Star Count can inspire us in lockdown… and it’s fun

Light pollution is denying too many people the joy of a night sky (pic Craig Solly)

Running out of ideas to keep the family busy during lockdown?
If so, CPRE’s Star Count provides the ideal solution.
Next month – from Saturday, February 6, to Sunday, February 14 – CPRE, the countryside charity, is asking us all to choose a clear night, look skywards and see how many stars we can spot within Orion.
If you don’t know where Orion is, click here
There cannot be many of us who at some point have not gazed up at a starry night sky in wonder. Looking at the stars can give us a feeling of tranquillity that we experience increasingly rarely in the modern world.
Seeing dark skies full of stars is something we associate with the countryside and is part of reconnecting with the natural world. However, places to enjoy such stunning sights are becoming harder to find, even in the countryside. Sadly, previous Star Count results have demonstrated that light pollution is making starry skies a scarce sight for too many of us.
Using these results from the annual Star Counts, CPRE lobbies government and local authorities to tackle light pollution and also highlight which ‘dark sky’ areas need to be protected and enhanced by strong policies.
In short, Star Count is fun and it can help protect one of the greatest wonders of the world: a dark sky glittering with stars.

  • To learn more and join Star Count, click here



Tuesday, January 26, 2021

CPRE joins coalition in call for a better planning vision

The government should rethink substantial elements of its controversial planning proposals and work with stakeholders to deliver a planning system that puts people, climate and nature at its heart.
The call comes from CPRE, the countryside charity, as part of a broad coalition of 18 environmental, housing, planning, transport, heritage and public-health organisations that have worked together to forge their own alternative ‘Vision for Planning’ in response to the government’s Planning White Paper, published in August last year.
The government is expected to make a further announcement in March about whether and how it will take forward the proposals in the White Paper.
The joint Vision for Planning was launched yesterday (Friday, January 15) at a virtual debate, with speakers including Chris Pincher, Minister of State for Housing.
Commenting on the new joint ‘Vision for planning’, Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “We are calling on the government to plan back better and work with us to develop a planning system that puts people, and tackling the climate and ecological emergencies, at its heart.
“We all deserve a home we can genuinely afford to live in, and to have a say in shaping the communities around us. And for over 70 years, a toolbox has been in place to make sure that can happen: the planning system. But as things stand, under the government’s current proposals, the opportunity to influence what happens and where in our communities would be halved.
“Before Christmas, the government announced a welcome revision of its housing numbers ‘algorithm’. However, this was only one small part of a range of potentially damaging proposals put forward by the government last year. That’s why we’re calling on ministers to take an equally pragmatic approach to improving policies relating to community voice, affordable homes and access to green spaces. Together, we can develop a planning system fit for the 21st century.”
Julie Hirigoyen, UK Green Building Council chief executive, added: “The government’s proposed planning reforms do not adequately reflect the important role of the planning system as a key strategic vehicle for decarbonising the economy, enhancing climate resilience and reversing biodiversity decline.
“If we are to deliver new development that does not compromise our progress towards net zero, the planning system – as outlined in this vision paper – must ensure all new buildings are net-zero by 2030 at the latest, with new homes to be net-zero as soon as possible.”
Emma Marsh, director of RSPB England, concurred: “Nature is in freefall decline and we have a climate in crisis. Our wildlife is declining at an alarming rate, with much-loved species at risk of extinction if things continue.
“A good planning system is critical not just for providing us with homes with access to nature-rich greenspace and the other services that we need but also for ensuring that our amazing nature is protected and given the space that it needs to recover and thrive again.”
The message was echoed by Shaun Spiers, chief executive of Green Alliance: “For a resilient society, we need environmental and climate priorities to be right at the heart of our planning system, so we hope the government takes careful note of this coalition’s recommendations.
“To cut pollution and climate impacts, reforms to the planning system must ensure that every home has easy access, via public transport, walking and cycling, to amenities, green spaces and local workplaces. Good spatial planning will be integral to the UK meeting its net-zero carbon goal by 2050.”

  • To learn more about the joint Vision for Planning, click here
  • For more on the government’s proposed changes to the planning system and our response to them, see here, here, here and here

Friday, January 15, 2021

Be a star… and join this year’s Star Count

This year’s Star Count is being held next month.
From Saturday, February 6, to Sunday, February 14, CPRE, the countryside charity, is asking citizen scientists – that’s all of us! – to choose a clear night, look to the skies and see how many stars we can spot within Orion.
If you don’t know where Orion is, we will be offering a guiding hand between now and Star Count. We’ll keep you posted!
It’s a fantastic, easy piece of stargazing for children and adults alike – no telescopes are required – and can be done safely from your garden, balcony or bedroom window.
We are holding this event as star-filled skies provide one of the most magical sights our natural world has to offer. We want to reconnect people across the country with the wonder of a truly dark sky.
CPRE research shows light pollution is leaving fewer stars than ever visible to the naked eye – and we need your help to track how light levels are changing.
We will keep you informed throughout, but the first thing we’d like you to do is register your interest in Star Count 2021. You can do that here
We’ll catch up soon. Until then, keep safe.
To read about last year’s Star Count, click here

Thursday, January 14, 2021

With a swathe of the North Kent Marshes to be lost in the name of green energy, the government chooses not intervene in plans for a new coal mine

How the proposed development near Whitehaven might look (pic West Cumbria Mining)

In the week that developers announced they planned to start work later this year on the UK’s largest solar farm, at Cleve Hill, near Faversham, it might seem baffling the government has chosen not to call in proposals for a deep coal mine in north-west England.
The decision by Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, not to intervene after Cumbria County Council approved West Cumbria Mining’s application for the mine, near Whitehaven, has been roundly slated by conservation groups.
The project has drawn some 2,300 objections since 2017, including from such groups as Friends of the Earth, WWF, Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion. On Wednesday last week (January 13), however, CCC said it had been told there would be no governmental call-in.
With coal-powered electricity generation due to end by 2024, the Cumbrian coal will be used in British and European steelmaking – a process WCM claims will cut emissions caused by the wider transport of steel.
The argument has cut no ice with environmental groups, however, which say the mine could hinder alignment of the country’s steel sector with the 2050 net-zero target.
Doug Parr, of Greenpeace UK, told The Independent: “We are in a climate emergency and in no way, shape, or form should this or any new coal mine be granted planning permission. 
“Of course, job creation is absolutely vital to communities, but we must look forward to the jobs of the 21st century, not back to those in declining industries. Robert Jenrick needs to immediately reverse his decision not to call this in and then can the project completely.”
Friends of the Earth’s Tony Bosworth agreed: “Mr Jenrick’s refusal to call in this unnecessary and climate-wrecking coal mine shows jaw-dropping inconsistency… last month the government said it would no longer support fossil fuel projects overseas.
“Allowing coal to be extracted from this proposed mine for over a quarter of a century completely undermines the government’s credibility on the climate crisis – especially ahead of the crucial UN summit later this year, which the UK is hosting.”
The government approach is also galling for those who battled Cleve Hill Solar Park, which, if it goes ahead, will industrialise almost 1,000 acres of the North Kent Marshes – an area of international importance to wildlife.
That scheme was promoted by developers, supporters and Whitehall alike as making a substantial contribution of renewable energy as the UK looked to achieve its net-zero target, so the non-intervention in the coal-mine process seems bafflingly inconsistent.
Some might think Mr Jenrick’s reported statement relating to the mine in which he said the government was “committed to giving more power to councils to make their own decisions on planning issues” was little more than him washing his hands of the wider matters.
The Cumbrian development would be the first deep coal mine to be developed in this country for 30 years should it go ahead. At Cleve Hill, meanwhile, developers are apparently concentrating on the detailed design of their solar farm.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Appeal inspector backs 440-unit housing development at Otham

Maidstone Borough Council will face costs after the inspector’s decision to back the developer’s two appeals

A scheme for 440 homes in Otham has been backed at appeal by a planning inspector.
The greenfield site had been allocated in Maidstone Borough Council’s 2017 Local Plan “as a strategic development location for housing growth with supporting infrastructure”.
However, in July the local authority’s policy and resources committee voted to reject the project, west of Church Road next to St Nicholas Church, after it had already twice been rejected by the planning committee.
Council officers had recommended the development be approved, fearing that, with the site included in the Local Plan, developer Bellway would win an appeal.
And last week the Planning Inspectorate announced that inspector Stephen Normington had allowed Bellway’s two appeals, which he had considered jointly.
The first related to non-determination of an outline planning application for 440 homes, with the second coming after MBC had refused an application for a revised project of 421 units.
Mr Normington’s report concluded there was “no demonstrable evidence” supporting one of the council’s reasons for refusal on highways grounds. The council had cited the impact of the development on traffic congestion in Willington Street and highway safety at Church Road.
The county council had also raised highways objections.
Although he said there was “no doubt in my mind that the appeal proposals will contribute to the congestion already experienced on Willington Street to a degree”, the inspector continued: “Whilst this would undoubtedly cause driver inconvenience, I have no substantive evidence to suggest that this would cause a highway safety problem.”
Further, he did “not consider that the proposed developments would demonstrably cause worsening safety issues on Church Road to the south of the site to the extent that both these appeals should be dismissed”.
He also added “significant weight” to the fact the development would “include affordable housing to meet a demonstrable housing need on an allocated housing site”.
Mr Normington made a partial costs award against MBC, concluding it had “behaved unreasonably” in reaching its decision on its first reason for refusal.
CPRE Kent was represented at the appeal, arguing that Bellway had failed to demonstrate how Church Road could be modified safely and that the impact of the proposed development on the Grade I-listed church and nearby Grade II-listed buildings was unacceptable.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Distress at plans for Dover border control site but MP points to ‘exciting opportunity’

The site lies to the south of the A2 (pic Google Earth)

A parish council has vowed to challenge plans for a border control site on the edge of Dover.
People in Guston were reportedly less than thrilled to receive a letter on New Year’s Eve from transport minister Rachel Maclean informing them that the substantial greenfield site close to the White Cliffs Business Park had been bought for use as an “inland border facility”.
HGVs entering the UK via Dover will have their details checked there – a process made necessary by Brexit.
Although a DfT spokeswoman said further planning consent was needed and nearby residents would be consulted, diggers have already moved on to the site.
“We understand concerns about resulting disruption, which is why we are working with the relevant authorities and our principal designer to ensure the surrounding roads are not negatively impacted by increased HGV movements,” she said.
However, Guston Parish Council has written to residents, saying it was “actively working to prevent such a development” and taking legal advice.
“There has been no response to requests for detailed proposals from the DfT and our MP Natalie Elphicke has responded to residents’ concerns with a generic letter setting out her support for the proposal,” wrote Tracey Creed, chairwoman of the council.
A report in The Guardian told how Guston residents believed they had been betrayed and trapped by the “lies” of the government over Brexit and were angry at the lack of consultation on the White Cliffs site, which it is feared will effectively be a lorry park rather than a border control site.
However, their MP, Mrs Elphicke, has said: “The proposals to invest in Dover at a new border control point are an exciting and important strategic opportunity for our community.”
The DfT says the site is needed as the port does not have the necessary space for the required checks; it will have spaces for some 670 HGVs and it is expected to be expanded to conduct full border checks from July. There will be structures designed specifically to check on animals, animal products and high-risk foods.
It perhaps should not come as a surprise to many that Kent seems to be taking a disproportionate hit from Brexit arrangements, with border control sites also being developed at Sevington, Waterbrook, Ebbsfleet and Manston, the latter at least cited as only temporary.
CPRE Kent believes the burden should be spread across the country, with HGVs unable to enter the county until it is certain they can leave the UK on schedule.
This could entail lorries not leaving their depots until being given the all-clear and possibly holding sites being used should circumstances, such as bad weather and industrial action at the ports, change.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Giant theme park planning process begins

This is what the theme park might look like… should it be built (pic LRCH)

The developer behind plans to build the country’s largest theme park in north Kent has applied to the government for consent to proceed.
London Resort Company Holdings submitted its application for a Development Consent Order to the Planning Inspectorate on New Year’s Eve (Thursday, January 31, 2020).
The scheme has been designated a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), the first ‘business or commercial project’ to be accepted as such by the government under the Planning Act 2008.
The theme park is targeted for the Swanscombe peninsula, between Greenhithe and Northfleet, with opening anticipated for 2024 after a 2022 start date.
It would cover more than 1,160 acres and LRCH says it would create “48,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs” by 2038.
The project website states: “Sustainability is at the core of our vision. We are exploring new and innovative ways of integrating sustainable and low-carbon principles into every area of design and operation of the London Resort. Our aim is to create one of the most sustainable theme park destinations in the world.”
It adds: “Our designs will integrate local public rights of way and a green network, with improved access to the river for visitors and local communities. The London Resort will showcase the natural features of the site, seamlessly integrating them into our designs. A large proportion of the peninsula landscape will remain undeveloped and will be enhanced.”
However, there are widespread concerns both for people employed on the peninsula who might see their workplaces lost and for the area’s wildlife.
Buglife has joined with other environmental campaigners to set up the Save Swanscombe Marshes campaign.
To understand why the peninsula is so special, we will indeed turn to Buglife, which states: “The Swanscombe peninsula in north Kent is home to a remarkable mosaic of grasslands, coastal habitats, brownfield features, scrub and intricate wetlands. However, the proposed London Resort theme park threatens the future of this urban wilderness.
“Known as Swanscombe Marshes, this urban wilderness is home to thousands of invertebrate species, including over 250 species of conservation concern. This outstanding assemblage is of national importance, ranking with our best invertebrate brownfield sites.
“It is one of just two places in the UK for the Critically Endangered distinguished jumping spider (Attulus distinguendus), among the host of rare bees, beetles, moths and other invertebrates recorded there… the mixture of natural coastal features and human interference has created a brownfield of the highest quality for wildlife, as well as a valued community space for walking, birdwatching, angling and escaping the hustle and bustle of north Kent.”  
CPRE Kent intends to take part in the examination should it happen. It is too early to comment extensively, but an initial observation relates to the proposed Lower Thames Crossing, which does not appear to have been factored into plans – how would the two dovetail?
The Planning Inspectorate now has until Thursday, January 28, to determine if the application is satisfactory and the project can proceed to examination. Should it get that far, the Secretary of State would then decide whether London Resort should be built.

  • For more on this story, see here
  • To learn more about the Save Swanscombe Marshes campaign, see here

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Canterbury City Council backs 4,000-unit housing development on farmland

This is apparently what Mountfield Park will look like… seemingly it is what the cathedral city deserves (pic Corinthian Land)

Some 550 acres of farmland south of Canterbury are to be lost to a giant housing scheme.
Canterbury City Council has approved the 4,000-unit Mountfield Park “garden city”, which developer Corinthian Land says it will begin building next year and finish within 15 years.
Access will be primarily through New Dover Road, with Nackington Road and Pilgrims Way providing alternative routes. There will also be a 1,000-space park-and-ride site and a new junction on the A2, together with shops, office space, sports pitches and two primary schools.
The scheme had first been backed by the city council in December 2016, but legal challenges delayed matters until Tuesday’s (December 22) 7-5 vote to approve by the council’s planning committee.
Corinthian now has detailed permission for 140 homes and outline approval for another 3,860. The developer says 30 per cent of the development will comprise affordable homes.

  • For more on Mountfield Park, see here and here

Thursday, December 24, 2020

How lockdown drove more people to the countryside… and produced more litter

Volunteers display discarded tins and bottles picked up at Graveney during a CPRE Green Clean

It can’t come as a surprise to anyone who loves the countryside that one of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has been a shocking increase in litter.
More than a third of adults in England (38 per cent) have seen more litter near to where they live since the start of the pandemic and more than three-quarters (76 per cent) have noticed more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) being littered, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by CPRE, the countryside charity.
Four in five people (78 per cent) would like to see the government take more action to tackle the scourge of litter. CPRE is therefore calling on the government not to delay and stick to its original timetable for a fully inclusive Deposit Return Scheme to reduce waste and litter and boost recycling.
CPRE has highlighted the poll’s three main findings:
•          The pandemic has shone a light on our throwaway culture and England’s broken waste and litter system
•          The government needs to do far more to tackle litter and support local authorities to create comprehensive refuse and recycling systems
•          This includes tackling PPE littering by promoting the benefits of reusable masks where possible and encouraging people to dispose of any single-use masks responsibly

Commenting on the findings, Isla Lester, nine-year-old anti-litter advocate and CPRE Green Clean participant, said:
“I think more people should litter-pick and think before they act, so the world can be much cleaner, much faster. This could be tackled in two ways: educationally and practically.
“It would be good if environmental issues were part of school lessons. Children need to be shown what polluting our planet really does. We need to see it for ourselves by going outside – having trips to the sea to look at the impact that litter has on beaches and sea life, and then doing things like litter-picking.
“I think local businesses should also help by putting things in place to not add to waste in their areas but to get rid of it.
“I just want more people to follow me and make the world a better place. We need everybody to work as a team to make a difference.”
During the pandemic, litter rates have risen in many areas across England. Ever-present wrappers, cartons, bottles and cups have been joined by plastic gloves and facemasks, all building up in our countryside. Litter has been a major problem for decades, but lockdown has led to new types and unprecedented levels in different places.
This was reflected in the YouGov poll, which questioned almost 2,000 respondents (1,964) across England on their perceptions of changes in litter since March 2020:
•          More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of respondents noticed more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) litter since the start of lockdown, with almost half (48 per cent) noticing a lot more
•          More than one in three people (38 per cent) noticed more litter near to where they lived since the start of lockdown, while a third (34 per cent) noticed about the same amount of litter 
•          A total of 39 per cent of respondents noticed more flytipping since the start of lockdown
•          Just over three-quarters of the English public (78 per cent) agreed that the government should be taking more action to tackle litter, including a third (33 per cent) who strongly agreed government should be doing more

 Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “Litter is a completely avoidable blight that currently scars our countryside. As more people than ever before venture into their local green space or countryside next door, it’s crucial that the government redoubles efforts to tackle litter and stops it pilling up in our beautiful countryside.
“That’s why ministers must follow through on pledges to tackle the scourge of litter. By investing in whole-system solutions to address litter, including a fully inclusive Deposit Return Scheme, we can deal with the long-lasting problem once and for all.
“That means no more delays on a fully inclusive Deposit Return Scheme, which should be introduced by 2023 at the latest. Hugely successful in other European countries, these schemes are proven to help drive unprecedented recycling rates and ensure thousands of tonnes of litter don’t end up in the countryside.
“We need a waste system that is responsive to changes in behaviour. Our current system has been failing for a long time – the pandemic simply put a spotlight on the waste crisis and it’s high time ministers stepped in.”
Alongside the poll, CPRE has launched Litter in lockdown, a study looking at trends in litter and waste since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. It was launched at an online event attended by environment minister Rebecca Pow MP; Cat Chapman, co-author of the Litter in Lockdown study; Feryal Clark MP, member of the Environmental Audit Committee; and Isla Lester.
On the back of a wave of public support, the government set out plans for how it would better deal with resources and waste in 2018. Over two years later, these plans continue to be delayed further following pressure from drinks manufacturers, among others. The poll reveals a delay would be against public opinion and there is a large appetite for government and business action. Three in five adults (60 per cent) agree that organisations that produce single-use items should do more to ensure they are disposed of in the right way.
The poll also revealed stark changes in where the public were spending their time in light of Covid-19-related regulations and the Litter in Lockdown study shows that where people go, litter follows. Findings included:
•          One in three adults (34 per cent) reported spending more time in the countryside since the start of lockdown
•          One in three adults (32 per cent) had spent more time in parks and this rose to 44 per cent for those with children under the age of four
•          Three-quarters of the public (75 per cent) spent less time in inner-city high streets and 69 per cent spent less time in local high streets, showing a substantial shift in where people spent their time

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

A message to the people of Gravesham…

Attractive countryside could be lost forever if Local Plan proposals come to fruition

Stop the Gravesham Green Belt Grab

If you care about the quality of life of your family, it is important that you make your voice heard in the Local Plan consultation currently taking place.
If you don’t know what to say or how to respond, then you could use this standard wording, so long as you include your name and address, and send it to: 

Planning Consultation, Gravesham Borough Council, Civic Centre, Windmill Street, Gravesend DA12 1AG

Dear Sir/Madam,

Re: Gravesham Local Plan Consultation

I strongly object to the building of 3,790 houses on 21 sites in Meopham, Higham, Istead Rise and Sole Street for the following reasons:

  • Even longer waiting times for doctor and dental appointments
    Longer hospital waiting lists
  • The roads linking the rural areas could not take the increased traffic
  • There are no safe walking and cycling routes between rural communities, and residents are reliant on a limited bus service or their own vehicles
  • The A227 and A226 are already congested – car journeys will take even longer
  • There will be massive impact on rural lanes caused by the Lower Thames Crossing and the Paramount Theme Park at Swanscombe, increasing traffic on the already congested A2
  • The impact on traffic by these huge projects must be considered
  • An extensive build will put more pressure on our schools, which could result in children being allocated spaces in schools they neither want to attend nor are local
  • Trains will be overcrowded
  • Impact on broadband services – often weak in the rural areas
  • Rural development will cause air, noise and light pollution
  • There is already a severe water shortage in the South East
  • Agricultural land should be protected for food production
  • Huge impact on wildlife, which now, more than ever, needs protecting
  • Our villages will become merged and their unique identities lost

Yours faithfully,

Signed:     
Name:     
Address:     
Date:

  • For more on this story, see here

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Councillors revolt over government plans to dismantle planning system

We need new homes… we also need some say in how and where they are delivered

CPRE, the countryside charity, and Friends of the Earth are joining more than 2,000 local councillors to call on the government to rethink its planning proposals and work with locally-elected representatives to create the places and homes communities so desperately needed.
A total of 2,062 local councillors have called on the government to abandon the most damaging elements of its changes to the planning system in an open letter to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
More than 350 of the councillors, or one in six of those who signed the letter, are Conservatives, which shows the breadth of opposition to the damaging changes within the Conservative Party itself.
In the letter, councillors warn that the proposed changes to planning will undermine the trust the public has in the planning system and “could radically reduce protections for nature, local green spaces and fail to tackle climate change”.
Local democracy is a major concern for the signatories, with the proposals as they stand leading to “an unacceptable loss of local democracy, scrutiny and accountability and worse outcomes for communities”.
The letter goes on to highlight the need for a strong local planning system to support sustainable development, community cohesion and a healthy environment but highlights that the government’s proposals as currently set out “will not achieve these goals”.
Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, said: “The message from MPs, communities and now more than 2,000 councillors is clear, but it is not too late for the government to rethink its controversial upheaval of the planning system.
“Planning done well can create the affordable and well-designed homes that communities are crying out for. We can create low-carbon and nature-friendly homes, with an abundance of green space on their doorsteps, all connected by low-carbon public transport.
“Investing in a locally-led democratic planning system that empowers local councils to create these places should be the government’s top priority.
“We stand with these councillors in urging ministers to work with us to develop and deliver a better set of planning reforms that can actually deliver our country’s environmental, economic and social objectives.”
The government’s proposed changes to the planning system would be the biggest change to the planning system since the Town and Country Planning Act in 1947. But the proposals put forward by ministers have already faced fierce opposition from local councillors, communities, MPs, former cabinet ministers and even the former Prime Minister, Theresa May.
A recent poll off Conservative backbench MPs, conducted by Savanta Comres, also found that more than half of Conservative MPs (55 per cent) on the backbenches are considering opposing the government’s upheaval of the planning system as set out in the Planning White Paper.
Notably, more than three-quarters (78 per cent) of MPs surveyed think it is important that local councils should choose and prioritise the most suitable development sites, which is something the proposed zonal planning system would exclude.
Naomi Luhde-Thompson, senior planner at Friends of the Earth, said: “It’s clear to so many MPs, councillors and local communities that the Prime Minister’s vision for decision-making on development in England is not one that guarantees local control and centres local voices.
“The privatisation of the planning system so far, where so many decisions are no longer made in principle by councils but by developers, like the conversion of offices into homes, tells us what this government thinks of local control.
“The proposals in the White Paper will drown out community voices, stifle local democratic responsibility and weaken legal protections for the environment.”
The letter from local councillors concludes: “The right development in the right place has the potential to deliver social equity and sustainable economic growth, as well as meeting our environmental ambitions.
“The government’s proposals as they stand will not achieve these goals. With this is mind, we urge you [Mr Jenrick] to rethink the proposals you have set out and work with elected representatives in developing a positive vision for planning.”
With the 2021 local government elections just around the corner in May, CPRE and Friends of the Earth are joining local councillors to call on the government to rethink the planning proposals they have set out, trust in local expertise and work with elected representatives in creating the places and homes communities need, especially in rural areas.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Manston airport: now the DCO is set to be quashed

Manston… here we go again

Well, it was never going to go smoothly, was it!
The granting of a Development Consent Order allowing developer RiverOak Strategic Partners to reopen Manston airport as a freight hub is to be quashed.
The Department for Transport has accepted that the DCO approval letter from Andrew Stephenson, Minister of State for Transport, did not contain enough detail on why the conclusions of the four-man Planning Inspectorate’s Examining Authority were effectively dismissed.
The Examining Authority had been clear that the DCO should not be granted.
It is understood that its approval will be quashed within three weeks, with a revised decision needed after the Planning Inspectorate evidence is re-examined.
The likely revocation of the DCO means a judicial review of Mr Stephenson’s decision scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, February 16-17, at the High Court will not now go ahead.
The review had been launched by Jenny Dawes, chair of Ramsgate Coastal Community Team.  
However, on Wednesday last week (December 2), she wrote on her CrowdJustice page set up to help fund the judicial review: “… yesterday my solicitors received a letter from the Treasury Solicitor, acting on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport, which said ‘my client has agreed to concede this claim on the basis of ground 1(b), namely that the Secretary of State did not give adequate reasons in his decision letter to enable the reader to understand why he disagreed with the Examining Authority Report on the issue of need for the development of Manston Airport’. 
“We subsequently learned that the Interested Party, RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd, will not be defending their claim.
“My lawyers set out three grounds of challenge to the decision to grant a Development Consent Order for the re-opening and development of Manston Airport:
Ground 1: Need
Ground 2: Breach of Procedural Requirement/Unfairness
Ground 3: Net Zero Duty”
Two days later, Friday (December 4), Ms Dawes added: “Following the quashing of the Manston Airport Development Consent Order 2020 by the Court, the Secretary of State will write to all interested parties, setting out key issues and inviting further written representations on those issues.
“Interested parties include the applicant, the local authority and anyone who previously registered by filling out a Relevant Representation form at the inquiry stage (and had it accepted as valid).
“The Secretary of State will make a decision based on the Examining Authority’s Report and the further representations. The Secretary of State has three months to make a decision but this can be extended.
“The decision could be either a refusal to make a Manston Airport Development Consent Order or a decision to grant such a Consent Order.
“If a DCO is refused, RSP may wish to bring a judicial review. I would be an Interested Party in any such challenge.
“If a DCO is granted, another judicial review can be brought on the existing grounds and any further grounds that may arise on review of the decision letter.
“Any money left over from the current CrowdJustice campaign can be held in readiness and used towards a second judicial review.”
At the time of writing, that campaign had seen more than £88,000 pledged towards the initial review.
Responding in July to the news of the DCO approval, Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, had said: “It is shocking that four inspectors spent some nine months preparing a report and concluded very strongly that the DCO should be refused.
“The developer was not able to demonstrate need, there were adverse impacts on traffic and transport and there were concerns over noise pollution.
“Most importantly, though, the Examining Authority recommended the Secretary of State refuse the DCO due to conservation of habitats and species regulations.
“In short, the inspectors’ conclusions were ignored.
“This decision flies in the face of the Heathrow third-runway judgement where the Court of Appeal ruled that proposals had failed to consider this country’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions.”
Although the Manston decision had to be made in the name of Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, the DfT said Mr Shapps had “not personally been involved in this decision because of a conflict of interest, following previous statements of support made prior to his appointment as the Secretary of State for Transport” and the decision had “in practice been allocated to and taken by the Minister of State for Transport, Andrew Stephenson”.

  • For more on Manston airport, see here

Monday, December 7, 2020

Gravesham district launches website in response to Green Belt threat

Gravesham has a new website…

STOP THE GREEN BELT GRAB!
The message from the Gravesham CPRE committee could not be clearer as it launches a website in the battle to save the district’s Green Belt.
Urging people to get involved, the website warns us:
“Our beautiful fields could be turned into housing estates under proposals by Gravesham Borough Council.
“Across Gravesham a staggering 3,790 houses are proposed which would swallow up 21 areas of precious Green Belt. These include:

  • 1,705 houses in Meopham and Sole Street across NINE green sites
  • 1,810 houses in Higham across SEVEN green sites
  • 275 houses in Istead Rise across FIVE green sites

“These proposed homes are set to house an extra 9,000 people in this borough alone.
“WE MUST OBJECT TO THESE PROPOSALS NOW”
It continues: “Gravesham Borough Council claims these extra 3,790 homes are needed to house a population that’s expected to burgeon over the next few years. However, the projected figures they base this on are highly debatable.
“There are also several brownfield sites in the borough that could be developed, saving our farmland and open spaces from destruction.
“Even though we are in lockdown and in the middle of a global pandemic, Gravesham Borough Council are continuing with this consultation. Even though many in the rural area are not online.
“This consultation is threatening the fabric of our villages and way of life. We are already set to lose so much to the Lower Thames Crossing. We need to draw the line NOW!”
Regulation 18 (Stage 2) consultation on the Local Plan closes at 5pm on December 31, 2020.
That might sound a little jargon-heavy and potentially complex, but the process is important and the Gravesham CPRE website will help you contribute to it… and indeed the future of the district.
It really isn’t that daunting – and you don’t need to respond to every element of the consultation – so do please spend just a little time to make your views known if you cherish the countryside of north-west Kent.

For more on this story, see here

Monday, November 30, 2020     

Environmental mitigation, impact on traffic and approach to consultation among Lower Thames Crossing DCO issues

Lower Thames Crossing… the saga rumbles on

We reported last week that Highways England had withdrawn its application for a Development Consent Order to build the Lower Thames Crossing.
Now we have been updated by HE on the issues relating to the Planning Inspectorate and the likely way forward.
A message to  stakeholders said: “… we’ve now had further dialogue with the Planning Inspectorate about their expectations around our application.
“The fundamentals of the Lower Thames Crossing, including its objectives and location, will remain the same but we will further develop some technical information related to some elements of the scheme before we resubmit our application next year.
“The feedback from the Planning Inspectorate includes requests for:
“Further information on the impact of the project on traffic during the construction phase. We recognise that stakeholders are keen to find out more information about our construction traffic appraisals and will be engaging with them on these issues.
“Further assessments about how an existing jetty on the River Thames near the northern tunnel entrance construction site could potentially be used during the construction phase. The operation of the jetty could, if used, impact river traffic. We will be developing Navigational Impact Assessment and engaging with stakeholders on this topic.
“More details on our approach for managing materials and waste, including how the different contractors will coordinate the reusing, recycling or disposal of waste.  
“An enhanced Habitats Regulations Assessment to provide a more detailed explanation of our approach to assessment of potential effects on European designated sites where we have indicated there would be no likely significant effects as a result of the construction and operation of the new road alone, or in combination with other projects.
“More detail on our approach to the long-term management of the project’s proposed environmental mitigation.
“The Planning Inspectorate has also shared some feedback from Local Authorities on our approach to consultation. We will consider this feedback carefully as we refine key areas of our submission ahead of resubmitting our application for a Development Consent Order.
“For a project of the size and complexity of the Lower Thames Crossing, it is reasonable for the Planning Inspectorate to ask for further information, and we are doing everything we can to resubmit our application at the earliest opportunity.”

Friday, November 27, 2020