How planning by appeal cost Thanet one of its few remaining woodlands

A poor photograph but the damage to this piece of woodland is all too evident

This admittedly awful photograph shows what remains of one of Thanet’s last snippets of woodland.

With just 4.4 per cent tree canopy cover on the isle, Thanet is one of the least wooded districts in England – this was perhaps a contributory factor in the district council’s decision in August 2015 to refuse plans for 153 houses at Grade II-listed Westwood Lodge.

In explaining its decision, the council said: “The proposed development would result in a significant incursion of the built form into the Green Wedge, which would reduce the separation between settlements and result in a substantial loss of openness and established woodland habitat.”   

In these days of ‘planning by appeal’, however, Westwood Cross Developments did indeed appeal the council’s decision and in February 2017 the Planning Inspectorate duly approved the Broadstairs scheme, which entailed the felling of 150 Category C sycamore trees.

The inspector said the council’s position was weakened by its lack of a five-year housing supply.

Turning to the Green Wedge – the council’s long-standing policy that aims to keep open countryside between the three main towns of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs – the inspector said:

“Further loss of trees within the site, and the introduction of additional dwellings, would be partially visible. However, as the woodland visible along the northern and eastern site boundaries would be largely retained, its distinctive landscape qualities would not be prejudiced.”

The original developer Places For People Homes had pulled out of the scheme, but it was taken up by Rooksmead Residential working with L&G Modular Homes, which has been building the properties at an off-site factory before they’re moved to Thanet.

Property management company Love Living Homes subsequently launched the shared-ownership development, which includes two-, three- and four-bedroom properties.

The plans had included the planting of 450 trees, along with wildlife corridors, but it’s difficult to see how the natural environment has won out on this one.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

LTC Local Refinement Consultation – simply not good enough from National Highways

Lower Thames Crossing: CPRE Kent believes there needs to be a further and final round of consultation

CPRE Kent has responded to the Lower Thames Crossing Local Refinement Consultation.

As with the previous National Highways consultation, our main takeaway has been yet further frustration with the lack of detail provided, as well as the piecemeal fashion in which it is being provided.

There remain gaping holes in the information being provided; the documentation is very hard to navigate; key bits of information are buried in other documents from previous rounds of consultation; and key questions remain unanswered. There are also extremely important surveys such as air pollution surveys still yet to be done.

This is simply not good enough.

Sleek presentations, online videos and glossy brochures are one thing; however, it is the substance of the consultation that matters. 

It is for these reasons we strongly believe there needs to be a further and final round of consultation which brings together and updates all elements of the evidence base. This should be undertaken as a full statutory and be presented in cohesive and transparent manner. 

While this will never overcome our in-principle objection to the LTC project, this is the minimum that must be done to allow the people of Kent to fully understand the environmental, social and economic impacts of the LTC scheme.

  • CPRE Kent’s detailed comments on the consultation can be found here
  • For more on the Lower Thames Crossing, see here

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Let June Bloom… and marvel at nature’s magic

Who could argue against the beauty of a natural garden like this?

We’re into the second half of Let June Bloom, the campaign launched this year by CPRE Kent, the countryside charity, and the benefits of taking part are gloriously apparent as wildlife thrives around us.

Many wildflowers and insects are at their peak in June, with plants such as cowslip, evening primrose, meadow clary and wild foxglove all blooming during this month.

Insects hatching in June include large white, small white and small blue butterflies, while painted ladies, red admirals and peacocks can all lend a blaze of colour to our parks and gardens.

Vicky Ellis, of CPRE Kent, said: “We’re asking people to give wildlife the best possible chance by not cutting back the flowers on which so much of it – and ultimately all of us – depends.”

The above picture was taken in Broadstairs by a resident who has indeed let his lawn bloom in June – the spread of bird’s foot trefoil, white clover and red valerian, among others, is the delightful result. We’ll say it again – Let June Bloom!

  • For more on Let June Bloom, see here

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

We’re looking for people to join us as assistant planning volunteers… can you help?

CPRE Kent is expanding the team

Do you want to help protect the Kent countryside from ever-increasing development pressure?

CPRE Kent, the countryside charity, is strengthening its efforts to keep the county beautiful and expanding its team across the county. It is looking to take on assistant planning volunteers to help act as our eyes and ears across Kent and Medway.

Dr Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, said: “The rural environment of Kent is under siege as never before. We campaign hard for both the protection of our countryside and the appropriate levels and types of housing that local people need.

“At the moment, sadly, we are seeing eye-watering levels of housing that respect neither our countryside nor our residents, many of whom are still finding it impossible to get a foot on the housing ladder.

“Anyone in the county who would like to join us in our fight for all that is good about the Kent countryside is very welcome to get in touch.”

If you are interested in any of the above roles or simply in the work of CPRE Kent, you can email, phone 01233 714540 or visit the website us. You can also find the charity on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Last call on LTC consultation: it ends today

The Lower Thames Crossing as it might look

Today’s the day!

The Local Refinement Consultation on the proposed Lower Thames Crossing concludes at 11.59pm tonight (Monday, June 20).

It is of course very much last call, and the matter is complex, so if you would like a helping hand you can see can Thames Crossing Action Group’s step-by-step guide to the National Highways consultation here

Every voice counts!

  • For more on the Lower Thames Crossing, see here

Monday, June 20, 2022

With less than a week to run on LTC consultation, here’s a step-by-step guide

The issues can be complex, so the Thames Crossing Action Group has produced a guide (pic TCAG)

Time is running short if you’re planning on taking part in what might be the final consultation on the proposed Lower Thames Crossing.

The Local Refinement Consultation set up by National Highways concludes at 11.59pm on Monday, June 20.

We highly recommend submitting your views as the more responses received by NH the better.

Our friends at the Thames Crossing Action Group say: “You can of course respond using the National Highways consultation response form, but please bear in mind that NH have designed the form to get the answers/feedback they want.

“If you do use it, please read the wording carefully!” 

TCAG suggests instead giving your views either via email or post, highlighting that “you don’t have to use the response form”.

The matter is of course complex and if you would like a helping hand you might be interested in TCAG’s step-by-step guide to the consultation. You can see that here

CPRE Kent believes there are many problems with the crossing proposals and it is disappointing that the NH consultation does not address any of them.

Those issues include:

1. The A2 is to be reduced to two lanes both London- and coastbound – four lanes already at full capacity during commuter hours.

2. The Lower Thames Crossing is the wrong solution at the wrong location. On completion – in 2030! – the misery of the Dartford crossing will continue. Will lorries prefer this shorter northerly route, saving them fuel costs? It is predicted that the LTC will only reduce the Dartford crossing traffic by some 4 per cent.

3. Congestion at Dartford should be addressed without further delay. It is caused by the ‘stopping’ of all traffic in order to escort large tankers and many European lorries through the obsolete tunnels. This is effectively a red traffic light on the M25 causing ‘domino accidents’. The LTC does not resolve this problem.

4. The decision to build LTC was based on the promise of private funding. It is now to be publicly funded at a cost of £8.2 billion and rising. The Queen Elizabeth Bridge cost £120 million in 1991 (Highways England, now National Highways, rejected a relatively small cost of installing ‘wind supports’ as those installed in most bridges). This would not equate to £8.2 billion, even with inflation.

5. The LTC is being planned as an all lanes running expressway – a smart motorway by another name. This means no hard shoulder and as yet no reliable danger-detection system.

  • You can order a consultation pack here (alternatively phone 0300 123 5000 or email
  • The National Highways dedicated LTC web page is here
  • For more on the LTC, see here
  • To read CPRE Kent’s response to the spring 2020 LTC consultation, click here

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Everything’s lovely in the gardens for long-awaited CPRE Kent outing to Canterbury

Members of the group listen to the fascinating story of the medieval-cum-Victorian wall

The weather was kind as the first CPRE Kent outing in far too long was enjoyed by some 25 people on Saturday (June 11). Vicky Ellis reports on a superb day out…

The venue for our trip was the wonderful Franciscan Gardens in Canterbury and once we had all had gathered in the gardens, Josh, our guide for the day, began his talk.

We were told about the old greenhouse with an ancient vine growing through it and which would be the site’s next project; the wall that was medieval at the bottom and Victorian on top but now needed serious care and attention due to the medieval part collapsing under the weight of the Victorian part; the various stones that had been found on site; and the beautiful cutting garden with its culinary delights.

We ambled through the gardens to the old chapel that had, in its time, been a schoolhouse, a private residence and a prison, with graffiti scratched into the wood panelling still visible today.

After the talk we wandered at will around the gardens admiring the rose wall and insects and enjoying the wildflowers in the meadow.

We then popped over the road to The Old Weavers restaurant, where Jon, the head chef, treated us to a wonderful lunch. We were seated upstairs in the amazing restaurant, which was like a time capsule, and we felt we had all been cast back to the bygone days of the early 1800s.

All in all, it was a very relaxing and enjoyable day in beautiful and historic surroundings. Who would have thought that just off Canterbury High Street lies a place of such tranquillity, beauty and peace?

Monday, June 13, 2022

Lower Thames Crossing: read CPRE Kent’s Gravesham committee response

How the the crossing, should it be built, might look in Kent

We reported here that what is likely to be the final consultation on the Lower Thames Crossing ends on Monday, June 20.

The Gravesham committee of CPRE Kent has been working on its response to the consultation and you can read that here – it might help you with your own.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Doing archaeology better

Large, vehicle-mounted systems can cover wide areas quickly (pic Drilline)

Unearthing and recording our hidden past can be one of the many aspects to be addressed in considering planning applications, but are technological developments not being taken advantage of or even understood? CPRE Kent’s Ashford committee has been investigating.

Our past, it could be argued, is of as much importance as our present and our future. For those of us involved in the conservation of the county’s historical, cultural and natural heritage, it is perhaps ironic that much of the knowledge of our medieval and prehistory is unearthed during development schemes.

While rural campaigners might despair at the loss of yet more countryside, such projects can excite archaeologists, whereas developers often engage with search processes with only limited enthusiasm as they face potential time delays and high survey costs.

Developers’ desk research can be useful but miss areas of archaeological potential – the ‘white space’ on the all-important Kent Historic Environment Record (HER) might simply be the result of a lack of looking.
Taken in its entirety, it’s not a satisfactory situation and CPRE Kent’s Ashford committee has being focusing on the subject, exploring whether contemporary scanning technology could enhance archaeological search without the need for excessive digging.

The committee found that scanning technology is little used by developers’ archaeological consultants – utility companies, on the other hand, have embraced the process more enthusiastically. It’s a surprising conclusion given the amount of time and of course money that could be saved through use of the ‘smarter’ geophysical technology. Indeed, so time-consuming and expensive can the archaeological process be that a development might be shelved altogether.

Even when a scheme is built out, the time lost can be striking. At Appledore, for example, a planning application for four houses was registered in June 2017 and granted permission in May 2019, when an archaeological dig caused a delay of almost 12 months. The land was then sold to another developer, which submitted a further planning application and secured permission for five houses and a revised layout. This was registered in July 2020 and granted permission in December the same year, resulting in another archaeological dig causing more delay – the development is expected to be completed by the middle of this year, while the report and findings of the archaeological consultant have yet to be seen.

If we are to speed things up, one of the most promising forms of new technology is Ground Penetration Radar (GPR) and the Ashford committee learnt about it during a presentation by Matthew Bunting, managing director of Drilline Solutions, the first company in the UK to sell GPR gear commercially. He belongs to the Chartered Institution of Civil Surveying Engineers, which is promoting the use of GPR and trenchless technology.

GPR does not eliminate the need for digging (or ‘trenching’) but reduces how much is necessary and speeds up the development process. Cost ranges from £10,000 to £150,000, but the equipment suitable for archaeological purposes should not exceed £20,000 in price – an outlay that could pay for itself relatively quickly and be useable for at least a decade.

Although the potential for archaeological use is clear, GPR has been used largely for utility mapping, for example at Gatwick airport. In road engineering, it can determine asphalt thickness or degradation, while on the railways it has been used to detect moisture and clay in ballast and whether there is potentially dangerous movement from the washing away of clay.

Various systems are used:

  • Entry-level: used on most sites, with a dual-frequency radar that has a low and a high frequency, this can go two or three metres deep. Pushed by hand, it can be connected to GPS and plot where everything is in real time.
  • Stream-C: a larger system and single-frequency at 600 MHz. Useful for archaeological digs as it has 32 antennae, giving excellent resolution.
  • For small objects in shallow ground: a hand-held device that operates at 2GHz and can pinpoint individual layering of ground. Generally used for concrete but can help analyse the first 80cm of ground.
  • Large, vehicle-mounted system: can cover a large area quickly and is dual-frequency, running at 200 MHz and 600 MHz. Recently deployed in the building of a bypass in Staffordshire, where it is being used to locate utilities and archaeological remains. Surveys can be done quickly at speeds up to 50mph

GPR can identify soil disturbance, so if soil is replaced after a hole has been dug that can be detected. Resulting images are called B-scans (‘brightness scans’).

Another advantage of GPR is that it can be used to show where digging should be focused: the ‘test windows’. Although this is rarely done in the UK due to the expense and the fact equipment is often outdated, in truth an outlay of say £15,000 is not overly substantial when the cost of building a housing estate is considered – further, as well as finding archaeological remains, it can help avoid utilities and voids. A lot of money is spent repairing utilities after holes have been dug in the wrong place, while there is also the cost of resultant fines.

If not in the UK, the merits of such geophysical methods are appreciated in Norway, where any development – even a house extension – requires a GPR survey.

Other companies, including for example, GSSI and MALA, sell GPR equipment. GSSI is the preferred option for archaeologists as it goes down to a low frequency, while MALA is a low-cost solution used commonly on construction sites but infrequently in an archaeological or planning context.

Indeed, the archaeological world has been slow to embrace the use of GPR, perhaps because it doesn’t allow any remains found to be dated or have their significance verified. Dating is naturally a critical aspect for archaeologists, so a combination of trenching and geophysical technology is probably the way forward.

It is an issue close to the heart of Wendy Rogers, a senior archaeologist with the county council’s heritage team who acknowledges both the opportunity that development presents and the need to move with the times.

In a separate address to the Ashford committee, Ms Rogers said that, given context, she was keen to see GPR used. In planning, so much is dictated by time and resources, but if there is time on larger sites geophysical surveying can be requested, especially as the process is now becoming markedly cheaper.

There are two approaches when talking to a developer or contractor: one is when there is already an idea of what might be found, while the other is going in ‘blind’ to see what might be discovered.

Roman building material might be evident on a site, so a team will study aerial photographs to see if there are signs of a Roman building. There could be a recommendation for a geophysical survey, while there might possibly also be metal-detecting finds.

Other resources include old Ordnance Survey maps and knowledge of geology and land use. An analysis of what is known about the site both in terms of archaeology and the type of proposed development will help guide what work, if any, is necessary if it is believed something of interest is present.

The National Planning Policy Framework stresses the word ‘potential’ in relation to archaeological remains, so that can be enough to trigger a search.

GPR is useful, said Ms Rogers, but it is unable to date finds or verify significance. It might highlight an anomaly, but it cannot tell if it is Roman or recent.

If the process were free and without time restraints, her team would ask for GPR on all relevant greenfield sites, but as this is not the case the easiest method to find anything of archaeological significance on a greenfield or industrial site is trenching.

Trenches measure 20 x 1.5 metres and are dug over 5 per cent of a development site, giving enough evidence of remains of significance. If a geophysical survey is carried out, trenches will be targeted on any anomalies. Trenching will always be necessary to clarify date, function and significance, which is what is wanted in the NPPF, said Ms Rogers. GPR is rarely able to determine the significance of archaeological discoveries.

Developers tend to be highly restrictive with archaeological costs that are not part of their scheme and are obviously keen to ensure profit margins make it viable. With the need for other work such as ecological surveys, they are not inclined to fund archaeological work before planning consent has been granted, so the minimum spend, in the form of trenching, will be assigned. Once consent has been granted, however, developers are often happier to allow the necessary time and funds.

While some might lament a perceived reluctance to adopt new technology, there is nevertheless regular updating of techniques among archaeological contractors.

Drones are increasingly used to take aerial shots for excavations and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR). The Environment Agency’s LiDAR is accessible on its website but not of high enough resolution for archaeological assessment of landscape issues – it is, though, sometimes used for larger Heritage Lottery Fund projects.

Happily, some techniques are becoming substantially cheaper, while their variety is increasing: aside from GPR, we have the magnetometer, resistivity (which can detect stone walls) and magnetic susceptivity, which can highlight clusters of activity.

In short, an open mind and willingness to adopt an attitude of trial and error have never offered so much potential.

While it is clearly right and proper to know what has happened in the past, some in the Ashford committee question whether present archaeological practices are out of balance and slightly indulgent or indeed if the cost and delays are affordable and justified.

Like it or not, we have to accept change and in a sense perhaps the best way we can do that is to look back. Archaeology helps us in that regard – we just need to do it better.

Archaeological digs caused substantial delays at this development site in Appledore

Friday, June 3, 2022

Green Belt: the countryside next door to 30 million people needs investment to level up access to nature, says CPRE

The Green Belt is a treasured asset for millions (pic Alex Hills)

The Green Belt is missing out on government funding for the restoration of nature and cultural heritage despite it being the countryside next door to 30 million people – or more than half of England’s population.

Valued spaces such as the parkland setting of Bentley Priory – the headquarters of the RAF during the Battle of Britain – are at risk of neglect or loss. The government is being urged to meet its commitments to both protect and enhance Green Belt land or risk losing it to development forever.

So called ‘agri-environment’ schemes to plant trees, improve soil health, boost biodiversity and restore historic parks and buildings are not sufficiently benefiting the countryside that is most accessible to the general public. The findings come as repeated studies show the countryside around our most populous towns and cities is increasingly valued by the public.

Analysis by CPRE, the countryside charity, of a recent government study shows that four out of the 10 most valued parks in England are on Green Belt land. Land managers interviewed by CPRE confirmed the surge in the number of people visiting historic sites and beauty spots first reported during lockdown has continued to remain strong, with the Green Belt increasingly being used for walking and recreation.

Just over a quarter (28 per cent) of Green Belt agricultural land is covered by agri-environment schemes, compared with 42 per cent nationwide. Only 7 per cent of all national spending is on Green Belt land, even though Green Belts contain 11 per cent of all England’s farmland.

A new report by CPRE recommends boosting funding for the countryside next door to our towns and cities. In addition to improving access to nature, the schemes should aim for broader public benefits such as strategically planting trees and hedgerows to prevent urban flooding.

The countryside next door: why we need to invest in greener, healthier Green Belts is the first research to analyse the geographical spread of where agri-environment funding has been spent. The government is initiating a new regime of Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes to replace previous agricultural and land management subsidies. The report demonstrates that the new schemes are the most important means by which the government’s own pledge to safeguard and improve the Green Belt can be met.

Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “The government needs to invest in the Green Belt on a major scale if ministers are to meet their political commitments to protecting and enhancing the countryside next door for 30 million people.

“The alternative to funding the Green Belt increases the risk of it being built on it instead. History repeatedly shows that when protected countryside is under-appreciated it’s at risk of being lost forever to development. 

“People deserve countryside on their doorstep where agriculture is less intensive, where there is space for nature that everyone can explore and enjoy and which is accessible to all. Green Belts have a crucial role in enhancing the sustainability of our cities. Green Belt land can provide essential ecological functions and recreational benefits that are fundamental to health and well-being. And this can go hand in hand with sustainable agricultural production and climate-change mitigation.”

The Green Belt includes more than 6,000 miles of public rights of way, 34 per cent of all England’s nature reserves and 22 per cent of its historic parks and gardens. The report shows that many social groups face particular challenges accessing these places, such as crossing busy roads, stiles and a lack of reliable public transport.

Against a background of cuts to local government budgets for supporting parks and green spaces, funding from existing agri-environment schemes has played an essential role in maintaining historic parks around our towns and cities and making them more accessible.

That’s why CPRE is calling for a significant increase in investment in the Green Belt through ELMs, to improve the countryside environment closest to where the majority of people live. The government committed in the Levelling Up Bill to “improved Green Belts around towns and cities” and to “develop plans for further greening of the Green Belt in England”.

To address deprivation and ensure as many people as possible benefit, there should also be new investment to improve the countryside around large cities that don’t have a protected Green Belt, such as Leicester, Norwich, south Hampshire and Teesside.

Ben Goldsmith, vice-chair of London Rewilding and a Defra board member, said: “Few people grasp the degree to which the natural fabric of Britain has become depleted. Sights, sounds and smells that were common to previous generations are unknown to much of ours.

“A lack of access to green spaces exacerbates the disconnect from nature now experienced by great swathes of our society. Britain’s Green Belt areas offer a tremendously exciting opportunity to reinvigorate nature right on the doorstep of tens of millions of people, reconnecting rural and urban nature and bringing wildlife into our most densely populated centres. This report from CPRE, which articulates how we might go about rewilding our green belts, is spot on and hugely exciting.”

Monday, May 30, 2022

Presentation to Sir Robert a highlight of special day in Kent

John Wotton, CPRE Kent chair with Sir Robert Worcester (and plaque)

Earlier this month (May 11-12), trustees and senior staff of CPRE’s national charity visited us in Kent.

Their visit started with a tour of Ebbsfleet, followed by strategy discussions and a networking reception and dinner in the evening. The patron of CPRE Kent, Sir Robert Worcester, kindly made his home, Allington Castle, available for the evening. This was a magnificent venue for a gathering of representatives of national CPRE, CPRE Kent, several neighbouring CPRE branches and many other organisations concerned with protecting or promoting the Kent countryside.

Sir Robert, Simon Murray (chair of national CPRE), John Wotton (chair of CPRE Kent) and Sarah Barker (chair of the Kent Association of Local Authorities) all spoke before the dinner.

As a gesture of thanks to Sir Robert for his generosity and stalwart support for CPRE Kent over many years, he was presented with a plaque from CPRE Kent’s Historic Buildings Committee.

The plaque recognises Allington Castle’s quality and importance as a historic building. It is a moated, fortified, medieval manor house built on the site of a Norman castle and has been lovingly restored by Sir Robert after a long period of neglect. It was a truly magnificent venue for the evening.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Fears over soaring energy costs reduce light pollution, Star Count suggests

More than 2,500 people took part in this year’s annual Star Count

A significant reduction in severe light pollution levels, first recorded during lockdown last year, has continued, according to the results of a nationwide star count.
Despite lockdown being well and truly behind us, there does not appear to have been a corresponding increase in light levels from outdoor and street lighting.
The ‘lockdown legacy’ of working from home and rising energy prices has created an opportunity to permanently improve our view of the night sky, says CPRE, the countryside charity.
Office-based organisations switching to permanent home working, coupled with employers’ desire to reduce electricity bills, appear to have led to fewer lights being left on overnight.
This, alongside households being more conscious about wasting energy and councils reducing street lighting and switching to better lighting design, are believed to be behind the continued reduction in light pollution.
More than 2,500 people took part in the annual Star Count, the country’s biggest citizen science project of its kind, between February 26 and March 6. Participants were asked to report the number of stars they could see in the Orion constellation.
The results show severe light pollution, defined as being able to see 10 or fewer stars with the naked eye, has continued to fall. After peaking in 2020, when 61 per cent of participants reported seeing 10 stars or less, severe light pollution fell to 51 per cent in 2021 and continued its slide this year, to 49 per cent.
Emma Marrington, CPRE’s dark skies campaigner, said: “Half of the people who took part in Star Count experienced severe light pollution that obscures their view of the night sky. This is bad for wildlife and human health – and the energy being needlessly wasted is bad financially and bad for our planet.
“But the good news is that these results show small adaptations can make a big difference. If there is a silver lining from the legacy of lockdown and now the soaring cost of energy, it is that it has never been clearer how simple it is to cut carbon emissions and energy bills while improving our natural environment.”
A clear view of a star-filled night sky has a hugely beneficial effect on our mental health and, like access to other forms of nature, helps reduce stress and increase a sense of peace and well-being.
Research has even shown that regularly spending time looking at the stars can lower blood pressure and reduce depression. Yet the night sky, which is a hugely significant part of our natural environment, has no legal protection.
Turning off garden lights when not needed, dimming street lights and reducing office lighting could permanently reduce carbon emissions and cut energy bills while improving the natural environment for wildlife and human health.
Other solutions that could reduce both light pollution and energy use include councils investing in well-designed lighting, used only where and when needed. They can also adopt policies in Local Plans to reduce light pollution and protect and enhance existing dark skies in their areas.
Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “The night sky is one half of our experience of nature, but we don’t often think of it like that. In and of itself, it helps balance our mental health and boost our emotional well-being. Recollect that experience of a starry sky and you instinctively know it soothed you.
“But our view of the night sky – and all the benefits it undoubtedly brings – is being blotted out by light pollution. Like all forms of pollution, it is damaging our mental and physical health, and also having a severe impact on wildlife. Yet it is a form of pollution that is allowed to increase year on year without any effort being made to control the damage it is causing.”
Forty-nine per cent saw 10 or fewer stars compared with 51 per cent last year. This is the lowest percentage of people reporting 10 or fewer, indicating the most severe light pollution. This could be due to the continued effect of lockdown and changing behaviours such as hybrid working or less ambient light.
Three per cent saw more than 30 stars, compared with 5 per cent last year. That’s a reduction of 2 per cent since the last Star Count in 2021 of people who report experiencing truly dark skies.

Results for Star Count 2022

Stars countedNumberPer cent

Star Count results compared with previous years (number of stars counted within the constellation of Orion):

Year0 >56 > 1011> 1516 > 2021> 2526> 3031>  

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Let June Bloom! CPRE Kent launches a very special campaign

Our butterflies – this is a marbled white – are among the wide range of wildlife that depends on flowers

CPRE Kent, the countryside charity, is launching a new campaign, Let June Bloom.
Plantlife’s extremely successful No Mow May campaign is fantastic for helping protect spring flora – but it doesn’t stop there.
Our insect population is in freefall, the decline being eight times faster than that of mammals and birds; however, all are linked through the food chain.
The use of insecticides and plastic grass, the emphasis on neat and tidy gardens and the changing nature of our seasons due to global warming all negatively affect our precious insect population, leading to catastrophic decline. This is where Let June Bloom can help a little and give our insects a chance to thrive and in turn help our larger fauna.
Many wildflowers and insects come alive during June. Plants such as cowslip, evening primrose, meadow clary and wild foxglove all bloom in this month.
Insects that hatch in June include large white, small white and small blue butterflies.
June also sees the hatching of caterpillars such as copper underwing, garden tiger and gypsy moth, along with insect larvae including sawflies and beetles. Bees such as red-tailed bumblebee, tree bumblebee, wool carder bee, orange-tailed mining bee are all very active during this special month.
Allowing June to bloom is vital so wildflowers can carry on providing pollen for a host of insect species, allowing eggs of moths, butterflies and beetles to hatch and feed and so help our insect population thrive.
Vicky Ellis, of CPRE Kent, said: “June is such a special month for our wildlife. We’re asking people to give it the best possible chance by not cutting back the flowers on which so much of it – and ultimately all of us – depends. Let June Bloom!”

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Lower Thames Crossing: what might be the final consultation begins tomorrow

Lower Thames Crossing… it’s time for another consultation

Lower Thames Crossing. Consultations. We’ve been here before, right?
Well, yes, the build-up to the potential building of the new road does seem to have been around a long time, but the next consultation is, we suspect, likely to be the last before National Highways resubmits its plans.

The Local Refinement Consultation begins tomorrow (Thursday, May 12) and ends on Monday, June 20.

If this is indeed to be the final consultation, we would urge all interested to make their views known.

NH says the consultation gives “giving local communities the chance to have their say on some refinements to the project”.

It adds: “The Local Refinement Consultation is taking place to share a number of updates made to the project based on feedback from a consultation in 2021, ongoing stakeholder engagement and technical surveys.

“Following feedback from Thurrock Council the project has also amended its plans for Tilbury Fields, a new public park on the north bank of the Thames, to make space for the planned Thames Freeport.”

Proposed refinements include:

  • More public open space to the east of the tunnel entrance in Kent, connected to Chalk Park – the proposed new public park overlooking the Thames
  • Additional environmental compensation and mitigation, with potential woodland and public access
  • Replace a slip road on the A13 junction with a new link from the Orsett Cock roundabout to the A1089 to reduce traffic impacts on local roads
  • Modifying the access to the northern tunnel portal, providing safer operation of the tunnel facilities and better access for emergency services
  • A new footbridge over the A127 and further improvements for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders, including improved bridleways
  • Further refinement of utility works to enable the project to be built

NH is holding a series of public information events:


Friday, May 20 (2pm-8pm): Cascades Leisure Centre, Thong Lane, Gravesend DA12 4LG

Monday, May 23 (2pm-8pm): Village Hotel, Castle View, Forstal Road, Maidstone ME14 3AQ

Thursday, June 9 (2pm-8pm): Bridgewood Manor Hotel, near Bluebell Hill, Walderslade Woods, Chatham ME5 9AX

Friday, 10 June (2pm-8pm): Shorne Village Hall, 16 The Street, Shorne DA12 3EA


Thursday, May 19 (2pm-8pm): The Civic Hall, Blackshots Lane, Grays RM16 2JU

Friday, May 27 (2pm-8pm): North Street Hall, 24 North Street, Hornchurch RM11 1QX

Monday, June 9 (2pm-8pm): East Thurrock Community Association, 77 Corringham Road, Stanford-le-Hope SS17 0NU

Tuesday, June 7 (2pm-8pm): Tilbury Community Association, Civic Square, Tilbury RM18 8AA

Monday, June 13 (2pm-8pm): Orsett Hall Hotel, Prince Charles Avenue, Orsett RM16 3HS

  • You can order a consultation pack here (alternatively phone 0300 123 5000 or email
  • The National Highways dedicated LTC web page is here
  • For more on the LTC, see here
  • To read CPRE Kent’s response to the spring 2020 LTC consultation, click here

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Planning and the countryside: FAQs


Tackling the planning system can sometimes appear a nightmarish proposition for even the best-informed. So our planning experts at CPRE Kent have got together to produce an FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) guide to planning and wider countryside issues. You can read it here