Would you like to help campaigners in their battle to protect a swathe of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Beauty from a highly damaging development? Wootton Environment Protection Group is challenging Dover District Council’s decision to allow Lydden Hill race circuit to increase the days it can be used from 52 days a year to 364. The council’s backing for the circuit means people living in nearby villages such as Denton, Shepherdswell and Wootton would have to suffer further intrusive noise, toxic fumes and extreme light pollution. However, WEPG has secured a judicial review of the decision and this is likely to be heard in the High Court in April or May. Such moves do not of course come cheaply and the group has set up a crowdfunding page to help cover the cost. A group spokesman said: “WEPG has worked tirelessly for years to protect our natural environment. We have already raised £15,000, but we need to raise a further £10,000 to challenge this damaging decision. “We could really do with some help in protecting our beautiful and tranquil area for generations to come from this ruthless and ill-thought-out development.” CPRE Kent supported the campaign during its early stages. A spokesman for the countryside charity said: “What we really want is Dover District Council to take seriously the need for proper controls at the circuit and engage in proper liaison with neighbouring communities. “The present operations at Lydden respect neither the AONB nor the neighbours and the proposals would make matters even worse without proper controls and respect. “Sadly, the only way forward, as things stand, is through a judicial review.” We’ll leave the final word to the WEPG spokesman: “If you can, please donate to our campaign and share what we’re doing with your family and friends. Every penny will be so very welcomed and appreciated. All administrative costs are absorbed by our volunteers.”
If you would like to contribute to the Wootton Environment Protection Group as it prepares for the High Court judicial review, please click here
For more on the expansion of Lydden Hill race circuit, click here
CPRE, the countryside charity, and Friends of the Earth are joining more than 2,000 local councillors to call on the government to rethink its planning proposals and work with locally-elected representatives to create the places and homes communities so desperately needed. A total of 2,062 local councillors have called on the government to abandon the most damaging elements of its changes to the planning system in an open letter to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. More than 350 of the councillors, or one in six of those who signed the letter, are Conservatives, which shows the breadth of opposition to the damaging changes within the Conservative Party itself. In the letter, councillors warn that the proposed changes to planning will undermine the trust the public has in the planning system and “could radically reduce protections for nature, local green spaces and fail to tackle climate change”. Local democracy is a major concern for the signatories, with the proposals as they stand leading to “an unacceptable loss of local democracy, scrutiny and accountability and worse outcomes for communities”. The letter goes on to highlight the need for a strong local planning system to support sustainable development, community cohesion and a healthy environment but highlights that the government’s proposals as currently set out “will not achieve these goals”. Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, said: “The message from MPs, communities and now more than 2,000 councillors is clear, but it is not too late for the government to rethink its controversial upheaval of the planning system. “Planning done well can create the affordable and well-designed homes that communities are crying out for. We can create low-carbon and nature-friendly homes, with an abundance of green space on their doorsteps, all connected by low-carbon public transport. “Investing in a locally-led democratic planning system that empowers local councils to create these places should be the government’s top priority. “We stand with these councillors in urging ministers to work with us to develop and deliver a better set of planning reforms that can actually deliver our country’s environmental, economic and social objectives.” The government’s proposed changes to the planning system would be the biggest change to the planning system since the Town and Country Planning Act in 1947. But the proposals put forward by ministers have already faced fierce opposition from local councillors, communities, MPs, former cabinet ministers and even the former Prime Minister, Theresa May. A recent poll off Conservative backbench MPs, conducted by Savanta Comres, also found that more than half of Conservative MPs (55 per cent) on the backbenches are considering opposing the government’s upheaval of the planning system as set out in the Planning White Paper. Notably, more than three-quarters (78 per cent) of MPs surveyed think it is important that local councils should choose and prioritise the most suitable development sites, which is something the proposed zonal planning system would exclude. Naomi Luhde-Thompson, senior planner at Friends of the Earth, said: “It’s clear to so many MPs, councillors and local communities that the Prime Minister’s vision for decision-making on development in England is not one that guarantees local control and centres local voices. “The privatisation of the planning system so far, where so many decisions are no longer made in principle by councils but by developers, like the conversion of offices into homes, tells us what this government thinks of local control. “The proposals in the White Paper will drown out community voices, stifle local democratic responsibility and weaken legal protections for the environment.” The letter from local councillors concludes: “The right development in the right place has the potential to deliver social equity and sustainable economic growth, as well as meeting our environmental ambitions. “The government’s proposals as they stand will not achieve these goals. With this is mind, we urge you [Mr Jenrick] to rethink the proposals you have set out and work with elected representatives in developing a positive vision for planning.” With the 2021 local government elections just around the corner in May, CPRE and Friends of the Earth are joining local councillors to call on the government to rethink the planning proposals they have set out, trust in local expertise and work with elected representatives in creating the places and homes communities need, especially in rural areas.
A group has been formed to fight proposals for 2,405 houses and commercial development in the Gravesham Green Belt. Operating under the banner of the CPRE Kent Gravesham district committee, the Greenbelt Campaign Group is bringing together people from across the borough who understand how important the Green Belt is. The more people who help, the stronger we will be: WE NEED YOU! Please get in touch if you can assist with:
Delivering leaflets in the Sole Street area
In this sort of campaign, local knowledge is vital. Do you know of planning applications for any of the sites under threat that have been refused? If so, please get in contact. Some of the threatened sites are rich in wildlife, so do you have proof of flora and fauna present? Again, if you do, please get in contact.
To join the Greenbelt Campaign Group, or to help out in any way, please email email@example.com
You can also help by joining CPRE Kent, who are supporting the group. Just log on here
Local people are being urged to fight for the Green Belt in Gravesham. Below is a list of the sites under threat and Alex Hills, Gravesham chairman of CPRE Kent, is making clear what is at stake. “Many of these sites are on prime farmland, which is much needed for food supply,” he said. “The proposals will result in villages merging, while no account has been taken of the impact of the new Thames crossing or the planned theme park. “Many of the locations have poor public-transport links and the infrastructure is not there to support the developments. “The sites in Meopham and Istead Rise will increase traffic on the A227, which is already facing at least a 10 per cent increase in traffic from the new Thames crossing. “Further, these developments would destroy important wildlife habitat. “Please, if you want to protect the Gravesham countryside, write to your MP and your ward councillor.” Proposals in the Gravesham Local Plan Regulation 18 (Stage 2) Consultation could see 425 new homes in Higham, 275 in Istead Rise and 1,705 in Meopham, plus commercial development.
Sites under threat:
Land west of Wrotham Road (Site B), next to Helen Alison school, Hook Green, Meopham. Meopham North: 120 dwellings
Land at Longfield Avenue, New Barn, Istead Rise: 25 dwellings
The government has devised some new plans that could pose a huge risk to the countryside and the communities living and working within it. Ministers want to take decision-making powers away from communities and local councils, handing it over to housing developers and central powers in Westminster. Under these new proposals, our ability to shape the future of where we live – a right communities have had for 70 years – could be lost with the stroke of a pen. We must resist this, but we don’t have long. We have to stand firmly against these proposals before they are taken any further. Please sign our petition to call on government to drop them and invest in a planning system that:
Puts people and communities first
Provides access to countryside for all
Delivers affordable homes for those in need
Enables the building of zero-carbon homes as soon as possible
Empowers councils and gives local people a voice
We need to shift the scales in favour of communities, not developers, and if enough of us stand together, we can make a real difference. With just a few clicks, you can be part of that. Please sign our petition to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, here:
Campaigners have launched a crowdfunding appeal to fund legal representation at a planning appeal and Local Plan inquiry. Trudy Dean takes up the story…
Forty Acres is a beautiful open area of gently rising farmland to the south of the A20 London Road in the parish of East Malling and Larkfield. Confusingly running to almost 60 acres, it lies between and separates the historic settlements of West Malling, East Malling, Larkfield and Leybourne from the new village of Kings Hill. It is crossed by two well-used Public Rights of Way, MR 119 and 120, between the villages and serves commuters to West Malling station, shoppers and walkers. They also feed into one of the few areas of nationally designated Quiet Lanes prioritising walkers, riders and cyclists immediately to the south. Forty Acres fields have been cultivated for grain for as long as anyone can remember and were part of the extensive estates of the nearby 11th-century Malling Abbey built by Bishop Gundulf for Benedictine nuns. In 2016, Forty Acres was included within a parcel of land proposed to extend the Metropolitan Green Belt eastward in the Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council Draft Local Plan, due to begin its final stage of examination before inspectors in October. Extending the Green Belt would not only protect the setting of West Malling with its Conservation Area but also prevent the joining up of East and West Malling with Leybourne and Larkfield to the north and Kings Hill to the south. The network of rural lanes and footpaths would be protected as well as the setting of many listed buildings. The developer Wates has applied for planning consent to build 250 houses on Forty Acres and now appealed against the borough council’s failure to decide the application within six weeks. The surrounding parishes of East Malling and Larkfield, Leybourne and West Malling are crowdfunding to raise the £60,000 estimated to be needed for legal representation at the appeal and Local Plan inquiry. We are using the team of lawyers who last year successfully fought off Bellway’s plans to build on fields up against the walls of Malling Abbey. This is probably the last chance we shall have to defend this open space. Please help if you can.
If you would like to contribute to the fund to help save Forty Acres, click here
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
CPRE Kent is fighting an almost overwhelming number of development proposals across the county – BUT WE CAN’T DO IT WITHOUT YOUR SUPPORT. If you would like to join us in our efforts to keep Kent beautiful, please click here
A growing number of groups are bidding to fund a judicial review of the decision to grant a Development Consent Order for the reopening of Manston airport as a freight hub. The decision was made in the name of Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, against the Examining Authority’s recommendation that the DCO be refused due to conservation of habitats and species regulations. Almost 850 groups and individuals have already pledged more than £57,000 to the CrowdJustice campaign to fund the judicial review. There are just eight days left to contribute – if you would like to help fund the bid, click here
For more on the decision to grant the DCO, click here
The £5,000 crowdfunding target set by campaigners in the battle to stop the destruction of Wincheap Water Meadows has been hit – 21 days ahead of the January 5 deadline. It has taken just nine days since campaign group Save Wincheap Water Meadows set up the CrowdJustice page to raise the money, demonstrating the concern so many people have about the site. It will help fund CPRE Kent’s application to the High Court for a judicial review of the decision by Canterbury City Council’s planning committee to grant permission for an extension of the council’s own Wincheap Park & Ride over an area of undeveloped riverside. Sian Pettman, of Save Wincheap Water Meadows, said: “Great news! The campaign has now exceeded its initial target of raising £5,000 as a contribution towards legal action to protect the meadows. “That’s an amazing achievement considering the fact that the appeal was only launched nine days ago and still has 21 days to run. “It is a clear testament to the strength of feeling in the local community about the need to protect this much-loved stretch of the Stour Valley. “Thank you to everyone who donated. The next target towards the cost of a judicial review will be larger, but that will be for the New Year! “The CrowdJustice page now indicates our stretch target of £25,000, but we won’t start to push that until the New Year.”
If you would like to contribute to the campaign to save Wincheap Water Meadows, please click here
The battle to save Wincheap Water Meadows in Canterbury from the expansion of a car park has got off to a fantastic start, with money pouring in from supporters. CPRE Kent is calling for a judicial review of the decision by the city council’s planning committee to grant permission for a 228-space extension of the council’s own Wincheap Park & Ride over an area of undeveloped riverside. We have teamed up with the Save Wincheap Water Meadows campaign to challenge this destruction of floodplain next to the River Stour (the site flooded only last weekend) – a Local Wildlife Site in an Area of High Landscape Value and part of the designated Stour Valley Green Corridor. Both groups believe that other sites could be used or alternatively part of the existing car park could be decked. Although the application has been approved by the council’s planning committee, a final decision on the project will be taken by full council next year. Legal challenges are of course an expensive business and Save Wincheap Water Meadows has set up a CrowdJustice page to raise £5,000 by Sunday, January 5, towards the initial phase of our judicial-review application to the High Court. Incredibly – although it does of course demonstrate the strength of feeling over the issue – at time of writing £4,385 has already been pledged. With just a little over £600 needed to break that £5,000 barrier, we’re asking all who care for this wonderful natural resource in the city to chip in and help get things moving in the High Court. Some things really are worth fighting for.
If you would like to contribute to the campaign to save Wincheap Water Meadows, please click here
Well, it’s almost upon us! We speak, naturally, of the General Election (on Thursday, December 12, should you have forgotten). You shouldn’t be surprised to know that CPRE has been well prepared for this and we have already placed our manifesto on this website. However, you can never (well, rarely) state your ambitions too often, so here are some graphics that show succinctly and precisely what we would like to see from the next government in relation to our rural environment. Please do feel free to share far and wide.
On Tuesday, October 15, Canterbury City Council approved a highly controversial planning application to extend its Wincheap Park & Ride car park on to a large stretch of floodplain next to the River Stour, an area of land known as Wincheap Water Meadows.
The principle of extending the park & ride is largely uncontentious. Part of the existing footprint of the park & ride will be lost when a new slip road off the A2 is constructed, and there is an accepted need to replace the parking spaces lost and increase capacity for the future.
What is highly contentious is the choice of location for the extension. The council’s chosen location is a large area of functional floodplain outside the city’s urban boundary. The car park will extend for more than 250 metres along the Stour in an Area of High Landscape Value, a designated Green Corridor and a Local Wildlife Site. The council’s planning report pretends there will be no real landscape impact and that views of the car park from the Great Stour Way on the opposite riverbank will only be “glimpsed”. In reality, the landscape impact is likely to be substantial. Views across the river from the Great Stour Way, at present greatly enjoyed by the large number of walkers and cyclists who use it, will be turned into something much less attractive. As the application was made by Canterbury City Council for its own land, many members of the public feel the council had an even greater duty to present the facts of the application in an unbiased and comprehensive manner. As it is, the planning report reads like a report from the applicant itself rather than an impartial assessment.
Development on the water meadows breaches many of the council’s own policies and strategies, including many policies in its Local Plan, its Open Spaces Policy, its Riverside Strategy, its Green Infrastructure Strategy and the Canterbury Conservation Area Appraisal. However, the council argues that local residents had the opportunity to object when it consulted on its Transport Strategy in 2015-2016 and that the principle of development on that location was accepted when the Local Plan was adopted in 2017. The fact that residents simply did not know where the extension was going to be located is conveniently ignored. The Environment Agency objected strongly to the first planning application earlier this year but was informed by the council that it couldn’t maintain its objection as it had not objected when the Local Plan was approved. Kent Wildlife Trust has also submitted a very strong objection, saying: “We regard the compensation strategy proposed for this development as fundamentally flawed and in clear contravention of existing national and local planning policy.” Many of the opponents to the application point out that Canterbury City Council owns most of the large industrial estate adjacent to the park & ride and that it should be building car parks on brownfield land rather than greenfield land. However, the council refuses to consider any other alternative. It claims that its recent Declaration of Climate Emergency means that reducing the carbon emissions from cars takes precedence over the protection of the natural environment – claim many people find totally perverse. The Save Wincheap Water Meadows campaign has attracted a huge amount of public support and the Canterbury branch of CPRE has played a lead role in challenging the application. There are more than 3,100 signatures on a Change.org petition, 775 representations from the public objecting to the planning application (with only one representation in favour) and more than 460 members in the campaign’s Facebook group. There have been many letters and articles in the local paper and large numbers of people attending the council meetings where the park & ride proposal has been discussed. There have also been a number of songs written about the campaign by a local musician, Richard Navarro, including the one below:
You can read thecouncil’s planning application report here
Countryside-loving millennials could swing the general election in favour of the political party that has policies most likely to protect and enhance the countryside, according to CPRE.
For those who don’t know (and we suspect it’s more than many media outlets realise), millennials are widely defined as those born between 1981 and 1996. Or, to put it another way, those who are now in their 20s and 30s.
A poll commissioned by this charity reveals that:
• Overall, 60 per cent of people said they would be more likely to vote for a political party that wants to protect and enhance the countryside, including the Green Belt, and just 1 per cent said they would be less likely
• On the same question, 71 per cent of people aged 25-34 felt strongly about this
• Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of 35- to 44-year-olds and 57 per cent of 45- to 54-year-olds said policies relating to the countryside would affect their decision in the polling booth
• Regionally, Londoners feel particularly strongly about protecting and enhancing our green spaces, with 73 per cent saying this mattered to them when deciding who to vote for
The research was published on the same day as CPRE’s countryside manifesto, which includes 12 recommendations for how the next government can harness the potential of the countryside to promote a healthier economy and happier communities.
Crispin Truman, CPRE chief executive, said: “This research turns long-held assumptions on their heads, with millennials and Londoners being most likely to vote with the countryside in mind.
“More and more young people are aware of the need to invest in their health and well-being, which is something that the countryside can deliver.
“And, perhaps unsurprisingly, Londoners, who are arguably most in need of time in nature, are more likely than any other region to vote with policies to protect green spaces in mind.
“But more than that, the survey results show overwhelmingly that protecting and enhancing the countryside is an issue that resonates with people of all ages and in all regions.
“It shows that countryside issues could be one of the deciding factors in determining which political party forms the next government.
“CPRE therefore urges all political parties to put measures to protect and enhance our countryside front and centre of their manifestos to ensure that our treasured landscapes will be available for now and future generations to come.”
More than one in four bottles littering our countryside may not be included in the deposit return scheme (DRS) if the government buckles under pressure from industry, according to CPRE. Responding to the publication of the Environment Bill, which will allow for the creation of the DRS, CPRE is urging the government to continue with its ambition for all drinks containers – no matter the size or material – to be included in the system and not fold under industry lobbying. The Bill allows for the creation of the DRS but does not specify what will be included or when it will be introduced. Evidence for an ‘all-in’ scheme continues to build, with the CPRE’s Green Clean, a nationwide litter-pick carried out in September, suggesting that millions of drinks containers would still end up littering our countryside if industry secured a limited system to serve their vested interests. Key stats from CPRE’s Green Clean, which took place across England, include:
Almost a quarter (23%) of glass bottles collected were over the 750ml size limit, the current upper limit for the ‘on the go’ DRS being pushed by key industries
More than a quarter (28%) of plastic bottles found littering the countryside were larger than the common 500ml bottle size and could be excluded from the scheme being pushed by key industry stakeholders
Some 7,500 drinks containers were collected during the month-long litter-pick, including cans, plastic bottles of all sizes and glass bottles
Additionally, more than one in 10 drinks containers collected were glass, a figure that does not include the shattered pieces of glass volunteers were unable to count. These would all be left to harm people, and wildlife, should industry succeed in excluding glass from the deposit return scheme. Tom Fyans, CPRE deputy chief executive, said: “It’s great to see the government include powers to introduce a DRS in the Environment Bill, but as the results of our nationwide litter-pick demonstrate, to be an effective deterrent to the high volumes of waste polluting our natural environment, it must cover all materials of all sizes. “To boost recycling rates for all drinks containers – cans, glass and plastic bottles, cartons and pouches – the only option is for the government to introduce an ‘all-in’ system. “The industries that would be required to pay for the deposit return scheme continue to try to limit its scope, but we urge the government to prioritise the needs of the environment and society over corporate vested interests. “As the Secretary of State for the Environment announced the publication of the Environment Bill, it was encouraging to hear her recognise the benefits of the DRS in England being the same as the DRS being introduced in Scotland, which will be ‘all-in’. “This provides further hope that the government is listening as we make the case for an ambitious approach to tackling the problem of litter. But there is no time to waste, so we hope the DRS element of the Bill will be a priority as the government takes forward this vital piece of legislation.”
A record 2,300 people took part in this year’s Star Count. The count, held over the first three weeks of February, revealed that just 2% of participants experienced the wonders of a truly dark sky full of stars, due to the impact of light pollution caused by street lighting and other artificial lights, even in the countryside. CPRE is calling for action to tackle light pollution and enable more people to enjoy the beauty of a starry sky. The cosmic census, which was supported by the British Astronomical Association, aimed to promote dark skies and engage people in the wonders of stargazing. Star-spotters submitted the number of stars they could see within the constellation of Orion and the results used to create an interactive map displaying people’s view of the night sky. But it also demonstrated the impact that light pollution is having on people’s view of the stars. Well over half of all participants (57%) failed to see more than 10 stars, meaning they are severely impacted by light pollution. In contrast, only 9% of people experienced ‘dark skies’, counting between 21 and 30 stars, while just 2% experienced ‘truly dark skies’ and were able to count more than 30 stars – half the proportion of people able to do so during the previous Star Count, in 2014. CPRE suggests the results show we can do more to combat light pollution. Given its detrimental impact – not just on people’s view of the night sky but also the behaviour of nature and wildlife, as well as human health – we are urging the government, local councils and general public to do more to limit the impact of artificial light from streets and buildings. Emma Marrington, dark skies campaigner at CPRE, said: “We’re hugely grateful to the many people who took the time to get out and take part in our Star Count. But it’s deeply disappointing that the vast majority were unable to experience the natural wonder of a truly dark sky, blanketed with stars. Without intervention, our night sky will continue to be lost under a veil of artificial light, to the detriment of our own health, and the health of the natural world. “The Star Count results show just how far-reaching the glow from streetlights and buildings can be seen. Light doesn’t respect boundaries, and careless use can see it spread for miles from towns, cities, businesses and motorways, resulting in the loss of one of the countryside’s most magical sights – a dark, starry night sky. “By using well-designed lighting only when and where it is needed, investing in street light dimming schemes and considering part-night lighting – which should of course be done in consultation with the local community and police – councils have a fantastic opportunity to limit the damage caused by light pollution, reduce carbon emissions and save money.”
See the interactive map showing people’s view of the night sky here
Light pollution from Thanet Earth… believe it or not, it’s even worse than this now (pic Craig Solly)
Sometimes television or film shows us night skies that are quite simply jaw-dropping. They portray millions of stars, together forming a spectacle that in places turns an otherwise black sky white.
Others might be more fortunate enough to take holidays in places that allow them to be dazzled directly in person.
One thing is certain, though, and that is that such experiences cannot be enjoyed to such a degree in our corner of the world. Partly this is down to geography, but of course the main culprit denying us views of the stars is light pollution.
And light pollution doesn’t get much worse than in east Kent, where the glasshouse complex of Thanet Earth has been recorded as the second-worst offender in the country, only the Tata Steel plant in Rotherham emitting more nocturnal light.
With the expansion of Thanet Earth, the problem has of course worsened, so by now it could potentially be the worst light polluter in the land.
Either way, the extraordinary orange glow over the site can be seen from miles around, most strikingly when there is low cloud. At times, the sky appears to be on fire… this is light pollution on an epic scale.
More generally, CPRE is next month (February) highlighting the issue nationally by bringing back the Star Count.
We are all being asked to count the number of stars we can see with the naked eye within the constellation of Orion, which is only visible in winter.
The national Star Count will take place during the darkest skies from Saturday, February 2, to Saturday, February 23, giving families the chance to join in during half-term, although the darkest skies are predicted for February 2-9. Supported by the British Astronomical Association, the results from Star Count 2019 will help CPRE create a new map showing how light pollution affects the nation’s views of the night sky and raise awareness of light pollution.
This year’s count will be a small trial event, with a view to expanding it into a larger engagement piece next year. You can find out how to take part at www.cpre.org.uk/starcount
Please do join us and encourage your friends and family to do the same – we all love the stars.
To see where your nearest dark skies are, see our NightBlight maps here