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.


Protect our Green Belt

We must protect our Green Belt for future generations. It prevents urban sprawl as well as providing countryside for recreation and relaxation, tranquillity, important habitats and areas for nature, the environment and farming.

Much of west Kent is Green Belt – in fact it covers 93% of Sevenoaks, 77% of Gravesham, 71% of Tonbridge and Malling, 56% of Dartford and 22% of Tunbridge Wells.

Strengthening the protection for Green belts and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty is an important point in our 2017 election manifesto. Have a look at the video below to see how much the Green Belt is loved.

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May 15th 2017

CPRE Manifesto for 2017 election

CPRE’s manifesto calls on all parties in the election to recognise the countryside’s huge contribution to the economy and our sense of who we are as individuals and communities, and to develop policies that will protect and enhance rural areas.

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We are calling for:

  • stronger protection of Green Belts and AONBs
  • investment in urban regeneration, especially brownfield sites
  • funding for farming to ensure we are a resilient nation in terms of food and environment and to reverse the decline in nature, in soils and in landscapes
  • an overhaul of transport policy in favour of a better integrated and sustainable approach
  • reduce waste and pollution by committing to resource efficiency schemes, such as deposit return systems
  • transpose all EU environmental protections into domestic law and introduce an ambitious new Environment Act
Flax field by Vicky Ellis

Flax field by Vicky Ellis

Read our manifesto here.

April 27th 2017.

Lorry park consultation response

CPRE Kent has submitted its response to the lorry park consultation, reiterating our stance that a single, huge lorry park is the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

Photo, kentonline

Photo, kentonline

Kent is an inevitable and unavoidable bottleneck in the flow of traffic between the UK and the rest of mainland Europe, and the rising volume of freight transiting this bottleneck is the most important issue that needs to be addressed. The disruption caused by Operation Stack in 2015 demonstrated the fragility of the logistics industry’s reliance on this concentrated route.

Operation stack 036  Operation stack 032

Instead of an expensive and damaging lorry park, we call for a solution which would offer real resilience to the nation’s trade and transport links and offer flexible alternatives to the logistics industry, both now and in the future. We believe that investment should instead be made into mandatory improvements in fleet management practices, so that no HGV driver benefits from racing to be nearest the front of a physical queue in Kent in the event of delays in the normal operations of the crossings.

This solution would also put an end to the anti-social ‘fly parking’ of HGVs which blights Kent’s roads, and it would remove the need for the implementation of ‘Dover TAP’ which holds HGVs back in the A20 approaching Dover. While this limits air pollution in the centre of Dover, it causes delays to other road users and merely shifts the air pollution to other areas, such as Aycliffe.

Hilary Newport commented: “We object in the strongest terms to the significant expenditure of public money on a built solution, in the marked absence of a transport strategy that does anything other than support and indeed encourage the steady growth of road based freight.”

In our response we also raise concerns about flooding, the impact on the landscape, heritage assets and the environment, loss of public rights of way and loss of agricultural land.

To read the full response click here.

There is still time to respond to the consultation – the deadline is 23rd september. See the link below for details:

https://highwaysengland.citizenspace.com/he/managing-freight-vehicles-through-kent/

September 12th 2016


Lorry park should be “temporary”

We were dismayed last week at the Government’s decision to go ahead with a 3,600 space lorry park in Stanford – on an area of countryside the size of Disneyland.

Even the House of Commons Transport Select Committee had said the need had not been sufficiently proven and neither had it been demonstrated that this was the right solution. Chairman of the select committee Louise Ellman called the decision to go ahead “disappointing”.

 

Stanford site, photo Pete Maddox

Stanford site, photo Pete Maddox

There is no doubt that a solution to the misery of Operation Stack is needed, but we, like the Transport Select Committee members, believe the reflex response of a single large lorry park to corral all the HGVs delayed in crossing the channel is not the right solution. We maintain that a better solution would be the active management of the HGVs that are caught up in delays.

Photo by Hilary Newport

Photo by Hilary Newport

Fleet management logistics, electronic communications and vehicle trackers are already in use, and it would be a simple step to require the drivers of HGVs to abide by the instructions of fleet managers who could direct them to dispersed holding areas along their route, calling them forward at a rate which would guarantee their unimpeded passage across the channel. It would have the benefit of not concentrating slow-moving and stationary HGVs in a single location, and would support the delivery of commercial truck stop spaces to help ease the burden of illegal ‘fly parking’ of HGVs on Kent’s roadsides and lay-bys. It would also require a smaller outlay than the £250 Million earmarked for this project, which works out at £70,000 per parking space.

Photo, kentonline

Photo, kentonline

Governments, of course, have a duty to ensure that public money is spent effectively, and that investment will actually deliver the benefits it is supposed to. The proposals for this lorry park have been developed entirely in the absence of any exploration of less expensive and – importantly – less damaging alternatives. This is not a responsible use of public funds, nor a responsible thing to do to the people of Stanford.

If, as looks likely, the lorry park does go ahead regardless, we are calling on the Government to ensure it is classified as “temporary” – particularly as in planning terms it is being rushed through as an emergency measure.

Political situations and trends change – last year’s acute circumstances of strikes and blockades at Calais coupled with security infringements at the Channel Tunnel, could disappear if France changes its industrial relations and if there are changes in civil war situations and regimes in the rest of the world. We just do not know what the need or situation will be in ten or even five years’ time.

Up until last year it was usually only extreme weather that prompted the need for Operation Stack. We cannot predict future need which is why the lorry park must be treated as temporary. If it is proven years from now to be an empty white elephant that does not solve a problem, the countryside can be restored rather than developed further with housing or factories.

July 12th 2016

We need affordable rural homes

This week is #RuralHousingWeek and we have been considering some of the issues and challenges rural communities face when it comes to housing.
Photo, Hastoe

Photo, Hastoe

We firmly believe that genuinely affordable housing is the bedrock of a thriving, living countryside,
but we are troubled by the fact that house prices are seven times average earnings in rural areas,
compared with 5.9 times in urban areas.
Rural vs Urban
In fact in Sevenoaks average house prices are 10.5 times average salary and in Tunbridge Wells 10.3 times.
Agricultural and other rural workers’ annual earnings are far lower (average £19,700 compared with £26,900 urban) which makes it even more difficult for people to live in the villages where they grew up or where they work.
CPRE is calling for:
  • Local communities should be empowered through neighbourhood planning while housing policy should be “rural proofed” to deliver what the countryside needs: high-quality, affordable housing.
  • The government must ensure rural areas, including areas of natural beauty and national parks, are exempt from the forced sale of council homes.
  • Empower small and medium-sized enterprise builders with local knowledge to provide affordable homes in rural areas.
  • The Government must focus on the delivery of the right housing in the right places.

New interactive map of threats to the Green Belt

London Green Belt Council with CPRE London and seven other CPRE branches have made an interactive map showing threats to the London (Metropolitan) Green Belt. It is a worrying picture.

Screenshot of Threats Map

Campaigners have today published a map of threats to London’s Green Belt. It shows nearly 200 sites under threat from development and proposals for building over 110,000 houses on protected green belt land.

Catherine Maguire, Green Belt Campaigner, said: “London’s Green Belt has saved our countryside. It is hugely valuable – more so now than ever, with more and more pressure being piled on the South East. If it had not been for the London Green Belt preventing urban sprawl, London could have followed the example of Los Angeles, and now spread from Brighton to Cambridge, with millions of people car-dependent and horrendous traffic and pollution problems.

“The planning system has been weakened to the extent that even the ‘strongest protection’ afforded to green belt land is being ignored on a widespread basis. Even though the government has clarified that housing needs cannot ‘trump’ green belt, it has also piled pressure on councils to release land for new homes and does not take action when protected green belt land is released. This is flagrantly hypocritical.”

You can view the map here. To find out more about the Green Belt, its history and legal status, have a look at the London Green Belt Council website.

May 24th 2016


Great news – we have been granted leave to appeal on Farthingloe

CPRE Kent has been granted leave to appeal against the judicial review judgement in our fight to save the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Farthingloe near Dover.

Farthingloe view from Western Heights, photo CPRE

Farthingloe view from Western Heights, photo CPRE

An appeal court judge has said that our arguments over mitigation to the AONB “raise an arguable point which has real prospects of success.”

CPRE Kent Chairman Christine Drury said: “This is great news – we have been determined to save this beautiful area of countryside. The harm to the AONB cannot be justified and we are heartened that the judge has agreed to our appeal on this important point.”

We argued that the judicial review judge had been wrong to conclude that the application to build 521 houses and a 90 home retirement village at Farthingloe complied with planning law (paragraph 116 of the National Planning Policy framework (NPPF)).

Dover District Council planning officers had criticised the density and layout of the scheme and recognised that it would have significant adverse impact on the AONB. Councillors ignored this advice and agreed to the proposals without any mitigation measures.

CPRE Kent, Natural England, the Kent Downs AONB Unit and the National Trust all opposed the decision and it is astounding that the case was not called in by the Secretary of State despite the strongest recommendations from his advisors.

Christine Drury added: “We will never give up on our countryside. I would like to thank everyone who continues to support us in this important battle. It is absolutely central to our cause that we fight to protect beautiful, protected, unspoilt areas of countryside for future generations.”

We will now prepare for the Court of Appeal hearing which could be some months away.

Read more on the background to this hereherehere and here.

May 10th 2016.


Planning reforms 2016 – write to your MP

Urgent call for your support. Please write to your MP now about changes to national planning policy which the Government is expected to publish in June.

Lenham sunset, photo by Simon Oliver

Lenham sunset, photo by Simon Oliver

Getting the right homes in the right places
We are calling for changes that will ensure the right housing is built in the right places, and prevent unnecessary loss of countryside:

  • Developers should be tasked with building the developments on permissions they already have, before trying to grab more greenfield land.
  • Councils should be empowered to prioritise the use of brownfield sites and restrict competing greenfield development, especially when this would further protect the Green Belt.
  • The Government should abandon proposals to relax Green Belt policy and instead make clearer that unnecessary or major losses of Green Belt should be avoided.
  • Councils should be able to set housebuilding targets that are based on a realistic assessment of what is likely to actually be delivered.

We have prepared a letter which you can send to your local MP. If you have the time to personalise it, it will be even more effective. Go straight to the letter and take action by clicking here.

For a detailed look at Planning reforms 2016: What’s the problem? click here.

Lavender at Castle Farm, Lullingstone, photo by Glen Humble

Lavender at Castle Farm, Lullingstone, photo by Glen Humble

April 27th 2016.

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.


Evidence on Operation Stack submitted to Transport Select Committee

CPRE Kent has submitted a written response to the Government’s Transport Committee inquiry on Operation Stack.

This follows last October’s one off evidence session into the impact of Operation Stack following the chaos of last summer.

In November 2015 the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced funding up to £250 million for a permanent lorry park to increase resilience in Kent, by taking pressure off the roads in the event of Operation Stack. The Government is consulting on a preferred site at Stanford and other alternatives. In the short term, the former Manston Airport site will continue to be used as a lorry park.

 

Operation stack 035 Operation stack 036

CPRE Kent holds to the principle that a single permanent lorry park which is used only in the event
that Operation Stack needs to be implemented is the wrong solution to the wrong problem. Kent is
an inevitable and unavoidable bottleneck in the flow of traffic between the UK and the rest of
mainland Europe, and the high and rising volume of road-borne freight transiting the county is the
most important issue that needs to be addressed.
The disruptions to Kent and the UK’s economy, as well as the unacceptable impacts on local lives and livelihoods, that resulted from the lengthy implementation of Operation Stack in 2015 served to
demonstrate the fragility of the logistics industry’s reliance on this concentrated route. We contend
that the time has come for a solution which would offer real resilience to the nation’s trade and
transport links and offer flexible alternatives to the logistics industry, both now and in the future.
We propose a 21st Century solution to the problems of over-concentration of road-based HGVs in
Kent.

To read our full submission click here.

For details of the inquiry click here.

February 29th 2016

Lower Thames Crossing

CPRE Kent, working together with CPRE Essex, has produced a policy statement on the Lower Thames Crossing. We are calling 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 believe better operation of the existing Thames crossings within a sustainable transport strategy would:

  • Be free from congestion
  • Have acceptably low air pollution levels
  • Be part of a dispersed strategic transport network and channel crossing system, resilient to economic, security and weather issues
  • Reduce the number of loaded trucks parking up overnight and at weekends on local roads
  • Offer a partnership with fleet managers for an end to unsocial working conditions for drivers
  • Promote more diversion to rail and unaccompanied trailer operations
  • Herald the beginning of a lower impact future for transport through Kent and Essex

To read the full policy statement click here.

December 15th 2015

Important Judicial Review

A High Court judge will today and tomorrow consider whether the decision to grant planning permission for more than 600 homes on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty near Dover was lawful.

We have taken the plans for Farthingloe and the Western Heights to Judicial Review in a last ditch attempt to protect this beautiful and iconic landscape.

South across the valley to site B from Little Farthingloe Farm 2

View across the valley at Farthingloe, photo Brian Lloyd

Dover District Council has granted planning permission for 521 houses and a 90 dwelling retirement village in the AONB at Farthingloe and a large hotel on the historically important Western Heights.

We have discovered that the Government’s planning experts had recommended in 2013 that the then Secretary of State for Planning Nick Boles “call in” the application because of the question mark over justification of building in the AONB.

We finally have a copy of the un-redacted letter (dated 19 June 2013) recommending this, obtained after a two year process of Freedom of Information requests.

The two statutory advice bodies, Natural England and Kent Downs AONB Unit, as well as CPRE Kent and the National Trust all requested that the outline planning permission be called in for a public inquiry. The planned development would have a major detrimental impact on the AONB, was contrary to national planning policy, was not sustainable and was not part of Dover’s agreed Development Plan.

In the advice to the Secretary of State, the planning casework officer said: “If you decide not to call-in this application, this could place the protected landscape of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at risk, leading to potential negative press coverage and reputation risk for the Government.”

There was shock and disappointment when the decision was made NOT to call in the application in July 2013. Planning permission was granted in April 2015.

“A Judicial Review is not a decision to be taken lightly,” said CPRE Kent Chairman Christine Drury. “But as this planning decision was so clearly wrong and so important it is now up to us to fight for the AONB through the Planning Court.  In planning law, AONB has the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty and we do not believe there are the exceptional circumstances to justify the destruction of this fantastic landscape.”

A High Court judge will consider the case for judicial review and hear the arguments on Tuesday and Wednesday this week (December 15th and 16th).  We expect the judgement early in the New Year.

December 9th 2015

Reaction to the Autumn Statement

CPRE has reacted to the Autumn Statement and Spending Review, where the Chancellor made a number of announcements on issues affecting the countryside.

Housing:

We have long been asking the Government to stop fixating on the planning system. Figures show that planning permissions are not the issue; the issue is that developers are not building the homes for which they have permission. Landbanking is a major problem and we are saying to developers to get on and build to deliver the housing we need.

HousingEstate_2167w

Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at the CPRE comments:

“Although we welcome a focus on brownfield development, we’re wary of moves to develop brownfield sites in the Green Belt – many Green Belt sites classed as ‘brownfield’ contain a lot of valuable open land, often historic parkland, which should be kept undeveloped. Continue reading

Kent is frack free

Great news that Kent is now frack free as there are no petroleum exploration development licenses (which would allow test drilling) in the county.

Coastal Oil & Gas relinquished all their PEDL areas and no other company has applied to drill here thanks to determined opposition in the county.

Fracking well in North Dakota

Fracking well in North Dakota

CPRE Kent expert hydrology engineer Graham Warren said: “This is a relief for Kent as we there would have been a serious risk that fracking would damage the aquifer which supplies 70% of the county’s water. The gas and oil deposits are no more than 600-700m below the aquifer, the Chalk of the North Downs. There was also a risk that geological faults in the area would have been re-activated allowing gases and fracking fluids to leak into the chalk and so contaminate the water supply.”

Mole Valley, photo by David Fisher, flickr

Mole Valley, photo by David Fisher, flickr

However, our neighbours in Surrey are under threat with licence areas having been granted in some of the most beautiful countryside in the Mole Valley. Mr Warren is advising the Surrey campaigners, and said of the proposed horizontal drilling corridor that will run beneath the aquifer: Continue reading