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

Your chance to hear CPRE deputy chief exec speak in Kent

Tom Fyans: coming to Ashford (pic BBC)

Tom Fyans, CPRE deputy chief executive, will be speaking at an open meeting in Kent next month (March).
Tom, who is also national director of campaigns and policy, is giving his talk ‘Why town centre regeneration matters for CPRE, the countryside charity’ at the AGM of the Ashford committee of CPRE Kent on Wednesday, March 6.
The meeting is being held in the function room of Ashford Picturehouse in Elwick Place (TN23 1AE).
As well as learning about the regeneration of Ashford town centre, this is also a chance to look inside the town’s new cinema complex, which hosts six screens, a restaurant, cafe and bar, as well as a spacious foyer and outdoor and indoor seating.
The function room is at the top of the stairs or lift.
For the AGM you can have tea or coffee and biscuits from 11.45am, with the meeting due to run from midday to 1.30pm.
If you’re able to stay a little later, you can buy hot snacks at the foyer counter.
There is ample parking at Elwick Place (£2.20 for two hours).
All are welcome for this event – you do not need to belong to CPRE – but do please let us know in advance if you’re coming: phone Sandra Dunn on 07771 640133 or email sandradunn@sky.com

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Threat to Western Heights and Farthingloe confirmed as developer looks to put scheme back before council

Farthingloe: under pressure again (pic Vicky Ellis)

The renewed threat to develop the Farthingloe Valley in the Kent Downs AONB has been confirmed.
We reported in June last year (see here) that applicant China Gateway International had requested Dover District Council provide a scoping opinion for an updated environmental impact assessment in preparation for a renewed application at the site.
This followed the Supreme Court’s confirmation, in December 2017, that planning permission for more than 500 houses and a 90-apartment retirement village at Great Farthingloe Farm, together with associated development at nearby Western Heights, remained quashed.
That case had been brought about by CPRE Kent challenging DDC’s granting of planning permission for the scheme in 2015.
The Supreme Court was backing the Court of Appeal’s verdict that DDC  planning committee had not given legally adequate reasons for approving the application. DDC had challenged that Court of Appeal decision, necessitating the Supreme Court case.
Now, however, CGI has submitted “updated application documents” prior to redetermination by DDC.
The letter of submission from planning consultancy RPS, written on behalf of CGI, says: “The scheme has been subject to minor beneficial changes, incorporating advice from DDC and consultees.
“This has resulted in one change to the description of the development, reducing the number of residential units at Farthingloe from 521 to 512 units.”
Responding to the news, Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, said: “CPRE Kent maintains its original objections to these proposals.
“There is no doubt that we need to solve the housing shortage facing both rural and urban areas, but we must build the right types of housing in the right places.
“The Farthingloe part of the site is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which should be given the highest levels of protection, and these plans represent a grossly inappropriate incursion to this protected landscape.
“We know that the housing affordability crisis is particularly acute in the South East, yet these proposals will deliver no affordable or social housing at all; they will not provide the homes which are so desperately needed in the district. There is still no justification for sacrificing such a large area of AONB.
“We are particularly disappointed that the promoters still claim that the Farthingloe site is brownfield when it is clearly not – a quick check of Dover District Council’s own brownfield register confirms this. Part of the the site was used briefly as temporary accommodation land during the construction of the Channel Tunnel, but temporary permission for such uses does not grant brownfield status.
“Although DDC granted permission for this project, the Court of Appeal judged that its decision was wrong, since its planning committee failed to give legally adequate reasons for allowing substantial harm to an AONB.
“DDC chose to take that decision to the UK Supreme Court, where CPRE Kent had no option but to defend this challenge if we wished to see this site remain protected.
“And in December 2017 the Supreme Court Judgment confirmed its agreement with the Court of Appeal that there was no legally adequate justification to grant this permission.
“We can see no reason the legal position will be any different for the application this time around, since there is so little difference from the original proposals.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Sorry day for Princes Parade as government declines to call in development scheme

The scheme proposed by Folkestone and Hythe District Council will impact on the Royal Military Canal, a scheduled historic monument

There has been disappointing news concerning Princes Parade in Hythe.
The decision by Folkestone and Hythe District Council to award itself planning permission to build on land it owns at the site will not be called in by the government.
In August, the council’s planning committee approved an application for up to 150 houses and associated buildings including a leisure centre, hotel and café or restaurant.
In response to that approval, campaign group Save Princes Parade asked the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to call it in.
However, yesterday’s (Tuesday, February 12) letter to the council from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government says:
“The Secretary of State has carefully considered this case against the call-in policy, as set out in the Written Ministerial Statement by Nick Boles on 26 October 2012.
“The policy makes it clear that the power to call in a case will only be used very selectively.
“The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.
“In deciding whether to call in this application, the Secretary of State has considered his policy on calling in planning applications.
“This policy gives examples of the types of issues which may lead him to conclude, in his opinion that the application should be called in. The Secretary of State has decided not to call in this application.
“The reason for this decision is that, having regard to the policy on call in, the application does not involve issues of more than local importance justifying the Secretary of State’s intervention.”

  • For more on this story, see here and  here
  • Visit the Save Princes Parade website here

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Relief and delight as massive scheme for Kent Downs AONB is turned down

No mistaking the message! (pic Barham Downs Action Group)

Planners’ rejection of plans for a huge development in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has been warmly welcomed by CPRE Kent.
The proposals, put forward by developer Quinn Estates and landowner Highland Investment Company, targeted 300 acres of protected countryside at Highland Court Farm near Bridge.
They entailed 175 holiday homes, a stadium for Canterbury City Football Club, six rugby pitches, a business park extension, “innovation centre”, food and drink units and a “leisure hub”.
Last night (Tuesday, February 5) Canterbury City Council planning committee chose unanimously to decline planning permission for the scheme, which had already been recommended for refusal in a planning officer’s report listing 12 grounds as to why it should be turned down.
The project had been opposed by CPRE Kent, Natural England, Kent Wildlife Trust, Dover District Council, Barham Downs Action Group and several parish councils.
Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, said the decision was unquestionably the correct one: “We’re surprised that anyone could believe such an appalling scheme in an AONB [Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty] might ever be considered acceptable.
“We’re thrilled that Canterbury City Council’s planning committee rejected the plans so decisively and so comprehensively.”
Barrie Gore is chairman of CPRE Kent’s Canterbury committee. “It’s wonderful that a beautiful part of the countryside has been preserved, hopefully forever,” he said.
“The scheme was refused on grounds that I would have thought unassailable. So many who worked so hard to save this lovely part of the AONB, Highland Court House and the Highland Court Conservation Area from further development have had their efforts rewarded.
“The planning officer’s report was a very good one and summed up both sides of the debate extremely well.
“It was interesting that one of the councillors had calculated that only 14 per cent of the site comprised sporting facilities – much of the rest was simply for high-end holiday homes.”
CPRE Kent had opposed the project since its announcement. Speaking on KMTV in October 2017, vice-president Richard Knox-Johnston highlighted national planning strategy going back to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 designating areas of land not available for development.
“So this land is not available for any development on it,” he had said. “If we don’t protect these AONBs, in due course we won’t have any left. There have to be very special reasons as to why you would want to do any building on that sort of site.”
He stressed the value and attractiveness of Highland Court Farm, noting how the North Downs Way, public footpaths, a cycle path and bridleway all passed through the site.
He was scathing about the developer’s claim that the project would bring tourists into the county: “That’s a supposition that he makes. There’s no financial plan or structure to support this, and any business would have done that properly beforehand to show how it can be done.”

  • For more on this story (and a link to Mr Knox-Johnston discussing the project on KMTV), see here

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Eyes to the skies, the Star Count starts tomorrow

You can play your part in monitoring light pollution

This year’s Star Count (see here) goes live tomorrow (Saturday, February 2).
Organised by CPRE, it gives you the chance to become ‘citizen scientists’ by taking part in a cosmic census helping to map our dark skies.
The nationwide Star Count, supported by the British Astronomical Association, runs for the first three weeks of February (until Saturday, February 23). Wherever you are, you’re being asked to count the number of stars you can see with the naked eye within the constellation of Orion.
As well as promoting dark skies and engaging people in the wonders of stargazing, CPRE aims to highlight the blight that light pollution is causing our dark skies and its impact on people and nature.
Not only does light pollution prevent people from enjoying the beauty of a starry sky, it can disrupt wildlife behaviour and affect people’s sleeping patterns, impacting on physical and mental health and well-being.
Emma Marrington, dark skies campaigner at CPRE, said: “A dark sky filled with stars is one of the most magical sights our countryside has to offer and for thousands of years our night sky has been a source of information, fascination and inspiration.
“Increasingly, however, too many people are denied the opportunity to experience this truly natural wonder.
“We want as many people as possible, from right across the country, to get out and get involved with Star Count 2019.
“How many stars you will see ultimately depends upon the level of light pollution in your area, but by counting stars and helping us to map our dark skies, together we can fight back against light pollution and reclaim the night sky.”
Bob Mizon, UK coordinator of the British Astronomical Association Commission for Dark Skies, added: “Star counts are not only fun things to do in themselves but also help to form the national picture of the changing state of our night skies.
“As lighting in the UK undergoes the sweeping change to LEDs, it is really important that we know whether or not they are helping to counter the light pollution that has veiled the starry skies for most Britons for the last few decades.”
CPRE will use the results from Star Count 2019 to create a new map showing how light pollution is affecting the nation’s views of the night sky.
Our Night Blight maps, based on satellite data, showed that just 22 per cent of England is untouched by light pollution and that more than half of our darkest skies are over National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Through the Star Count, we will be able to provide more detailed and up-to-date information on the impact light pollution is having on people’s experience of dark skies.
With this information, CPRE will work with local and national government to ensure that appropriate lighting is used only where it’s needed – helping to reduce carbon emissions, save money and protect and enhance our dark skies.

  • To find out how to take part in Star Count 2019, see here
  • To see where your nearest dark skies are, see our NightBlight maps here

Friday, February 1, 2019

Draft Environment Bill contains ‘significant unanswered questions’

The hen harrier has suffered appalling levels of persecution in this country – will the Environment Bill afford it greater protection? (pic Steve Ashton)

“The draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill sets out how we will maintain environmental standards as we leave the EU and build on the vision of the 25 Year Environment Plan.”
These underwhelming words from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announcing last month’s (December 2018) publication of draft clauses for the first Environment Bill in some 20 years belie the importance of the eventual document.
This future for our natural environment once this country has departed the EU has exercised the thoughts of many – for example, CPRE Kent’s Graham Warren – but we are perhaps now some way closer to understanding quite what might lie in store.
Introducing the draft clauses, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, writes: “We have ambitions to be the home of the boldest possible environmental policies, and to set an example of excellent and effective leadership at home and abroad.
“As we leave the EU, this new environmental law marks an unprecedented step forward – helping to safeguard our commitment to environmental protection for generations to come.”
What does CPRE make of it? While not dismissing the draft Bill out of hand, it is fair to say it is not quite so convinced as it gives what it calls “a cautious welcome” to the announcement.
“While the ambition is there, detail and clear targets are evidently lacking,” says a statement on the CPRE national website.
It continues: “The core elements published in the draft clauses include:

  • Environmental principles to help protect the environment
  • The establishment of a governance body – the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) – to uphold environmental legislation.
  • A commitment to making it a legal requirement for the government to have a plan for improving the environment.”

Tom Fyans, CPRE director of campaigns and policy, said: “Environmental principles are crucial to the way law is created, from planning and land-use policy to air quality and biodiversity targets, yet the draft Bill offers only the weak requirement that ministers ‘have regard to’ or ‘consider’ them.
“While the proposed Office of Environmental Protection (OEP) has some useful legal powers, there are significant unanswered questions regarding its relationship with the planning system, when decisions are in breach of environmental law, and how it will engage with climate change – the greatest threat to the countryside.
“We are also seriously concerned that the OEP will lack the true independence required to hold the government to account.
“We are pleased that the 25 Year Environment Plan will be placed on a statutory footing, with requirements to report to Parliament on the government’s progress to improve the environment.
“But even here there is much more work required on the future environmental priorities – for example, examining how targets are set for improvements in air and water quality, soil health and waste and resource use.”
This, of course, should not be the end of the matter and CPRE says it “looks forward to having many opportunities in the coming year to engage with Defra officials and through Parliamentary processes to ensure the Bill is improved and is able to deliver the admirable ambitions of the government.”

Friday, January 11, 2019

Manston DCO examination starts in Margate

Manston… are we finally on the way to some kind of resolution over its future?

The next phase in deciding the fate of the Manston airport site began this week.
The Planning Inspectorate’s examination into RiverOak Strategic Partners’ application for a Development Consent Order was marked by the preliminary meeting held at Margate Winter Gardens on Wednesday (January 9).
The meeting, which was open to the public, comprised discussion of procedural matters only – this was not an event for debate on the merits or otherwise of the application.
Three representatives of CPRE Kent (director Hilary Newport, Thanet chairman David Morrish and environment committee member Chris Lowe) were present as the four-strong Examining Authority clarified issues and some of those who had made Relevant Representations (known as Interested Parties) made themselves known.
The examination, which will take six months, will determine whether the RSP plan to reopen the site as an aviation freight hub should be regarded as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project.
If it does, the Secretary of State for Transport (currently Chris Grayling) can grant seizure of the site.
During the period of the examination, Interested Parties will be asked to give further written details of their views, while there will also be public hearings.
When the examination is concluded, the Planning Inspectorate has three months to prepare a report and recommendation for the Secretary of State, who then himself has three months to decide on the application.
Finally, there is a six-month period when that decision can be challenged in the High Court.
At Wednesday’s preliminary meeting, chaired by lead examiner Kelvin MacDonald, CPRE Kent asked that an Issue Specific Hearing be scheduled for climate-change considerations.
Among the 2,052 Relevant Representations posted on the examination website (“an almost unprecedented number for a national infrastructure application,” according to Mr MacDonald), site owner Stone Hill Park Ltd, which has plans for some 4,000 homes, business units and sporting facilities at Manston, has prepared a 668-page document laying out its principal objections to the application – primarily that the planned operation was not nationally significant and there were doubts about viability and national need.
CPRE Kent’s next involvement with the examination will be the presentation of an expanded written representation by Friday, February 15 (revised from February 8).

  • To listen to Wednesday’s preliminary meeting, click here
  • For more on Manston, see here, here,here and here
  • For CPRE Kent’s response to RSP’s Manston Consultation last year, see here

Friday, January 11, 2019

Cleve Hill solar farm plan: if you want to have a say, now is the time to register

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

The Planning Inspectorate last week agreed to consider proposals for the UK’s largest solar farm, on the North Kent Marshes near Faversham – and you can comment on the scheme.
Cleve Hill Solar Park Ltd’s application for a Development Consent Order that would allow it to build a 1,000-acre solar power station was accepted by the Planning Inspectorate, meaning there will now be a consultation period leading into an inquiry.
If you want to have your say on the planned Cleve Hill Solar Park, you need to register as an Interested Party – and today (Wednesday, December 19) the window for registration opened.
Your views must initially be registered in no more than 500 words by Monday, January 28.
Registration does not commit you to anything. However, if you later wish to become involved and make representation to the inquiry inspector, you must have registered during this period.
To go to the registration form, click here
This will also take you to a tab letting you view the application documents. You might, however, find them easier to navigate via Cleve Hill Solar Park Ltd’s website here (due to the size of the files, they are uploaded on a Google Drive space).
CPRE Kent will of course be registering as an Interested Party. Our final draft is yet to be completed, but we expect it to include the following concerns:

  • Damage to landscape, including tranquillity and dark skies
  • Inadequate assessment of flood risk and potential conflict with the Environment Agency’s ‘managed retreat’ strategy relating to future sea-level rise
  • Impacts on soil microclimate and hydrology
  • Ecological impacts and loss of biodiversity
  • Damage to heritage assets caused by traffic during construction and beyond the construction period
  • Loss of agricultural land
  • Threats to animal welfare

We expect to work alongside a range of groups, so if you wish to make comments via CPRE Kent please email either:

You can, of course, register as an individual to be involved in the examination of the DCO.
For more on the saga of Cleve Hill, see here and here

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Fears for coastal environment as wind farm developer looks to run cables through Pegwell Bay

There are concerns for the natural environment of Pegwell Bay if the Vattenfall cable route is approved

Plans to run electricity cables from a wind farm across one of the county’s premier nature reserves are being challenged for the environmental damage they would cause.
Vattenfall Wind Power Ltd has applied to the UK Planning Inspectorate for consent to build an extension to the Thanet Offshore Windfarm, a development that would require cables to take electricity from the offshore turbines to the National Grid.
The onshore part of the proposed cable route would cross Pegwell Bay, part of the Sandwich and Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve.
However, this is an internationally important site for wildlife. Aside from being a National Nature Reserve, it is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Ramsar site and Special Protection Area (SPA).
Richard Kinzler is chairman of the Pegwell and District Association, an associate member of CPRE Kent, and is deeply critical of the Vattenfall scheme.
“Renewables companies and the government pledge to ‘go green’, but many of their projects are chipping away at our rare habitats across the UK.
“Vattenfall is such a company with its proposed cable route, which will cross Sandwich and Pegwell Bay, cutting through this site of national and international importance for wildlife, with every designation from SSSI to Ramsar.
“All too often the promises are purest greenwash, in this case used to conceal the destruction of coastal saltmarsh and ancient duneland pasture.
“Also consider the populations of many bird and bat species that are experiencing long-term declines, due in part to habitat loss, while it is estimated that many thousands of birds and bats die when they collide with these turbine blades.
“These projects slowly change the landscape by eroding habitat. We believe that alternative routes are the way forward.”
David Morrish, chairman of Thanet CPRE, shares the concerns.
“Despite Vattenfall’s alleged intention to avoid and minimise impacts on environment and ecosystems from its, operations, it is considered by Thanet CPRE that the impact of the proposals on the precious environment of Pegwell Bay area cannot be avoided or mitigated by the proposed routeing.
“Vattenfall should examine and carefully consider and assess alternative potential routes, along with potential compensation and restoration measures. Ideally, the route would avoid Pegwell Bay completely.”
Kent Wildlife Trust manages much of the area and has highlighted that construction and maintenance of the cable route could lead to the permanent loss, degradation and fragmentation of saltmarsh.
This irreplaceable habitat is an ever-decreasing resource in the South East. The saltmarsh at Pegwell is important for many species, including internationally protected breeding and wintering birds.
The trust believes the proposed cable route, which crosses the nature reserve, risks significant adverse impacts on both habitats and species of international importance.
Further, it believes that alternative routes avoiding the designated areas have not been adequately assessed.
Kent Wildlife Trust is not opposed to wind power and is keen to clarify that it is in favour of initiatives to reduce human reliance on fossil-fuel energy generation.
However, it says this must not be at the expense of other aspects of the natural environment.
A spokesman said: “As with many development issues, it is important to consider the location, in this case where and how cables are laid.
“There are potentially significant issues with this particular proposal in this particular location.”
The proposal has been classed as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project so will be determined in a different way from a ‘standard’ planning application.
The trust has consulted with the developer since early last year, working with other stakeholders including the National Trust and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in assessing and responding to preliminary proposals for the development.
There has been some collective success in ensuring the marine environment is protected, but Kent Wildlife Trust continues to oppose the application while keeping open lines of communication with the developer.
Vattenfall has stated publicly “[We] commit to the protection of nature and biodiversity” and “strive to avoid and minimise impacts on environment and ecosystems from [their] operations. Where impacts cannot be fully avoided or mitigated, [Vattenfall] consider potential compensation and restoration measures”.
A decision by the Planning Inspectorate on the application is expected in mid-2019.

  • For more on this application, visit the Planning Inspectorate website here

Monday, December 10, 2018

 

 

 

 

The threat of a colossal solar farm at Cleve Hill: learn more this weekend

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

The threat of a vast solar power station on the North Kent Marshes near Faversham will come into focus at an event on Sunday (December 9).
Richard Knox-Johnston, CPRE Kent vice-president, will join local MP Helen Whately and Andrew Bowles, leader of Swale Borough Council, in giving speeches during the information day, which runs from 10am-2pm.
The event, at Faversham Guildhall, is being hosted by Graveney Rural Environment Action Team (GREAT) and will give you the chance to find out more about the plans by Cleve Hill Solar Park Ltd, which would cover an eyewatering 1,000 acres – potentially the largest development of its kind in the country.
The speeches start from 11am, while the main topics of the day will be:

  • How is this different from a typical solar park?
  • What will be the impact on the environment and wildlife?
  • What do our local politicians think?
  • When will a decision be made?
  • How can you get involved and have your say?
  • The information day is being held at The Guildhall, Market Place, Faversham ME13 7AG, from 10am-2pm on Sunday, December 9.
  •  For more on this story, see here and here 
  •  For more on GREAT, see here 

Sevenoaks: the sites that could be taking a housing hit

Are the diggers heading your way?

Planners at Sevenoaks District Council have revealed the Green Belt sites they have identified for major housing development – greenfield sites with no development at present.
They are satisfied there are “exceptional circumstances” to justify changing the Green Belt boundary for these cases, their verdict coming after this summer’s consultation on the district’s draft Local Plan.
If the proposals are approved by cabinet on Thursday (December 6) they will be included in the final consultation on the Plan (the Regulation 19 stage) before it goes to public inquiry in the spring.
The government’s Objectively Assessed Need formula has arrived at a figure of 13,960 properties to be built in Sevenoaks district from 2015-2035. Sites on previously developed land (PDL) are expected to take some 6,000 properties.
At the Draft Plan consultation stage (Regulation 18), 12 ‘exceptional circumstances’ Green Belt sites were proposed for potential development. Of those, the following are being taken forward to consultation:

  • Four Elms Road, Edenbridge (350 units)
  • Sevenoaks Quarry (600 units)
  • East of London Road, Dunton Green (240 units)

In addition, Pedham Place, land in the AONB near Swanley, is identified as a “broad location for development” for 2,500 houses.
At the Planning Advisory Committee meeting on Thursday, November 22, councillors voiced strong objection to the site, but a motion to exclude it was lost by a 5-6 margin.
Further consideration will be given to the release of this site from the Green Belt when the Plan is reviewed in the mid-2020s.
The local authority received 8,500 comments on the draft Plan from some 6,000 representors, including CPRE’s Sevenoaks committee, the majority objecting to the allocation of these ‘exceptional circumstances’ greenfield sites in the Green Belt.
Nigel Britten, the chairman, said: “Justification for making changes to the Green Belt boundary now is justification for making more changes in the future.
“But the Green Belt and the two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are what define the special quality of the Sevenoaks countryside and we will do our utmost to protect it.”
The council received additional site submissions for greenfield Green Belt sites during the draft Plan consultation. The following are considered potentially suitable for inclusion in the Local Plan and will be consulted on alongside the Regulation 19 consultation:

  • South of Redhill Road, New Ash Green
  • Between Hartfield Road and Hever Road, Edenbridge
  • West of Childsbridge Lane and south of the recreation ground, Kemsing
  • North and south of Kemsing station

The Regulation 19 version of the Plan will include the associated Supplementary Planning Documents – Affordable Housing SPD, Development in the Green Belt SPD and Design Review Panel SPD.
The council will ultimately publish the Regulation 19 version on the basis that it considers it to be sound, legally compliant and prepared in accordance with the ‘duty to cooperate’ with neighbouring planning authorities.
Prior to the submission of the Plan for examination, the council will prepare an Issues Paper to demonstrate that an appropriate approach has been taken with regard to density.
It must also show the supply of housing sites is deliverable (for the first five years of the Plan) and developable (years 6-10). Further, it must provide evidence that all non-Green Belt sites have been fully explored before going through a peer review process with the Planning Inspectorate.
It is anticipated public consultation on the pre-submission version of the Plan will take place from Tuesday, December 18, to Sunday, February 3, followed by submission and examination in the spring or summer of next year, with adoption by the end of 2019.

  • For more on this story, see here
  • To read the papers for the cabinet, see here
  • To track the changes being made to the Local Plan, visit Appendix 5 of the Cabinet papers here

Monday, December 3, 2018

Missed the AGM? There’s always next year…

Director Hilary Newport, left, presents outgoing chairman Christine Drury with flowers

… and new chairman John Wotton

President Graham Clarke was as entertaining as ever

Seventy-four members enjoyed (we hope!) this year’s CPRE Kent AGM.
Held at Lenham Community Centre on Friday (November 9), perhaps the most significant feature of the day was the end of Christine Drury’s five-year term as chair.
Having got matters under way, the time soon came for her to hand over the reins to new chairman John Wotton, who is already chair of the Kent Historic Buildings Committee.
The tributes to Christine were warm and generous, and she was presented with gifts and flowers by director Hilary Newport.
CPRE Kent president Graham Clarke, meanwhile, was in fine fettle as he rattled out two humorous poems – Let it Be, an impassioned plea not to ruin the unique treasure of Dungeness, and Horatio, a whimsical look at one of our finest seamen.
It’s a bit of a cliché to say it has been a busy year for CPRE Kent – but it has been, and Hilary gave a report on what has in truth been a taxing 12 months.
Guest speaker was Damian Green, MP for Ashford, who, among other things, spoke of his dislike for land agent Gladman (the only company with which he had “flatly refused” to speak) and the unfortunate role of some ratepayers in contributing to CPRE Kent funds through Dover District Council’s Farthingloe planning decision and the subsequent legal action.
John Wotton gave a powerful debut speech as chairman, while there was of course the standard fare of an AGM as Michael Moore ran through the accounts, honorary officers and board members were elected and ploughman’s lunches were feasted upon.

  • We will publish the AGM minutes on this website in due course.

Monday, November 12, 2018