Hundreds turn out for Gravesham Green Belt meeting

Richard Knox-Johnston, CPRE Kent vice-president, gives his presentation at the Istead Rise meeting

Almost 300 people packed Istead Rise community centre for a public meeting about housing development in north-west Kent.
The event focused on Gravesham Borough Council’s local plan consultation and questionnaire. It had been called by Gravesham Rural Residents Group because, it says, the local authority has not held any such meetings.
It was the first public meeting organised by GRRG, an umbrella action group that brings together representatives from the borough’s rural areas to debate the consultation review and develop a united approach.
Gravesham council is reviewing its policies towards the Metropolitan Green Belt and suggesting that some 2,000 homes could be built on sites currently within it.
At the meeting, on Friday, May 18, council leader David Turner defended the Green Belt review, which could remove land from the Green Belt to allow for new housing.
He said if this review was not held, there was a risk the government’s planning inspectors might take control of the process.
Bob Lane then gave a talk and slide show, with population projections challenging the council view that it needed to build up to 2,000 homes on Green Belt land, having increased its target from 6,000 new houses to 8,000.
The council’s belief that it had to wilt to pressure from Westminster or planning inspectors was challenged by guest speaker Richard Knox-Johnston, CPRE Kent vice-president.
His presentation (with slides) also illustrated why the Green Belt should be protected.
He pointed out that 2,000 houses would generate some 10,000 road journeys a day; this shocked many of those present due to the air pollution it would generate.
Mr Knox-Johnston agreed with Mr Lane that building on greenfield sites would allow developers to sell new housing at premium prices, which would not provide affordable homes for young families and first-time buyers – neither would it help residents on the council waiting list.
The audience applauded loudly both Mr Lane and Mr Richard Knox-Johnston at various points in their talks.
Local MP Adam Holloway gave his support to protection of the Green Belt and talked about his discussions with the Housing Minister.
The meeting wound up with a question-and-answer debate with the panel. Many residents expressed strong opposition to the council’s consideration of building on Green Belt land when more than 50 brownfield sites were empty or derelict in the borough.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Green Belt champion to address Gravesham meeting

This land near Higham is threatened with development for the planned Lower Thames Crossing (pic Paul Buckley)

Richard Knox-Johnston, CPRE Kent vice-president, will take to the stage at Istead Rise on Friday
(pic KMTV)

Richard Knox-Johnston, CPRE Kent vice-president, is joining the fray as campaigners step up their efforts to protect Green Belt land in Gravesham.
Mr Knox-Johnston, who is also chairman of the London Green Belt Council, will be speaking at a public meeting about housing development in the borough at Istead Rise this month.
The meeting is being organised by Gravesham Rural Residents Group because it says Gravesham Borough Council is not holding any such events as it reviews its Local Plan core strategy.
The council appears to be suggesting that 2,000 more homes than previously anticipated will need to be built in the borough and GRRG, of which Gravesham CPRE is a member, says the majority of options to cater for them entail the release of land from the Metropolitan Green Belt for development.
Although it has not set up any meetings about its proposals, GBC has produced a questionnaire asking residents for their views. However, the rural group believes this is flawed and “designed to make [respondents] support building on the Green Belt”.
As such, it is asking people not to fill in the questionnaire until they have been to the Istead Rise meeting, where they will be advised how to complete it if they do not wanting building on the Green Belt.
In a bid to attract as wide an audience as possible, the group is posing the following questions via social media:

Do you want more air pollution?

Do you want to wait longer for medical treatment?

Do you want your journeys to take longer? (traffic on the A227 is set to increase by 10,000 vehicles a day due to the planned Lower Thames Crossing)

Do you not want your children to attend the school of your choice?

Do you want to live in an extension of London?

Alex Hills, Gravesham CPRE chairman, said: “Gravesham Borough Council wants to build 2,000 homes on your Green Belt that they do not need to build.
“If you value your Green Belt, now is the time to fight for it!”

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Is Gravesham Green Belt up for grabs?

More Gravesham countryside could be lost to housing. This is Shorne Woods (pic Paul Buckley)

Fears of our Gravesham committee for the future of Metropolitan Green Belt land in the district appear to have been well founded.
The borough council has launched a consultation on proposals for the review of its Local Plan core strategy, which suggest 2,000 more homes than previously anticipated will need to be built in Gravesham.
The majority of options to cater for them entail the “release of land from the Green Belt for development”.
Gravesham CPRE belongs to Gravesham Rural Residents Group, a group formed in 2011 to defend the Green Belt, and Alex Hills has been active in the campaign.
Anticipating what was to come, the CPRE Gravesham chairman said in November last year: “The group is ready to fight again as people in Gravesham care about the Green Belt.
“In this area healthcare is at breaking point, air pollution is at dangerous levels – every one of our services is at breaking point, water supply and flooding risk in Kent are now pressing questions and our roads face gridlock – the Thames crossing alone will cause a doubling of the traffic on the A227, which runs north to south right through Gravesham.
“Is it not time we questioned the growth targets?”
Now the council, in launching its eight-week consultation, has identified three main areas for review:

  • How much development is needed
  • Where this development should be
  • If and how the Green Belt or any other policy constraints need to be changed to accommodate development

The local authority says a strategic housing market assessment carried out as part of the evidence base of the review found Gravesham had “a higher housing requirement of 7,900 homes, more than the 6,170 in the current plan”.
Further, it claims that an analysis using the government’s proposed standardised housing need assessment methodology suggests this should rise again to 8,000.
The council statement says: “When all urban sites and planning permissions are taken into account, Gravesham is about 2,000 homes short of its 2028 requirement.”
The options for housing allocation include:

  • Intensification of existing settlements
  • Expansion of existing urban areas
  • Creation of “a single new settlement through the merger of existing settlements”
  • Creation of a free-standing new settlement

The council document does not identify specific Green Belt sites for development but highlights an area running from Culverstone Green in the south of Gravesham up the A227 to Higham in the north as “a primary area of search”.
Council leader David Turner said: “With no Local Plan, the Green Belt could lose virtually all protection it has, allowing the local planning process to be sidestepped.
“Ideally, we would avoid building on Green Belt land. However, as part of this process, the council must look at all possible sites and rule them in or out.
“We are starting from the principle of brownfield land and other sites within the urban confines first but may need to seek additional land to meet our needs.
“When this consultation is complete, the council will draw up more detailed options and everyone will get the chance to comment again on those next year.”
The council intends to consult on a submission draft of its Local Plan in 2020, leading to submission, examination and adoption in 2021.
The consultation runs until June 20, 2018. If you would like to take part, visit bit.ly/2HDpjCF

Monday, April 30, 2018

We still have to fight for Gravesham’s Green Belt, says district chairman

The proposed Lower Thames Crossing will add further strain to Gravesham’s environment

Many doubtless gave a hefty sigh of relief on Wednesday when Chancellor Philip Hammond gave an assurance that the country’s Green Belts were safe from development.
However, all is not necessarily as rosy in the garden as it might seem. Alex Hills, CPRE Kent’s committee chairman for Gravesham, is preparing to fight proposals for 2,000 homes in the area of the Metropolitan Green Belt that falls within the district.
CPRE will be joining its talents with other members of the Gravesham Rural Residents Group, a group formed in 2011 to defend the Green Belt.
“The group is ready to fight again as people in Gravesham care about the Green Belt,” said Alex.
“In this area healthcare is at breaking point, air pollution is at dangerous levels – every one of our services is at breaking point, water supply and flooding risk in Kent are now pressing questions and our roads face gridlock – the Thames crossing alone will cause a doubling of the traffic on the A227, which run north to south right through Gravesham.
“Is it not time we questioned the growth targets?
“Governments of different colours for many years have shown that they have no understanding of what sustainability means – people need to stand up and say enough is enough.
“We need to spell out to the government what living in this area is really like as it is clear they do not know – if they did, housing targets would have been drastically reduced.
“We need our councillors to turn round to the government and say we can not build more houses as there is not the infrastructure for them.
“We need all the South East MPs to do their job and say enough is enough.
“Standing up to excessive development is not about being a nimby – it is about protecting essential services for everyone.
“It is also about fixing the broken planning system that allows developers to build what they like where they like when they should be building the properties people need, where they are needed.”

Friday, November 24, 2017