Thanet and its Local Plan… where are we now?

Manston has hogged the Thanet headlines for so long… perhaps too long?

We have reported the machinations of Thanet and its Local Plan before on this website – and the tale is set to develop as district councillors prepare for the latest stage in this lengthy saga.
To remind you of the backdrop, in January Thanet district councillors voted down the draft Local Plan that had been presented to them, the future of Manston airport the most high-profile issue contained within it.
The council’s cabinet had earlier approved the draft Plan, which included an allocation of 2,500 properties at Manston; this appeared to be endorsement of site owner Stone Hill Park Ltd’s plans to build 2,500 homes (a figure that could rise to 4,000), business units and sporting facilities there.
However, January’s vote by the full council saw that draft Plan rejected.
Divisive an issue as Manston is, many saw the voting as politically motivated and indeed the leader of the council, UKIP’s Chris Wells, stepped down from his role the following month, Conservative Bob Bayford subsequently taking over as leader of a minority administration.
No sooner had this unfolded than, in March, Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government – frustrated with the local authority’s “persistent failure” to produce its Plan – wrote to Cllr Bayford, announcing he would be sending Chief Planner Steve Quartermain to the isle to intervene.
It is understood that two government planners have been left effectively in situ to ensure the Plan is finally published. In other words, the government has taken over production of the Thanet Local Plan from the district council.
This month councillors will receive a set of papers briefing them on the forthcoming adoption of the Plan, which will map out the isle’s development until 2031 and is due to be published this summer.
There is uncertainty over how matters will proceed from here and to what degree Thanet councillors will have any say in the Plan’s adoption. Indeed, how much public consultation will there be?
What we do know, in a situation that still seems very from clear, at least to the wider public, is that the council has put together three options for the Manston site in the Plan:

  • Manston is designated for aviation use, with 2,500 homes allocated for other sites in Thanet. It is understood these are Westgate (1,000 extra homes), Birchington (600), Westwood (500), Hartsdown (300) and Minster (100).
  • A  decision on Manston is deferred by the council for two years, allowing RSP, the group behind plans for a cargo hub airport, to push for a Development Consent Order, which would force Stone Hill Park to hand over the site.
  • Manston would be recognised as appropriate for aviation use, but it would not be designated as such for two years.

Quite what’s going on with the third option might not be readily apparent, but, either way, Thanet CPRE hopes to be involved in the Plan’s development:
“We are looking forward to engaging with the Chief Planner,” said chairman David Morrish. “A lack of public consultation was highlighted by the DCLG earlier this year as a failing in the Thanet process, so we hope that doesn’t repeat itself this time round.
“And with crazily high – and unsustainable – figures of some 21,000 new homes being rumoured, it’s important as many people as possible get involved.”
It is also worth recalling the earlier words of Geoff Orton, Thanet CPRE secretary, in relation to Manston airport: “What would be the point of building 21,000 homes without it. If there’s no airport, what economic future does Thanet have?”
As for those ridiculous housebuilding targets, Mr Orton said: “The official figure of 17,000 was already a hike on the previous 12,000 – now we could be looking at a figure north of 20,000. And all this without the airport?
“Further, we’ve lost the deaf school in Margate, along with two care homes – and more rumoured to be going. And with retail becoming more automated, what are Thanet’s young people going to do for work?”

For more on this saga, see here

For more on the Manston airport site, see here

For CPRE Kent’s response to RSP’s Manston Consultation last year, see here

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Little Densole Farm: council overturns officer recommendation and approves AONB development

CPRE Kent’s Supreme Court victory over the Farthingloe Valley was cited in the initial quashing of the plans for Little Densole Farm 

A planned development in the Kent Downs AONB that had earlier been quashed by the High Court was last night (Tuesday, May 29) approved by Folkestone and Hythe District Council.
The scheme for 12 holiday lodges, tennis courts and a fishing lake at Little Densole Farm, Densole, had initially been approved by the council (when it was known as Shepway District Council) in February last year, but that decision, which had been recommended for refusal by the council’s own planning officer, was challenged by local businessman Tim Steer and in February this year it was overturned by the High Court.
The consent was quashed by Mrs Justice Lang on the basis of inadequate reasons for overturning the officer’s recommendation.
In making this judgment, she cited the case of Dover District Council v CPRE Kent, where at the Supreme Court we successfully defended the Appeal Court’s decision to quash a planning permission in the Farthingloe Valley near Dover.
In the Densole case, Mr Steer had based his bid for a judicial review of Shepway’s decision on three grounds.
Two of these were rejected by the court, but the one accepted by the judge was:
“The committee was under a common-law duty to give reasons for its decision, as it was not following the OR’s [officer’s report’s] recommendation, and the application concerned a protected AONB. It failed to provide adequate and intelligible reasons for its decision to grant planning permission.”
It is here that the Farthingloe case was cited.
Mr Steer was quoted in the Folkestone and Hythe Express as saying:
“We hope that in the future the council will take its responsibilities more seriously and carefully and follow planning policy and logic.”
Last night, however, the proposal – which was again recommended for refusal by a council planning officer – went back before the Folkestone and Hythe planning committee and was accepted by eight votes to one (with one abstention).
It is not immediately apparent how circumstances have changed, or in what way the overturning of the officer’s recommendation was explained sufficiently.
Graham Horner, Shepway CPRE chairman, said: “Disappointingly, this is what we expected, to be honest. One councillor gave a speech giving all the reasons the committee should override the officer’s recommendation.
“There was no logic to it, but they seemed to think that having a recreational area in the AONB would bring in people and money.
“The new officer’s report appeared softened from the initial one. Previously, it had been poorly defined as to what constituted a major development, but it was now decided that, no, this wasn’t a major development, so that cleared one of the major hurdles.
“Why would they change their view? There were no new drawings, no new reports. It was stated that the applicant had planted a lot of trees, but he was going to plant those anyway as part of the application!”
One councillor asked for a recorded vote, but that suggestion was not accepted as four members of the committee need to agree to it.
For more detail on the background to this story, see here

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Charing public inquiry: August date set for inspector’s decision

The future of open countryside at Charing was debated at the public inquiry

We expect to hear the result of the public inquiry into plans for a housing development at Charing by Wednesday, August 22.
The inquiry was sparked by Gladman Developments Ltd’s appeal against Ashford Borough Council’s refusal to grant planning permission for 245 homes at Pluckley Road.
CPRE Kent had given evidence as a Rule 6 party, permitted to cross-examine participants during the inquiry process.
Points raised by CPRE Kent included:

  • The appeal site is outside the village envelope and disconnected from the village centre
  • Few people in Charing use the village train station to get to work, questioning the scheme’s sustainability
  • Increased vehicle movements and the attendant risk to both drivers and pedestrians, including children coming home from school
  • The setting of the village on the edge of the Kent Downs AONB
  • The importance of the countryside in promoting health
  • The planned development would add an unsustainable 30% to the village population
  • The site is in a flood zone so could be flooded
  • The risk of contamination to boreholes providing water to local people

For more on this story, see
here 
and
here

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

NPPF consultation: forget the unwieldy title, this matters and you can influence it

The beauty of Walland Marsh (pic Richard Watkins, flickr)

National Planning Policy Framework… it’s an ugly brute of a name.
Even its shortcut, the NPPF, takes some tongue-twisting getting used to. But it is an important beast and plays a bigger part in our lives than many might think.
To put it at its simplest, the NPPF (we’ll stick with that for now) is the government’s planning rulebook.
It helps determine the principles of countryside protection, the delivery of affordable housing, the provision of infrastructure, the places from where we draw our minerals and aggregates – and very much more.
And right now the NPPF is being consulted upon, because it is going to change. And how it changes will affect us all.
A key driver of the proposed change is what is commonly referred to in the media as ‘the housing crisis’.
CPRE is the first to highlight the fact that too many people are excluded from the housing ladder, while homelessness is an undeniable problem in this country.
However, we don’t believe that the proposed changes, or reforms, to the NPPF will do enough to tackle those issues. Indeed, we suspect that while communities’ needs go unmet, the only people who will really benefit are housebuilders.
It’s a problem caused by the government’s misunderstanding of housing issues and its subsequent weakening of planning rules in a bid to encourage developers.
The ‘crisis’ is of course one of affordability and won’t be addressed by simply building more houses, which is the government’s current approach. Rather, it is a case of the type of homes we build, for whom we build them and where.
‘The right homes in the right places’ has long been a CPRE mantra, and we believe it is possible to build the homes England needs without swathes of our countryside being sacrificed.
We advocate ‘sustainable development’ (the last bit of jargon – honest!) that:

  • Supports local democracy by adhering to neighbourhood and local plans
  • Ensures realistic and high-quality development based on genuine need, not market demand
  • Delivers more affordable homes by closing legal loopholes that put developer profits first
  • Adopts a true ‘brownfield first’ approach to development
  • Protects our countryside for current and future generations

Many organisations, communities and individuals with many agendas are contributing to the NPPF consultation, and it is vital that CPRE and those who agree with our outlook also make their views known.
The future of the countryside you hold dearest could depend on the changes made to the NPPF, so we urge you to join us in fighting for the best possible outcome, for the countryside, for wildlife – and for people.
We’re asking you to write to your MP, asking them to put communities at the heart for the planning system in the revised NPPF.
You can do that here
Alternatively, given that some MPs do not respond to formatted messages, you might choose to write to them individually.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of this consultation. For those of us who love the countryside – indeed those of us who love this country, its people and its traditions – the new-look NPPF will have an impact way beyond anything its cumbersome name might suggest.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Charing inquiry ends… decision expected in July

The future of open countryside at Charing was debated at the public inquiry

The public inquiry into Gladman Developments Ltd’s appeal against Ashford Borough Council’s refusal to grant planning permission for 245 homes at Pluckley Road in Charing ended on Friday (April 27).
CPRE Kent been giving evidence as a Rule 6 party at the inquiry, which was held at Ashford Civic Centre. Rule 6 parties are permitted to cross-examine participants during the inquiry process.
We hope to hear the inspector’s decision in mid-July.
Points raised by CPRE Kent included:

  • The appeal site is outside the village envelope and disconnected from the village centre
  • Few people in Charing use the village train station to get to work, questioning the scheme’s sustainability
  • Increased vehicle movements and the attendant risk to both drivers and pedestrians, including children coming home from school
  • The setting of the village on the edge of the Kent Downs AONB
  • The importance of the countryside in promoting health
  • The planned development would add an unsustainable 30% to the village population
  • The site is in a flood zone so could be flooded
  • The risk of contamination to boreholes providing water to local people

For more on this story, see
here 
and
here

Monday, April 30, 2018

Public inquiry into Gladman plans for Charing resumes

The future of open countryside at Charing will be determined at public inquiry

The public inquiry into Gladman Developments Ltd’s appeal against Ashford Borough Council’s refusal to grant planning permission for 245 homes at Pluckley Road in Charing resumes tomorrow (Tuesday, April 24).
CPRE Kent has been giving evidence at the inquiry, being held at Ashford Civic Centre, which took a break on Wednesday, March 28.
Points raised by CPRE Kent in its evidence have included:

  • The appeal site is outside the village envelope and disconnected from the village centre
  • Few people in Charing use the village train station to get to work, questioning the scheme’s sustainability
  • Increased vehicle movements and the attendant risk to both drivers and pedestrians, including children coming home from school
  • The setting of the village on the edge of the Kent Downs AONB
  • The importance of the countryside in promoting health
  • The planned development would add an unsustainable 30% to the village population
  • The site is in a flood zone so could be flooded
  • The risk of contamination to boreholes providing water to local people

The inquiry is expected to finish this week.

Monday, April 23, 2018

For more on this story, see here

Istead Rise campaigners win battle to save land for community

Rachel Westlake, Terry Annable and Roger Francis spoke on behalf of those who objected to the application

The threatened land at the junction of Weald Close and The Drove Way

A campaign supported by CPRE Kent against a contentious development in Istead Rise has won the day, with the local authority refusing planning permission for the scheme.
The plans for two bungalows at the junction of Weald Close and The Drove Way – in what is termed a soft landscape community asset site – were rejected unanimously by Gravesham Borough Council’s regulatory board.
The decision follows a battle by local residents supported by CPRE Kent that attracted some 160 people to public meetings. Posters, leaflets and social media were all used extensively during the campaign.
Alex Hills, CPRE Gravesham chairman, said after last month’s decision: “Huge thanks must go to the councillors for taking the time to read the lengthy reports and for listening to the views of the local residents.
“Also thanks to the planning officers who pulled together the reports and gathered the valid points held within the 108 objections received from local residents.
“This amount of objections is amazing for an application for two bungalows, where normally the most you would expect is around three to six objections.
“It showed the councillors very clearly how much people value the open spaces in their area.
“As a very experienced campaigner for CPRE Kent, it proves that people can make a difference if they stand together and put forward valid reasons in planning law why an application should be rejected.
“Everyone worked very hard on the campaign gathering information and leafleting the local community to raise awareness of this application.
“Special thanks must go to Terry Annable, Frank Booker and Rachel Westlake for being the central driving force of the campaign.
“The application raised the issue of the status, importance and protection that is given to open spaces within built-up areas all over Gravesham.
“There are some local policies in the Local Plan that protect these spaces and there is another that supports infill development.
“The application came about because there is no legal definition or definition in the Local Plan of what is or is not classed as infill development.
“If the application had been approved, every open space in Gravesham would have been under threat from developers.
“CPRE Kent supports infill development on land within built-up areas that is surplus to requirements or serves no purpose, but it has been proven that open spaces like that at Weald Close do serve an important and much-valued purpose.”

Monday, April 23, 2018

Farthingloe court victory crucial in halting AONB development at Densole

The Supreme Court victory at Farthingloe is helping protect countryside across a wider area

CPRE Kent’s Supreme Court victory over Farthingloe continues to have ramifications far and wide, but this recent story comes from close to home. It has a satisfactory conclusion, but some of the events that unfolded during the planning process are disturbing.
In February last year, Shepway District Council’s planning committee approved plans for 12 holiday lodges, tennis courts and a fishing lake at Little Densole Farm, Densole, in the Kent Downs AONB.
This decision was made despite the council’s own planning officer recommending the scheme be refused, while both CPRE Kent and the Kent Downs AONB Unit had objected to it.
Happily, a businessman who lives close to Little Densole Farm challenged the council’s granting of planning permission and the case went to judicial review at the High Court in January this year.
The judgment was handed down the following month, with Mrs Justice Lang quashing the planning consent on the basis of inadequate reasons for overturning the officer’s recommendation.
In making this judgment, she cited the case of Dover District Council v CPRE Kent, where at the Supreme Court we successfully defended the Appeal Court’s decision to quash a planning permission in the Farthingloe Valley on the outskirts of Dover.
The Supreme Court had agreed with the Appeal Court that Dover District Council’s planning committee had not given legally adequate reasons for granting planning permission for more than 600 homes, which it acknowledged would cause significant harm in a protected landscape.
In the Densole case, the claimant [Tim Steer] based his bid for a judicial review of Shepway’s decision on three grounds.
The first two were:

  • “The council failed to consider or apply NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] when deciding the application.”
  • “The council reached an irrational conclusion that the proposed development would not harm the Kent North Downs AONB.”

These were both rejected by the court.
Firstly, there was confusion caused by Shepway’s inadequate minutes of meetings, which meant the judge could not be certain NPPF had not been referred to in the meeting.
However, the further conclusion here is that there needs to be a higher standard of minutes at planning meetings.
The second ground, meanwhile, was rejected because of the difficulty of establishing proof. Mrs Lang said in her judgment: “There is a high threshold to surmount before a finding of irrationality can properly be made. The burden of proof rests upon the claimant, and I consider he has failed to establish irrationality.”
All of which brings us to the third ground, the one that was accepted by the judge:

  • “The committee was under a common-law duty to give reasons for its decision, as it was not following the OR’s [officer’s report’s] recommendation, and the application concerned a protected AONB. It failed to provide adequate and intelligible reasons for its decision to grant planning permission.”

It is here that the Farthingloe case is cited. Without that ruling, the challenge to the granting of planning permission at Little Densole Farm would have fallen short.
Despite what was ultimately the right result for the countryside – and a scathing verdict on Shepway planning committee’s failure to provide “adequate and intelligible reasons for its decision” – it is concerning that the challenge had to be brought by a member of the public financially able to do so.
Mr Steer, who reportedly paid some £35,000 to bring his challenge, is quoted in the Folkestone and Hythe Express as saying:
“We hope that in the future the council will take its responsibilities more seriously and carefully and follow planning policy and logic.
“I have had to buy this victory. And I think it is perverse that even though I have won this case on one of three counts I have to pay out.
“This means that if people see a council decision they believe is unlawful they need to find up to £40,000 to legally challenge it.”
The inadequate minuting of planning committee meetings also raises worries about the democratic process at Shepway, a spokesman for whom said the local authority hoped to establish a system of recording and broadcasting meetings from April.
Hopefully, such an approach will avoid the sort of ‘confusion’ that occurred in this case, where – as detailed in the judgment – Shepway planning committee chairman Dick Pascoe, when asked to explain why an application recommended for refusal was in fact being approved, apparently replied that “he wanted to overturn everything that was recommended to be refused”.
Cllr Pascoe ‘clarifies’ this extraordinary statement at a subsequent meeting thus: “To clarify… what I stated was, all the reasons for refusal of the application, were my reasons for approval.
“So all you have to do is to just turn the wording around and that was the words I used and I am seeing nods as well, that’s what I actually asked for. That the reasons for approval, were it to be opposite of my reasons for approval and that is why this is staying as it is because this is exactly what I said and asked for…”
Got that?
Either way, let’s all be grateful for Farthingloe and, in this case, Mr Steer, who fought for the Kent countryside – and an AONB – in a manner his local authority chose not to. We live in worrying times…

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

CPRE Kent responds to PM’s housing speech

Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, on Politics Today
(image: BBC)

CPRE Kent has given a guarded response to Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech today (Monday, March 5) in which she highlighted planning reforms and stressed the need to stop housebuilders ‘banking’ land by not building homes for which they had planning permission.
Mrs May told the National Planning Conference in London that the National Planning Policy Framework was to be revamped, via consultation, confirming up to 80 proposals put forward last year. These include:

  • Councils having to adopt a new nationwide standard showing housing need in their areas
  • 10% of homes on major sites being made available for affordable ownership
  • Builders being more open about commitments to affordable housing at the planning stage
  • Infrastructure being considered pre-planning
  •  Councils considering overturning planning permission after two years if building has not started
  •  Ancient woodland and aged trees being protected

Mrs May attacked the attitude of developers who had a financial incentive in hoarding land with planning permission for homes, condemning specifically bosses receiving bonuses “based not on the number of homes they build but on their profits or share price”.
“In a market where lower supply equals higher prices, that creates a perverse incentive, one that does not encourage them to build the homes we need,” she said.
Referring to the issue of land-banking, Mrs May said: “I want to see planning permissions going to people who are actually going to build houses, not just sit on land and watch its value rise. I expect developers to do their duty to Britain and build the homes our country needs.”
Giving the view of CPRE Kent, director Hilary Newport, who appeared today on the BBC’s Politics Today show, said: “Nothing is wrong about building new houses, but the crisis is one of affordability, not availability.
“Simply building more and more houses is not going to bring down affordability. What we need is more homes in the right places and that requires social policy.
“What we are keen to see are proper policies that make houses more affordable.
“I think we need to consider a return to social housing because it is impossible for people to get a foot on the housing ladder in London and the South East.”
Mrs Newport also addressed the issue of protecting the Green Belt.
“It is difficult to see how it can be [protected] when you look at how many houses places like Sevenoaks needs with huge targets,” she said.
Mrs May’s speech comes shortly after the release of a study by CPRE and housing charity Shelter showing how housebuilders are using a legal loophole to avoid building affordable homes in the countryside.
Looking at eight rural councils over the course of a year, the analysis shows that half the affordable homes councils were required to build were lost when viability assessments were used.
Developers use ‘viability assessments’ to argue that building affordable homes could reduce their profits to below some 20%, giving them the right to cut their affordable housing quota.
This results in developers over-paying for land and recouping costs by squeezing their affordable housing commitments.
Both CPRE and Shelter are calling on the government to use its review of planning rules to close the loophole.
Crispin Truman, CPRE chief executive, said: “The lack of affordable housing is often overlooked as an urban-only problem. It cannot be ignored any longer. Too much of our countryside is eaten up for developments that boost profits but don’t meet local housing needs because of the ‘viability’ loopholes.
“CPRE is calling for urgent action from the government to close these loopholes to increase the delivery of affordable housing – otherwise rural communities risk losing the young families and workers which they need to be sustainable.
“We must ensure that we are building housing that people need and can afford across England – including the countryside.”

See CPRE Kent director Hilary Newport on Politics Today here

Monday, March 5, 2018

Have your say on plans to expand Lydden Hill racing circuit

The Lydden Hill circuit lies in the Kent Downs AONB

Long-running plans to expand Lydden Hill racing circuit in the Kent Downs AONB are likely to be decided upon in the spring… and you are urged to have your say on the proposals.
The owner of the site, close to the A2 north-west of Dover, wants to build two hospitality buildings, two grandstands, driving schools, a restaurant, offices, an industrial estate and an extended car park in a development it says would cost £6 million, while a new road would improve access between the A2 and the circuit.
It is also intended to triple the amount of days it is used, from 52 per year to 157. In addition to more race days, such intensification would entail such activities as driver tuition and testing, craft fairs and car shows.
Such an extensive development, together with the planned increase in days of operation, would have an undeniable impact on the surrounding area and those who live there.
Derek Wanstall, chairman of Dover CPRE, said: “The circuit’s proposed expansion can only bring more noise and traffic problems to the nearby village of Wootton, plus the site is within an AONB.
“Residents’ tranquillity and quality of life can only deteriorate if the expansion is approved.”
The proposals first materialised in 2015 and Dover District Council asked for further details, primarily in relation to noise management, before determining the application.
Now it must consider an amended planning application – and if you would like to comment on it you must do so by Friday, March 9.
CPRE Dover objected to the plan when it first appeared and maintains its opposition to what is being promoted at the circuit; accordingly, it will be commenting on the amended application.
Unsurprisingly, local people are deeply concerned by the plans, most notably:

  • The proposed increased activity – up to 157 days, including three-day weekends over three Bank Holiday weekends.
  • Noise levels and the continuing lack of a coherent noise management plan.
  • Impact on the environment, especially given that the circuit is in an AONB.
  • Race-day traffic management on the A2 and through neighbouring villages, and also during the period of development, planned for this spring, which it is feared would result in large trucks and vans driving through country lanes.

A spokesman for Wootton Environment Protection Group said: “Residents of Wootton and Shepherdswell have been complaining about the increased noise and disruption caused by the circuit over the past 10 years or so, yet Dover District Council does little about it.
“Despite two and a half years since the original application, the latest documents provided by Lydden Hill race circuit are confusing, inaccurate and incomplete.
“For example, there are still no coherent noise management or traffic management plans and, frankly, the new documents have done nothing to address local residents’ concerns on a wide range of issues.”
Well, hopefully you can do something by making your views known. Write to the case officer at Dover District Council outlining your objections in full; the reference is Planning Application 15/00827

Your letters should be addressed to:

Luke Blaskett
Planning Officer
Dover District Council
Whitfield
White Cliffs Business Park
Dover
CT16 3PJ

You can post directly to the case officer or upload online on the Dover District Council website.
All letters must be the group by Thursday, March 8.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Gladman drops appeal against Marden housing refusal

Marden has been spared the diggers at Church Farm

CPRE Kent is delighted that a developer has dropped its appeal against refusal of plans for a housing estate near Marden.
Gladman Developments Ltd had applied for planning permission to build 150 homes at Church Farm, Maidstone Road, on the outskirts of the mid-Kent village, but this was refused by Maidstone Borough Council in October 2016.
Giving reasons for its decision, the local authority noted that the proposed development lay “outside any defined settlement boundary and would consolidate sporadic development in the area, causing unacceptable visual harm to the character and appearance of the countryside”.
Further, it “would result in significant harm to the setting” of the Grade II-listed Church Farm House and The Old Vicarage while being “detrimental to existing social infrastructure”.
Gladman close to appeal this decision, but in October last year (yes, this had gone under the radar) withdrew its appeal, citing “a change of circumstances at Maidstone Borough Council”.
We believe this to be the fact that the site had not been allocated for development in the council’s Local Plan.
Either way, CPRE Kent, which had made written representation against both the original application and the appeal, is happy to see the back of this wholly inappropriate scheme.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

CPRE Kent challenges part of Maidstone Local Plan

CPRE Kent believes development of Woodcut Farm should not be included in Maidstone council’s Local Plan

CPRE Kent is challenging Maidstone Borough Council’s Local Plan.
We have sent the local authority a pre-action protocol letter requesting that it delays making a decision on a planning application for Woodcut Farm near junction 8 of the M20, due to be discussed by its planning committee tomorrow evening (Thursday, November 30).
The council adopted its Local Plan in October, but we are not happy with the inclusion of the Woodcut Farm site in the Plan, which we believe to be unlawful.
Specifically, CPRE Kent is challenging the council’s allocation of 16.8 hectares for up to 49,000 square metres of “mixed employment floorspace” at the site; this is Policy EMP 1(4) of the Plan.
We have lodged the letter, through our solicitor Richard Buxton, asking that Maidstone council’s planning committee does not debate the Woodcut Farm application, from Roxhill Developments, tomorrow.
The council has been given until 4pm today (Wednesday) to confirm postponement.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Developer appeal quashed as importance of air quality is highlighted in court decision

The future’s still green at Pond Farm (picture by Vicky Ellis)

The importance of air quality has determined the outcome of a landmark legal case in a decision that is potentially tremendous news for environmental protection.

The dismissal in the High Court of a developer’s appeal against an earlier planning decision is the first instance of air quality proving a critical factor in such a judgment.

CPRE Kent had been in the High Court last month giving evidence as the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government defended a planning inspector’s dismissal in January of two linked appeals made by Gladman Developments Ltd against the local authority’s refusal of planning permission for its scheme at Pond Farm, Newington, near Sittingbourne.

The whole saga had started with Swale council’s rejection of Gladman’s plans for up to 330 homes and 60 residential and care “units” at Pond Farm on the grounds of harm to the landscape and increased air pollution, the latter factor relating specifically to the impact on the council’s Air Quality Management Areas at Newington and Rainham.

Gladman subsequently challenged that decision, but the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government’s inspector dismissed both of its appeals because of “the substantial harm that the appeal proposals would cause to the character of a valued landscape and their likely significant adverse effect on human health”.

Not content with that, Gladman then contested that dismissal on the grounds of the inspector’s treatment of future air quality and mitigation; the decision in relation to the Newington air quality action plan; and the decision’s claimed conflict with the emerging development plan for the village.

Now Mr Justice Supperstone of the High Court has ruled that none of Gladman’s grounds of appeal succeeded and has dismissed its latest challenge.

Richard Knox Johnston, CPRE Kent vice-chairman, said: “This is the first time air quality has been considered as a factor in determining a planning decision.

“It had been put forward as a reason for turning down planning permission in the first instance – and that has now been vindicated further.

“Although the developer was happy to provide mitigation, the court was not convinced that that mitigation would work.

“This is an important decision as it means that air quality is something that must be considered seriously when considering planning permission in polluted areas.”

CPRE Kent, which was an important participant in the initial planning inquiry in November last year, was present in the High Court as an Interested Party.

For previous stories on this proposed development by Gladman Developments Ltd, see:

here,

here

and here

For details of our legal team’s statement on the outcome of the case, see here

Monday, November 6, 2017

We’re back in court again, this time battling for a site in north Kent

What future for Pond Farm at Newington?

After the high-profile Farthingloe Valley appeal hearing at the Supreme Court yesterday, CPRE Kent has been back in court again today (Wednesday, October 18).

This time we are in the High Court supporting the decision to reject a scheme for up to 330 homes and 260 residential and care “units” near Sittingbourne on the grounds of harm to the landscape and increased air pollution.

Gladman Developments Ltd is challenging the dismissal in January this year of two linked appeals it made against the refusal of planning permission for its scheme at Pond Farm, Newington.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government’s inspector had dismissed the appeals because of “the substantial harm http://onhealthy.net that the appeal proposals would cause to the character of a valued landscape and their likely significant adverse effect on human health”.

Gladman is now contesting that dismissal on the grounds of the inspector’s treatment of future air quality and mitigation; the decision in relation to the Newington air quality action plan; and the decision’s claimed conflict with the emerging development plan for the village.

Defending January’s decision to dismiss Gladman’s appeals are the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Swale Borough Council.

CPRE Kent, which was an important participant in the planning inquiry in November last year, is present in the High Court as an Interested Party.

The hearing is due to finish tomorrow (Thursday).

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

CPRE Kent in Supreme Court to defend AONB site

The future of Farthingloe Valley is in the spotlight today

We’re in the Supreme Court today for the latest stage of our battle to save the Farthingloe Valley in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) near Dover from entirely inappropriate development.

The Judgment from the Court of Appeal in September last year said Dover District Council’s (DDC) planning committee had failed to provide adequate reasons for granting permission.

The scale of the development is unprecedented in an AONB and the harm that the development would do to the AONB is neither properly taken account of nor mitigated.

The council‘s officers set out the situation and proposed changes, but these were rejected by the committee without, as the Court of Appeal put it, explaining why.

It is CPRE Kent’s belief that the Farthingloe case never should have reached this far and DDC should have dismissed the application, which flagrantly ignores national planning policy, at the outset.

l CPRE Kent has been the only organisation determined to stand up and defend the protected status of this special landscape – but the outcome of the case will have national implications for what developers and local authorities can do to our landscape and countryside.

Fighting for our countryside is inevitably expensive at times like this. If you are able to donate a sum, however large or small, you can do so through our website: https://cprekent.org.uk/donate-to-cpre/

Monday, October 16, 2017