New design guide will help solar panels shine

Get them right, and they can be an attractive part of your home and lower your electricity bills. That’s the message about solar panels from CPRE and a leading building science centre, who have teamed up to prevent common design pitfalls.

The new guide and summary leaflet on solar design, today published by CPRE and BRE National Solar Centre, show how solar panels on buildings can look good whatever the structure or surrounding landscape [1,2].

solar-panels

Among the various design principles, we advocates the use of panels that match the size and shape of existing roof tiles. We sugges installing panels symmetrically or ensuring that panels fully cover the roof. Aimed at property owners, designers and installers, the guide and leaflet also illustrate how the sun is already helping to power an incredible range of the nation’s buildings – from homes and listed churches to greenhouses and office blocks.

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Victory as judges quash planning permission at Farthingloe

We are delighted that we have today (14 September) won an important victory in our lengthy legal battle to save an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Farthingloe near Dover.

Two judges at the Court of Appeal have quashed the planning application to build 521 homes and a 90 apartment retirement village.

Lord Justice Laws and Lord Justice Simon allowed the appeal against last December’s judicial review on the basis that Dover District Council’s planning committee failed to give legally adequate reasons for granting permission, contrary to an officers’ recommendation which had made “trenchant criticisms” of the density, layout and design of the proposed development.

farthingloe-1 dover-farthingloe-from-mount-road-vic-030

Council planning officers had made huge efforts to mitigate the harm while ensuring the scheme was still financially viable. They recommended a reduction in the number of homes to 375 and changes to the density and design to protect the most sensitive part of the landscape. This was ignored by both the developer, China Gateway, and the planning committee.

CPRE Kent Chairman Christine Drury said: “This is excellent news – we have been absolutely determined to save this beautiful and historic area of countryside. The developer and planning committee knew the scale of the development – one of the largest ever proposed for an AONB – would cause severe damage but rejected all efforts to mitigate this. This case is not just important to the people of Dover but for the principles of planning law because AONBs have the highest possible level of protection.”

In his judgment, Lord Justice Laws acknowledged that it was “an unusual case” and that “the scale of the proposed development is unprecedented in an AONB”. He said: “A local planning authority which is going to authorise a development which will inflict substantial harm on an AONB must surely give substantial reasons for doing so.”

He went on to conclude: “I consider that the Committee (Dover Planning Committee) failed to give legally adequate reasons for their decision to grant planning permission.”

dover-farthingloe-vic-022 south-across-the-valley-to-site-b-from-little-farthingloe-farm-1

CPRE Kent, Natural England, the Kent Downs AONB Unit and the National Trust all opposed the decision at the time and it is astounding that the case was not called in by the Secretary of State despite the strongest advice to do so from his own advisors.

Christine Drury added: “This is exactly why CPRE is here – we will never give up on the countryside. I would like to thank our legal team, our members and everyone who supports us in our campaigning.”

view-across-valley-towards-site-b-from-field-to-north-west-2

Read the judgment here.

September 14th 2016

Safe under us?

Safe under us report coverA report, published today, shows how government housing and planning policies have led to an unprecedented scale of threat to London’s Green Belt

The London Green Belt Council and CPRE London have published a joint report “‘Safe Under Us?’ An investigation into widespread threats from housebuilding in the London Metropolitan Green Belt”

The report shows that government policies and sanctions appear to be forcing councils to release Green Belt land for development.

Drawing on local evidence provided by CPRE branches in Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, London and Surrey, the report demonstrates that the London Green Belt is likely to be under greater threat than ever. There are now plans for 203 sites within the London Green Belt including proposals for 123,528 homes.  Within the 42 local planning authorities that were surveyed covering nearly 84% of all London Green Belt land, the majority of the proposed homes (94%) are on sites allocated by councils in their Local Plan documents. The London Green Belt is also under pressure from infrastructure such as schools and roads.

 

Lullingstone Park, photo by Susan Pittman

Lullingstone Park, photo by Susan Pittman

The report finds that there is national pressure being applied to Local Planning Authorities to deliver inflated housing targets. These targets are being inflated by unrealistic economic growth forecasts, forcing councils to give up Green Belt land.

Continue reading

CPRE Kent protests about phone mast plans

CPRE Kent has objected to plans for two phone masts, both over 300m high, at Richborough because they would cause heritage, landscape and ecological harm.

Richborough, photo: Vigilant Global

Richborough, photo: Vigilant Global

Plans for two separate masts have been submitted to Dover District Council – one at the former Richborough power station and one at land to the north of Kings End Farm. Both would disrupt important views across heritage landscape. The area is near the Wantsum Channel, the setting of the historic Richborough Fort. Due to the flat, open nature of the landscape, the proposed masts would represent a substantial and unpleasant feature, ruining views to and from Richborough Castle across this beautiful and distinctive area.

CPRE Kent also believes that the applicants have not demonstrated that they have fully considered alternative sites and other technologies which would avoid harm to landscapes of historical, cultural and archaeological importance. Plus, there is no indication that the applicants have discussed the schemes to see if they could share a mast.

The sites also have notable bird, invertebrate, mammal and reptile species, including golden plover (a Special Protection Area species). The risk to birds is a significant concern of CPRE Kent and this issue should be discussed in detail with Natural England, Kent Wildlife Trust and RSPB.

Planner Jillian Barr said: “We are very concerned that masts of this great height would spoil an important and historic landscape and could harm bird and other wildlife populations. We are calling for alternative sites and technologies to be considered and for mobile phone operators to work together and share masts so there are fewer to spoil our landscapes.”

The full responses can be read here and here.

July 27th 2016


Otterpool Park – the wrong location and concern about water shortages

We have written to Greg Clark MP, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to express our concerns for the proposed garden town of 10,000 homes in Shepway, Otterpool Park. The following extract from Hilary Newport’s letter sums up our concerns:

Otterpool Park 2

“While we entirely support the principles of high quality, sustainable design and place-making, we strongly disagree that this is the right location for a garden city of this scale. The existing pressures for development in this area are extreme, not least with the region being categorised by the Environment Agency as being under ‘severe water stress’, and we question the wisdom of drawing even more housing in to a county and a region which is already struggling to accommodate the housing  targets being generated in local plans.

Sheep in fields at Otterpool

Everything in this view would be urbanised

“In its submission draft of the Shepway Core Strategy (January 2012), the District Council included a policy which outlined its ambitions for 800+ homes on the former Folkestone Racecourse, immediately adjacent to the land acquired by the District Council for its proposed Otterpool Park. At examination, the inspector comprehensively rejected this policy as unsound, being neither justified nor necessary to meet housing targets. A further policy outlined the concept of a ‘Strategic Corridor’, covering the area proposed for Otterpool Park as well as the urban areas of Hythe and Folkestone, for mixed use development in furtherance of the Council’s growth agenda. This policy too was rejected by the inspector as unsound. Since the adoption of the Shepway Core Strategy (November 2013) it is difficult to see what has changed to suggest that the plans for Otterpool Park are now either sustainable or necessary. I hope that your department will take these issues into account in considering Shepway’s submission.”

June 27th 2016

 

Night blight and dark skies – new maps launched

The most detailed ever satellite maps of England’s light pollution and dark skies, released today (13th June) by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), have shown that Thanet Earth is the second worst light polluter in the country, only second to Tata Steel in Rotherham. [1].

Night sky over Thanet, photo by Kimberley Eve

Night sky over Thanet, photo by Kimberley Eve

Overall, Kent is the 29th darkest county of 41. The maps, produced using satellite images captured at 1.30 am throughout September 2015, show that within Kent, Ashford has the darkest skies, 68th of 326 districts. Ashford Borough Council adopted a specific Dark Skies Policy in 2014 to raise awareness about ways we can minimise light pollution and to raise the profile of dark skies as an environmental asset we are increasingly at threat of losing. [2]

Dartford has Kent’s lightest skies, 260th of the 326 districts, of course this area has major transport networks, including the Dartford Crossing.

Thanet is 241st in the rankings, with 34% of its skies in the lightest categories. Thanet Earth pledged to improve its greenhouse blinds in 2013, yet the light emitted is still severe. [3] [4] Its maximum brightness value is 584.98nanowatts/cm2*sr, brighter than anywhere else in the South East, including London.

Thanet Earth by Craig Solly 1

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Thanet Earth, photos by Craig Solly

Thanet Earth, photos by Craig Solly

The research comes at a time of increasing awareness of the harmful effects light pollution can have on the health of people and wildlife. That these skies were monitored at 1.30am illustrates just how long into the night England’s lighting spills.

The new maps were produced by Land Use Consultants from data gathered by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in America. The NOAA satellite captured visible and infrared imagery to determine the levels of light spilling up into British skies. CPRE is sending lesson plans to primary schools in order to promote the enjoyment of dark skies.

We are calling on the county’s local authorities to use these maps to identify areas with severe light pollution and target action to reduce it, as well as identifying existing dark skies that need protecting.

 

Stars by Tone Netone

Stars by Tone Netone

Starry night by Ethan Sztular

Starry night by Ethan Sztular

CPRE Kent recommends that:

  • Local authorities follow Ashford’s lead and develop policies to reduce light pollution in their emerging local plans.
    The councils use CPRE’s maps to inform decisions on local planning applications and identify individual facilities that should be asked to dim or switch off unnecessary lights.
  • Local businesses review their current lighting and future development plans to save money by dimming or switching off light to reduce pollution as well as meet their promises over reducing existing pollution (e.g. Thanet Earth).

Hilary Newport, director of CPRE Kent said: “Our view of the stars is obscured by artificial light. Many children may not have seen the Milky Way, our own galaxy, due to the veil of light that spreads across their night skies. It is known that dark skies are beneficial to our wellbeing. Light pollution can disturb our sleep, prevent our enjoyment of the countryside and affect wildlife, by interrupting natural rhythms including migration, reproduction and feeding patterns.
“Councils can reduce light levels through better planning, and with investment in the right street lighting that is used only where and when it is needed.
“Our Night Blight maps also show where people can expect to find a truly dark, starry sky and we hope they will go out and enjoy the wonder of the stars.”

Summary of Kent districts (this information and more is available via the maps):

District Ranking out of 329 % in three darkest sky categories, less than 1 NanoWatts / cm2 / sr
Ashford 68 85
Tunbridge Wells 72 76
Shepway 99 74
Sevenoaks 101 47
Dover 106 66
Canterbury 112 78
Maidstone 116 55
Swale 137 47
Tonbridge and Malling 156 32
Medway 196 12
Gravesham 202 0.3
Thanet 241 8
Dartford 260 0

 

Notes:

[1] CPRE’s interactive maps can be accessed at http://nightblight.cpre.org.uk

Light pollution is a generic term referring to excess artificial light that shines where it is neither wanted nor needed. In broad terms, there are three types of light pollution:

  • skyglow – the pink or orange glow we see for miles around towns and cities, spreading deep into the countryside, caused by a scattering of artificial light by airborne dust and water droplets
  • glare – the uncomfortable brightness of a light source
  • light intrusion – light spilling beyond the boundary of the property on which a light is located, sometimes shining through windows and curtains
[2] http://www.ashford.gov.uk/dark-skies-spd-2014

[3] http://www.thanetearth.com/faqs-growing-using-light.html

[4] http://www.thanetgazette.co.uk/skies-Birchington-going-green/story-20253506-detail/story.html

June 13th 2016

Public support for plastic bag charge increases

it’s great news that plastic bag usage has slumped by around 80% – the UK’s largest retailer Tesco said in December that the number of bags had been slashed by 78% since the 5p charge was introduced, while at Morrisons, plastic bag consumption was down 80% across its stores. The Government is now collecting full usage statistics so the full picture should be clear soon.

Meanwhile, a poll partly-commissioned by CPRE has revealed increased public support for the bag charge in England [1]. The poll for the Break the Bag Habit (BTBH) coalition found that 70% of English respondents now find it reasonable to charge 5p for all carrier bags – an 8% increase in support in the eight months since the English charge came into force [2]. The increase was particularly marked amongst younger people, where support has jumped 10% [3].

plastic bag cpre

Despite this encouraging news, the poll indicated that more people find the current charge confusing than not. The charge, introduced on 5 October 2015, does not apply to businesses of fewer than 250 employees, paper bags or franchises such as Subway. Answering the ICM survey, 42% of respondents found it confusing that only some shops charged for bags.

Samantha Harding, spokesperson for the Break the Bag Habit coalition, said:

“People are clearly confused by the current scope of the charge. A universal scheme that applies to all bags and all retailers will eliminate confusion, boost public support, and most importantly reduce bag usage and litter.

“With a frankly ridiculous £1 billion litter bill, England is lagging behind the other home nations. Now that the scheme has been successfully launched, the Government should review the exemptions and introduce a universal charge.”

Photo: Earth Policy Institute

Photo: Earth Policy Institute

[1] The 2016 poll was conducted by ICM on 11th of May 2016. ICM interviewed a random sample of 2000 GB adults, including 1742 in England, aged 18+ online. The results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Further information is available at www.icmresearch.co.uk.

[2] The Break the Bag Habit coalition consists of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Greener Upon Thames, Keep Britain Tidy, Surfers Against Sewage and Thames21. The coalition has long worked towards the introduction of a carrier bag charge scheme in England.

[3] Survey respondents aged 18-24.

June 7th 2016

New interactive map of threats to the Green Belt

London Green Belt Council with CPRE London and seven other CPRE branches have made an interactive map showing threats to the London (Metropolitan) Green Belt. It is a worrying picture.

Screenshot of Threats Map

Campaigners have today published a map of threats to London’s Green Belt. It shows nearly 200 sites under threat from development and proposals for building over 110,000 houses on protected green belt land.

Catherine Maguire, Green Belt Campaigner, said: “London’s Green Belt has saved our countryside. It is hugely valuable – more so now than ever, with more and more pressure being piled on the South East. If it had not been for the London Green Belt preventing urban sprawl, London could have followed the example of Los Angeles, and now spread from Brighton to Cambridge, with millions of people car-dependent and horrendous traffic and pollution problems.

“The planning system has been weakened to the extent that even the ‘strongest protection’ afforded to green belt land is being ignored on a widespread basis. Even though the government has clarified that housing needs cannot ‘trump’ green belt, it has also piled pressure on councils to release land for new homes and does not take action when protected green belt land is released. This is flagrantly hypocritical.”

You can view the map here. To find out more about the Green Belt, its history and legal status, have a look at the London Green Belt Council website.

May 24th 2016


Great news – we have been granted leave to appeal on Farthingloe

CPRE Kent has been granted leave to appeal against the judicial review judgement in our fight to save the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Farthingloe near Dover.

Farthingloe view from Western Heights, photo CPRE

Farthingloe view from Western Heights, photo CPRE

An appeal court judge has said that our arguments over mitigation to the AONB “raise an arguable point which has real prospects of success.”

CPRE Kent Chairman Christine Drury said: “This is great news – we have been determined to save this beautiful area of countryside. The harm to the AONB cannot be justified and we are heartened that the judge has agreed to our appeal on this important point.”

We argued that the judicial review judge had been wrong to conclude that the application to build 521 houses and a 90 home retirement village at Farthingloe complied with planning law (paragraph 116 of the National Planning Policy framework (NPPF)).

Dover District Council planning officers had criticised the density and layout of the scheme and recognised that it would have significant adverse impact on the AONB. Councillors ignored this advice and agreed to the proposals without any mitigation measures.

CPRE Kent, Natural England, the Kent Downs AONB Unit and the National Trust all opposed the decision and it is astounding that the case was not called in by the Secretary of State despite the strongest recommendations from his advisors.

Christine Drury added: “We will never give up on our countryside. I would like to thank everyone who continues to support us in this important battle. It is absolutely central to our cause that we fight to protect beautiful, protected, unspoilt areas of countryside for future generations.”

We will now prepare for the Court of Appeal hearing which could be some months away.

Read more on the background to this hereherehere and here.

May 10th 2016.


Good news – 67 homes on inappropriate site appeal dismissed

A planning inspector has dismissed an appeal by a developer wanting to build 67 homes on the former Norton Ash Garden Centre near Faversham.

We had objected to the plans because the site is unsustainable with no community facilities. All travel would be by car. The inspector agreed that “it amounts to the creation of a suburban housing estate in a rural location with few facilities”. He said “the proposal is not in a sustainable location and does not represent development in the right place”.

Photo, Vicky Ellis

Photo, Vicky Ellis

The inspector also agreed that the development is in fundamental conflict with Swale’s development plan because the site is within countryside outside of any settlement.

CPRE Planner Jillian Barr said: “We were pleased that the inspector took notice of Swale’s emerging local plan and attached weight to its settlement strategy.  We hope the council will take this decision into account when considering other speculative development proposals.”

May 10th 2016

Housing and Planning Bill – some good news

Housing and Planning Bill – Affordable rural homes

Due to the low number of affordable homes and the high cost of property in rural areas, CPRE has been vigorously campaigning to protect affordable housing for those on lower incomes in the countryside.

The Housing and Planning Bill reached report stage in the House of Lords last Monday (11 April). Lords debated amendments concerning affordable rural housing, namely: excluding ‘starter homes’ from rural exception sites; excluding rural areas from the forced sale of council homes; and excluding rural areas from the extension of the right-to-buy from rural areas.

Starter homes

After lengthy discussions and valuable contributions from a number of Lords, including Lord Best and Lord Cameron of Dillington, we are pleased to report that the Government conceded that new approaches are required on both exception sites and council homes in rural areas to protect affordable housing provision in rural areas. The Government will disclose its proposed amendments along these lines at the bill’s Third Reading next week.

The Government’s willingness to negotiate these terms is very welcome, and we look forward to seeing the detail put forward.

Housing and Planning Bill – Neighbourhood right of appeal

CPRE has long campaigned for the Government to introduce a limited neighbourhood right of appeal. This would enable local communities to appeal against approved but speculative planning applications where they conflicted with a made or well-advanced neighbourhood plan.

On Wednesday 20 April Baroness Parminter (Lib Dem) spoke forcefully when proposing that this instrument be introduced to the Housing and Planning Bill. Baroness Parminter argued that an amendment introducing a neighbourhood right of appeal would ensure that it was easier to build consensus in local communities behind the development we need.

Kent aeria photo by Vicky Ellis

Kent aerial photo by Vicky Ellis

Despite the efforts of Government to oppose the amendment, Lords from across the House spoke in support and the amendment was subsequently passed by 251 contents to 194 not-contents. With Civic Voice and the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), we must thank many peers, including Lords Best, Taylor, Kennedy and Marlesford, for their support.

Even though the Government was defeated, the amendment is very likely to be debated and opposed when the Bill goes back to the Commons. As a number of Conservative MPs have supported the right of appeal in the past, including Nick Herbert and Sir Oliver Heald QC, we look forward to the next parliamentary discussions on this matter.

April 25th 2016

Disappointment in response to community appeal petition

We are disappointed in the Government response to the community right of appeal petition so many of you have been signing.
The Government “does not believe that a right of appeal against the grant of planning permission for communities, including parish councils, is necessary. The Government considers that communities already have opportunity to guide and inform local planning issues via Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans, and it would be wrong for them to be able to delay a development at the last minute, through a community right of appeal”.
The Petitions Committee (made up of 11 MPs) will take a look at this petition and its response and could still press the government for action and gather evidence.
Read the full response here.
April 19th 2016.

Stour Park will harm landscape and heritage

We have raised concerns about the huge scale of a planned warehouse development near Ashford and its impact on the important landscape and heritage setting.

The developers of Stour Park, Friends Life Ltd, have applied for permission to build enormous warehouses, 16 metres tall and covering an area the size of 31 football pitches (160,000 sq m). The site, next to Sevington and Mersham villages, is identified for commercial development in the local plan.

Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

We are concerned that the masterplan does not provide sufficient guidance to ensure that the harm to sensitive heritage, landscapes and communities is minimised and appropriately mitigated. The site is close to the medieval grade 1 listed St Mary’s Church and the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is essential that a sensitive approach to important views (heritage and landscapes), ecological mitigation, landscaping and building heights, colour, materials and orientation are agreed from the outset.

St Mary's Church, Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

St Mary’s Church, Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

Chairman of CPRE Kent’s Ashford Committee, Dr Hilary Moorby said: “We need to protect the setting of this important church and the AONB. The sheer scale of these giant buildings will change this beautiful rural area dramatically and everything possible must be done to minimise the harm.” Continue reading

Strongly opposed to damaging new crossing

CPRE Kent has raised significant concerns about the proposed Lower Thames crossing including fears over air quality, transport, devastation of areas of countryside and the complete failure of strategic planning which means it won’t even solve the problem.

Responding the Highways England consultation, we have stressed that we are strongly opposed to option C (bored tunnels from Gravesend) but we would also oppose option A at Dartford because of the longer-term induced traffic growth, congestion and reduction in air quality.

Artist's impression of the bored tunnels

Artist’s impression of the bored tunnels

Director Hilary Newport said: “The planned crossing would damage important areas of countryside that are a vital ‘green lung’ to the urban population of the Medway towns, providing recreation and the opportunity for quiet enjoyment of the countryside which is so important for physical and psychological health.”

These areas include ancient woodland and Metropolitan Green Belt. There would also be an impact on the wider area, a loss of amenity in and around Shorne Country Park and the open landscapes to the north.

Post Opening Performance Evaluation (POPE) studies for new roads schemes have repeatedly shown that new road routes do not just relieve congestion, but create and attract new traffic.

There is already an over-reliance on the channel corridor and the channel crossings for the transport of goods to and from Europe. This should be an issue of national concern for the UK’s resilience and security. Not only is there the need to implement Operation Stack during periods of disruption, but even during normal operations, the Dover ‘Traffic Assessment Project’ (’Dover TAP’) is frequently used to hold back port-bound HGVs on the A20 to limit congestion and air pollution in Dover Town Centre. This of course simply displaces the same congestion and air quality concerns to other parts of the roads network. Continue reading

Concerns about Maidstone Local Plan

CPRE Kent has said it is concerned about the scale of development – 18,560 new homes – proposed in the Maidstone Local Plan.

Responding to the Maidstone Local Plan Pre-Submission document, we also raised the following concerns:

  • the absence of sound supporting evidence
  • the accompanying draft Integrated Transport Plan has not been agreed with Kent County Council or the Maidstone Joint Transportation Board
  • the cost of providing much of the necessary supporting infrastructure is unknown and there is no guarantee that statutory contributions will cover the cost
  • the Gypsy and Traveller and Travelling Showpeople Accommodation Assessment has not followed government guidance.

Harrietsham sign by Gregory Williams View near Staplehurst by fraser Elliot

Photos above: Harrietsham sign by Gregory Elliot and view near Staplehurst by Fraser Elliot

Most of the housing (84%) is allocated on greenfield land and this approach will not encourage the development of brownfield and previously developed land. The scale of residential development in villages and rural settings is disproportionate to their size, and is unlikely to promote sustainable journeys and more likely to increase traffic on the roads.

Finally, we are very concerned that land at Woodcut Farm close to junction 8 of the M20 is allocated for employment – this is an unsuitable location for development as agreed by the inspectors who considered the Kent International Gateway proposal, and the recent Waterside Park application.

Chairman of the CPRE Kent Maidstone Committee Gary Thomas said: “This local plan is already having a terrible impact on villages and countryside. It would cause enormous traffic problems and a strain on school, health and travel facilities. The number of new homes is unrealistic and unsustainable. There will be a loss of greenfield land, much of it valuable farmland and the beautiful landscapes so important to the character and enjoyment of our county.”

Read our full submissions here and here.

March 23rd 2016.