The event attracted more than a hundred campaigners – many were local but one man had travelled from Bristol to show his support
More than 100 people joined yesterday’s (Saturday, October 2) rally calling for the protection of the wildlife-rich Swanscombe peninsula. The event went better than anyone could have hoped for, especially given a grim weather forecast, although happily the storm didn’t really get going until later in the day. The walk around this fantastic site was interspersed with short talks, while there was a strong local-media presence. The cooperation between conservation groups – notably Buglife, Save Swanscombe Peninsula SSSI, Kent Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and CPRE Kent – was particularly impressive and augurs well for the campaign ahead.
To learn more about the Swanscombe peninsula, click here
Here’s a final reminder about tomorrow’s (Saturday, October 2) rally at which we will be calling for the protection of the wildlife-rich Swanscombe peninsula. Sadly, however, we must report that the SSSider Soak planned for Gads Hill Farm in the afternoon has fallen victim to a grim weather forecast. Hopefully another time! It’s full steam ahead for the Swanscombe rally, though, and we would love to see you at 10am for a tour, where we can all enjoy the sights and sounds of the peninsula, which is threatened by the proposed London Resort theme park. If you can’t make it bang on 10am, we’ll be walking at a gentle pace, so you’ll be able to join us over the next couple of hours. CPRE Kent is one of an alliance of organisations, notably Buglife, Save Swanscombe Peninsula SSSI, the RSPB and Kent Wildlife Trust, fighting to stop such a hugely destructive scheme coming to pass.
Campaigners on the rally will gather at Manor Way, opposite Britannia Metals, Northfleet DA11 9BG, on Saturday, October 2, at 10am
To learn more about the Swanscombe peninsula, click here
Kent’s best-kept conservation secret – the Swanscombe peninsula – is under threat from the development of London Resort theme park. CPRE Kent is one of an alliance of organisations fighting to stop this destructive scheme coming to pass – and on Saturday (October 2) we are holding a rally calling for this special wildlife site to be protected. We would love to see you on Saturday at 10am for a tour, where we can all enjoy the sights and sounds of the peninsula. If you can’t make it bang on 10am, we’ll be walking at a gentle pace, so you’ll be able to join us over the next couple of hours. And the fun doesn’t end there! You can come along to Gads Hill Farm for the SSSider Soak, which celebrates the wildlife of the peninsula. The event is based in a cider orchard; there’s a cider shop and bar and the Dartford Folk Massif are striking up at 3pm.
Campaigners on the rally will gather at Manor Way, opposite Britannia Metals, Northfleet DA11 9BG, on Saturday, October 2, at 10am
The SSSider Soak in the afternoon runs until 5pm at Gads Hill Farm ME3 7NX
To learn more about the Swanscombe peninsula, click here
We have objected to a vast housing scheme – effectively a new town – of more than 9,000 properties south-east of Sittingbourne. Quinn Estates has submitted two outline planning applications for what is collectively being referred to as Highsted Park. One comprises a scheme for 1,250 homes and other uses, including completion of the Sittingbourne Northern Relief Road, while the other is for 8,000 homes and other uses, including a new M2 junction south of the A2. The application conflicts with the adopted Local Plan and we believe there are no material or exceptional considerations why the Plan should not be followed. Among a range of issues, the site lies in countryside and within a designated Local Countryside Gap, while the proposed development would have a detrimental impact on the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, an Area of High Landscape Value and ancient woodlands and Local Wildlife Sites.
As we reflect on getting back to ‘normal’ life, I’m sure that like me one of your memories of lockdown will be how grateful we all were to be able to get outdoors and enjoy the countryside. I don’t need to extol the virtues of the countryside to you, but those of you who attended, or have now have watched, Professor Jules Pretty’s presentation on Health, Nature and Low Carbon Good Life will be aware of the documented benefits of being outdoors – whether it’s being in your own garden, local park or the wider countryside; and whether it’s for the purposes of gardening, admiring the view, walking or running. As the countryside charity, CPRE Kent wants to be at the forefront of championing these benefits – and we’d like you to get involved. Starting on Friday, September 24, we’d like to trial a ‘netwalking’ event starting in the home of our Pink Wellies: Will Walk blog, which featured a diary of lockdown walks from Faversham on the North Kent Marshes. The idea is that these walks will start at 10am on the last Friday of the month – moving each month to a different area of the county. These walks will be undertaken at your own risk – we’ll ensure that we have forward and back markers, so you can walk at a pace that’s comfortable for you. Needless to say, you’ll need to wear a pair of sturdy shoes and bring wet-weather gear and water to drink – you’ll also need to be prepared to walk on uneven ground and climb over stiles. If you’d like to take part in this month’s event, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be in touch with this month’s walk details.
An 18-day public planning inquiry opens today (Tuesday, September 21) into a scheme for 165 houses near Cranbrook in the High Weald AONB. Berkeley Homes had been granted permission to build 36 homes at Turnden, in the Crane Valley between Cranbrook and Hartley, back in February 2019. The developer then expanded its scheme to add 165 more homes – which was also backed by the council. This scheme represents substantial development in the AONB on a greenfield site that has not allocated for development within a Local Plan. CPRE Kent has been vocal in its objection to the scheme from the start. CPRE Kent supported Natural England in objecting to the proposal and asking the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to call in the decision. This request was accepted and the inquiry opening today is to inform the Secretary of State’s decision. CPRE Kent is undertaking a formal role at the inquiry, working alongside Natural England and the High Weald AONB Unit in presenting evidence against the scheme and challenging the evidence being presented in favour of the proposed development. We do not undertake such formal action lightly though are deeply concerned the Turnden scheme would set a precedent that could lead to harm to protected areas throughout the country. The outcome of this inquiry is not just critical to AONBs in Kent but to protected landscapes across the country.
Examination of a developer’s bid for consent to build the country’s largest theme park has been stalled again. The scheme entails the construction of the London Resort park at Swanscombe, between Dartford and Gravesend. The Planning Inspectorate’s six-month examination of the application by London Resort Company Holdings had been anticipated to begin in September, but in July the inspectorate advised that “The ExA [examining authority] does not have a detailed understanding of the Applicant’s proposed consultations and updates” before stating that the process was not going to begin until the second half of January next year – at the earliest. Now it has been delayed again because LRCH has failed to produce all the documents required by the inspectorate; the preliminary meeting is “unlikely to be held before April 2022”. Further, the inspectorate seems unconvinced that LRCH has consulted enough parties in preparing its submissions, while it’s not clear if the developer’s evidence will even be up to date by the time the examination eventually starts.
It has been reported in The Times this morning (Saturday, September 11) that the government is planning to abandon substantial parts of its planning proposals, including the zonal planning system. If correct, this will be a huge win for the CPRE planning campaign, so fingers crossed! Commenting on the reported rethink of the planning proposals, Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “The devil will be in the detail, but it looks as though some of the most damaging proposals of what was a top-down developers’ charter have been rightly binned. However, the government must not shy away from overhauling a tired planning system to make it fit for the multiple challenges of the 21st century. “Local communities need a stronger right to be heard in local decisions; brownfield sites must automatically be developed first to help protect local green spaces and our Green Belts in the fight against climate change; and young people and key workers desperately need more funding for rural affordable homes. “Positive changes to the planning system are long overdue – in future it is vital local communities are empowered to protect their precious green spaces while delivering the affordable homes they desperately need and, at the same time, responding to the climate emergency by regenerating the countryside. “This decision by ministers is a victory for common sense and local campaigners all across the country who just wanted a proper say on the needs of their communities and how their area should be developed. “We look forward to working with the government on creating a planning system that puts the needs of local communities ahead of developers’ profits.”
For every £1 invested in hedgerows, as much as £3.92 is generated for the wider economy, new research from CPRE, the countryside charity, has revealed
CPRE is calling on the government to stop dragging its feet and set a target to increase the hedgerow network by 40 per cent by 2050, which would be a win-win-win for climate, nature and the economy
Hedgerows could become champions of climate action and nature recovery while contributing tens of thousands of jobs to hard-hit communities, new analysis from CPRE, the countryside charity, has revealed. The Climate Change Committee (CCC) recommends that the extent of our hedgerow network should be increased by 40 per cent to support the UK government’s goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. If the right hedgerows are planted in the right place, for every £1 invested in hedgerow planting, as much as £3.92 is generated in the wider economy. Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, said: “It is almost impossible to define the enormous value of our hedgerow network – just as our arteries and veins supply our bodies with nutrients and oxygen, the UK’s hedgerow network defines many of our rural landscapes and must remain healthy to benefit villages, towns and cities. Our research shows that investing in our hedgerows is a win-win for climate and people in both the countryside and urban areas. “But we know the government has the biggest part to play in unleashing the full potential of hedgerows. That’s why we’re calling on ministers to set a target to increase the hedgerow network by 40 per cent by 2050 with improved protection for existing hedgerows. In its expanse, the hedgerow network is our largest, most connected, ‘nature reserve’. Healthy hedgerows are teeming with life and vital for nature. One in nine of all vulnerable species in the UK are associated with hedgerows. These include the hazel dormouse; the hedgehog, whose decline has been closely associated with hedgerow loss; and the brown hairstreak butterfly, which lays its eggs on blackthorn and is particularly common in hedgerows. Lord Deben, chair of the Climate Change Committee, said: “What was a determination to make land more productive in order to feed our people during and after the war has led to indiscriminate destruction of our hedgerows. Spurred on by Deficiency Payments and the Common Agricultural Policy, our yields rose and our wildlife diminished. “Reintroduction and proper maintenance of hedgerows transforms the all too sterile prairie land into the countryside, which for long we have loved. But, as this report shows, this is not about romance – the hard facts are that hedges contribute to profit as well as to well-being.” There is a parliamentary launch of our hedgerows campaign this afternoon, hosted by MP Selaine Saxby.
There are still tickets available for CPRE’s Hope for the Countryside event on Tuesday (September 7). You can still join us for an evening full of fun, creativity and hope in the face of the climate crisis, either in person at Glaziers Hall, London Bridge SE1 9DD, or remotely via an interactive livestream. During the evening, we will hear from:
• Emma Bridgewater CBE, pottery designer and president of CPRE, explaining why we should have hope for our beautiful countryside
• Emma Marrington, who leads CPRE’s work on landscape enhancement, explaining why hedgerows are an important part of the solution to combat the climate emergency and nature’s decline
• Sarah Corbett, founder of the Craftivist Collective, who will talk about how protesting using crafts can have a positive and empowering impact on us as individuals and on our campaigning. During the craftivism workshop you will create a craft supplied by us, whether attending online or in person
• Crispin Truman OBE, CPRE’s chief executive, will explore other ways the countryside can tackle the climate emergency, providing many of the solutions to addressing climate breakdown
• Safia Minney, social entrepreneur, founder of People Tree and newly-appointed trustee of CPRE, will draw on her extensive experience to talk about how to build strong relationships to make change happen
How to book You can order your in-person or virtual ticket at www.cpre.org.uk/hope. Alternatively, call the supporter care team on 020 7981 2870. The deadline for online ticket purchases is Monday (September 6) to allow time to post the crafting kits.
They are one of the most familiar features of the Kent countryside. We find them lining roads, railways and footpaths. We see them bordering fields and gardens. But hedgerows are under threat from poor management practices and development pressures and many have been removed.
Hedgerows originally defined ownership boundaries and provided shelter and stock-proof barriers between fields. They also helped reduce soil erosion and surface-water run-off on arable land. The hedgerows from this later period tend to be straight and dominated by hawthorn, while those from medieval times include field maple, hazel, dogwood and spindle, which provide richer habitats for mammals, birds and insects.
But aren’t hedgerows protected?
Strong controls exist for the protection of hedgerows in the open countryside. The Hedgerow Regulations 1997 prohibit the removal of ‘important’ hedgerows unless at least 42 days’ notice is served on the local planning authority and it has either granted such permission or failed to serve notice preventing removal.
For a hedgerow to be regarded as important, it must satisfy criteria relating to its size and age:
• It must be at least 20 metres long, or, if it is less than 20 metres, meet at each end another hedgerow (any gap of less than 20 metres is treated as part of the hedgerow)
• It must be at least 30 years old and part of a historic parish boundary or a medieval estate or manor boundary, or part of a field system that existed before 1845, or
• It must contain, or be next to, archaeological features and sites such as scheduled monuments, or
• The hedgerow contains protected wildlife or plants and associated features
However, the situation regarding hedgerows and hedges in built-up areas, or where the countryside meets the built-up area, is much less helpful in their protection. Generally speaking, a hedgerow is not protected if it is in or marks the boundary of a private garden.
There are exceptions to this:
• If a hedgerow is in a Conservation Area, removal may require permission if it includes trees
• A hedgerow may be protected if it includes trees covered by a Tree Preservation Order (although the protection only relates to the trees, not intervening shrubs)
Hedges can also be protected, to a limited extent, through conditions attached to a planning permission or through legal covenants attached to a property, though this would be dependent on enforcement in both instances.
What else can we do to protect our hedgerows?
Firstly, we could lobby for Local Plan policies that give a measure of control over the removal of hedgerows. An example of where this has been done relates to the criteria attached to Ashford Local Plan Site Policies S51 and S52 in Aldington. These require retention of a hedgerow that originally formed a field boundary as part of any edge-of-village residential development…
“The site is proposed for residential development with an indicative capacity of 12 dwellings. Development proposals for this site shall: (a) Be designed and laid out in such a way as to conserve the mature hedgerow along the road frontage where possible…”
Secondly, in addition to lobbying for hedgerow protection on specific development sites in Local Plans, we could press for hedgerows to be covered in Supplementary Planning Guidance and in Neighbourhood Plans. An illustration of this is the Vale of Glamorgan’s Supplementary Planning Guidance for Trees, Woodlands and Hedgerows produced in 2017. This requires that where developments are likely to affect a hedgerow, a survey must be undertaken to ascertain whether the hedgerow should be classified as important under the Hedgerow Regulations 1987. The survey is required to cover the condition, height, spread and species content of the hedgerow. Even when the hedgerow is deemed not to meet the criteria for classification as important, consideration is to be given to its importance for biodiversity and wildlife, for example as nesting sites, migration corridors or foraging routes for bats and birds, or as habitat for dormice. The Guidance requires building layout and site infrastructure to be designed so that as many hedgerows as possible are retained. Thirdly, we could address hedgerow protection at planning-application level. We could encourage landowners and prospective developers to incorporate established hedgerows into their landscaping schemes when sites come forward for development. Fourthly, we could do more to get the public on our side and to value the hedgerows in their areas. Ironically, the only specific legislation applying to urban hedgerows concerns their potential nuisance and neighbour disputes about hedgerows between property boundaries. The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 addresses how neighbour disputes over hedges should be dealt with. We should be doing more to publicise the value of hedgerows and good management practices so that a better-informed and sympathetic public would be more prepared to accommodate them. Hedges are good for our health. They hold particulates from traffic fumes and tyres that would otherwise end up deep in our lungs. Studies have shown that a one-metre-long hedge traps emissions from 30 diesel cars a year. Being at street level, they are more efficient at trapping exhaust pollution than trees. The best hedges in this regard have many small leaves and are evergreen. An ill-informed public could be doing harm to wildlife without knowing it. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, for example, it is an offence to disturb a bird’s nest if it contains eggs or chicks or is being otherwise used; such a nest could of course be in a hedge. Hedgerows are beautiful, they are beneficial in so many ways and they can be packed with wildlife – let us share and publicise their value for the benefit of future generations.
The proposed London Resort theme park has largely disappeared from the radar in recent months, so it is timely to give an update on proceedings. In January this year the Planning Inspectorate declared that it was accepting the application by London Resort Company Holdings for a Development Consent Order to build the park. A six-month examination of the project, in which CPRE Kent will take part, had been expected to begin two to four months from that point. Good news for the peninsula, its wildlife and the local people for whom it is a critical area for recreation, but there would be a four-month consultation before potential SSSI confirmation. Far from it, however! LRCH chose instead to plough on with its project, although saying it would be changing its plans after the SSSI designation. It was granted an extra four months to submit revised documents in its DCO bid, meaning the examination would most likely begin in September. However… in July this year the Planning Inspectorate advised that “The ExA [examining authority] does not have a detailed understanding of the Applicant’s proposed consultations and updates. Having considered the information available to date, the ExA is minded not to decide on the date(s) of the PM [preliminary meeting] before it has seen the Applicant’s submissions. On that basis the ExA anticipates that it will be unable to decide on the date(s) of the PM before mid-December 2021 and that therefore a PM is unlikely to be held before mid-January 2022.” Or, in other words, examination of the London Resort is not going to begin until the second half of January next year – at the earliest.
CPRE, the countryside charity, has joined with other major charities to call for urgent action to extend the country’s hedgerows by 40% by 2050 to protect nature and help tackle the climate crisis. Our humble hedgerows are the unsung heroes of the countryside. They have been adding beauty and character to our landscapes for centuries while providing the food and shelter that sustains our wildlife. They protect the soil, clean the air and absorb carbon emissions. But we have lost about half since 1945. Now, as we face up to the climate emergency, we urgently need to start reversing that decline – and allow our hedgerows to play their most important role yet. That is why we have launched our #40by50 campaign, calling on ministers to commit to extending the hedgerow network by 40% by 2050, as recommended by the independent Climate Change Committee, and have written to the government to this effect, as published in The Times last month. Our open letter calling on the government to do more to extend hedgerows reads as follows:
Hedgerows: the climate and nature heroes
Tree planting and peatland restoration are important parts of the government’s plan to tackle the climate and nature emergencies. Yet there is still one powerful solution missing from its strategy: the humble hedgerow. Hedgerows are the unsung heroes of our countryside. They are icons of our landscape, steeped in history, providing a haven for wildlife while absorbing carbon emissions. The hedgerow network, in its expanse, is our largest ‘nature reserve’. Shockingly, it is estimated that more than half our hedgerows have been lost since WW2, and many existing hedgerows are in a poor, degraded state. The Climate Change Committee recommends extending the hedgerow network by 40% by 2050 to help achieve net-zero. Ahead of COP26, now is the time for Ministers to show real leadership by committing to this target, while restoring our existing hedgerow network, to deliver a more resilient, beautiful and biodiverse countryside. Yours, Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity Dawn Varley, chief executive, Badger Trust Kit Stoner, chief executive, Bat Conservation Trust Anita Konrad, chief executive, Campaign for National Parks Mark Bridgeman, president, Country Land and Business Association Lizzie Glithero-West, chief executive, Heritage Alliance John Sauven, executive director, Greenpeace Shaun Spiers, executive director, Green Alliance Hilary McGrady, director-general, National Trust Jill Nelson, chief executive, People’s Trust for Endangered Species Emma Marsh, director, RSPB England Sara Lom, chief executive, The Tree Council Craig Bennett, chief executive, The Wildlife Trusts Richard Benwell, chief executive, Wildlife & Countryside Link Dr Darren Moorcroft, chief executive, Woodland Trust
CPRE Kent is dismayed to learn of a decision by Maidstone Borough Council officers, outside the scrutiny of elected councillors, that results in a loss of £469,000 necessary infrastructure funding promised to a local community. The story began when MBC approved the building of 53 houses on the non-allocated greenfield site of Loder Close, Lenham, back in 2019. Concerns were raised at the time by the county council and residents that this development would place unfunded pressures on local infrastructure. These concerns were dismissed, with elected councillors being promised within the cabinet report that the development “will provide reasonable and appropriate contribution to other infrastructure by CIL payments”. Except it turns out this advice was wrong. Fast-forward to March 2021 and, after a change of developer, the plan had now changed, with more affordable housing being provided. The new developer asked MBC whether it would require a new planning application. Amazingly, it was told it did not. This is amazing is because it exempts the developer from making any infrastructure payments. This includes £159,00 the county council said was required for additional primary-school places and £197,000 it has identified as necessary for new secondary-school places, as well as contributions towards community learning, youth services, the library and social services. This included up to £50,000 that would have otherwise come to the local parish to spend on a much-needed and now-delayed pre-school. While CPRE Kent clearly supports the need for genuine affordable housing, we ask ‘Won’t those future occupiers also require doctors, school places and other community facilities?’. With the rights and the wrongs of this decision remaining open to debate, CPRE Kent is heartened to see Lenham Parish Council continuing to challenge MBC on this. There is, however, a much wider picture to be addressed. That is development being forced on communities without the necessary community infrastructure being secured or provided. That is plans being changed that clearly impact on communities, though without further democratic input being sought from that community. That is the fact that current rules allow for any type of residential development being approved without having to make a fair contribution towards already overstretched community facilities. Overall, Loder Close represents a clear example of why communities do not trust developers or councils when they promise future infrastructure impacts will be “mitigated”.
The deadline for comments on Canterbury City Council’s public consultation on its preferred option for its new Local Plan closes at 9am on Monday, August 9. The deadline has been extended by a week in response to glitches with the council’s online consultation portal. CPRE Kent has submitted comments on behalf of its members objecting to the council’s preferred option of building 14,000-17,000 homes – which is 8,000 more than required under the government’s standard methodology for calculating housing numbers, for the period to 2040. We have advised the council that a careful balance needs to be struck between taking economic advantage of Canterbury’s heritage and undermining it with too much and with inappropriately sited development. Unfortunately, like many of the residents in the Canterbury area, we have had difficulty interpreting the full implications of the council’s development proposals. The written summary details for the preferred option makes no reference to the provision of the proposed two new roads/bypasses – to the north-west and south-east of the city – referring obliquely to “upgrade of the A28 to allow traffic to bypass the city centre” instead. CPRE Kent has questioned whether addressing congestion and pollution on the ring road by building a pair of bypasses will be effective – bearing in mind that it would appear that a high proportion of this traffic is generated by local people travelling into Canterbury for work, leisure, shopping and education. Building up to 8,000 more dwellings than required to fund a roadbuilding programme to bypass the city centre will, CPRE Kent believes, place undue burden on local communities, the countryside setting of Canterbury, the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and surrounding Areas of High Landscape Value. We have pointed out to the council that development to this degree would have an adverse impact on dark skies, tranquillity and best and most versatile agricultural land – which has a vital role to play in absorbing carbon and preserving biodiversity, including the biodiversity in soils. Once it is built over, soil biodiversity is lost. Sadly, the council seems to have cornered itself into a position whereby 20th-century solutions are being applied to 21st-century issues.
To learn more and contribute to Canterbury City Council’s consultation on the Local Plan, click here
To read more about development pressure and planning in Canterbury, click here