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.
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.
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.”
The size and design of the buildings proposed is unsympathetic to the heritage landscape and there will also be a detrimental impact from the increase in traffic to the site and noise, air and light pollution. Although there are proposals for tree planting, more must be done to preserve the setting of the Church of St Mary’s and the AONB. CPRE Kent believes the buildings should be smaller and in a design that compliments the historic rural landscape to limit the harm.
The developer has now bought an adjacent field the on other side of Highfield Lane and CPRE Kent is concerned that if building is allowed there Mersham will be swallowed up. A strategic gap must be retained to protect the village’s identity.
The warehouse operation will be reliant on the new Junction 10a of the M20, currently being consulted on. “It is essential that the HGVs do not add to the already overburdened rural roads in Kent which suffer from illegal overnight lorry parking. The site needs to be entirely accessible from the new junction and all truck operations must be contained within the site and not leach on to local roads,” said Dr Moorby.
The current plans do not detail how the damage to wildlife will be mitigated. Bat roosts (in the adjacent listed buildings), foraging bats, slow worms, grass snakes, common lizard and water voles have all been identified on site. Replacement hedgerows for bat feeding opportunities need to be incorporated into the development. Plus, there must be adequate dark sky proposals to protect ecology and tranquillity.
CPRE Kent believes the development, if permitted, would have major adverse impacts on local communities and the environment. It would result in loss of habitats, agricultural land and tranquillity and increased noise, air pollution, light pollution, and stress for the impacted communities.
Dr Moorby said “The applicant implies that these impacts will be moderate or even insignificant over time. That is not sustainable development. We need a much more appropriate development taking the important landscape, heritage and village communities properly into account.”