Local elections matter!

All Kent’s local boroughs and districts, as well as Medway Council, will be holding elections on Thursday (May 2).
Local authorities control many of the decisions that we care passionately about at CPRE Kent. We depend on their decisions to keep our towns and villages vibrant, to ensure there are homes people in which can afford to live, and to make sure that services like public transport and waste collection and recycling are effective and efficient.
That is why it is so important to get out and vote, and to make your voice heard on Thursday! Whatever their political colour, the decisions made by your local councillors are important for your local community.

  • To find out in which local-council area you live, see here
  • To find out where your polling station is, see here
  • To find out who the candidates are, see here

In the final run-up to the election, you can contact your local candidates and let them know the most important things to you and ask that they reflect this in their election promises.
One of the easiest ways to engage with your candidates is to send them an email or a letter. You should be able to find their email and postal addresses using the links above.
We have drafted an email/letter that you could send them – see here. Our manifesto, Stand Up For Our Local Countryside, can be found here if you would like to include it. And you can see our short video here
In line with the manifesto, we ask you to think about supporting the policies that support Kent’s countryside in the following ways:

Best use of land: respecting the constraints of designated landscapes, making use of brownfield sites and prioritising sustainable, public transport.

  • Thriving rural communities: getting the local council building more homes for social rent and prioritising local housing need over market demand.
  • Empowered communities: championing and upholding the voice of local people through the planning system
  • An enjoyable countryside: developing light-pollution policies and encouraging outreach and engagement programmes to provide equal access to the countryside.
  • Climate change and the countryside: setting a local authority climate change strategy and embedding climate change into all local policy areas.

You have the chance to make your voice heard on May 2nd: don’t miss it.

Threat to Western Heights and Farthingloe confirmed as developer looks to put scheme back before council

Farthingloe: under pressure again (pic Vicky Ellis)

The renewed threat to develop the Farthingloe Valley in the Kent Downs AONB has been confirmed.
We reported in June last year (see here) that applicant China Gateway International had requested Dover District Council provide a scoping opinion for an updated environmental impact assessment in preparation for a renewed application at the site.
This followed the Supreme Court’s confirmation, in December 2017, that planning permission for more than 500 houses and a 90-apartment retirement village at Great Farthingloe Farm, together with associated development at nearby Western Heights, remained quashed.
That case had been brought about by CPRE Kent challenging DDC’s granting of planning permission for the scheme in 2015.
The Supreme Court was backing the Court of Appeal’s verdict that DDC  planning committee had not given legally adequate reasons for approving the application. DDC had challenged that Court of Appeal decision, necessitating the Supreme Court case.
Now, however, CGI has submitted “updated application documents” prior to redetermination by DDC.
The letter of submission from planning consultancy RPS, written on behalf of CGI, says: “The scheme has been subject to minor beneficial changes, incorporating advice from DDC and consultees.
“This has resulted in one change to the description of the development, reducing the number of residential units at Farthingloe from 521 to 512 units.”
Responding to the news, Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, said: “CPRE Kent maintains its original objections to these proposals.
“There is no doubt that we need to solve the housing shortage facing both rural and urban areas, but we must build the right types of housing in the right places.
“The Farthingloe part of the site is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which should be given the highest levels of protection, and these plans represent a grossly inappropriate incursion to this protected landscape.
“We know that the housing affordability crisis is particularly acute in the South East, yet these proposals will deliver no affordable or social housing at all; they will not provide the homes which are so desperately needed in the district. There is still no justification for sacrificing such a large area of AONB.
“We are particularly disappointed that the promoters still claim that the Farthingloe site is brownfield when it is clearly not – a quick check of Dover District Council’s own brownfield register confirms this. Part of the the site was used briefly as temporary accommodation land during the construction of the Channel Tunnel, but temporary permission for such uses does not grant brownfield status.
“Although DDC granted permission for this project, the Court of Appeal judged that its decision was wrong, since its planning committee failed to give legally adequate reasons for allowing substantial harm to an AONB.
“DDC chose to take that decision to the UK Supreme Court, where CPRE Kent had no option but to defend this challenge if we wished to see this site remain protected.
“And in December 2017 the Supreme Court Judgment confirmed its agreement with the Court of Appeal that there was no legally adequate justification to grant this permission.
“We can see no reason the legal position will be any different for the application this time around, since there is so little difference from the original proposals.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Remember, remember, the 20th of December…

Yes, Thursday, December 20, is the last day you can submit your comments on Highways England’s plans for the new Lower Thames Crossing.

We know that the pollution, congestion and delays at the existing Dartford-Thurrock crossings are intolerable, and agree that action needs to be taken to protect the lives and livelihoods of people living and working nearby, as well as those who use the crossing. However, the proposals for the new crossing will not fix these problems. The planned new crossing is now simply a mechanism to ‘unlock growth potential’, which means encouraging ever-more road journeys – not managing congestion.

It takes very little scrutiny of the proposal documents to realise that if the proposed crossing east of Gravesend and Tilbury were to be built, it would make barely any improvement on conditions at Dartford or western Thurrock.

Instead of an expensive and damaging new infrastructure project, in an area of the country that is already massively constrained and over-stressed, and which will lock in another generation to damaging car-dependent domestic and commercial development, CPRE Kent wants a better solution. We are calling for a sustainable national transport strategy that does not encourage the ceaseless growth of road-based traffic but focuses on genuinely sustainable policies for the movement of people and goods.

We will be submitting our consultation response next week and we’ll post it on this website for anyone interested to check out.

Meanwhile, you might like to look at some of our earlier comments:

And here are thoughts of Alex Hills, our Dartford and Gravesham chairman:

Here is the consultation submission from the Dartford and Gravesham Cycling Forum:

Our friends at the Lower Thames Crossing Association have put together a useful ‘Don’t Panic’ guide to responding; you can find it here: https://ltca.org.uk/featured/a-guide-to-completing-the-consultation-questionnaire

You can see our response, submitted today (20th), here: CPRE Kent response to LTC Statutory Consultation

  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if you would like to have your say, follow this link:

https://highwaysengland.citizenspace.com/ltc/consultation/?gclid=CJn9t7OHn98CFZKThQodac0O4g

14th December 2018: Updated 20th December

 


Yahoo emails

We’ve been made aware someone is using the info@cprekent.org.uk address to send scam emails to people whose data was compromised in the Yahoo security breach. Be assured that we took immediate steps to stop this but it seems some ‘ghost’ messages might still be bouncing.  If you have a yahoo email address and receive a spoof email seemingly from us, be sure not to click on any links. Contact the office if you are concerned (01233 714540).

posted 26 Oct 2016


Lower Thames Crossing: consultation opens

Infographic from Highways England consultation

In the week that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report telling us we need to take immediate action to curb catastrophic climate change, we learn of the opening of the next stage of consultation on plans for the new Lower Thames Crossing (LTC).
The consultation website bills it as the solution to “unlocking opportunities and economic growth for the region and the country… offering new connections and better journeys”.
Earlier stages of consultation promised that the new LTC was essential to solve congestion and air pollution at the existing, undoubtedly over-stretched, Dartford crossings.
Even so, scrutiny of those documents showed that, on opening, a new crossing would reduce traffic flows at Dartford by a pitifully low 14 per cent.
This is a tiny benefit compared with the environmental and community harm that would be caused by the biggest UK road project since construction of the M25.
It is now clear that a new crossing will not be about achieving environmental and public benefits. Rather, it is about creating more vehicle journeys, about intensifying the housing crisis in the South East and about opening up ever more green spaces for development.
Last year, colleagues in CPRE’s national team published research showing unequivocally that increasing road capacity simply resulted in more vehicle journeys: we can’t build our way out of congestion. There’s a good little video summarising the report here.
At a time when we need to radically rethink how we use energy to move ourselves and our stuff around, the government’s focus on new road capacity is out of date.
Instead of investing solely in new roads, we want government to focus on better public transport links, to rationalise the over-reliance on road-based freight movement and to support planning policies that reduce the need to travel by car and support walking and cycling.
Don’t miss your chance to have your say on the proposals: the consultation closes on Thursday, December 20, and the documents can be found here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

AGM 2017

Our AGM will be held on Friday 17th November 2017, at the usual venue of Lenham Community Centre. This time we will hold the AGM in the morning, starting at 10:30, and close the meeting after lunch which will be served at 12:30. Please let us know if you would like to appoint a proxy if you are unable to vote, or if you would like to join us for lunch after the AGM (the charge for lunch is £12 per person, cheques payable to CPRE Kent, please, to be received no later than 8th November). The agenda, location details and forms for lunch and proxy votes, together with the minutes of last year’s AGM, are available at the links below:

2016-final-dated-accounts AGM 2017 agenda AGM 2017 location map_proxy vote_lunch Minutes AGM 2016

We hope to see you there!


Maidstone Local Plan re-think welcomed by CPRE Kent

CPRE Kent has welcomed Maidstone Borough Council’s decision to postpone the adoption of its Local Plan.

The decision by the local authority follows a letter from Faversham MP Helen Whately to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, asking him to ‘call in’ the Plan.

She was expressing concerns about the level of housebuilding proposed in the Plan, the prospect of business development at junction 8 of the M20 and lack of infrastructure.

The council had been expected to adopt the Plan at a meeting on Wednesday, but that has now been postponed in the wake of the letter to Mr Javid.

Gary Thomas, CPRE’S Maidstone branch chairman, said: “It’s encouraging to see Maidstone council postponing the meeting due to the uncertainties around the Plan being adopted.

“They’re listening to people’s concerns and that in itself is a step forward.

“From Maidstone’s perspective, the junction 8 site is the worst in the whole borough for employment purposes as people would be travelling across much of the county for any work created there. There would be little benefit to Maidstone.”

26th September 2017

Right Homes, Right Places?

This new consultation (Sep 14 – Nov 9) is looking at ways to deliver even more homes in the areas of highest pressure: in the introduction, Sajid Javid says: “Nobody likes indiscriminate, unplanned and unwelcome development. But most of us are willing to welcome new homes if they’re well-designed, built in the right places, and are planned with the co-operation of the local community. To win the support of local residents, we have to build homes people want to live alongside as well as in.”

He’s not wrong in saying that, but communities all across Kent are reeling in the face of already impossibly high housing targets. The new methodology for calculating housing need will see significant increases in those targets in every district across the county. Simply raising the targets for housing delivery is only http://findviagra.com going to force yet more land to be allocated; it will not direct the development that we need into the most sustainable locations.

It won’t help protect green space or the best and most versatile agricultural land. It won’t magically put right the fact that Kent is already severely water-stressed. And never forget that simply building more houses doesn’t force house prices down: the housebuilding industry has never followed the ‘pile them high and sell them cheap’ mantra of the supermarkets. We need a proper national spatial planning strategy, and planning authorities need support to deliver genuinely affordable housing that meets public needs first. Only then will communities feel able to welcome new homes.

See here for the proposed target increases in Kent and Medway: righthomes and see the consultation itself here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-right-homes-in-the-right-places-consultation-proposals

15 September 2017


Biddenden Tractor Fest 2017

…a big shout out to the organisers of this year’s Tractor Fest and Country Fair at Biddenden on Saturday and Sunday (August 19 and 20)! if you are planning on being there, be sure to come and say hello to the wonderful CPRE Kent team.


Concerns over noise and air pollution at Manston Airport

We have today (12th July) submitted our consultation response to RiverOak Strategic Partnership’s consultation into the future of Manston airport.

We are concerned that the environmental and social impacts of noise and air pollution outweigh the claimed economic benefits. In contrast, the opportunity to convert this brownfield site to mixed commercial and residential use offers more realistic employment opportunities and would help of safeguard the best quality agricultural land which would otherwise be required to meet Thanet’s objectively assessed housing need.

Manston airport by Simon Moores, flickr

Director Hilary Newport said “We don’t think a new airport here would provide any overall social or economic benefits, and there is a real danger of converting the site into an airport is that is highly unlikely to be viable, and would therefore again become a blight on the area, and retard the more useful, and economically and socially beneficial uses for another decade.”

CPRE Kent also considers the negative impact of night flights on surrounding communities to be unacceptable.

The consultation period closes on 23rd July. You can read our consultation response here.

12 July 2017

We’re recruiting!

Do you have a keen interest in Kent’s countryside and in helping to create a positive future where the homes that we need are built in the right places, and that we can all share and enjoy a beautiful, thriving countryside?

We have a vacancy for a Part Time Planner. Details can be found here: Planner Job Advert Planner Person Specification and Job Description Planner application form

CPRE Kent offers great working conditions, pension and holiday entitlement.


Waterside Park – Success!

Wonderful news that the appeal against refusal to build commercial warehousing and offices on green field land near Leeds Castle and in the setting of the Kent Downs has been dismissed – and for all the right reasons.  Our landscapes and heritage are precious assets and must be safeguarded from inappropriate exploitation.  This decision will help protect this area from future speculative development and, crucially, allow Maidstone Borough to complete its Local Plan to help safeguard other sites from speculative challenges.

Read the full decision here

(picture credit: Stephen Sutherland)

 

 

 


Thanet Local Plan Consultation

We have set out our concerns about the unrealistic and damagingly high target for new homes and jobs in the draft Thanet Local Plan.

The plan sets a target of 5,000 new jobs. We believe this is unachievable, mainly because the catalyst for growth on which it is based – Manston Airport – has gone. We are advocating a lower target of 3,100 jobs and this would mean the housing target could be reduced.

The housing target of 12,000 new homes is based on population information that is out of date and unreliable. It fails to take account of housing proposed in neighbouring districts – especially Dover. Dover has already set a high growth housing target of 14,000 new homes. In addition, Dover District Council has recently granted planning permission for even more houses – including 500 at the Discovery Park. The Dover and Thanet housing markets are closely aligned, and we believe that Dover will inevitably meet some of the Thanet housing need. This has not been taken into account in Thanet District Council’s assessment of housing need. Continue reading

Musings on Junction 8

Maidstone Borough Council has refused planning permission for the second time for Gallagher’s ‘Waterside Park’ at J8 of the M20. This is great news for all of us who have been fighting this development over the last two years.

Despite the Maidstone planners recommending approval, the planning committee was not persuaded that the changes made to the proposal would overcome the previous reason for refusal. This was the right and obvious decision. Gallaghers had been clearly told by the Council when they were first refused permission in February that “The application was considered to be fundamentally contrary to the provisions of the Development Plan and the NPPF, and there were not considered to be any solutions to resolve this conflict.”   

Given this clear message, we’re concerned that the officers saw the revised application, for the same development, as being acceptable. This really is difficult to understand, but at least common sense and consistency of decision making has prevailed, and the committee members are to be applauded.

The battle though is not over. Gallaghers have already appealed against the earlier planning refusal, which will mean another expensive Public Inquiry next year. More worrying though, is that despite removing proposals for development at J8 from the draft Local Plan earlier this year, Council officers now want them put back in the Plan. In a report to the Council’s Planning Overview and Scrutiny Committee next Tuesday (21st) planning officers are claiming that new evidence means that J8 is the only option for new employment development.  This does not bode well for how hard the officers will fight the planning appeal when they think that J8 is a good place for development.

Let’s hope that last night’s decision will make the officers think again, and finally accept that neither their own councillors nor local people want to see damaging development in the countryside at J8.