As we’re sure you are aware, there is a general election this week. So what do the political hopefuls make of planning in our countryside?

We go to the polls on Thursday… what do the candidates have in mind for our environment?

CPRE Kent has been canvassing candidates in Thursday’s general election for their views on the natural environment, specifically in relation to their constituencies.
All those for whom we hold email addresses were contacted and given a copy of the CPRE document Our countryside: a manifesto for the next government. The candidates were asked if they supported the principles outlined in that manifesto.
We are happy to present the replies we have had here. We thank all those who responded.

Mandy Rossi, Green Party Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) for Ashford:

Thank you for getting in touch.
Our plan for a Green New Deal will transform the UK and improve the quality of everyone’s lives by creating a safer, fairer future for all.
This is a comprehensive 10-year plan ambitious enough to tackle climate and ecological breakdown at the scale and speed set out by science. It will deliver a fast and fair transformation of our economy and society, renewing almost every aspect of life in the UK: from the way we produce and consume energy to the way in which we grow the food we eat, and how we work, travel and heat our homes.
As the originators of the Green New Deal, we are the only party you can trust to act in time to tackle the climate emergency and rapidly reduce social and economic inequality – and to make these our top priorities.
The Green New Deal will get the UK on track to reducing climate emissions to net zero by 2030 by:
• Meeting most of our energy needs through the domestic production of renewable energy
• Reducing overall energy demand from buildings and homes
• Transforming UK industry, transport and land use
Promote a countryside for all of us
Green spaces can inspire children to be physically active and develop a passion for nature, encouraging them to learn more about the world around them. We would recognise access to diverse nature as a human right and uphold it across society.
We will create a Nature GCSE to encourage children to value nature and to grow a whole new generation of naturalists. We will also introduce an English Climate Emergency Education Act to support schools to teach young people about the urgency, severity and scientific basis of the climate and environmental crises, and to ensure youth voices are heard on climate issues.
We will open up car-free access to the National Parks with new cycling, walking and bus links. We would restore access to the countryside by reopening lost public rights of way and creating new ones. We will grant to people in England and Wales the same right to roam over all landscapes as people in Scotland currently enjoy.
Plan for communities
The Green Party will amend the National Planning Policy Framework so it no longer imposes centrally-set development targets on local councils. We will allow councils to develop their own planning policies, based on genuine local housing need and their requirement to contribute to the creation of at least 100,000 new council homes a year nationally. Councils will be required to balance this need with the need to preserve local ecology and the opportunity to create new green spaces.
We strongly support land designations which prevent inappropriate development on National Parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, natural habitats of local, regional, national or international importance, sites of special scientific or archaeological interest and ancient woodlands.
Create thriving rural communities
We will build 100,000 new energy-efficient council homes per year for the next 10 years, including in the countryside. We will allocate funding to local authorities for council home creation based on the needs of their area. We will incentivise local authorities to spread small developments across their areas, rather than building huge new estates, and to build, renovate and convert to high-quality designs that respect local architectural heritage. The new council homes will offer secure, lifetime tenancies.
Buses are a lifeline for millions and would be at the centre of our transport policy. We need to make using public transport as simple and straightforward as travelling by car. For too many people in the countryside there is no alternative to the car. Our national bus strategy would be focused on ensuring that it would be cheaper to travel by bus, tram or train than by car – we would do this by lowering fares and would use £3.5 billion per year to do this, funded by the cancellation of HS2.
Bus services must be planned around the needs of rural communities. Local councils would have responsibility the setting of routes, frequencies and fares for buses in their area, with residents fully consulted and involved in shaping these services. We would want to reopen rail lines and stations wherever possible.
The rural economy will face new challenges and opportunities in developing sustainable mixed land use, generating renewable power and in tourism. Better broadband for the countryside is essential. We will better connect rural communities through reliable broadband and mobile internet, delivered through councils who understand local connection needs.
The Green Party’s approach to the countryside is focused on the need to ensure the protection and sustainability of our most important asset.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain our approach to the issues you have raised and, if elected, I look forward to working with CPRE on our shared priorities.

Adrian Gee-Turner, Liberal Democrat PPC for Ashford:

I was brought up in the countryside and worked in agriculture and forestry in my teens and early 20s.
I can agree to support all of your points in full, except one: “Challenging excessive housing targets set by central government: contesting contrived figures that place an unacceptably large development burden on Kent, resulting in unsustainable and damaging proposals across the Medway area” I would need to understand further what alternative ideas you would have as a solution to meeting the need for housing.
I would welcome the opportunity to hear further about what options would work for the countryside to provide good-quality affordable housing.

Anna Firth, Conservative PCC for Canterbury:

Thank you for your email. I am a big supporter of your work and would be very happy to meet with you [CPRE Kent director Hilary Newport] if I am fortunate enough to be elected next week.

Rosie Duffield, Labour Party PCC for Canterbury (via office):

Climate change is the biggest issue facing us all, and I can assure you that Rosie is already championing many of the policies supported by CPRE. 
Last summer Rosie attended the meeting in Westminster hosted by Ed Miliband from Labour and Caroline Lucas from the Green Party when Greta Thunberg made such a moving and influential speech.
Rosie spoke in the following Commons debate and has long supported the Campaign for Clean Air in Canterbury.
We recently published our Labour Party Manifesto It’s Time for Real Change, where the first chapter, A Green Industrial Revolution, includes detailed proposals regarding safeguarding the environment, our Plan for Nature, that addresses the range of issues represented by CPRE.  Our aim is to decarbonise different sectors of the economy within realistic timescales with the aim of relying entirely on renewable sources of energy in the 2030s.
Our manifesto also includes commitments to ecosystem repair and environmental protections, introduction of a Climate and Environment Emergency Bill setting out in law robust, binding new standards for decarbonisation, nature recovery, environmental quality and habitats and species protection.
We will create new National Parks alongside a revised system of other protected area designations, which will guard existing wildlife sites and join up important habitats, while also ensuring more people can enjoy access nature.
We will also maintain and continuously improve existing EU standards of environmental regulation, and introduce a new Clean Air Act, with a vehicle scrappage scheme and clean air zones, complying with World Health Organisation limits for fine particles and nitrous oxides.
The gap between house prices and average incomes has reached the stage where millions of people in the towns and countryside are denied access to secure housing. The only way to deliver on everyone’s right to a good home is to build publicly funded social housing.
The Labour Party sees transport as an essential public service and will increase and expand local services, reinstating the 3,000 routes that have been cut, particularly hitting rural communities.
We will deliver full-fibre broadband free to everybody in every home in our country by creating a new public service, boosting the economy, connecting communities and putting money back in your pocket.
I think you will find that the Labour Party manifesto demonstrates the level of investment urgently needed in rural transport, broadband and housing.
As you can imagine, Rosie is working as hard as she possibly can to be re-elected on December 12. She would very much like to return to Parliament in order to continue to represent the people of Canterbury and Whitstable and to fight for the causes in which she believes, including the paramount imperative of tackling climate change.

Claire Malcomson, Lib Dem PCC for Canterbury:

Thank you for your email.
My time is very pushed in the next couple of weeks, but definitely if I become MP I would be keen to meet with you. I work closely with CPRE locally in Surrey and would continue to do this in Canterbury. I know Max Rosenburg pretty well.
I have also been on our local board of our AONB and you may know I am the environment cabinet member for Mole Valley. 
My priority is always to mitigate climate change. Since declaring a climate emergency, we have been working extremely hard. This year we took over the administration in May and have made huge steps to make our council buildings and our policies more climate-friendly.  
I am well known in my area for standing up for the environment and biodiversity and getting the greenest initiatives as possible on to our Local Plan as possible.
Thank you again for contacting me.

Alan Bullion, Liberal Democrat PCC for Gillingham and Rainham:

As a Medway candidate, do you have more info on [the following point], please? … “Challenging excessive housing targets set by central government: contesting contrived figures that place an unacceptably large development burden on Kent, resulting in unsustainable and damaging proposals across the Medway area”

Stuart Jeffery, Green Party PPC for Maidstone and The Weald:

Thank you for your email. As you are aware, I have been a long-standing supporter of CPRE and worked with you on campaigns in the past. My support will be there for the future, too.
In terms of the policies on which you would like my support:

  • Challenging excessive housing targets set by central government: I have led the call for a moratorium on housebuilding on greenfield sites around Maidstone. It is quite clear that the housing targets are based on economics rather than need and that the housing needs of people will not be met by executive homes in the countryside but by affordable and social housing near jobs and transport links.
  • Protecting all of the Maidstone area’s countryside and open spaces: Absolutely!
  • Tackling the climate emergency: Your call for carbon neutrality by 2045 is far too late, this needs to be by 2030 and the Greens have the plans and political will to achieve this. The UN report last year stated that we need a 78 per cent reduction globally by 2030 and the UK needs to lead the way with this reduction.
  • A countryside for all of us: Absolutely. As well as accessibility, I want forest schools and for people of all ages to learn about nature.
  • Planning for communities: The planning framework needs a fundamental rewrite. There are plenty of brownfield sites for the type of homes that people need.
  • Creating thriving rural communities: Affordable homes and infrastructure are essential. We want digital access to rural areas, and public transport would receive the biggest investment under the Greens as it is the key mode of medium-distance transport for the future if we are to tackle climate change.

This constituency is not a marginal one and therefore every Green vote will send a clear message that Green politics, social justice, the strongest action on climate change and of course human and animal rights are essential.

Sonia Hyner, Green Party PPC for Rochester and Strood:

The Green Party is proud to be the party of the environment. We recognise that rural populations face the same social and economic pressures that are recognised among urban populations.

Tackle the climate emergency
Our plan for a Green New Deal will transform the UK and improve the quality of everyone’s lives by creating a safer, fairer future for all.
This is a comprehensive 10-year plan ambitious enough to tackle climate and ecological breakdown at the scale and speed set out by science. It will deliver a fast and fair transformation of our economy and society, renewing almost every aspect of life in the UK: from the way we produce and consume energy to the way in which we grow the food we eat, and how we work, travel and heat our homes.
As the originators of the Green New Deal, we are the only party you can trust to act in time to tackle the climate emergency and rapidly reduce social and economic inequality – and to make these our top priorities.
The Green New Deal will get the UK on track to reducing climate emissions to net zero by 2030 by:

  • Meeting most of our energy needs through the domestic production of renewable energy
  • Reducing overall energy demand from buildings and homes
  • Transforming UK industry, transport and land use

Promote a countryside for all of us
Green spaces can inspire children to be physically active and develop a passion for nature, encouraging them to learn more about the world around them. We would recognise access to diverse nature as a human right and uphold it across society.
We will create a Nature GCSE to encourage children to value nature and to grow a whole new generation of naturalists. We will also introduce an English Climate Emergency Education Act to support schools to teach young people about the urgency, severity and scientific basis of the climate and environmental crises, and to ensure youth voices are heard on climate issues.
We will open up car-free access to the National Parks with new cycling, walking and bus links. We would restore access to the countryside by reopening lost public rights of way and creating new ones. We will grant to people in England and Wales the same right to roam over all landscapes as people in Scotland currently enjoy.
Plan for communities
The Green Party will amend the National Planning Policy Framework so it no longer imposes centrally-set development targets on local councils. We will allow councils to develop their own planning policies, based on genuine local housing need and their requirement to contribute to the creation of at least 100,000 new council homes a year nationally. Councils will be required to balance this need with the need to preserve local ecology and the opportunity to create new green spaces.
We strongly support land designations which prevent inappropriate development on National Parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, natural habitats of local, regional, national or international importance, sites of special scientific or archaeological interest and ancient woodlands.
Create thriving rural communities
We will build 100,000 new energy-efficient council homes per year for the next 10 years, including in the countryside. We will allocate funding to local authorities for council home creation based on the needs of their area. We will incentivise local authorities to spread small developments across their areas, rather than building huge new estates, and to build, renovate and convert to high-quality designs that respect local architectural heritage. The new council homes will offer secure, lifetime tenancies.
Buses are a lifeline for millions and would be at the centre of our transport policy. We need to make using public transport as simple and straightforward as travelling by car. For too many people in the countryside there is no alternative to the car. Our national bus strategy would be focused on ensuring that it would be cheaper to travel by bus, tram or train than by car – we would do this by lowering fares and would use £3.5 billion per year to do this, funded by the cancellation of HS2.
Bus services must be planned around the needs of rural communities. Local councils would have responsibility the setting of routes, frequencies and fares for buses in their area, with residents fully consulted and involved in shaping these services. We would want to reopen rail lines and stations wherever possible.
The rural economy will face new challenges and opportunities in developing sustainable mixed land use, generating renewable power and in tourism. Better broadband for the countryside is essential. We will better connect rural communities through reliable broadband and mobile internet, delivered through councils who understand local connection needs.
The Green Party’s approach to the countryside is focused on the need to ensure the protection and sustainability of our most important asset. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain our approach to the issues you have raised and, if elected, I look forward to working with CPRE on our shared priorities.

Teresa Murray, Labour Party PCC for Rochester and Strood:

Thank you for contacting me with your views about the issue that is important for you in the General Election on December 12.
It is very helpful for me to understand what is important to those I hope to represent as a Labour MP for Rochester and Strood, but I am not signing any pledges before the election but am saving all of the emails and communications I have received.
It’s important to be honest and remind you that unless I am elected I will not be able to influence your issue or campaign at government level but am ensuring that the Labour Party is aware of the topics I am being contacted about.
I am pleased to say that most  of the issues are addressed by our costed manifesto pledges and the manifesto is easily available for you to read online at www.labourparty.org.uk
Labour’s manifesto will be transformative for Rochester and Strood because we are ideally placed both geographically and in terms of the skills base here to respond to Labour’s plans for investment in new green jobs and the public services which will help regenerate our towns and we’ll build the affordable homes people need in the right places as well as controlling the private rented sector.
Lots of you have asked me about Brexit and my personal stand. I voted Remain and respect the result of the 2016 referendum. However, I am comfortable with Labour’s position, which is to negotiate a deal that protects a sensible transition and jobs, then put that deal to the people with a summary of what it contains and a Remain option so that we can all be confident about what we are voting for and misinformation is eliminated.
If I am elected as your Labour MP, I will contact you again to explore how best to take forward the issues you and others have asked me to support. Here are the other most frequently raised topics:

  • Environmental protection and climate change
  • The NHS and treatment available for various serious conditions
  • Animal welfare and fox-hunting
  • Housing
  • Fair treatment for faith groups
  • WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) compensation
  • Schools, education and training
  • A variety of local issues about which I have provided specific responses

I am happy to come and talk to groups or to be contacted further.

April Clark, Green Party PCC for Tonbridge and Malling:

Thank you for your email. If I am elected, I would be delighted to meet CPRE Kent to discuss how we can meet the needs of local communities while enhancing the countryside for current and future generations to enjoy.
The Green Party is proud to be the party of the environment. We recognise that rural populations face the same social and economic pressures that are recognised among urban populations.

Regarding the CPRE manifesto topics:
Challenging excessive housing targets set by central government
We would amend the National Planning Policy Framework so it no longer imposes centrally-set development targets on local councils. We will allow councils to develop their own planning policies, based on genuine local housing need and their requirement to contribute to the creation of at least 100,000 new council homes a year nationally. Councils will be required to deliver these new homes in a way that preserves local ecology and creates new green spaces.
We also want to empower local authorities to bring empty homes back into use and create a total of 100,000 new homes for social rent (council homes) a year, built to the Passivhaus or equivalent standard. This standard will see these new homes use 90 per cent less energy for space heating than the average home, significantly reducing household bills.
Local authorities will be allocated funding for council home creation based on the needs of their area, and we will incentivise spreading small developments across their areas, rather than building huge new estates, and to build, renovate and convert to high-quality designs that respect local architectural heritage.
We will also ensure all new developments will be located and designed to ensure that residents do not need cars to live a full life, either having safe pedestrian access to local shops and schools, or are within 1km of a local rail, tube or tram station, or 500m of a high-frequency bus service.
Protecting all of the Tonbridge and Malling area’s countryside and open spaces
We believe we should encourage, through changes to the planning system, the ‘rewilding’ of spaces to provide new habitats for wildlife. An ecological crisis is happening – we must tackle it by restoring, expanding and joining up the wild spaces nature needs to thrive.
Our priorities will include strengthening Green Belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest protections, with development in these areas only being permitted in exceptional circumstances.
We would ban mineral extraction, road-building and military training from all National Parks. We will give local communities a say in National Park governance, though creating new democratically elected positions on National Park boards.
We would also encourage applications from communities for new Green Belt, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Park designations.
Promote a countryside for all of us
Green spaces can inspxire children to be physically active and develop a passion for nature, encouraging them to learn more about the world around them. We would recognise access to diverse nature as a human right and uphold it across society.
We will create a Nature GCSE to encourage children to value nature and to grow a whole new generation of naturalists. We will also introduce an English Climate Emergency Education Act to support schools to teach young people about the urgency, severity and scientific basis of the climate and environmental crises, and to ensure youth voices are heard on climate issues.
We will open up car-free access to the National Parks with new cycling, walking and bus links. We would restore access to the countryside by reopening lost public rights of way and creating new ones. We will grant to people in England and Wales the same right to roam over all landscapes as people in Scotland currently enjoy.
Plan for communities
The Green Party will amend the National Planning Policy Framework so it no longer imposes centrally-set development targets on local councils. We will allow councils to develop their own planning policies, based on genuine local housing need and their requirement to contribute to the creation of at least 100,000 new council homes a year nationally. Councils will be required to balance this need with the need to preserve local ecology and the opportunity to create new green spaces.
We strongly support land designations which prevent inappropriate development on National Parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, natural habitats of local, regional, national or international importance, sites of special scientific or archaeological interest and ancient woodlands.
Create thriving rural communities
We will build 100,000 new energy-efficient council homes per year for the next 10 years, including in the countryside. We will allocate funding to local authorities for council home creation based on the needs of their area. We will incentivise local authorities to spread small developments across their areas, rather than building huge new estates, and to build, renovate and convert to high-quality designs that respect local architectural heritage. The new council homes will offer secure, lifetime tenancies.
Buses are a lifeline for millions and would be at the centre of our transport policy. We need to make using public transport as simple and straightforward as travelling by car. For too many people in the countryside there is no alternative to the car. Our national bus strategy would be focused on ensuring that it would be cheaper to travel by bus, tram or train than by car – we would do this by lowering fares and would use £3.5 billion per year to do this, funded by the cancellation of HS2.
Bus services must be planned around the needs of rural communities. Local councils would have responsibility the setting of routes, frequencies and fares for buses in their area, with residents fully consulted and involved in shaping these services. We would want to reopen rail lines and stations wherever possible.
The rural economy will face new challenges and opportunities in developing sustainable mixed land use, generating renewable power and in tourism. Better broadband for the countryside is essential. We will better connect rural communities through reliable broadband and mobile internet, delivered through councils who understand local connection needs.
The Green Party’s approach to the countryside is focused on the need to ensure the protection and sustainability of our most important asset.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain our approach to the issues you have raised and, if elected, I look forward to working with CPRE on our shared priorities.

Legal challenge launched against plan to develop water meadows for car park extension

Beautiful… Wincheap Water Meadows

CPRE Kent is legally challenging the decision by Canterbury City Council to award itself planning permission for the expansion of a car park over an area of undeveloped riverside.
The local authority approved its own planning application on Tuesday, October 15, meaning that, if it goes ahead, the Wincheap Park & Ride extension will cover a stretch of floodplain next to the River Stour, an area known as Wincheap Water Meadows.
This is a Local Wildlife Site, lies in an Area of High Landscape Value and is part of the designated Stour Valley Green Corridor.
The city council says it needs to extend the park & ride at Wincheap once a new A2 slip road has been built, but CPRE Kent, supported by the Save Wincheap Water Meadows campaign, says there are other sites that could be used or alternatively part of the existing car park could be decked.
CPRE Kent has now launched a judicial review to challenge the council planning committee’s decision and the way it was arrived at.
The legal challenge rests on three grounds:
• Failure to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment
• Legal errors in the Habitats Regulation Assessment
• Misleading claims that the site had been ‘allocated’ in the Local Plan and that it would not have a harmful effect on the landscape
Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, said: “This is not the sort of action we take lightly, but sometimes a planning decision is simply wrong and we can’t stand by and watch a precious natural asset to so many people be destroyed.
“This is very much one of those occasions.”   
Save Wincheap Water Meadows is working with CPRE Kent and has pledged to raise £5,000 to help fund the initial phase of the legal challenge, paying the costs of preparing and filing the application for judicial review. 
A campaign spokesman said: “We need your support. Please help us to save this precious stretch of river valley for future generations.”

  • If you would like to contribute to the campaign to save Wincheap Water Meadows, please click here
  • For more on this story, please see here

Monday, December 9, 2019

Choose your gifts wisely and Christmas really can give to the environment

Did you know you can get eco-friendly brown masking tape?
Don’t feel ashamed if the answer to this taxing question is no, you didn’t. We’re sure you’re not alone.
Either way, the rather splendid news is that, yes, you can get this must-have festive accessory – and we can help you in your quest.
Eco-friendly brown masking tape is just one item that could help your Christmas be the greenest ever.
White-paper snowflake decorations, eco crackers and recycled wrapping paper can all contribute to a healthy green glow on you and yours over this most wonderful time of the year.   
And, of course, an eco-friendly lifestyle is not just for Christmas! A whole range of goodies are available that will make both fantastic gifts for your loved ones and life very much finer for our natural neighbours.
These include bug hotels, bee-bombs (native wildflower seed-balls) and fake wasp-nests (that’s fake nests, not creatures masquerading as wasps, and just to be clear, they help deter wasps and hornets from building nests nearby rather than encourage them… but all in a nature-friendly fashion).
We’re sure you must be solely tempted to buy some, if not all, of these delectable treats – and, as it’s Christmas, we’ve made it easy for you! All you need to do is click on the links below.
Just one thing we’d like to ask in return: please do buy through Amazon Smile and raise a little money for CPRE Kent. Just in case you don’t know how to do this, you need to register with Amazon Smile. And that, dear friends, takes just a couple of seconds. See here

Your presents can help make this Christmas the greenest ever
  • Click here for a bug hotel    
  • Here for a bee-bomb
  • Here for eco crackers
  • Here for white-paper snowflake decorations
  • Here for eco parcel tape
  • Here for recycled Christmas wrapping paper
  • Here for Natural Kraft wrapping paper
  • Here for a fake wasp-nest

Monday, December 9, 2019

CPRE has a new website… what do you think of it?

We’ll keep this one short and sweet… CPRE nationally has been going through a bit of a makeover and a big part of that has been the development of a new website.
It has just gone live and you can visit it here
We would love to know what our Essex members think, so do please let us know at either david.mairs@cprekent.org.uk

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

And here it is… the new CPRE website

Clear and simple: our message for the next government, whoever it may be

Well, it’s almost upon us!
We speak, naturally, of the General Election (on Thursday, December 12, should you have forgotten).
You shouldn’t be surprised to know that CPRE has been well prepared for this and we have already placed our manifesto on this website.
However, you can never (well, rarely) state your ambitions too often, so here are some graphics that show succinctly and precisely what we would like to see from the next government in relation to our rural environment.
Please do feel free to share far and wide.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Nothing quite like it… the CPRE Kent AGM

Always a highlight for members across the county: the AGM
Chairman John Wotton is invariably an engaging speaker
Chief executive Crispin Truman gave the talk CPRE and the Future for our Countryside

Almost 70 members and supporters gathered at Lenham Community Centre on Friday (November 22) for CPRE Kent’s AGM.
Sadly, our president Graham Clarke couldn’t make the event and delight us with his wonderful poems and anecdotes, but we were more than compensated for with a richly varied and engaging series of presentations.
County director Hilary Newport delivered her annual report, chairman John Wotton gave a thought-provoking talk and vice-president Richard Knox-Johnston presented The Climate Change Challenge… but not before guest speaker Crispin Truman, CPRE chief executive, had updated us on progress made by the national organisation.
Such events wouldn’t be the treasure they are without fine food and drink, of course, and most indulged in a splendid lunch and no small amount of conversation to round off a thoroughly satisfactory event.
Minutes of the meeting will appear on this website soon, but in the meantime you can enjoy the presentations here:
Director’s Report
Chairman’s Talk  
Chief Executive’s Speech
The Climate Change Challenge

Monday, November 25, 2019

Kent Voice: read it here!

The latest edition of Kent Voice (Autumn-Winter 2019/20) is out now. Lucky members have already received theirs in the post, but you don’t have to miss out as you can read it here!
Passivhaus, a district chairman’s comparison of two counties (one of them of course being Kent) and a colourful reflection on CPRE Kent’s 90th birthday… they’re all in there, along with your regular favourites and so much more.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Our countryside matters to those who vote. Politicians please take note!

Beautiful, isn’t it! Unsurprisingly, voters (that’s people, incidentally) want it kept that way

Countryside-loving millennials could swing the general election in favour of the political party that has policies most likely to protect and enhance the countryside, according to CPRE.
For those who don’t know (and we suspect it’s more than many media outlets realise), millennials are widely defined as those born between 1981 and 1996. Or, to put it another way, those who are now in their 20s and 30s.
A poll commissioned by this charity reveals that:
• Overall, 60 per cent of people said they would be more likely to vote for a political party that wants to protect and enhance the countryside, including the Green Belt, and just 1 per cent said they would be less likely
• On the same question, 71 per cent of people aged 25-34 felt strongly about this
• Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of 35- to 44-year-olds and 57 per cent of 45- to 54-year-olds said policies relating to the countryside would affect their decision in the polling booth
• Regionally, Londoners feel particularly strongly about protecting and enhancing our green spaces, with 73 per cent saying this mattered to them when deciding who to vote for
The research was published on the same day as CPRE’s countryside manifesto, which includes 12 recommendations for how the next government can harness the potential of the countryside to promote a healthier economy and happier communities.
Crispin Truman, CPRE chief executive, said: “This research turns long-held assumptions on their heads, with millennials and Londoners being most likely to vote with the countryside in mind.
“More and more young people are aware of the need to invest in their health and well-being, which is something that the countryside can deliver.
“And, perhaps unsurprisingly, Londoners, who are arguably most in need of time in nature, are more likely than any other region to vote with policies to protect green spaces in mind.
“But more than that, the survey results show overwhelmingly that protecting and enhancing the countryside is an issue that resonates with people of all ages and in all regions.
“It shows that countryside issues could be one of the deciding factors in determining which political party forms the next government.
“CPRE therefore urges all political parties to put measures to protect and enhance our countryside front and centre of their manifestos to ensure that our treasured landscapes will be available for now and future generations to come.”

Monday, November 18, 2019

District chairmen’s reports… in their entirety!

Maidstone’s Gary Thomas is one of the district chairmen who contribute so much to CPRE Kent

In the Autumn/Winter 2019/20 edition of Kent Voice, we carried reports from our district and committee chairmen from around the county. Space restrictions meant we couldn’t bring you them in their entirety, so here they are…

Ashford – Christine Drury

  • CPRE Ashford would love to have more volunteers bringing their local knowledge to help us make relevant and constructive comments on planning applications, large and small. We also now have a separate meeting looking at wider issues that may help us make early suggestions for the next Local Plan, as well as immediate issues. If you are interested in either, please contact the office on 01233 714540.
  • Since the 38-minute high-speed train service to St Pancras started in 2009, the Ashford area has become a developers’ honeypot. That has been good for the long-awaited regeneration of the town centre, although it has lost its M&S and will lose its Debenhams. Flats are being built, a cinema and brewery have arrived and restaurants, leisure and culture are the next priorities for the town centre. We support this brownfield regeneration.
  • The Local Plan includes the development of large swathes of countryside to the south of the town, adjacent to the now-emerging Chilmington Green urban extension. Together these are now designated as South Ashford Garden Community. We have commented formally and are engaging to ensure these are well-planned developments including provision for cycling and walking, with 10-minute bus provision assured. Outline plans are too car-dependent.
  • The pressures outside Ashford town are now huge. The borough is one of the largest in the county and, like most of Kent, is more than 75 per cent countryside. Houses in villages sell at a premium. If developments comprise fewer than 10 properties and are in a small plot they avoid the 40 per cent affordable requirement. Cumulative impacts are being ignored. In the absence of buses, shops and local school places, they are car- and delivery-dependent, putting huge pressures on rural roads as well as being against the direction in which we need to move to be climate-behaviour-compliant. Ashford CPRE generally supports small infill development, but in combination with allocated sites the cumulative strain on parishes is destructive. Some are outrageously opportunistic: Wates’s proposal for a further 250 homes in Tenterden is not in the Local Plan and would destroy the character of a small town where the green spaces reach deep into its heart from the surrounding AONB. Tenterden already has a lot of approved development and an inadequate bus service.
  • We collaborate wherever we can in the borough – currently with Rural Means Rural and the Limes Land Protection Group in Tenterden. Do contact us if you are part of a group not yet working with CPRE.

    Canterbury – Nick Blake
  • After Barrie Gore’s report in the previous edition of Kent Voice featuring the city council’s own application for a park-and-ride at Wincheap, it has reacted to a huge amount of objection but only by moving the edge back a few metres from the River Stour. This fails to recognise the impact on the Stour’s setting in this edge-of-city location. The floodplain is fairly narrow at this point, but the presence of trees means the river setting survives the proximity of Wincheap Industrial Estate. It seems our city council has no passion or eye for detail. Members of the planning committee will be in the difficult position of voting on their own council’s application. It is possible many might feel unhappy about the application but be compromised by the situation.
  • The so-called heritage champion is now also the leader of the council, which we feel is a potential conflict of interest. He has not championed any heritage cause – all we get are meetings and strategies but no positive action. The city has what look like effective policies to protect the environment, but they are not implemented. We focus so much on well-written documents, driven by hours at the desktop rather than going out and seeing.
  • Housing developments are stalled because of stakeholders not meshing together. At Sturry the council’s ‘green gap’ highlighted in the Local Plan is ridiculously narrow and will not prevent the visual merging of that village with Canterbury. The adjacent woodland that is to be retained has wedges of housing thrust into it and no plan for its maintenance. No countryside protection there!
  • The A28 Sturry relief road is short of finance and is set between planned housing developments. Have you noticed how much new housing is sited next to busy roads yet such locations have been shown to be bad for health? The nearby development at Hersden looks just like any other estate. Why do we have policies asking for local distinctiveness when we get the same mediocre housing all over the country? So not a jot of cheer from our city, I’m afraid.

Dartford and Gravesham – Alex Hills

  • The Bean interchange public inquiry began at the start of October. The Highways England proposals will not achieve their objectives, having a greater impact on the environment and residents than they should. Creating an additional eastbound slip road at Bean on to the A2 will have a negative impact on the strategic road network. It is concerning that no peak-flow forecasting work was done for the project or analysis of what the impact would be if the new Thames crossing was built and one of the crossings was closed.
  • It seems the only thing that will stop the new Thames crossing going ahead now is funding. This is totally wrong; however, now is the time to stop fighting the proposals and focus on making the project as good as we can. Getting as much of the road underground and minimising the impact on Kent roads must be our objectives. The crossing will have a large impact on Dartford, Gravesham, Maidstone, Tonbridge & Malling and even Dover.
  • It is not possible for the crossing to include a rail link due to topography on the Kent side and the required larger tunnel bore would cause the tunnel to rise.
  • There is a viable £3 billion project being developed that would see a new railway line linking HS1 with the London Gateway deepwater port in Essex. Having witnessed the problems CPRE has had over HS2 and how evidence has come to light showing the project is not in the national interest, I would urge caution with this scheme.
  • I would like to make a plea to not support any cycle lanes that are just painted lines in the road as research in this country and in Australia has proved it makes the road more dangerous for cyclists. The reason is that cars drive closer to cyclists when there is a painted cycle lane than when there is no road marking. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorists should be separated by some form of physical barrier.

Dover – Derek Wanstall

  • Dover District Council is progressing with its Local Plan review. At a recent meeting, concerns were expressed about infrastructure and the amount of traffic exiting Deal at peak times, which is causing frequent hold-ups at upper Deal roundabout and on the Dover, Deal and Sandwich bypasses towards Thanet. Of course, development on the edge of these towns exacerbates the problem.
  • Lydden Hill racing circuit will soon be up for discussion, with new plans for expansion being submitted. Noise and access is a serious problem, in conjunction with the proposed increase in race days, along with concerns relating to the AONB.
  • We await further news on Farthingloe and Western Heights. Nearby, The Citadel is up for sale as it is not being used for immigration detainees. With heritage refurbishment also on the agenda, perhaps the future of the whole area should be reviewed. It is good to see progress being made.
  • CPRE both nationally and locally is discussing ways of increasing membership, helping to keep our countryside for the future. Developers who try any way possible to achieve their ambitions by ignoring AONB and Green Belt designations must not be supported. CPRE has always stated its support for development but in the right places. Proposed developments should always consider properties for low-paid workers and people who wish to downsize.
  • Air pollution is a great concern, with more vehicles on the roads, engines left running in hold-ups and so on. Developers should plant more trees and retain them on development sites, improving the health of the nation. Sadly, the continual increase in the population only means an increase in the number of properties required.
  • Members and non-members alike are invited to the Dover AGM on Tuesday, November 5 (11am), at The Royal Hotel, Beach Street, Deal CT14 6JD. Refreshments and nibbles will be available.
  • Finally, at the Dover AGM I shall not be seeking re-election as chairman. With important issues in the area, hopefully a good turn-out will bring forth both a new chairman and a minutes secretary.

Maidstone – Gary Thomas

  • The review of the Maidstone Local Plan is taking place, due to be in place for 2022. The responses to the recent Call for Sites are due to be publicised very soon. We have responded extensively to the review, both in writing and through meetings. The increased annual rate of building from 882 dwellings to 1,236 from the start of the new Plan in 2022 presents huge problems and is due largely to the government’s ‘adjustment factor’ imposed on local authorities. This appears to just make a bad situation worse by concentrating development so heavily in the South East. The failure to match the need for improved infrastructure alongside the increasing population is obvious, but Maidstone Borough Council has no responsibility for most of what is needed (for example traffic, roads, health, education, waste disposal and public transport) so this severe mismatch is set to continue.
  • Three proposals for large ‘garden communities’ are causing great concern. Two are from developers – one just north of the county showground, the other alongside Marden – and one apparently organised by the borough council (secretly!) for Lenham Heath. We will be responding more as the plans develop.
  • There are other planning applications in Lenham that are not in the Local Plan. Lenham Neighbourhood Plan appears to be being seriously delayed.
  • Two new Gypsy and Traveller applications feature large built ‘dayrooms’ on each pitch. Gypsies and Travellers have policies not available to the rest of the population due to their culture of living in caravans in the countryside, allowing them to continue in this way. Building ‘dayrooms’ appears contrary to the reason for this policy and is a development we think should be challenged.
  • The Glover review into national landscapes has, disappointingly, ruled out expansion of the Kent Downs AONB, at least for the time being.

Medway – David Mairs

  • A petition with hundreds of names was sent to Medway Council urging it to reject applications for large-scale development in and around “the important green lung” of Lower Rainham and Lower Twydall, including a proposal for 1,250 dwellings in the Pump Lane area and housing plans to the north of Rainham. If the proposals are accepted, they will remove a significant part of the greenfield buffer preventing a continuous urban sprawl between Lower Rainham, Twydall and Gillingham.
  • As with the rest of the county, Medway faces huge challenges if it is to retain substantial areas of countryside. CPRE Kent is, however, under-represented in the district, so we are keen to hear from anyone who lives in Medway and would like to get further involved with what we do. Please feel free to call the office on 01233 714540.

Sevenoaks – Nigel Britten

  • We have embarked on the final stage of the Local Plan, the examination in public. The central question for the inspector is whether the plan is ‘sound’, meaning whether it complies with policy requirements in all respects. Within that, the key issue is housing. The government’s formula for calculating housing need stipulates that 13,960 dwellings should be built during the 20-year Plan period, 2015-2035. Instead, the Plan proposes a total of 10,600, with the justification that in a district that is almost entirely Green Belt and two-thirds AONB there is nowhere to put so many houses. We have commented at all stages of the process and are grateful to our two professional planners at the CPRE Kent office, Paul Buckley and Julie Davies, who have given us invaluable support and been presenting evidence at the examination. One major purpose will be to challenge the intention at some future date to build some 2,500 dwellings on what is now Pedham Place golf course. Committee members have been attending on as many days as possible over the four-week period, commenting in particular on proposed sites at Edenbridge and Fort Halstead.
  • Threats to the countryside are everywhere. The committee is always ready to welcome new members, so we hope anyone reading this will think about giving a little time to help protect the district’s wonderful countryside.

Shepway – Graham Horner

  • Folkestone & Hythe District Council planners have published an initial response to Folkestone & Hythe’s planning application for Otterpool Park. It echoes many of the concerns we have raised, including requesting the applicant to provide more information on and/or reconsider:

• strategy for dealing with a major road (A20) cutting through the middle of the town

• more detailed proposals for the town centre (‘Tier 2’ design) and how it will integrate with the proposed public park, Westenhanger station, Westenhanger Castle and the A20

• the rationale for the ‘overarching spacial concept’ (for example, heights, legibility and key views)

• a ‘21st-century transport vision’ as opposed to ‘predict and provide’

• better non-motorised transport links within the development and to Sellindge and Folkestone

• merging of neighbourhoods planned south of the A20

• clarity on strategy for delivery: definition of ‘master developer’ and long-term stewardship/governance

• a more joined-up approach to green infrastructure and provision for leisure

• the level of detail to be agreed at this stage, especially for later phases

FHDC has bought Westenhanger Castle after a long negotiation. Objectors have branded this a waste of money, but it will open opportunities to integrate it better into the public realm.

  • I have, wearing my parish councillor’s hat, toured new developments in the Cambridge area (Alconbury to Saffron Walden) at FHDC’s invitation. The economy around Cambridge is significantly different to that in Shepway. We saw some high-quality housing but learned it comes at a price unlikely to be sustainable in our area. Letchworth is a model for what is now called ‘land value capture’; the town owns almost all the land and takes in £12 million a year from rents and other sources to be used for maintenance and community projects. FHDC will not own all the land at Otterpool Park. At all projects visited, there was a design code that could be enforced by mechanisms with more teeth than planning conditions (such as financial penalties).
  • There is no news on the examination of the draft Core Strategy review, without which Otterpool Park should fail at the first jump.
  • FHDC has just published for consultation a draft Gypsy and Traveller Strategy to address a shortcoming of the Places and Policies part of the Local Plan.
  • Development of Princes Parade was formally given consent, despite a vote in full council to abandon the project.

Swale – Peter Blandon

  • Swale’s administration changed after May’s local elections and a new alliance is now in control. Several of its members have a track record of opposing large-scale developments and, true to form, they have now refused planning permission for two large schemes. These are:

• up to 675 homes at Wises Lane in Borden, with associated schools, surgeries and transport links. This is a deeply unpopular development that goes a long way to merging Borden with Sittingbourne.

• up to 700 homes at Barton Hill Drive, Minster, on the Isle of Sheppey

Both these proposals are on land allocated for housing in the adopted Local Plan and both had been recommended for approval by planning officers. In January, the previous administration had resolved to grant planning permission to the Borden development subject to a satisfactory S.106 agreement. However, when the new committee considered the scheme, it voted 13-2 to refuse permission. The developers agreed to a short extension to the application (it was originally submitted in October 2017) and, when that expired, immediately appealed on the grounds of non-determination. The appeal is to be decided by the Secretary of State rather than a planning inspector. The Barton Hill development had almost been refused in February with an 11-4 vote against it. But, as happens in Swale, the head planning officer called in the application, effectively nullifying the vote. The proposal returned to the committee in July with a recommendation to approve but was refused. The grounds given were harm to landscape; the setting of Parsonage Farm, a listed building; insufficient affordable housing; and transport.
The developer has said there will be an appeal, but so far none has been lodged.
So, developments totalling almost 1,400 dwellings have been refused since the change of administration. This is about two years’ housing under the adopted Local Plan and against a background of Swale failing the government’s Housing Delivery Test, meaning it must now apply a 20 per cent buffer to its housing land supply. So more sites will need to be allocated for housing. As both planning applications seem likely to go through on appeal, Swale’s new administration might be playing a dangerous game.

Thanet – David Morrish

  • Lots of valuable work done has been done for us by the team at Charing over the past six months; I and the committee thank them for their professionalism and dedication – we are fortunate to have such a good team to back us up.
  • The last days of our two big inquiries (Local Plan and Manston airport) were enlivened by the shock news from RiverOak, the applicant for the Manston Development Consent Order, that Stone Hill Park Ltd had agreed to the Acquisition by Agreement by RiverOak MSE Ltd on July 2 for the purchase of all the land SHP had owned at the airport site. This effectively means that the largest obstacle to the potential reopening of the airport (the opposition of SHP to RiverOak’s bid for a compulsory purchase order) has apparently been overcome. However, at the DCO inquiry, it was apparent that little progress had been made with regard to the acquisition of the many parcels of Ministry of Defence-owned land covered by the DCO, including the navigational apparatus. There is also the question of who are the RiverOak backers, which will not be answered in public until Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, has made his decision. Apparently, neither the counsel for SHP nor for RiverOak had been informed of any details of the purchase other than the price and the associated provision for SHP to retain all income from the ‘temporary’ lorry park at Manston should Brexit necessitate its use, so we await Mr Shapps’s considered judgement in the new year.
  • In the meantime, Thanet District Council planners need to decide how to revamp the draft Local Plan now that the housing land originally planned by SHP has been taken out of the equation. Meanwhile, housebuilding flatlines in Thanet (and newly-built houses await buyers) as, presumably, building operatives flock to more profitable pastures elsewhere in Kent.

Tonbridge and Malling – Mike Taylor

  • It has been a troubling time, largely due to Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s deeply flawed draft Local Plan. It has fragmented the borough into areas that support parts of it but who are terrified that any revision will fall on them and areas that have been unfairly loaded with housing proposals. Despite lodging the Plan in January, there is no sign of the appointed inspectors accepting it, which has left the door open to the usual suspects like Gladman to attempt ‘windfall’ applications because of the swiftly diminishing housing land supply.
  • The latest bombshell for TMBC is that the inspectors will split the examination into two phases, if it ever happens. Phase 1 will examine three issues – procedures, Green Belt and selection – while Phase 2 will not proceed until the inspectors are satisfied with Phase 1. We have long said that TMBC’s selection process was deeply flawed, allocating some 4,000 homes in the Green Belt while ignoring plots in the Call for Sites that were deemed ‘suitable and achievable’ and non-Green Belt, which could have provided 11,700 homes. This tends to explain the inspectors’ requirements for the Phase 1 examination.
  • It has been difficult here because traditionally we have been composed largely of parishes in the north-west of the borough, one of the areas hit hardest by the Local Plan proposals, but we are aware it would be desperately unfair to use our position on the committee to push through an official CPRE response that has a strictly local benefit, and so we have limited the number of meetings held in recent months.
  • While the government continues to swear it will protect the Green Belt, many refusals for Green Belt development are being overturned after higher intervention and so we have supported parishes in drafting a petition that demands the government properly defend Green Belt nationally: see here

Tunbridge Wells – Liz Akenhead

  • The draft Local Plan has at last been published, with Regulation 18 consultation to run to Friday, November 1. We are struggling to get to grips with its 518 pages, along with the 217 pages of almost unintelligible Sustainability Appraisal (in which the economic and social elements are generally held to outweigh the environmental) and hundreds of pages of other supporting documents such as the final Strategic Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (SHELAA), the Distribution of Development Topic Paper and the Draft Infrastructure Delivery Plan.
  • The Plan states that overall some 5.35 per cent of the Green Belt within the borough is to be de-designated and that “in accordance with the NPPF the Plan does not designate other land as ‘replacement’ Green Belt to replace that to be removed, but rather sets out how compensatory improvements to the environmental quality and accessibility of remaining Green Belt land can be made”. On a first reading, I have not noticed much evidence in the Plan that these improvements will materialise.
  • In a borough where 70 per cent of the land is AONB, 22 per cent (some of which overlaps with the AONB) is Green Belt, 16 per cent is ancient woodland, 7 per cent is floodplain, almost all ‘rural fringe’ land has already been allocated, brownfield opportunities are limited. With a reluctance to build high-rise in historic town centres, there are no painless ways of accommodating the housing numbers required under the government formula together with their associated development. Surely if there is anywhere the government’s policy exception to the requirement to provide for the full Objectively Assessed Need (OAN) for housing should apply, it ought to be Tunbridge Wells, with its protected areas such as Green Belt and AONBs. However, not only does the draft Local Plan aim to meet the full OAN, it proposes to exceed it by 9 per cent!
  • As well as massive development at Paddock Wood (4,000 dwellings in addition to the 1,000 already allocated there but construction reported to be halted because of problems with foul drainage) and 2,500-2,800 dwellings proposed at Tudeley, up to 800 dwellings will be allocated in the AONB at Cranbrook and some 700 in the AONB at Hawkhurst. New secondary schools are planned on AONB and Green Belt land at Spratsbrook Farm/Ramslye Farm south of Tunbridge Wells (with more than 200 dwellings as well) and on Green Belt land containing ancient woodland on the edge of Tonbridge. The villages have smaller allocations.
  • In addition to safeguarding land for the dualling of the A21 from Kippings Cross to Lamberhurst, three new roads are proposed to serve the proposed new developments, which will partly pay for them: an offline A228 Colts Hill bypass; a partly new, partly upgraded road (whose alignment remains to be decided) between Tonbridge and the new A228 bypass to serve the proposed Tudeley settlement; and a new road at Hawkhurst to partially bypass the Highgate crossroads. Very little information has been provided about the environmental effects of or justification for these new roads.
  • We shall be responding robustly to these issues, but the draft Plan is not all bad: many of the proposed Development Management Policies deserve support and where this is the case we shall give it.

Environment – Hilary Newport

  • The environment committee has a new chairman in David Wood, who took on the role after Graham Warren stood down after 16 years in the position. Graham was given a gift as a sign of appreciation for his contribution to CPRE Kent and, in particular, this committee.
  • The main topic has been the proposed Cleve Hill solar farm and committee members have made a range of contributions to the ongoing CPRE Kent submission to the public examination.
  • Graham Warren prepared a report for the campaign group at Dunsfold, Surrey, contesting plans for shale-gas exploration there.
  • Other issues covered by the committee have included land use, food security, waste and water resources.

Historic Buildings – John Wotton

  • The Historic Buildings Committee again partnered with the Kent School of Architecture and Planning to make the annual Gravett Award for Architectural Drawing. From a large field of entries on the theme of Norman architecture, the judges, chaired by architect Ptolemy Dean, chose Ayako Seki as the winner for her drawings of Dover Castle. She was presented with the award at the school’s end-of-year show and prize-giving.
  • The proposed development at Prince Parade, Hythe, between the Royal Military Canal and the sea remains a concern to the committee. We objected to the application and the council’s granting of planning permission to itself remains controversial, especially after May’s local elections. The branch will be supporting a campaign to save Princes Parade.

Don’t cave in to the drinks industry lobbyists! CPRE urges government to adopt ‘all-in’ deposit return system

More than one in four bottles littering our countryside may not be included in the deposit return scheme (DRS) if the government buckles under pressure from industry, according to CPRE.
Responding to the publication of the Environment Bill, which will allow for the creation of the DRS, CPRE is urging the government to continue with its ambition for all drinks containers – no matter the size or material – to be included in the system and not fold under industry lobbying.
The Bill allows for the creation of the DRS but does not specify what will be included or when it will be introduced.
Evidence for an ‘all-in’ scheme continues to build, with the CPRE’s Green Clean, a nationwide litter-pick carried out in September, suggesting that millions of drinks containers would still end up littering our countryside if industry secured a limited system to serve their vested interests.
Key stats from CPRE’s Green Clean, which took place across England, include:

  • Almost a quarter (23%) of glass bottles collected were over the 750ml size limit, the current upper limit for the ‘on the go’ DRS being pushed by key industries
  • More than a quarter (28%) of plastic bottles found littering the countryside were larger than the common 500ml bottle size and could be excluded from the scheme being pushed by key industry stakeholders
  • Some 7,500 drinks containers were collected during the month-long litter-pick, including cans, plastic bottles of all sizes and glass bottles

Additionally, more than one in 10 drinks containers collected were glass, a figure that does not include the shattered pieces of glass volunteers were unable to count. These would all be left to harm people, and wildlife, should industry succeed in excluding glass from the deposit return scheme.
Tom Fyans, CPRE deputy chief executive, said: “It’s great to see the government include powers to introduce a DRS in the Environment Bill, but as the results of our nationwide litter-pick demonstrate, to be an effective deterrent to the high volumes of waste polluting our natural environment, it must cover all materials of all sizes.
“To boost recycling rates for all drinks containers – cans, glass and plastic bottles, cartons and pouches – the only option is for the government to introduce an ‘all-in’ system.
“The industries that would be required to pay for the deposit return scheme continue to try to limit its scope, but we urge the government to prioritise the needs of the environment and society over corporate vested interests.
“As the Secretary of State for the Environment announced the publication of the Environment Bill, it was encouraging to hear her recognise the benefits of the DRS in England being the same as the DRS being introduced in Scotland, which will be ‘all-in’.
“This provides further hope that the government is listening as we make the case for an ambitious approach to tackling the problem of litter. But there is no time to waste, so we hope the DRS element of the Bill will be a priority as the government takes forward this vital piece of legislation.”

Monday, October 28, 2019

Passivhaus: the environmentally friendly way ahead for our homes

A low-energy house in east Kent built using traditional materials

Earlier this year, chartered surveyor Paul Mallion enthralled CPRE Kent members with a talk on the principles of Passivhaus, a voluntary standard that aims to drastically cut energy demand in our homes. Here he explains further how we must improve energy efficiency across the building industry if we are to reduce carbon emissions to an acceptable level 

As party to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the UK must reduce greenhouse gas emissions (compared with 1990 levels) by 57 per cent by 2032 and at least 80 per cent by 2050. 
The independent Committee on Climate Change reports, however, that, at best, current policies and plans will deliver only half the required reduction by 2030. To achieve even this lower rate of emissions, there needs to be a significant increase in the current building standards for energy efficiency for dwellings.
The Building Regulations set the minimum standards for buildings in the UK, covering new-build and refurbishment, extension and alteration projects. 
The Regulations include Part L, which relates to the conservation of fuel and power and energy efficiency, and this part has not been updated since 2013.  Local authorities do have power to set higher standards than Part L for new-builds through planning policy, although, since the government scrapping of the Code for Sustainable Homes in 2015, this power has not generally been applied.
Horror stories in the news about the poor quality of completed new dwellings in the UK are now unfortunately commonplace. What is often overlooked, however, in such cases is that substandard workmanship and design also extends to energy performance. 
Studies into completed housing projects show that most fail to live up to the energy standards they were designed to meet, a phenomenon known as the performance gap (Rowntreei, BREii , Leeds Met Universityiii).
This can be caused by a multitude of small failings, such as thermal bridges, gaps in insulation, air leakage caused by poor workmanship and design, poorly fitted fenestration, over-optimistic thermal calculations and inaccurate energy assessment methods such as Standard Assessment Procedure (from which Energy Performance Certificates are generated).  
Research into the performance gap in Germany and Sweden in the 1980s led to the development of a new building standard, known as the Passivhaus Standard. The research demonstrated a link between energy efficiency and indoor air quality and comfort, establishing one of the key concepts of Passivhaus: that energy efficiency and fresh air supply cannot be separated.
The Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt defines a true Passivhaus as:
“a building for which thermal comfort can be achieved solely by post-heating the fresh air mass which is required to achieve sufficient indoor air quality conditions without the need for recirculation of air”
This means that the primary design criterion for a Passivhaus is the supply of hygienic fresh air, something that hardly registers in most new-builds, as they rely mainly on accidental draughts for fresh air supply.
The design and calculation procedure required for the standard is rigorous but has proven to be statistically accurate over thousands of completed buildings across the world – greatly reducing the incidence of the performance gap.

Key principles of the Passivhaus Standard

  • Maximum U value for walls, floors, roofs 0.15W/m2K (or less if the building has an inefficient surface area-to-floor area ratio).
  • Windows and doors usually need to be triple-glazed with a U value of 0.8W/m2K, averaged over the glass, glazing spacer and frame.
  • All thermal bridges must be less than 0.01W/mK (known as a psi value); if greater, they must be included in the calculation.
  • An efficient mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery is needed, supplying fresh outdoor air to each habitable room, extracting from wet rooms. Heat recovery efficiency of minimum 75 per cent. Fresh air supply at 30m3 per person per hour, or a whole house ventilation rate of 0.3 air changes per hour.
  • Airtight construction (meaning no draughts when the windows are shut) tested to a maximum of 0.6 air changes per hour using a blower door at 50 Pascals under both positive and negative pressure.
  • Prevention of overheating, limited to 10 per cent of the year above 25°C.
  • Heating may be provided by simply heating the ventilation air or providing a small heat source such as a woodstove or centrally located radiator or bathroom towel rail.

This will result in a building that will have a maximum heating demand of 15kWh/m2annum or a heating load of 10W/m2. To put this in perspective, a typical three-bedroom British house uses some 180kWh/m2annum and still often fails to provide comfort and sufficient fresh air.
As Passivhaus is only an energy and comfort standard, there is no limitation on the type of construction that can be used. Owing to the greater levels of insulation material required, however, there should be a greater imperative to use sustainable insulations such as woodfibre, cellulose fibre from recycled paper, cork, sheep’s wool, recycled denim, hemp or flax. These materials contain only a fraction of the embodied carbon of petrochemical alternatives and generally perform much better in summer conditions to resist overheating.
The principles of Passivhaus can also be applied to existing buildings, in the form of retrofitting. EnerPHit is a slightly relaxed standard in terms of airtightness and heating demand criteria that allows for the nuances and restrictions of existing buildings and conservation issues. If successfully applied, the standard can reduce heating demand by up to 90 per cent. 
The UK has been slow to adopt PH Standard, although there has been a marked upturn in completed projects across all sectors in recent years. Constructing to higher standards can have cost implications, although experienced Passivhaus designers in mainland Europe argue that once the market matures and has gone beyond the experimental stage, costs can become neutral.
Commercial buildings and schools can even cost less than conventional buildings as the need for complex heating and cooling systems and advanced building controls can be avoided. 
While it may not be possible to achieve PH certification on all projects, it can be beneficial to apply Passivhaus principles to a design or refurbishment wherever possible due to the rigorous assessment procedure.
Construction costs, which will ultimately be reflected in the purchase costs, of a Passivhaus will be higher than a house built to the minimum UK standards, currently averaging between 10 per cent and 15 per cent more expensive, owing to its higher quality.
This additional cost could, however, be significantly reduced on larger developments where economies of scale can be exploited. What needs to be considered are the operational or running costs over the lifetime of the building and, of course, the carbon savings. 
Cost and carbon savings on energy are typically 80-90 per cent (compared with minimum standards) and this saving will persist for the life of the building.  With rising fuel costs and widespread environmental concern, homes built or refurbished to Passivhaus standards are likely to become sought after in the property market and this will ultimately increase the value of such properties.
CPRE’s 2015 report ‘Warm and Green: Achieving affordable, low carbon energy while reducing impacts on the countryside’ focuses on using less energy and explores the realities of greening homes and communities in rural areas.
Practical examples of energy-efficient refurbishment projects are demonstrated, along with exemplar new builds. It includes recommendations for government, the construction industry and householders.
A change in VAT rating would also provide a significant boost for retrofitting, reducing VAT to zero for energy efficiency works for refurbishments that attain either Passivhaus, EnerPHit or the AECB (Association for Environment Conscious Building) low energy standardiv, along with a training incentive scheme for the building trades to increase understanding and skills in energy efficiency. At present, insulation-related work is VAT rated at 5 per cent, but this does not cover whole house refurbishment.
The construction industry has the skills, products and practices available to achieve these standards right now, but as the regulatory standards are so low, too many designers and contractors are happy to perpetuate the principle of building to the lowest acceptable standard (the race to the bottom). There needs to be a dramatic shift in attitude in the construction industry to meet the challenge of truly lowering carbon emissions.

Paul Mallion FRICS is a chartered building surveyor and certified Passivhaus designer; he is also director of Conker Conservation Ltd based in Canterbury.

For further information, see:

Passivhaus Trust www.passivhaustrust.org

Sustainable building in general  www.aecb.net

Conker Conservation Ltd www.conker.cc

References
i Low Carbon Housing-Lessons from Elm Tree Mews, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Nov 2010

ii Bridging the performance gap – understanding predicted and actual building operational energy (IP 1/15), BRE Trust and the Energy Services and Technology Association

iii Bridging the domestic building fabric performance gap, Leeds Metropolitan University

iv AECB Building Standard

Sevenoaks leader savages ‘huge abuse of the process’ after council advised to withdraw Local Plan from examination

Sevenoaks District Council has responded fiercely to the recommendation from a government inspector that it should withdraw its Local Plan from examination.
Inspector Karen Baker wrote to the local authority on Thursday, October 17, saying: “I have significant concerns about a number of aspects of the Plan, both in terms of legal compliance and soundness.
“My main concern relates to the lack of constructive engagement with neighbouring authorities to resolve the issue of unmet housing need and the absence of strategic cross-boundary planning to examine how the identified needs could be accommodated…
“Furthermore, I have significant concerns about the soundness of the Plan in respect of a number of areas including the approach to sustainability appraisal, the chosen strategy for growth, the assessment of the Green Belt and housing supply and distribution…
“I am currently preparing a short letter setting out my concerns which will be with you shortly. I will not reach any final conclusions on the way forward for the examination until I have had the opportunity to consider your response to that letter…
“… I consider it is necessary for me to advise you that, at this point, I consider the most appropriate way forward for the Sevenoaks District Local Plan would be for the council to withdraw it from examination.”
Unsurprisingly, the missive has not been met with unbridled joy by the local authority.
A stinging statement on its website from council leader Peter Fleming says: “It is clear to me the way this has been handled calls into question the integrity of the whole plan-making system in this country.
“The inspector had our submission for six months and asked over 500 questions. What’s more, the draft Plan was independently verified and found sound by three external parties including the government’s own Planning Advisory Service.
“Had there been a fundamental problem, I would have expected the examination not to have gone ahead from the start.
“As a council we decided early on that we would follow an evidence-led approach, not prejudging any site and going where our Plan-making policy and the evidence took us.
“To call into question an evidence-led approach comes to the root of our concerns with the actions of the inspector. If we are not to follow the evidence to make our Plan then the government may just as well dictate how many homes an area should have and then pick sites, we need to put an end to the thinly veiled charade that Local Plans are in any way locally led.
“But the most damning comment has to be left for the inspector’s approach to publish her brief note before allowing the council to either see her full reasoning or have a chance to respond. This suggests her mind is far from open and she and her masters have made their minds up.
“Sevenoaks District Council will stand up for its residents and the district’s environment against what we believe is a huge abuse of the process by the Planning Inspectorate and the government department responsible.
“We will not allow them to run roughshod over the huge weight of evidence we have amassed, community views we have collated and the few powers we have left as a planning authority.”

Monday, October 21, 2019

Maidstone council under fire at meeting on proposed Lenham new town

Feelings ran high at Lenham Heath during the meeting

Gagging orders on borough councillors and landowners, the threat of compulsory purchase orders, secretive meetings in Ebbsfleet, non-consultation with parish councils and communities… Maidstone Borough Council was accused of all these and more during a heated meeting last night (Tuesday, October 15) on proposals for a Lenham ‘garden town’.
The hall at Lenham Heath was not large enough to accommodate everyone who had come to this first protest meeting against the potential new town. People stood outside and listened to claims of misbehaviour by the council in relation to the plans.
None of the parish councils of Egerton, Charing, Boughton Malherbe, Harrietsham or Lenham had been consulted on the garden-town proposal.
County councillor Shellina Prendergast and a representative for local MP Helen Whateley confirmed they too had only learnt from the media what was ‘planned for’ Lenham.
Tom Sams and Janetta Sams, who had organised the meeting, stated that they could disclose everything they knew on Monday, November 4, but not before.
They and fellow independent councillor Eddy Powell were challenged over supporting the proposals from the council, where the Liberal Democrats rely on the support of the independents for their controlling administration.
Much emphasis was put on whether MBC was within its rights to behave in the way it had done, while it was accused of predetermining a process that should be decided democratically.
Henny Shotter, a CPRE Kent member, said at the meeting: “The whole proposal is bonkers. No roads, no sewage infrastructure, this proposed development is the furthest possible from any employment centre in Maidstone, Ashford, the Medway Towns or Tonbridge and Malling.
“The suggestions to build a high-speed railway station so close to Ashford or a motorway interchange are financially unrealistic. They just cloud the fact that the proposal, as far as we know it, is completely and irredeemably unsustainable.”
If you want to support the action group, please get in touch with Kate Hammond on 07925 607336.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

‘It will destroy local communities and ruin residents’ lives. It must be stopped’… Chairman’s speech highlights appalling Tunbridge Wells council plans

This landscape will be lost to housing if proposals from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council come to fruition

It’s been described as “the biggest threat to Tonbridge and our Green Belt in a generation” and indeed plans from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council for mass housebuilding seem set to change landscape and life in west Kent in an almost unimaginable way.
The proposals for 2,800 new houses at Tudeley and another 1,500 at East Capel sparked the creation of Save Capel and last month John Wotton, CPRE Kent chairman, gave a speech to the campaign group pledging this organisation’s support in the bid to halt a policy destined to ruin the quality of life for so many.
Here is that speech, made on Wednesday, September 18, in full:
“CPRE is the countryside charity. It exists to protect the English countryside, to make sure it is valued and accessible to all and that it supports a viable and sustainable rural economy.
“Here in Tunbridge Wells, we are privileged to live in the beautiful and historic farmed and wooded landscape of the Weald of Kent. We are all custodians of the countryside, none more so, I would suggest, than our local planning authority.
“So, how does the draft Tunbridge Wells Local Plan measure up in terms of protecting our cherished countryside? Not well, in my estimation.
“The plan is, of course, the product of a broken planning system, driven by political and commercial interests that are wholly divorced from the needs of the population as a whole and wishes of local communities, including this one.
“It is inconceivable that Tunbridge Wells Borough Council would have come up with a plan of this nature in the absence of the housing and other targets imposed by national planning policy.
“There is now no pretence that the targets are based on genuine predictions of household growth and housing need, for the most up-to date Office of National Statistics data on population growth and household formation have been ignored by national government, in order to adhere to a totally arbitrary and unachievable target of building 300,000 homes a year (that is homes built anywhere and of any type, regardless of housing need).
“The rationale for this target has been challenged in recent research by Ian Mulheirn, published by the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence, which concludes that no more than 160,000 homes per year need to be built to cater for housing need.
“This topic is highly controversial, but for us in Tunbridge Wells, the key point is that the right homes for the people in this borough are built in the right places.
“The homes which are built should be affordable to those in need of a home and built in the most environmentally sustainable places, not simply the sites that yield the highest profit to developers.
“This means that houses should preferably be built on brownfield or urban infill sites, or as limited urban extensions, always making the most efficient use of land, rather than in new settlements on greenfield sites, and especially not in protected landscapes.
“The council seems to agree with this in principle, but not in practice. CPRE naturally wishes to see Tunbridge Wells adopt a sound Local Plan as this will give the local authority a measure of control over future development and better defences against inappropriate, speculative development proposals. “However, a sound Plan is not a panacea. Factors beyond the council’s control may (and probably will) undermine the Plan during its 15-year life, probably sooner rather than later.
“These factors include changes in the deliverability of individual sites, failure to build out planning applications which have been granted and, in these febrile political times, changing requirements of national policy.
“As soon as the council’s housing policies are shown to be out of date, the developers will again have the whip hand.
“A ‘Sound Plan’ is therefore not to be bought at any price and the price of this draft Plan is, in CPRE’s view, far too high.
“Tudeley Village is just the most egregious example of the sacrifice of greenfield sites for substantial housing development in the Green Belt, in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and elsewhere in the borough.
“This sacrifice is made in pursuit of housebuilding objectives that, even in the unlikely event of their being achieved, would do little to meet the genuine local need for housing, at prices local people can afford.
“The council say that they place the highest priority on protecting the AONB and then the Green Belt, but this is not the impression I gain from the proposed site allocations throughout the borough.
“If Tudeley Village is intended to relieve the pressure on the rest of the borough, it does not achieve this, even in protected areas. In my own parish of Cranbrook and Sissinghurst in the AONB, for example, the housing allocation exceeds assessed local needs by about 50 per cent.
“What can the council do, though, in the face of seemingly implacable national policy requirements?
“In our view, national planning policy does allow Tunbridge Wells to provide for less than the so-called objectively assessed housing need, in view of the high proportion of the land in the borough which is protected as Green Belt or AONB.
“This ability is fundamental to the effective protection of the Green Belt and AONBs. If it were not there, the Green Belt and AONB would be less protected in those districts in which they form a large proportion of the land area than in those where only small areas are protected.
“This is not the law, or the policy of government.
“The council say that they have not even considered the possibility of providing for less than assessed housing need, because their Strategic Housing Land Assessment shows that the borough can accommodate this need. However, it is hard to see how they have reached this conclusion.
“Their Sustainability Assessment shows that the council’s housing objective is compatible with only five of the 19 sustainability objectives they have set themselves and incompatible with nine of them.
“It is the only objective in the Plan which fails the council’s sustainability tests in this way. This is a fundamental contradiction in the Plan. It does not provide for sustainable development in Tunbridge Wells on the council’s own terms, and it must be changed.
“I haven’t said much about how the technicalities of planning policy apply to the overarching subject of the climate emergency, which rightly moves ever higher up the political agenda, including the planning agenda.
“It is far from clear to me that the council gives adequate weight to mitigating climate change in this Plan. That is a wider topic than we can embark upon today, but an aspect of it is specifically relevant to the Tudeley Village proposal.
“Under the government’s climate change guidance, planning authorities are advised that the distribution and design of new settlements and sustainable transport solutions are particularly important considerations that affect transport emissions.
“The planning inspectors have within the past week rejected the draft West of England Spatial Plan, saying that high levels of dispersed development across the West of England, unguided by any strategy, would not be sustainable. I understand that this Plan included a number of so-called ‘garden settlements’ on greenfield sites.
“It would seem that garden settlements are going to be looked at closely by inspectors and this should make Tunbridge Wells Borough Council think twice before trying to meet its housing objectives in this way.
“Tudeley Village is the poster child for the unsustainability of this draft Plan. It represents unsustainable, environmentally harmful destruction of the countryside, replacing a beautiful, unspoilt and protected site with a dormitory for City commuters and their families, heavily reliant on their private cars for transport.
“It will destroy local communities and ruin local residents’ lives. It must be stopped and CPRE Kent will support you in your campaign.”

  • You can read the latest Save Capel newsletter here

Tuesday, October 8

CPRE’s Green Clean… volunteers pick on litter (and aren’t we grateful for that!)

CPRE’s Sarah Merrington and son Oliver got picking at Graveney
It all adds up… the scene at Graveney

Members, partners and supporters of CPRE Kent pulled on their gloves and grabbed their litter-pickers as they joined other branches, community groups and volunteers to tidy up green spaces and countryside in a collective assault on rubbish.
Evidence from CPRE’s Green Clean will be used to highlight the urgent need for a deposit return system that includes drinks cans, plastic and glass bottles, cartons and pouches.
Last year, hundreds of bags of litter and more than 11,000 drinks bottles and cans were collected, demonstrating the need for an ‘all-in’ deposit return system (DRS).
This evidence helped make the case to former environment secretary Michael Gove, who gave his backing to an all-in system, stating it would give consumers “the greatest possible incentive to recycle”.
CPRE will use this year’s Green Clean to demonstrate that the problem persists and urge current environment secretary Theresa Villiers to pick up where her predecessor had left off, introducing the best scheme as swiftly as possible.
In Kent, litter-picks were held at Graveney and Folkestone.
Volunteers at Graveney were joined by Sarah Merrington, CPRE’s deputy director of volunteering who has just moved to the county, and her sons Oliver and Billy.
Sarah told Kent Voice: “Oliver and Billy are brand-new litter-pickers – and they absolutely loved it. It’s one of the relatively few occasions I have kept them engaged in one activity for more than about 20 minutes!
“They love being active in the countryside and litter-picking really helps bring to life learning about environmental issues and their own role in looking after our countryside. They worked really well together as a team – it was lovely to see.”
Welcome to Kent, Sarah!

Thursday, October 3, 2019