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, 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 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 Saturday, 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

Sevenoaks: where will the bricks and mortar be landing?

River Darent at Shoreham (pic Glen Humble, flickr)

People in and around Sevenoaks should have a clearer idea this month about where future housing development in the district could be targeted.
With the government’s Objectively Assessed Need formula arriving at a figure of 13,960 properties to be built from 2015-2035 in a district that is 93 per cent Green Belt and two-thirds AONB, the publication on Thursday, November 15, of papers for Sevenoaks District Council’s planning advisory committee will detail the sites put forward for housing.
Sites on previously developed land (PDL) are expected to take some 6,000 properties, but that of course leaves a huge gap of almost 8,000 new homes.
To cover the gap, the council is focusing initially on PDL within the Green Belt and, finally, greenfield sites within the Green Belt for which there may be “exceptional circumstances”.
Possible site allocations range from fewer than 50 to the staggering 2,500 at Pedham Place, near Swanley.
There is concern over how the local authority might interpret PDL, which might not qualify as such according to the National Planning Policy Framework definition.
Nigel Britten, chairman of Sevenoaks CPRE, said: “We have objected in detail to the major Green Belt sites while not supporting any of them.
“The council knows it won’t get away with an unrealistic housing figure so must produce something that will satisfy the Local Plan inspector while not causing a mayhem of protest.”

  • A protest march against one potential development in the Green Belt is being held in Sevenoaks at the weekend.
    The event has been organised by the Halstead Green Belt Future group to highlight plans for almost 2,000 homes in the village, 800 of which would be on Green Belt land.
    Marchers will meet at Sevenoaks railway station at 2pm on Saturday, November 10, and head to the district council offices for 2.30pm, when letters of objection to the district’s draft Local Plan will be handed over.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Cockering Farm housing approval: CPRE Kent slams ‘lamentable’ consultation

The planned development borders Larkey Valley Wood SSSI (pic explorekent.org)

CPRE Kent is concerned by the decision of Canterbury City Council’s planning committee to grant outline consent for the proposals for 400 homes at Cockering Farm, Thanington.
A spokesman said: “We fully respect the council’s right to approve the application, but we are deeply concerned by the proposals, which do not respect the comments of local people
“The scrutiny has been inadequate and the consultation lamentable for such an important site. The lack of detail is regrettable, making the whole situation doubly disappointing.
“People are only just beginning to understand the implications of this planned development and their concerns must be fully acknowledged if it goes ahead.
“CPRE, with other concerned parties in Canterbury, will scrutinise the details further, as and when the developer finally provides them.
“We will challenge the developer to shape the scheme into one that provides good-quality housing, respecting both the context and the need in the local area and the vitally important heritage of Canterbury.”
The proposed 42-hectare development by Quinn Estates Ltd lies immediately to the north of Larkey Valley Wood, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and in a designated Area of High Landscape Value.
The decision to grant outline permission for the 400 homes, up to 3,716 square metres of business space, a community/leisure facility of up to 200 square metres and 18 hectares of open space, was made on Tuesday, September 18.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Annual General Meeting: Friday, November 9

Our president Graham Clarke with one of his wonderful poems at last year’s AGM (pic Paul Buckley)

This year’s AGM will be held on Friday, November 9, at our usual venue of Lenham Village Hall.
After positive feedback from last year, we will hold it once again in the morning, starting at 10.30am and ending after lunch, which will be served at 12.30pm.
As well as our usual presidential address we will be hearing from our keynote speaker, Rt Hon Damian Green MP.
This is a chance for you to meet the team in person and find out more about the wonderful work that CPRE Kent is doing.
We hope you will join us.
Please let us know if you would like to appoint a proxy to vote if you are unable to attend, or if you would like to join us for lunch after the meeting (the charge for lunch is £12 per person, cheques payable to CPRE Kent, please, to be received no later than Wednesday, October 31, or via BACS payment at the details in the invitation form posted below).

Invitation AGM 2018

Trustees report and accounts 2017-18

AGM draft minutes 2017

 Monday, October 8, 2018

Manston… airport DCO will be considered

Will planes be landing at Manston again? (pic Hamza Butt)

The Manston airport site might just have a future in aviation after all.
The latest phase of this long-running saga has seen the Planning Inspectorate agree to consider the case for the airport reopening through a Development Consent Order.
This will determine whether it should be regarded as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, paving the way for the Secretary of State for Transport to grant seizure of the site.
Sarah Richards, Planning Inspectorate chief executive, said. “After careful consideration we have decided on behalf of the Secretary of State that the application submitted by RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd met the required tests set out in the legislation to be accepted for examination”.
RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) proposes to establish the airport as a freight hub, but site owner Stone Hill Park Ltd has its own plans to build some 4,000 homes, business units and sporting facilities there.
RSP had to resubmit its DCO application after an earlier bid was rebuffed by the Planning Inspectorate, which wanted more details on funding.
Now the application has been accepted, there will be an inquiry.
The public and other interested parties can register with the Planning Inspectorate as an Interested Party; to do this, a written ‘relevant representation’ must be made, giving the individual’s or party’s views.
The Interested Parties will then be asked to a meeting, run and chaired by an appointed Examining Authority.
This part of the process would be expected to last some three months, after which the Planning Inspectorate has six months to carry out its examination. Interested Parties will be asked to give further written details of their views during this time, while there might be public hearings.
When all that is concluded, within the next three months the Planning Inspectorate must 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.
Thanet CPRE has chosen not to give a view on the airport as feelings on the subject are so mixed.

For more on the tale of Manston, see here and here

For CPRE Kent’s response to RSP’s Manston Consultation last year, see here

Friday, August 31, 2018

Council approves its own plans for Princes Parade but the fight might not be over

If the scheme goes ahead, it will impact on the Royal Military Canal, a scheduled historic monument (image courtesy of Save Prince’s Parade, saveprincesparade.org)

More than 700 letters of objection, an e-petition of 6,292 names, opposition from Historic England, Kent Wildlife Trust and CPRE Kent, together with a peaceful protest by some 100 people, were not enough to stop Folkestone and Hythe District Council awarding itself planning permission to develop land it owns at Princes Parade in Hythe.
The council’s planning committee approved the application for up to 150 houses and associated buildings including a leisure centre, hotel and café or restaurant on Thursday, August 16.
The 100 protesters had gathered before the planning meeting, which saw the proposal approved by the tightest of margins, with five votes in favour, four against and one abstention.
CPRE Kent had objected to the council’s plans on ecological grounds, submitting a detailed report highlighting the harm that such a development would cause to the site’s wildlife and wider natural environment.
Our historic buildings committee had also put in an objection, citing the scheme’s unacceptable impact on the setting of the nearby heritage assets, namely the Royal Military Canal and its associated fortifications.
This was supported by government body Historic England, which expressed its concerns about the effect of the development on the setting of the canal, a scheduled historic monument.
Campaigners against the development were also concerned it could be approved even before the site’s future was fully considered as part of the overall planning process for Shepway.
In response to the application’s approval by the council, campaign group Save Princes Parade has asked the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to call it in.
Graham Horner, CPRE Shepway district chairman, said: “The loss of this green open space in an urban area is regrettable.
“The design of the leisure centre is ugly and it has been put in a position that severely compromises the heritage assets in that area.
“To raise the money needed to pay for the necessary clearing-up of the site, which is contaminated, there needed to be a lot of housing in the application and so we’re left with this monstrosity.
“We’re waiting to find out if this will be called in by the Secretary of State as Folkestone and Hythe has been deciding its own planning application – or effectively marking its own homework. I would support anything that brings about a rethink.”

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Learn about the draft Sevenoaks Local Plan: you still have time to comment

More demand on the River Darent seems certain (pic Glen Humble, flickr)

Consultation on the Sevenoaks draft Local Plan (2015-35) ends on Monday, September 10.
CPRE Kent has taken calls in recent weeks from residents across the district concerned what a proposed housing target of 13,960 new homes might mean for them and for the status of the Green Belt.
In response, we have produced a briefing that covers the core issues relating to new-housing allocation within the draft Local Plan. We also make our own observations on the document.
You can see the briefing and our observations here
Sevenoaks District Council has organised a series of drop-in sessions, where you can learn more about the Local Plan. You can still make two of these:

  • Swanley Link (BR8 7AE): Wednesday, August 29, 2pm-8pm
  • Sevenoaks District Council (TN13 1HG): Wednesday, September 5, 2pm-8pm

We can not stress strongly enough that if you have concerns about what is proposed by the council in its Local Plan, or you simply want to be involved in the future of Sevenoaks district, you need to respond to the consultation by Monday, September 10.
You can do that here

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

New planning rule book: ‘a speculative developers’ charter’

CPRE has slammed the government’s revised planning rule book, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), as a “speculative developers’ charter”.
In a damning early critique, the organisation says the government has not fulfilled its promise to “build attractive and better-designed homes in areas where they are needed”.
Indeed, the document, published on Tuesday, July 24, continues to “favour the delivery of any development, rather than development that meets communities’ needs, respects the environment, and adheres to policies in the NPPF other than those which deal with housing delivery”.
CPRE’s main worry is the introduction, in November, of a ‘housing delivery test’, which sees councils further encouraged to set high housebuilding targets – the new policy has clearly been designed to enforce those targets.
The test will mean councils are penalised when housebuilders fail to deliver homes in their areas; the ‘punishment’ is the removal of local control over planning decisions.
This, of course, will leave countryside open to speculative development.
Other CPRE concerns include:

  • a failure to provide an effective brownfield-first policy
  • the continuing failure to support provision of affordable housing in rural areas
  • the discouragement of neighbourhood planning because of uncertainty over the validity of Local Plans older than two years

Matt Thomson, CPRE’s head of planning, said: “Rather than delivering ‘what communities want’, as it claims to promise, the new planning rulebook and its new ‘housing delivery test’ will result in almost all Local Plans becoming out of date within two years.
“It is a speculative developers’ charter and will lead to the death of the plan-led system.
“Without a Local Plan, councils and communities have little control over the location and type of developments that take place. Local communities’ needs are ignored and valued countryside [is] destroyed for no good reason.”
Despite its disappointment with the revised NPPF, CPRE applauds some positive moves within it. They include:

  • National Parks and AONBs reinstated as having the “highest status of protection”
  • Maintenance of Green Belt protections and an improved definition of “exceptional circumstances” for releasing land from Green Belts
  • Exclusion of National Parks, AONBs and Green Belts from the Entry Level Exceptions Sites policy
  • “Social housing” reinstated in the definition of affordable housing

Hilary Newport, director of CPRE Kent, said: “Unfortunately, the revised NPPF carries on a situation where too much of the power within our planning system lies with developers.
“The housing delivery test, for example, does nothing to restore the balance that’s needed so local planning authorities can direct the development that’s needed to the places it’s needed.”

  • For more on CPRE’s response to the revised NPPF, see here

    Friday, August 3, 2018

Goodwin Sands dredging: widespread concern over approval of DHB plan

The chairman of CPRE Kent’s Dover committee has expressed his disappointment over the approval of plans to dredge some three million tonnes of aggregate from the Goodwin Sands.
Derek Wanstall said: “We’re fully behind everyone who objected to this scheme. The truth is no one knows the effect any altered drift caused by the dredging will have on our coastline and, of course, on the Sands themselves.”
The dredging application was made in 2016 by Dover Harbour Board, which intends to use the sand for building work at its Western Docks.
The proposal sparked a storm of protest, including a 12,000-name petition handed to 10 Downing Street, while there were three periods of public consultation.
Nevertheless, on Thursday last week (Thursday, July 26), the Marine Management Organisation granted the harbour board its licence to dredge a stretch of the Goodwins seabed, which is owned by the Crown Estate.
The organisation’s chief executive officer, John Tuckett, said the licence was granted because “sufficient measures were proposed to protect the marine environment, prevent interference with legitimate users of the seas and mitigate impacts to any other relevant matters”.
Much of the upset was due to the Sands’ role as the resting place for airmen killed during the Battle of Britain, along with possibly thousands of seamen from shipwrecks.
David Brocklehurst, chairman of the Battle of Britain Museum in Hawkinge, was reported by the BBC as saying that some 60 aircraft had crashed during four months of 1940 at the Sands, with the loss of at least 74 airmen.
“There are thousands of airmen and seamen there, whose remains will be sucked up, and they are unlikely to ever be identified with this method [of dredging]… it’s dishonourable and disgusting,” he is reported as saying.
“It just shows a complete lack of understanding – how would they feel if it was their grandfather, or uncle?”
The Goodwins – which comprise 10 miles of sandbanks some six miles off Deal – also form a valuable wildlife habitat.
The petition Goodwin Sands SOS – Stop the Dredge!, which has more than 15,600 signatures, says:
“The Goodwins are home to a colony of 500 grey and harbour seals. They are also the spawning and nursery grounds of a variety of fish and shellfish, with many shipwrecks providing a semi-natural habitat.
“The colony of seals use areas adjacent to the proposed dredging zone as their ‘haul out’ sites, ie where they rest on land at low tide.
“The noise and vibration from the huge dredgers will disturb them in their natural habitat; there is also the possibility of them being injured by collision with the dredgers and propellers as they are naturally inquisitive creatures.”
The petition also highlights potential problems for the Kent coastline: “Coastal flooding along the east Kent coast is a continual problem and one which would be exacerbated by dredging the Goodwin Sands due to lowering the level and changing the topography (shape) of the seabed.
“The sandbanks absorb the energy from the huge rolling waves coming in from the North Sea which would otherwise be crashing straight onto the Kent coast with destructive results.”
Stephen Eades, co-ordinator of national marine conservation organisation Marinet, said of the decision: “It will likely cause severe damage to the marine life and the aircraft remains. This is a decision which respects neither of these two things.
“The DHB could easily go elsewhere for the sand, but they have allowed commercial interests to rule.”
The MMO decision is all the more disturbing because the dredging area falls within a site proposed by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) as a Marine Conservation Zone.
The dredging is due to take place from September 2019 to September 2020.
Campaigners have vowed to appeal against the MMO decision; they have already taken legal advice and stated their intention to launch a CrowdFunding campaign.
For more on this and to sign the petition, which is still live, visit https://goodwinsandssos.org/

Wednesday, August 1, 2018