New planning rule book: ‘a speculative developers’ charter’

CPRE has slammed the government’s revised planning rule book, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), as a “speculative developers’ charter”.
In a damning early critique, the organisation says the government has not fulfilled its promise to “build attractive and better-designed homes in areas where they are needed”.
Indeed, the document, published on Tuesday, July 24, continues to “favour the delivery of any development, rather than development that meets communities’ needs, respects the environment, and adheres to policies in the NPPF other than those which deal with housing delivery”.
CPRE’s main worry is the introduction, in November, of a ‘housing delivery test’, which sees councils further encouraged to set high housebuilding targets – the new policy has clearly been designed to enforce those targets.
The test will mean councils are penalised when housebuilders fail to deliver homes in their areas; the ‘punishment’ is the removal of local control over planning decisions.
This, of course, will leave countryside open to speculative development.
Other CPRE concerns include:

  • a failure to provide an effective brownfield-first policy
  • the continuing failure to support provision of affordable housing in rural areas
  • the discouragement of neighbourhood planning because of uncertainty over the validity of Local Plans older than two years

Matt Thomson, CPRE’s head of planning, said: “Rather than delivering ‘what communities want’, as it claims to promise, the new planning rulebook and its new ‘housing delivery test’ will result in almost all Local Plans becoming out of date within two years.
“It is a speculative developers’ charter and will lead to the death of the plan-led system.
“Without a Local Plan, councils and communities have little control over the location and type of developments that take place. Local communities’ needs are ignored and valued countryside [is] destroyed for no good reason.”
Despite its disappointment with the revised NPPF, CPRE applauds some positive moves within it. They include:

  • National Parks and AONBs reinstated as having the “highest status of protection”
  • Maintenance of Green Belt protections and an improved definition of “exceptional circumstances” for releasing land from Green Belts
  • Exclusion of National Parks, AONBs and Green Belts from the Entry Level Exceptions Sites policy
  • “Social housing” reinstated in the definition of affordable housing

Hilary Newport, director of CPRE Kent, said: “Unfortunately, the revised NPPF carries on a situation where too much of the power within our planning system lies with developers.
“The housing delivery test, for example, does nothing to restore the balance that’s needed so local planning authorities can direct the development that’s needed to the places it’s needed.”

  • For more on CPRE’s response to the revised NPPF, see here

    Friday, August 3, 2018

Goodwin Sands dredging: widespread concern over approval of DHB plan

The chairman of CPRE Kent’s Dover committee has expressed his disappointment over the approval of plans to dredge some three million tonnes of aggregate from the Goodwin Sands.
Derek Wanstall said: “We’re fully behind everyone who objected to this scheme. The truth is no one knows the effect any altered drift caused by the dredging will have on our coastline and, of course, on the Sands themselves.”
The dredging application was made in 2016 by Dover Harbour Board, which intends to use the sand for building work at its Western Docks.
The proposal sparked a storm of protest, including a 12,000-name petition handed to 10 Downing Street, while there were three periods of public consultation.
Nevertheless, on Thursday last week (Thursday, July 26), the Marine Management Organisation granted the harbour board its licence to dredge a stretch of the Goodwins seabed, which is owned by the Crown Estate.
The organisation’s chief executive officer, John Tuckett, said the licence was granted because “sufficient measures were proposed to protect the marine environment, prevent interference with legitimate users of the seas and mitigate impacts to any other relevant matters”.
Much of the upset was due to the Sands’ role as the resting place for airmen killed during the Battle of Britain, along with possibly thousands of seamen from shipwrecks.
David Brocklehurst, chairman of the Battle of Britain Museum in Hawkinge, was reported by the BBC as saying that some 60 aircraft had crashed during four months of 1940 at the Sands, with the loss of at least 74 airmen.
“There are thousands of airmen and seamen there, whose remains will be sucked up, and they are unlikely to ever be identified with this method [of dredging]… it’s dishonourable and disgusting,” he is reported as saying.
“It just shows a complete lack of understanding – how would they feel if it was their grandfather, or uncle?”
The Goodwins – which comprise 10 miles of sandbanks some six miles off Deal – also form a valuable wildlife habitat.
The petition Goodwin Sands SOS – Stop the Dredge!, which has more than 15,600 signatures, says:
“The Goodwins are home to a colony of 500 grey and harbour seals. They are also the spawning and nursery grounds of a variety of fish and shellfish, with many shipwrecks providing a semi-natural habitat.
“The colony of seals use areas adjacent to the proposed dredging zone as their ‘haul out’ sites, ie where they rest on land at low tide.
“The noise and vibration from the huge dredgers will disturb them in their natural habitat; there is also the possibility of them being injured by collision with the dredgers and propellers as they are naturally inquisitive creatures.”
The petition also highlights potential problems for the Kent coastline: “Coastal flooding along the east Kent coast is a continual problem and one which would be exacerbated by dredging the Goodwin Sands due to lowering the level and changing the topography (shape) of the seabed.
“The sandbanks absorb the energy from the huge rolling waves coming in from the North Sea which would otherwise be crashing straight onto the Kent coast with destructive results.”
Stephen Eades, co-ordinator of national marine conservation organisation Marinet, said of the decision: “It will likely cause severe damage to the marine life and the aircraft remains. This is a decision which respects neither of these two things.
“The DHB could easily go elsewhere for the sand, but they have allowed commercial interests to rule.”
The MMO decision is all the more disturbing because the dredging area falls within a site proposed by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) as a Marine Conservation Zone.
The dredging is due to take place from September 2019 to September 2020.
Campaigners have vowed to appeal against the MMO decision; they have already taken legal advice and stated their intention to launch a CrowdFunding campaign.
For more on this and to sign the petition, which is still live, visit https://goodwinsandssos.org/

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Beauty and the beast that stalks the lanes of Lenham

Campaigner Sally Alexander in the countryside she dreads could be destroyed by a lorry park

David Mairs, CPRE Kent Campaigns and PR Manager, joins a group of worried residents as they gather in the rain (yes, really!) to air their fears that a stretch of countryside south of Lenham could be selected by Highways England as the site for a lorry park

It’s perhaps only when you travel the seemingly endless narrow, windy lanes towards Pope’s Hall at Sandway that you appreciate quite what could be lost should nightmare visions of a vast lorry park in the area transform into reality.
Of course, the beauty of the countryside and the spirit-lifting views that stretch in any direction you care to look is not news to most of the 60 or so people who turned out to listen to and, maybe more importantly, speak to local MP Helen Whately about the darkest of clouds that has suddenly blighted their world.
Blight. The word has more resonance here than in most parts of the country. Beautiful it unquestionably is, but intrusion from huge infrastructure schemes is nothing new in this landscape of fields, parks, copses and woods that tumbles down south of Lenham.
Sally Alexander, who helped organise the meeting at Pope’s Hall, talks despairingly about the arrival of both the nearby high-speed rail link and the M20: “My husband says he can’t go through it all again.”
It’s a sentiment doubtless shared by many of those present, while there’s also a common feeling that communication from Highways England, the government agency carrying out the requisite ecological surveys throughout the M20 corridor as well as reportedly along the A2/M2, has been woeful.
CPRE Kent’s Richard Knox-Johnstone struck a well-received tenor when he blasted it as “appalling”. People’s properties would be blighted until a decision was made on the siting of any lorry park.
For that matter, when would a decision be made? Highways England should adhere to a strict timeline, said Mr Knox-Johnstone.
Mrs Whately, speaking from beneath the gazebo she shared with a few fortunate others, said she agreed with him, as well as with the view that this wasn’t solely a Kent problem.
It was a national issue and should be dealt with nationally, even if the county had to expect something less than beautiful coming its way.
Perhaps more than anything, that was the point people wanted Mrs Whately to take back to government. How much, and for how long, should Kent keep picking up the national tab?
Further, everyone needed to understand quite was in the offing. No longer were we pondering solely the options for a solution to Operation Stack, be they on-road, off-road, short-term, long-term, single-park, multiple-park, here, there or anywhere.
No, now we were looking at tackling ‘fly-parking’, whereby truckers stop in any number of places that aren’t acceptable for anyone and leave all manner of mess, as well as a possible Customs-clearance site, depending on the outcome of, yes, sorry, Brexit.
“We’re looking at a huge security operation on top of everything else,” said one gentleman.
“If we don’t agree free movement of goods, we will need to have customs facilities,” added Mrs Whately.
Continuation of a customs union with Europe might ease some potential problems related to a lorry park, wherever it was built, but with up to 6,000 lorries held back during times of restricted Channel crossing and a regular shortfall of 700-800 parking spaces no one should be in any doubt that a 24/7 operation was likely.
If there were occasional mutterings akin to conspiracy theory, we were also offered the opinion that Highways England could have saved itself a lot of time, and taxpayers’ money, by ruling out this particular site.
It included Grade 1 and Grade 2 agricultural land, we were told, while it was not adjacent to the motorway, meaning access to it would be prohibitively problematic, not to say expensive.
Had Highways England not done its homework?
These were early days, as both Mrs Whately and county councillor Shellina Prendergast were keen to stress to all, but we were hearing the wholly understandable concerns of worried people.
Mrs Whately pointed out that Highways England “had hit” a judicial review after announcing plans for a lorry park, at Stanford, near Folkestone, in December 2015. This time it couldn’t leave anything to chance and had to cover every option.
While it is hard to imagine anyone welcoming such a massive development as a neighbour, it is likewise difficult to argue that a solution to the congestion witnessed in the county in recent years isn’t needed.
Expansion of Ashford International Truckstop near junction 10 of the M20 has just been approved, and that can only be a good thing. How much more Kent will need to surrender remains to be seen, but for this writer at least it would be a tragedy to see the gentle pastures and tree-lined lanes around Sandway and Boughton Malherbe he visited last week lost to the tarmac and fumes forever.

Friday, July 27, 2018


This isn’t just about Kent: message from lorry park meeting is loud and clear

About 60 people gathered at Pope’s Hall to learn about possible lorry park plans

Some 60 people gathered in the rain (an incredible event in itself this summer!) near Lenham on Friday (July 20) to air and share their worries that a giant lorry park could be built in the area.
The meeting had been organised by landowners Kenneth and Sally Alexander in response to a letter from Highways England (HE) telling them an ecological survey was to be carried out on their land near Boughton Malherbe in relation to its potential as a site for such a development.
Helen Whately, Faversham and Mid Kent MP, was there to take questions and tell people what she knew about HE’s possible plans.
In truth, she revealed, that wasn’t very much as the process of finding a solution to congestion at the Channel crossings and on the M20 was only in the early stages, with HE simply going through the process of contacting landowners along the motorway route.
The concern of those who had turned out at Pope’s Hall, Sandway, was clear, with many fearing the ‘site’ – which lies south of the M20 roughly between Platt’s Heath, Boughton Malherbe and Bowley Farm – had been shortlisted for a lorry park.
However, Mrs Whately said she did not believe there was a shortlist, a view supported by county councillor Shellina Prendergast (Maidstone Rural East), who said HE had been in touch with a number of landowners, and indeed some landowners had contacted the agency about a possible lorry park.
She said HE expected to publish the results of its investigative work in November or December. There was a range of factors to be considered in addition to the ecological findings, most notably access, while it was not even known how much land would be needed.
Mrs Whately stated that Operation Stack had held back some 6,000 lorries at its peak, and that figure would need to be catered for.
She added that options outside Kent were being looked at, while it wasn’t certain whether one large holding park was the best option, as opposed to multiple smaller sites. There were also on-road solutions such as a moveable barrier to consider, as well as the matter of the M2/A2 corridor.
Some 150 parcels of land were being surveyed but, as some of these were conjoined, that didn’t equate to 150 sites.
Two representatives of CPRE Kent were present, one of whom, vice-president Richard Knox-Johnston, blasted the “appalling” communication from HE.
He highlighted the fact that a new range of properties were now blighted by the agency’s investigations and would be until a decision was made. HE needed to work to a strict timeline, he said.
Mrs Whately said she completely agreed.
Mr Knox-Johnston also said that the problem of lorry freight was a national problem and was not just to be dumped on Kent – HE should understand that.
Mrs Whately replied: “Yes, they should. It’s absolutely a national problem and should be recognised as such.”
While there was widespread acceptance that Kent would have to provide part of the solution, the idea that locations elsewhere in the country should also contribute drew perhaps the greatest showing of support of the meeting.
“Perhaps that what you should take away from here – this isn’t just about Kent,” said one gentleman.
No one disagreed.

Monday, July 23, 2018

 

 

 

Thanet’s draft Local Plan to go to public consultation

Yes, the question of Manston still dominates…

Thanet is a step closer to having a Local Plan.
After months of political posturing and squabbling, including the rejection of an earlier version, district councillors voted on Thursday evening (July 19) to recommend the draft Plan go to public consultation.
The full council’s backing, by 31 votes to 21, of ‘Option 2’ for the Plan represents a decision, certainly, but a large degree of uncertainty still clouds the way forward.

After the public consultation, the Plan will go back to the council, which will decide on any amendments before submitting it to an inspector for the Examination in Public.
A main sticking point had been the status of the Manston airport site, but last night’s decision, which went against the recommendation of officers, sees it retained for aviation use, at least in the short term.
That means the 2,500 homes that had been earmarked for Manston in the earlier – and subsequently rejected – draft Plan will now be redistributed elsewhere across the isle:
Westgate-on-Sea (1,000 homes)
Birchington (600)
Westwood (500)
Hartsdown (300)
Tothill Street, Minster (100)
The total housing target is 17,140 new homes up to 2031.
The decision to recommend the Plan comes against the backdrop of potential airport operator RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) having submitted a revised application for a Development Consent Order (DCO), which could force site owner Stone Hill Park Ltd to surrender it if it is classified a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).
As for Stone Hill Park, the company has lodged a planning application for a mixed-use project at Manston that includes 3,700 new homes.
Further, the council’s Local Plan process is ‘in intervention’, with the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government having stepped in to ensure the local authority finally delivers its Local Plan. It is unclear to what extent the ministry drove the latest proposals, or indeed to what degree it will be involved from here.
There were two amendments to the draft, resulting from the earlier meeting of the executive, policy and community safety scrutiny panel:

  • The 2,500 homes reallocated from Manton would be phased towards the second half of the Plan period, which ends in 2031.
  • The status of the Manston site would be reviewed after a minimum of two years if a DCO or compulsory purchase of the land had not been agreed by that date.

What are we to make of it all?
Geoff Orton, secretary of Thanet CPRE, said: “It’s common sense that you can’t develop a coherent Local Plan for Thanet without the future of Manston having been decided, so we can only wait on that one.
“The county council document Growth without Gridlock puts emphasis on Manston as the economic driver for east Kent, so it is difficult to see how the employment needs of Thanet and beyond will be met without the airport, especially considering the potential arrival of thousands of new households.
“Even if we do get an airport and it produces 10,000 jobs, they are unlikely to offset the job losses predicted to be caused by technological change – a possible 15,000 in Thanet.
“As for the housing, what developer is going to invest in houses that won’t get sold? And who are those houses targeted for anyway?”
The public consultation is due to run from Thursday, August 23, to Thursday, October 4. Any comments must be submitted during that period as earlier submissions will not be considered.
These, together with the (possibly amended) draft Plan will then go to the inspector for the Examination in Public, with public hearings expected to start in February next year.

Friday, July 7, 2018

For more, visit here, herehere and here

Civic award pays tribute to Hilary Moorby

Jeff Moorby receives the civic award on behalf of his late wife Hilary from Jessamy Blanford, Mayor of Ashford

Tribute has been paid to Dr Hilary Moorby, a former chairman of CPRE Kent, at an awards ceremony.
Hilary, who was one of our most passionate and devoted campaigners, passed away in March but was remembered at Ashford Borough Council’s second civic awards ceremony, held on Thursday, July 5, at Chart Hills Golf Club, Biddenden.
The event highlighted the efforts of 12 of the borough’s ‘heroes and heroines’ who had worked to make their community a better place in which to live.
The civic awards were launched in 2012 to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee as “Ashford’s opportunity to honour local people who had helped others in a voluntary capacity, in their own way, at a local level”.
A council spokesman said: “In every corner of the borough there are people who are quietly remarkable.
“There are people who possess great strength of character, who make a substantial contribution to their community, people who enrich the lives of others and improve where they live.
“There are also people who have made a huge personal sacrifice in order to achieve something fantastic. These people are largely unrecognised – until now.”
Hilary’s civic award, made from glass and granite, was picked up by her husband, Professor Jeff Moorby, after the following tribute had been made:
“Our last award tonight is one that is slightly different. It’s for someone who set up a village society and was a champion of all things green.
“An active member of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, amongst many other things she fought hard for conservation fields between Ashford and Kingsnorth and she planned and executed a community orchard to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee.
“The difference about this award is that Hilary is, sadly, no longer with us, but the Honours & Awards Board felt strongly that, had Hilary still been alive, she would have been an obvious contender for an award.
“That she was nominated, posthumously, is a tribute to her ongoing influence and passion, and recognises the difference she made to her village and to the borough.”
We at CPRE Kent echo wholeheartedly those sentiments.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Cleve Hill, plans for the UK’s largest solar farm… and our response

The special landscape of Graveney Marshes would be destroyed if the Cleve Hill solar park was approved (picture by Vicky Ellis)

The damaging proposal for the country’s largest solar farm, at Cleve Hill near Faversham, has reached the second public consultation phase and CPRE has taken the opportunity to clarify its strong opposition to the project.
Our response totals almost 1,700 words, but our primary concerns lie in the following areas (more may be added after scrutiny of the Development Consent Order application):

  • Damage to landscape including tranquillity and dark skies
  • Inadequate assessment of flood risk and potential conflict with the Environment Agency’s ‘managed retreat’ strategy
  • Impacts on soil microclimate and hydrology
  • Ecological impacts
  • Damage to heritage assets caused by construction traffic
  • Loss of agricultural land
  • Threats to animal welfare

CPRE Kent recognises the challenges of climate change and the government’s commitment to meeting carbon emission targets but does not consider the renewable-energy benefits of the scheme proposed by developers Hive Energy and Wirsol – which has already grown from an initial 890 acres to 1,000 – outweigh the damage it would cause the North Kent Marshes.
We also question the sustainability of reliance on lithium-ion technology, with its own remote but concerning ecological impacts.
In short, the solar farm proposal is on a wholly unacceptable scale and in entirely the wrong location; it carries a disturbing catalogue of harmful impacts and it is to be hoped that the plans are ultimately stopped in their tracks.
Read our response to the consultation: Cleve Hill II Consultation Response (CPRE)

The debacle that is passing for planning in Thanet… the next step

Thanet… a great place to live but for how much longer?

The troubled, if not farcical, saga of the Thanet draft Local Plan is expected to make progress of a kind tonight (Wednesday, July 11, 2017) when it goes before the district council’s executive, policy and community safety scrutiny panel.
This latest stage follows last week’s adoption by the council cabinet of an option that could see the Manston airport site retained for aviation and more than 17,000 homes built on the isle by 2031.
The news came as no great surprise as the other option had been rejected by the council in January, a move that saw the UKIP administration subsequently lose control of the local authority.
That first option had allocated Manston for mixed-use development and 2,500 homes, sparking further conflict between those who wanted to see the return of an airport and those who believed commercial aviation was a not a viable concern there.
Last week’s cabinet decision, made on Monday, July 2, went against the recommendation of officers and means that the 2,500 homes that had been earmarked for the airport site in the original Plan will now be redistributed elsewhere across the isle.
As things stand, the extra homes are likely to be targeted for:
Westgate-on-Sea (1,000)
Birchington (600)
Westwood (500)
Hartsdown (300)
Tothill Street, Minster (100)

The cabinet decision will be welcomed by potential airport operator RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) as it proceeds with its application for a Development Consent Order, which could force the owner of the site, Stone Hill Park Ltd,  to surrender it if it is classified a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).
To confuse matters just a little further, Stone Hill Park has lodged a planning application for a mixed-use project at Manston that now includes 3,700 new homes.
So what happens if the DCO application fails… will the housing allocation return to Manston?
Or – and here’s where it could all get even uglier – will Manston be built upon, in addition to the alternative sites that have been put forward?
And will the final housing target end at 17,000, or will new (and widely derided) government methodology push the figure north of a frankly ridiculous 20,000?
Then, of course, there’s the little matter of central government having threatened the council with losing control over its own Local Plan if it doesn’t get it published… and soon.
Shambles? The word doesn’t come close…

For more on this story, if you can bear it, click herehere and here
Wednesday, July 11, 2018

And now villagers in Charing can also smile as Gladman quits appeal

Charing has been spared a large unwanted development

It’s the gift that keeps on giving…
Hot on the heels of the news that Gladman Developments Ltd had withdrawn its appeal against Ashford Borough Council’s refusal to grant planning permission for 125 homes in Brabourne Lees comes word that it has similarly pulled out from an inquiry in Charing.
In this case, land agent Gladman was appealing against the council’s refusal to grant planning permission for 245 homes in Charing’s Pluckley Road.
CPRE Kent had given evidence to the public inquiry into this appeal as a Rule 6 party (permitted to cross-examine participants) and we expected to hear the result by Wednesday, August 22.
However, we believe the new evidence the council had prepared for its Local Plan examination – and that had proved so crucial in Gladman’s decision to withdraw from the Brabourne Lees inquiry – also persuaded it to pull its appeal in Charing.
Thanks to that evidence, the Local Plan inspector had confirmed the council had more than enough sites to meet its housing targets, demolishing Gladman’s principal argument – that the council could not demonstrate a five-year housing supply.
Either way, villagers can breathe a healthy sigh of relief and pour themselves a richly deserved drop or two of their favoured tipple this evening.
CPRE Kent would like to thank them all – and the planning and legal teams at Ashford Borough Council – for their efforts.

For more on this story, see
here,
here
and here

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Gladman drops appeal in Brabourne Lees housing battle

A happy day for Brabourne Lees

And now for the good news… Hospital Field in Brabourne Lees is safe from the cement-mixers and tarmac-layers.
Gladman Developments Ltd has withdrawn its appeal against Ashford Borough Council’s refusal to grant planning permission for 125 homes at the site.
The village at the foot of the Kent Downs AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) had been targeted by land agent Gladman for the housing scheme, but the local authority’s refusal to back it sparked the appeal.
CPRE Kent had given evidence to a planning inspector hearing the two-week inquiry into the appeal, held at the Civic Centre in Ashford, in January.
It had been due to reopen on Tuesday, July 10, for two days after Brabourne Parish Council’s request that the inquiry inspector look at new evidence the council had prepared for its Local Plan examination.
As a result of that evidence, the Local Plan inspector had confirmed the council had more than enough sites to meet its housing targets. Indeed it was even told to delete some of the less sustainable sites in its Plan.
This pulled the rug from Gladman’s principal argument – that Ashford council could not demonstrate a five-year housing supply – and it would appear at this point it did not think it worthwhile pursuing its appeal, rendering the scheduled reopening of the inquiry pointless.
CPRE would like to thank Brabourne Parish Council and the people of the village for their efforts in seeing off this wholly inappropriate scheme.
The news comes after last week’s announcement that the High Court had quashed planning permission for a Gladman development at Blean Common, near Canterbury.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Thanet: a draft Local Plan could soon be upon us

Manston: at the core of the Thanet debate

So, after all the political game-playing and the sometimes shambolic manner in which Thanet’s planning process has been tackled, it is believed tonight (Monday, July 2) will see the adoption of the district council’s draft Local Plan.
Members of the Thanet District Council cabinet are expected to approve the isle’s planning blueprint for the next 20 years, the most high-profile element seeing the Manston airport site retained for aviation use, which apparently necessitates a further 2,500 homes being built elsewhere on the isle rather than at Manston.
The cabinet’s recommendations will be reviewed by the executive, policy and community safety scrutiny panel before going to full council on Thursday, July 19, for a final verdict.
In January, councillors rejected the draft Local Plan put forward by the UKIP administration, which subsequently lost control of the council. The main bone of contention was a proposed change of status for Manston from aviation-only to ‘mixed use’, including 2,500 homes, while there was also concern over proposed housing numbers.
Following the rejection of that draft, Sajid Javid, then-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government – frustrated with the local authority’s “persistent failure” to produce its Plan – wrote to council leader Bob Bayford, announcing he would be sending Chief Planner Steve Quartermain to intervene.
A fresh call for housing sites was made by the district council. Now ‘in intervention’, it must publish a new Local Plan or face possible further intervention by government.
Council officers have reportedly presented two options for consideration by the cabinet: the draft that was rejected in January and another that keeps an aviation-only policy for Manston and reallocates the 2,500 homes from there elsewhere on the isle.
The local authority says this will allow an application by potential airport operator RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) for a Development Consent Order to proceed.
This was submitted in April but withdrawn the following month because of Planning Inspectorate concerns. RSP says it will be resubmitted in due course.
If the second option is accepted by cabinet, the extra homes – which are in addition to the numbers already proposed for those areas – are expected to be targeted for:
Westgate-on-Sea (1,000)
Birchington (600)
Westwood (500)
Hartsdown (300)
Tothill Street, Minster (100)

The isle already faces a target of 17,140 new homes by 2031, but revised government methodology suggests this figure could rise to 20,200.
It is a monstrous figure that would entail the loss of a vast amount of greenfield land (Thanet is already the second most urbanised district in Kent), while it is anybody’s guess what the incoming thousands will be expected to do for employment.
Perhaps best not think about it…

Monday, July 2, 2018

To read more on this lengthy tale, click here and here

The Medway plan… some good, some bad?

The Medway… what does the future hold?

CPRE Kent has applauded Medway Council’s intention to protect the north of the Hoo peninsula – that wonderful swathe of Cliffe and Cooling Marshes, one of the last remaining areas of tranquillity in the county.
Taking part in the consultation on the Medway Development Strategy, we were keen to applaud this and similar countryside protection policies but did object to some potential scenarios presented in the strategy.
We recognised the constraints facing the council in the development of its new Local Plan, particularly in relation to housing development, but maintain that the government’s proposed methodology for calculating local housing need is flawed.
The methodology is based on market demand rather than need, providing no understanding of how Local Plans can reflect a move from these abstract targets to a realistic, deliverable and sustainable housing requirement.
In Kent, particularly, the methodology is leading to disproportionately high targets that will be impossible to deliver sustainably.
We welcomed the council’s renewed commitment to delivering regeneration of brownfield sites but retain significant concern at the inclusion of Lodge Hill as a strategic option for housing.
We acknowledged the presence of a residual brownfield footprint at this site but stressed that the National Planning Policy Framework is clear previously developed land should be re-used “provided it is not of high environmental value”.
Chattenden Woods and Lodge Hill’s designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest precludes it from being realistically considered as still brownfield.
The future of the site has received intense media coverage, not least because, with 85 pairs, it hosts the largest population of nightingales in the country.
The development masterplan indicates significant building incursion on the SSSI, while earlier work in support of a withdrawn application made it clear it would not be possible to adequately mitigate harm to the nightingale population.
We suggested that proposed development at Hoo St Werburgh should be broadly supported by the local community and must deliver genuinely affordable housing for local needs, while we also highlighted the fact that the whole region is classified by the Environment Agency as “severely water stressed”.
The future of Medway is clearly far from straightforward.

Friday, June 29, 2018

CPRE Kent handed Thurnham heritage award for Woodcut Farm bid

All smiles at the award presentation. From left: CPRE Kent director Hilary Newport and vice-president Richard Knox-Johnston, Thurnham parish council chairman Daniel Skinner and Maidstone CPRE chairman Gary Thomas

CPRE Kent has won an award for its bid to save a stretch of countryside near Maidstone.
Our attempt to stop development near junction 8 of the M20 (Woodcut Farm) was ultimately unsuccessful, but Thurnham Parish Council recognised our efforts by naming us winner of its heritage award.
CPRE Kent had applied at the end of last year to the High Court for a judicial review of Maidstone Borough Council’s inclusion in its Local Plan of the junction 8 site as a designated site for development.
However, in February this year we were not granted permission by the Honourable Mrs Justice Lang DBE to take forward the review.
The request for a judicial review had followed CPRE Kent’s submission, in November last year, a pre-action protocol letter to the High Court against the council deciding on a Roxhill Developments planning application for the site.
Despite the letter and protest from parish councils and local groups, the council chose to grant outline planning permission for the site.
A statement on the Thurnham Parish Council website says: “The Thurnham Heritage Award was instituted in cooperation with English Heritage.
“Most awards are top down: this is the opposite. It is a parish council recognising outstanding contributions to heritage in many forms and ways by organisations or individuals. It is awarded for one year.
“The award itself was carefully made by Thomas Fattorini in Birmingham from wood grown in Thurnham Castle.”
The presentation was made at a parish council meeting on Monday, June 18, at Bearsted’s Tudor Park Marriott Hotel.
Richard Knox-Johnston, CPRE Kent vice-president, said: “I am delighted the council has chosen to recognise us, and in turn CPRE Kent was very grateful for the support of Thurnham and other local parish councils in our efforts to protect Kent’s countryside.”
Maidstone CPRE chairman Gary Thomas was at the Tudor Park hotel to receive the award from Daniel Skinner, Thurnham parish council chairman.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Blean greenfield site saved (for now) in High Court win over government

The land at Blean Common saved from development
(pic Canterbury City Council)

CPRE Kent welcomes the news that a greenfield site in east Kent has been saved, at least for the time being, after a High Court victory for the local authority over the government.
Canterbury City Council took the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to court after a planning inspector granted planning permission for 85 homes at Blean Common next to the Royal Oak pub.
The council’s planning committee had previously refused the application, but the applicant, Gladman Developments Ltd, appealed the decision.
During April’s subsequent court hearing, the council argued the inspector had misinterpreted policies in both its Local Plan at the time and the then-emerging Local Plan concerning development in the district and on greenfield land specifically.
And yesterday (Tuesday, June 26) in the High Court, Mr Justice Dove backed the council’s case, quashing the decision of the planning inspector, meaning the appeal must be redetermined by a different inspector.
Further, the Secretary of State was ordered to pay the council’s legal costs of £19,218. There is the right of appeal against the court’s decision.
The council had refused the planning application on grounds including the fact it was a sporadic form of development outside of the village area of Blean, would represent a harmful form of development in a rural location and was detrimental to the character and appearance of the surrounding rural environment in general.
Simon Thomas, the council’s head of planning, said: “It’s highly unusual for us to take the government to court in this way, but there were important issues at stake here.
“Our Local Plan has very clear policies on where we will allow development and on the protection of our precious countryside.
“The inspector misinterpreted these and reached a decision that we felt we had no option but to challenge on behalf of local residents.
“It is not the end for this specific planning application, though, as the Planning Inspectorate is now required to reconsider the appeal.”
Land agent Gladman has been involved in planning conflicts across the country, much of its approach entailing working at the minutiae of local authorities’ five-year land supply, arguing they are not providing the new housing required of them by central government.
Gladman does not build the homes itself. Rather, it seeks to win planning permission allowing developers to put up developments not planned for by local councils.
Unsurprisingly, this has led to disputes up and down the land, with many cases going to public inquiry.
The company’s website says: “Gladman is the UK’s most successful land promoter with an unrivalled success rate of over 90%…
“We have achieved planning permission for over 10,000 new homes and have secured planning permission on over 60 sites in the last year.”
The behaviour of speculative land agents is one of the most taxing issues facing local authorities and countryside campaigners today.
Tom Fyans, CPRE’s director of campaigns and policy, said: “We are deeply concerned at the stress and impact this sort of speculative behaviour is having on our countryside, wildlife and on rural communities – land promoters actively work against local wishes for the sake of their own profit.
“Changes must be made to close these loopholes in national planning policy to ensure the planning system drives developments that are needed and welcomed by local authorities.”

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Lodge Hill: your last chance to speak out for this special site

Nightingale populations have crashed across the UK (pic courtesy of BBC)

Today (Monday, June 25) is your last chance to contribute to Medway Council’s Local Plan, which sets out development strategy in the district until 2035.
There are of course many issues to be determined, but one of the most contentious relates to plans to develop Lodge Hill, a former Ministry of Defence site that is now home to a fantastic range of wildlife, including the largest population of nightingales in the country.
The nightingale has declined by 90 per cent over the last 50 years, the British Trust for Ornithology has found. The 85 pairs at Lodge Hill represent some 1 per cent of that population, a figure that is likely to increases as the species’ range contracts towards the south-east.
Chattenden Woods and Lodge Hill – the bulk of which comprises ancient woodland and a rare type of grassland – is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, one of “the country’s very best wildlife and/or geological sites”, as defined by Natural England.
Medway Council approved an outline planning application from Land Securities for 5,000 homes at Lodge Hill in September 2014, the site having been identified in the most recent draft of the Medway Local Plan as a significant strategic location for about a third of the district’s identified housing needs to 2026.
This SSSI designation was one of the reasons the inspector testing the Medway Local Plan in 2013 advised that it was sufficiently flawed to be abandoned, writing “I am not convinced that the social and economic benefits… would outweigh the harm to a site of national importance”.
She stated the modifications that would be needed to prevent damage to the SSSI were “so significant as to amount to the Plan being re-written”.
All of which made the council’s granting of planning permission difficult to fathom.
The National Planning Policy Framework makes it clear that in exceptional circumstances, the need for development might outweigh the importance of an SSSI or other important habitat.
However, the inspector made it equally clear that is not the case at Lodge Hill.
In February 2015 the development proposal was called in by the Secretary for State for Communities and Local Government for determination through public inquiry before Land Securities withdrew its application in September of that year.
And, two years after that, in September 2017, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, a branch of the MoD, withdrew similar plans to develop Lodge Hill, although Medway Council insisted it would be pressing ahead with its plans to allocate the site for housing.
The site has now passed to Homes England, a government agency charged with delivering housing across the country.
In its new draft Local Plan, Medway Council identified Lodge Hill as suitable for development, saying Homes England would submit a fresh scheme for 2,000 properties, including “development on some protected areas”.
If you think one of the most valuable sites for wildlife in north Kent should be spared – and not allocated for housing development by the local authority – you can make your views known here

For more on this story, click here

and here

Monday, June 25, 2018