Thanet District Council will tonight (Wednesday, July 21) reconsider the Gladman Developments bid for planning permission for 450 houses at Shottendane Road, near Margate. CPRE Kent has long argued against this development, both during the Local Plan process and the current attempts to win planning permission. Despite this, only one significant ground of dispute appears to remain between the council and Gladman, and that is the issue of affordable housing. This is because Gladman only wants to provide half the amount of affordable housing that TDC considers should be provided. Thanet’s planning committee is reminded that Gladman is not in the business of building houses – rather, it is in the business of maximising land value through the securing of planning permissions. It is worth noting that Damian Green, MP for Ashford and former First Secretary of State (de facto deputy prime minister) highlighted Gladman as the only company with which he had “flatly refused” to speak. Gladman is a land agent or land promoter, taking on the costs of securing a planning permission on the basis that it then splits the resulting profits with that landowner when it sells to an actual housebuilder. This incentivises putting maximum pressure upon a council to approve as quickly as possible and encourages negotiating out as many future costs as possible so the permissioned land can be sold at a premium. As Gladman says on its website: “It is in our interests to optimise the value of your land as we, like you, only get paid when the land is sold.” The point is, this land has not yet been sold on, meaning everything is theoretical until this point. If the council insists on the full level of affordable housing being provided, the purchaser will need to reflect this in the price it pays for the land. This is exactly what planning policy guidance on viability expects should happen. For these reasons, CPRE Kent is calling on Thanet District Council to be bold and refuse this application as contrary to the adopted Plan.
The next round of public consultation on the Lower Thames Crossing begins on Wednesday, July 14, and runs for eight weeks until Wednesday, September 8. Highways England says: “This Community Impacts Consultation will give people the opportunity to review and comment on our plans to build and operate the Lower Thames Crossing, and how we propose to reduce our impact on the local community and environment. “Topics include changes to traffic, air quality, noise and vibration, as well as the impact of the new crossing on the environment and landscape. “The consultation will also include some changes made to the project since the previous consultation in 2020. This includes a reduction in the area needed to build and operate the scheme, a smaller impact on local properties and woodland, and new public spaces on both sides of the River Thames. “We have also summarised how the feedback provided during earlier consultations has been used in the development of the project.” CPRE Kent believes a new crossing is not an acceptable option. Speaking before a previous round of consultation on the project, Alex Hills, CPRE Kent’s Gravesham district chairman, said: “Cities in this country and around the world have become aware that, due to the dreadful Covid-19 disease, more needs to be done to boost active travel (walking and cycling). “This is partly to enable social distancing and partly to reduce air pollution. The Climate Change Committee has called for proposed spending on roads to be spent on measures that offer better value for money and at the same time reduce congestion and air pollution. “Increasing investment in active travel, sustainable transport and broadband all offer better value for money. The KenEx tramline (see here) could take up to 10 per cent of traffic using the Dartford crossing for £600 million as opposed to a new crossing costing at least £6.8 billion and increasing congestion.” Highways England plans to submit a new application for a Development Consent Order this year, starting an 18-month examination process. If it wins consent, HE aims to begin construction in 2024, with the new road opening in 2029 or 2030.
The consultation materials are due to be released at one minute past midnight on July 14; they will be available here
The future of the proposed Lower Thames Crossing was highlighted this week (Tuesday and Wednesday, June 29-30) when a legal challenge against the government’s roadbuilding programme was heard in the High Court. The challenge was brought by the Transport Action Network and targeted the Department for Transport’s £27.4 billion roadbuilding scheme (labelled Road Investment Strategy 2, or RIS2), saying it breached climate and air quality laws. TAN claims the government has failing to consider fully the Paris Agreement, which commits the UK to tackling climate change by limiting global warming to less than 2°C. Indeed, the group says the transport secretary pulled plans to cut CO2 emissions for a tranche of upgrades and new schemes. RIS2 includes 50 schemes, the largest of which is the £8.2bn Lower Thames Crossing. TAN said it expected the DfT to contest its challenge, saying commitments to climate change were not “obviously material” to roadbuilding schemes. However, Chris Todd, TAN director, said: “Trying to argue climate change isn’t ‘obviously material’ to approving the largest-ever roads programme is like saying public health is not relevant to reform of smoking rules. “In an audacious attempt to protect his addiction to asphalt, [Transport Secretary Grant ] Shapps is now seeking a legal precedent that decision-makers can ignore climate targets. “This puts ministers on a collision course with the Climate Change Committee, which [has] called on the government to adopt a Net Zero Test for all policy decisions.” Laura Blake, chairman of the Thames Crossing Action Group, said: “We know that the proposed Lower Thames Crossing would create over five million tonnes of carbon emissions, along with all the other negative impacts which we would suffer if the LTC were to go ahead. “We have many serious concerns about the impacts of the proposed Lower Thames Crossing and feel it is essential that all the negative impacts of the scheme should be taken into account. “We are grateful to TAN for bringing this legal challenge on climate grounds against the government’s £27bn roadbuilding programme, which of course includes the £8.2bn Lower Thames Crossing. “We wholeheartedly support this legal challenge and appreciate all the hard work by TAN and the legal team.”
The decision to refuse a revised planning application for 450 new houses on farmland at Margate has been warmly welcomed by CPRE Kent’s Thanet committee. The scheme from Gladman Developments had first been refused by Thanet District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday, April 21, with seven members voting against it, four voting in favour and two abstaining. Loss of farmland, flooding, challenging topography and impact on wildlife were all noted as reasons for refusal, but the main concern was the proposed cut in affordable housing from 30 per cent (as set in TDC Local Plan policy) to 10 per cent. Gladman came back with the level of affordable housing increased from 10 per cent to 15 per cent – a rise described as pathetic by David Morrish, chairman of Thanet CPRE – and on Wednesday, June 23, this was also refused by the planning committee, this time by an overwhelming vote of 11-1. Thanet CPRE had objected to both Gladman applications for the Shottendane Road site. This was despite council officers saying the 15 per cent figure was acceptable as Gladman had claimed a higher level would not be financially viable. They recommended the decision be deferred to officers for approval. “Thanet CPRE is delighted that Thanet council’s planning committee is sticking to its guns and defending its Local Plan policy to ensure that 30 per cent of all housing-zone major developments is genuinely affordable,” said Mr Morrish. “It has resisted attempts by a land promoter to chew into the countryside, resisting paying minimal costs to the community and placing profit above people. “It is great that councillors have not been cowed by ‘advice’ from planning officers threatening dire problems if the council turned down this application. “A CPRE national report showed that experienced land promoters, such as Gladman, which can afford expensive lawyers and multiple appeals, often win against local authorities at appeal, leaving them confident in their ability to gain planning permission that goes against local wishes. “For example, the Gladman website states: ‘Whilst we try to achieve planning permission locally, sometimes for a variety of reasons this is not possible and the site is refused permission at planning committee. This is nothing to worry about; on average around two thirds of our sites go through the appeal process.’. “Meanwhile, councils are retreating from the appeals process due to high expenses and the perceived low chance of winning – standing up for their own policies is seen as an unmerited expense. “Let us all hope that Thanet councillors will have the courage to not retreat on this important matter and follow their own consciences rather than the diktats of council officers and threats of greedy land promoters.”
A scheme from land agent Gladman Developments for 450 new houses on farmland on the edge of Margate will be reconsidered by Thanet councillors this evening (Wednesday, June 23). The plans were narrowly refused by the planning committee on Wednesday, April 21, with seven voting against them, four in favour and two abstaining. Loss of farmland, flooding, challenging topography and impact on wildlife were all cited as reasons for refusal, but the primary concern to councillors was the proposed cut in affordable housing from 30 per cent to 10 per cent. Planning officers had argued that potential infrastructure funding made the cut in affordable housing acceptable. Now Gladman has come back with the level of affordable housing increased from 10 per cent to 15 per cent – still half the target figure set by Thanet District Council planning policy. Thanet CPRE has lodged an objection to the revised proposal, referring to several issues. Of course, it is difficult to see how the plan could now be deemed acceptable simply because of the risible increase in affordable housing. David Morrish, Thanet CPRE chairman, said: “It’s an outrage that one part of Thanet council is producing a plan for 30 per cent affordable housing while another part appears to be negotiating that figure down to 15 per cent. “Of course, if this scheme is approved, it will set the benchmark for every other developer here to push for lower levels of affordable housing – eventually, no affordable housing will be built. “These apparent negotiations appear to have been done behind closed doors, with no community involvement. This pathetic increase from 10 per cent to 15 per cent is insulting to the wider local authority and the people it represents. “A further concern is that councillors, or at least some of them, did not appear to have been given the information that the local authority is likely to benefit to the tune of £2-3 million should the development proceed. This is due to a covenant involving Margate Town Council, which formerly owned the land. “There are many issues with this scheme – for example, there is no clear strategy for disposal of foul-water, which will have to be pumped to another system, while the effect on surface drainage is certain to be detrimental. “Long-running problems with water quality where Tivoli Brook meets the sea will only be exacerbated by this development if it goes ahead. As if the beaches of Margate haven’t had enough of such problems in recent years!”
The presence of three pairs of turtle doves – one of the fastest-declining species of bird in the country – was not enough to block permission for more than 200 new homes on the site of the former Betteshanger colliery. Quinn Estates last night (Thursday, May 27) won approval from Dover District Council’s planning committee to build 210 houses, 2,500 square metres of office space and 150 sq m of shopping space. The proposal was approved on the casting vote of the committee chairman. CPRE Kent had objected to the proposal and submitted a substantial environmental statement. Altogether, there were more than 80 objections, many relating to the loss of wildlife. A spokesman for the Friends of Betteshanger, the group formed to oppose the scheme, said: “There was some well-argued opposition, but ultimately it was agreed that Section 106 agreements to finalise mitigation and compensation were an acceptable way forward. “We hope we will see the day when environmental considerations really are centre-stage and wildlife is given the protection it deserves.” Extraordinarily, the mitigation reportedly included a pledge to relocate the site’s turtles doves – a migratory bird that winters in sub-Saharan Africa. Extraordinary… and depressing that such nonsense could be taken seriously by a planning committee.
A scheme for 165 new houses near Cranbrook in the High Weald AONB has been ‘called in’ for review by a planning inspector after Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s planning committee resolved to approve the scheme. Berkeley Homes had been granted permission to build 36 homes at Turnden, in the Crane Valley between Cranbrook and Hartley back in February 2019. The developer then expanded its proposed scheme to add 165 more homes – which was also backed by the council. The development follows the council’s granting of outline permission for 180 dwellings at nearby Brick Kiln Farm. CPRE Kent supported Natural England in objecting to the proposal and asking Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to call in the decision. This has now happened. John Wotton, chair of CPRE Kent, said: “Major developments on greenfield sites in the High Weald AONB should not be happening. Allowing the Turnden scheme would set a precedent that could lead to harm to our precious protected areas throughout the country. “This scheme will destroy a piece of medieval farming landscape, obliterate historic settlement patterns and suburbanise the rural setting of Cranbrook. Spreading spoil from the development over adjoining fields will only cause further harm to the environment and the enjoyment of the countryside by local people.” CPRE will be working with the local action group, Hartley Save our Fields, to oppose the granting of permission and will support Natural England and the High Weald AONB Unit when the case comes before a planning inspector later this year. We are also opposing the allocation of the site for development in Tunbridge Wells’s new Local Plan.
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The developer behind the proposed London Resort theme park has been accused of failing to provide enough information about the impact of increased traffic on road and rail in north Kent and London. In damning submissions from leading transport organisations to the Planning Inspectorate, it is suggested that transport infrastructure could be overwhelmed by traffic from the development, on the Swanscombe peninsula. Highways England says there has been “insufficient information” to allow conclusive statements on traffic impact, citing junctions 2 and 30 of the M25, the A13/A1089 junction and the A2/M2 east of the M25 as potential problem spots. Transport for London, meanwhile, has slammed London Resort Holding Company’s lack of an “appropriate assessment methodology”, saying it could mask “significant impacts that must be mitigated”. It said: “The failure to use appropriate modelling means that impacts on the rail and Underground network have not been assessed with any degree of certainty. “The arbitrary assumptions about the scale of traffic that will use the north Kent lines risks ignoring potential impacts at their central London termini and on interchange flows at Abbey Wood (to the Elizabeth line).” It also warned that the development could cause congestion on north Kent roads and lead to problems at east London road tunnels. For its part, Network Rail was concerned about impact on stations close to the planned development as well as the effect on the Ebbsfleet Southern Link and HS1. As if all that were not enough, the C2E Partnership feared that the scheme could take up land earmarked for a potential Crossrail extension to Ebbsfleet. A list of Relevant Representations was published on Planning Inspectorate website in April after its deadline for comments had passed.
The developer behind the proposed London Resort theme park on the Swanscombe peninsula is ploughing on with the project, although it will be changing its plans after the location’s designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). London Resort Holding Company has been granted an extra four months to submit revised documents in its bid for a Development Consent Order from the Planning Inspectorate, meaning examination of the project is now likely to begin in September. It is reported by the BBC that LRCH does not intend to make any “material” changes but will be amending almost half of its 460 submission documents. A letter to the Planning Inspectorate shows that 11 documents will be replaced or have “substantive” updates, 46 will receive “some amendments” and about 160 “minor amendments”. Some 250 documents will not be changed, says the BBC. If the report is correct, LRCH’s latest proposals fall very far short of meeting an appeal by CPRE Kent and three other conservation charities, who have said in a joint letter to the Planning Inspectorate that LRHC “should have sought to withdraw their existing application and restart the pre-application process” after the SSSI designation. The letter has been signed by CPRE Kent, Buglife, Kent Wildlife Trust and the RSPB. Jamie Robins, of Buglife, said: “There is so much change here, it is hard to argue that it doesn’t warrant resubmission and fresh consultation.” He urged LRCH to consider other locations as “you cannot replace these habitats”. Natural England, which made the SSSI designation, said some 40 per cent of the site would be lost to the theme park, while there would be probable further impact from construction and operation. Transport and river navigation assessments will also receive “substantive updates” in response to concerns from Transport for London, the Department for Transport and the Port of London Authority. The Save Swanscombe Peninsula campaign says LRHC appears to be “using the extension as an opportunity to try and address big holes in the original application and not just regards their devastating impact on biodiversity”. With the six-month examination of the DCO application due to begin in September, the final decision on the project – by Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government – will be made next year.
To read the letter from CPRE Kent, Buglife, Kent Wildlife Trust and the RSPB, click here
The leader of Swale Borough Council has slammed as “diabolical” the decision by Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to back a 675-unit housing scheme at Borden, near Sittingbourne. It was announced yesterday (Thursday, April 29) that Mr Jenrick was backing an appeal inspector’s decision to give Quinn Estates outline planning permission to build up to 595 homes, a primary school, shop, rugby clubhouse, three sports pitches and a road joining Borden Lane with the A249. There was also full permission for 80 homes. To worsen matters for the local authority, partial costs were awarded against it. In a joint statement, council leader Roger Truelove and colleague Simon Clark, both of whom represent Homewood ward to be affected by the development, said: “The decision of the Secretary of State to give planning permission for the whole development between Cryalls Lane and Wises Lane is diabolical. “In upholding the appeal by Quinn Estates, Mr Jenrick has given permission for development on land outside the Swale Local Plan and for a spine road that will draw traffic through our ward, especially Homewood Avenue, and has given a signal to developers to make further incursions in land to the south of Sittingbourne. “The decision of the Secretary of State reinforces the belief that the government is determined to impose unsustainable development on the borough of Swale.” The Borden scheme had proved contentious from the beginning and sparked the headline “Robert Jenrick in new UK ‘cash for favours’ row” on the website OpenDemocracy, which reported that Quinn Estates had “made major donations to the Conservatives directly before and after Jenrick chose to take responsibility for deciding on Quinn’s bid to build 675 houses in Sittingbourne, Kent”. The story continued: “Shortly before Jenrick became involved in the decision, the developer, Quinn Estates, gave £11,000 to the Conservatives. Less than three weeks later, the firm donated a further £26,500 to the party.” It added: “In July 2019, the Swale local council signalled their intention to reject planning permission outright. Quinn appealed, and the issue was due to be decided by a local planning inspector. “But a letter sent by a senior civil servant on Robert Jenrick’s behalf on August 13 said that ‘the Secretary of State considers that he should determine it himself.’” The OpenDemocracy story, written in July last year, noted that “Quinn Estates, and the company’s owner Mark Quinn, have donated around £140,000 to the Conservatives’ central party and Tory MPs across the south-east of England in recent years, including almost £10,000 to Epping Forest MP Eleanor Laing and £5,500 to Folkestone MP Damian Collins. “Quinn companies have a number of projects in those constituencies, including a major proposed development in Epping Forest and a mix[ed] housing scheme in Folkestone that was given planning permission last year.” OpenDemocracy referred to an article elsewhere in which Mr Quinn dismissed any malpractice: “Asked about his approach to planning in 2018, Quinn said ‘Brown envelopes? Planning is given by a democratically elected committee. All their accounts are checked. We’re not allowed to do anything to jeopardise that.’”
A proposal by land agent Gladman Developments to build 450 houses on agricultural land on Margate’s Shottendane Road has been turned down… but it will be returning. The scheme was narrowly refused by Thanet District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday evening (April 21): seven voted against it, four were in favour and two abstained. There are many issues with the plan, such as loss of farmland, flooding, challenging topography and impact on wildlife, but the principal concern to councillors was the proposed reduction in affordable housing from 30 per cent to 10 per cent. It also became evident that support for it was down largely to its role in new infrastructure, being linked to other housing proposals at nearby Westgate (2,000 new properties) and Birchington (1,650) that, via Section 106 payments, will between them fund a new ‘inner circuit’ road complete with three roundabouts and two link roads. Planning officers argued that this infrastructure funding made the cut in affordable housing acceptable. Happily, enough councillors did not agree – although the committee did vote for the Gladman scheme to be brought back to it with amendments.
Home to the Kent Downs and High Weald (the latter shared with Sussex and Surrey), our county is blessed with two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). AONBs are some of the country’s most precious landscapes, which you might expect to mean they were safe from being built on. But even though these areas have the strongest protections available in planning law, they are falling foul to an increasing amount of rapid and reckless housing development, according to analysis from CPRE, the countryside charity. Threats to England’s 34 AONBs from development are increasing at an alarming rate – the Beauty still betrayed: The state of our AONBs 2021 report reveals a 129 per cent increase in the amount of greenfield land planned to be built over. The research, conducted by Glennigan Consultancy on behalf of CPRE, has found that high housing pressure is also being applied to land around AONBs, with the number of homes built in the setting (within 500 metres of the boundary) increasing by 135 per cent since 2012. It is clear this kind of sprawling development is bad for people, nature and the countryside. The research found that the developments on AONBs use up twice as much land compared with the national average for developments. Yet only 16 per cent of the homes built in AONBs are considered affordable even by the government’s own definition. Clear evidence shows that the real affordability of housing in many rural areas is much worse than the government estimates. Tragically, the kind of housing being provided will do little to tackle the affordable housing crisis while concreting over precious countryside and setting back action to tackle the climate and nature emergencies. Truman, CPRE chief executive, said: “The fact that some of our most highly-prized areas of countryside are being lost to build more executive homes says a great deal about our planning system. “Continuing with this ‘build and be damned’ approach just serves to line the pockets of greedy developers while undermining climate action, stalling nature’s recovery and gobbling up our most precious green space that’s vital for our health and well-being, all while doing next to nothing to tackle the affordable housing crisis. “Rural communities are crying out for well-designed, quality and genuinely affordable homes in the right places. We know this kind of development is possible. To start building the right nature-friendly and low-carbon homes in the right places, we must see a swift change of tack from the government to put nature and countryside communities at the heart of any future Planning Bill. Continuing to give developers more power in the planning system will only make this bad situation worse.” It is also interesting to note the north-south divide when it comes to threats to our AONBs, with particular pressure on AONB land in the South West and South East. In these areas, more than half (52 per cent) of all planning permissions for development on greenfield land in AONBs have been granted, including:
• The High Weald AONB has seen 932 housing units on greenfield land approved since 2017 • The Dorset AONB has seen 771 housing units on greenfield land approved since 2017 • The Chilterns AONB has seen 771 housing units on greenfield land approved since 2017 • The Cotswolds AONB has seen 684 housing units on greenfield land approved since 2017
CPRE is calling on the government to use the upcoming Planning Bill to strengthen planning protections for precious green space and prevent high levels of development in AONBs and, further still, only allow development if it meets the needs of local people, nature and the countryside.
You can read the report Beauty still betrayed: The state of our AONBs 2021 here
Tonight (Wednesday, April 21) Thanet District Council will decide whether planning permission should be granted for the building of 450 houses on agricultural land on Margate’s Shottendane Road. The applicant, land agent Gladman Developments, has already cut affordable housing on the site from 30 per cent to 10 per cent so is not addressing the issue of providing affordable housing for local people. The planned development is linked to proposed housing schemes at nearby Westgate and Birchington via Section 106 payments for a new ‘inner circuit’ road. Together, they would mean the loss of some 750 acres of farmland. The attractive character of central Thanet’s undulating chalk farmland will be changed forever by the proposed housing, roadbuilding and streetlighting, while open views from footpaths enjoyed by so many will go, with some of the footpaths absorbed into new housing estates. Farmland birds such as skylarks and other wildlife will lose their habitat. And another chunk of Thanet’s long farming heritage will be lost. CPRE Thanet has put in a strong objection to the proposed development, while you can read the submission from Margate Civic Society here
Proposals to develop Princes Parade in Hythe are still being pushed along despite the divisive nature of the scheme. It was in August 2018 that Folkestone and Hythe District Council awarded itself permission to develop land it owns on the site, its planning committee approving an application for up to 150 houses and associated buildings including a leisure centre, hotel and café or restaurant. Despite this, the campaign to block the scheme, spearheaded by Save Princes Parade, refused to die, although protestors were dismayed when in February 2019 the government announced it would not be calling in the council’s decision. Undeterred, campaigners forced a judicial review. There was a substantive hearing in the High Court in March last year, but some three months later they learnt this had been dismissed by the High Court. And in December, permission to appeal that review was refused, causing Folkestone and Hythe District Council to declare: “There is no other route of appeal against the decision and the Princes Parade development can now go ahead.” However, so contentious is the scheme, which borders a stretch of the Royal Military Canal, that some councillors have still not given up the fight. During the local authority’s cabinet and full council meetings on Wednesday, February 24, one asked that almost £29 million be removed from its General Fund Medium Term Capital Programme, effectively denying the funds required for the project to proceed. The councillor suggested focus should move instead to building a leisure centre elsewhere in the town, “probably at Martello Lakes”. His amendment was, however, voted down by 16 votes to 13. Work has now begun on clearing the site, by the Royal Military Canal – the upsetting scene of trees and vegetation being chopped down sparked a protest to which the police were called. There is also concern that the powerful weedkiller glyphosate is reportedly being used to kill the stumps left by the tree-chopping on the north bank of the canal. It has been pointed out that there are no signs or barriers warning the chemical is being used in an area where children and dogs could come into contact with it. It would, also, of course be far more environmentally desirable to leave the stumps to degrade naturally.
The latest attempt by Sevenoaks District Council to defend its Local Plan has fallen in the High Court. The local authority in November failed in its judicial review of a planning inspector’s refusal to approve its Local Plan. The local authority had brought the review of inspector Karen Baker’s conclusion that it had failed to comply with the required duty to cooperate when preparing its Plan. But in the Planning Court, Mr Justice Dove rejected the council’s challenge, saying Sevenoaks had engaged fully with neighbouring local authorities only when it became clear at the Reg 18 stage that housing need could not be met, rather than as part of the whole process. Sevenoaks went on to contest that verdict, but on Friday, April 9, a High Court judge dismissed the challenge. Peter Fleming, council leader, said Sevenoaks would now seek a meeting with Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in a bid to agree a strategy on developing a new Local Plan. Until that happens, it is feared the district could be vulnerable to speculative development proposals. Nigel Britten, CPRE Kent’s Sevenoaks chairman, said: “We are in a slightly difficult position as we do not have a set five-year land housing supply.”