Environmental mitigation, impact on traffic and approach to consultation among Lower Thames Crossing DCO issues

Lower Thames Crossing… the saga rumbles on

We reported last week that Highways England had withdrawn its application for a Development Consent Order to build the Lower Thames Crossing.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.”

Friday, November 27, 2020

Lower Thames Crossing: bid for planning consent delayed

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.

Planning Inspectorate ‘feedback’ has resulted in the DCO application being withdrawn

Monday, November 23, 2020

Judicial review of inspector’s Sevenoaks Local Plan verdict fails

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.”

  • For more on this story, click here

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Proposed changes to the country’s planning system: CPRE Kent chairman’s statement

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.”

Monday, November 2, 2020

CPRE Kent AGM 2020

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.

John Wotton, CPRE Kent chairman

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 info@cprekent.org.uk 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!

Monday, October 19, 2020

Coastal bungalows scheme thrown out

The setting of Pegwell Bay has been spared the unpopular proposal for six bungalows on a greenfield site

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.”

  • To read more on this story, click here

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Lenham Heath new town faces water-quality hurdle after Natural England advice

Lenham Heath residents were not happy with plans for the new town, or ‘garden village’ as it was dubbed

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.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Canterbury council revokes its own permission for Wincheap park & ride extension

The beautiful River Stour glides past the Wincheap meadows

Canterbury City Council has announced its intention to revoke its permission to extend the Wincheap park & ride over an area of valued water meadow. This follows CPRE Kent’s legal challenge to the permission on three grounds:
• Failure to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment
• Legal errors in the Habitats Regulation Assessment
• Misleading claims that the site had been ‘allocated’ in the Local Plan and that it would not have a harmful effect on the landscape
The council’s decision follows an announcement from Highways England that it could not sign off the planned slip-road from the nearby A2 funded by the nearby Cockering Farm development, thereby rendering the proposed changes to the park & ride redundant.

  • For more on this story, see here

Monday, October 12, 2020

CPRE responds to planning consultation that could spell destruction for our countryside

How much more of this can Kent take?

We have already referred to the government’s Changes to the Current Planning System consultation (click here) and the drastic effect it could have on Kent, with almost all the county’s district authorities facing annual housebuilding hikes of up to 125 per cent.
If the consultation figures, based on what has already been described as “another rogue algorithm”, are accepted as part of planning policy, Kent will need to build an extra 2,835 homes a year on top of current targets, which are already eye-wateringly high.
Now CPRE has produced its response to the consultation and you can read it here.
At almost 9,700 words, you might not want to tackle it in one sitting, but it is an important document and one we hope will cause the government to reconsider what are potentially highly damaging proposals to our countryside and indeed our way of life.

Thursday, October 8, 2020 

CPRE Kent supports county MPs in attack on ‘inherently unreasonable’ new housing targets

CPRE Kent, the countryside charity, is backing a group of the county’s MPs who have written to government powerfully expressing their concerns over increased housing targets.
Kent fares particularly badly in the revised totals proposed in the Changes to the Current Planning System consultation, with almost all its district authorities facing annual housebuilding hikes of up to 125 per cent.
If the figures, based on what has already been described as “another rogue algorithm” and following analysis by Lichfields and Savills development consultancies, are accepted as part of planning policy, Kent will need to build an extra 2,835 homes a year on top of current targets, which are already eye-wateringly high.
In total, the county would be required to build 14,908 homes a year – up from the current figure of 12,045. And even the latter figure is critically flawed as it is based on outdated household-projection statistics from the Office for National Statistics.
The 2014 ONS figures used by the government have been superseded by two further forecasts, in 2016 and 2018, each forecasting a much-reduced figure for necessary new homes.
The MPs’ letter, addressed to Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, has been headed by Helen Grant (Maidstone and The Weald) and signed by 10 other Members.
The burden on Kent does seem particularly unacceptable given that it has already delivered so much housing in recent years.
As the letter, which pulls no punches, says: “The proposals also appear inherently unreasonable, particularly to those local authorities in Kent who have already successfully worked with the Government to build the homes we need. One has to question the propriety of constantly increasing targets with completely unrealistic timescales…”
A report from the UK Centre of Ecology & Hydrology released in July this year showed Kent had already lost more land to urbanisation than any other county between 1990 and 2015.
The report revealed a net increase in urban areas in the county of 33,606 acres, substantially ahead of anywhere else – Essex (27,923 acres), West Yorkshire (27,182) and Surrey (24,711) came the closest.
Mrs Grant’s letter to Mr Jenrick has been signed by Rehman Chisti (Gillingham and Rainham), Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells), Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford), Sir Roger Gale (North Thanet), Damian Green (Ashford), Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne and Sheppey), Gareth Johnson (Dartford), Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet) and Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling).
Dover faces the greatest increase of all – a scarcely credible 125 per cent hike on its current target. It could be told to build 1,279 homes a year, almost three times the number to have gone up over the past three years.
Other substantial increases would be imposed on Dartford (85 per cent on top of current target), Tonbridge and Malling (71 per cent), Swale (43 per cent) and Folkestone and Hythe (38 per cent). 
The current situation has echoes of a government consultation three years ago into changing the planning system in a bid to boost the amount of homes being built, notably in the South East.
The proposed change in methodology, laid out in the document Planning for The Right Homes In The Right Places: Consultation Proposals, detailed a total of 3,400 extra dwellings a year – a rise of 8 per cent – on targets across the region.
Staggeringly, two-thirds of these were earmarked for Kent, a county already having to accommodate some of the highest levels of housebuilding in the country.
It appears the inequitable focus on Kent has not disappeared.
The consultation closes at 11.45pm on Thursday, October 1.   

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Can we allow this popular cliff-top walk to be ruined by bungalow estate?

Pegwell Bay and the surrounding area attracts walkers from far and wide (pic Vicky Ellis)

The walk from Pegwell village along the cliff-top towards Pegwell Bay is enjoyed by locals, visitors and ramblers alike – but its setting will be ruined if a bungalow estate at the start of the footpath is granted permission.
A developer is looking to build the six bungalows on the edge of the village, which would of course itself suffer from the plans should they be approved by Thanet District Council.
Pegwell and District Association – a member of CPRE Kent – is objecting strongly to the application and inviting all concerned by the proposal to make representation by Thursday, September 17.
The application number is OL/TH/20/0564
The association is objecting to the application on the following grounds:

  • The planned scheme is totally incompatible with the rural nature of Pegwell village and its cliff-top setting – a designated conservation area.
  • The application seeks to widen the public footpath TR15 to create access to the proposed development. This is wholly inappropriate for this popular track that forms part of the England Coast Path and the Contra Trail, which is extremely popular with local people, walkers and visitors alike.
  • The loss of hedgerow that would be entailed in the planned widening of the footpath noted above is not acceptable. Hedgerows are a scarce feature in Thanet and home to a tremendous amount of wildlife.
  • The building of the bungalows would result in the loss of high-quality agricultural land, although note the observation below on an earlier planning application (OL/TH/20/0876).
  • The proposed development abuts the Thanet Coast Special Area of Conservation and is unacceptably close to Sandwich and Pegwell Bay NNR –Kent’s largest National Nature Reserve – and the Thanet Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
  • The planned road entrance would be an obvious safety hazard to road- users and pedestrians alike.
  • The proposed access route would necessitate the loss of hedgerow between the site and Pegwell Road – see observation on hedgerows above.

If you would like to make a representation, visit https://planning.thanet.gov.uk/online-applications and search OL/TH/20/0564

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

£34 million on a new station that will increase journey time from Thanet to London: a ‘robust business case’… apparently

This is what a (£34 million) white elephant looks like

Sometimes a planning decision leaves you struggling for words – and that by Kent County Council’s planning committee to approve a parkway station that will increase journey times from Thanet to London certainly hits the spot.
Councillors decided by eight votes to five to approve the £34 million Thanet Parkway project, choosing to put aside a Department for Transport statement from 2018 that its panel was “concerned that accommodating an additional stop at Thanet Parkway would add two minutes to the journey on the line between Ashford and Ramsgate”.
The county council argument has been that the station will in fact cut journey times to London by three minutes – yes, you read that correctly: three minutes – although it is by no means clear how even that laughably small reductionwill be achieved.
Extraordinarily, Thanet now has eight railway stations.
The committee made its decision in a virtual public meeting on Wednesday, September 2.   
It is telling that committee members representing Thanet all voted against the scheme regardless of their party affiliation – but what do they know?
Clearly the statement by Sharon Thompson, the county council’s head of planning applications, that “We are confident the business case is robust” carried more weight, despite a lack of supporting evidence.   
KentOnline reported how committee vice-chairman Dick Pascoe dismissed the idea that Thanet would be oversupplied with train stations by talking about Chinese restaurants: “A Chinese restaurant wanted to open in a Kent area where there were several Chinese restaurants and we did not say no,” he apparently said.
How £34 million for a scheme that will increase journey times represents a robust business case is something you might like to ponder over your evening Horlicks. As for the Chinese restaurants thing, perhaps it’s best not to think about it.
For more on this baffling decision, click here    

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Petition asks for green buffer zone between Mersham and proposed customs clearance site

The proposed buffer zone is the last green field between Mersham and the planned customs clearance site

Ashford residents are being asked to sign a petition calling for an area of countryside at Mersham to be protected from development.
The land, east of Highfield Lane, is the last green field between Mersham and the proposed customs clearance and lorry-holding area, and The Village Alliance is urging Ashford Borough Council to keep it as a green buffer zone.
This could be done through its Strategic Gap in Perpetuity policy, which protects ancient settlements and countryside from encroachment.
The petition is attached here for you to print and sign.
Once signed, it can be passed to neighbours and friends. If you include your email address, you will be kept informed of progress with the campaign.
Signed petition forms can be left at Mersham Village Stores, The Royal Oak or the Farriers Arms by Sunday, August 30.
If you need your form collecting, or any further information, phone 07732 382624. You can also send your signed petition (scanned if necessary), including your address, by email to thevillageallianceTVA@gmail.com

Lower Thames Crossing consultation: time (really is!) running out to make your voice heard

At a minute to midnight on Wednesday, August 12, the consultation clock stops!

Time is almost up!
You have until 11.59pm tomorrow (Wednesday, August 12) to take part in Highways England’s consultation on further design revisions to the proposed Lower Thames Crossing.
CPRE Kent has made a response running to more than 5,000 words and, while you might not wish to go to quite such lengths, it would be useful to make your voice heard.
There are many issues with the project – not least regarding air pollution and climate change – but did you also know the following?
The A2 was widened both ways at great expense to four lanes. With the proposed refinements, the A2 coastbound would reduce from four lanes to two just east of the Gravesend East junction and also London-bound from four lanes to two before the Thong Lane bridge. It’s not easy to find the detail in the consultation document, but it’s there!
These pinch points would cause serious congestion – and should be reconsidered in the light of the recent decision permitting the operation of Manston airport, which will result in large vehicles carrying air-freight containers along the A2.
Any congestion on the A2 will result in vehicles rat-running at speed through the narrow lanes of surrounding areas such as Meopham, Sole Street and Cobham. This, we suggest, would appear contrary to the LTC Project Objective to “improve safety”.
There is very much more that can be said about a scheme likely to bring little benefit to Kent, but you can learn more here

  • You can join the Highways England consultation here

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Truth about impact of the Lower Thames Crossing on local roads revealed at public meeting

Consultation on LTC design revisions is ending on Wednesday (August 12)

There was a healthy turn-out to a meeting from people keen to see copies of the latest Lower Thames Crossing design consultation.
The event, organised by the Gravesham committee of CPRE Kent and Meopham residents, gave all the chance to ask questions about the revised design proposals. It had been set up in view of Highways England’s belief that the documents being displayed only in Rochester Library was sufficient south of the river.
None of the many visitors at the meeting, held at Meopham Cricket Pavilion on Friday, July 31, realised that the junction of the tunnel access road and A2 would result in the A2 being reduced to two lanes in each direction at this point.
This pinch point is likely to cause huge congestion on the A2 and as a result greatly increase traffic on local roads such as the A227.

  • You can read more on the latest consultation here

Monday, August 10, 2020