Here’s a final reminder about tomorrow’s (Saturday, October 2) rally at which we will be calling for the protection of the wildlife-rich Swanscombe peninsula. Sadly, however, we must report that the SSSider Soak planned for Gads Hill Farm in the afternoon has fallen victim to a grim weather forecast. Hopefully another time! It’s full steam ahead for the Swanscombe rally, though, and we would love to see you at 10am for a tour, where we can all enjoy the sights and sounds of the peninsula, which is threatened by the proposed London Resort theme park. If you can’t make it bang on 10am, we’ll be walking at a gentle pace, so you’ll be able to join us over the next couple of hours. CPRE Kent is one of an alliance of organisations, notably Buglife, Save Swanscombe Peninsula SSSI, the RSPB and Kent Wildlife Trust, fighting to stop such a hugely destructive scheme coming to pass.
Campaigners on the rally will gather at Manor Way, opposite Britannia Metals, Northfleet DA11 9BG, on Saturday, October 2, at 10am
To learn more about the Swanscombe peninsula, click here
We have objected to a vast housing scheme – effectively a new town – of more than 9,000 properties south-east of Sittingbourne. Quinn Estates has submitted two outline planning applications for what is collectively being referred to as Highsted Park. One comprises a scheme for 1,250 homes and other uses, including completion of the Sittingbourne Northern Relief Road, while the other is for 8,000 homes and other uses, including a new M2 junction south of the A2. The application conflicts with the adopted Local Plan and we believe there are no material or exceptional considerations why the Plan should not be followed. Among a range of issues, the site lies in countryside and within a designated Local Countryside Gap, while the proposed development would have a detrimental impact on the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, an Area of High Landscape Value and ancient woodlands and Local Wildlife Sites.
An 18-day public planning inquiry opens today (Tuesday, September 21) into a scheme for 165 houses near Cranbrook in the High Weald AONB. 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 scheme to add 165 more homes – which was also backed by the council. This scheme represents substantial development in the AONB on a greenfield site that has not allocated for development within a Local Plan. CPRE Kent has been vocal in its objection to the scheme from the start. CPRE Kent supported Natural England in objecting to the proposal and asking the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to call in the decision. This request was accepted and the inquiry opening today is to inform the Secretary of State’s decision. CPRE Kent is undertaking a formal role at the inquiry, working alongside Natural England and the High Weald AONB Unit in presenting evidence against the scheme and challenging the evidence being presented in favour of the proposed development. We do not undertake such formal action lightly though are deeply concerned the Turnden scheme would set a precedent that could lead to harm to protected areas throughout the country. The outcome of this inquiry is not just critical to AONBs in Kent but to protected landscapes across the country.
Examination of a developer’s bid for consent to build the country’s largest theme park has been stalled again. The scheme entails the construction of the London Resort park at Swanscombe, between Dartford and Gravesend. The Planning Inspectorate’s six-month examination of the application by London Resort Company Holdings had been anticipated to begin in September, but in July the inspectorate advised that “The ExA [examining authority] does not have a detailed understanding of the Applicant’s proposed consultations and updates” before stating that the process was not going to begin until the second half of January next year – at the earliest. Now it has been delayed again because LRCH has failed to produce all the documents required by the inspectorate; the preliminary meeting is “unlikely to be held before April 2022”. Further, the inspectorate seems unconvinced that LRCH has consulted enough parties in preparing its submissions, while it’s not clear if the developer’s evidence will even be up to date by the time the examination eventually starts.
It has been reported in The Times this morning (Saturday, September 11) that the government is planning to abandon substantial parts of its planning proposals, including the zonal planning system. If correct, this will be a huge win for the CPRE planning campaign, so fingers crossed! Commenting on the reported rethink of the planning proposals, Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “The devil will be in the detail, but it looks as though some of the most damaging proposals of what was a top-down developers’ charter have been rightly binned. However, the government must not shy away from overhauling a tired planning system to make it fit for the multiple challenges of the 21st century. “Local communities need a stronger right to be heard in local decisions; brownfield sites must automatically be developed first to help protect local green spaces and our Green Belts in the fight against climate change; and young people and key workers desperately need more funding for rural affordable homes. “Positive changes to the planning system are long overdue – in future it is vital local communities are empowered to protect their precious green spaces while delivering the affordable homes they desperately need and, at the same time, responding to the climate emergency by regenerating the countryside. “This decision by ministers is a victory for common sense and local campaigners all across the country who just wanted a proper say on the needs of their communities and how their area should be developed. “We look forward to working with the government on creating a planning system that puts the needs of local communities ahead of developers’ profits.”
The proposed London Resort theme park has largely disappeared from the radar in recent months, so it is timely to give an update on proceedings. In January this year the Planning Inspectorate declared that it was accepting the application by London Resort Company Holdings for a Development Consent Order to build the park. A six-month examination of the project, in which CPRE Kent will take part, had been expected to begin two to four months from that point. Good news for the peninsula, its wildlife and the local people for whom it is a critical area for recreation, but there would be a four-month consultation before potential SSSI confirmation. Far from it, however! LRCH chose instead to plough on with its project, although saying it would be changing its plans after the SSSI designation. It was granted an extra four months to submit revised documents in its DCO bid, meaning the examination would most likely begin in September. However… in July this year the Planning Inspectorate advised that “The ExA [examining authority] does not have a detailed understanding of the Applicant’s proposed consultations and updates. Having considered the information available to date, the ExA is minded not to decide on the date(s) of the PM [preliminary meeting] before it has seen the Applicant’s submissions. On that basis the ExA anticipates that it will be unable to decide on the date(s) of the PM before mid-December 2021 and that therefore a PM is unlikely to be held before mid-January 2022.” Or, in other words, examination of the London Resort is not going to begin until the second half of January next year – at the earliest.
“A great day for democracy,” was how the chairman of Thanet CPRE described the third refusal of plans to build 450 houses on farmland at the edge of Margate. The Gladman Developments bid to win planning permission for the development at Shottendane Road was rejected by Thanet District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday, July 21. CPRE Kent, through its Thanet committee, has contested the Gladman scheme throughout on a range of issues, but the principal concern for the planning committee has been the proposed cut in affordable housing from 30 per cent (as set in TDC Local Plan policy) to 10 per cent on the first application and then 15 per cent on the second. As part of its third attempt, Gladman offered 68 properties as affordable housing on an 80 per cent affordable rent and 20 per cent shared-ownership mix. It also claimed it would make almost £5 million in contributions to community and highways infrastructure. However, this was not enough to convince the planning committee, which was looking to agree on reasons for refusal to be cited should the case be taken to appeal by Gladman. In the end, the statement for refusal read: “The proposed development, by virtue of the proposed level of affordable housing, would not meet the identified need for affordable housing in the district, thereby not providing the required homes to create a balanced and mixed community. “This harm is considered to significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the development, therefore the proposal would not constitute sustainable development and is contrary to Strategic Priority 3 of the Thanet Local Plan and the objectives of the National Planning Policy Framework.” David Morrish, Thanet CPRE chairman, said: “This is a great day for democracy and common sense. Let’s hope it’s a lesson to other would-be speculative developers that Thanet council won’t be deterred from defending its own policy to provide affordable housing. “It took three meetings of the planning committee, but it’s been good to see councillors defending the housing policy.”
For more on this scheme, as well as the way Gladman operates, click here
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.