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
The special landscape of Graveney Marshes would be destroyed if the Cleve Hill solar park was approved (pic Vicky Ellis)
Sorry (sort of) to return to this theme so quickly – and it won’t be the last time – but it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to register your interest in plans for the UK’s biggest solar farm, on the North Kent Marshes.
The Planning Inspectorate’s decision to consider Cleve Hill Solar Park Ltd’s application for a Development Consent Order allowing it to build a 1,000-acre solar power station near Faversham means we all have until Monday, January 28, to register as an Interested Party.
Your views must initially be registered in no more than 500 words.
Please note that registration does not commit you to anything. However, if you do want to become involved and make representation to the inquiry inspector, you must have registered during this period.
To go to the registration form, click here
This will also take you to a tab letting you view the application documents. You might, however, find them easier to navigate via Cleve Hill Solar Park Ltd’s website here.
CPRE Kent will of course be registering as an Interested Party. We expect our final draft to include the following concerns:
Damage to landscape, including tranquillity and dark skies
Inadequate assessment of flood risk and potential conflict with the Environment Agency’s ‘managed retreat’ strategy relating to future sea-level rise
Impacts on soil microclimate and hydrology
Ecological impacts and loss of biodiversity
Damage to heritage assets caused by traffic during construction and beyond the construction period
Loss of agricultural land
Threats to animal welfare
To learn more about what these plans might mean for this vast area, in one of this country’s most important areas for wetland birds, please see here
It might seem obvious to many of us, but if we focus attention on building on brownfield (previously developed) land rather than greenfield sites, we will be both making better use of derelict urban and post-industrial land and safeguarding our countryside from development.
However, not everyone would appear to agree and CPRE’s contention that we could spare many of our green fields by targeting development at brownfield sites has too often been dismissed by the government.
Now, though, our argument is supported by a survey showing the country has enough brownfield land to take at least one million homes.
This figure – presented in our report State of Brownfield 2018 – is more than five times that claimed by the government and drawn from CPRE analysis of data from local authorities and their Brownfield Land Registers.
More than two-thirds of those potential ‘brownfield homes’ could be built within the next five years – and many of those in areas with apparent high housing need.
Or, in other words, three of the next five years’ government housing targets could be met through building homes on brownfield land that has already been identified by councils.
All local planning authorities had been required to publish Brownfield Land Registers by December 31 last year, but more than one in five failed to meet the deadline.
As of January 31, 18 were still to publish. At the time of writing, Ashford and Swale councils are among those to still make their submissions.
The CPRE analysis found that the 17,656 sites identified by local planning authorities, covering more than 28,000 hectares, would provide land for at least 1,052,124 homes – a figure that could rise to more than 1.1 million once all the registers are published… confirming CPRE’s previous estimates.
It also discovered that many brownfield sites that had been granted planning permission for housing had yet to be developed.
Maidstone Borough Council is one of four local authorities highlighted as having granted permissions more than five years ago for sites that have not subsequently been developed.
The Maidstone figure relates to 11 brownfield sites, with the potential for building at least 393 homes, where no development has taken place and planning permission has now expired.
Regions identified as having the highest number of potential ‘deliverable’ homes include London, the North West and the South East, with the new registers giving minimum housing estimates of 267,859, 160,785 and 132,263 respectively.
Rebecca Pullinger, CPRE planning campaigner, said: “It’s fantastic news that local authorities have identified so many sites on brownfield land that are ready and waiting to be developed – and shown how wide of the mark the government’s estimates of brownfield capacity have been.
“Contrary to what the government and other commentators have said, brownfield sites are also available in areas with high housing pressure. Indeed, our analysis is conservative with its estimates of potential number of homes that could be built – the figure could be much higher if density is increased and if more registers looked at small sites.
“The government needs to get on with amending its guidance to make sure that councils identify all the available brownfield sites in their areas. They then need to improve incentives to build on these sites and ensure they follow through on their commitment that all new-builds should be on brownfield first.”
The registers have found sites for well over 400,000 homes that have not yet come forward for planning permission.
To make best use of suitable brownfield land, CPRE is calling on the government to take the opportunity presented by the forthcoming review of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to introduce a brownfield-first approach to land release and granting planning permission for development.
Local authorities must be empowered to refuse planning permission for greenfield sites where there are suitable brownfield alternatives, CPRE believes.
CPRE Kent intends to develop this story with the specific focus on our county. Do you know of any brownfield sites with planning permission for housing that have yet to be developed? Please let us know at email@example.com
Now we know you all love to have fun, you love to help raise funds for CPRE Kent… and you just might not be averse to winning a bit of money here and there.
Which is where our 400 Club comes in. Join it and you give yourself the opportunity to win cash in this year’s CPRE Kent Lottery, which is now open to you all!
The lottery is one of the main ways CPRE Kent raises money, so this is your chance to help protect this county’s ever-diminishing countryside while possibly making your wallet a little heftier.
And guess what! It will only cost you £12 for the whole year!
At least 60% of the lottery takings are used for charitable causes, leaving up to 40% for cash prizes!
Each share is £12 for a year and there is no limit on how many you can buy. It almost goes without saying, but the more you buy, the better your chances of winning.
And you can always give a share as a gift to someone special.
Draws take place each month until December 31, 2018.
Prize-winners will be contacted by CPRE Kent within two weeks of the draw date and their
names published in Kent Voice magazine.
To join the 400 Club and play the CPRE Kent Lottery, click on the link below, print off the form and return it to the address provided.
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?