Climate change rally in London: your chance to join thousands of others in getting the message to MPs

The song remains the same: thousands marched at the climate change rally in London in 2015 (pic Campaign Against Climate Change)

Some 10,000 people are expected at Westminster this week (Wednesday, June 26) to call for urgent action on climate change. Do you want to join them?
The rally has been organised by Greener UK and The Climate Coalition, which says: “The government has taken a step forward by setting the long-term target of ending our contribution to climate change, but we need policies to get us on track and slash our emissions now.
“To tackle the environmental crisis, we also need our politicians to pass a strong Environment Bill that can restore nature, cut plastic pollution and improve air quality.
“We need as many people as possible showing their MPs that now is the time for bold action.
“On June 26, thousands of us from every corner of Britain will take our message straight to Parliament in what we hope will be the largest mass lobby for climate and the environment the UK has ever seen.”
The Campaign Against Climate Change adds: “Around 10,000 are expected to gather in Westminster, in groups with others from their constituency. It’s an opportunity to talk to your MP and demonstrate that their constituents are calling for urgent action on climate change!”
Many will be going to the rally, labelled The Time Is Now and which runs from 1pm-4pm, as individuals, families and friends, but many organisations and charities are taking part, among them CPRE.
The CPRE website has a form, which you can fill in here if you would like to go.
This will give an idea of how many people are going and from which district.
CPRE has clarified the aims of the rally on its website:
“The Time Is Now as a group will be calling on government to:
“Commit to a target of reaching ‘net-zero’ carbon emissions by 2045. This is the technical way of saying we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to a level where the UK no longer contributes to climate change.
“Bring in legally binding targets for nature’s recovery, focusing on important things like clean air, waste and resources, soil, water quality and biodiversity.
“We’ll also be raising other issues with MPs, such as opposing the government’s proposals to fast-track fracking and making sure new homes are built to be energy efficient.”
We are encouraging as many people as possible to be at Westminster on Wednesday; we have CPRE Kent signs here at the office if you would like to take them (phone 01233 714540).
Further, it would be helpful if you could share this story on Facebook and Twitter.

  • For more on the rally, visit here, here and here  
  • To fill in the CPRE form confirming your attendance at The Time Is Now, click here  

Monday, June 24, 2019

Ayako draws on her skills to take Gravett Award

Gravett Award winner Ayako Seki with Ptolemy Dean
Ayako’s notebook shows the quality of her work

All smiles at awards night. From left, Kent Historic Buildings Committee secretary Graham Horner, CPRE Kent chairman John Wotton, Craig Webster, judging panellists Clive Bowley, Ptolemy Dean and Stuart Page and Nikolaos Karydis of the Kent School of Architecture

An architecture student is £300 better off after winning a prestigious award sponsored by CPRE Kent’s Historic Buildings Committee.
Ayako Seki’s Dover Castle portfolio saw her take the Gravett Award, given for the best observational drawings of buildings or structures produced over the past year by an undergraduate at Kent School of Architecture, part of the University of Kent at Canterbury.
The award is named after Kent historic buildings enthusiast Kenneth Gravett, who died in 1999. It both rewards excellence among students and encourages the recording of existing buildings through hand-drawing.
Historic England says drawings of existing buildings and structures are “used to aid understanding by observation and close contact with building fabric. They are particularly useful for vernacular buildings and architectural details crucial to the history of a building or site.”
A total of 119 students had entered for the award, with just eight shortlisted. 
Ptolemy Dean, one of the country’s finest architects and a former Kent College pupil, chaired the judging panel, which was completed by Stuart Page and Clive Bowley.
It was, of course, cheers all round, Ptolemy having been awarded an OBE earlier this month (June).
Graham Horner, secretary of the Historic Buildings Committee, said: “The entries were once again of a very high standard. The finalists all got to present their work in person and get feedback from the judging panel.
“Ms Seki impressed the panel with her passion for, and understanding of the functionality of, the castle structure.”

To read about last year’s winner, click here

Monday, June 24, 2019

Wildwood tour makes for a whole lot of furry fun for members, supporters and friends

The CPRE Kent party gather around the harvest mice enclosure (all pics Julie Davies)
This dormouse offered a warm welcome
What is there not to love about a harvest mouse?

The delights of Wildwood Discovery Park were savoured by an excited group of CPRE Kent members, supporters and friends on an exclusive tour of this very special place.
Julie Davies, a member of the CPRE Kent planning team, led a party of 14 on Saturday, June 8, as they learnt about the conservation of water voles, harvest mice and dormice before meeting rescued red foxes as they were fed by their keeper.
The afternoon allowed the group to wander around the park as they chose, getting to see fantastic animals such as bears, wolves and badgers. And some, we can be assured, took full advantage of the opportunity to eat at the wonderful café!
Our next event is Christmas dinner at The George in Molash on Friday, November 29. Get out your diaries and mark the date right now!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

‘Powerful lesson’ to politicians that our countryside matters… but Kent doesn’t witness dramatic change

Yes, people do care about the countryside (pic James Stringer)

Now the dust has settled from May’s local elections, we can reflect on some dramatic changes across the South East’s political landscape, even if Kent was not as affected as some of its neighbours.
Such was the widespread shift in allegiances that the London Green Belt Council was moved to comment: “One of the lessons of [the] local elections is that voters place greater emphasis on protection of the environment than on almost any other issue.
“According to research by the LGBC, the ruling groups in local authorities that allocated Green Belt countryside and green spaces for housing development in their Local Plans have been decisively punished by the electorate for doing so.
“Analysis by the LGBC of [the] council elections shows that where authorities had proposed development on Green Belt land, the ruling party in each case had been voted out of office or its majority substantially reduced.
“While in other parts of England, Brexit and other national issues may have determined the course of the recent elections, it is clear that in counties such as Surrey, Berkshire, Essex and Hertfordshire, which are within the London Metropolitan Green Belt (LMGB), the outcome of district and borough councils had been influenced more by communities’ anger at proposals to build housing estates on Green Belt land than by any other concern.”
It was in Surrey, perhaps politically the bluest of counties, that the swing was most striking.
The Conservatives, the ruling party in the majority of the county’s district and borough councils, lost 117 councillors (out of 1,269 losses in total), meaning Surrey accounted for almost 10 per cent of all Conservative losses in May’s local elections.
Throughout England the Conservatives lost control of 41 councils, six of them in Surrey.
According to the LGBC, the Conservative electoral performance was worst in the three Surrey districts where the Local Plans threatened Green Belt land for housing: Tandridge, Guildford and Waverley.
In each of these areas, Conservatives lost control of the local councils to residents’ associations, local campaign groups and independent candidates opposed to the Local Plans and who were pledged to defend the Green Belt from development.
In Guildford, the newly-formed Guildford and Villages group, which stood on a platform of defending the Green Belt, won 15 seats, and an existing local party, the Guildford Greenbelt Group, won an additional seat, giving them a total of four.
This, together with the seats won by the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, almost all taken from the Conservatives, resulted in a reduction in the number of Conservative councillors from 31 to nine.
The defeated council leader admitted that concerns about building on the Green Belt had been crucial in determining the outcome.
Hertfordshire saw the Conservatives lose control of three district councils – North Hertfordshire, St Albans and Welwyn & Hatfield – due to opposition to Local Plans proposing loss of Green Belt. In each of these districts there could have been even greater losses had the whole council been up for election.
In Kent, although the Conservatives suffered some losses, there was nothing like the groundswell of change experienced in neighbouring counties. That might be something to think about.
Richard Knox-Johnston, chairman of the London Green Belt Council and CPRE Kent vice-president, said: “The electorate punished the ruling party in boroughs and districts where they wanted to build housing estates on Green Belt countryside.
“In the local elections, dozens of pro-Green Belt councillors were elected in Tandridge, Guildford and Waverley, overturning once-impregnable Conservative majorities.
“There is a powerful lesson here for all political parties in London and the Home Counties that tampering with the boundaries of the Green Belt will result in further losses of councils to independent and single-issue Green Belt campaign groups.
“Proposals to remove land from the Green Belt in order to build on it are always extremely unpopular, as people rightly value and cherish their access to countryside and open spaces.
“In the cases of Tandridge, Guildford and Waverley, it is clear that the Green Belt has become a major election issue, with profound consequences for the ruling party.
“The elections prove that the environment is a ‘hot issue’ in many areas. Local Plans should protect the Green Belt and should concentrate new development on urban and brownfield sites in need of regeneration.”

Monday, June 17, 2019

Thanet, child poverty and staggering hikes in house prices… what a mess!

Margate has seen house prices soar by 55 per cent over the past 10 years

We are indebted to the local media for two stories highlighting some of the many issues affecting Thanet.
The district is usually at the wrong end of socio-economic statistics, so it comes as no surprise to learn it has the highest proportion of children living in poverty in the county, even taking into account a 4 per cent fall on the previous year (2017-18).
The figure of 35 per cent equates to a staggering one child in three (some 11,500) living below the breadline in Thanet, the Kent Messenger Group reports.
This compares with a Kent average of 28 per cent and figures from the ‘right’ end of the table: Tunbridge Wells (22 per cent) and Sevenoaks (23 per cent).
Now consider the issue of rising property prices in Thanet – indeed the entire Kent coast, where it costs an average of £150,000 more to buy a home than it did 10 years ago.
House prices across Thanet rose by an average of 48 per cent over the past decade; in apparently trendy Margate, the hike was 55 per cent, from £151,520 to £235,012.
The spiralling increase is, of course, fired largely by London and puts the prospect of local people buying their first home ever-further out of reach.
It is against such a backdrop that the government’s much-criticised housing methodology is anticipated to produce an Objectively Assessed Need (OAN) of 17,140 new homes in Thanet between 2016 and 2031.
It is a number that is highly unlikely to be fulfilled; in the region of 8,500 homes were built in the past 20 years, so the rate would need to more than double for the OAN to be achieved.
And when such a shortfall occurs, a local authority is unable to demonstrate a five-year housing supply, leaving the door wide open for speculative developers to try their luck at just about anything, no matter how inappropriate or undesirable.
There is a growing belief among some commentators that the ludicrous housing targets being imposed on some (but by no means all) local authorities are designed to do just that: effectively put planning powers in the hands of developers. Or is that a conspiracy theory too far?
CPRE Kent has long advocated the building of social housing for local people, highlighting the fact that developers’ keenness to put up four- and five-bedroom houses at prices beyond the wildest dreams of many is going to do precious little to ease the much-reported ‘housing crisis’.
Thanet residents concerned at the manner in which property prices are being skewed are often told of the ‘trickle-down effect’: the notion that an influx of cash-rich newcomers shares the posterity far and wide.
The idea would in truth seem to hold little truth, at least if those child poverty figures are anything to go by.

  • The saga of Thanet planning rarely makes uplifting reading, but for more see here, here, here, here and here

Monday, June 10, 2019

Climate change? No problem, apparently, in government push to further develop Thames estuary

The proposed Lower Thames Crossing is intended to fuel urban growth in the estuary

The government’s backing of proposals to target the Thames estuary for massive development flies in the face of wider calls to tackle climate change, says Hilary Newport, director of CPRE Kent.
In June last year the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission published a report calling for the building of more than a million homes and the creation of 1.3 million new jobs in east London, Essex and Kent.
The commission, an advisory body to the government that was announced in the 2016 Budget and tasked to “develop an ambitious vision and delivery plan for north Kent, south Essex and east London up to 2050”, had also urged that ‘joint spatial plans’ be created in both Essex and Kent, which it said should take more of London’s housing need.
It also called for greater strategic planning and the creation of development corporations “with planning, and compulsory purchase powers to drive the delivery of homes and jobs aligned to major infrastructure investment”.
Responding in March this year, James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, stressed his support for the commission’s recommendations.
“The Thames estuary has long been a gateway to the UK economy and has enormous untapped potential, which has the power to benefit those that live and work in the area,” he announced.
“Having considered the recommendations of the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission, I have announced a number of steps we are taking to unlock an even brighter future for the estuary’s economy, marking the beginning of a new and bolder approach by this government to support the area.”
He said government “expects all local authorities to plan for the number of homes required to meet need in their area” and “would encourage cooperation between the London boroughs and neighbouring authorities in Kent and Essex and welcome further engagement with those places, including with groups of London boroughs, in exploring how we might support them to plan for and deliver significant increases in the provision of homes”.
The government is also “committed to exploring the potential for at least two new locally-led development corporations in the Thames estuary”, “subject to suitable housing ambition from local authorities, and we encourage local areas in the estuary to come forward with such proposals”.
The response included a commitment of £1 million to establish a Thames Estuary Growth Board to “oversee and drive economic growth plans for the area” and £4.85 million “to support local partners to develop low-cost proposals for enhancing transport services” between Abbey Wood and Ebbsfleet.
The wish to impose high levels of growth on an already desperately overcrowded part of the country is alarming and of course would entail substantially expanded infrastructure, most contentiously a Lower Thames Crossing, a road that would exacerbate traffic congestion in north-west Kent, according to  Alex Hills, chairman of Dartford and Gravesham CPRE.
“The A227 section that runs from the A20 to the A2 and that paces through Vigo, Culverstone, Meopham and Istead Rise is facing a massive increase in traffic,” he said.
“With 3,000 houses planned for Borough Green and Gravesham Borough Council pressing to build on Green Belt in the area, this road already faces a huge hike in traffic. A new Thames crossing would drastically increase it yet further. Highways England has admitted that the new crossing will increase the traffic using the A227.”
Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, concurred: “A new crossing, should it be built, is projected to reduce traffic flows at Dartford by a pitifully low 22 per cent. That is a minuscule benefit, but the environmental and community harm caused by the biggest UK road project since the building of the M25 would be substantial.
“A new crossing would be all about intensifying overcrowding in the South East and opening up countryside development. It is now beyond dispute that increasing road capacity results in more vehicle journeys – we cannot build our way out of congestion.
“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that we need to take immediate action to curb catastrophic climate change, yet here we are stuck with the government’s obsession with a new Thames crossing to help pave the way for colossal levels of business-as-usual development.
“To say the government’s focus on new road capacity is out of date is to hugely understate the problem. Rather than investing solely in new roads, it should be promoting better public transport links, rationalising the over-reliance on road-based freight movement and supporting planning policies that support walking and cycling.”
The revised focus on the estuary comes after the previously mooted Thames Gateway project stalled, partly through a downturn in the economy and partly through the ditching by the coalition government, which came to power in 2010, of regional planning.
Now, perhaps ironically, there are concerns among some in the planning world that local authorities in north Kent have not engaged in joint strategic planning in the same manner as their counterparts in south Essex and the capital.
Six local authorities in south Essex have come together with their county council to form the Association of South Essex Local Authorities and pledged to prepare a joint plan.
Catriona Riddell, of the Planning Officers Society, which represents local-authority planners, said: “I think the south Essex part of the Thames estuary is way ahead of the game in terms of what it’s doing on strategic planning.
“The London Plan will cover the London bit of the estuary and you’ve got the south Essex joint plan being prepared. You’re going to have to have something in north Kent. You can’t have two out of three areas doing formal joint strategic planning without north Kent doing the same. That is a big hole at the moment.”
She says north Kent authorities have not worked together partly because of lack of agreement about whether a strategic plan should cover the whole of the county or just the northern part focused on the estuary.
“I suspect they will have to think quite quickly now because of the government’s response,” she said. “I don’t think they will have much leeway in terms of not doing something.”
Stuart Irvine, of planning consultancy Turley, added that the growth board would have influence with government, which could sway spending decisions. “It does potentially have the ear of government, which could be useful from a financial and infrastructure perspective,” he said.
“That could have a big influence on how Kent’s planning authorities choose to behave. If funding is channelled through the growth board, I think north Kent will have no choice but to change direction towards the Thames estuary.”
Some see the introduction of a growth board and emphasis on strategic plans as a renewed willingness by government to embrace regional planning again.
“We’ve got a similar approach being taken on the Cambridge-Oxford corridor,” said Thames Estuary Commission chairman John Armitt. “You need to look at it on that regional level.”
And at last year’s Conservative Party conference, planning minister Kit Malthouse said government wanted local authorities to come together in “regional groupings” and prepare strategic plans in return for Whitehall infrastructure cash.
Ms Riddell is not convinced, however, stressing that fewer than half of the councils in the Thames estuary would be represented on the new growth board.
“I find it really ironic that they abolished regional strategies and assembles because they were apparently unaccountable,” she says. “They’re reinventing regional planning but with less accountability and political representation than we had in 2010.”
Similarly, CPRE Kent’s Hilary Newport believes the future of the Thames estuary needs broader consideration.
“Sustainable transport should be prioritised over new road-building,” she said.
“If growth in the estuary is to continue, we need significant investment in the area’s public transport, walking and cycling options.
“As CPRE’s policy on transport makes clear, we need to manage our existing road network better, rather than expand it. As such, we would prefer investment in the estuary’s railway network, such as an extension to Crossrail, to be prioritised over the building of a Lower Thames road crossing.”
As for the push to focus development on the estuary, Mrs Newport said: “There needs to be wide-scale public engagement and consultation on the overall growth proposals, allowing alternative options to be considered before policy decisions are made.
“We believe that there should urgently be a full Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry into the proposals, to look at the potential impact on both the local environment and on the economies of more deprived regions in England.”

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Change is afoot in the Ashford committee

Christine Drury, Ashford committee chairman, reports on events, changes and concerns in her area

The site of the proposed Otterpool new town… not good news for many in the Ashford area

CPRE Kent’s Ashford committee, which incorporates the Ashford Rural Trust, held its AGM at the Picturehouse cinema on Wednesday, March 6.
The new cinema marks a milestone in the regeneration of the town centre. There is still much to do before the town can be said to be thriving, but Ashford Borough Council’s commitment to brownfield and delivering on it was well worth celebrating.
We are very sorry that Graham Galpin, who did so much to champion the town-centre big projects, became a high-profile casualty of the elections in May, losing his ward seat by just one vote.
We have also had to make changes in the CPRE Ashford committee as a result of those elections.
The members of the committee are as elected at the AGM, but the honorary officers will now just be chairman Christine Drury and honorary secretary Sandra Dunn. Linda Harman stepped down from her vice-chairman role to commit fully to her new roles as borough and parish councillor. Congratulations, Linda!
We are also pleased to continue working alongside Rural means Rural and the Village Alliance, now both being run by Sharon Swandale, who has joined the committee, along with Samantha Reed of the Limes Land Protection Group in Tenterden.
The speculative proposal by Wates for 250 homes on a highly valued local landscape that defines the green spaces and shape of Tenterden is a disgrace. And to call it windfall development is an outrage.
Tenterden is a jewel in the High Weald AONB. Wates should stop pushing this idea now before its reputation is damaged by it.
The committee is hard at work in and around Ashford, trying to ensure the best possible outcomes and sensible phasing where possible for sites that are in the Local Plan approved in February.
The other huge preoccupation is with the impacts on Ashford, Ashford borough villages and the natural environment that will occur if the Otterpool development goes ahead in Folkestone and Hythe district.
The promoters seem to be focusing entirely on the immediate ‘red line’ area and ignoring the potentially devastating wider impacts on the AONB to the north and Aldington and Ashford villages to the west, as well as the highly sensitive drainage and flood defences of the whole area.
Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Campaigners seek help in air-quality challenge

Air quality is causing serious concern in Canterbury

Canterbury air-quality campaigners are asking for your help in their bid to raise £10,000 to challenge the government in the Supreme Court.
Emily Shirley and Michael Rundell launched their case against the government in February 2017, saying it had not complied with environmental legislation because of the “dangerous levels” of air pollution in Canterbury. 
They will need help with their funding, however, and have set up a crowdfunding page, which can be reached here: www.crowdjustice.com/case/air-quality-on-trial-a-local-c
Emily said: “More than 40,000 people die prematurely of air pollution annually in the UK. Thousands of others, especially the young and the elderly, suffer from diseases partly or fully caused by air pollution, such as asthma, cancer and dementia.
“There are 16,000 new homes and other developments planned in and around Canterbury, a city already crippled by unlawful air pollution. These new developments will obviously make the situation worse.
“Our case seeks to establish that the government is responsible for ensuring that air pollution does not breach legal limits and, when it does, the government must ensure levels are reduced to legal limits as soon as possible.
“If we succeed, the dangerous air pollution levels that plague hundreds of other cities and towns across the UK will also have to improve. The government will no longer be able to shirk from its duties. 
“We believe we have excellent grounds for a hearing in the Supreme Court, but to do so we need to raise a further £10,000 to meet all our legal costs.”

Monday, June 3, 2019

A billion! How much DRS could benefit local charities

CPRE has long campaigned for a DRS: here’s its reverse vending machine

One in five people using a UK-wide deposit return system would donate the deposits they had paid on drinks cans and bottles to charity all the time, producing potential annual donations of more than £1 billion to good causes.
The results came from a survey carried out by ICM Unlimited and published by CPRE on Monday (May 27).
A further 19 per cent of respondents said they would donate their deposits most of the time, and more than a third (34 per cent) would donate at least some of the time.
This could lead to a further £1.3 billion in donations to local charitable causes from the deposits on glass and plastic drinks bottles and aluminium cans, the CPRE analysis found.
The donations could be even higher if drinks cartons and pouches were also included in England’s deposit system – something Environment Secretary Michael Gove is considering.
CPRE states that by including an option for the public to donate their deposits – something that is part of most other deposit systems around the world – we could build on the huge success of the carrier-bag charge, which, as well as reducing plastic bag usage by more than 80 per cent, raised £66 million for good causes in 2016-17.
Samantha Harding, CPRE’s litter programme director, said: “Not only would the introduction of a UK-wide deposit return system put a stop to most of the environmental damage caused by drinks containers and boost recycling rates in excess of 90 per cent, it could also provide much-needed funding for good causes across the country.
“It is fantastic and really heartening that so many people would be happy to donate their deposits in this way.
“An effective ‘all-in’ deposit return system will bring an end to the growing disenchantment and scepticism around current recycling methods by doubling current recycling rates.
“But it’s also evident that the deposit, as well as encouraging the right behaviour in terms of recycling, would allow for people’s generous natures to be realised when it comes to supporting others.
‘It’s important to ensure that England’s scheme includes every bottle, can, carton and pouch, whatever the shape, size or material.
“Not only will this halt the devastation caused to our countryside and environment by drinks container pollution, but if every type of drinks packaging is included in the scheme, it could result in more donated deposits, benefiting nature and local communities.”
In the UK, it is estimated that 28 billion single-use glass, plastic and aluminium drinks bottles and cans are sold every year in the UK, according to recent government figures.
Due to ineffective waste collection and recycling systems, overall recycling rates in the UK have stagnated at about 45 per cent. This results in a large number of drinks containers either left polluting the countryside, waterways and streets or being sent for incineration or buried in landfill, rather than recycled.
Through its monetary incentive, an effective UK-wide deposit return system has the potential to boost recycling rates for drinks containers to more than 90 per cent.
CPRE is highlighting that this would significantly reduce the environmental damage they cause, as well as ensuring that the producers of drinks packaging become financially responsible for the full costs of the waste they create.
Earlier this month, the Scottish government announced its plans to introduce a deposit return system for glass, plastic and aluminium drinks containers of all sizes.
CPRE is calling for the UK government to build on Scotland’s ambition by introducing a fully comprehensive ‘all-in’ system, including all drinks containers of all sizes and materials, to make sure that England gets the most effective and economically viable deposit system in the world.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Cleve Hill: the battle against the country’s largest solar farm gets under way today

CPRE representative Richard Knox-Johnston and local MP Helen Whately at the meeting this morning

The battle to save some 1,000 acres of the North Kent Marshes from the building of the country’s largest solar farm began in full today (Thursday, May 30) in Faversham.

The preliminary meeting of the public examination into Cleve Hill Solar Farm was held at the Alexander Centre this morning, triggering the start of a six-month process.

Worried residents and campaign groups met to hear how the examination will proceed and to learn the opportunities they will have over the coming months to raise their concerns.

These will include, among many other things, damage to the landscape and to wildlife, along with the industrialisation of treasured countryside.
It is estimated some 80 people were present for the meeting, with the next opportunity to speak being the open hearings on Tuesday, July 16.

It is important to stress that even if you have not registered as an Interested Party, you can still make your views known to the examination; details of how to do this will be on the Planning Inspectorate website https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/projects/south-east/cleve-hill-solar-park/

Thursday, May 30


Aviation and the environment: hear this free talk on your doorstep by a world expert

Aviation: as hot a topic as ever

With the issue of airport expansion still very much alive, you might be interested in a free talk on aviation being held just over the county border in Surrey.
The Impact of Aviation Growth on Local Communities and Climate Change is being given by Tim Johnson, director of the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), in Lingfield.
Organised by Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (CAGNE) and the Kent and Surrey branches of CPRE, the talk is being hosted by Lingfield Parish Council.
The AEF is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to tackling the environmental impacts of aviation, while Johnson has almost 30 years’ expertise in the aviation, environmental and planning field.
He is a lead representative for the international environmental NGOs at the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organisation, where he co-leads groups set up by the Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection to develop the standards and recommended practices of reducing aircraft noise and emissions.
He is also a member of the Department for Transport’s external advisory group and represents community and environmental interests on the DfT’s airspace modernisation board and the Airspace and Noise Engagement Group.
As if all that were not enough, Johnson sits on Sustainable Aviation’s advisory panel and the Airports Council International airport carbon accreditation advisory board.
In short, he a bit of an expert!
AEF was founded in 1975 as a voice for community groups impacted by airports, airfields and flight paths. Today it represents more than 50 organisations throughout the UK.
The Impact of Aviation Growth on Local Communities and Climate Change is being held on Wednesday, June 12 (7.30pm-9pm), at Lingfield and Dormansland Community Centre, High Street, Lingfield, Surrey RH7 6AB.
If you would like to attend, you can email Liz at liz@lizlockwood.co.uk or phone 01342 834282.

Overwhelmed by the development onslaught? This piece sheds a little light on what’s going on…

A countryside under siege (pic Susan Pittman)

Many of us are aware that our natural environment is threatened like never before. We experience it through the constant grind of cement-mixers and bulldozers, but sometimes the bureaucratic process is not so clear. Here planning expert and CPRE supporter Michael Hand casts some light on what is driving the current onslaught.

We are under relentless and unparalleled pressure to accommodate significant growth, in particular to meet the demand for new housing.
However, many developments are concentrating on three- and four-bedroom executive homes and not enough ‘affordable’ housing is being delivered.
Much of the South East is experiencing pressure for this unprecedented growth in housing, driven by the ‘housing crisis’ and associated government policy to increase the delivery of new homes by setting higher targets for local authorities to meet.
As guardians of the countryside, local members of CPRE Kent have a key responsibility in upholding the core values of the organisation and defending the beauty of the county against poor-quality and inappropriate new developments.
There are 13 Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) in Kent and in many Local Plans have not been adopted.
This void in the planning framework has resulted in opportunistic and speculative applications (by companies such as Gladman Developments Ltd) seeking to exploit councils’ inability to demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land.
The effect, already adverse, has been exacerbated by a recent change by the government to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) through publication of a revised version on February 19.
Key changes include an amendment to specify that 2014-based population projections will provide the demographic baseline for the standard method of calculating local housing need rather than the lower 2016-based household projections, which could be used as a reason to justify lower housing need.
This clarification followed the publication of a major revision of the NPPF on July 24, 2018, which, inter alia, clarified the definition of ‘deliverable’.
To be considered deliverable, sites for housing should be available now, offer a suitable location for development now and be achievable with a realistic prospect that housing will be delivered on the site within five years.
As a consequence, it may be harder for LPAs to provide a five-year housing-land supply, as for example Local Plan allocations cannot generally be used in the calculation, except where “clear evidence that housing completions will begin on site within five years” exists.
The 2018 revision also introduced the Housing Delivery Test for LPAs, a failure in delivery of which kick-starts the “presumption in favour of sustainable development”.
The first round of Housing Delivery Test results was published in February this year, with 108 councils falling short and 86 required to add more land for housing to Local Plans as a result.
For a number of authorities, this confirms the need to apply a 20 per cent buffer to their housing requirement, with potential ramifications for their ability to demonstrate a five-year housing land supply.
A result of these changes is that speculative applications will still be common practice in the future – and that is why CPRE Kent needs to keep building a strong presence to monitor and respond to inappropriate development proposals.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Here’s your latest Kent Voice… read it online!

Click on the front page above to read Kent Voice, Spring-Summer 2019

The Spring-Summer 2019 edition of Kent Voice has a varied range of articles for your delectation.
Barrie Gore has vacated the chairman’s seat at Canterbury CPRE and has some whether views, whether you live in the cathedral city or not.
John Wotton, on the other hand, has taken up his position as chairman of the county branch. We have an enlightening interview with him.
There’s also the second part of Geoff Meaden’s study of humankind’s assault on the environment; here he considers approaches to reversing the destructive trend.
Dick Bate, meanwhile, delivers what might just be the best analysis of our country’s shambolic planning system you will ever read.
There is, of course, also a whole lot more for you to get stuck into. Enjoy!

Monday, May 13, 2019

 

 

 

The legal eagle has landed… meet John Wotton, the new chairman of CPRE Kent

John Wotton: clear vision for CPRE Kent

John Wotton, the new chairman of CPRE Kent, talks to David Mairs about how he thinks this organisation should develop and shares (some of) his background as a lawyer in the City

“Where I am now is that I’m not a lawyer any longer!”
John Wotton, new chairman of CPRE Kent, was cheerily setting the record straight during a discussion in which he set out his ambitions for this organisation.
It would be remiss to introduce John without referring to his life in the legal profession, during which he worked for more than 30 years as a City lawyer with an international corporate law firm.
Suffice to say, a stellar career included such roles as president of the Law Society of England & Wales and chairman of the Law Society’s EU Committee and has been winding down with the chairing of Competition and Markets Authority inquiries for the past five years.
Now “spreading his wings” and focusing on a range of very different interests that include, of course, his role at CPRE Kent, he is strengthening his involvement with charities, notably in the world of wildlife conservation, and in education.
Born in Hounslow and brought up in Sunbury-on-Thames, he was able to call this county home when he moved to Marden in 1983 just as he and wife Linde were starting a family. ‘Children’ Ruth, Tom and Sophie are now all in their 30s.
“We moved into what one of the rich farmers in Marden referred to as a gentry house – we had the smaller, older half of it. It was tucked away, set well back from the main road, but had a relatively small garden.
“All around were orchards and hop gardens, half of which have now been built on. I was told there were once 80 working oasts in Marden parish and there were still five when we moved there. Now there’s not a hop grown in Marden.”
Despite the changes and so much loss of what many regard as the county’s heritage, it was in Marden that John got “a feel for Kent”. He moved to nearby Cranbrook in 1992.
Although fresh in his chairman’s role, John is of course no stranger to CPRE Kent, having chaired the Historic Buildings Committee for the past three years. Initially a joint operation between the Kent Archaeological Society and CPRE Kent, it is now run solely by the latter.
How did that particular interest develop?
“I’ve always been attracted to older buildings. A university friend – he’s still a good friend – went straight from his architecture degree to conservation and showed us around his patch in Suffolk. I found that interesting.
“Thinking about it, my interest may even date back to university. Jesus College Cambridge, where I studied, retains the medieval chapel and cloisters of the nunnery formerly on the site, now surrounded by fine buildings from every century since the foundation of the college in 1496. I fell in love with the place the moment I first set eyes on it.”
Historic buildings do not necessarily come to mind as falling under the CPRE remit – indeed Kent is the only branch to have such a committee – so how does John view their place in the wider scheme of things?
“Historic buildings can be overlooked in the work of CPRE branches. A lot of what we do is protection of the countryside, but the built environment is hugely important. The character of most settlements depends on historic architecture and protecting the fabric of old buildings and historic monuments is terribly important.
“The National Planning Policy Framework also protects the setting of heritage assets, so there’s often a very good ground for opposing or seeking to change an undesirable planning application, even where the historic structures themselves are unharmed. Protecting them in this way is highly congruent with the aims of CPRE, to protect the countryside.”
John acknowledges the challenge of following in the footsteps of predecessor Christine Drury, who worked tirelessly to make CPRE Kent such an effective organisation during her five-year term. What changes might we expect under his chairmanship?
“My main concern is my comparative lack of detailed planning knowledge. Even though I was a lawyer, my practice didn’t involve planning law.
“Externally, what concerns me most is our limited resource in combating undesirable applications and providing critical review. Local councils are subject to huge and conflicting pressures where planning is concerned and are hugely overstretched, which combine to increase the risk of bad developments being approved.
“I think we have to work very hard to bring in more people with the time and skills to intervene effectively.
“Even though we have some endowment, from a very generous benefactor, which provides us some financial security, we don’t have a big annual budget.
“We need more professional planners and more volunteers with the time and skills to intervene effectively in the planning process.
“I would like to instil a giving culture among our supporter base, one in which more of our members and other supporters make regular donations and leave legacies to CPRE Kent. It’s what other charities do and we don’t need to be reticent about it.
“We have to explain why one large windfall some years ago doesn’t enable us to do everything we need to do. But, of course, we can only expect people to support us financially if they see the value of what we do and believe their contribution will make a difference.”
Even bearing in mind the relative health of the Kent branch, it is no secret that CPRE needs to attract more members. There is no silver bullet, but how does the new man at the helm see us tackling things?
“Many other membership organisations are in the same position and unfortunately people generally seem less willing to get involved. I’m hoping that the work being done nationally on the CPRE brand and image will help us at branch level. But for the sterling efforts of the Charing team and volunteers in promoting CPRE Kent at events around the county, we’d be a good deal worse off than we are.
“Successful campaigns are key. A high-profile campaign is what attracts people and makes them think we’re worth supporting.
“We sometimes get new people at meetings but often don’t see them again, so we have to ask if we’re projecting the right message. The existing supporter base have signed up to and accept what we are, but most of us also see why we might need to attract a wider audience.”
That national work should help CPRE clarify what it’s about and a rumoured greater focus on green issues chimes with the new Kent chairman.
“CPRE as a conservation body should be concerned with protection of biodiversity in the countryside, as well as cultural, aesthetic and social considerations.
“We understand the environmental impact of planning, as well as the importance of green spaces and biodiversity to the health and well-being of people.”
John’s agreement to take the chairman’s seat can only be welcomed, but is there a danger of CPRE being viewed more widely as an organisation catering largely for high-end achievers?
“The greater danger is more, I think, that we are seen as a crowd of people with substantial houses and substantial gardens telling people that they must live in high-density housing to protect the countryside.
“We can only tackle that by explaining how the countryside and access to it are of benefit to people’s well-being.”
Which brings us to the issue of how much CPRE can influence housing policy.
“Housebuilding doesn’t make housing affordable,” says John. “I don’t see how we can meet the need for rural affordable housing without significant funding and other incentives being provided for social housing – genuinely affordable housing that will remain so, in the places where the need is greatest.
“Housing ceases to be a problem when there’s an adequate supply of low-cost housing for people without substantial means, and that includes housing in the private rental market. When I was young, it was very difficult to get anywhere to rent.
“I do believe we need a mixed housing market, with three primary types – social housing, private rental and home ownership – but government is only promoting one of them.”
Difficult times, unquestionably, but for John Wotton retirement does not entail the surrender of all other responsibilities.
Trustee of the Cranbrook School Trust and Great Dixter, council member of Fauna & Flora International and, of course, front man for our own cherished organisation… before you even consider the maintenance of his garden, orchard and mini-arboretum, opened regularly for charity, it is apparent the demands on his time will be rich and varied.
You can but sympathise when he says that, after three years chairing the Historic Buildings Committee, he wants to step aside from that particular task “but didn’t manage it in the meeting we just held”.
So there you are, dear reader: a new challenge could be yours. Who know where you might end up?

Monday, May 13, 2019

Pond Farm: now we wait

CPRE Kent was involved in Wednesday’s Court of Appeal hearing (pic BBC)

We hope to hear soon the outcome of Wednesday’s (May 8) Court of Appeal hearing of Gladman Developments Ltd’s Pond Farm challenge.
The decision is viewed as hugely important in the battle to have air quality considered fully in planning policy.
CPRE Kent was at the court last week as an Interested Party supporting the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government’s renewed defence of an inspector’s dismissal of two linked appeals made by the developer.
They had been made by Gladman against Swale Borough Council’s non-determination of planning permission for a housing scheme at Pond Farm, Newington.
To give you the backdrop to events, back in November 2017 the High Court dismissal of Gladman’s appeals against an earlier planning decision represented the first instance of air quality proving a critical factor in such a judgment. CPRE Kent had given evidence in that hearing.
The saga had begun with the council’s rejection of Gladman’s plans for up to 330 homes and 60 residential and care units at Pond Farm on the grounds of harm to the landscape and increased air pollution, the latter factor relating specifically to the impact on the council’s Air Quality Management Areas at Newington and Rainham.
Gladman subsequently challenged that decision, but the Secretary of State’s inspector dismissed both of its appeals because of “the substantial harm that the appeal proposals would cause to the character of a valued landscape and their likely significant adverse effect on human health”.
Not content with that, Gladman then contested that dismissal on the grounds of the inspector’s treatment of future air quality and mitigation; the decision in relation to the Newington air quality action plan; and the decision’s claimed conflict with the emerging development plan for the village.
And (in November 2017) Mr Justice Supperstone of the High Court ruled that none of Gladman’s grounds of appeal had succeeded and dismissed its latest challenge.
However, Gladman subsequently won permission to take its case to the Court of Appeal, hence Wednesday’s hearing.

Pond Farm: the story so far…

  • Swale Borough Council refuses Gladman planning permission for 330 homes and 60 residential and care units
  • Gladman makes two linked appeals against council’s refusal
  • Planning inspector dismisses both Gladman appeals
  • Gladman challenges inspector’s dismissal of its appeals
  • Gladman challenge is dismissed in High Court
  • Gladman takes case to Court of Appeal
  • Court of Appeal case heard on Wednesday

Monday, May 13, 2019