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

CPRE conference: thoughts from our man in Birmingham

CPRE Kent’s Supreme Court victory over the Farthingloe Valley should have a positive impact for branches and supporters across the country

Now the dust has settled after a crazily busy time for everyone at CPRE Kent, capped by last week’s victory over Farthingloe Valley in the Supreme Court, communications and PR manager David Mairs shares his thoughts after a day in Birmingham at the CPRE Autumn Conference. These are his opinions, not necessarily those of CPRE Kent…       

Less than six weeks after joining CPRE Kent as communications and PR manager at the end of September, I was hurtling (well, trundling) out of Euston towards Birmingham New Street station and, ultimately, the CPRE Autumn Conference.
A delayed train had at least afforded the opportunity to meet fellow CPRE travellers from Sussex and London and of course our own county chairwoman, Christine Drury.
A fascinating day lay ahead, certainly, but a dodgy ticket turnstile at New Street meant I was suddenly on my own and looking for The Studio in Cannon Street single-handed.
Not so easy, given that more than three decades had elapsed since my last visit to England’s second city, but, no matter, I was soon wolfing back canapes before selecting a table in place for the first presentation of the day.
This came from Crispin Truman, CPRE’s new chief executive, who was giving his first impressions of our organisation.
He got under way by presenting “CPRE Town” – a model town that might, if you peered very hard, look just a little like Richmond in North Yorkshire.
Either way, the idea was to show how our towns could be:

  • Offering new affordable housing
  • Community-led
  • Surrounded by beautiful, and accessible, countryside
  • Building on brownfield land where possible
  • Consideration of the town’s historic centre (avoiding the ‘doughnut effect’ of a sugary ring with an empty centre)
  • Strong local transport
  • Litter-free
  • Green space within town
  • Church and/or mixed-use community space
  • Sustainable economy

Idealistic maybe, but what’s wrong with that? Further, aren’t all of these principles desirable and something that all local authorities should be trying to achieve?
Crispin told how he found CPRE to be a positive organisation and he had been unable to find any nimbys – rather, he had discovered positive people who were simply struggling with current government policies.
He spoke of the democratic deficit, where planning policy was being undermined and bypassed, and the unfortunate adversarial approach to housing and roads now evident.
As for the future, Crispin felt we needed to give clearer, simpler messages with more focus. We should be clear in communicating what we do.
And there’s clearly a willing audience, the chief executive pointing out that one of young people’s main concerns is loss of nature.
Other issues he covered were the fact that members wanted more connection between national office and local branches; the concept that CPRE was about solutions as much as about problems; and the need to develop new initiatives and strengthen community fund-raising.
Crispin was impressed and excited by CPRE’s access to government, but we couldn’t do all that we wished on our own – there needed to be collaboration, both internally and with other organisations.
Aside from the need to work better together, one of the lasting questions we were left with by the chief executive was how could we broaden our appeal. This was a theme that was to run throughout the day.
Next up on the podium was Elvira Meucci-Lyons, CPRE director of fundraising and supporter services, who updated us on the membership review and developments with corporate fundraising and legacies.
She stated the ambition of the organisation, which was to broaden its appeal as, if we are to achieve our mission, we require more help. We need greater volume, value and frequency of support from broader audiences than we currently attract, Elvira told us.
And how to do it?… Tell our story better and offer a more relevant experience to the audience we wish to attract.
After Elvira’s presentation came what for me was one of the most interesting and valuable parts of the day: a look at the charity landscape.
Given by a lady whose name I missed from the GOOD Agency, which has worked with such big hitters as the National Trust and RSPB, the analysis painted a bleak picture for organisations such as ours.
The number of donors is dropping (7 per cent in five years); voluntary giving is slowing (a 25 per cent decline in six years); and less than 7 per cent of charity giving goes to environmental causes. As if all that were not enough, the cost of recruiting donors has gone up.
We learnt that most giving is sporadic and occasional, while fewer than half of people aged under 35 give regularly but 79 per cent of over-65s donate on a frequent basis.
We were urged to rewrite the rules of engagement, whatever that meant, and see things from the perspective of supporters, who needed to know why we do what we do.
Finally, CPRE’s position should be moving from that of gamekeeper to facilitator, while Oxfam was given as an example of an organisation that had thought about how to give people of all ages a role.
A workshop followed in which we were asked why does CPRE exist and what is its purpose. Everyone seemed pretty much on the same page with this one, while the idea was mooted of CPRE possibly being “a distress purchase”. You can look that one up…
The final morning session, A Strategy for One CPRE led by branch and regional development manager Antonia White, focused on national office, the regions and the branches “being strong together, working constructively and effectively to common objectives to have the best possible impact for the countryside and the public”.

Four aims were set out:

  • Branches and regions being strong on their own
  • Branches and regions being strong together
  • Branches and regions supporting national office effectively
  • National office supporting branches and regions effectively
  • National office being strong on its own

This was one of the more interactive sessions, with a range of contributions from the floor, while one of the more positive facts to be shared was that CPRE intranet was on its way. We await…
There was also a set of commitments given by national office:

  • Menu of training (essentially more training, especially in relation to campaigns)
  • Fundraising support to branches
  • Addressing planning need through more focus to region plans
  • Planning support work
  • Policy-Campaigns annual cycle
  • Consolidate and update volunteer documents and toolkits

Next up was lunch… and what a splendid treat that proved to be! I plumped for the curry option, as ever, and it was a delight… possibly the best food I have had at such an event.
The only negative was that my time to savour it was limited as I had to head to a lunchtime workshop (such devotion to the cause!).
This related to CPRE’s planned new website and was, for some of us anyway, a tad disappointing with little in the way of new ideas or proposals to get us thinking; we already had a strong idea of what we wanted to do – what we needed was more guidance in helping us deliver it.
It was soon, and perhaps predictably, established that we sought to increase footfall to our national website and encourage visitors to return more frequently. E-newsletters were cited as an obvious way of driving people to the site.
Some of those present felt the current website looked old-fashioned, while others highlighted how in future it could be used to supply information to interested parties, especially in planning matters.
Suggestions as to what the new CPRE site could include, meanwhile, included a Twitter feed down the side of the home page, a simple user guide, objection-letter templates, an archive of old documents, campaign information, case studies, volunteering opportunities, a range of national content with greater local relevance, multimedia content such as videos and live streaming from events. More than one person also expressed the desire for an easier CMS (content management system).
It was all getting a bit techy for me as I concurred wholeheartedly with those who asked for greater IT support in such areas as analytics. Time to move on…
to Tess Kingham (a Kent resident, by the way), who gave us her thoughts having spent time running CPRE campaign training sessions over the past year or so.
Our power potential was enormous but not fully exploited, she said, while also noting that MPs’ fear of CPRE did not equate to the number of people we had on the ground.
She had perceived our strength in planning but also our weakness in social media and having broader campaign strategy PR. Perhaps we should set up a skills audit, she suggested.
Other observations included the requirement for a tailored campaign pack for more integrated operating; a pressing need for more volunteers; a lack of training provision (although there are lots of opportunities to share skills); and the importance of writing letters to the printed media and the sharing of success stories and personal tales rather than constant planning minutiae.
More off the cuff, perhaps, Tess told us we should make sure our research facts and figures were credible and accurate, which probably didn’t need saying; that booklets such as Warwickshire in Crisis were useful tools to send to the decision-makers; and that some local authorities would pay the postage for CPRE deliveries (really! … apparently).
Referring to the training days themselves, Tess had found one-day sessions in campaign training “a bit tight”, saying training should be either generic or bespoke and not mixed, while there was possibly a productive paradox in that reactive work dominated our agenda but it was of course keystone to what we did.
A lady sat next to me thought a review of training sessions that the majority of us hadn’t even attended was not a good use of time. I got what she was saying, and this section could have fallen flat, but thankfully Tess’s more general observations on CPRE were illuminating and valuable.
After this, there was a slight shuffle of the set agenda as CPRE director of campaigns and policy Tom Fyans and campaigns manager Lucy Hawthorne led a review of how we were tackling the issues that concern us:

More political: for example citing the concept of developer v community interest. As a more specific case, the narrative should be set as affordable housing, not the Green Belt. Essentially, “If you think building on the Green Belt will bring down house prices, you’re wrong”.

Also, more media, more interest, more relevance.

More proactive: witness our efforts in relation to NPPF reforms, the Housing White Paper and the Green Belt, among others. Policy is analysis, it’s not influence, said someone, and it was a statement that drew a general murmur of agreement across the room, as did the idea that we should be more positive in how we framed our message.

More integrated: cases included, again, the Housing White Paper, Green Belt Under Siege and the Oxford-Cambridge Working Group.

We were informed of CPRE’s new principles for 2018:

  • More collaborative
  • More positive
  • More human (there are heroes and there are villains!)

The last point related to what we, as people, are doing. It’s not just the technical stuff.
All was not sweetness and light, however, as a lady from Oxfordshire declared her ire that national office had not given more notice to the branches of its forthcoming AONB report, which, we had just been told, had been seven months in the making.
Tom accepted the criticism and, if you couldn’t speak out here, then where could you? We were among friends, after all.
Other speakers from the floor, meanwhile, said that – given all the talk of a homes crisis – there was more per capita housing than ever before; farmland, especially with planning permission for development, was the fastest-growing asset in the country; and CPRE branches were subject to a postcode lottery with a big disparity in funding.
And CPRE in 2018? Key priorities included influencing the NPPF, with a consultation expected to be released early in the year; a campaign on rural affordable housing; a submission on the Raynsford Review of Planning; and the government’s 25-year plan for the environment.
And so it was time to review the day. Going back to where we began it all, chief executive Crispin noted the desire among many present to change CPRE’s image, while he had also taken on board our weakness in areas of fundraising.
Of course we couldn’t let things pass without mention of Brexit and the changes it would bring our rural communities, especially in relation to farming. CPRE, urged a speaker from the floor, should be involved throughout this period of great change.
And with the ever-present wish to accentuate the positive, I’ll echo the words of the one who ventured that CPRE planning skills were unparalleled and we could share them with so many others. Hear, hear!
And Hear, hear! to the newly introduced drinks reception, a chance to drink a little, eat a little and talk a little.
Sadly, the chance to then hit the bright lights of Birmingham was not afforded me as David Morrish, the new chairman of CPRE Thanet committee (a post I once held) and a native Brummie, had a family engagement in town and so I was left to head for New Street and home on my lonesome.
It had been a long day, so what were my thoughts upon being immersed in the world of national CPRE?
As ever with such things, some parts of the event were better than others and I got the idea that not everyone had engaged with the speakers or indeed subjects as much as they might.
This wasn’t helped by the layout – during workshops, for example, it was sometimes very difficult to hear people on your own table above the noise from those on other tables.
There was a little too much metropolitan ‘blue-sky’ speak for my liking, but then I’m a Thanet boy and there are few places where English is spoken more earthily.
For all that, it was without question a worthwhile venture, perhaps most of all because you got to meet people from CPRE branches across the country. In truth, this will always be the strength of such events – it is encouraging and emboldening to know that others are as involved and as passionate about the countryside as you are your colleagues are.
It was also apparent that CPRE Kent’s financial position is viewed with some envy. Be under no illusion, your stout yeoman (me!) was on hand to clarify that we weren’t able to simply “to wheel out the barristers” as and when, as someone put it, but I did realise that some branches even in affluent areas you might expect to be core CPRE territory have next to no resource.
Again, it was important to highlight that victories for CPRE Kent in such cases as Farthingloe have national resonance, with all branches benefiting as important legal principles are established.
I had some empathy with the gentleman from Warwickshire who said CPRE needed to be “more combative, less nice” in response to a government that, he believed, had been “working behind our backs” in the way it had foisted housing numbers upon so many of us.
“Be terribly blunt, be terribly open – we’ll get more members,” he said.
Yep, I’ll go with that.
It was evident that many of those present wanted more training in such areas as campaigning and IT, as well as greater support on the “planning frontline”. Again, it’s hard to argue.
And finally? Yes, you can breathe a collective “Phew!”…
CPRE is very much alive and kicking. A cliché, I know, but these are times of extraordinary change and we all need to be able to meet the range of challenges ahead.
I saw that our organisation has people – young and older alike – with a fantastic range of abilities and the passion to fight for what they believe. We have to adapt, certainly, and many of us need to broaden or enhance our skills set, but collectively there’s no one better equipped to fight for the countryside we love.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

From cycling to the impact of the Lower Thames Crossing, these are lively times in Gravesham

Shorne: a village close to the planned route of the Lower Thames Crossing

CPRE Gravesham chairman Alex Hills lifts his head from a busy workload and shares his thoughts 

There have now been two meetings of the Gravesham and Dartford Cycling Forum since its formation and it is making good progress on achieving CPRE aims.
I landed the job of chairman by default, which I was not keen on initially, but it has enabled me to help promote the benefits of commuter cycling, access different cycling groups’ knowledge, help make cyclists’ voices heard and develop useful contacts.
There is now a move to form an umbrella group for cycling forums to tackle wider issues such as access to train travel.
I would urge all CPRE branches to engage with their local cycling forum if they have one. If there is no cycling forum, help set one up as it will be worth the effort.
The tram project is making progress – the battle is now on to find the funding.
Highways England (HE) has now dropped any pretence of the planned Lower Thames Crossing being anything other than a Green Belt grab for growth, with all mention of reducing congestion at Dartford being dropped.
Some improvements have been made to the design – but I think HE had always intended to do these anyway.
The LTC and Gravesham Borough Council (GBC) plans to build 2,000 houses in the Green Belt are very much linked due to the need for a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).
My view is that the growth it is said will be created by the crossing should be included in the Highways England Strategic Environmental Assessment, but I would like further advice before pushing the point.
The council announced plans to consult on building 2,000 houses in the Green Belt to accommodate a lack of houses being built by developers and a massive increase in migration from abroad. Both points are totally wrong.
The umbrella action group Gravesham Rural Residents Group, of which CPRE is a member, has been partially reactivated. After a social media and letter-writing campaign by the group, the cabinet papers on the Green Belt review were withdrawn.
A long list of questions has been sent to the council… we await response.

Monday, December 4, 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 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:

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.

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.

Remembering Alan Holmes

One of CPRE Kent’s most valued and committed members, Dr Alan Holmes, has passed away at the age of 89. He joined the charity in 1999 and served as Honorary Secretary, Honorary Treasurer, Trustee, Vice President, South East Regional Treasurer and Chairman of the Canterbury Committee.

Alan was awarded an OBE for services to the food industry having run Leatherhead Food Research Association, a laboratory with an international reputation. He undertook many voluntary roles with organisations including Citizens’ Advice Bureau, the Rotary, East Kent Council for Voluntary Services, East kent Hospitals Trust, the Canterbury Credit Union and the Westgate Hall Conservation Trust.

Alan lost his first wife Ann to cancer in 1975 and his second wife Sue, also to cancer, in 2013. He had three children, bob, Michael (who died in 1995), and Rosie and five grandchildren and three great grandchildren. He died after a short illness.

We will remember Alan for his passion for the countryside, his chairing of so many meetings, his dog Buddy who accompanied him to all those meetings and his down-to-earth approach to planning and outspoken views on some of the major issues in Canterbury.



Radical rethink needed on Thames crossing solution

No-one who has crawled through traffic congestion at the Dartford crossings can doubt that there is a problem that needs fixing, and it needs fixing now. Nor do the residents who suffer from dangerously high levels of air pollution need reminding that this is a situation which has long been intolerable.

Our first thoughts on the location are here. But now that the dust is beginning to settle on the announcement of the likely location of the Thames crossing, there’s an opportunity to reflect on what this means for Kent and beyond.

A2 near Gravesend, Highways England

A2 near Gravesend, Highways England

As a solution to the problems suffered at Dartford, the tunnel east of Gravesend performs very poorly indeed. Highways England’s consultation acknowledged that, on opening, the tunnel would draw just 14% of the traffic from Dartford, which is a woefully poor improvement on a situation that is intolerable now and can only become worse in the time it will take a tunnel to be built.

We know from years of observations that building roads to remove congestion is counter-productive; new roads fill with traffic faster than the roads they are supposed to be relieving. CPRE’s report published only last month showed the most comprehensive evidence to date that building new roads is not the solution.

A huge proportion of the goods we trade with mainland Europe and beyond travel through the Channel Port of Dover and the Channel tunnel, and there are ambitious plans to grow traffic through the port of Dover. If the experience of past road building schemes has taught us anything at all, it is that before long Kent’s highways network, even with an additional tunnel across the Thames, will be back at or beyond capacity and we will have endured the environmental and social damage of building and using a tunnel for no long-term solution.

View from church tower at Chalk across Kert countryside by Glen

View from church tower at Chalk across Kert countryside by Glen

Before destroying communities, landscapes and designated sites, we want urgent attention to be given to developing a sustainable transport strategy. Fostering and encouraging the continued growth in traffic through Kent is not good for the country’s economic resilience. The unprecedented events of 2015, leading to over 30 days’ implementation of Operation Stack, should have taught us the lesson that focusing so much of the country’s imports and exports through the already constrained M2/M20 corridors cannot make economic sense.

We urge government to take a radical re-think of the focus on funneling so much traffic on roads through the South East. We need modal shift which will take freight off roads and on to rail, yet the plans for the new Thames crossing are totally silent on the possibility of addition non-road capacity.

Muggins Lane, connecting Shorne Ifield to Gravesend, Brian Fuller

Muggins Lane, connecting Shorne Ifield to Gravesend, Brian Fuller

April 24th 2017

New Kent Voice out now!

The spring/summer 2017 issue of Kent Voice is arriving on doormats this week.

cover photo for web

The magazine includes our latest article on the housing crisis – this time looking at the challenges and dilemmas facing a local planning authority. Other articles include the orchid treasures of Kent, a profile of our president, the artist graham Clarke, heritage, and wildlife and farming. Of course the regular campaigns, planning and district updates are also included.

There are some beautiful photos including this cover shot by Bjorn Sothmann and a few more, seen below. Thank you to all our supporters and members who contributed words or photos.

To read Kent Voice click on the magazine cover above or click here.

Elmley National Nature Reserve, Sheppy, Kent.

Cute lamb by Su-May Scords view, for FWAG article



Housing Minister speech praises CPRE

The Housing Minister Gavin Barwell gave the CPRE annual lecture yesterday (20th) and spoke of the influence CPRE had in the recent Housing White Paper:

“We’ve not only listened to your input, we’ve taken it on board. Any honest assessment of the housing white paper will quickly spot the marks of your influence – whether it’s the protection of the green belt, our opposition to speculative development or our insistence on community involvement in planning and design.”

Gavin barwell Feb 17s216_Gavin_Barwell_Government_Whips-13Jul2015_5242

He added: “I have great respect for the contribution your members have made to public life over many decades in your ceaseless campaign to protect and enhance the English countryside.”

And he said: “The CPRE has played such a distinguished role – and for such a long time – that you suffer from that paradox of success: many people are completely unaware of your profound impact on the English landscape because they simply take it for granted.”

We were heartened to hear him acknowledge our vital role in protecting the countryside.

You can read the whole speech here.

And you can read Matt Thompson’s blog reacting to the Housing White Paper here.

CPRE Kent is working with other branches and CPRE nationally on our full response to the white paper.

February 21st 2017.


New year lunch at Leeds Castle

We have had a lovely lunch and visit to Leeds Castle to celebrate the new year (January 11th). Forty members attended. Thank you to our wonderful outings volunteer Margaret Micklewright – this was the 150th trip she has organised for CPRE Kent.

imag2474  imag2471imag2473

Happy New Year from CPRE Kent

Happy new year to our members and supporters. We hope 2017 will be a good year for the countryside but fear there are many challenges ahead with the pressure from ever increasing housing targets and demand and need for infrastructure. We will be campaigning to protect the landscapes we all love.

Chaffinch on a frosty morning by Kentish Plumber

Chaffinch on a frosty morning by Kentish Plumber









Meanwhile what about making a small change with enormous rewards – choosing local produce. This can offer benefits to your health, your community and your local environment.

Faversham (19)

Faversham farmers' market, photos Vicky Ellis

Faversham farmers’ market, photos Vicky Ellis








Whether living in towns or the countryside, local food sources are around, and to help you along the way CPRE has created a handy pocket guide with the best reasons to choose local food as well as tips on helping you to find it. Do have a look.


January 3rd 2017

Merry Christmas to all our supporters

CPRE Kent wishes all its supporters and friends a very Merry Christmas. It has been a challenging year with some highs and lows and with the increasing pressure of higher and higher housing targets and demand for infrastructure our work is more important than ever.

Photo: Rachel Kramer

Photo: Rachel Kramer

OCA Photography

OCA Photography









Our victory at the Court of Appeal in getting planning permission  quashed for more than 600 homes on the AONB at Farthingloe was a memorable and far-reaching achievement. Meanwhile plans for huge housing developments on our beautiful countryside look set to go ahead including 4,000 at Mountfield, south Canterbury, and 12,000 at Otterpool Park in Shepway.

Winter scene canterbury, by Randl Hausken

Winter scene Canterbury, by Randl Hausken

Transport infrastructure continues to remain high focus – we await a decision on the Lower Thames crossing, Heathrow has been chosen for expansion and of course the giant Operation Stack lorry park is due to open, possibly as early as next summer.

It was wonderful to celebrate CPRE’s 90th anniversary with our garden party at Hever castle in September. To read more on the historic formation of our charity see here.

We will continue to engage in local plans, major planning applications and other consultations and campaign to protect our wonderful landscapes. We do make a difference and it is thanks to our members, volunteers and supporters that we do.

Merry Christmas from all the staff at Charing – Hilary, Vicky, Susannah, Jillian and Paul.

December 19th


Legend of St Eanswythe: Graham Clarke’s poem

Graham Clarke shared his poem on St Eanswythe at our 2016 AGM.

St Eanswythe was the granddaughter of Saxon King Ethelbert of Kent. She built the first nunnery
in England at Folkestone. While the building work was in progress one of the carpenters cut too much off one of the main beams. The legend is that she lengthened the beam by the power of prayer alone. The little church in Brenzett on the Romney Marsh is dedicated to her. She is a Kentish heroine for us all.

st-eanswythe-2 st-eanswythe

On Beam Ends in Folkestone 

Her grandad was King Ethelbert, King Ethelbert of Kent
Young Eanswythe down to Folkestone town with building plans was sent
The nunnery that had been planned would be the first in the land
“A holy place is what we need, so make this job your mission
Don’t worry what the council says you’ve got my permission
Saxon craftsmen on this job when about your task
Follow plans most carefully, that is all I ask.”

So the building work began following the holy plan
Till one boy cut a beam too short and by the foreman he was caught
“I told you cut it ten foot four, you’ve cut off fourteen inches more!
You’re really the most useless bloke, that beam was very pricey oak
Don’t try to blame it on the saw, and don’t tell me your eyesight’s poor.”

This now reached our Good Lady’s ear, she told the poor lad “Do not fear.”
“Go and have a cup of tea, leave the sorting out to me.”

While men went off to get their teas, Eanswythe got down on her knees
No-one knows what happened quite on that blessed building site
For whan they came back through the door, the beam had grown to ten foot four
Proper length, perfect fit, the beam had grown the missing bit

“Good Lord we can’t see how that’s done, she’s done a miracle our nun.”
“Saints alive,” the workmen said, the foreman stared and scratched his head
So carpenters when cutting planks, to Eanswythe offer humble thanks
Then should you make a slight mistake pray Eanswythe might her mercy take
But not if you use saws electric. And by the way she don’t do metric.

© Graham Clarke 2016

For more on the AGM and a link to the minutes click here.

November 21st 2016