Charing public inquiry takes a break until April

‘The people of Charing have made it clear, both in their emerging Neighbourhood Plan and in their submission to the inquiry, that they do not want this development,’ said CPRE Kent’s Richard Knox-Johnston

It’s time for a breather at 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.
CPRE Kent has been giving evidence at the inquiry, but today (Wednesday, March 28) was the last session before the break, with tomorrow’s planned site visit postponed.
The visit should now take place in the over-run week of Tuesday to Friday, April 24-27.
Today’s events at Ashford Civic Centre were devoted to a cross-examination and re-examination of Gladman’s witness over the council’s housing figures and whether the local authority can show it has enough housing in the pipeline to satisfy the five-year supply test.
Points raised by CPRE Kent in its evidence 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

In his opening statement, CPRE Kent’s Richard Knox-Johnston said: “The site of this appeal is a large open and rural field to the south of and distant from the Charing village envelope.
“This application by Gladman is speculative and is typical of applications they have made throughout the country, as described very clearly in the BBC One programme Countryfile, where the appellant [Gladman] declined to be interviewed.
“The comment in this programme was that these speculative applications were at the expense of local communities on a no-win no-fee basis.
“Gladman are not developers themselves, they are speculators and, having gained planning permission, will sell it on to a developer at a considerable profit. They make serious profits out of this fault line in the planning system.
“They specialise, as in this case, in submitting development applications on land that is not being considered in the draft Local Plan. Having then gained permission, either through a planning appeal, such as this, or through a High Court case, if the appeal is dismissed, they sell on to a developer or retain the option by land-banking, so increasing the value of the land.
“Selling on to a developer takes time. When a developer buys the permission they then, more often than not, ask for a viability assessment.
“This means renegotiating the original permission and conditions in order to ensure a minimum 20% profit margin.
“This also lengthens the time and causes further delay. Even if this appeal was to be successful, there would be a considerable delay in completing the development.
“It would therefore, in all likelihood, not assist with the five-year housing supply in Ashford.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

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