Almost 1,100 homes will be built on the outskirts of Canterbury after councillors made a U-turn from their previous decision. The city council’s planning committee had in November refused a scheme for 650 new homes in Sturry, a decision that sparked the withdrawal of a linked application, for 456 properties at neighbouring Broad Oak. Last night (Tuesday, February 9), however, both schemes, which comprise one strategic site, came back to the committee, which at its ‘virtual’ meeting approved them by seven votes to five. The Sturry plan had been marginally revised, the number of properties being cut by 20 homes to 630. A new primary school and – perhaps critically – funding towards a Sturry relief road were part of the wider package. Planning officers said earlier reasons for refusal, including concerns over traffic, issues with environmental impact, absence of affordable housing, excessive density and poor design, had all been tackled. CPRE Kent had objected to both proposals, along with many others, including Sturry and Broad Oak Action Group, the Woodland Trust and Sturry Parish Council. The Sturry development won outline permission only, while the Broad Oak element’s 456 properties were given full permission. More than 800 square metres of commercial space at Broad Oak won outline permission. CPRE Kent has been working on the proposals with Sturry and Broad Oak Action Group, which gave the following reaction to the Canterbury City Council verdict: “We are deeply disappointed by the decision of the planning committee to push through this deeply flawed application for hundreds of houses on the edge of the city. “The committee’s justified concerns over traffic, issues with environmental impact, absence of affordable housing, excessive density and poor design all cited in November’s decision to refuse the application are still just as relevant. “Issues with planning law have not been addressed, while the developer’s slight reduction in the number of properties does not change the fact that the Environ Design (Sturry) scheme remains wholly unacceptable. “We believe it has been accepted because of council fears that SELEP [South East Local Enterprise Partnership] funding for a related Sturry relief road would be lost if it were not approved by SELEP’s mid-February deadline. “The new road is not even about relieving traffic at the Sturry level crossing – rather it is about opening up potential housing sites for miles to the east of the city. The resultant urban sprawl does not bear thinking about. “Additionally, the new road, which will run through the middle of the estate, will do little more than shift traffic congestion a mile or two down the A28 towards Canterbury. “We are concerned for the residents living in the new estate who will have to endure an extremely busy road effectively on their doorsteps – traffic will have to include the transfer of sewage from the tank built to deal with its waste. “Such issues alone could make the new properties close to unsaleable anyway, while potential new residents might also notice the lack of any playing fields and the fact that the suggested tiny community hall sits on a roundabout, making it effectively inaccessible. “There are serious concerns for neighbouring Den Grove Wood, where the council has not heeded or acted on Natural England’s standing advice for ancient woodland. “We have never denied the need for new housing in our city, but we should be pressing for the highest of standards – not the lowest, which is what this scheme represents. “The level of mitigation work necessary to address the damage caused by it will blight the area for years. Its acceptance is a depressingly stark example of how strategic planning should not be done.”
Further to yesterday’s story on discussions over the Swale Local Plan, borough councillors voted 30-17 last night (Wednesday, February 3) that pre-submission draft consultation should begin on Monday (February 8) for a statutory six-week period. An amendment to the Plan was agreed to permit inclusion of the Quinn Estates scheme for 675 new houses at Wises Lane, Borden, should it be granted at appeal.
Tonight (Wednesday, February 3), Swale councillors will be voting on where 22,814 houses are going to built in the borough. They also need to find 56 hectares of employment space, which includes 15 hectares of office space, and the infrastructure to support this. As part of the package, a new relief road for the section of the A2 through Teynham is in the frame. With such a monumental decision to be made, you would rightly expect this to be the cumulation of an iterative process informed by robust community engagement. Well, the only meaningful community engagement occurred back in the spring of 2018 and simply involved a high-level discussion on the issues and options facing Swale. In any event, it appears these comments were ignored, with the chairman of the Local Plan Panel informing the panel on January 19, 2021: “I think it is fair to say that when the new administration took over in 2019 the Local Plan team had to work to a radically different strategy. Meaning that much of the work they had done for the previous year didn’t really contribute much to this, to the direction that the new administration went.” More significantly, a promised further consultation to include the council’s preferred sites to inform the final version of the Plan to be submitted has conveniently been sidestepped. Instead, Swale residents are to be presented with this final version as a fait accompli. It is being left to the Planning Inspectorate to make any changes. As it is, Swale councillors have been given less than a week to familiarise themselves with this Plan, along with 12 separate reports totalling some 1,193 pages. No mean feat, though arguably impossible when you realise much of the evidence to back up the “radically different strategy” (as the Local Plan Panel’s chairman called it) is incomplete or still a work in progress. This incomplete work includes concept diagrams yet to be provided and, crucially, vital transport modelling that is not anticipated until “Spring 2021”. This urgency was blamed on a proposed increase in the numbers of houses the government might require Swale to build. This increase is now not happening. There are, however, likely to be changes to the National Planning Policy Framework, currently out to consultation, that this Plan is likely to need to take account of. Swale councillors are reminded that the Local Plan must be prepared in accordance with the council’s latest Local Development Scheme and that consultation must be carried out in accordance with the council’s Statement of Community Involvement. It is CPRE Kent’s view that the 2018 versions of these documents created a legitimate expectation that there would be a Regulation 18 Draft Preferred Option Public consultation stage on which to comment – not least as this is what the council said would happen. To be voting to approve a Plan without this additional consultation is at best foolhardy. To be voting on a Plan without this additional consultation and that is not yet finished is positively irrational.
Plans to build a huge theme park on the Thames estuary have passed their first hurdle. The Planning Inspectorate has accepted the application for a Development Consent Order to build the London Resort theme park between Greenhithe and Northfleet. This means the project, submitted by London Resort Company Holdings on New Year’s Eve and received by the Planning Inspectorate on Monday, January 4, can proceed to examination. The decision to accept the 25,000-page application was announced in a Planning Inspectorate letter dated Thursday, January 28. The project, targeted for the wildlife-rich Swanscombe peninsula, has been roundly condemned by conservation groups including the RSPB, Kent Wildlife Trust and Buglife. There is also widespread concern about the scheme being designated a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), the first ‘business or commercial project’ to be accepted as such by the government under the Planning Act 2008. It is feared such status means it will not be subject to the same scrutiny that would be applied through the regular planning process. The examination, in which CPRE Kent intends to take part, is expected to begin two to four months from now and must be completed within six months of the start-point. Although it is too early to comment extensively, it is apparent that plenty of work needs to be done in relation to transport. The Lower Thames Crossing proposed for nearby does not appear to have been factored into the plans, while the developer will need to show how it can take people to and from the site on the existing transport network. Once the six-month examination has been completed, the final decision on the project will be made by Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The government should rethink substantial elements of its controversial planning proposals and work with stakeholders to deliver a planning system that puts people, climate and nature at its heart. The call comes from CPRE, the countryside charity, as part of a broad coalition of 18 environmental, housing, planning, transport, heritage and public-health organisations that have worked together to forge their own alternative ‘Vision for Planning’ in response to the government’s Planning White Paper, published in August last year. The government is expected to make a further announcement in March about whether and how it will take forward the proposals in the White Paper. The joint Vision for Planning was launched yesterday (Friday, January 15) at a virtual debate, with speakers including Chris Pincher, Minister of State for Housing. Commenting on the new joint ‘Vision for planning’, Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “We are calling on the government to plan back better and work with us to develop a planning system that puts people, and tackling the climate and ecological emergencies, at its heart. “We all deserve a home we can genuinely afford to live in, and to have a say in shaping the communities around us. And for over 70 years, a toolbox has been in place to make sure that can happen: the planning system. But as things stand, under the government’s current proposals, the opportunity to influence what happens and where in our communities would be halved. “Before Christmas, the government announced a welcome revision of its housing numbers ‘algorithm’. However, this was only one small part of a range of potentially damaging proposals put forward by the government last year. That’s why we’re calling on ministers to take an equally pragmatic approach to improving policies relating to community voice, affordable homes and access to green spaces. Together, we can develop a planning system fit for the 21st century.” Julie Hirigoyen, UK Green Building Council chief executive, added: “The government’s proposed planning reforms do not adequately reflect the important role of the planning system as a key strategic vehicle for decarbonising the economy, enhancing climate resilience and reversing biodiversity decline. “If we are to deliver new development that does not compromise our progress towards net zero, the planning system – as outlined in this vision paper – must ensure all new buildings are net-zero by 2030 at the latest, with new homes to be net-zero as soon as possible.” Emma Marsh, director of RSPB England, concurred: “Nature is in freefall decline and we have a climate in crisis. Our wildlife is declining at an alarming rate, with much-loved species at risk of extinction if things continue. “A good planning system is critical not just for providing us with homes with access to nature-rich greenspace and the other services that we need but also for ensuring that our amazing nature is protected and given the space that it needs to recover and thrive again.” The message was echoed by Shaun Spiers, chief executive of Green Alliance: “For a resilient society, we need environmental and climate priorities to be right at the heart of our planning system, so we hope the government takes careful note of this coalition’s recommendations. “To cut pollution and climate impacts, reforms to the planning system must ensure that every home has easy access, via public transport, walking and cycling, to amenities, green spaces and local workplaces. Good spatial planning will be integral to the UK meeting its net-zero carbon goal by 2050.”
To learn more about the joint Vision for Planning, click here
For more on the government’s proposed changes to the planning system and our response to them, see here, here, here and here
A parish council has vowed to challenge plans for a border control site on the edge of Dover. People in Guston were reportedly less than thrilled to receive a letter on New Year’s Eve from transport minister Rachel Maclean informing them that the substantial greenfield site close to the White Cliffs Business Park had been bought for use as an “inland border facility”. HGVs entering the UK via Dover will have their details checked there – a process made necessary by Brexit. Although a DfT spokeswoman said further planning consent was needed and nearby residents would be consulted, diggers have already moved on to the site. “We understand concerns about resulting disruption, which is why we are working with the relevant authorities and our principal designer to ensure the surrounding roads are not negatively impacted by increased HGV movements,” she said. However, Guston Parish Council has written to residents, saying it was “actively working to prevent such a development” and taking legal advice. “There has been no response to requests for detailed proposals from the DfT and our MP Natalie Elphicke has responded to residents’ concerns with a generic letter setting out her support for the proposal,” wrote Tracey Creed, chairwoman of the council. A report in The Guardian told how Guston residents believed they had been betrayed and trapped by the “lies” of the government over Brexit and were angry at the lack of consultation on the White Cliffs site, which it is feared will effectively be a lorry park rather than a border control site. However, their MP, Mrs Elphicke, has said: “The proposals to invest in Dover at a new border control point are an exciting and important strategic opportunity for our community.” The DfT says the site is needed as the port does not have the necessary space for the required checks; it will have spaces for some 670 HGVs and it is expected to be expanded to conduct full border checks from July. There will be structures designed specifically to check on animals, animal products and high-risk foods. It perhaps should not come as a surprise to many that Kent seems to be taking a disproportionate hit from Brexit arrangements, with border control sites also being developed at Sevington, Waterbrook, Ebbsfleet and Manston, the latter at least cited as only temporary. CPRE Kent believes the burden should be spread across the country, with HGVs unable to enter the county until it is certain they can leave the UK on schedule. This could entail lorries not leaving their depots until being given the all-clear and possibly holding sites being used should circumstances, such as bad weather and industrial action at the ports, change.
The developer behind plans to build the country’s largest theme park in north Kent has applied to the government for consent to proceed. London Resort Company Holdings submitted its application for a Development Consent Order to the Planning Inspectorate on New Year’s Eve (Thursday, January 31, 2020). The scheme has been designated a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), the first ‘business or commercial project’ to be accepted as such by the government under the Planning Act 2008. The theme park is targeted for the Swanscombe peninsula, between Greenhithe and Northfleet, with opening anticipated for 2024 after a 2022 start date. It would cover more than 1,160 acres and LRCH says it would create “48,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs” by 2038. The project website states: “Sustainability is at the core of our vision. We are exploring new and innovative ways of integrating sustainable and low-carbon principles into every area of design and operation of the London Resort. Our aim is to create one of the most sustainable theme park destinations in the world.” It adds: “Our designs will integrate local public rights of way and a green network, with improved access to the river for visitors and local communities. The London Resort will showcase the natural features of the site, seamlessly integrating them into our designs. A large proportion of the peninsula landscape will remain undeveloped and will be enhanced.” However, there are widespread concerns both for people employed on the peninsula who might see their workplaces lost and for the area’s wildlife. Buglife has joined with other environmental campaigners to set up the Save Swanscombe Marshes campaign. To understand why the peninsula is so special, we will indeed turn to Buglife, which states: “The Swanscombe peninsula in north Kent is home to a remarkable mosaic of grasslands, coastal habitats, brownfield features, scrub and intricate wetlands. However, the proposed London Resort theme park threatens the future of this urban wilderness. “Known as Swanscombe Marshes, this urban wilderness is home to thousands of invertebrate species, including over 250 species of conservation concern. This outstanding assemblage is of national importance, ranking with our best invertebrate brownfield sites. “It is one of just two places in the UK for the Critically Endangered distinguished jumping spider (Attulus distinguendus), among the host of rare bees, beetles, moths and other invertebrates recorded there… the mixture of natural coastal features and human interference has created a brownfield of the highest quality for wildlife, as well as a valued community space for walking, birdwatching, angling and escaping the hustle and bustle of north Kent.” CPRE Kent intends to take part in the examination should it happen. It is too early to comment extensively, but an initial observation relates to the proposed Lower Thames Crossing, which does not appear to have been factored into plans – how would the two dovetail? The Planning Inspectorate now has until Thursday, January 28, to determine if the application is satisfactory and the project can proceed to examination. Should it get that far, the Secretary of State would then decide whether London Resort should be built.
Some 550 acres of farmland south of Canterbury are to be lost to a giant housing scheme. Canterbury City Council has approved the 4,000-unit Mountfield Park “garden city”, which developer Corinthian Land says it will begin building next year and finish within 15 years. Access will be primarily through New Dover Road, with Nackington Road and Pilgrims Way providing alternative routes. There will also be a 1,000-space park-and-ride site and a new junction on the A2, together with shops, office space, sports pitches and two primary schools. The scheme had first been backed by the city council in December 2016, but legal challenges delayed matters until Tuesday’s (December 22) 7-5 vote to approve by the council’s planning committee. Corinthian now has detailed permission for 140 homes and outline approval for another 3,860. The developer says 30 per cent of the development will comprise affordable homes.
We reported last week that Highways England had withdrawn its application for a Development Consent Order to build the Lower Thames Crossing. Now we have been updated by HE on the issues relating to the Planning Inspectorate and the likely way forward. A message to stakeholders said: “… we’ve now had further dialogue with the Planning Inspectorate about their expectations around our application. “The fundamentals of the Lower Thames Crossing, including its objectives and location, will remain the same but we will further develop some technical information related to some elements of the scheme before we resubmit our application next year. “The feedback from the Planning Inspectorate includes requests for: “Further information on the impact of the project on traffic during the construction phase. We recognise that stakeholders are keen to find out more information about our construction traffic appraisals and will be engaging with them on these issues. “Further assessments about how an existing jetty on the River Thames near the northern tunnel entrance construction site could potentially be used during the construction phase. The operation of the jetty could, if used, impact river traffic. We will be developing Navigational Impact Assessment and engaging with stakeholders on this topic. “More details on our approach for managing materials and waste, including how the different contractors will coordinate the reusing, recycling or disposal of waste. “An enhanced Habitats Regulations Assessment to provide a more detailed explanation of our approach to assessment of potential effects on European designated sites where we have indicated there would be no likely significant effects as a result of the construction and operation of the new road alone, or in combination with other projects. “More detail on our approach to the long-term management of the project’s proposed environmental mitigation. “The Planning Inspectorate has also shared some feedback from Local Authorities on our approach to consultation. We will consider this feedback carefully as we refine key areas of our submission ahead of resubmitting our application for a Development Consent Order. “For a project of the size and complexity of the Lower Thames Crossing, it is reasonable for the Planning Inspectorate to ask for further information, and we are doing everything we can to resubmit our application at the earliest opportunity.”
Plans to build the Lower Thames Crossing have been delayed with Highways England’s withdrawal of its application for a Development Consent Order. “We’ve withdrawn the Development Consent Order application for the Lower Thames Crossing based on early feedback we’ve had from the Planning Inspectorate,” said a spokesman for HE. “We will take time to collate the information required for the specific points raised and will be resubmitting the application early in the new year.” Alex Hills, Gravesham chairman of CPRE Kent, said: “We would be happier if the application was completely withdrawn as it is an ill-thought-out scheme that will be massively damaging for Kent without solving the problems at the Dartford Crossing.” For the scheme to progress, HE needs to be granted a DCO by the Planning Inspectorate, government’s planning agency.
Sevenoaks District Council has failed in its legal challenge against a planning inspector’s refusal to approve its Local Plan. The local authority had brought a judicial review of inspector Karen Baker’s conclusion that it had failed to comply with the required duty to cooperate when preparing its Plan, as detailed in section 33A of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. Sevenoaks challenged the finding on four grounds:
The inspector erred in law in failing to apply a margin of appreciation when considering the test under section 33A of the 2004 Act
The inspector failed to correctly interpret and apply the duty to cooperate, and in reality conflated that duty with the requirement that a Plan be sound
The inspector failed to have regard to material considerations and in particular to consider the material evidence that was placed before her
The inspector’s reasons were inadequate
However, in the Planning Court, Mr Justice Dove rejected the council’s challenge. The key point appears to be that the council engaged fully with neighbouring local authorities when it became clear at the Reg 18 stage that housing need could not be met, rather than as part of the whole process. Nigel Britten, CPRE’s Sevenoaks chairman, expressed his disappointment with the outcome: “We are very concerned that the judgement will only achieve new threats to the countryside. “It’s likely that the council will have to repeat a whole round of consultation – including the duty to cooperate – and finish up with much the same result as before. “But in the meantime, developers will sense an opportunity and put in applications for sizeable developments in the Green Belt and AONB, claiming that the Local Plan is not up to date. “The council says it is, but pressures from the so-called housing-need algorithm will test it to the limit.” Peter Fleming, leader of Sevenoaks District Council, said: “We are clearly disappointed and somewhat bemused by the ruling from the Honourable Mr Justice Dove, especially as the duty to cooperate, the reason given by the planning inspector to reject our plan, is set to be abolished in the government’s own proposed planning reforms. “In our opinion, the removal of the duty to cooperate is an open admission that it is neither effective nor workable in the Local Plan-making process. “However, despite this, we believe we both met and exceeded the requirement. The government’s own Planning Advisory Service and a number of former senior planning inspectors also supported this position. “Court action is never something we would enter into lightly. But our Plan reflects our communities’ priorities of protecting the rural nature of the district and the Green Belt whilst providing much-needed new homes and improved local infrastructure. We will always stand up for the communities we serve. “We are reviewing the judgement in detail and considering our options.” The council’s website statement added: “The existing Local Plan, with all its current protections, will continue to be used to help decide planning applications until a new Plan is agreed.”
John Wotton, CPRE Kent chairman, has given a statement regarding the government’s proposed – and highly contentious – changes to the country’s planning system. Mr Wotton said: “The policies in the Planning for the Future White Paper published in August, combined with the measures in a separate consultation paper, Changes to the Current Planning System, are wide-ranging and, in my view, potentially disastrous for the countryside, especially in Kent and other parts of the South East, where the pressure for unsustainable development is already intense. “Increased housing targets will be set by central government, under a complex formula, with a view to building at least 300,000 homes per year and will be binding on local planning authorities, whose ability to review and refuse planning will be reduced. “A new system of zoning will designate all land as either growth, renewal or so-called ‘protected’ zones. The opportunities for the public to participate in the plan-making and place-making processes will be curtailed. “I believe that opposing these changes is a fundamental necessity for protecting the Kent countryside, which we all love.”
We hope that you are keeping well through these strange times and that you have been able to get out to enjoy the countryside near to you during the lockdown.
Our 2020 AGM will be held on Friday, November 13, at 10.30am. We are delighted that our guest speaker will be the new national chair of CPRE, Simon Murray. Simon took on this role after retiring from the National Trust, where he was chief operating officer and senior director. Although we had hoped to be able to host a socially-distanced physical meeting, it is now clear that it will be necessary to hold the meeting in virtual form, using Zoom technology. This decision is consistent with advice from CPRE National Office and the Charity Commission. We expect the meeting to last approximately one hour. While we recognise that not everyone has easy access to the internet and associated technology, we believe that this is the best way to proceed safely in the current circumstances. If you do not have access to the internet at home, perhaps you have a friend who would allow you to attend the meeting using their internet access. If you are unable to attend the AGM, you may vote by proxy. To participate in the AGM, you will need to pre-register. To do this, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office on 01233 714540 stating that you wish to attend the AGM. It will be helpful if you can quote your CPRE membership number when you do. (If you are planning to attend using a friend’s internet access, it would be best to pre-register using the friend’s email.) Registration will close 48 hours before the start of the meeting, ie on Wednesday, November 11.Those who have pre-registered will be sent a Zoom invitation and instructions to help them attend the meeting. We hope to ‘see’ you virtually at the 2020 CPRE Kent AGM!
Plans for a bungalow estate on the edge of Pegwell village have been refused. The application for the six properties failed to make the Thanet District Council’s planning committee following a critical officer’s report. CPRE Thanet had made a strong objection to the scheme, as did Pegwell and District Association – a member of CPRE Kent. The officer’s report included the following observations as reasons for refusal: “The site is located within the countryside, outside of the village confines, and within a Landscape Character Area, which is characterised by its openness and views of Pegwell Bay and the former Wantsum Channel. “The erection of six dwellings within this prominent location, which would be visible in long views and in wider views across the open countryside opposite, is considered to cause severe harm to the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside, and the valued Landscape Character Area, and harm the character and appearance of the adjacent Conservation Area, contrary to Policies SP24, SP26, HE02 and QD02 of the Draft Thanet Local Plan, and paragraph 170 of the NPPF. “Furthermore, insufficient information has been submitted to address highway and ecology concerns. “The environmental harm caused through the development is considered to significantly outweigh the extremely modest economic and social benefits provided, and is therefore not considered to be sustainable development. “The application has also failed to provide an acceptable form of mitigation to relieve the pressure on the SPA, contrary to paragraph 177 of the NPPF and the Habitats Directive. “It is therefore recommended that the application is refused.” David Morrish, Thanet CPRE chairman, said: “These commentaries, I am glad to record, very much mirror the objections that we submitted.”
Proposals by the council to build a new town at Lenham Heath have been stalled by advice from Natural England regarding water quality. The government body has said “an appropriate assessment” must be carried out before the council agrees any new development likely to have “a significant adverse impact on water quality” in the River Stour catchment. The assessment must include any necessary mitigation measures. With the source of the river system of the Stour Valley catchment being in Lenham, and part of the upper section of the Great Stour lying in Maidstone borough, the council says there will be “an immediate impact” on planning applications for new homes in and around both Lenham and part of Boughton Malherbe parishes. The advice aims to ensure new residential development does not cause further deterioration of water quality at Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve in terms of nitrate and phosphate discharges. Maidstone council says it is “investigating possible solutions” and has “identified a way forward for larger housing sites”. It is, though, “taking a precautionary approach and will require appropriate assessments for any planning applications including those not yet determined”. The Lenham Heath development had originally been set at 5,000 dwellings but since cut to 4,000. Nothing has yet been passed by any committee.
Similar concerns led to revised plans for the 4,000-home Mountfield Park development at Canterbury being pulled from the city council planning committee’s agenda in October. Planning permission for the huge scheme had already lapsed after legal challenges, meaning it will need to be decided upon again.