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

Threats to our Green Belt double… in a year!

Kentish countryside lying in the Green Belt could be targeted by developers
Pic: Susan Pittman

Threats to London’s Green Belt, part of which lies in Kent, have doubled in just a year.

A report published today (Monday, October 9) identifies more than 400 sites earmarked for housing development in the Green Belt, a stretch of land around the city designated to remain essentially undeveloped and to contain urban sprawl into the surrounding countryside.

The report, The Accelerating Loss of London’s Green Belt – Who is to Blame?, reveals that the number of sites under threat from development more than doubled between July 2016 and July 2017, from 203 to 443, and the number of houses proposed on the London Green Belt increased from 123,528 to 163,474.

The counties facing the greatest development threats are Hertfordshire (44,974 houses proposed for Green Belt sites), Surrey (41,760) and Essex (35,674).

Any idea that Kent is getting off lightly, however, is mistaken. The deceptively small number of reported threats from LPAs (local planning authorities) in the county is likely to reflect slow progress with Local Plans rather than authorities working harder to defend protected land.

LPAs in Kent such as Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells, which are constrained by both Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are still in the early stages of Local Plan preparation. It is apparent, however, that the Green Belt in these areas is under great pressure.

Both LPAs have put forward their Issues and Options documents for consultation, making it clear that Green Belt land will be allocated for development, although it is not yet known to what scale.

The document – from the London Green Belt Council, a group of some 100 organisations that campaign against development on Green Belt land and represent more than 50,000 people – is published alongside an updated Threats to London’s Green Belt Map showing the locations of threatened sites.

It comes as the government is consulting on a new approach to calculating local housing need, which will lead to significant increases in housing targets for the majority of London Green Belt local planning authorities.

Richard Knox Johnston, LGBC chairman and CPRE Kent vice president, said: “This year’s data shows we were correct last year in predicting that there would be a further large increase in threats to the London Metropolitan Green Belt.

“While Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG ) spokespeople referred to our Safe Under Us? report year as containing ‘speculative and misleading’ data, our research proves that, if anything, we under-reported the scale of Green Belt threats.”

Catherine Maguire, LGBC campaigner, added: “DCLG figures claim only a small loss to the Green Belt nationally from 2016-2017. This dramatically understates the problem as it only takes account of development that has already taken place, rather than the development that is planned which is shown in our research.

“In fact, the evidence suggests that the threat numbers will increase even more because many councils have not yet published their plans, for example in areas such as south-east Essex, Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks.

Mr Knox-Johnston concluded: “Unless the government takes urgent action, we estimate that threats will increase to over 600 sites by July 2018.

“Councils are being pressurised by government to set targets which are much higher than are ever likely to be needed.

“None of this will have any impact on the overall supply of housing because land supply has not been the problem. But it will mean that Green Belt will be built on in preference to brownfield land as it provides greater profit.

“So this is fundamentally undermining the purpose of the Green Belt – to promote much- needed regeneration in run-down areas and contain urban sprawl.

“Also this encroachment will not meet the urgent need for housing for young families and young people due to the premium that comes with Green Belt land.

“Action is needed more urgently than ever if we are to avoid irreparable damage to the integrity of London’s Green Belt.

“Instead of proposing ill-thought-out methods for calculating targets which conflate housing need with market demand, the government should be encouraged to reduce the pressure on councils to build on Green Belt land by focusing on genuine housing need and restricting the ability of councils to de-designate Green Belt land.”

Monday, October 9

Maidstone Local Plan re-think welcomed by CPRE Kent

CPRE Kent has welcomed Maidstone Borough Council’s decision to postpone the adoption of its Local Plan.

The decision by the local authority follows a letter from Faversham MP Helen Whately to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, asking him to ‘call in’ the Plan.

She was expressing concerns about the level of housebuilding proposed in the Plan, the prospect of business development at junction 8 of the M20 and lack of infrastructure.

The council had been expected to adopt the Plan at a meeting on Wednesday, but that has now been postponed in the wake of the letter to Mr Javid.

Gary Thomas, CPRE’S Maidstone branch chairman, said: “It’s encouraging to see Maidstone council postponing the meeting due to the uncertainties around the Plan being adopted.

“They’re listening to people’s concerns and that in itself is a step forward.

“From Maidstone’s perspective, the junction 8 site is the worst in the whole borough for employment purposes as people would be travelling across much of the county for any work created there. There would be little benefit to Maidstone.”

26th September 2017

Concerns over noise and air pollution at Manston Airport

We have today (12th July) submitted our consultation response to RiverOak Strategic Partnership’s consultation into the future of Manston airport.

We are concerned that the environmental and social impacts of noise and air pollution outweigh the claimed economic benefits. In contrast, the opportunity to convert this brownfield site to mixed commercial and residential use offers more realistic employment opportunities and would help of safeguard the best quality agricultural land which would otherwise be required to meet Thanet’s objectively assessed housing need.

Manston airport by Simon Moores, flickr

Director Hilary Newport said “We don’t think a new airport here would provide any overall social or economic benefits, and there is a real danger of converting the site into an airport is that is highly unlikely to be viable, and would therefore again become a blight on the area, and retard the more useful, and economically and socially beneficial uses for another decade.”

CPRE Kent also considers the negative impact of night flights on surrounding communities to be unacceptable.

The consultation period closes on 23rd July. You can read our consultation response here.

12 July 2017

Protecting our heritage – new guide

Kent is blessed with an exceptional wealth of historic buildings and structures and archaeological sites – from our cathedrals of Canterbury and Rochester and great houses, like Knole, to tiny cottages and barns, and from well-known sites like Richborough and Kit’s Coty to medieval hedgerows and field boundaries. This rich heritage is under severe threat from intense development to accelerate house-building, promote economic growth and improve roads and other infrastructure.

Landscape by Vicky Ellis

CPRE Kent has produced a new guide to protecting that heritage. “Looking after heritage through the planning system” deals in turn with listed and unlisted historic buildings, conservation areas, scheduled monuments and archaeological sites, parks, gardens and battlefields and heritage landscapes. It sets out as simply and briefly as possible the legal protections which apply and the procedures to be followed by developers and local planning authorities in addressing them.

Oak tree by Vicky Ellis

We hope people will will find it both of interest and of practical use in engaging with the planning process, when Kent’s precious heritage is at stake. It is available to download below or do contact us on info@cprekent.org.uk if you require a printed copy (donations requested to offset our costs).

looking after heritage through the planning system June 2017

July 4th 2017.


Tunbridge Wells housing numbers too high

We have responded to the latest consultation on Tunbridge Wells local plan challenging the huge housing numbers planned which would cause severe environmental damage, loss of countryside, green space and ancient woodland.

CPRE Kent’s Tunbridge Wells committee has raised many concerns in its comments on the Issues and Options consultation.

We dispute the need to provide 650 to 700 houses per year. Given that employment growth in the borough in the 21 years from 1991 to 2013 was zero, the jobs forecasts which project an ever-rising volume of employment seem unduly optimistic and if the increase in jobs is not forthcoming, this volume of housing development could turn the borough into a dormitory for businesses elsewhere. The population and household formation forecasts on which the housing need assessment is based may also be too high.

View from Horsmonden Church by James Stringer

Committee chairman Elizabeth Aikenhead said: “Most importantly, housing development on this scale together with its infrastructure clearly cannot be accommodated in a borough with so many environmental constraints without causing serious damage to the environment.”

It is also contrary to the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework. CPRE Kent does accept that there will have to be new development within the borough but this should continue to be at no more than the rate previously required under the Core Strategy. Even that amount of development will be very difficult to provide without serious environmental damage.

Lamberhurst in Spring by Jonathan Buckwell

Taking the proposed Strategic Options one by one, Continue reading

Legal action challenges 4,000 homes in south Canterbury

Good news that campaigners have been granted permission to challenge the decision to allow a huge development of 4,000 homes in south Canterbury at Judicial Review.

Emily Shirley and Michael Rundell, supported by many including CPRE Kent, have mounted the legal challenge over the failure of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government not to call in the application on air pollution grounds.

little-barton-farm

They say: “The legal challenge will also force Canterbury City council to adopt a legally compliant Air Quality Action Plan and to support planning proposals that actually reduce air pollution and makes life better for all Canterbury residents.”

They have today won permission to have their case heard by a judge.

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CPRE Kent is concerned about Mountfield park because of the impact on the heritage setting of the world heritage site of Canterbury, the impact on the already terrible traffic problems and the air pollution this will cause and the impact on the countryside.

For more information or to support or donate towards the JR, contact climaterecovery1@gmail.com

May 3rd 2017

 


CPRE Kent response to Medway Local Plan

CPRE Kent is calling for a commitment to improve the environment and community health as well as save valuable farmland in its response to the Medway Local Plan consultation.

Allhallows Marshes by Amanda Slater

Allhallows Marshes by Amanda Slater

We will be asking Medway Council to:

  • recognise the contribution of agricultural land to local sustainability, and invest in improving ecosystems for healthy communities, well-being and resilience;
  • Include “access to nature” when planning growth;
  • enhance the understanding of biodiversity conservation across whole landscapes;
  • make adaption to climate change a priority;
  • proactively assess underused or vacant sites (especially brownfield) that might contribute to regeneration or meeting housing need, including small sites;
  • consider sustainability when assessing sites (such as the employment park at Kingsnorth on the Hoo Peninsula), including transport infrastructure and other services;
  • consider accessibility of local people to space and countryside;
  • ensure Green Belt is given the highest level of protection, as specified in the recent Housing White Paper;
  • continue with the designation of development gaps and areas of local landscape importance;
  • consider the impact on air quality of all development and associated travel.
  • Photo: diamond geezer

    Photo: diamond geezer

    Cycling on the Hoo Peninsula by Steve Cadman

    Cycling on the Hoo Peninsula by Steve Cadman

CPRE Kent Planner Jillian Barr said: “A strong and ambitious vision is necessary to deliver growth, protect the environment, but also to deliver improvements to the environment and community health. This is essential to Medway’s future. We are pleased that the council is consulting so thoroughly at this stage of the plan process and recognise that there are challenging targets. There is a proven link between access to nature, space, dark skies and tranquillity and the health of communities and we hope the council will take this fully on board now and when looking at sites over the next 18 years.”

CPRE Kent has now submitted its full response to the plan – read it here.

June 5th 2017

Giant phone masts rejected

Planning applications for two huge communications masts have been rejected by Dover District Council planning committee.
Very similar reasons for objections were listed by the planning committee members, describing the structures as “unsightly” and lacking “significant benefits”.
Councillors considered an application by Canadian firm Vigilant Global to build a 322m structure at Richborough Power Station, followed by New Line Networks’ proposal for a slightly smaller 305m tower at nearby Kings End Farm.
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Photo Tamsyn Steadwood

Councillors said they would impact on heritage assets such as the Grade I Listed St Peter’s Church in Sandwich and change the landscape’s character. There were concerns over the footpath which would be used in construction in Vigilant’s proposal, a lack of official ecological assessment and objections from the National Grid.

CPRE Kent had objected to plans for two phone masts because they would cause heritage, landscape and ecological harm.

Richborough, photo: Vigilant Global

Richborough, photo: Vigilant Global

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 believed that the applicants had 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 was 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 was 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 were very concerned that masts of this great height would spoil an important and historic landscape and could harm bird and other wildlife populations. We have called 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.”

Our full responses can be read here and here.

January 30th 2017


Good news – appeal dismissed into 330 homes at Newington

A planning inspector has refused two appeals by a developer to build up to 330 homes on greenfield land at Pond farm in the village of Newington near Sittingbourne. CPRE Kent was a major participant in the planning inquiry last November.

Pond Farm, Newington, Photo Vicky Ellis

Pond Farm, Newington, Photo Vicky Ellis

The inspector has now dismissed the appeals on the grounds that “even after considerable weight is given to the social, economic and environmental benefits …… 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 would significantly and demonstrably outweigh those benefits.”

Jillian Barr, CPRE Kent Planner, said: “This is great news for this beautiful part of Kent. The development would have drastically changed the character and landscape of the villages and we were extremely worried about the effect on air quality and human health. The inspector agreed with us on these important points and also agreed the harm caused could not be adequately mitigated. There would also have been a detrimental effect on heritage assets.”

pond-farm-newington-vic Continue reading

Our fears over 4,000 homes approved for south Canterbury

The biggest housing development ever proposed in Canterbury has been approved. Canterbury City council has given outline planning permission for the 4,000-home Mountfield Park ‘garden city’ in south Canterbury. It stretches from Canterbury’s southern edge as far as the village of Bridge and includes shops, office space, sports pitches, two primary schools and a potential new site for Kent and Canterbury Hospital.

mountfield-7

Photos: Vicky Ellis

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We fear that Mountfield Park will have a severe negative impact on Canterbury. It is not an appropriate site because it will damage the visual setting of the world heritage cathedral.

Canterbury Committee chairman Dr Alan Holmes said: “The development will be on some of our best and most versatile farmland – it is vital to preserve this because we already import over 60% of our food and food security is an important issue. There are other low grade sites or we advocate prioritising development on brownfield sites.

“We also fear there will be a considerable worsening of traffic congestion, particularly on the Dover Roads, and this will in turn worsen air pollution. The Royal College of Physicians has raised concerns over deteriorating air quality as the result of traffic emissions and the serious impact this has on public health.”

To read our submissions on Mountfield Park click here and here.

November 14th 2016

Otterpool Park

CPRE Kent has raised concerns about the proposed development of 12,000 homes at Otterpool Park near Westenhanger in Shepway.

 

Photo: No Otterpool New Town

Photo: No Otterpool New Town

The masterplan, by Shepway District Council, has won the backing of Government including a pledge of £750,000 capital funding.

However, there is no objectively assessed need for housing on this scale in this area. It will be more than half the size of Folkestone and well over twice the size of Hythe. We are concerned about increased congestion and inadequate infrastructure.

CPRE Kent Director Hilary Newport said: “People living in villages nearby are already being impacted by the huge Operation Stack lorry park. This will blight our countryside and affect our communities. We believe in positive place-making but this needs to be done in the right place with sustainable communities and where there is a proven need. The priority should be for brownfield sites and to build out those planning permissions already granted.”

Fore more information see here and here.

Residents are meeting for an update and to plan their reaction to the plans at 7pm at Lympne castle tomorrow (November 15th). For more information see https://www.facebook.com/nootterpoolnewtown/

November 14th 2016

Pond Farm, Newington Planning Inquiry

CPRE Kent has set out its case against proposals to build up to 330 homes on greenfield land at Pond farm in the village of Newington near Sittingbourne.

We will be taking part in a planning inquiry into the plans by Gladman Developments Ltd. next month. Gladman is appealing against Swale Borough Council’s non-determination of the outline planning application.

Pond Farm, Newington, Photo Vicky Ellis

Pond Farm, Newington, Photo Vicky Ellis

Concerns include:

  • the site is not allocated for housing in Swale Borough Council’s local plan
  • it would increase the village size by 30% and change the character and landscape of both Newington and nearby Hartlip
  • loss of grade 1 farmland (orchards), loss of hedgerows and risk to protected wildlife
  • it would increase air pollution on Newington High Street above acceptable EU levels, add to congestion and have an impact on safety on the A2
  • it is unsustainable with no proper transport infrastructure plans
  • the Ramblers Association is joining with CPRE Kent to object to the permanent loss of important footpaths used for recreational and health purposes
  • harm to the setting of important heritage assets

pond-farm-newington-vic

To read our full evidence papers click here and scroll down to consultation responses – there are seven papers in total.

October 18th 2016.

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.

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