The event attracted more than a hundred campaigners – many were local but one man had travelled from Bristol to show his support
More than 100 people joined yesterday’s (Saturday, October 2) rally calling for the protection of the wildlife-rich Swanscombe peninsula. The event went better than anyone could have hoped for, especially given a grim weather forecast, although happily the storm didn’t really get going until later in the day. The walk around this fantastic site was interspersed with short talks, while there was a strong local-media presence. The cooperation between conservation groups – notably Buglife, Save Swanscombe Peninsula SSSI, Kent Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and CPRE Kent – was particularly impressive and augurs well for the campaign ahead.
To learn more about the Swanscombe peninsula, click here
For every £1 invested in hedgerows, as much as £3.92 is generated for the wider economy, new research from CPRE, the countryside charity, has revealed
CPRE is calling on the government to stop dragging its feet and set a target to increase the hedgerow network by 40 per cent by 2050, which would be a win-win-win for climate, nature and the economy
Hedgerows could become champions of climate action and nature recovery while contributing tens of thousands of jobs to hard-hit communities, new analysis from CPRE, the countryside charity, has revealed. The Climate Change Committee (CCC) recommends that the extent of our hedgerow network should be increased by 40 per cent to support the UK government’s goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. If the right hedgerows are planted in the right place, for every £1 invested in hedgerow planting, as much as £3.92 is generated in the wider economy. Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, said: “It is almost impossible to define the enormous value of our hedgerow network – just as our arteries and veins supply our bodies with nutrients and oxygen, the UK’s hedgerow network defines many of our rural landscapes and must remain healthy to benefit villages, towns and cities. Our research shows that investing in our hedgerows is a win-win for climate and people in both the countryside and urban areas. “But we know the government has the biggest part to play in unleashing the full potential of hedgerows. That’s why we’re calling on ministers to set a target to increase the hedgerow network by 40 per cent by 2050 with improved protection for existing hedgerows. In its expanse, the hedgerow network is our largest, most connected, ‘nature reserve’. Healthy hedgerows are teeming with life and vital for nature. One in nine of all vulnerable species in the UK are associated with hedgerows. These include the hazel dormouse; the hedgehog, whose decline has been closely associated with hedgerow loss; and the brown hairstreak butterfly, which lays its eggs on blackthorn and is particularly common in hedgerows. Lord Deben, chair of the Climate Change Committee, said: “What was a determination to make land more productive in order to feed our people during and after the war has led to indiscriminate destruction of our hedgerows. Spurred on by Deficiency Payments and the Common Agricultural Policy, our yields rose and our wildlife diminished. “Reintroduction and proper maintenance of hedgerows transforms the all too sterile prairie land into the countryside, which for long we have loved. But, as this report shows, this is not about romance – the hard facts are that hedges contribute to profit as well as to well-being.” There is a parliamentary launch of our hedgerows campaign this afternoon, hosted by MP Selaine Saxby.
CPRE, the countryside charity, has joined with other major charities to call for urgent action to extend the country’s hedgerows by 40% by 2050 to protect nature and help tackle the climate crisis. Our humble hedgerows are the unsung heroes of the countryside. They have been adding beauty and character to our landscapes for centuries while providing the food and shelter that sustains our wildlife. They protect the soil, clean the air and absorb carbon emissions. But we have lost about half since 1945. Now, as we face up to the climate emergency, we urgently need to start reversing that decline – and allow our hedgerows to play their most important role yet. That is why we have launched our #40by50 campaign, calling on ministers to commit to extending the hedgerow network by 40% by 2050, as recommended by the independent Climate Change Committee, and have written to the government to this effect, as published in The Times last month. Our open letter calling on the government to do more to extend hedgerows reads as follows:
Hedgerows: the climate and nature heroes
Tree planting and peatland restoration are important parts of the government’s plan to tackle the climate and nature emergencies. Yet there is still one powerful solution missing from its strategy: the humble hedgerow. Hedgerows are the unsung heroes of our countryside. They are icons of our landscape, steeped in history, providing a haven for wildlife while absorbing carbon emissions. The hedgerow network, in its expanse, is our largest ‘nature reserve’. Shockingly, it is estimated that more than half our hedgerows have been lost since WW2, and many existing hedgerows are in a poor, degraded state. The Climate Change Committee recommends extending the hedgerow network by 40% by 2050 to help achieve net-zero. Ahead of COP26, now is the time for Ministers to show real leadership by committing to this target, while restoring our existing hedgerow network, to deliver a more resilient, beautiful and biodiverse countryside. Yours, Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity Dawn Varley, chief executive, Badger Trust Kit Stoner, chief executive, Bat Conservation Trust Anita Konrad, chief executive, Campaign for National Parks Mark Bridgeman, president, Country Land and Business Association Lizzie Glithero-West, chief executive, Heritage Alliance John Sauven, executive director, Greenpeace Shaun Spiers, executive director, Green Alliance Hilary McGrady, director-general, National Trust Jill Nelson, chief executive, People’s Trust for Endangered Species Emma Marsh, director, RSPB England Sara Lom, chief executive, The Tree Council Craig Bennett, chief executive, The Wildlife Trusts Richard Benwell, chief executive, Wildlife & Countryside Link Dr Darren Moorcroft, chief executive, Woodland Trust
The deadline for supporting the designation of the Swanscombe peninsula as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is Monday, July 12, 2021. Can you spare 10 minutes to tell Natural England you agree that this nationally important wildlife site should be protected? The importance of the Swanscombe peninsula for nature was recognised by Natural England in March, when it notified this wildlife haven in north Kent as an SSSI. This means it is an area of particularly high interest for its wildlife and significance for our natural heritage. Although this legal protection took effect immediately, there is currently a consultation on this designation. Will you help us make sure that one of the country’s most threatened wildlife sites receives the protection that it deserves by taking part in the online consultation and letting Natural England know that you want its SSSI designation to stay? The consultation portal is currently live here, where you can find all of the information on the proposed SSSI, including the detailed analysis of its precious flora and fauna, together with a map of the proposed SSSI. You can respond to the consultation online following the guidance below, but if you would rather, you can simply compose your own email, outlining your support for the SSSI designation and sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find guidance on what to say in our answer to question B6 below. When you are ready to take part in the online consultation, make sure that you have five or 10 minutes free, then click on ‘Click here to submit an online response’ near the bottom of the page. The first page asks you to say who you are and asks if you have any legal interests in the land or own any land in the SSSI. It is important that, even if you have been made aware of the consultation by any of Buglife, CPRE Kent, Kent Wildlife Trust or RSPB, you make it clear you are answering on behalf of yourself and not for an organisation in question A4. The second page is for ‘Your views on the Swanscombe Peninsula SSSI notification’. Most of these questions simply require you to select ‘Yes’, as the text boxes are reserved for explaining any objections. However, the following should help guide you through this section easily:
B1. Do you accept the scientific rationale behind the notification of this site for its special interest? Please select ‘Yes’ and move on to the next question, leaving the text box blank
B2. Do you agree that the boundary of the SSSI appropriately encompasses the features of special interest? Please select ‘Yes’ and move on to the next question, leaving the text box blank
B3. Do you agree with the views about management? Please select ‘Yes’ and move on to the next question, leaving the text box blank
B4. Do you agree that the operations requiring Natural England’s consent are appropriate? Please select ‘Yes’ and move on to the next question, leaving the text box blank
B5. Do you have any additional evidence or further comments that you wish to submit in relation to the SSSI? If you don’t have any additional information or thoughts that would further support the SSSI notification, please select ‘No’ and move on to the next question, leaving the text box blank. However, if you have any additional evidence such as your own survey data or observations of wildlife using Swanscombe peninsula, then select ‘Yes’ and either explain your evidence in the text box or choose to upload a file by selecting ‘Choose file’.
B6. Do you wish to submit a representation to the notification of Swanscombe Peninsula SSSI? Please select ‘Yes, I support the notification’. This is your opportunity to say clearly why you believe that the Swanscombe peninsula should be notified as an SSSI in your own words. Some ideas of what you can write are included below, but take any opportunity to personalise your response with your own views on the site and your own experiences of Swanscombe if you live locally. Explain why you think that the notification is justified based on the important wildlife and habitats that the Swanscombe peninsula supports. This could include highlighting: • The supporting information compiled by Natural England provides a detailed picture of the rich wildlife on the Swanscombe peninsula. • The Swanscombe peninsula clearly meets the criteria for qualifying as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. • Swanscombe supports a unique complex of open mosaic habitat on previously developed land and estuarine habitats, including grasslands, scrub, wetlands, grazing marsh and saltmarsh. • The nationally important assemblage of rare and threatened invertebrates, rich breeding bird assemblages and populations of nationally scarce vascular plants make it essential that the site is protected as an SSSI. • Swanscombe peninsula is also a vital greenspace for the local community, a place where they can escape and reconnect with nature. • Highlight your concerns that wildlife across the country is in catastrophic decline and that it is more important than ever to make sure that places like Swanscombe peninsula are protected for future generations and for perpetuity.
The third page is then simply answering if you are happy with the online consultation process – your chance to give feedback on the consultation itself. The fourth page will then ask you to click ‘Submit Response’, which will then give Natural England permission to include and analyse your submission. You will then be emailed a copy of your final submission. Thank you for your continued support for our efforts to Save Swanscombe. If you haven’t already done so, please sign and share our petition, which has already been signed by more than 24,300 people.
For more on the threat to the Swanscombe peninsula, click here
It is all too familiar a scenario: a local authority proposing to build thousands of houses in areas wholly unsuitable for such levels of development. When one council in north Kent targeted sites in the Green Belt, an impressive operation to challenge the potential environmental destruction was launched. Here, Alex Hills, chairman of CPRE Kent’s Gravesham committee, gathers some of the leading players to explain how they rallied residents to the cause.
At the end of last year without warning, and with rising numbers of Covid-19 cases making people worry whether they were going to have a Christmas or a job, Gravesham Borough Council began a Regulation 18 Stage 2 consultation. The proposal was for 3,790 houses within the Green Belt envelope over 21 sites, all being highly damaging to the rural area. The consultation was a perfect example of how not to run a such a process during pandemic restrictions and in the run-up to Christmas. GBC appeared to put every possible barrier in the way of people responding – the irony of it complaining about the way Highways England carried out the Lower Thames Crossing consultation was not lost on residents. As chairman of the CPRE Kent’s Gravesham committee, I am blessed to have an experienced hard-working committee who make me look good – they of course rose to this massive challenge. At the start of the campaign, we held a large Zoom meeting. The campaign slogan Stop the Green Belt Grab was created by local resident Peers MS Carter. Peers was a creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi, so we really have drawn on excellence from the talent in our borough. If you can inspire people to act, it is amazing the talents you find and we were lucky to find many such people during the campaign. I will let the committee members say in their own words what they did during the consultation process…
Pat Luxford: We were able to bring together all our contacts and residents’ groups from previous campaigns. This enabled CPRE Kent to ensure the campaigners worked together with one message. It could so easily have become various groups saying ‘Not in my backyard’ as the proposed sites were spread over various Green Belt areas of Gravesham. Despite our inability to sit around a table to make decisions or to hold public meetings, the residents’ response was extraordinary. By pulling together a group of dedicated volunteers whom we called foot soldiers, we were able to get door to door with updated information and easy-to-follow draft objection letters to GBC, making us so much more effective. By reaching out and working with like-minded groups and individuals, we were able to beat lockdown.
James Ferrin: My input into the campaign was dealing with social media. We used two main avenues, organic posting and sharing, and then paid for advertising. We used the CPRE Kent page as the main vehicle for this. We wrote the posts and then David Mairs posted them. The organic side was simple. Once the posts were up, we shared them across all the community groups in the area. There are some 30 or so that cover Gravesham. Comments were monitored and those asking for more information were helped. The paid-for element helped us reach those harder-to-reach people who were not members of groups. We set the targeting of location, interests and age and then put £50 behind the activity and set it live. We did a couple of posts, the first giving general information and the second providing wording for a standard letter that GBC had agreed would count. The results from the paid activity were a total reach of 18,315 people and a total of 3,029 engagements that equated to £0.016 per engagement. Pretty good-going!
Noel Clark: The committee decided we needed a website to quickly post reactions to the changing consultation as GBC changed the consultation documentation during the process. We used a website as the central repository of information to avoid having to walk revised notes around to our supporters. We used justgiving.com for fundraising as our costs were relatively small and several locals had expressed interest in contributing. Over the course of the campaign, we raised £570, which was used largely on printing and banners. We found the need to be local and reflect issues that affected us directly was important, but ultimately the outcome will be determined by national policy.
Jackie Luckhurst and Sue Gofton: During the first phase, thousands of leaflets informing communities of the threat to the Green Belt were delivered. The second phase entailed the delivery of printed objection letters; these had to be distributed in the shortest time possible to meet the GBC deadline of December 31, 2020. This was coupled with banners and placards placed in prime locations and attached to householders’ properties. The volunteers had been sourced through social media and community associations and support groups. Time was of the essence as we were in lockdown and the deadline was looming. The postal service was under pressure as it was the Christmas period and Covid-19 had taken its toll, so help was given by shops that were happy to have sealed drop-boxes where people could post their objection letters for free with their personal data secured. This worked incredibly well. Frequent updates were given on social media until the deadline was met and the letters from the drop-boxes were hand-delivered before the deadline. In terms of the Covid-19 difficulties and the deadline, it was deemed a success, based on communities pulling together and forging great camaraderie.
And back to Alex Hills for the final word… The Gravesham committee is an equal partnership (as chairman I do not have a casting vote) of six very different individuals with different skills, but we all respect and trust each other, which means we can debate openly. This was a vital asset as we had to set up a campaign structure from scratch, working with the hard-working Higham, Shorne and Cobham parish councils. We also had to respond quickly as the campaign developed, so weekly Zoom meetings were important. Covid-19 prevented us from such options as public meetings, while media disinterest meant that leaflets, the website (www.cpregravesham.org) and social media were our main tools in the campaign. Seeing local groups as an asset and working with them was another key part. My role was very much that of coordinator and making sure everyone was kept informed about what was happening– this included local councillors. The fact we were able to keep the campaign non-political and have so many saying very clearly to GBC that the Green Belt is not for building on is a great compliment to the committee.
Proposals for the largest theme park in the country could spell a miserable time for the wildlife of the Swanscombe peninsula and the people who live and work in the area. David Mairs reports on a scheme that really is no fun for nature.
It could almost be the standard definition of brownfield. Dominated by the excesses of our urban and industrial assault on the Thames estuary, the Swanscombe peninsula is flanked on its southern and eastern fringes by warehouses, breakers’ yards, deepwater docks and used-car dealerships and to the north by the river and the ugly sprawl of south Essex. It is cut through by HS1 and glowered over by the tallest electricity pylon in the country. It has been abused through the widespread dumping of fly ash – a legacy of the cement industry that was once such a feature of this area – and targeted for landfill. In short, Swanscombe Marshes have not been loved. However, such intricacies do not trouble the extraordinary wildlife that makes its home on the peninsula, which juts into the Thames between Greenhithe and Northfleet. It is the numbers of invertebrates that highlight how important a site this is. Almost 2,000 species have been recorded, more than 250 of them classified as of conservation concern. In total, there are 49 Red-listed species, meaning they are accorded highest conservation priority. The star of the show is the distinguished jumping spider (surely the name alone warrants respect!), which is found at only one other site in the UK, but there is also an array of scarce bees, beetles, butterflies and moths among a wider fauna that makes this the most important brownfield site for invertebrates in the land. Swanscombe represents an uplifting tale of nature coming back against man’s abuse of our natural environment. The combination of natural features and human activity has formed what charity Buglife _ “the only organisation in Europe devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates” – describes as “a remarkable mosaic of grasslands, coastal habitats, brownfield features, scrub and intricate wetlands”. The peninsula is home to more rare and threatened species than any other brownfield site in the country. They include the endangered Duffey’s bell-head spider, brown-banded carder bee, saltmarsh shortspur beetle and orange-striped water beetle. Surveys have shown the presence of water voles, harvest mice and dormouse; cuckoos, nightingales and black redstarts breed; there are exceptional reptile populations; and scarce plants include the man orchid. The estuary’s most comparable brownfield for natural wealth lies on the other side of the river at Canvey Wick and has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). As important as its wild inhabitants, of course, the peninsula provides space for people living in a desperately overcrowded part of the country to walk, birdwatch, go fishing or simply take an increasingly precious breather from their more regular surroundings… Cue proposals for the “UK’s Disneyland” – or the London Resort theme park. Or to put it yet another way: developers intend to build the largest theme park in the country on the peninsula. London Resort Company Holdings submitted its 25,000-page application for a Development Consent Order to the Planning Inspectorate on New Year’s Eve last year – and in a letter dated Thursday, January 28, the inspectorate announced it had accepted the application, which is now proceeding towards a six-month examination. The final verdict will lie with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, a post held at the time of writing by Robert Jenrick. The scheme has been designated a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), the first ‘business or commercial project’ to be accepted as such by the government under the Planning Act 2008. Covering more than 1,000 acres (958 acres at Swanscombe and 63 in Essex), London Resort is anticipated by its backers to open in 2024 should work begin next year. The project is predicted to create 8,810 jobs on site by 2025, of which 3,590 will be full-time, 1,990 part-time and 3,230 seasonal. From 2038, we are told there will be 17,000 jobs on site, of which 6,535 will be full-time, 3,690 part-time and 7,080 seasonal. An access road to the A2 is planned, along with “easy access” from Ebbsfleet International station. On the other side of the river, in Essex, linked infrastructure would take up more than 60 acres east of Tilbury, with an “access corridor” around the A1089. This would all enable a “park-and-glide” system to ferry people across the river. The project website states: “Sustainability is at the core of our vision. We are exploring new and innovative ways of integrating sustainable and low-carbon principles into every area of design and operation of the London Resort. Our aim is to create one of the most sustainable theme park destinations in the world.” It adds: “Our designs will integrate local public rights of way and a green network, with improved access to the river for visitors and local communities. The London Resort will showcase the natural features of the site, seamlessly integrating them into our designs. A large proportion of the peninsula landscape will remain undeveloped and will be enhanced.” However, such fine words have failed to convince everyone and not only are there widespread fears for the site’s wildlife but concerns have been raised for people employed on the peninsula who might see their workplaces lost. It has been estimated that some 2,000 workers could effectively be forced out by the proposed development. The concept of sustainable communities seems to have been mislaid along the way. Further, it is unclear how many of the claimed new jobs will go to local people. With the plans including “staff accommodation, which will reduce the amount of staff travel”, it is evident that a significant element of the workforce is expected to be drawn from outside the immediate area. And would the bulk of the roles that did become available be of the calibre to really lift the north-west Kent economy? With the developer predicting up to 12.5 million visitors a year by 2038, CPRE Kent believes work needs to be done in relation to transport. Could the existing road network really cope with taking such huge numbers of people to and from the site? On top of all this, it is feared the NSIP status, usually reserved for such substantial schemes as roads, airports and power plants, might result in a largely inaccessible and not widely understood process (the 25,000 application pages come in 449 documents!) that deters people from participating. But it is the potential loss of wildlife that has perhaps struck the loudest chord, with Buglife, the RSPB and Kent Wildlife Trust calling on Natural England to protect the peninsula by declaring it an SSSI. The three groups have presented a ‘Rationale for the SSSI designation of the Swanscombe Peninsula’ to the government advisory body, together with a letter signed by 77 current and former senior staff from nature organisations and public bodies. Matt Shardlow, Buglife chief executive, said: “Biodiversity is in crisis; wildlife populations, particularly of insects, are in steep decline; many habitats and specialist species are increasingly rare and their fragmented populations are at risk of extinction. “Too few wildlife-rich brownfield sites like the Swanscombe peninsula are protected, and this is the last chance to protect a large Thames estuary brownfield site before it is too late. This is one of only two sites nationwide for the distinguished jumping spider. If the development is allowed at Swanscombe, it will push this special spider a step closer to national extinction.” Richard Bloor, of Kent Wildlife Trust, added: “Swanscombe is one of the last remaining wildlife-rich brownfield sites in the Thames estuary, with habitats ranging from dry bare earth, which is vital for invertebrates, to complex wetlands, which support a great diversity of birds, reptiles and mammals.” Swanscombe’s broader importance was emphasised by Emma Marsh, RSPB England director, who said: “In September, the Prime Minister announced the government’s ‘30 by 30 pledge’ – a commitment to protect 30 per cent of UK land for biodiversity by 2030 – calling for immediate action and avoiding dither and delay. Saving nationally important wildlife sites like Swanscombe is surely an easy win on the road to meeting that commitment.” As part of the campaign for SSSI designation, a Save Swanscombe Marshes petition has been set up by Buglife. Aimed at Mr Jenrick, it has, at the time of writing, been signed by more than 22,000 people. There is also the Swanscombe Marsh Protection Campaign, “run for and by local residents who are concerned about the loss of the marshes for current and future generations, for the difficulties it could bring to local residents, and the loss of habitat for the wildlife which lives there”. The concerns are many and varied. How high will the buildings be? How many outside events are likely? Laser shows? Fireworks? What price tranquillity? How robust was the methodology employed for the ecology reports? So many questions and so much to be done to ensure a desirable future for the Swanscombe peninsula. CPRE Kent has registered as an Interested Party for the forthcoming inquiry and submitted the necessary ‘relevant representation’. The battle is just beginning. After nature has already fought back so strongly, surely we owe it to the Swanscombe peninsula, its wildlife and its people to not betray it now.
To learn more about the Save Swanscombe Marshes campaign and sign the petition, see www.buglife.org.uk
The Kent countryside is littered with discarded single-use drinks bottles and cans. CPRE has been calling for the solution for over 10 years: a simple system that prevents the littering of drinks containers and ensures recycling rates of more than 90 per cent: an all-in Deposit Return Scheme (DRS). Yet, despite committing two years ago to making this happen, the government is seeking to delay and water down its promises once again. We’re sending a message in a bottle directly to the prime minister, telling him to commit to an all-in DRS now. Will you add your name? Public pressure has worked before. In 2018, our campaigning led to the then-environment secretary Michael Gove giving his support for an all-in DRS. Since then, even big drinks producers like Coca-Cola have agreed that the scheme is the answer to our litter problem. But now the government has released another, worrying, consultation. Not only is it delaying the scheme until the end of 2024 at the earliest but it’s also still considering a half-hearted design that will set the system up to fail. We can’t let this happen. Together we can make this a priority again with a message straight to our decision-makers: don’t dilute or delay a Deposit Return Scheme. Join us now for one last push.
To add your name to our message in a bottle, please click here and sign the petition
The Coming Home report made headlines when it was published in February. It set out the Church of England initiative to use land to create affordable housing. The Church owns considerable amounts of recyclable brownfield land in cities and towns and is developing a strategy to release it for affordable housing, especially for younger people and families. This links with CPRE’s campaign on brownfield and could encourage synergy locally on the use of brownfield. To share more widely the Church’s plans, Canon Chris Beales presented a talk to CPRE focusing largely on the Coming Home report. Chris describes himself as a social entrepreneur working in housing and education and on issues of faith and economy locally, nationally and internationally. He pioneered government work with faith communities. He has written and published two books and contributed to other books and magazines. He is an Anglican minister, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Visiting Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University. He was one of the Commissioners of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church & Community.
To view Canon Chris Beales’s presentation, click here
Brownfield land came under the spotlight during the most recent County Branch Forum talk, held via Zoom on Friday last week (Friday, April 23). For many years, CPRE, the countryside charity, has been campaigning that brownfield land is an important resource for homes in urban areas. According to research, there is enough brownfield for one million homes and yet, because developers can make a greater profit, they are more interested in greenfield land. Recently, the Prime Minister has stated that his government is intent on using brownfield in preference to greenfield but, so far, there is little evidence that Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) are making the research for brownfield a high priority. Two CPRE branches have taken the initiative to research brownfield land in their areas and have unearthed some astonishing facts that they are prepared to share with the whole of CPRE. An example in London highlights one LPA that claimed enough land for just 2,700 homes, while researchers unearthed, using local information, enough land for tens of thousands more homes. This is an important area for CPRE if we are to protect greenfield land. Friday’s speakers were CPRE London’s Alice Roberts, who was instrumental in the capital research, and Jackie Copley, from Lancashire, who has designed a kit to help in brownfield analysis.
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