Fleming, council leader, said Sevenoaks would now seek a meeting with Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in a bid to agree a strategy on developing a new Local Plan.
Until that happens, it is feared the district could be vulnerable to speculative development proposals. Nigel Britten, CPRE Kent’s Sevenoaks chairman, said: “We are in a slightly difficult position as we do not have a set five-year land housing supply.”

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Revised Lower Thames Crossing plans miss Easter target date

‘It’s been a really busy time for the project,’ according to a Highways England statement

Highways England has failed to hit its own target in resubmitting plans for the Lower Thames Crossing.
In November, the government agency withdrew its application for a Development Consent Order to build the Lower Thames Crossing, saying it would put in revised plans to the Planning Inspectorate by Easter.
However, they have yet to appear, Highways England just offering the following statement:
“It’s been a really busy time for the project as we continue to work hard to submit our revised planning application later this year.
“We’re absolutely determined to bring you these benefits as soon as possible, so it’s essential we continue to maintain momentum on the project.
“We initially submitted our planning application back in October, which we then withdrew following some feedback from the Planning Inspectorate.
“They have asked us to provide some more information on some technical elements of our application.
“We’re busy bringing this information together, but we also see this as a great opportunity to strengthen our application as we continue to work with key stakeholders to make the Lower Thames Crossing the best it can possibly be.”

For more on this story, click here

Friday, April 16, 2021

It’s out! The latest edition of Kent Countryside Voice is here for you all to enjoy

The wait is over – the spring edition of Kent Countryside Voice is with us!
Features on the glory of hedgerows, possible ways to tackle the county’s water crisis and the threat posed by a planned theme park to a wildlife haven are among a cornucopia of treats for all who treasure our county’s countryside.
So settle back with a brew or your favourite tipple and enjoy a great read here

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Thanet council proposals to charge public in planning process: we question lawfulness, lack of democracy and equity

Thanet council plans to charge a fee to process public comments it deems long and complex

A consultation on Thanet District Council’s Statement of Community Involvement closed last week – and CPRE Kent is less than impressed.
A Statement of Community Involvement sets out how a council intends to engage the local community and others in planning matters. It is an important document that should help ensure that planning process is fair, open and accessible to all.
Or not, in the case of Thanet.
While CPRE Kent made several comments on the detail of the document, it is TDC’s intention to charge a fee to process public comments that it deems long and complex that has caused us most concern.  
Not only do we question the lawfulness of this, but we also point out that it is undemocratic and potentially discriminatory.
We have called for this proposal to be removed from the document. If it is to remain, as a minimum we have asked for the basis on which the charge is deemed lawful to be reported back to members.   
The outcome of the consultation, along with any resulting changes, will shortly be reported back to Thanet council members before formal adoption.
We will be watching the response very closely.

  • For more on Thanet planning issues, click here

Monday, April 12, 2021

Credit to Dartford council as it prepares a genuine brownfield-first strategy

Let’s hope Dartford Borough Council’s good work is not undone on the Swanscombe peninsula, which is threatened by the proposed London Resort theme park (pic Paul Buckley)

Consultation on Dartford Borough Council’s pre-submission version of its Local Plan closed today (Friday, April 9, 2021) and CPRE Kent feels this has been largely a positive example of Plan-making within the constraints of the planning system. 
By focusing development on well-connected brownfield sites within the town of Dartford and at Ebbsfleet Garden City, the Plan is essentially a genuine example of a brownfield-first strategy. Coupled with strong Green Belt protection policies and policies responding to the climate-change emergency, there is a lot to commend.
Of course, there remains areas where things could be better. We have taken exception to the continued support of roadbuilding within a borough that has some the worst air quality in the South East and the council’s continued support for the Lower Thames Crossing.
We have called on the authority to be bolder with measures to truly respond to our biodiversity crisis, along with further strengthening of active-travel measures.
We were disappointed not to see a policy protecting intrinsically dark landscapes. We have reminded it about the implications of Natural England’s designation of Swanscombe Marshes and land to the south as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Overall, though, there was certainly as much good as there was bad. We now must just hope that this good work is not undone should the proposed London Resort theme park be consented. 

  • You can read our comments here

Friday, April 9, 2021

Manston: another problem looms in freight-hub bid

Manston: no end in sight to the saga

Proposals to reopen Manston airport as a freight hub have hit yet another stumbling block.
No sooner had the granting of a Development Consent Order allowing developer RiverOak Strategic Partners to progress its plans been quashed than it has now learnt it must also resubmit documents relating to air space.
February’s High Court quashing of the DCO was down to the approval letter from Andrew Stephenson, Minister of State for Transport, not containing enough detail on why he had effectively dismissed the conclusions of the Planning Inspectorate’s Examining Authority.
The court verdict meant the DCO process had to be restarted, but RSP has also fallen short in convincing the Civil Aviation Authority to approve its Airspace Change Proposal.
For that change to be backed by the CAA, RSP needed to complete seven stages and 14 steps; it also had to win approval for four ‘gateways’.
Sadly for RSP, however, the CAA concluded that RSP’s ‘develop and assess gateway’ included in the second stage of the process was unacceptable.
Last week’s CAA pronouncement cited “errors and inconsistencies” in RSP’s submission, which failed to meet two necessary criteria.
It said: “The Civil Aviation Authority has informed the change sponsor [RSP] of this decision.
“The change sponsor is now able to reconsider its submission before resubmitting it for further review by the Civil Aviation Authority at a future develop & assess gateway.
“It is important to note that whether an airspace change proposal passes a gateway successfully or not does not predetermine the CAA’s later final decision on whether to approve the airspace change proposal.
“This decision is not an explicit or implicit comment on the merits or otherwise of this Airspace Change Proposal (ACP). This will come at the decision-making stage.”
Responding, RSP said: “In order for the CAA to allow an ACP to pass through a gateway, the change sponsor must satisfy the CAA that it has followed the process correctly before it can move to the next stage in the process.
“The purpose is to minimise any work having to be repeated, particularly in getting the supporting documentation for consultation right.
“Following advice from the CAA, RSP will re-evaluate the supporting documentation with a view to submitting the documents to the CAA for a further Stage 2 Gateway Assessment in the near future and progressing the ACP to the next stage which will involve a full public consultation.”

Friday, April 9, 2021

Dramatic reduction in light pollution during lockdown, Star Count reveals

Three times as many people took part in the 2021 Star Count than in previous years

A nationwide Star Count conducted in February has revealed a significant drop in light pollution levels across the UK.
Almost 8,000 counts were submitted from February 6-14 in the annual citizen-science project that asks people to count the number of stars they see in the Orion constellation. 
A total of 51 per cent of people noted 10 or fewer stars, indicating severe light pollution. This compares with 61 per cent during the same period last year.
Thirty or more stars indicates truly dark skies and were seen by 5 per cent of participants – the highest figure since 2013.
Lockdown is the most likely reason for this change, with reduced human activity resulting in quieter-than-usual urban areas. Similar patterns have been found with air pollution, which has also dropped across the country. 
The results have been launched to mark International Dark Skies Week, run by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDSA), which raises awareness on the impacts of light pollution.  
Light pollution can negatively affect human health and wildlife by disturbing animals’ natural cycles and behaviour. Badly-designed, wasteful light also contributes to climate change and obscures our connection to the universe. 
CPRE, the countryside charity, and IDSA want to combat light pollution through strong local and national policies while also protecting and enhancing existing dark skies. This involves putting the right light in the right places, such as LED lights that only illuminate where we walk and turning off lights in places like office buildings when they’re unoccupied. 
CPRE and IDSA hope this fall in people experiencing the most severe light pollution – an unintended but positive consequence of lockdown – continues long after coronavirus restrictions are lifted so more people can experience the wonder of a truly dark sky.
Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, said: “It’s been an absolutely stellar year for Star Count. We had three times as many people taking part compared with previous years and I’m delighted to see severe light pollution appears to have fallen. It’s likely this is an unintended positive consequence of lockdown, as our night-time habits have changed. Let’s hope we can hold on to some of this achievement as we ‘unlock’.
“Looking up at a starry night sky is a magical sight and one we believe everyone should be able to experience, wherever they live. And the great thing is, light pollution is one of the easiest kinds of pollution to reverse – by ensuring well-designed lighting is used only where and when needed, and that there is strong national and local government policy.”
Ruskin Hartley, executive director of the International Dark-Sky Association, said: “We believe that solving the problem of light pollution begins with a realisation that the problem exists. For many people, participating in the Star Count may have been their first direct encounter an unpolluted night sky due to the loss of artificial light. 
“As realisation turns to action, we look forward to working with CPRE to bring attention and resources to turning the tide, and bringing natural night-time darkness back to more of the UK.”

  • To see the interactive map showing results from Star Count 2021, click here

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Can you chip in to Kent Downs campaign as judicial review looms?

The countryside around the circuit is beautiful (pic WEPG)

Would you like to help campaigners in their battle to protect a swathe of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Beauty from a highly damaging development?
Wootton Environment Protection Group is challenging Dover District Council’s decision to allow Lydden Hill race circuit to increase the days it can be used from 52 days a year to 364.
The council’s backing for the circuit means people living in nearby villages such as Denton, Shepherdswell and Wootton would have to suffer further intrusive noise, toxic fumes and extreme light pollution. However, WEPG has secured a judicial review of the decision and this is likely to be heard in the High Court in April or May.
Such moves do not of course come cheaply and the group has set up a crowdfunding page to help cover the cost.
A group spokesman said: “WEPG has worked tirelessly for years to protect our natural environment. We have already raised £15,000, but we need to raise a further £10,000 to challenge this damaging decision.
“We could really do with some help in protecting our beautiful and tranquil area for generations to come from this ruthless and ill-thought-out development.”
CPRE Kent supported the campaign during its early stages. A spokesman for the countryside charity said: “What we really want is Dover District Council to take seriously the need for proper controls at the circuit and engage in proper liaison with neighbouring communities.
“The present operations at Lydden respect neither the AONB nor the neighbours and the proposals would make matters even worse without proper controls and respect.
“Sadly, the only way forward, as things stand, is through a judicial review.” 
We’ll leave the final word to the WEPG spokesman: “If you can, please donate to our campaign and share what we’re doing with your family and friends. Every penny will be so very welcomed and appreciated. All administrative costs are absorbed by our volunteers.”

  • If you would like to contribute to the Wootton Environment Protection Group as it prepares for the High Court judicial review, please click here
  • For more on the expansion of Lydden Hill race circuit, click here

Monday, March 29, 2021

Gardening for wildlife (and you!)

Everything in the garden’s lovely… especially if you let nature have its place (pic Richard Kinzler)

Gardens cover more land in this country than do nature reserves, so their potential value for wildlife is obvious. Vicky Ellis shows how we can provide a home for our flora and fauna while keeping everything in the garden lovely.        

Considering wildlife while gardening does not necessarily mean only wild lawns and stinging nettles. It is possible to grow flowers, vegetables and wildlife and have a lovely garden, too.
The area that gardens occupy in the UK adds up to an area larger than all our nature reserves combined. This drums home how important our gardens are to nature and what they could potentially contribute to our biodiversity, especially when considering that our gardens were probably once part of our countryside. Even window boxes and balconies can play an important role in our environment and, in turn, our health and well-being.
Two of the most damaging things we can do in our gardens is lay down plastic turf or concrete. Plastic turf, or artificial grass, is effectively just that, plastic, and as it breaks down, so the micro-particles of plastic are absorbed into the ground below.
Plastic turf is the single worst option, not just from an environmental stance but also hygiene and waste, with no biodiversity benefits at all – it is a threat to the habitat of birds, bees, butterflies and other critters and creates landfill that will never break down.
The Guardian reported on a study in 2011 that revealed almost 3,000 hectares (7,413 acres or 12 square miles) of green gardens had been lost in eight years, equivalent to two Hyde Parks per year, to artificial grass, decking and concreting. Concrete is impermeable, causing run-off when it rains, and provides little or no shelter to invertebrates.
Even the best-kept lawns have bees that burrow and worms, crane fly larvae and other grubs living beneath the surface. All these help the lawn maintain its structure and ability to absorb nutrients. A lawn is a living, breathing thing, providing habitat, shelter and food for all sorts of wildlife. Cover it up and you create a dead zone.
So how to maximise your space for biodiversity? The more diverse habitats you can fit in, the better. Habitats cater for different species of flora and fauna depending on where your garden is (coastal, woodland and so on) and the soil type, such as clay, sandy or loamy. To avoid getting bogged down in detail, we will stick to the basics that would fit most garden types.
The first step is to retrain your mind to accept that nature is not naturally neat and tidy with straight edges; it is unpredictable, surprising and changeable. Once you have accepted these three things, you can relax and enjoy your garden so much more as you won’t fret about a weed or two in the flowerbed (a weed is simply a plant growing in the wrong place – if you accept wildflowers, there are no such thing as weeds), or the fact that your lawn is more than an inch high!

Wood piles
One of the easiest features to add to any garden is a wood pile. Rotting wood provides food, shelter and nesting sites for invertebrates, amphibians and reptiles. Try to find a sheltered, quiet area in a corner for your log pile and use different types of wood of varying sizes. You can place them stacked on top or randomly clustered together as long as it creates a pile of some sort and, if possible, half-bury the bottom logs. The wood at the bottom should remain damp, even during dry spells; this really aids pupae, molluscs and nematodes. As the logs rot, they provide homes for an array of fungi.

Rock piles
As with logs, rocks provide shelter and basking areas for reptiles. The bottom rocks should remain damp and a pile will provide a sculptural focus for your garden. Try not to place them anywhere hot and exposed. Over time they can become covered in moss, which provides a micro-habitat for invertebrates, holding in moisture. To make your rock pile look even more attractive and colourful, plant with alpines and other plants to create a rock garden, or just wait and see what grows naturally. Maybe keep a diary of what appears.

Where possible, place your wildlife pond so it is half in shade and half in the sun (pic Richard Kinzler)

Ponds
Water will not just enhance the look of a garden, it will substantially increase biodiversity. You do not need to build a huge pond, a small upturned bin lid or indeed any large receptacle capable of holding water will suffice. It is important to incorporate an escape route for small mammals that might fall into your pond, so put in a ramp; it is best to grade the pond from very shallow at the margins, gradually deepening to the centre. Putting shingle around the shallower edges helps provide shelter and hiding places for aquatic insects and nymphs and gives an opportunity for birds to bathe. Some substrate at the bottom of the pond provides shelter and hiding places for aquatic insects that prefer deeper water. Plant a few reeds round the edges if there’s room as these allow nymphs to come out of the water to morph, while if possible place your pond so it is half in shade and half in the sun.
Resist adding fish as they will feed on invertebrates and aquatic insects or the eggs of amphibians. Unless it is huge, fish do more harm than good in a wildlife pond. Once you have created your pond, aquatic insects such as diving beetles, water boatmen and water skaters will make use of it almost immediately. They seem to parachute in out of nowhere.  
Around the margins you can put water-loving native plants such as water mint, arrowhead, water forget-me-nots, marsh marigold and yellow flag iris and place rocks and other water features to enhance the natural look. To help oxygenate the water, plant hornwort, spiked water milfoil and water soldiers.  

Lawns
Lawns do not have to comprise simply grass – you can have a moss lawn, chamomile or clover. Allowing your lawn to grow up in patches encourages grasshoppers, crickets, moths, butterflies and damselflies. Why not allow the grass to grow and then mow paths through the long grass? Take part in ‘No Mow May’ and see what spring flowers you have lurking within your lawn that you never knew were there – there may even be a hidden orchid or two. Having a lawn encompassing an array of native plants such as dandelion, scarlet pimpernel, bird’s-foot trefoil and daisies can look so pretty if allowed to flourish and the pollinators will love it! You will witness more bees, hoverflies and flower beetles and your lawn will come alive with all the activity. It is still important to have mown areas to allow birds to find grubs and seeds.

Height
Varying height in a garden can be attractive to an array of flora and fauna. We have covered the lower-down areas of your garden with log and stone piles and a pond, now we’re going to consider the flowerbeds, pots, shrubs and trees.

Flowerbeds
In your flowerbed, place small plants at the front, working up to larger plants at the back, using pollinator-friendly plants with a mixture of perennials and annuals such as lavender, cornflowers, alliums, foxgloves, cosmos, sunflowers, hollyhocks, lupins and fennel. You can dot the odd vegetable to harvest among your flowering plants. Avoid ornamental double-headed flowers as bees find it difficult to reach the centre of the flower. If you are feeling adventurous, buy a wildflower seed mix and see what grows. Here you can throw caution to the wind and really cram in the flowers. Think about flowering seasons and try to place plants that flower at different times to extend the flowering season for as long as possible from spring through to autumn.

Deptford pink (pic Richard Kinzler)

Pots
If you have no room for a flowerbed or prefer pots, you can still grow all the plants already mentioned. Dwarf fruit trees flowering in March and May help provide bees with their first food and then give you a tasty harvest come autumn. The same goes for window boxes and hanging baskets – all these plants can be grown in the tiniest garden or balcony and all help our pollinators.

Shrubs and trees
Flowering shrubs such as buddleia, lilac, choisya and manuka encourage butterflies and bees. If dense enough, you might even get a wren nesting in the shrub. Trees provide nesting areas for birds and, if fruit or nut trees, the blossom provides food for pollinators in spring and the fruit food for birds and small mammals in autumn. Try to think about how useful the tree or shrub is when choosing, rather than its ornamental qualities. Often you will find that any shrub or tree that flowers has highly attractive qualities. If you have a large garden, think linear when placing your trees and shrubs to help create feeding corridors for bats.

Wild areas
Being bold and allowing your garden to grow wild in parts if you have room can be so beneficial for insects, especially caterpillars. A few stinging nettles, brambles and thistles, for instance, are sought after by some species. The peacock butterfly will lay its eggs on stinging nettles, while bumble bees and cabbage whites will enjoy the thistles. To prevent these plants from taking over, you will need to manage them through the year, but the benefits a wild area provides in a wildlife garden are well worth the effort. Be aware that some wildflowers are notifiable, such as spear thistle and ragwort. However, there are ornamental thistles on the market that can be as equally beneficial, while one or two carefully managed specimens of ragwort, an important food plant for the cinnabar moth, placed safely away from any cattle or horses, will do no harm if as soon as it’s finished flowering and before it turns to seed, are topped immediately and disposed of carefully by either burning or landfill. Note that ragwort is still toxic to animals even when cut.

Compost heaps
Compost does not just supply regular natural earth and food for plants, it also provides a habitat for wildlife. Slugs and snails are nature’s recyclers and a source of food for birds such as thrushes, frogs, toads, hedgehogs and ground beetles. Worms love a compost heap and help turn your waste into soil. Snakes seek out the warmth of a heap and may even lay their eggs there, so be careful when turning your heap over – avoid using a sharp garden fork.

Wildlife at night
Nocturnal pollinators such as moths benefit from night-scented blooming plants such as honeysuckle, jasmin, tuberose, japonica and evening primrose. These insects in turn are valuable prey for bats. 

Privet hawk-moth… a spectacular member of its tribe (pic Richard Kinzler)

Other enhancements
There are lots you can add to your garden such as insect hotels, bee homes, nesting boxes, bat boxes, a toad house, a bird bath, a watering hole for hedgehogs and feeding stations for birds and mammals. It’s best not to feed birds during the nesting season; the parents should be foraging for a balanced diet, otherwise they will just choose what’s on offer from you, which may not be the best option for growing chicks. Try to place any bird-feeder up in trees or tall bushes; this helps protect visiting birds from aerial predators and gives them a chance to escape. A tree or bush is also a more natural place for them to feed.
You could make your own bug hotel using stacked crates with moss, logs, clay pots, sticks and hollow tubes stuffed in the gaps between. It won’t take long before the residents move in.

  • CPRE Kent has an array of wildlife-friendly enhancements for your garden for sale, so why not email the office for more information at info@cprekent.org.uk?

Butterfly house: £10

Bee hotel: £10

Bird nesting boxes: £10

Bug hotels: £15

Toad house – £10

Friday, March 26, 2021

‘Six long years of dither and delay’: the countryside charity reacts as DRS is pushed back to 2024… at best

We had hoped the DRS might result in a lot less of this (pic Brian Yurasits/Unsplash)

The much-anticipated deposit return scheme (DRS) is to be delayed until at least 2024, sparking a sharp response from CPRE Kent, the countryside charity.
It was three years ago almost to the day that then-Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced we would all be paying a deposit of up to 22 pence on plastic and glass bottles, as well as on aluminium cans. That deposit could, of course, be reclaimed.
It was suggested the DRS might arrive as early as 2020, although a year later the government said it would be brought in for England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2023.
However, yesterday (Thursday, March 24), in announcing a second DRS consultation, the government said such a scheme would not be introduced until late 2024, at the earliest. Unsurprisingly, this has not gone down well with the countryside charity, which has campaigned long and hard for a DRS.
Tom Fyans, CPRE campaigns and policy director, said before the announcement was made: “‘Despite huge public appetite to tackle the waste crisis, we have mountains of litter piling up in our countryside.
“New research shows that around eight billion drinks containers are landfilled, littered or burnt every year. Despite all this, the government looks set to delay a deposit return scheme until the end of 2024 – essentially shirking its responsibility and waiting for a new government to show any leadership on the issue. This amounts to six long years of dither and delay.
“This delay is so much more than kicking the can down the road – it seems that in the face of industry lobbying, ministers would prefer to stick their heads in the sand rather than tackle the problem of waste head on. 
“The public want to see action, not just warm words. The evidence is clear that an ‘all-in’ deposit return scheme is the best option for people, planet and our economy, yet the government is showing no leadership on the issue at all.
“It beggars belief that when the evidence is so clear that an ‘all-in’ deposit system is needed, it is still unwilling to make the polluter pay.”

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Five times more funding needed to ‘bus back better’ in rural England, CPRE research reveals

•          The government will need to invest five times the amount it pledged last week for buses to provide everyone with ‘cheap, reliable and fast’ bus journeys

The government’s National Bus Strategy is woefully unambitious and will continue to deliver “wholly inadequate” bus services, especially in rural areas, according to a report from CPRE, the countryside charity.
The report, Every Village, Every Hour, outlines how the government could reach its own ambition of delivering radically improved bus services across the country by investing £2.7 billion a year. This is five times more than the Prime Minister and Transport Secretary pledged last week when launching new funding of £3bn over five years in the National Bus Strategy.
The announcement is a one-off splurge when what we need is continuous, year-on-year funding to connect every community with “cheap, reliable and fast” bus journeys.
CPRE’s modelling shows that, with the right investment, the government can deliver a world-leading bus network capable of matching Swiss standards where every village of 200-300 people is guaranteed at least an hourly bus service from 6am to midnight, seven days a week.
One way of achieving this would be to redirect just a portion of the funding for the government’s legally embattled and widely criticised £27 billion roadbuilding schemes to instead properly fund buses. This could provide more than enough money to pay for CPRE’s vision, with enough left over to make fares free across these services.
Crispin Truman, chief executive of the countryside charity, said: “Rural communities up and down the country know from painful first-hand experience the impacts of underfunding our bus services. Too many have been languishing in so-called transport deserts where those who do not have access to a car are left high and dry with no practical way to get to work, school or doctors. Public transport for rural communities has been wholly inadequate for long enough.
“Our new research shows that the Prime Minister’s recently announced investment in buses, while seemingly impressive, is a fraction of what’s actually needed to realise the vision espoused by ministers.
“To avoid another situation where rhetoric doesn’t meet delivery, we’re calling on the government to significantly raise the level of investment in our ailing bus services and recognise a universal basic right to public transport. Our research shows this investment will pay dividends – that’s why bigger bucks for buses is an absolute no-brainer.”
This report builds upon previous research from CPRE, which found that more than a million people in the South West and North East live in ‘transport deserts’ or areas where the only practical form of transport is the private car.
While the Transport Minister rightly stated that “everyone deserves to have access to cheap, reliable and quick bus journeys”, our analysis shows the amount invested by the government will fall woefully short of what is needed to reach every part of the country with decent public transport.
It is often overlooked that bus services provide numerous public goods and are essential for the many people across England who do not have access to a car. Improved bus services in rural areas have the potential to change lives – we know that this kind of investment will disproportionately benefit low-income families, the elderly and the young.
By providing an alternative to private car travel, local bus services can reduce traffic and air pollution while boosting high street spending, employment, social mobility and equality.
CPRE is calling on the government to recognise a universal basic right to public transport to provide Swiss-style service standards to villages and towns that must be legally enforced.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Farewell and thank you to two champions of CPRE Kent

It is with great sadness that we must report on the loss of two great friends in February. The CPRE Kent family is all the stronger for its unity and the passing of two of the main players in our recent history will be felt deeply. We and many others have much for which to thank them both. Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, pays tribute.

Gary Thomas (right) with the Thurnham Heritage Award presented to CPRE Kent for its fight against development at Woodcut Farm. Also pictured are, from left, CPRE Kent director Hilary Newport and vice-president Richard Knox-Johnston and Thurnham parish council chairman Daniel Skinner.

GARY THOMAS
Gary was chairman of the Kent branch of CPRE from 2003-2005, but his involvement with the organisation began well before and continued long after. My first memory of Gary was the leadership he exercised in bringing together communities in the North Downs Rail Concern group from across the county along the proposed route of what was then known as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and is now High Speed 1.
With rational discussion rather than blanket opposition, the route of the high-speed line through Kent was gently improved to take more sensitive account of the landscapes through which it was passing, negotiating route alterations that meant the rail line would pass unobtrusively through tunnels rather than over viaducts along the slopes of the downs.
Gary had a keen eye for detail and an overwhelming commitment to improving the environment he would leave behind him. He was part of the formidable team that successfully put up a spirited community response to the challenge posed by AXA to locate a highly damaging road-rail freight interchange at the food of the Kent Downs AONB – just one of the damaging proposals to which he brought his energy, effort and campaign commitment.
A passionate environmentalist and keenly aware of the threat of climate change, he was tireless in his campaigning and for all he did to further CPRE Kent’s objectives.

Brian Lloyd was a genuine gentle giant and central to the court battle to save Farthingloe

BRIAN LLOYD
Brian joined the CPRE Kent team as senior planner at the end of 2007, staying until his retirement in 2016.
He brought to the role his prodigious professional skill and passionate commitment to protecting landscapes and countryside from inappropriate development.
Brian was the principal player in our lengthy campaign to prevent the despoilation of a stretch of protected landscape at Farthingloe outside Dover, proposed for the inappropriate and damaging construction of more than 600 homes in an area of protected landscape. He saw not only the importance of defeating this application but the importance of the decision in standing up for designated landscapes everywhere.
He helped steer the challenge through the High Court, the Court of Appeal and finally the Supreme Court, where an important judgment was handed down in 2018 that agreed with Brian’s initial assessment: that a planning decision that has the potential to cause substantial harm to a very special landscape must not be undertaken without very substantial reasons.
This was a hugely important judgment that has been referred to widely in subsequent planning and court decisions and has helped communities across the country protect the green spaces they love.
The importance of this judgment does not, of course, belie Brian’s sharp wit and sense of humour. He was a genuinely gentle giant who was taken from us far too soon.
Both Brian and Gary will be fondly remembered by their CPRE Kent friends and our thoughts and condolences are with their family, friends and loved ones.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Swanscombe wins SSSI designation… but there’s a four-month consultation to come

The peninsula hosts some wonderful natural habitat (pic Paul Buckley)

The Swanscombe peninsula – the area of north Kent being targeted for the building of the country’s largest theme park – has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
National England announced today (Thursday, March 11, 2021) that the peninsula’s “nationally important invertebrates, breeding birds, plants and geology” warranted such recognition.
The government advisory body said: “The 250 hectare site, alongside the Thames Estuary, forms a corridor of habitats connecting Ebbsfleet Valley with the southern shore of the River Thames between Dartford and Gravesend.
“The site has an incredible assortment of grassland, scrub, wetlands, grazing marsh and saltmarsh habitat in a relatively small area, providing ideal conditions for a unique variety of wildlife.
“The area is home to over 1,700 invertebrate species, which includes over a quarter of the UK’s water beetle species and more than 200 species that are considered of conservation importance. It is one of just two places in the UK where the critically endangered distinguished jumping spider is found.
“The rich and varied habitats on the peninsula also provide great conditions for breeding birds such as marsh harrier and bearded tit, and for nationally scarce plants threatened with extinction in Great Britain, such as the divided sedge and the slender hare’s ear.”
James Seymour, NE’s Sussex and Kent area manager, added: “The designation of Swanscombe Peninsula as an SSSI is great news for one of the richest known sites in England for invertebrates, ensuring essential refuge for many rare and threatened species that sadly are not able to thrive in the wider landscape.
“Right on the doorstep of some of our most densely populated towns and cities, this new SSSI will also offer wonderful opportunities for people to connect with nature via the England Coast Path.
“This area is living proof that some of our most important species can thrive hand in hand with businesses and transport infrastructure. Special places like this will form the vital backbone of a national nature recovery network.”
The new Swanscombe Peninsula SSSI includes the previously-designated Bakers Hole SSSI, which covers 6.9 hectares with geological and archaeological features.
The designation is undoubtedly good news, but this is only the start of the process, not the end, as there will now be a four-month consultation before potential SSSI confirmation. 
Natural England said: “As of 11 March 2021, the SSSI has been formally notified to landowners and occupiers and other interested parties.
“There will be a 4 month period in which anyone can make representations or object to the notification. If all objections are resolved or none are submitted, the designation will be confirmed. If there are unresolved objections the Natural England Board will hear all of these; they must then decide whether to confirm the designation (with or without reductions).
“If the notification is not confirmed within 9 months of the date of notification, the notification falls.”
And, in a clear reference to the proposed London Resort theme park, it said: “Natural England recognises that there is interest and consideration of potential development opportunities in the Swanscombe area.
“Designation of this site for its nationally important wildlife features is an important step towards ensuring that its environmental value is recognised and taken due account of in any future planning decisions.”
In January, the Planning Inspectorate accepted the application by London Resort Company Holdings for a Development Consent Order to build the London Resort theme park on the peninsula.

  • For more on this story, see here

Thursday, March 11, 2021