Lower Thames Crossing – thoughts from Gravesend

Hundreds of people turned out to a public meeting at Gravesend last night to hear about the consultation on the Lower Thames Crossing. I was pleased to be on the ‘top table’ alongside Highways England Consultation Manager Martin Potts to be able to put CPRE Kent’s case for a more sustainable transport strategy, and grateful for the support and kind words of the audience.

It was never my intention to speak at this meeting to argue the relative merits of either Option C (HE’s preferred option of a tunnel east of Gravesend – look at the picture below for a very benign ‘artist’s impression’ which leaves out all of the industrial infrastructure, lighting, power substations etc etc) or Option A, which is more capacity at Dartford.

Our response to the consultation is going to make it absolutely clear that we believe both choices offer unacceptable environmental damage, blighting lives and livelihoods, against a backdrop of already intolerable levels of air pollution from traffic.

Lower Thames Crossing image

No-one doubts the huge problem of congestion that already exists in north Kent, and it is a problem that needs solving now.  But I want to consider whether the only solution to this problem is an expensive and damaging new road crossing, wherever it might be.

To help explain our reasoning, I’m focusing on  the issue of road freight.  About a quarter of the vehicles using the current crossings are HGVs and goods vans; as a nation, we are heavily reliant on road based freight: The efficient flow of goods and services is essential to UK and wider economies, of course. But the number of HGVs that travel through the channel crossings each year is already growing at about 8% per year, and the port of Dover has ambitious plans for expansion.  This continued (and unconstrained) growth appears to be happening in wilful ignorance of the consequences for the wider highways network, the environment, or the health and wellbeing of our communities.

Most of this road-based freight using the channel crossings has to cross the Thames; very little has its origins or destination in Kent. The short crossing across the Channel is quick and cheap for the freight companies, but the real costs arising from ever more traffic are borne by the environment and the communities along the rest of the route. This traffic brings no real economic advantage to Kent, just pollution, noise and congestion which is potentially now requiring a very expensive ‘fix’.

A new Thames Crossing might ease current congestion, and accommodate traffic growth for a while, but we know that all new roads fill up, and they fill up quickly.  It would be a shame to lose sight of the lessons we’ve learned from the past. A good example is Newbury Bypass, notorious in the mid-1990s for the protests that made Swampy and his colleagues famous as they climbed trees and dug holes to try to stop the diggers starting work.

The Promoters of the bypass argued it was essential to improve road safety and to end the intolerable congestion in Newbury town; the objectors were fighting to stop the destruction of 120 acres of mature woodland and sensitive habitats. Despite the the objections, the bypass received go-ahead in 1995 and finally opened in 1998.

The studies that took place after the bypass was opened make grim reading. Traffic on the bypass grew at double the rate of traffic on comparable roads in the area, and there is clear evidence that this was induced growth (i.e. new journeys) rather than traffic that was displaced from other congested roads. Within 7 years, the traffic in Newbury town centre was back to its pre-bypass levels, the accident rate in the area was up, and the species of rare snails that had been expensively relocated were found to be locally extinct. 10 years on and with £100m spent, the situation in Newbury was worse than before.  There are many similar examples where promised befits of road schemes did not deliver.

So before we make a commitment to a new road we need to ask whether it will do what is promised.

If you are responsible for trying to tackle congestion or manage transport networks, it’s important to look to the lessons learned to understand whether new road building will help or hinder those aims.

If you are responsible for managing public expenditure, you need to know whether public money is actually delivering public benefits.

And those of us who are the target for the current consultation all need to be confident that a road scheme will genuinely improve conditions, before we can even begin to weigh up the environmental damage against those benefits.

Induced traffic is a reality: The introduction to the Consultation Document highlights the importance of “stimulating economic growth – unlocking access to housing and job opportunities”.  But I think that there is a very important difference between unlocking genuine potential on the one hand, and on the other, creating a vacuum that pulls in unsustainable growth into the already overstressed south east, just as the Newbury bypass pulled in traffic growth for no long-term improvement in congestion.

Rather than focusing on ever-more roads, which will be as full as ever before long, we are calling for a serious re-think and for a genuinely sustainable integrated transport strategy that doesn’t foster and encourage the growth of road-based freight through Kent.  We should certainly focus on getting more freight off road and onto rail. The Consultation Document (p 10) makes it clear that rail has been ruled out, on the basis of earlier studies dating back to 2009: I think that this is an appalling throwaway decision which flies in the face of any definition of sustainability.

Things have changed since 2009.  If we are at risk of forgetting the lessons we learned at Newbury, are we also at risk of forgetting last year’s experience of sweltering through over 30 days of summer with Operation Stack paralysing the county’s roads?  The transport links on which we rely are clearly not resilient and unconstrained growth of ‘business as usual’ just isn’t an option any longer.

Before we commit to any damaging road building scheme, it’s time to re-think the practice of concentrating so much of the nation’s trade through such constrained and unsustainable links: we are putting all our eggs in a frankly fragile basket.  60% of all UK freight travels on HGVs via the channel crossings: most of this is travelling to or from places north of the Thames: some of it even crosses at Dover to travel on to Scotland or even Ireland – the fact that this is the cheapest option available for hauliers to move their stuff from ‘A’ to ‘B’ makes it quite obvious to me that our transport systems are blisteringly unsustainable.

So instead of another Thames Crossing, let’s look at ways to incentivise smart use of ports of entry and exit that don’t rely on onward road travel across the Thames, (London Gateway is rapidly expanding, Harwich or Felixstowe could take more freight, Liverpool is crying out for more custom). Let’s move goods in/out much nearer to their points of destination or origin; we could do a great deal to restore resilience to our existing transport network as well as cutting the existing congestion and pollution.

We need a solution that will serve us well into the 21st century, not just a continuation of ‘business as usual’ that will at best give us some short term benefit for all sorts of very real and lasting harm.

The last gentleman who stood up to speak last night made a brilliant statement.  He made it very clear which option we need.  We need ‘Option Sea’.  Sir, I salute you.

To read more on our view on the LTC click here.

Hilary Newport
March 3rd 2016.

 


Lower Thames Crossing debate

We will be debating the proposed new Lower Thames Crossing at an important public meeting next week.

Wednesday, 2nd March
St John’s Catholic Comprehensive School, Rochester Road, Gravesend, Kent DA12 2JW

Doors open 18:00 for 19:00 start

Lower Thames Crossing image

Organised by Gravesham Neighbourhood Forums, the speakers are CPRE Kent Director Hilary Newport and Highways England Consultation Manager Martin Potts. The meeting will be chaired by journalist Iain McBride with maximum time for questions.

QE2 Bridge by Diamond Geezer, flickr

QE2 Bridge by Diamond Geezer, flickr

Meanwhile we have raised our concerns about the implications for pollution of the proposed new crossing.

Alex Hills, Chairman of the Dartford and Gravesham branch of CPRE Kent, said: “We all know that pollution is a killer with the young most at risk and yet the route being promoted passes many schools. We find it baffling that Highways England is not going to do a full modelling of the impact on air quality until after the route has been chosen.”(1)

Highways England documents state that no parts of the south east meet the ambient air quality directive(2) and Gravesend and Rochester town centres already exceed safe pollution levels. Experts calculate that pollution accounts for 40,000(3) early deaths a year. Research has proven that pollution can cause asthma, strokes and heart attacks, so should be regarded as a serious health issue.(4)

It is for this reason the government is supposed to be working towards reducing UK emissions by 60%.  Air pollution reduces brain function and development in children(5). A new tunnel and the associated road network leading to and from the tunnel will only lead to a worsening of air pollution levels in Kent and Essex.

Alex Hills said: “The increasing evidence on the effects of air pollution on people’s health makes the government’s insistence on a new road crossing indefensible. There needs to be a proper study into the alternatives. We have called for a sustainable transport strategy to ease congestion not just here but on the M20 and at Dover too.”

(1)Highways England document volume 6.4.3.6

(2)In 2015 the Supreme court ruled the UK had been in breach of the Ambient Air Quality Directive 2008/50/EC since 2010

(3)Royal College of Physicians-Channel 4 Despatches 22.2.2016

(4)Queen Marys Hospital London, Professor Jonathan Grigg and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary Professor David Newby, Channel 4 Despatches 22.2.2016

(5)Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona Professor Jordi Sunyer- Channel 4 Despatches 22.2.2016

For more information on our policy position click here.

February 25 2016.

Important meeting on Maidstone Local Plan

Great public meeting last night (11th February) on the Maidstone Local Plan

Lots to hear about gridlock, urban sprawl, sustainability and loss of greenfield and farmland from 18,560 new homes. We think unrealistic housing targets based on flawed numbers threaten our countryside: see the CPRE report Set up to Fail by clicking here.

set up to fail
Chaired by BBC Radio Kent’s John Warnett, over 200 concerned people turned out to hear MPs Helen Grant and Helen Whately and councillors as well as CPRE Kent.

 

Awards to volunteers and staff at AGM 2015

Seventy-six people attended our 2015 AGM on Friday. it was a chance to hear about our campaigns over the year April 2014 – March 2015 and to look ahead to the branch priorities for the next year.

AGM, Lenham, 2015, photo Paul Buckley

AGM, Lenham, 2015, photo Paul Buckley

 

It was also a chance to say goodbye and thank you to some of our important volunteers and staff.

Brian Lloyd with Christine Drury, photo by Paul Buckley

Brian Lloyd with Christine Drury, photo by Paul Buckley

Brian Lloyd has been senior Planner since 2007 and will be leaving in early 2016. He was awarded “for his exceptional work at the forefront of influencing planning policy across Kent, particularly his invaluable contributions to consultations on local plans.”

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Dover committee AGM

Anyone interested in the countryside is invited to attend the annual general meeting of the Dover district committee of CPRE Kent on Saturday 31st October.

The guest speaker is Elvira Gabos from Southern Water who will talk about flooding, drought and water quality. The meeting, at 2pm at the Guildhall, Sandwich will also hear chairman Derek Wanstall’s report about campaigning and activities in the last year and will elect the new committee.

South across the valley to site B from Little Farthingloe Farm 2

Major issues in the Dover area include the plans for more than 600 homes on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) at Farthingloe, the major redevelopment of Lydden Hill Race Circuit and transport issues associated with the port.

 

October 21st 2015


2015 AGM – Friday 20th November

The 2015 AGM of CPRE Kent will be held on Friday 20th November at Lenham Village Hall.

The meeting will start at 2pm and is preceded by a ploughman’s lunch at 12.30 for those who wish to book.

 

Aerial view of Lenham, photo by Peter Bailey

Aerial view of Lenham, photo by Peter Bailey

This year the keynote speaker is Andrew Brown, BA PhD MCIfA, Planning and Conservation Director, South East Planning Group, Historic England and he will talk aboutChampioning Kent’s Historic Environment”.

At the meeting the Honorary Officers and members of the Board will be elected, accounts considered and membership and volunteering opportunities discussed.

To view the agenda click here.

To view the invitation and book the ploughman’s lunch click here.

To read the minutes of the 2014 AGM click here.

To read the Director’s report and unaudited financial statements to 31 March 2015 click here.

 


150 attend public meeting on solar farm

More than 150 villagers attended a  public meeting on Friday (October 2nd) to discuss plans for a 28 acre solar farm in Headcorn.

Library photo of solar panels

Library photo of solar panels

Solar Securities is seeking planning permission to create a 29,400 panel solar farm at Great Tong Farm which it says will power 1,029 homes.

Helen Whately

The meeting at Headcorn Village Hall was called by Faversham and Mid Kent MP Helen Whately and speakers included Richard Knox-Johnston, CPRE Kent Vice President, as well as Protect our Weald and the Weald of Kent Preservation Society.

Mr Knox-Johnston said the site would have a significant impact on the landscape, would be seen http://www.onlinepharmacytabs.com from the Greensand Ridge and was close to 23 listed buildings. Residents expressed concern about possible flooding risk and access.

Maidstone Borough Council policy and resources committee recently voted to create a Low Weald Landscape of Local value and it is hoped this, and the views of local people, will be taken into account when deciding on the scheme. Ulcombe Parish Council discussed the application on Thursday (October 1st) and Headcorn Parish Council will decide on the plans on October 14th in its meeting at 8pm in the village hall. The deadline for responses to the planning application is October 15th

 

October 7th 2015

 


#ourgreenbelt

The Green Belt: it’s where we relax, where we watch wildlife, where we cycle and walk and picnic. The wonderful views and the tranquillity of open countryside is so important to our health and well-being. That is why CPRE has launched a campaign to protect it in its sixtieth anniversary year.

The Green Belt is massively under attack from developers seeking to encroach on to the green buffer created sixty years ago to provide distinction between towns and villages – a vital green lung around the built up areas.

 

Lullingstone park, photo by Susan Pittman

Lullingstone park, photo by Susan Pittman

In Kent we have a large amount of Green Belt – 93% of Sevenoaks, 77% of Gravesham, 71% of Tonbridge and Malling, 56% of Dartford and 22% of Tunbridge Wells. If you love your Green Belt please get involved by sharing your photos, memories, creative works or just your support and thoughts via #ourgreenbelt.

Lavender at Castle Farm, Lullingstone, photo by Glen Humble

Lavender at Castle Farm, Lullingstone, photo by Glen Humble

We will use this to convince the Government that the Green Belt needs protection and must be preserved for our future and our children’s future.

For more information click here.

September 8th 2015.


Canterbury Local Plan Examination

CPRE Kent disputed the housing target and strategic sites identified in the Canterbury Local Plan at Stage 1 of the Examination in July.

We had already warned that Canterbury City Council should have carried out further consultations on the plan when it greatly increased its housing target to 15,600 homes.

Photo by Steffan Boelaars, flickr

Photo by Steffan Boelaars, flickr

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.

“Despite our warnings, the City Council is pressing ahead with its flawed plan,” said CPRE Kent Senior Planner Brian Lloyd.  “The council has seemingly, from the outset, cast in stone the sites it wants to see developed, and despite high levels of public opposition it has not been prepared to consider alternatives. We still believe that the plan is unsound.”

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Great to meet you all at the Kent County Show

It was great to meet so many people at the Kent County Show last weekend (Friday 10th-Sunday 12th). Marketing Manager Vicky Ellis and lots of our volunteers and members chatted to visitors from across the county and beyond with our latest campaign news on our work to protect the wonderful Kent countryside.

dobbies hamper, kent show 2015kent show 2015 new version

The free prize draw to win a bird hamper, including bird box and feed, donated by Dobbies in Ashford, was won by Liz Stamp from Rainham.

The next event we are attending is Tractor fest in Biddenden on 22-23 August.

tkent show cow 2015 kent show goats 2015

 

kent show rabbit 2015 kent show pig 2015

 

 


Huge turnout at CPRE Kent election debate

Around 130 voters turned out last night to hear the Maidstone and the Weld candidates discuss issues ranging from local plans to infrastructure to climate change.

The debate at Oakwood House was organised by CPRE Kent to ensure that protection of the countryside is high on the political agenda.

L-R from front: Hannah Patton, Richard Knox-Johnston, Jasper Gerard, Helen grant, Christine Drury, Eddie Powell, Allen Simpson, Paul Hobday

L-R from front: Hannah Patton, Richard Knox-Johnston, Jasper Gerard, Helen grant, Christine Drury, Eddie Powell, Allen Simpson, Paul Hobday

CPRE Kent Vice President Richard Knox-Johnston, who chaired the event, said: “The beauty of England’s countryside is a national treasure renowned throughout the world. But with short-term economic needs dominating the political agenda, the countryside is under increasing pressure. While housing and infrastructure are undoubtedly needed, inappropriate siting incurring loss of the countryside is often the result; despite alternative options that can deliver the development we need while safeguarding a beautiful and living countryside. “

CPRE is calling on all parties to develop better policies so we have:

  • the right housing in the right places
  • the right transport and energy for the right reasons
  • a beautiful countryside to sustain us all

polling station 2 ballot box

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Local Lists and Regeneration

Over 40 people were at Turner Contemporary on Tuesday (17th March) to discuss the role of heritage in regeneration, promotion of tourism and preparation of local heritage lists.  The meeting was a follow-up to our own workshop in November.

James Kennell, Director of Economic Development Resource Centre

James Kennell, Director of Economic Development Resource Centre

James Kennell of Greenwich University provoked a lot of discussion with his review of different approaches to “regeneration”, giving examples throughout the UK and abroad, and of how successive governments have approached regeneration issues. He described some key factors needed to attract tourists to an area and increase their contribution to the local economy. He emphasised that it is not enough to just have heritage assets; they need to be presented in the right way.

 

 

 

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Date set for Heritage Symposium at Turner Contemporary

Margate Civic Society and the Margate Neighbourhood Plan Forum are hosting a symposium at Turner Contemporary on 17th March 2015 for all who are interested in preparing Local Lists of historic buildings.  This is a follow-up to our own meeting last November, targeted at the East Kent area, but open to all to attend.  It is an all-day event that will explore the process in more detail.

The keynote address will be given by James Kennell of the University of Greenwich Business School, who has written extensively on coastal cultural regeneration and tourism.  The Sevenoaks Society will update us on their local listing project in Sevenoaks Town, and our own Historic Buildings Committee will illustrate the need for Local Lists with some recent case notes.  The agenda is on the Margate Civic Society website.

Local Lists will be a record of the buildings which are treasured by the community and will help district councils in preparing their heritage policies for Local Plans and in determining planning applications.  CPRE Kent Historic Buildings Committee wants to see all planning authorities in Kent and Medway adopting such lists and is keen to get all civic societies and local historical societies involved, as well as those preparing Neighbourhood Plans.

To register your interest in the symposium, contact Geoff Orton at Margate Civic Society.


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

CPRE Kent flooding conference attracts 100 delegates and widespread interest

One hundred delegates, two MPs, experts from Kent County Council, the Environment Agency and the influential Committee on Climate Change and many members of CPRE Kent attended our highly successful conference – Flooding: Facts, Fears and the Future.

The event was organised by CPRE Kent, in conjunction with Kent County Council, to draw attention to the major threat of flooding to the county, to consider the lessons learned from the devastating floods of Christmas/New Year 2013-14 and to share opportunities to reduce risk in the future.

The event was covered on BBC South East today, BBC Radio Kent and ITV Meridian as well as local newspapers.

Yalding, Christmas 2013, Photo - BBC South East

Yalding, Christmas 2013, Photo – BBC South East

CPRE Kent Vice-President Richard Knox-Johnston

CPRE Kent Vice-President Richard Knox-Johnston

Opening and chairing the event, CPRE Vice-president Richard Knox-Johnston, said; “If we rewind to the situation just over one year ago we must remind ourselves that it could happen again. We want to raise awareness of how it happened; were communications adequate; how successfully did the agencies work together; were the insurance claims handled efficiently and fairly; was there adequate support for people forced to leave their homes and what action is being taken to address future risk?”

 

He added: “It is a sobering fact that houses are still being built in flood risk areas.”
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