580 homes would harm countryside

CPRE Kent is warning that proposals submitted to Swale Borough Council by Gladman Developments for 580 new homes off Swanstree Avenue in Sittingbourne would cause severe damage to the countryside.

We fear the scheme would be a disaster for this attractive area of countryside, which is designated as a Special Landscape Area.  It comprises one of the dry valleys which descends from the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to the town, forming a historic link between the two.  It also provides a vital green gap between Sittingbourne and the village of Rodmersham Green.  If development went ahead, this gap would be reduced from 1.2km to just 350m.

CPRE Kent Senior Planner, Brian Lloyd, said: “This is an attempt by the developer to undermine the new Swale Local Plan by seeking to get planning permission for a greenfield site that has been rejected by the Borough Council in its new plan.  The local plan, quite correctly, seeks to focus development on previously developed land and the regeneration of Sittingbourne town centre.  This proposal is at complete odds with that intention and the Council must strongly resist this challenge to its plan.”

In its comments on the planning application, CPRE Kent also makes the point that the area is high grade agricultural land which national planning policy seeks to protect. Where development of agricultural land is considered necessary to meet housing targets, it should be on lower quality agricultural land. The developer has not shown that there are no alternatives involving lower quality land, and there has also been no assessment as to how the loss of this 26 hectare (62 acre) site would affect the viability of the remainder of the farm holding.

“With food security and the ability to feed a growing population an increasingly important issue, there is no justification for giving up precious high quality land for development,” said Mr Lloyd. “If for no other reason the application should be refused on this ground.”

To read our response to planning application, click here.

14th January 2015.

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