Meeting with Planning Minister

Members of the Gravesham District Committee of CPRE Kent together with the Gravesham Rural Resident Group (GRRG) met with Minister of State for Housing and Planning Brandon Lewis on February 9th 2015. The meeting was organised by Gravesham MP Adam Holloway.

They wanted to raise their concerns about threats to the Green Belt from development plans. Gravesham Borough Council is revising its Green Belt boundary as part of its housing delivery review. CPRE Kent and the GRRG are opposed to any erosion of the Green Belt and the implications of any such erosion would stretch far beyond Kent.

Members of the delegation including Adam Holloway MP, CPRE Kent's Richard Knox- Johnston and Alex Hills and GRRG Chairman James Ferrin as well as parish councillors

Members of the delegation including Adam Holloway MP, CPRE Kent’s Richard Knox- Johnston and Alex Hills and GRRG Chairman James Ferrin as well as parish councillors

Chairman of the Gravesham Committee, Alex Hills said: “He made it absolutely clear that Strategic Housing Land Assessments (SHLAAs) should regard the Green Belt as an environmental constraint and housing supply figures must be adjusted to accommodate this. He also stressed that councils behind on delivering their five year housing supply target should not use that as an excuse to build on the Green Belt.”

Mr Lewis also called on all rural areas to form their own neighbourhood plans.

February 11th 2015

London Green Belt map launched

A new map of the London Green Belt, which covers a large part of west Kent, has been launched.

The Green Belt covers 93% of Sevenoaks, 77% of Gravesham, 71% of Tonbridge and Malling, 56% of Dartford and 22% of Tunbridge Wells. This is the first full and detailed account of the London Green Belt, and it is hoped the map will highlight the Green Belt’s importance to residents, at a time when it is under considerable threat from development.

London Green Belt map

The Green Belt is designated nationally with the purpose of maintaining openness between settlements to prevent urban sprawl out of London. The boundaries are set locally.

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Paramount Park consultation

CPRE Kent is urging people to take part in consultations on Paramount Park, the major entertainment resort planned for the Swanscombe Peninsula.

We support the project, but want measures put in place to ensure it does not damage the local community.

We are calling for:

  • Work on the extension of Crossrail to Gravesend to serve the Paramount Park site to be started now;
  • Action to ensure trains run when needed for the resort, including late at night after concerts, to reduce car use to the area;
  • Fastrack and other bus services in place when the resort opens and before people start moving into the garden city;
  • More safe walking and cycling routes in the area;
  • Great use made of the River Thames for transport, including making the Northfleet harbour an integral part of the redevelopment of the area.

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Ebbsfleet UDC Welcomed

CPRE Kent has welcomed the creation of the new Urban Development Corporation for Ebbsfleet Garden City – but stresses the importance of sustainability and environmental protection in the decision-making process.

We agree with the UDC having powers to decide on planning applications, but local communities and elected parish, district and county councils must be represented.

CPRE Kent Director Dr Hilary Newport said: “The UDC must stick to existing agreements regarding infrastructure including schools, surgeries, hospital capacity and public transport. Also essential are excellent building design standards including visual appearance and energy efficiency, together with exemplary green space and community facilities. Getting all the key elements of delivery, design and community involvement right at Ebbsfleet will be a very important model for other garden cities across the UK.”

The comments were made as part of the consultation into the UDC which ended on Monday (October 6th).

We agree in principle with the boundaries of the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation (EDC). However, the EDC includes a small area of the Metropolitan Green Belt, as well as land within the administrative boundaries of both Dartford and Gravesham Borough Councils and the proposed site of the London Paramount project. This will make it essential to work with all councils and communities in the area impacted by the development. The boundaries must also safeguard from housing development Robins Creek and Red Lions Wharf, as these minerals wharves are vital to provide for the bulk transport of minerals, thus avoiding additional congestion and air pollution if this transportation was switched to road.

Who cares about Dartford and Gravesham?

Developers only appear to care about their profits! So who really cares what is built near you? All too often councils only seem to care about their party being re-elected or hanging on power. So who cares if your children cannot get into their local school because they are oversubscribed due to excessive house building? So who cares if your journey to work takes longer because the transport system cannot cope with the mass of people living in the area? Civil servants, it frequently seems, are simply promoted to their level of incompetence. This frequently means that if a senior civil servant gets things wrong they either rise up the food chain or the mess they have caused gets covered up. So who cares if in years to come there are food shortages because we have more people than the country can feed? Continue reading


NEW PROPOSED LOWER THAMES CROSSING

It is important during the consultation regarding a possible new Lower Thames Crossing that opposition to it is united. This will avoid the proponents of the crossing dividing the opposition to it. With that aim in mind I have spoken to many people his year and a possible common position has emerged. This is to make the point that any consultation on a new Thames crossing is premature.

 There are good reasons for saying this which are as follow:

  1. The high speed tolls at Dartford will not be fully operational until 2014.

  2. Road traffic has fallen recently bringing into question all demand predictions as they are based on 2009 figures.

  3. The new port in Essex effect on freight transport is not yet known.

  4. The proposed VIN tax on HGV’s entering UK ports could affect the number of HGV’s needing to cross the river Thames.

  5. More time is needed to access how a greater use of water and rail could reduce road traffic, which would generate more jobs and cause less pollution then a new road crossing.

  6. The number of junctions on the south side of the river is a major cause of traffic congestion. Changes to the road layout need to be examined as an alternative to a new crossing.

 

Much has been made of the jobs created at Dover by all the foreign registered lorries going through the port but very little is said about the cost of road repairs and the issues to the public’s Dartford_crossing_approachhealth that the pollution causes. The cost argument alone should rule out a new crossing.

There is evidence that the cost predictions are wrong for all of the proposed options. Option B does not allow for improvements to the A13 or the A13/ M25 junction. Looking at the map for option C it does not appear that the crossing allows for the predicted rise in sea levels. Past experience with projects such as the A2 widening at Gravesend show road building costs are often underestimated.

It is worth remembering that the closer a crossing is to the estuary the greater the cost. Unlike in Scotland any crossing will be paid for with tolls. The M6 toll project has shown how reluctant people are to pay any subsequent high fees.

Any new crossing will not solve the congestion problem, it will simply increase pollution in Kent. This is a hard concept for some people to grasp but there are lots of studies from this country and around the world that prove this beyond any doubt. This is why CPRE Protect Kent is so against a new crossing for so long. I personally remain as committed to fighting any new crossing of the river Thames in Kent as I have in the last 13 years as when I first became involved with this issue.

Alex Hills


Kent campaigner dubbed national countryside champion

In a presentation that took place in London at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) 2012 annual general meeting, the former Poet Laureate and new CPRE President Sir Andrew Motion honoured Gravesham environmental campaigner, Alex Hills, with this year’s Marsh Christian Trust award for Countryside Champion of the Year, along with a cheque for £500 [1].

Alex Hills won the award following his tireless, and often single handed, work to defend the greenbelt around Gravesham from many inappropriate development proposals and a poorly thought out Local Plan by Gravesham Borough Council as it was based on the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) not the final published guidance.
Alex helped to inspire local residents, spoke at local meetings and brought together disparate action groups to form them into a cohesive campaigning force. He organised marches and publicity stunts and ensured that the issue was never out of the local press during the time that the strategy was open for consultation.
On presenting the award, Sir Andrew Motion said: “We are fortunate to enjoy a unique and precious landscape that has been formed over thousands of years. There is something primitive about our connection with the countryside and it continues to change and evolve, which is a good thing if managed in a sustainable way. However, the quality of our countryside is no accident, and maintaining and protecting it no easy task.
“It takes dedicated people like Alex Hills to care and look after it. The work he does is not glamorous or high-profile and the results are all too often taken for granted. That’s why I am proud to present this award and recognise this fantastic contribution.”
When looking at Alex Hills’ nomination, the judges were particularly impressed by his tremendous enthusiasm throughout the campaign. Of particular note was the fact that he had managed to achieve all that he has while juggling a full time career and dealing with a family illness.
When told that he had won the 2012 Marsh Countryside Champion Award, Alex Hills said: “It’s a great honour to receive this award. Although completely unexpected, it is gratifying to have my campaign recognised nationally.
“I love our local countryside but when it came under threat from such a poor Local Plan I realised that if someone didn’t do something, we would lose large chunks of it. I was proud to head up a team of fantastic residents. The Battle is won but not the war to save the greenbelt. I am sure we will continue to be factual, be bold, be imaginative and ultimately be victorious.”


Gravesham Greenbelt Under Threat!

We have over the years fought many planning battles, and managed to ensure that much of our glorious countryside has remained as beautiful as it always has been. However, we have never found such an inappropriate and potentially destructive ‘Planning Strategy’ as the one Gravesham Borough Council has just finished consulting on.

We utterly condemn Gravesham Borough Council for its proposals to target land protected by the Green Belt for development when large areas of brownfield land in Gravesend and Northfleet stand empty and derelict. In their consultation on the future planning strategy for the Borough to 2031, the Council propose that they earmark land for nearly 1,000 new homes on areas currently protected by Green Belt status. Despite there being acres of derelict land in the Borough, the Council has slashed the number of homes that will be built on these sites, because it says they are not viable in the current economic climate. Instead, the Council says that the house builders have told them that it is greenfield sites in the villages that they want to develop, so they have dutifully obliged and have identified 15 potential greenfield sites. All but two of these would see significant changes to the boundary of the Green Belt.

CPRE Protect Kent sees this as putting developer’s profits above the public’s right to retain their Green Belt land.

This is of particular concern when Government Ministers have gone out of their way to stress the need to protect the Green Belt and to give priority to brownfield sites. Gravesham is a key part of Kent Thames Gateway, where it has been longstanding Government Policy to promote urban regeneration. We have supported that policy, and up to now Gravesham Borough Council has also supported it. It is clearly good and sensible planning to reuse derelict land rather than take our precious countryside, especially when it falls in the Green Belt. It is also the most sustainable approach to development, as it means that jobs, houses and services can all be linked by good public transport networks, such as Fastrack. But by accepting the house builders’ preference for building in the countryside, the Council is opting out of its responsibility to secure urban regeneration and sustainable development. Quite simply it beggars belief that the Council is taking this position. CPRE Protect Kent is not alone in being concerned about the Council’s change in policy direction. Residents and action groups from Higham and Culverstone are also angry that the Council is looking to promote development in the Green Belt. Together with CPRE Protect Kent the residents have been campaigning for weeks to persuade the Council to change its mind. The level of opposition to these proposals has been unprecedented and shows the strong depth of feeling that local people have about the Green Belt.

There is no justification for what the Council is proposing, but we are very concerned that they will not listen to people’s concerns as they intend to finalise their plans early in the New Year. The Council really do need to listen to the local communities and they must not rush to finalise the Plan as they intend. We have called for another round of consultation before the plan is finalised, and we hope the Council will see the importance of doing this.

Please help us fight this campaign by becoming a member of CPRE


Say No to the LTC!

After George Osborne’s ‘Autumn Statement’ last week, it is safe to say that a new Lower Thames Crossing has been slapped back on the agenda by a Government determined to ruin all our beautiful countryside with their desperate attempts to put the economy back on track.

CPRE Protect Kent had been somewhat hopeful that this shockingly ill-advised scheme had been put on the back-burner or scrapped altogether as KCC was unlikely to be able to fund the development itself, however unfortunately the Government has gone ‘once more unto the breach’ and offered the large part of financing itself.
This means that a new crossing is heavily back on the agenda, and we at CPRE Protect Kent are extremely concerned. There have been three possible locations mooted at this stage, with the Government promising a full public consultation in early 2013. Although that sounds a long time away, we must bear in mind that we’re almost in 2012 now, so it could well be less than two years before building (and all the associated problems) commence.
These plans are coming from a Government who promised that once the current crossing had paid for itself, the tolls on the existing crossings would be scrapped. Yes, CPRE Protect Kent does indeed acknowledge that there is excessive congestion at the current Thames crossings, but we feel that since there was a promise to remove the tolls, this should be fulfilled. There is already a tacit acknowledgement that removing the tolls enhances the flow of traffic as when there is an incident, this is exactly what happens and it manages to clear the congestion.
Why won’t KCC and the Government simply remove the tolls, thus negating the need for another Lower Thames Crossing which will be incredibly damaging to the environment. It is the only sensible option.
We really do require public support to stop this awful proposal, so please consider joining CPRE Protect Kent if you’re not already a member, and help us to keep Kent beautiful.