A growing number of groups are bidding to fund a judicial review of the decision to grant a Development Consent Order for the reopening of Manston airport as a freight hub. The decision was made in the name of Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, against the Examining Authority’s recommendation that the DCO be refused due to conservation of habitats and species regulations. Almost 850 groups and individuals have already pledged more than £57,000 to the CrowdJustice campaign to fund the judicial review. There are just eight days left to contribute – if you would like to help fund the bid, click here
For more on the decision to grant the DCO, click here
Time is almost up! You have until 11.59pm tomorrow (Wednesday, August 12) to take part in Highways England’s consultation on further design revisions to the proposed Lower Thames Crossing. CPRE Kent has made a response running to more than 5,000 words and, while you might not wish to go to quite such lengths, it would be useful to make your voice heard. There are many issues with the project – not least regarding air pollution and climate change – but did you also know the following? The A2 was widened both ways at great expense to four lanes. With the proposed refinements, the A2 coastbound would reduce from four lanes to two just east of the Gravesend East junction and also London-bound from four lanes to two before the Thong Lane bridge. It’s not easy to find the detail in the consultation document, but it’s there! These pinch points would cause serious congestion – and should be reconsidered in the light of the recent decision permitting the operation of Manston airport, which will result in large vehicles carrying air-freight containers along the A2. Any congestion on the A2 will result in vehicles rat-running at speed through the narrow lanes of surrounding areas such as Meopham, Sole Street and Cobham. This, we suggest, would appear contrary to the LTC Project Objective to “improve safety”. There is very much more that can be said about a scheme likely to bring little benefit to Kent, but you can learn more here
You can join the Highways England consultationhere
There was a healthy turn-out to a meeting from people keen to see copies of the latest Lower Thames Crossing design consultation. The event, organised by the Gravesham committee of CPRE Kent and Meopham residents, gave all the chance to ask questions about the revised design proposals. It had been set up in view of Highways England’s belief that the documents being displayed only in Rochester Library was sufficient south of the river. None of the many visitors at the meeting, held at Meopham Cricket Pavilion on Friday, July 31, realised that the junction of the tunnel access road and A2 would result in the A2 being reduced to two lanes in each direction at this point. This pinch point is likely to cause huge congestion on the A2 and as a result greatly increase traffic on local roads such as the A227.
CPRE, the countryside charity, has said that Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s ‘mini-Budget’ missed the mark on transport and housing. The Chancellor had been aiming to revive the economy through his A Plan for Jobs mini-Budget, announced earlier this month, but Tom Fyans, CPRE campaigns and policy director, said: “While we have seen promising starts on energy efficiency and shoring up rural hospitality businesses, the Chancellor has missed major opportunities to begin building back better when it comes to transport and housing investment.” Mr Fyans addressed several issues in the mini-Budget: On existing homes: “The £3 billion announced on energy efficiency is a good start but must be swiftly followed by a National Retrofit Strategy that CPRE has been calling for in our new report Greener, Better, Faster and a plan for longer-term investment. Decarbonising our homes and buildings is essential to preventing runaway climate change. We expect to see further investment in reducing emissions from our existing homes via the £9bn for energy-efficiency schemes promised by Boris Johnson in the Conservative Party’s general election manifesto at the end of last year.” On new homes: “We understand the Chancellor wants to reboot the construction sector, but he’s pulling the wrong lever with a Stamp Duty holiday. By investing in social and genuinely affordable housing instead, he could drive up build rates and provide the homes that are so desperately needed, especially in rural areas. We cannot accept that private rentals in nine out of 10 rural areas are unaffordable for care workers. We urge the government to begin investing in homes for our heroes and tackling the housing crisis.” On transport: “Any serious claims to a green recovery are being completely undermined by the out-of-touch £27bn road-building plans that will drive up emissions and will likely not be needed with homeworking on the rise. In the mini-Budget we did not hear one mention of public transport, the low-carbon alternative to the private car that is so desperately needed, especially in disconnected rural areas. We are urging the government to scrap the planned road spending and put this money to much better use. Diverting some of this funding to a dedicated rural transport fund would have a dramatic impact connecting up towns and villages with affordable, convenient and low-carbon public transport.” On rural economies: “The Chancellor was absolutely right to highlight hard-hit rural businesses in the hospitality industry and we welcome the ‘eat out to help out’ vouchers. We can all play our part in supporting local businesses as we emerge from lockdown. Our hope is that these vouchers will help get small rural restaurants, pubs and cafes back on their feet as lockdown eases and holiday season begins, with many of us choosing to go on a staycation here in the UK rather than venturing abroad.”
Highways England is consulting on further revisions to the design of the Lower Thames Crossing. Details are available online or at Rochester Library and consultation closes on Wednesday, August 12. If you would like to see copies of the Design Refinement Guide and Maps, they will be available tomorrow (Friday, July 31) from 10am-6pm at Meopham Cricket Pavilion, Meopham Green (opposite the windmill). Members of CPRE Kent will be at the cricket pavilion tomorrow and all are welcome to come and speak with them. The proposed location of the new tunnel and the drastic reduction in width of the A2 increases the risk of vehicles using the A227 and surrounding lanes as rat-runs. The project involves the loss of two lanes on the coastbound A2 after the Gravesend East junction, and the Highways England map suggests that the A2 westbound reduces to two lanes before the Thong Lane green bridge. This is to accommodate the new crossing, yet it is not that long ago it was widened to avoid tailbacks. These pinch points will greatly increase the risk of congestion on the A2, especially at peak time. Further, traffic is likely to increase on roads in Higham, Cobham, Istead Rise, Luddesdown, Riverview and Sole Street, as well as on A-roads like the A226 and A227 through Meopham. The new crossing has been predicted to cost £8 billion, but this does not include a long list of essential mitigation that will be needed on places like the Tollgate interchange, A227, A228, A229 and A249. Many are questioning why Kent County Council should have to pay for works that are effectively part of the project. One last thing, for now at least: the proposed crossing will destroy Green Belt countryside, wrecking parts of Jeskyns and Shorne Wood parks. There will of course be no benefit to local residents. The consultation documents are not easy to read online, so we suggest you request a copy of them. This can be done by calling 0300 123 5000 or emailing Highways England at email@example.com You only have till until 23.59 on Wednesday, August 12, to contribute to the consultation, so please go to the Highways England consultation website here Make your voice heard!
CPRE Kent is seeking a planning officer to join its small and dedicated team. We need someone who will work alongside staff, trustees and volunteers to help shape planning policy in Kent and beyond, through participating in consultations and examinations of Local Plans, and to help engage with planning issues in Kent and Medway, and beyond. Ideally, you will be a qualified planning professional with experience in both development control and strategic planning. Most importantly, you will share our commitment to a future where the countryside is respected for its own intrinsic value, and where the development that we need contributes to sustainable communities fit for the 21st century.
The closing date for applications is Friday, August 28, 2020
To learn more about this exciting opportunityand to apply, click here
The government’s proposed planning reforms could amount to “the exact opposite of building back better”, CPRE believes. Downing Street says its proposals are “the most radical reforms to our planning system since the Second World War”. Amended planning rules, due to be in place by September, would permit: • Developers to “demolish and rebuild” vacant and redundant residential and commercial buildings if they are rebuilt as homes • A wider range of commercial buildings to be switched to housing without a planning application • Property-owners to build “additional space above their properties”, via a “fast-track approval process” Tom Fyans, policy and campaigns director at CPRE, the countryside charity, was not impressed: “Deregulating planning and cutting up red tape simply won’t deliver better quality places. It’s already far too easy to build poor-quality homes. Our research has shown that three-quarters of large housing developments are mediocre or poor in terms of their design and should not have been granted planning permission. “Transferring decision-making power from local councils and communities and handing them to developers is the exact opposite of building back better. “The best way to deliver the places that we need, at the pace we need them, is to make it easier for local councils to get Local Plans in place, and then to hold developers to those plans. “One glimmer of hope in the prime minister’s words are those prioritising building on brownfield to release pressure on greenfield sites. But if we are to truly build back better, and ‘level up’ across the country, we need to make sure the voices of local communities are strengthened in shaping the homes and places that they will inherit.” Reform of the Use Classes Order means there will be total flexibility in repurposing more types of commercial premises. Examples might be shops or stores being converted to cafés or offices without the need for planning applications and local authority approval. However, there will not be such flexibility for pubs, libraries, village shops and other buildings judged essential to communities.
A developer has been granted consent to reopen Manston airport as a freight hub – a move described as shocking by the director of CPRE Kent. After two postponements of the decision, in January and May, the Department for Transport finally announced today (Thursday, July 9) that the RiverOak Strategic Partners scheme to reopen the airport six years after it closed was being granted a Development Consent Order. RSP says it will be investing £300 million in the scheme, which it claims will create up to 6,000 jobs at Manston. The developer predicts the reopened airport will be operational from 2023 and able to handle at least 10,000 freight movements a year. The decision effectively dismisses the conclusions of the four-man Planning Inspectorate’s Examining Authority, which had been clear that the DCO should not be granted. Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, said: “It is shocking that four inspectors spent some nine months preparing a report and concluded very strongly that the DCO should be refused. “The developer was not able to demonstrate need, there were adverse impacts on traffic and transport and there were concerns over noise pollution. “Most importantly, though, the Examining Authority recommended the Secretary of State refuse the DCO due to conservation of habitats and species regulations. “In short, the inspectors’ conclusions were ignored. “This decision flies in the face of the Heathrow third-runway judgement where the Court of Appeal ruled that proposals had failed to consider this country’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions.” Although by law the Manston decision had to be made in the name of Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, the DfT said Mr Shapps had “not personally been involved in this decision because of a conflict of interest, following previous statements of support made prior to his appointment as the Secretary of State for Transport” and the decision had “in practice been allocated to and taken by the Minister of State for Transport, Andrew Stephenson”. Sir Roger Gale, MP for Thanet North, told the BBC’s South East Today: “The new airport, when it opens, will be the most environmentally-friendly airport in the world – it will beat Helsinki by a country mile. It’s going to be net-zero carbon – we’re going to be proud of it.” The same programme reported that RSP had said there would be five flights an hour – but no night flights.
The next phase of consultation on the proposed Lower Thames Crossing begins this month. Highways England is launching the four-week consultation on proposed design refinements to the planned road on Tuesday, July 14. It comes after 2018’s statutory consultation in 2018 and the supplementary consultation, which was completed this year. From July 14, we will all be able to comment on the proposed refinements, which include:
Minor refinements to elements of the highways design
Updated paths for walkers, cyclists and horse riders
Proposals for redirecting and upgrading utilities
More detailed landscaping proposals
Further developed ecological mitigation measures
The consultation is a digital-first event, meaning that from July 14 to Wednesday, August 12, all materials, including an online feedback form, will be accessible here You can also order printed copies of the consultation materials by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org The digital-first approach reflects social-distancing restrictions imposed by the government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Highways England says it is, though, setting up additional measures to ensure the public can engage in the consultation. These include:
Leaflets distributed to 135,000 properties within two kilometres of the route, giving residents notice of the consultation
From now, people can register their interest in the consultation and order hard copies of the consultation packs to arrive from the July 14 launch
Extensive media and social-media campaigns to raise awareness of the consultation
Highways England says that during the consultation period, July 14-August 12, it will provide:
Freephone consultation and call-back service for people to find out more and give their feedback on the proposals
Online public information exhibition, including videos, displays and documents library
Webinars to explain the key changes open to all members of the public
Updated and newly-interactive website
Alex Hills, CPRE Kent’s Gravesham district chairman, said: “This could be the last consultation before a planning application is put in, so it is important that as many people as possible take part in this very short consultation. “CPRE Kent is calling on people and organisations to order hard copies of the consultation for those who are not comfortable doing everything online.”
For more on the Lower Thames Crossing, see here and here
The government must invest in the ‘countryside next door’ to ensure we all have access to quality green space near to where we live as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, according to CPRE, the countryside charity, as it launches its regeneration manifesto today. Regenerate our countryside, regenerate ourselves: A manifesto for a resilient countryside after coronavirus urges the government to seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect and invest in the countryside, support rural communities and break down the barriers too many face in accessing the health and well-being benefits of time in green spaces. Critically, our Green Belts, the countryside next door to 30 million people, and other countryside around large towns and cities that don’t currently have Green Belts should see funding significantly increased to make sure they are enhanced and include greener farming techniques that could make our food supply more resilient to future shocks. The manifesto was launched at a virtual debate this morning (Wednesday, July 1) with leading countryside and political voices, including Rhiane Fatinikun, founder of Black Girls Hike; Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee; Mike Amesbury MP, shadow minister for housing and planning; and Caroline Lucas MP, former leader of the Green Party. Emma Bridgewater, president of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “Just as National Parks were integral to post-war reconstruction in the late 1940s, so too should everyday landscapes including local green spaces, the Green Belt and the countryside next door become a central part of the government’s response to coronavirus recovery. “Public support for protecting and enhancing these spaces is impossible for ministers to ignore – now more than ever we need more quality green spaces available to everyone and to make sure young people form lifelong connections with nature that can help us bounce back from the pandemic and build resilience in the longer term. “Today, we are calling on the government to seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to put the countryside and access to green spaces at the heart of the recovery. “That means putting the Green Belt ahead of developers’ profit margins, guaranteeing children’s education includes quality time in nature and breaking down the barriers to the countryside for groups previously excluded. “But we also need to make sure rural communities don’t bear the brunt of the economic fallout by supporting the rural economy and investing in rural social housing. Only then can the government claim to be learning the lessons of lockdown and building back better.” The manifesto outlines a vision for a resilient countryside with thriving rural communities that is open to everyone, whether visiting, living or working there. Key recommendations of the manifesto include:
Regenerate our green spaces: the government must support local councils and communities to deliver up-to-date Local Plans, adopt a truly ‘brownfield first’ policy and ensure that our Green Belts, our countryside next door, is enhanced through greater funding;
Regenerate ourselves: the government must guarantee every child a night in nature as recommended in the Glover landscape review, and increase funding for the many tried-and-tested community outreach projects that have already enabled greater engagement with the countryside for marginalised groups
Regenerate our rural economies: the government must establish a rural economy task force working across government to develop a comprehensive strategy for supporting the rural economy and invest in rural social housing to provide genuinely affordable homes for our key workers.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to shine a light on the deep inequalities that exist in who is able to make use of green space or countryside near to where they live. Natural England’s figures show that children from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups are 20 per cent less likely than white children to visit the countryside. That’s why CPRE is campaigning for every child to be guaranteed a night in nature in a National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as recommended in last year’s Landscapes Review by Julian Glover OBE.
CPRE, the countryside charity, has given a decidedly hostile response to the prime minister’s post-coronavirus recovery plan in which he promised to “build, build, build”. Boris Johnson’s announcement of a ‘new deal’, delivered in Dudley yesterday (Tuesday, June 30), pledged £5 billion to build homes and infrastructure and vowed to speed up and intensify plans set out in the Tory election manifesto. The UK economy has reportedly shrunk faster between January and March this year than at any time since 1979 and the government proposals are intended to halt that decline. Key features of Johnson’s ‘new deal’, some of which had already been announced, include:
£100 million for 29 road projects
£12 billion to help build 180,000 new affordable homes for ownership and rent over the next eight years
£1.5 billion for hospitals, the removal of mental-health dormitories and improving A&E capacity
More than £1 billion for new school buildings
Tom Fyans, campaigns and policy director at CPRE, made a blistering attack on the prime minister’s scheme: “With road-building at its heart, the PM’s ‘new deal’ makes a mockery of the government’s so-called green recovery. “At this historic moment, the government must show real ambition and build back better, not worse, and in doing so balance our health and well-being, nature and countryside and the economic recovery. “The government cannot continue to ignore the surge in appreciation for green spaces and the public appetite to reduce our carbon emissions. “We must not even begin down this path with plans for £27 billion spending on roads. That money could be much better spent connecting towns and villages with low-carbon public transport, shoring up rural economies and businesses hard hit by the coronavirus and investing in genuinely affordable and well-designed housing. “Furthermore, the PM has pledged to ‘build at the pace that this moment requires’, which strikes fear in the hearts of those who understand the benefits of a plan-led system. “Rushing through potentially poor-quality development is the very antithesis of building back better. We already know, from painful experience, a rush for development trades off quality homes and infrastructure for quick and easy economic growth. “This trade-off isn’t necessary. It’s already far too easy to build poor-quality homes and therefore any plans to deregulate our democratic, locally accountable planning system will take decision-making powers from communities and local councils and hand it to short-sighted developers. “The government can only seriously claim to be pursuing the levelling-up agenda after scrapping planned spend on roads and refocusing planning reforms to deliver for people rather than developers. “Until then, it’s the same old deal.”
We are indebted to Liz Garnett for today’s rather special contribution to Kent, Our Kent. Liz takes up the story: “I am a photographer based in Brabourne, near Ashford, and before lockdown I was part of a group of artists walking the Augustine Camino pilgrimage route from Rochester to Ramsgate. “We have paused our journey and in the meantime my personal journey is one of exploring the natural landscape in my garden and in the hedgerows of my little corner of rural Kent.” Hopefully, Liz and friends will be donning their walking boots before too long and resuming their wanderings.
To learn more of A Creative Pilgrimage, click here
If you thought the planning system was already loaded in favour of developers, things might be about to get a whole lot worse. The government is reportedly considering a ‘zonal planning system’ in which “key decisions will be taken from local councils and handed to development corporations”. Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s chief adviser, is said to be influencing the government’s approach to planning and working with Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, on a plan to “kick-start housebuilding and infrastructure spending”. The Sunday Times reported that a “committee of experts assembled by the duo” has met to “think about very substantive changes” to planning regulations. The panel includes Bridget Rosewell, a commissioner for the National Infrastructure Commission, property developer Sir Stuart Lipton and planning barrister Christopher Katkowski QC. The newspaper said one of the proposed measures would allow high-street businesses to change their use “with complete flexibility”. Further, there would be a “move to a zonal planning system where key decisions will be taken from local councils and handed to development corporations — though building on the Green Belt will not be permitted”. In what appears part of an ominous trend, a document was published in March alongside the policy paper Planning for the Future, saying the government’s forthcoming Planning White Paper would “propose measures to accelerate planning”. It added that the government would “trial the use of templates for drafting local development orders and other zonal tools to create simpler models and financial incentives to support more effective use”. The Sunday Times has also reported that “Cummings and Jenrick are backing a new fast-track system for developers of high-quality, well-designed buildings”. Asked about the media reports, a Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Planning spokesman said: “The government has already set out an ambitious programme to modernise our planning system. “Our Planning for the Future reforms will support the delivery of homes that local people need and create greener communities with more beautiful homes”. While some local authorities in Kent can often appear less than sympathetic towards our natural environment, moves to take away their responsibility for “key decisions” and hand it to development corporations surely detract from the principle of democracy. Whatever happened to localism?
You are warmly invited to an online talk on gardens and biodiversity being held this month. The lecture by Fergus Garrett focuses on Great Dixter House & Gardens just over the county border in Northiam, East Sussex. You can listen to Biodiversity at Great Dixter: Showing how Gardens can play a Role in Conserving some of our most Threatened Species on Wednesday, June 24 (6pm), or Saturday, June 27 (9am). The event is being hosted on Zoom. For more details and to book, visit www.greatdixtershop.co.uk
The KenEx cross-river project is being promoted by Thames Gateway Tramlink Ltd, which is working with local stakeholders for “a clean, sustainable, economically generative step-change in local transport”. The KenEx team comprises transport, construction and business management professionals. The project has just completed its first successful funding round. Here is its latest press release.
After months of hard work and technical appraisal, councillors at Kent County Council considered safeguards for the future of a garden-city public transport route which could be used by the cross-river KenEx tram. In a show of support for sustainable future development, councillors agreed to the construction of a new tunnel and not to infill an existing tunnel but consider alternatives safeguarding future transportation options utilising this existing asset. Gordon Pratt, KenEx managing director, said: “We welcome that Kent County Council councillors have voted through crucial infrastructure to create the key public transport link between the new Ebbsfleet developments and Bluewater shopping centre. “This connection is crucial to significantly reduce journey times by public transport. Furthermore, planners stated that the dimensions of the new tunnel will mean that it will, in the future, be able to take trams as well as buses, which is key to Kent County Council’s stated aim of carrying up to 30 million passengers a year, equivalent to the London Tramlink network. “A local tram network has broad support by local residents, which has been recognised by councillors who voted unanimously to request consideration of retaining an older tunnel and that the planners look ‘not to infill’ but to consider alternative options safeguarding the future. Gavin Cleary, Locate in Kent chief executive, said: “With millions being spent on improved public transport and infrastructure, Kent is set to reap the rewards over the next decade in attracting jobs, opportunities and growth. “These projects will add to that sense of momentum, with improved links for communities on either side of the river a key part of plans to unlock the potential of the Thames estuary region as a major hub for growth industries in the UK.” Tony Young, director of TravelWatch NorthWest and tramway consultant, added: “Having been heavily involved in the planning for Manchester’s Metrolink tram system, this has now become the largest and most successful tramway in Britain. “Subsequently working as a tramway consultant for Kent County Council, in 1995 a tramway was planned linking Bluewater with Ebbsfleet, Dartford and Gravesend. “There is now a great opportunity to safeguard the future option of developing a new tramway using part of the Fastrack busway linked to a new Thames crossing in a tunnel which will create routes directly linking Kent with Essex. “Maintaining the old north tunnel within the Eastern Quarry development will enable the growth in capacity to be retained for future generations. “I am confident that the exciting and imaginative KenEx tram plans will dramatically enhance the local economy and environment of Thames Gateway.”