Disappointment at judgement over building in AONB

High Court judge Mr Justice Mitting has rejected CPRE Kent’s grounds for Judicial Review of the decision to grant planning permission for more than 600 homes in the AONB at Farthingloe, Dover. But he said the charity was right to bring the case to test the planning system.
The plans at Farthingloe include 521 new houses, a 90 apartment retirement village, health facility and conversion of a farmhouse into a bed and breakfast, a thatched barn into a pub/restaurant and a stable block into a shop. All this development wopuld be on AONB land which is supposed to be protected under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).An additional 31 homes are planned at Western Heights, as well as Victoria Hall being redeveloped for nine residential units and a 130-bedroom hotel, plus converting the famous Drop Redoubt into a new museum and visitor centre.
Dover Farthingloe from Mount Road Vic 030
CPRE Kent is not opposed to the principle of new housing development in the district but this should be in the right place, not on an AONB. And we are in favour of the proposed improvements of heritage assets, but this cannot justify the destruction of the AONB.

CPRE Kent Director Dr Hilary Newport said:
“We are utterly dismayed and disappointed at the judgement. It is vital that we protect Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty for future generations and to allow this intensive building at Farthingloe makes a mockery of the whole planning system which is supposed to provide the highest level of protection for AONBs. The reality, when tested through the courts, is that it has failed to protect the AONB.

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Important Judicial Review

A High Court judge will today and tomorrow consider whether the decision to grant planning permission for more than 600 homes on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty near Dover was lawful.

We have taken the plans for Farthingloe and the Western Heights to Judicial Review in a last ditch attempt to protect this beautiful and iconic landscape.

South across the valley to site B from Little Farthingloe Farm 2

View across the valley at Farthingloe, photo Brian Lloyd

Dover District Council has granted planning permission for 521 houses and a 90 dwelling retirement village in the AONB at Farthingloe and a large hotel on the historically important Western Heights.

We have discovered that the Government’s planning experts had recommended in 2013 that the then Secretary of State for Planning Nick Boles “call in” the application because of the question mark over justification of building in the AONB.

We finally have a copy of the un-redacted letter (dated 19 June 2013) recommending this, obtained after a two year process of Freedom of Information requests.

The two statutory advice bodies, Natural England and Kent Downs AONB Unit, as well as CPRE Kent and the National Trust all requested that the outline planning permission be called in for a public inquiry. The planned development would have a major detrimental impact on the AONB, was contrary to national planning policy, was not sustainable and was not part of Dover’s agreed Development Plan.

In the advice to the Secretary of State, the planning casework officer said: “If you decide not to call-in this application, this could place the protected landscape of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at risk, leading to potential negative press coverage and reputation risk for the Government.”

There was shock and disappointment when the decision was made NOT to call in the application in July 2013. Planning permission was granted in April 2015.

“A Judicial Review is not a decision to be taken lightly,” said CPRE Kent Chairman Christine Drury. “But as this planning decision was so clearly wrong and so important it is now up to us to fight for the AONB through the Planning Court.  In planning law, AONB has the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty and we do not believe there are the exceptional circumstances to justify the destruction of this fantastic landscape.”

A High Court judge will consider the case for judicial review and hear the arguments on Tuesday and Wednesday this week (December 15th and 16th).  We expect the judgement early in the New Year.

December 9th 2015

Reaction to the Autumn Statement

CPRE has reacted to the Autumn Statement and Spending Review, where the Chancellor made a number of announcements on issues affecting the countryside.

Housing:

We have long been asking the Government to stop fixating on the planning system. Figures show that planning permissions are not the issue; the issue is that developers are not building the homes for which they have permission. Landbanking is a major problem and we are saying to developers to get on and build to deliver the housing we need.

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Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at the CPRE comments:

“Although we welcome a focus on brownfield development, we’re wary of moves to develop brownfield sites in the Green Belt – many Green Belt sites classed as ‘brownfield’ contain a lot of valuable open land, often historic parkland, which should be kept undeveloped. Continue reading

Why we are fighting to save the countryside at Farthingloe

You may have noticed some recent media coverage (BBC South East and Dover Express) where Dover MP Charlie Elphicke claimed CPRE Kent was against all development and was wrong to challenge the decision to grant planning permission for more than 600 homes on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Farthingloe (which he mistakenly claimed was brownfield land). Here CPRE Kent Chairman Christine Drury sets the record straight and explains why this campaign is so important for Kent:

We are absolutely not against development in Dover. Our planning expert, Brian Lloyd, spent a huge amount of time working on the Dover Local plan to help make it a good plan. We want Dover to  be successful as much as anyone. We also want the Western Heights to be conserved and restored: they are just as important as Dover Castle and both are incredibly important parts of our national heritage.

Dover Farthingloe from Mount Road Vic 030

What we have to challenge is when the wrong things are being proposed. The Farthingloe site was specifically rejected as an unsuitable site in the local plan process, and the statutory agencies Natural England and the AONB unit, as well as non-statutory bodies, the National Trust and ourselves, thought likewise. But it has fallen to CPRE to take the fight on. It is a pity Charlie Elphicke takes a challenge against one thing that is wrong as a challenge to everything. He is incorrect about it being a brownfield site. A key principle of all good construction projects is that civil engineers make as light an impact as possible on the ground they only need temporarily, and restore it afterwards. That was the commitment at Farthingloe, as it was at  many other sites along the subsequent Channel Tunnel Rail Link construction line through Kent. There will always be those who try to claim brownfield status. It is unfortunate and misleading that Charlie has taken up this line .

On the lorry park, that was a necessary campaigning phase in Dover Port taking greater responsibility for the wider impacts across Kent of the huge volumes of lorry traffic passing through Dover:  Their latest plans do make more provision for trucks needing to park up, though this will no doubt be an ongoing issue.

We do  acknowledge progress and we continue to work hard to get the right things to happen.  But we will continue to challenge when we see the wrong planning decisions being made. We will see in December whether the courts agree. We did not take this action lightly but if CPRE does not take a stand to save our countryside who will?

Dover is a really important part of Kent – we will continue to campaign to look after it as we try to do for all of Kent. We have fantastic countryside and a great county which we need to protect for future generations.

November 17th 2015

CPRE Kent opposes significant development at Lydden Race Circuit

CPRE Kent is opposed to the planned erection of a huge redevelopment of Lydden Race Circuit including two hospitality buildings, two grandstands, administration facilities, engineering units and access road.

The application (DOV/15/00827) represents a significant and harmful intensification of use at this site, will be detrimental to landscape of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and will impact the well-being of communities and the quiet enjoyment of the countryside.

Apex festival at Lydden Race Circuit, photo Beetle Challenge, flickr

Apex festival at Lydden Race Circuit, photo Beetle Challenge, flickr

Rather than being restricted to race days the proposal would mean intensified daily use of the site for activities including driver tuition and testing, race days, craft fairs and car shows. This will mean persistent disturbance to nearby residents and a loss of tranquillity in the AONB.

The proposals include an extended car park and, together with better facilities, this would mean more visitors and hence more vehicle movements on rural lanes, causing further erosion of tranquillity. The additional activity is likely to cause traffic congestion with increased local air pollution. Continue reading

Autumn Winter 2015 Kent Voice

The Autumn Winter edition of Kent Voice should be arriving on your doorstep any time now.

cover photo jpeg for website

It contains lots of interesting articles on subjects ranging from the Magna Carta to grazing management of some of our most beautiful countryside as well as all the latest campaigns news. Find out about good news fro the Romney Marsh, good news on Waterside Park, and our latest efforts to save the AONB at Farthingloe.

There is also information on the AGM coming up on 20th November and events and outings coming up over the next year.

To read click on the photo.

Plans for 450 homes “unjustified”

Plans to build 450 homes on Green Belt land in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Fort Halstead near Sevenoaks have been slated as totally unjustified by CPRE Kent.

Sevenoaks District Council has not considered alternatives to this mass housing plan which a developer claims is needed to secure employment prospects at the site.

Our comments come as part of the consultation into modifications to the council’s Allocations and Development Management Plan. A planning inspector has ruled that the site should be used for employment purposes, but accepted that would need “some level” of residential development to make it viable. However, officers misrepresented this to council members and said the inspector had accepted “significant residential development”.

CPRE Kent is very concerned that the Council then simply accepted the developer’s figure of 450 homes and relied on the developer’s own assessments rather than doing its own research, as asked for by the inspector.

“We agree that the site should continue to be used for employment,” said CPRE Kent Senior Planner Brian Lloyd. “However, it cannot be justified to build 450 homes in a remote area, without services and facilities, to support them. The council needs to carry out a proper assessment of how many homes are required and come up with alternative plans more in keeping with this sensitive site.”

If 450 homes were built it would equate to 15.5 hectares of residential development, plus additional land for open space and a village centre, all to achieve just four hectares of land for new employment.  We fail to see how this would comprise an ‘employment-led’ development, as claimed by the council.

We are also doubtful of the claims that the area cannot attract businesses when its proximity to the M25 would make it attractive to potential employers. We ask why more remote sites in less prosperous parts of Kent, such as the Kent Science Park near Sittingbourne, are thriving and growing without the need for residential development to support them?

The site is in a prominent and sensitive position on the top of the scarp of the North Downs. Currently the development is low density and activity is largely confined to daytime.

“Building 450 homes would change the character of the site dramatically and forever,” said Brian Lloyd. “There must be better options.”