Help CPRE Kent in volunteers’ week June 1-12 – it’s fun!

Tessa Woodward photo May 2014     By Tessa Woodward, CPRE Kent Membership Volunteer

CPRE Kent does fantastic work in our county to protect the countryside as well as campaign against aircraft noise, light pollution, environmental and transport concerns. We also promote tranquillity and a thriving rural sector with affordable housing and support for farming.

With more members and more volunteers we could do much more! So we are launching a volunteer and member drive. Will you help us?

Lots of people volunteer
After reading a piece in a magazine called ‘Country Living’ a while back, about people volunteering as helpers for riding for the disabled, as mountain rescuers, conservationists, and staff at bird observatories, I was reminded of how very many people volunteer with charities. Charitable associations as varied as hospices, prisons, brownie and cub-scout troupes depend on the goodwill, time and energy of volunteers. And many of us have benefited at some time or other in our turn from a helping hand offered by a neighbour or work colleague when children have needed picking up or lawns mown at fraught times!

Why volunteer?
So, why do people give of their time and energy for no pay? Partly out of an instinct for community no doubt, but also because we learn things, get the chance to do something interesting, enjoy the company, and find it meaningful! In one survey I saw it was even suggested that people who volunteered actually felt healthier and more cheerful as a result of volunteering!

Blossom VIC      Blue Bell Vic (3)

Photos by Vicky Ellis

So, how do you start?
How do people become volunteers? Nine times out of ten people say it is “Because I was asked!” In other words it is not really ‘volunteering’ but rather ‘being invited to volunteer’. Please now consider yourself invited!

What do volunteers need?
Based on my own experience, I’d say important ingredients are: feeling good about a cause or an issue, being clear about what the task is, having a bit of time to contribute to it, having a skill or being prepared to learn a skill, having what a friend of mine calls team mindedness, that is, the willingness to work as a member of a team and, finally, a sense of responsibility about what we have promised to do.

Kent Show 002 kent show 2015

Our stand at the Kent County Show 2015

What can make the experience rewarding from the volunteer’s point of view?
A sense of achievement, a bit of acknowledgement or recognition in the form of, say, a ’thank you’ from a team leader, the reward of belonging to a good team where you have a bit of fun, humour and celebration sometimes, personal and professional development gained from meeting new people and ideas and improving skills and a sense of meaning and purpose as you contribute your energy to protecting the English countryside. We promise to do our bit to make sure that our side of all this happens!

So how can I get started?
If you are interested in what you have read thus far and, like us, are passionate about the English countryside, why not get in touch with us? We are looking for volunteers who have a little time or lots of time!

 

Charing Flowerbed3VIC Tortoiseshell

Photos by Vicky Ellis

Examples of volunteer opportunities/things we need help with
Events
help by coming along and staffing a CPRE stall at a local event such as the Kent Show, vintage     fairs, village fetes,  farmers’ markets
help our office to organise an event such as a garden party, an awards event or a photographic   competition
organise a litter pick in your area, take photos and send them in
start a community herb/wild flower garden, take photos and tell us all about it!
become our events co-ordinator
Membership
become a CPRE Kent member
buy gift CPRE memberships for friends and family for Christmas, birthdays, and thank you               presents
help in the Charing office to follow up on contacts made at local events
Writing and communications
write a blog post for us on an aspect of the Kent countryside
do an email interview on ‘Why I became a CPRE member’, ‘Why I volunteer for CPRE’ or ‘Why I     have decided to leave a legacy to CPRE’
contact your local newsletter or parish magazine and ask if we can write an article about CPRE,     free, for its pages
Outreach
drop off issues of our periodical ‘Kent Voice’ and CPRE leaflets around your village/area
contact your Parish Council about it becoming an institutional member of CPRE
go into your local school and run one of our ‘Across the Generations’ projects for CPRE
send us the name of possible corporate sponsors you know
send us the name of any celebrity you know and would be willing to approach on our behalf
help us to join in with other conservation charities such as The Kent Wildlife Trust, or The                 Woodland Trust in their tree planting project
become our Outreach Volunteer
Donations
offer a prize for a CPRE raffle, quiz or awards ceremony
offer a donation once or regularly
tell us if you have special skills in e.g. photography, video editing, responding to planning                 applications, writing grant applications, competition judging
help protect the English countryside in future by offering us a legacy

Interested in these or other ideas? If so, come and join us! It’s fun!.
CPRE Kent is waiting to welcome you!
Contact Vicky Ellis on 01233 714540 or vicky.ellis@cprekent.org.uk

 

How can they harm our landscape and heritage?

mug shots Rose 006  By Rose Lister
When driving down the A2070 on the Eastern edge of Ashford you may notice the startling juxtaposition of industrial and retail buildings on the one side and a beautiful rural landscape on the other. You may be saddened to discover that this rural idyll presided over by the stunning Grade I listed St Mary’s church has been earmarked for employment development.

St Mary's Church, Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

St Mary’s Church, Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

‘Surely not!’ I hear you cry. ‘The rural church is set in rural surroundings, how can they be so harmful to our built and landscaped heritage?’ Unfortunately they can -the details can be found in the U19 policy and on the Ashford Borough Council’s (ABC) planning website. Our job is to ensure that everything that can be done to limit the harmful impacts of the site on the countryside and everything contained within it (man-made or living) is done. The current masterplan is a dull and uninspiring creation that has not currently been accepted by ABC. The little detail the masterplan has includes seven units of varying size, from large to massive, with suggested landscaping, new road links and parking. I shall be honest, these buildings are not to my taste. Their size, scale and suggested building material are unsustainable and harmful to the historic and living landscape, and that’s even before we consider the transport issues.

Continue reading

Fascinating outings for our members in 2016

We have a great programme of outings planned for our members. Organised by volunteer Margaret Micklewright, they include fascinating visits to the COOK’S kitchen at Sittingbourne where they make frozen food for distribution across Kent and beyond. (Thursday 19 May).

Cooks at COOK

Cooks at COOK

On Thursday 18th June an outing is planned to Lullingstone Castle and its World Garden of Plants, plus a visit to a lavender farm in the area.

 

Lullingstone Castle aerial view

Lullingstone Castle aerial view

Plus on 14th June (to be confirmed) members have the chance to visit the Sainsbury’s Distribution Centre at Waltham Abbey.

On Wednesday July 27th there is an outing to Povender House near Faversham. This 14th century house is owned by Princess Olga Romanoff, daughter of Prince Andrew Romanoff, the eldest nephew of Czar Nicholas II. The visit includes a tour and tea and cakes.

Then on Thursday September 15th there will be a visit to Denbies Vineyard and then on to Painshill Gardens.

Painshill Gardens

Painshill Gardens

Denbies Wine Estate

Denbies Wine Estate

In the autumn on 1st October members have the chance to visit the Sainsbury’s Distribution Centre at Waltham Abbey.

For a full programme and booking form see the attached below:

Diary outings 2016 revised May 2016

May 3rd 2016.

The housing crisis – a builder’s view

The following article by Susannah Richter appears in the latest edition of Kent Voice. We would be interested in your feedback.

Unrealistic housing targets are putting more pressure on the housebuilding industry than ever before. In Kent, the total 20-year figure is 158,500 new homes, with recent objectively assessed housing need of 18,560 in Maidstone, 15,600 in Thanet, 16,000 in Canterbury and 29,500 in Medway. The industry is dominated by the big companies, so what are the barriers faced by small and medium sized builders and can they provide solutions to the housing crisis?
Pentland Homes was set up by landowning farmers in the 1970s and now builds around 100 homes a year, up from just 30 during the recession five years ago. Most of its development sites are brownfield (79%) – including empty schools, a disused factory, a former pub and MoD land.
But Managing Director Martin Hart says brownfield sites are complicated: “Firstly, they are bought at risk because we don’t know what problems we may find. We are currently building on the site of an old potato packing plant at New Romney which was entirely concreted over – we didn’t know what to expect when we removed the concrete. If something untoward was found, a small company could go bankrupt on just one unlucky brownfield buy.

Martin Hart

Martin Hart

Pentland Builders

Pentland Builders

“Secondly, if a site has been brownfield for a long time it often has greater ecological value than greenfield land which has been ploughed and treated. We have to get ecologists involved and it can be costly if we need to move or provide for species or could even prevent planning permission. Either way it will cause delay – again something many small building companies cannot afford.”
This is exactly what happened at Lodge Hill, a former army camp in Medway identified for 5,000 homes. Over the last 20 years it has become home to 1.3% of the national nightingale population as well as bats, great crested newts, toads, lizards, slow worms, grass snakes and adders. This will be the subject of an interesting planning inquiry. Continue reading

Kent Voice spring edition out now

The latest edition of Kent Voice is landing on doorsteps this week. it is a particularly colourful edition with lots of photos of spring flowers, our lovely countryside and farmland and bees! One of our articles is on the saga of bees and neonics. Plus we have an interesting perspective on the housing crisis – we talk to two builders about the challenges they face.

Kent Voice cover, spring 2016

Do have a look to find out the latest branch news and campaign updates. You can read your copy here.

March 29th 2016.


Brownfield sites developed six months faster than greenfield sites

Research published today (March 21st) by CPRE shows that brownfield sites are being developed more than half a year faster than greenfield sites. [1] This follows on from CPRE research carried out in late 2014, which found that there are enough suitable brownfield sites for at least 1 million new homes. [2]

It is estimated that Kent has 1,600 hectares of brownfield sites which could accommodate at least 70,000 homes. Much of this is in North Kent – in particular Dartford and the Medway Towns, but also Dover and Tonbridge and Malling have a lot of sites.

The new research covered 15 local authorities across England between March 2012 and December 2015. [3] Carried out by construction consultants Glenigan, the data reveals that the time between planning permission being granted and construction work starting is generally the same for brownfield and greenfield sites, but that work on brownfield sites is completed more than six months quicker.

Nova site Faversham VE (5)

While the Government has pledged to invest more than £2 billion in brownfield regeneration and establish a brownfield register, many of its proposed changes to planning policy are aimed at making it easier to build on greenfield land. [4] These proposals include developing small sites in the Green Belt and a ‘housing delivery test’ that would force councils to release more land for development if housebuilders do not meet high housing targets. Continue reading


Lower Thames Crossing – thoughts from Gravesend

Hundreds of people turned out to a public meeting at Gravesend last night to hear about the consultation on the Lower Thames Crossing. I was pleased to be on the ‘top table’ alongside Highways England Consultation Manager Martin Potts to be able to put CPRE Kent’s case for a more sustainable transport strategy, and grateful for the support and kind words of the audience.

It was never my intention to speak at this meeting to argue the relative merits of either Option C (HE’s preferred option of a tunnel east of Gravesend – look at the picture below for a very benign ‘artist’s impression’ which leaves out all of the industrial infrastructure, lighting, power substations etc etc) or Option A, which is more capacity at Dartford.

Our response to the consultation is going to make it absolutely clear that we believe both choices offer unacceptable environmental damage, blighting lives and livelihoods, against a backdrop of already intolerable levels of air pollution from traffic.

Lower Thames Crossing image

No-one doubts the huge problem of congestion that already exists in north Kent, and it is a problem that needs solving now.  But I want to consider whether the only solution to this problem is an expensive and damaging new road crossing, wherever it might be.

To help explain our reasoning, I’m focusing on  the issue of road freight.  About a quarter of the vehicles using the current crossings are HGVs and goods vans; as a nation, we are heavily reliant on road based freight: The efficient flow of goods and services is essential to UK and wider economies, of course. But the number of HGVs that travel through the channel crossings each year is already growing at about 8% per year, and the port of Dover has ambitious plans for expansion.  This continued (and unconstrained) growth appears to be happening in wilful ignorance of the consequences for the wider highways network, the environment, or the health and wellbeing of our communities.

Most of this road-based freight using the channel crossings has to cross the Thames; very little has its origins or destination in Kent. The short crossing across the Channel is quick and cheap for the freight companies, but the real costs arising from ever more traffic are borne by the environment and the communities along the rest of the route. This traffic brings no real economic advantage to Kent, just pollution, noise and congestion which is potentially now requiring a very expensive ‘fix’.

A new Thames Crossing might ease current congestion, and accommodate traffic growth for a while, but we know that all new roads fill up, and they fill up quickly.  It would be a shame to lose sight of the lessons we’ve learned from the past. A good example is Newbury Bypass, notorious in the mid-1990s for the protests that made Swampy and his colleagues famous as they climbed trees and dug holes to try to stop the diggers starting work.

The Promoters of the bypass argued it was essential to improve road safety and to end the intolerable congestion in Newbury town; the objectors were fighting to stop the destruction of 120 acres of mature woodland and sensitive habitats. Despite the the objections, the bypass received go-ahead in 1995 and finally opened in 1998.

The studies that took place after the bypass was opened make grim reading. Traffic on the bypass grew at double the rate of traffic on comparable roads in the area, and there is clear evidence that this was induced growth (i.e. new journeys) rather than traffic that was displaced from other congested roads. Within 7 years, the traffic in Newbury town centre was back to its pre-bypass levels, the accident rate in the area was up, and the species of rare snails that had been expensively relocated were found to be locally extinct. 10 years on and with £100m spent, the situation in Newbury was worse than before.  There are many similar examples where promised befits of road schemes did not deliver.

So before we make a commitment to a new road we need to ask whether it will do what is promised.

If you are responsible for trying to tackle congestion or manage transport networks, it’s important to look to the lessons learned to understand whether new road building will help or hinder those aims.

If you are responsible for managing public expenditure, you need to know whether public money is actually delivering public benefits.

And those of us who are the target for the current consultation all need to be confident that a road scheme will genuinely improve conditions, before we can even begin to weigh up the environmental damage against those benefits.

Induced traffic is a reality: The introduction to the Consultation Document highlights the importance of “stimulating economic growth – unlocking access to housing and job opportunities”.  But I think that there is a very important difference between unlocking genuine potential on the one hand, and on the other, creating a vacuum that pulls in unsustainable growth into the already overstressed south east, just as the Newbury bypass pulled in traffic growth for no long-term improvement in congestion.

Rather than focusing on ever-more roads, which will be as full as ever before long, we are calling for a serious re-think and for a genuinely sustainable integrated transport strategy that doesn’t foster and encourage the growth of road-based freight through Kent.  We should certainly focus on getting more freight off road and onto rail. The Consultation Document (p 10) makes it clear that rail has been ruled out, on the basis of earlier studies dating back to 2009: I think that this is an appalling throwaway decision which flies in the face of any definition of sustainability.

Things have changed since 2009.  If we are at risk of forgetting the lessons we learned at Newbury, are we also at risk of forgetting last year’s experience of sweltering through over 30 days of summer with Operation Stack paralysing the county’s roads?  The transport links on which we rely are clearly not resilient and unconstrained growth of ‘business as usual’ just isn’t an option any longer.

Before we commit to any damaging road building scheme, it’s time to re-think the practice of concentrating so much of the nation’s trade through such constrained and unsustainable links: we are putting all our eggs in a frankly fragile basket.  60% of all UK freight travels on HGVs via the channel crossings: most of this is travelling to or from places north of the Thames: some of it even crosses at Dover to travel on to Scotland or even Ireland – the fact that this is the cheapest option available for hauliers to move their stuff from ‘A’ to ‘B’ makes it quite obvious to me that our transport systems are blisteringly unsustainable.

So instead of another Thames Crossing, let’s look at ways to incentivise smart use of ports of entry and exit that don’t rely on onward road travel across the Thames, (London Gateway is rapidly expanding, Harwich or Felixstowe could take more freight, Liverpool is crying out for more custom). Let’s move goods in/out much nearer to their points of destination or origin; we could do a great deal to restore resilience to our existing transport network as well as cutting the existing congestion and pollution.

We need a solution that will serve us well into the 21st century, not just a continuation of ‘business as usual’ that will at best give us some short term benefit for all sorts of very real and lasting harm.

The last gentleman who stood up to speak last night made a brilliant statement.  He made it very clear which option we need.  We need ‘Option Sea’.  Sir, I salute you.

To read more on our view on the LTC click here.

Hilary Newport
March 3rd 2016.

 


Regeneration through heritage

Words and photos by By Rose Lister

In recent years the idea of creating a sense of place has been reoccurring through planning. But what does this mean? In broad terms it is finding the individual character of a place and encouraging it to create a thriving community. So what better way to do this than with an area’s heritage assets? Listed buildings, scheduled monuments, green spaces – all these can be used to drive regeneration and reignite community spirit. In 2013 the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) commissioned a report looking at how breathing new life into old buildings can help spark new business and regenerate an area. It looked into what businesses wanted when searching for a location and how the effect of working in a heritage area benefited them. The findings confirmed that the new ideas of the past were the perfect places for the new ideas of the future to be sparked.

Canterbury jan 2016 chimmy changa Canterbury jan 2016 library

Now Kent, with an estimated 18,400 listed buildingsContinue reading


New chair of Kent Historic Buildings Committee

The Kent Historic Buildings Committee, which works to preserve Kent’s rich built heritage, has a new chair. A short biography appears below:

John Wotton

John Wotton

“I have lived in Kent since 1983 and have family connections with the County going back several generations. My home for the past 23 years has been a Grade II* listed, timber-framed house in Cranbrook, where I garden and grow fruit. I have been a CPRE member for many years and joined the Tunbridge Wells District Committee and Kent Historic Buildings Committee in 2013. I have been involved in conservation since I was a student and am a supporter of the Weald of Kent Protection Society, Kent Gardens Trust and Woodland Trust and am a trustee of Fauna & Flora International, a charity concerned with the protection of threatened habitats and species throughout the world. I have spent most of my career as a lawyer in the City of London and am now an Inquiry Chair with the Competition & Markets Authority.”

John takes over from Robert Baxter, who joined CPRE Kent in 1995 as conservation officer before becoming director and then chairman of KHBC. He has now stepped down and at the 2015 was awarded “for his fantastic commitment”.

February 8th 2016


Goodbye and thank you from Brian Lloyd

We said goodbye to Senior Planner Brian Lloyd on Friday. He had worked for CPRE Kent for eight years and transformed the way we dealt with local plans and planning applications and issues. As well as making a major contribution to the plan making process across the county he was involved with neighbourhood planning and advised, trained and helped parish councils.

Brian and his partner Jean, photo by Paul Buckley

Brian and his partner Jean, photo by Paul Buckley

brian 3

Brian said: “A big thank you to everyone that came along to my leaving party on Friday and to those that contributed towards my leaving gifts – a camera and membership of Kent County Cricket Club for 2016. This was extremely generous, and most unexpected, as were the lovely flowers presented to Jean. It was wonderful to see so many people who had travelled from all corners of the County to send me off.  I am really looking forward to having time to do the things I have not been able to, especially when the better weather comes, and spending more time at cricket will most definitely hit the spot. It has been a privilege to meet and work with so many people who feel so passionately about Kent’s countryside, and it’s has been inspiring that so many people give so much time to CPRE and their communities to try and ensure that future generations can enjoy it as we have been able to. I wish you all well and I am sure that I will see many of you again in the future.”

Hilary Newport presents Brian with his gifts, photo Paul Buckley

Hilary Newport presents Brian with his gifts, photo Paul Buckley

Proposed Lower Thames Crossing will cause huge damage

Highways England has announced its recommendation for a crossing east of Gravesend for the Lower Thames Crossing. A consultation is set to start today (26th January), with Highways England believing the Gravesend crossing, or “Option C” provides “double the economic benefit” compared to an additional crossing at Dartford.

The proposed option would see a bored tunnel built to the east of Chalk which is east of Gravesend, with a new road being built from junction 1 of the M2. It would join the M25 between junctions 29 and 30.

We recently (Jan 12) set out our policy on options for a new Lower Thames Crossing, in which we called for a wider, more resilient solution, including investment in ports north of the Thames to disperse the cross channel movement of freight.

QE2 Bridge by Diamond Geezer, flickr

QE2 Bridge by Diamond Geezer, flickr

We have also highlighted the effects of option C on Gravesham. We fear this will destroy ancient woodland, destroy important wildlife habitats which are home to protected species and destroy productive farmland, needed to feed our growing population. It will ruin the beautiful landscapes and panoramic views which make Gravesham so special. And it would have a devastating impact on Shorne Country Park, one of the area’s most important educational, environmental and recreational assets, used by so many people, including horse riders, walkers, cyclists, runners and families or those who just seek the tranquillity and peace so vital to our busy lives.

The crossing itself would not cause all the damage. Continue reading

Developing new homes AND our heritage

Rose Lister, who has joined our team at CPRE Kent as an intern specialising in heritage, shares her thoughts below on the planned development of Connaught Barracks and the heritage implications.

Heritage can mainly be seen in our built environment, however it is all that is green and growing and all that flurries and scuttles too. Our rivers and wildlife, green open spaces and villages are where we find our identity. England’s green and pleasant land is so rarely found in our towns and cities, but as the pressure to build expands ever outwards and threatens our environmental heritage it is important to realise that what we have is precious and worth fighting for.

Connaught barracks

That is not to say that we cannot develop our heritage. Development is needed and is indicative of a healthy society. Rather we would see that it is done right. A golden example of this is the prospective development of the Connaught Barracks in Dover. The sight ticks so many boxes that it is the perfect place for a local planning authority to regenerate.

  • It is a brownfield site.
  • It has been empty and unused for a decade.
  • The majority of the buildings are of little historical and architectural value.
  • It is not in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Fort Burgoyne 3 by Wevsky Fort Burgoyne 2 by Wevsky

Fort Burgoyne photos above by Wevsky

 

That said it is home to a Victorian fort, Fort Burgoyne. Though overgrown and derelict, the fort is part of our military history and should be treated with respect. Therefore the question is not should Connaught Barracks be developed but rather can it be done right?

Continue reading

Farmer Alarmer

Artist, author, illustrator and humorist Graham Clarke – also President of CPRE Kent – wrote this marvellous poem for our AGM. We hope you enjoy it!

IMG_8587

FARMER ALARMER

Graham Clarke 2015

Put on me gaiters to plant me pertaters
Make sure me trousis is tied up with string
Soon there’ll be earlies, wait for the laters
Now that the Winter ‘as turned into Spring
Oh what a joy to hear me alarm
At five in the mornin’ to work on me farm

To see to me cows is just a sheer pleasure
And make sure me ‘orse ‘as plenty of oats
Slip in the slurry, just for good measure
And spill all the rubbish, meant for the goats Continue reading


Awards to volunteers and staff at AGM 2015

Seventy-six people attended our 2015 AGM on Friday. it was a chance to hear about our campaigns over the year April 2014 – March 2015 and to look ahead to the branch priorities for the next year.

AGM, Lenham, 2015, photo Paul Buckley

AGM, Lenham, 2015, photo Paul Buckley

 

It was also a chance to say goodbye and thank you to some of our important volunteers and staff.

Brian Lloyd with Christine Drury, photo by Paul Buckley

Brian Lloyd with Christine Drury, photo by Paul Buckley

Brian Lloyd has been senior Planner since 2007 and will be leaving in early 2016. He was awarded “for his exceptional work at the forefront of influencing planning policy across Kent, particularly his invaluable contributions to consultations on local plans.”

Continue reading


Kent is frack free

by Rosie Rechter, Chair, East Kent Against Fracking

Anyone who knows anything about the dangers of fracking will be celebrating that not a single licence in the whole of East Kent was included in the recently announced 14th Licensing round.  Licences that previously threatened Woodnesborough, Shepherdswell, Guston and Tilmanstone have all been relinquished so our concerns for water,  public health, our environment and our quality of life have been put to rest. Local businesses involved in tourism and food production can all heave a sigh of relief – as can householders worried about the falling value of their houses and the rising cost of insurance – the true costs of  fracking which were hidden from the public within the redactions of the DEFRA report.(hyperlink to Talk Fracking section here?)

We may well speculate on why Kent has been spared. Falling gas and oil prices have probably played a part but we remain convinced that the successful campaign waged by a EKAF signalled to fracking companies that we are an undesirable location! Any company looking our way would surely realise the force of our formidable, well-connected and well-informed opposition. Continue reading