It is with great sadness that we must report on the loss of two great friends in February. The CPRE Kent family is all the stronger for its unity and the passing of two of the main players in our recent history will be felt deeply. We and many others have much for which to thank them both. Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, pays tribute.
Gary was chairman of the Kent branch of CPRE from 2003-2005, but his involvement with the organisation began well before and continued long after. My first memory of Gary was the leadership he exercised in bringing together communities in the North Downs Rail Concern group from across the county along the proposed route of what was then known as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and is now High Speed 1.
With rational discussion rather than blanket opposition, the route of the high-speed line through Kent was gently improved to take more sensitive account of the landscapes through which it was passing, negotiating route alterations that meant the rail line would pass unobtrusively through tunnels rather than over viaducts along the slopes of the downs.
Gary had a keen eye for detail and an overwhelming commitment to improving the environment he would leave behind him. He was part of the formidable team that successfully put up a spirited community response to the challenge posed by AXA to locate a highly damaging road-rail freight interchange at the food of the Kent Downs AONB – just one of the damaging proposals to which he brought his energy, effort and campaign commitment.
A passionate environmentalist and keenly aware of the threat of climate change, he was tireless in his campaigning and for all he did to further CPRE Kent’s objectives.
Brian joined the CPRE Kent team as senior planner at the end of 2007, staying until his retirement in 2016.
He brought to the role his prodigious professional skill and passionate commitment to protecting landscapes and countryside from inappropriate development.
Brian was the principal player in our lengthy campaign to prevent the despoilation of a stretch of protected landscape at Farthingloe outside Dover, proposed for the inappropriate and damaging construction of more than 600 homes in an area of protected landscape. He saw not only the importance of defeating this application but the importance of the decision in standing up for designated landscapes everywhere.
He helped steer the challenge through the High Court, the Court of Appeal and finally the Supreme Court, where an important judgment was handed down in 2018 that agreed with Brian’s initial assessment: that a planning decision that has the potential to cause substantial harm to a very special landscape must not be undertaken without very substantial reasons.
This was a hugely important judgment that has been referred to widely in subsequent planning and court decisions and has helped communities across the country protect the green spaces they love.
The importance of this judgment does not, of course, belie Brian’s sharp wit and sense of humour. He was a genuinely gentle giant who was taken from us far too soon.
Both Brian and Gary will be fondly remembered by their CPRE Kent friends and our thoughts and condolences are with their family, friends and loved ones.
Wednesday, March 17, 2021