Fracking ban in important countryside areas welcomed

CPRE Kent has welcomed the government’s commitment that there should be a ban on fracking in national parks, sites of special scientific interest and areas of outstanding national beauty.

Energy Minister Amber Rudd MP made the promise during a Commons debate last night (26 January) on fracking legislation in the government’s Infrastructure Bill.

“We are very pleased that the government has pledged to protect important landscapes under threat of industrialisation due to fracking. This would have had a devastating and irreversible impact on our countryside, so we are pleased these beautiful areas will be preserved,” said Richard Knox-Johnston, Vice President of CPRE Kent.

Fracking site, Colorado, by Phoenix Law, flickr

Fracking site, Colorado, by Phoenix Law, flickr

MPs also considered a report from the influential Environmental Audit Committee, published yesterday (26 Jan), which concluded that shale fracking should be put on hold because it is incompatible with climate change targets and could pose significant environmental risks to health and risk to our water supply. Continue reading


Stand Up for the Countryside

The beauty of England’s countryside is a national treasure renowned throughout the world. For such a small country, our geology, climate and history have produced a unique range of landscapes that people love.
But with short-term economic needs dominating the political agenda, the countryside is under increasing pressure. Careless housing and infrastructure development and consequent loss of countryside are often the result, despite alternative options that can deliver the development
we need while safeguarding a beautiful and living countryside.

manifesto 2015

We call on all parties to develop better policies so we have:

  • the right housing in the right places
  • the right infrastructure for the right reasons
  • a beautiful countryside to sustain us all

CPRE’s manifesto sets out our priorities for the next Government under these three themes. Read the manifesto here.

Hear CPRE Kent Director Hilary Newport explain our priorities for the next Government on video clip here.

January 20th 2015.


Submission on Environmental Risks of Fracking

Just before Christmas (23rd December), we submitted evidence on the danger of fracking in Kent to a Commons Select Committee. The Environmental Audit Committee is undertaking an inquiry looking at the potential risks to water supplies and water quality, emissions, habitats and geological integrity.

We fear fracking could damage the aquifer which supplies 70% of the county’s water. The gas and oil deposits are no more than 600-700m below the aquifer, the Chalk of the North Downs. There is also a risk that geological faults in the area would be re-activated allowing gases and fracking fluids to leak into the chalk and so contaminate the water supply.

Fracking site, Colorado, by Phoenix Law, flickr

Fracking site, Colorado, by Phoenix Law, flickr

Continue reading


Call for planning re-think on Western Heights and Farthingloe

CPRE Kent has called on Dover District Council planning committee to re-think its decision to grant planning permission for hundreds of homes which would cause untold damage to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Photo: Graham Jones, flickr

Photo: Graham Jones, flickr

The plan for 521 houses and a 90 dwelling retirement village in the AONB at Farthingloe and a large hotel on the historically important Western Heights was agreed in June last year; but 18 months on the promised £5 million Section 106 agreement has yet to be finalised. We objected strongly at the time and are calling on planning committee members to think again when the proposal is discussed on Thursday (18th December).

“This plan would cause significant, irreversible harm to this beautiful and historic landscape,” said CPRE Kent Dover District Chairman Derek Wanstall. Continue reading


Campaign Against Gatwick Expansion

CPRE Kent will be campaigning stongly against a new runway for Gatwick. The impact on Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and the Weald would be devastating – the noise, the loss of tranquillity in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the congestion and the pressure for more and more housing to cater for the 90,000 jobs which it claims would be created.

With two runways, Gatwick could handle 560,000 air traffic movements a year, compared to 250,000 a year at present. At busy times of day now aircraft take off or land at a rate of nearly one a minute – with a new runway it would be doubnearly two a minute.

“We do not have the road or rail capacity to cope with the additional passengers,” said CPRE Kent Director Hilary Newport. “It could severely affect people’s quality of life in West Kent because of the additional noise, the congestion, the pressure to build on greenfield sites and the loss of tranquillity in some of our most beautiful areas.”

We believe there is enough existing runway capacity at British airports to accommodate the demand for flights. The South East also has excellent rail and ferry links to the continent and use of these should be maximised.

We also believe that to focus aviation growth on London, which already has so many runways, is wrong for the UK. It will cause great pressure to build on greenfield sites and it will reinforce the North South divide.

On November 22nd we joined colleagues from CPRE Sussex and CPRE Surrey at a Gatwick Campaign meeting, attended by all the interested parties including five MPs and many local councillors. We are heartened that the Leader of Kent County Council Paul Carter has now come out in opposition to the second runway and airport expansion because of the impact on people living in West Kent..

We will be lobbying MPs and councillors to oppose the plans. We will respond to the Airports Commission consultation paper. And we will continue to campaign against the noise and loss of tranquillity caused by damaging flight paths.

We will be working together with some of the many groups opposed to Gatwick:

Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC)

http://www.gacc.org.uk/

CAGNE (Communities Against Gatwick Noise Emissions) East based in the area around Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.

http://beagblog.wordpress.com/

http://www.cagne.org/

HWPAAG (The High Weald Parishes Aviation Action Group) consisting of eight parishes In the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty all adversely affected by aircraft noise. (Chiddingstone, Hever, Leigh and Penshurst Parish Councils)

Gatwick Obviously Not

http://www.gatwickobviouslynot.org/

WAGAN (Weald Action Group Against Noise)

http://www.sevenoakswealdpc.kentparishes.gov.uk/default.cfm?pid=4966

December 3rd 2014

‘Frack free zone’ called for in East Kent

CPRE Kent is calling on the Government to make East Kent a ‘frack free zone’ because of serious risks to the water supply if drilling took place.

It believes that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) at the four potential drilling sites – Shepherdswell, Guston, Tilmanstone and Woodnesborough – could damage the aquifer which supplies 70% of the county’s water.

The gas and oil deposits are no more than 600-700m below the aquifer, the Chalk of the North Downs. Not only that, but there is a risk that geological faults in the area would be re-activated allowing gases and fracking fluids to leak into the chalk and so contaminate the water supply.

Image from BGS: copyright NERC 2014

Image from BGS: copyright NERC 2014

CPRE Kent has prepared a ministerial briefing outlining the serious threat to East Kent and is calling on the Minister of State for Energy Matthew Hancock to make East Kent an exclusion area from fracking.

CPRE Kent Vice President Richard Knox-Johnston said: “Water resources in Kent are already seriously stressed – there is a danger that if fracking went ahead we could damage the aquifer that provides most of the county’s water. Plus, we fear that water supply boreholes could be damaged causing pollution which would threaten public health as well as harm environmental quality, agriculture and wetland habitats.” Continue reading

Canterbury Local Plan Legally Unsound

A top planning barrister has judged the Canterbury Local Plan legally unsound because it has failed to properly assess sustainability and environmental impact after dramatically increasing the number of houses needed by more than 50%.

Richard Harwood QC was commissioned by Herne and Broomfield Parish Council, backed by CPRE Kent and a number of other local organisations (1), to judge whether the Local Plan was legally compliant.

He concluded that when Canterbury City Council greatly raised its housing target, it should have re-assessed the impact on habitats and the environment, and whether or not the proposed distribution of housing remained appropriate and sustainable. This it failed to do.

Little Barton Farm Canterbury

In January 2010, the council consulted on a Local Plan with a target of 10,200 new homes by 2026 (510 per year). In 2012, this target was revised to 15,600 new homes by 2031 (780 per year). However, despite the significant increase, the council relied on its earlier environmental assessments of where new development should be located.

Continue reading

Plans for 450 homes “unjustified”

Plans to build 450 homes on Green Belt land in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Fort Halstead near Sevenoaks have been slated as totally unjustified by CPRE Kent.

Sevenoaks District Council has not considered alternatives to this mass housing plan which a developer claims is needed to secure employment prospects at the site.

Our comments come as part of the consultation into modifications to the council’s Allocations and Development Management Plan. A planning inspector has ruled that the site should be used for employment purposes, but accepted that would need “some level” of residential development to make it viable. However, officers misrepresented this to council members and said the inspector had accepted “significant residential development”.

CPRE Kent is very concerned that the Council then simply accepted the developer’s figure of 450 homes and relied on the developer’s own assessments rather than doing its own research, as asked for by the inspector.

“We agree that the site should continue to be used for employment,” said CPRE Kent Senior Planner Brian Lloyd. “However, it cannot be justified to build 450 homes in a remote area, without services and facilities, to support them. The council needs to carry out a proper assessment of how many homes are required and come up with alternative plans more in keeping with this sensitive site.”

If 450 homes were built it would equate to 15.5 hectares of residential development, plus additional land for open space and a village centre, all to achieve just four hectares of land for new employment.  We fail to see how this would comprise an ‘employment-led’ development, as claimed by the council.

We are also doubtful of the claims that the area cannot attract businesses when its proximity to the M25 would make it attractive to potential employers. We ask why more remote sites in less prosperous parts of Kent, such as the Kent Science Park near Sittingbourne, are thriving and growing without the need for residential development to support them?

The site is in a prominent and sensitive position on the top of the scarp of the North Downs. Currently the development is low density and activity is largely confined to daytime.

“Building 450 homes would change the character of the site dramatically and forever,” said Brian Lloyd. “There must be better options.”