Change is afoot in the Ashford committee

Christine Drury, Ashford committee chairman, reports on events, changes and concerns in her area

The site of the proposed Otterpool new town… not good news for many in the Ashford area

CPRE Kent’s Ashford committee, which incorporates the Ashford Rural Trust, held its AGM at the Picturehouse cinema on Wednesday, March 6.
The new cinema marks a milestone in the regeneration of the town centre. There is still much to do before the town can be said to be thriving, but Ashford Borough Council’s commitment to brownfield and delivering on it was well worth celebrating.
We are very sorry that Graham Galpin, who did so much to champion the town-centre big projects, became a high-profile casualty of the elections in May, losing his ward seat by just one vote.
We have also had to make changes in the CPRE Ashford committee as a result of those elections.
The members of the committee are as elected at the AGM, but the honorary officers will now just be chairman Christine Drury and honorary secretary Sandra Dunn. Linda Harman stepped down from her vice-chairman role to commit fully to her new roles as borough and parish councillor. Congratulations, Linda!
We are also pleased to continue working alongside Rural means Rural and the Village Alliance, now both being run by Sharon Swandale, who has joined the committee, along with Samantha Reed of the Limes Land Protection Group in Tenterden.
The speculative proposal by Wates for 250 homes on a highly valued local landscape that defines the green spaces and shape of Tenterden is a disgrace. And to call it windfall development is an outrage.
Tenterden is a jewel in the High Weald AONB. Wates should stop pushing this idea now before its reputation is damaged by it.
The committee is hard at work in and around Ashford, trying to ensure the best possible outcomes and sensible phasing where possible for sites that are in the Local Plan approved in February.
The other huge preoccupation is with the impacts on Ashford, Ashford borough villages and the natural environment that will occur if the Otterpool development goes ahead in Folkestone and Hythe district.
The promoters seem to be focusing entirely on the immediate ‘red line’ area and ignoring the potentially devastating wider impacts on the AONB to the north and Aldington and Ashford villages to the west, as well as the highly sensitive drainage and flood defences of the whole area.
Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Tom Fyans: Why we love brownfield

Tom Fyans, complete with new spectacles, speaks at the CPRE Ashford AGM 

The benefits of brownfield development were extolled by Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive of CPRE, during a flying visit to Ashford.
Tom was giving the speech ‘Why town centre regeneration matters for CPRE, the countryside charity’ before the AGM of CPRE Kent’s Ashford committee at the Picturehouse in Elwick Place on Wednesday last week (March 6).
Before he got going, however, Christine Drury, acting Ashford chair, gave some background to the local situation.
“Green fields were being gobbled up all around Ashford,” she said. “We kept highlighting the availability of brownfield land, but all we were getting was excuses, excuses, excuses. Finberry, Cheeseman’s Green, Chilmington Green… it just went on and on. CPRE Kent was not happy about that.
“Now at last the brownfield is being developed and the town centre regenerated.”
Taking the reins, Tom told how being in the “ivory towers” of London could make such matters seem “very theoretical”. It was good to get out and see regeneration in action.
Sporting a swish new pair of glasses, he warned that he had not yet got used to them and those present might need to excuse some peculiar body language. We can but hope he had such issues sorted out before a meeting with housing minister Kit Malthouse the following Monday.
Such pressing matters aside, he revealed the last time he had been in Kent was to take part in a debate in Faversham for radio’s The Moral Maze during which a young student had argued for development in the Green Belt.
Lacking, he said, a connection to the environment, she had been happy with the idea of a dystopian landscape stretching from Faversham to London.
“It was a sobering experience,” he said. “These are young people we need to connect to and highlight the importance of the environment to our well-being. It was a motivator for me.”
He then gave “five reasons we like brownfield”:

  • It entails recycling of land: In contrast to the success of the Deposit Return Scheme for drinks bottles and cans, we don’t recycle enough land. This was counterintuitive as land was finite.
  • Brownfield can make a massive contribution to housing delivery: A CPRE report showed that 132,000 houses (three years’ supply) could be built on brownfield in the South East, and a million homes across the country. Government had ridiculed CPRE, saying the national figure was just 200,000 homes, but was now coming round to accepting it. CPRE was getting through to government.
  • It’s quicker to build on brownfield: Six months quicker, in fact, and at a greater density. This was a better use of urban land.
  • The creation of vibrant places in which to live: Closer to existing infrastructure, brownfield development could make “a much better offer of a place to live”.
  • It helps us keep our beautiful countryside for our health and well-being, especially given land-use pressures.

“So what is CPRE doing about it?” said Tom.
“We produced the report, State of Brownfield 2018, although the government should be doing this. Brownfield registers are the result of CPRE campaigning and we want to see them used as a tool for bringing sites forward, with greenfield land being held back while brownfield is available.
“We need to involve communities more, and there are pilot schemes in London and Lancashire. We can help identify smaller sites and build a picture at national level.”
Turning to politics and planning, members heard that the aforementioned meeting with Mr Malthouse was about how we build the government’s desired 300,000 homes a year and help them go in the right places.
“There’s a need to rebuild trust in the planning system,” Tom continued. “There has to be a Local Plan-led system – without one, you can’t control development.
“The need to show a five-year housing supply creates its own pressure, with Gladman at the worst end of things. Help to Buy, meanwhile, is stoking huge profits for developers and not helping get people on the housing ladder.
“A clearer definition of affordability is necessary, while at the moment demand is being met by high-end housing, not affordable homes.”
Design is an often-neglected aspect of housing development, but poor design is one of the reasons people object to proposals.
Looking at things optimistically, Tom said Mr Malthouse was a big fan of design principles based on the local vernacular, while Roger Scruton, chair of the government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful commission, was a friend of CPRE. “There’s room here for the government to listen,” he said.
Wrapping up with a look at the position of CPRE across the country, the deputy chief executive said the situation was healthier “in this part of the country” but elsewhere proving more of a struggle, with fewer people involved… something that wasn’t improving.
“We’re not getting new people – we’re too reliant on legacies – which means we can’t plan for the future.
“There’s a need to broaden our appeal and compete with other, bigger organisations, with a concentration on fundraising. A lot of work is going on in relation to brand and how we communicate.
“We should be warmer as we’re sometimes seen as aggressive and angry – and indeed we are angry at some developments!
“We have to help people connect better with the countryside and nature. We all need to understand more the connection between rural and urban, with an appeal to both.”
And a final word?
“We will continue with our cutting-edge campaigning. We’re quite critical of the government at the moment.”

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Your chance to hear CPRE deputy chief exec speak in Kent

Tom Fyans: coming to Ashford (pic BBC)

Tom Fyans, CPRE deputy chief executive, will be speaking at an open meeting in Kent next month (March).
Tom, who is also national director of campaigns and policy, is giving his talk ‘Why town centre regeneration matters for CPRE, the countryside charity’ at the AGM of the Ashford committee of CPRE Kent on Wednesday, March 6.
The meeting is being held in the function room of Ashford Picturehouse in Elwick Place (TN23 1AE).
As well as learning about the regeneration of Ashford town centre, this is also a chance to look inside the town’s new cinema complex, which hosts six screens, a restaurant, cafe and bar, as well as a spacious foyer and outdoor and indoor seating.
The function room is at the top of the stairs or lift.
For the AGM you can have tea or coffee and biscuits from 11.45am, with the meeting due to run from midday to 1.30pm.
If you’re able to stay a little later, you can buy hot snacks at the foyer counter.
There is ample parking at Elwick Place (£2.20 for two hours).
All are welcome for this event – you do not need to belong to CPRE – but do please let us know in advance if you’re coming: phone Sandra Dunn on 07771 640133 or email sandradunn@sky.com

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Ashford council told to drop 500 new properties from Local Plan

The Hothfield area is the greatest beneficiary from the inspectors’ report, with some 400 homes slashed from the building target (pic www.hothfield.org.uk)

Inspectors have ordered Ashford Borough Council to chop some 500 new properties from its Local Plan.
Sites at High Halden and Hothfield are to be deleted altogether, while five plots in other villages must be reduced in size.
The new Plan, which identifies where 13,521 homes will be built up to 2030, was approved by the council in December last year, but it must now be amended.
The Hothfield area is the greatest beneficiary from the inspectors’ conclusions, with a total of 400 proposed homes axed at Tutt Hill, near Holiday Inn, near Hothfield Mill and near Coach Drive. It is believed isolation from the village and damage to trees were the primary reasons for their exclusion.
Fifty properties at Stevenson Brothers petrol station between High Halden and Bethersden also failed to convince the inspectors.
Sites at Brook, Mersham, Aldington and Wittersham all have reduced numbers of houses to be built.
Thankfully, the inspectors have said the borough does not to add sites to compensate for those that have been dropped.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Civic award pays tribute to Hilary Moorby

Jeff Moorby receives the civic award on behalf of his late wife Hilary from Jessamy Blanford, Mayor of Ashford

Tribute has been paid to Dr Hilary Moorby, a former chairman of CPRE Kent, at an awards ceremony.
Hilary, who was one of our most passionate and devoted campaigners, passed away in March but was remembered at Ashford Borough Council’s second civic awards ceremony, held on Thursday, July 5, at Chart Hills Golf Club, Biddenden.
The event highlighted the efforts of 12 of the borough’s ‘heroes and heroines’ who had worked to make their community a better place in which to live.
The civic awards were launched in 2012 to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee as “Ashford’s opportunity to honour local people who had helped others in a voluntary capacity, in their own way, at a local level”.
A council spokesman said: “In every corner of the borough there are people who are quietly remarkable.
“There are people who possess great strength of character, who make a substantial contribution to their community, people who enrich the lives of others and improve where they live.
“There are also people who have made a huge personal sacrifice in order to achieve something fantastic. These people are largely unrecognised – until now.”
Hilary’s civic award, made from glass and granite, was picked up by her husband, Professor Jeff Moorby, after the following tribute had been made:
“Our last award tonight is one that is slightly different. It’s for someone who set up a village society and was a champion of all things green.
“An active member of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, amongst many other things she fought hard for conservation fields between Ashford and Kingsnorth and she planned and executed a community orchard to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee.
“The difference about this award is that Hilary is, sadly, no longer with us, but the Honours & Awards Board felt strongly that, had Hilary still been alive, she would have been an obvious contender for an award.
“That she was nominated, posthumously, is a tribute to her ongoing influence and passion, and recognises the difference she made to her village and to the borough.”
We at CPRE Kent echo wholeheartedly those sentiments.

Monday, July 16, 2018

And now villagers in Charing can also smile as Gladman quits appeal

Charing has been spared a large unwanted development

It’s the gift that keeps on giving…
Hot on the heels of the news that Gladman Developments Ltd had withdrawn its appeal against Ashford Borough Council’s refusal to grant planning permission for 125 homes in Brabourne Lees comes word that it has similarly pulled out from an inquiry in Charing.
In this case, land agent Gladman was appealing against the council’s refusal to grant planning permission for 245 homes in Charing’s Pluckley Road.
CPRE Kent had given evidence to the public inquiry into this appeal as a Rule 6 party (permitted to cross-examine participants) and we expected to hear the result by Wednesday, August 22.
However, we believe the new evidence the council had prepared for its Local Plan examination – and that had proved so crucial in Gladman’s decision to withdraw from the Brabourne Lees inquiry – also persuaded it to pull its appeal in Charing.
Thanks to that evidence, the Local Plan inspector had confirmed the council had more than enough sites to meet its housing targets, demolishing Gladman’s principal argument – that the council could not demonstrate a five-year housing supply.
Either way, villagers can breathe a healthy sigh of relief and pour themselves a richly deserved drop or two of their favoured tipple this evening.
CPRE Kent would like to thank them all – and the planning and legal teams at Ashford Borough Council – for their efforts.

For more on this story, see
here,
here
and here

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Gladman drops appeal in Brabourne Lees housing battle

A happy day for Brabourne Lees

And now for the good news… Hospital Field in Brabourne Lees is safe from the cement-mixers and tarmac-layers.
Gladman Developments Ltd has withdrawn its appeal against Ashford Borough Council’s refusal to grant planning permission for 125 homes at the site.
The village at the foot of the Kent Downs AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) had been targeted by land agent Gladman for the housing scheme, but the local authority’s refusal to back it sparked the appeal.
CPRE Kent had given evidence to a planning inspector hearing the two-week inquiry into the appeal, held at the Civic Centre in Ashford, in January.
It had been due to reopen on Tuesday, July 10, for two days after Brabourne Parish Council’s request that the inquiry inspector look at new evidence the council had prepared for its Local Plan examination.
As a result of that evidence, the Local Plan inspector had confirmed the council had more than enough sites to meet its housing targets. Indeed it was even told to delete some of the less sustainable sites in its Plan.
This pulled the rug from Gladman’s principal argument – that Ashford council could not demonstrate a five-year housing supply – and it would appear at this point it did not think it worthwhile pursuing its appeal, rendering the scheduled reopening of the inquiry pointless.
CPRE would like to thank Brabourne Parish Council and the people of the village for their efforts in seeing off this wholly inappropriate scheme.
The news comes after last week’s announcement that the High Court had quashed planning permission for a Gladman development at Blean Common, near Canterbury.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Public inquiry into Gladman plans for Charing resumes

The future of open countryside at Charing will be determined at public inquiry

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 resumes tomorrow (Tuesday, April 24).
CPRE Kent has been giving evidence at the inquiry, being held at Ashford Civic Centre, which took a break on Wednesday, March 28.
Points raised by CPRE Kent in its evidence have 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

The inquiry is expected to finish this week.

Monday, April 23, 2018

For more on this story, see here

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