Power plant approved despite impact on landscape

There’s already “an industrial cluster of buildings”… so we might as well build some more

Plans for a combined heat and power near Sittingbourne have been approved despite its visual impact on the Saxon Shore Way.
Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells and Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, announced in a letter that he would issue a development consent order for the Kemsley Mill K4 Combined Heat and Power Generating Station.
He concluded that its benefits would outweigh any potential negative visual impacts.
The order grants development consent for the construction and operation of a gas-fired combined heat and power generating station with a gross electricity-generating capacity of up to 73MW; it will be built within the boundary of Kemsley Paper Mill.
The letter said that a planning inspector had examined the application and concluded that “the potential adverse visual and landscape impacts of the proposed development when viewed from certain vantage points along the Saxon Shore Way… cannot be entirely mitigated”.
The applicant had apparently “assessed that while there would be no significant adverse visual or landscape impacts from individual locations in the vicinity of the development, a person walking along the Saxon Shore Way designated footpath would encounter a much greater degree of impact”.
The applicant “did not offer any mitigation as it felt that it would not be possible to achieve a meaningful reduction in impact”.
The letter added that Mr Clark had noted that a report from Swale Borough Council concluded that the development “would not add any adverse visual or landscape effects to the existing industrial cluster of buildings”.
“The [inspector] also notes that the design features of the development – including the colour scheme – would be subject to approval by Swale Borough Council and that the final agreed design might lead to mitigation of the impacts,” the letter continued, adding that Mr Clark agreed with the inspector that the visual and cumulative effects would not outweigh the benefits of the project.
Those benefits included “meeting national need for additional electricity generation capacity”.

Monday, July 15, 2019

The battle for Marden makes its mark far and wide

The young have voices, too: protestors at Marden
Yellow and black has become the colour scheme of choice in the village
The message is clear…

Proposals for a 2,000-home garden community at Marden have sparked a huge wave of opposition.
After almost 2,000 people marched through the village (still!) in protest during the spring, a petition carrying almost 3,000 names was handed to 10 Downing Street on Friday (July 12).
The March for Marden, on Saturday, May 18, organised by Marden Planning Opposition, had seen protestors take to the streets wearing yellow and black – the colours that have bedecked much of the village on window posters and hedge banners over recent weeks.
Meanwhile, the group has set up a website (see here); drawn national media coverage; and seen its Facebook group attract more than 1,000 members.
Chairman Claudine Russell said: “The scale of this proposal is truly shocking and has united the people of Marden in fighting this development.
“We simply don’t have the infrastructure or services to support 2,000 more houses and two new schools, and it would mean Marden would cease to be a village and instead become a town.
“We are determined to show the council the strength of opposition as early as possible in the process. The scale of this development, which effectively doubles the size of Marden, is unthinkable in terms of traffic congestion on country roads, loss of wildlife habitat and negative impact on both the village’s heritage and the well-being of the people who live here.”
The proposals have been submitted to Maidstone Borough Council by three landowners, developer Countryside Properties and consultancy DHA Planning in response to the local authority’s Call for Sites ahead of its Local Plan review in 2022.
Countryside Properties has argued that Marden would benefit from the scheme through new facilities and better links to Maidstone town centre; it also says it is speaking with people who live and work in the village.
The campaign against the plan is supported by Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone and The Weald, who said: “We need to make sure the homes we need are built in the right places with the required infrastructure, and this proposed development is simply not in keeping with the beautiful rural community of Marden.”

You can learn more about the campaign at:

  • Web: www.savemarden.com
  • Twitter: @save_marden
  • Facebook: Marden Planning Opposition Group
  • Email: mardenplanningoppositionpr@gmail.com

Monday, July 15, 2019

Is the countryside your top priority? Then tell the next PM…

As you know, CPRE is strictly non-political. So, without any comment on the Conservative Party leadership contest, we simply present here your opportunity to tell the next Tory leader, and indeed Prime Minister, what matters most to you.
The survey has been put together by the Conservative Party, which urges respondents to “tell us what matters to you – and we’ll tell them”.
It really is the quickest of surveys and gives you the chance to tell government how much the countryside and environment matter to you.
Click here if you would like to take part.    

Coursing has contributed to a slump in hare populations. Is wildlife crime a big issue for you?

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Climate change rally in London: your chance to join thousands of others in getting the message to MPs

The song remains the same: thousands marched at the climate change rally in London in 2015 (pic Campaign Against Climate Change)

Some 10,000 people are expected at Westminster this week (Wednesday, June 26) to call for urgent action on climate change. Do you want to join them?
The rally has been organised by Greener UK and The Climate Coalition, which says: “The government has taken a step forward by setting the long-term target of ending our contribution to climate change, but we need policies to get us on track and slash our emissions now.
“To tackle the environmental crisis, we also need our politicians to pass a strong Environment Bill that can restore nature, cut plastic pollution and improve air quality.
“We need as many people as possible showing their MPs that now is the time for bold action.
“On June 26, thousands of us from every corner of Britain will take our message straight to Parliament in what we hope will be the largest mass lobby for climate and the environment the UK has ever seen.”
The Campaign Against Climate Change adds: “Around 10,000 are expected to gather in Westminster, in groups with others from their constituency. It’s an opportunity to talk to your MP and demonstrate that their constituents are calling for urgent action on climate change!”
Many will be going to the rally, labelled The Time Is Now and which runs from 1pm-4pm, as individuals, families and friends, but many organisations and charities are taking part, among them CPRE.
The CPRE website has a form, which you can fill in here if you would like to go.
This will give an idea of how many people are going and from which district.
CPRE has clarified the aims of the rally on its website:
“The Time Is Now as a group will be calling on government to:
“Commit to a target of reaching ‘net-zero’ carbon emissions by 2045. This is the technical way of saying we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to a level where the UK no longer contributes to climate change.
“Bring in legally binding targets for nature’s recovery, focusing on important things like clean air, waste and resources, soil, water quality and biodiversity.
“We’ll also be raising other issues with MPs, such as opposing the government’s proposals to fast-track fracking and making sure new homes are built to be energy efficient.”
We are encouraging as many people as possible to be at Westminster on Wednesday; we have CPRE Kent signs here at the office if you would like to take them (phone 01233 714540).
Further, it would be helpful if you could share this story on Facebook and Twitter.

  • For more on the rally, visit here, here and here  
  • To fill in the CPRE form confirming your attendance at The Time Is Now, click here  

Monday, June 24, 2019

Campaigners seek help in air-quality challenge

Air quality is causing serious concern in Canterbury

Canterbury air-quality campaigners are asking for your help in their bid to raise £10,000 to challenge the government in the Supreme Court.
Emily Shirley and Michael Rundell launched their case against the government in February 2017, saying it had not complied with environmental legislation because of the “dangerous levels” of air pollution in Canterbury. 
They will need help with their funding, however, and have set up a crowdfunding page, which can be reached here: www.crowdjustice.com/case/air-quality-on-trial-a-local-c
Emily said: “More than 40,000 people die prematurely of air pollution annually in the UK. Thousands of others, especially the young and the elderly, suffer from diseases partly or fully caused by air pollution, such as asthma, cancer and dementia.
“There are 16,000 new homes and other developments planned in and around Canterbury, a city already crippled by unlawful air pollution. These new developments will obviously make the situation worse.
“Our case seeks to establish that the government is responsible for ensuring that air pollution does not breach legal limits and, when it does, the government must ensure levels are reduced to legal limits as soon as possible.
“If we succeed, the dangerous air pollution levels that plague hundreds of other cities and towns across the UK will also have to improve. The government will no longer be able to shirk from its duties. 
“We believe we have excellent grounds for a hearing in the Supreme Court, but to do so we need to raise a further £10,000 to meet all our legal costs.”

Monday, June 3, 2019

A billion! How much DRS could benefit local charities

CPRE has long campaigned for a DRS: here’s its reverse vending machine

One in five people using a UK-wide deposit return system would donate the deposits they had paid on drinks cans and bottles to charity all the time, producing potential annual donations of more than £1 billion to good causes.
The results came from a survey carried out by ICM Unlimited and published by CPRE on Monday (May 27).
A further 19 per cent of respondents said they would donate their deposits most of the time, and more than a third (34 per cent) would donate at least some of the time.
This could lead to a further £1.3 billion in donations to local charitable causes from the deposits on glass and plastic drinks bottles and aluminium cans, the CPRE analysis found.
The donations could be even higher if drinks cartons and pouches were also included in England’s deposit system – something Environment Secretary Michael Gove is considering.
CPRE states that by including an option for the public to donate their deposits – something that is part of most other deposit systems around the world – we could build on the huge success of the carrier-bag charge, which, as well as reducing plastic bag usage by more than 80 per cent, raised £66 million for good causes in 2016-17.
Samantha Harding, CPRE’s litter programme director, said: “Not only would the introduction of a UK-wide deposit return system put a stop to most of the environmental damage caused by drinks containers and boost recycling rates in excess of 90 per cent, it could also provide much-needed funding for good causes across the country.
“It is fantastic and really heartening that so many people would be happy to donate their deposits in this way.
“An effective ‘all-in’ deposit return system will bring an end to the growing disenchantment and scepticism around current recycling methods by doubling current recycling rates.
“But it’s also evident that the deposit, as well as encouraging the right behaviour in terms of recycling, would allow for people’s generous natures to be realised when it comes to supporting others.
‘It’s important to ensure that England’s scheme includes every bottle, can, carton and pouch, whatever the shape, size or material.
“Not only will this halt the devastation caused to our countryside and environment by drinks container pollution, but if every type of drinks packaging is included in the scheme, it could result in more donated deposits, benefiting nature and local communities.”
In the UK, it is estimated that 28 billion single-use glass, plastic and aluminium drinks bottles and cans are sold every year in the UK, according to recent government figures.
Due to ineffective waste collection and recycling systems, overall recycling rates in the UK have stagnated at about 45 per cent. This results in a large number of drinks containers either left polluting the countryside, waterways and streets or being sent for incineration or buried in landfill, rather than recycled.
Through its monetary incentive, an effective UK-wide deposit return system has the potential to boost recycling rates for drinks containers to more than 90 per cent.
CPRE is highlighting that this would significantly reduce the environmental damage they cause, as well as ensuring that the producers of drinks packaging become financially responsible for the full costs of the waste they create.
Earlier this month, the Scottish government announced its plans to introduce a deposit return system for glass, plastic and aluminium drinks containers of all sizes.
CPRE is calling for the UK government to build on Scotland’s ambition by introducing a fully comprehensive ‘all-in’ system, including all drinks containers of all sizes and materials, to make sure that England gets the most effective and economically viable deposit system in the world.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Cleve Hill: the battle against the country’s largest solar farm gets under way today

CPRE representative Richard Knox-Johnston and local MP Helen Whately at the meeting this morning

The battle to save some 1,000 acres of the North Kent Marshes from the building of the country’s largest solar farm began in full today (Thursday, May 30) in Faversham.

The preliminary meeting of the public examination into Cleve Hill Solar Farm was held at the Alexander Centre this morning, triggering the start of a six-month process.

Worried residents and campaign groups met to hear how the examination will proceed and to learn the opportunities they will have over the coming months to raise their concerns.

These will include, among many other things, damage to the landscape and to wildlife, along with the industrialisation of treasured countryside.
It is estimated some 80 people were present for the meeting, with the next opportunity to speak being the open hearings on Tuesday, July 16.

It is important to stress that even if you have not registered as an Interested Party, you can still make your views known to the examination; details of how to do this will be on the Planning Inspectorate website https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/projects/south-east/cleve-hill-solar-park/

Thursday, May 30


Pond Farm: now we wait

CPRE Kent was involved in Wednesday’s Court of Appeal hearing (pic BBC)

We hope to hear soon the outcome of Wednesday’s (May 8) Court of Appeal hearing of Gladman Developments Ltd’s Pond Farm challenge.
The decision is viewed as hugely important in the battle to have air quality considered fully in planning policy.
CPRE Kent was at the court last week as an Interested Party supporting the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government’s renewed defence of an inspector’s dismissal of two linked appeals made by the developer.
They had been made by Gladman against Swale Borough Council’s non-determination of planning permission for a housing scheme at Pond Farm, Newington.
To give you the backdrop to events, back in November 2017 the High Court dismissal of Gladman’s appeals against an earlier planning decision represented the first instance of air quality proving a critical factor in such a judgment. CPRE Kent had given evidence in that hearing.
The saga had begun with the council’s rejection of Gladman’s plans for up to 330 homes and 60 residential and care units at Pond Farm on the grounds of harm to the landscape and increased air pollution, the latter factor relating specifically to the impact on the council’s Air Quality Management Areas at Newington and Rainham.
Gladman subsequently challenged that decision, but the Secretary of State’s inspector dismissed both of its appeals because of “the substantial harm that the appeal proposals would cause to the character of a valued landscape and their likely significant adverse effect on human health”.
Not content with that, Gladman then contested that dismissal on the grounds of the inspector’s treatment of future air quality and mitigation; the decision in relation to the Newington air quality action plan; and the decision’s claimed conflict with the emerging development plan for the village.
And (in November 2017) Mr Justice Supperstone of the High Court ruled that none of Gladman’s grounds of appeal had succeeded and dismissed its latest challenge.
However, Gladman subsequently won permission to take its case to the Court of Appeal, hence Wednesday’s hearing.

Pond Farm: the story so far…

  • Swale Borough Council refuses Gladman planning permission for 330 homes and 60 residential and care units
  • Gladman makes two linked appeals against council’s refusal
  • Planning inspector dismisses both Gladman appeals
  • Gladman challenges inspector’s dismissal of its appeals
  • Gladman challenge is dismissed in High Court
  • Gladman takes case to Court of Appeal
  • Court of Appeal case heard on Wednesday

Monday, May 13, 2019

Pond Farm… here we go again

Pond Farm…back in the firing line (pic Vicky Ellis)

You might be getting used to long-running planning battles that can seem to become mired in near-unfathomable legal complexity.
One such is the battle for Pond Farm at Newington, which is due to re-emerge at the Court of Appeal next week.
Back in November 2017, the dismissal in the High Court of a developer’s appeal against an earlier planning decision represented the first instance of air quality proving a critical factor in such a judgment.
CPRE Kent had been in the High Court giving evidence as the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government defended a planning inspector’s dismissal of two linked appeals made by Gladman Developments Ltd against Swale Borough Council’s refusal of planning permission for its scheme at Pond Farm.
The saga had begun with the council’s rejection of Gladman’s plans for up to 330 homes and 60 residential and care units at Pond Farm on the grounds of harm to the landscape and increased air pollution, the latter factor relating specifically to the impact on the council’s Air Quality Management Areas at Newington and Rainham.
Gladman subsequently challenged that decision, but the Secretary of State’s inspector dismissed both of its appeals because of “the substantial harm that the appeal proposals would cause to the character of a valued landscape and their likely significant adverse effect on human health”.
Not content with that, Gladman then contested that dismissal on the grounds of the inspector’s treatment of future air quality and mitigation; the decision in relation to the Newington air quality action plan; and the decision’s claimed conflict with the emerging development plan for the village.
And (in November 2017) Mr Justice Supperstone of the High Court ruled that none of Gladman’s grounds of appeal had succeeded and dismissed its latest challenge.
However… Gladman subsequently won permission to take its case to the Court of Appeal and it is due to be heard next week on either Wednesday 8 or Thursday 9, May.
CPRE Kent will be involved as an Interested Party supporting the Secretary of State’s position.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Local elections matter!

All Kent’s local boroughs and districts, as well as Medway Council, will be holding elections on Thursday (May 2).
Local authorities control many of the decisions that we care passionately about at CPRE Kent. We depend on their decisions to keep our towns and villages vibrant, to ensure there are homes people in which can afford to live, and to make sure that services like public transport and waste collection and recycling are effective and efficient.
That is why it is so important to get out and vote, and to make your voice heard on Thursday! Whatever their political colour, the decisions made by your local councillors are important for your local community.

  • To find out in which local-council area you live, see here
  • To find out where your polling station is, see here
  • To find out who the candidates are, see here

In the final run-up to the election, you can contact your local candidates and let them know the most important things to you and ask that they reflect this in their election promises.
One of the easiest ways to engage with your candidates is to send them an email or a letter. You should be able to find their email and postal addresses using the links above.
We have drafted an email/letter that you could send them – see here. Our manifesto, Stand Up For Our Local Countryside, can be found here if you would like to include it. And you can see our short video here
In line with the manifesto, we ask you to think about supporting the policies that support Kent’s countryside in the following ways:

Best use of land: respecting the constraints of designated landscapes, making use of brownfield sites and prioritising sustainable, public transport.

  • Thriving rural communities: getting the local council building more homes for social rent and prioritising local housing need over market demand.
  • Empowered communities: championing and upholding the voice of local people through the planning system
  • An enjoyable countryside: developing light-pollution policies and encouraging outreach and engagement programmes to provide equal access to the countryside.
  • Climate change and the countryside: setting a local authority climate change strategy and embedding climate change into all local policy areas.

You have the chance to make your voice heard on May 2nd: don’t miss it.

Quinn Estates targets site across the estuary

Plans for North Weald Park were submitted to the local authority in June (pic Quinn Estates)

Many communities across Kent are experiencing the activities of Quinn Estates, so it might be of interest to highlight a scheme the developer is promoting across the estuary in Essex.
A decision is anticipated this spring on proposals for a ‘garden village’ development at the former North Weald Golf Club.
Quinn Estates and Redrow Homes submitted the plans to Epping Forest District Council that include 555 homes, a 70-bed retirement complex and 70-bed nursing care accommodation, as well as sports facilities and schools.
The developer’s brochure describes the scheme, entitled North Weald Park, as:
“A once in a generation opportunity to create a mixed use development with an incredible sporting and education legacy for Essex and Epping Forest District.
“Embodying garden village principles, the development will combine high quality housing with exceptional community, social and economic infrastructure.
“The proposals incorporate the creation of up to 690 new homes with 40% affordable provision and a new business community from a developer with a very strong track record for the delivery of commercial space.
“Through working with Epping Youth Football Club, UKA Karate Club and the Scouts, the development can deliver a legacy of enhanced sporting facilities for the people of Essex.”
The 165-acre scheme also includes a business park, park-and-ride to Epping station, Scouts facility and medical centre, together with “£5m-£10m” improvements to junction of the M11 at Hastingwood.
The planning application was submitted to the local authority in June and it is hoped it will be determined in May.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Cleve Hill solar farm: it might not be too late to have your say

The special landscape of Graveney Marshes would be destroyed if the Cleve Hill solar park was approved (pic Vicky Ellis)

If you want to have your say on plans for a 1,000-acre solar farm near Faversham but didn’t make the submissions deadline you might still have a chance.
The deadline to register with the Planning Inspectorate as an Interested Party in relation to the proposed Cleve Hill Solar Park passed on Monday, January 28, but the inspectorate has just announced that the “Examining Authority has used its discretion to accept Additional Submissions from the Applicant and a Late Relevant Representation. These have been published and added to the Examination Library”.
There is no guarantee, but it is difficult to see how any other late representations could justifiably be refused given the other late acceptances.
The developer’s application for a Development Consent Order, made on November 16, was accepted by the inspectorate, meaning an inquiry into the scheme will now be held. CPRE Kent is among 867 groups and individuals to have registered as Interested Parties for this process.
As for the next stage, the inspectorate website says: “Details of the Preliminary Meeting will be announced here shortly.
“The Examining Authority will carry out an Initial Assessment of Principal Issues derived from its reading of the application and the Relevant Representations received and set a date for the Preliminary Meeting.”

  • Should you wish to add your voice to the inquiry, visit the Planning Inspectorate website here
  • For more on the Cleve Hill story, see here, here and here

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Tom Fyans: Why we love brownfield

Tom Fyans, complete with new spectacles, speaks at the CPRE Ashford AGM 

The benefits of brownfield development were extolled by Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive of CPRE, during a flying visit to Ashford.
Tom was giving the speech ‘Why town centre regeneration matters for CPRE, the countryside charity’ before the AGM of CPRE Kent’s Ashford committee at the Picturehouse in Elwick Place on Wednesday last week (March 6).
Before he got going, however, Christine Drury, acting Ashford chair, gave some background to the local situation.
“Green fields were being gobbled up all around Ashford,” she said. “We kept highlighting the availability of brownfield land, but all we were getting was excuses, excuses, excuses. Finberry, Cheeseman’s Green, Chilmington Green… it just went on and on. CPRE Kent was not happy about that.
“Now at last the brownfield is being developed and the town centre regenerated.”
Taking the reins, Tom told how being in the “ivory towers” of London could make such matters seem “very theoretical”. It was good to get out and see regeneration in action.
Sporting a swish new pair of glasses, he warned that he had not yet got used to them and those present might need to excuse some peculiar body language. We can but hope he had such issues sorted out before a meeting with housing minister Kit Malthouse the following Monday.
Such pressing matters aside, he revealed the last time he had been in Kent was to take part in a debate in Faversham for radio’s The Moral Maze during which a young student had argued for development in the Green Belt.
Lacking, he said, a connection to the environment, she had been happy with the idea of a dystopian landscape stretching from Faversham to London.
“It was a sobering experience,” he said. “These are young people we need to connect to and highlight the importance of the environment to our well-being. It was a motivator for me.”
He then gave “five reasons we like brownfield”:

  • It entails recycling of land: In contrast to the success of the Deposit Return Scheme for drinks bottles and cans, we don’t recycle enough land. This was counterintuitive as land was finite.
  • Brownfield can make a massive contribution to housing delivery: A CPRE report showed that 132,000 houses (three years’ supply) could be built on brownfield in the South East, and a million homes across the country. Government had ridiculed CPRE, saying the national figure was just 200,000 homes, but was now coming round to accepting it. CPRE was getting through to government.
  • It’s quicker to build on brownfield: Six months quicker, in fact, and at a greater density. This was a better use of urban land.
  • The creation of vibrant places in which to live: Closer to existing infrastructure, brownfield development could make “a much better offer of a place to live”.
  • It helps us keep our beautiful countryside for our health and well-being, especially given land-use pressures.

“So what is CPRE doing about it?” said Tom.
“We produced the report, State of Brownfield 2018, although the government should be doing this. Brownfield registers are the result of CPRE campaigning and we want to see them used as a tool for bringing sites forward, with greenfield land being held back while brownfield is available.
“We need to involve communities more, and there are pilot schemes in London and Lancashire. We can help identify smaller sites and build a picture at national level.”
Turning to politics and planning, members heard that the aforementioned meeting with Mr Malthouse was about how we build the government’s desired 300,000 homes a year and help them go in the right places.
“There’s a need to rebuild trust in the planning system,” Tom continued. “There has to be a Local Plan-led system – without one, you can’t control development.
“The need to show a five-year housing supply creates its own pressure, with Gladman at the worst end of things. Help to Buy, meanwhile, is stoking huge profits for developers and not helping get people on the housing ladder.
“A clearer definition of affordability is necessary, while at the moment demand is being met by high-end housing, not affordable homes.”
Design is an often-neglected aspect of housing development, but poor design is one of the reasons people object to proposals.
Looking at things optimistically, Tom said Mr Malthouse was a big fan of design principles based on the local vernacular, while Roger Scruton, chair of the government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful commission, was a friend of CPRE. “There’s room here for the government to listen,” he said.
Wrapping up with a look at the position of CPRE across the country, the deputy chief executive said the situation was healthier “in this part of the country” but elsewhere proving more of a struggle, with fewer people involved… something that wasn’t improving.
“We’re not getting new people – we’re too reliant on legacies – which means we can’t plan for the future.
“There’s a need to broaden our appeal and compete with other, bigger organisations, with a concentration on fundraising. A lot of work is going on in relation to brand and how we communicate.
“We should be warmer as we’re sometimes seen as aggressive and angry – and indeed we are angry at some developments!
“We have to help people connect better with the countryside and nature. We all need to understand more the connection between rural and urban, with an appeal to both.”
And a final word?
“We will continue with our cutting-edge campaigning. We’re quite critical of the government at the moment.”

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Otterpool Park: planning application submitted

Being destroyed soon: land earmarked for Otterpool Park

Plans for a vast new town near Hythe have moved a step forward with the submission of a planning application for Otterpool Park to Folkestone & Hythe District Council.
The scheme, devised by the local authority itself (when named Shepway District Council) entails the building of 8,500 homes.
A statement on the Folkestone & Hythe District Council website says: “Like all planning applications, it will be subject to the usual validation period. All documents will then be available to view to allow further opportunities for feedback.
“The Leader of the Council, Cllr David Monk, said the much-anticipated planning application was a major milestone in the ambitions for a new Garden Town.”

For more on this story, see here and here

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Government chooses not to take over Thanet Local Plan: was this the ‘easy way out’?

Thanet… what next?

Heard the one about Thanet District Council’s Local Plan?
Of course you have.
Well, there’s more…
This comitragic tale has been well covered (see herehere, herehere and here), so it will suffice for now to say that it is back in the news.
Eventually approved in July last year, the draft Plan is now in the phase leading up to the Examination in Public, scheduled to begin in April.
Despite this, the council has been slated by James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, over its lack of progress and failure to deliver new housing. Mr Brokenshire has, however, stopped short of direct intervention, saying only that the situation would be “closely monitored”.
Mr Brokenshire’s predecessor, Sajid Javid, had threatened to take over production of the isle’s Local Plan, along with those of Castle Point in Essex and Wirral in north-west England.
Writing to Bob Bayford, leader of the council, he said: “Thanet have consistently failed to bring forward a Local Plan in accordance with its Local Development Scheme as legally required.
“Based on Thanet’s revised Local Development Scheme, it is unlikely that Local Plan production would be accelerated by my department taking over.
“In my judgement, given the authority’s track record of persistent failure in plan-making, the intervention I have decided upon will provide more certainty and is the best way of ensuring that a Local Plan will be produced.
“I am also, for the avoidance of doubt, now putting on public record my concerns about the low level of housing supply and delivery in Thanet.
“I expect planning decision-takers to have regard to these concerns as a material consideration when deciding local planning applications.”
Critically, at least as far as the local authority is concerned, Mr Brokenshire concludes: “I have decided not to prepare the Thanet Local Plan. However, I will continue to closely monitor your Local Plan progress.
“I appreciate the constructive way Thanet District Council have engaged in this process so far and I trust that you and your officers will continue to engage positively.”
Commenting on a situation in which no one seems very happy, David Morrish, chairman of Thanet CPRE, said: “The government’s Housing Delivery Test 2018 shows that from the years 2016-18 Thanet had a new-homes delivery rate of just 44% of target.
“The only thing the table demonstrates is that the calculation of housing for Thanet is completely ridiculous and that a housing projection of around 8,000 – back where we started in 2014 – is what the Thanet requirement should be. Such a target could be accomplished without using valuable Grade 1A agricultural land.
“When will Mr Brokenshire realise that a flawed model is being applied that is of no help to anyone whatsoever?
“The government targets are derived using an algorithm to develop targets for each council based on government policies but take no account of the deprivation and lack of jobs and employment prospects in an area.
“The houses that have been built in Thanet are in large part attributable to development at Westwood Cross. It is rumoured persistently that this is being earmarked for social-housing tenants moving in from London, yet Thanet people find it next to impossible to find social housing themselves.
“If nothing else, Thanet council needs to clarify the situation to help calm local disquiet.
“Also, Thanet has the highest proportion of empty homes in Kent but makes no attempt to bring some of them into use to house its homeless.
“I think it is probable that Mr Brokenshire’s Chief Planner realised, after taking a close look at the shambles of Thanet’s poorly-thought-out planning regime that has placed all the power in developers’ hands, that it is not something  anyone with any sense would want to take direct responsibility for sorting out.
“Instead, he has taken the easy way out by letting the two Local Plan inspectors carry on with their invidious task of inspecting in detail the existing mess of the draft Local Plan, neatly wrapped up in 4,000 pages of planning speak on the Thanet council website.
“This inspection begins in Ramsgate in April, with public hearings in May, while  another, separate, quartet of inspectors based in Margate are already grappling with 5,000-plus pages of evidence relating to Manston airport, with public hearings in March and a conclusion in July.
“Never, as far as we are aware, will the two sets of inspectors meet formally, and by the middle of this year two different ministers – Mr Brokenshire and Chris Ayling, Secretary of State for Transport, will be given the two different reports upon which to make their own individual decisions.
“It would test the patience of a saint and the genius of an Einstein to unravel this muddle.
“What is certain about this farrago is that the only winners will be the developers, who will continue to receive licences to build wherever they want in Thanet at the current leisurely speed, further increasing pressure on strained public services and with the community having as much certainty of the public costs being paid for by developers – as happens elsewhere in Kent – as a philosophy student at McDonald’s has of paying off their student loan.”

Monday, February 25, 2019