Developing new homes AND our heritage

Rose Lister, who has joined our team at CPRE Kent as an intern specialising in heritage, shares her thoughts below on the planned development of Connaught Barracks and the heritage implications.

Heritage can mainly be seen in our built environment, however it is all that is green and growing and all that flurries and scuttles too. Our rivers and wildlife, green open spaces and villages are where we find our identity. England’s green and pleasant land is so rarely found in our towns and cities, but as the pressure to build expands ever outwards and threatens our environmental heritage it is important to realise that what we have is precious and worth fighting for.

Connaught barracks

That is not to say that we cannot develop our heritage. Development is needed and is indicative of a healthy society. Rather we would see that it is done right. A golden example of this is the prospective development of the Connaught Barracks in Dover. The sight ticks so many boxes that it is the perfect place for a local planning authority to regenerate.

  • It is a brownfield site.
  • It has been empty and unused for a decade.
  • The majority of the buildings are of little historical and architectural value.
  • It is not in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Fort Burgoyne 3 by Wevsky Fort Burgoyne 2 by Wevsky

Fort Burgoyne photos above by Wevsky

 

That said it is home to a Victorian fort, Fort Burgoyne. Though overgrown and derelict, the fort is part of our military history and should be treated with respect. Therefore the question is not should Connaught Barracks be developed but rather can it be done right?

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CPRE Kent welcomes new houses at Connaught Barracks

We have welcomed proposals to build 500 new homes on the Connaught Barracks site in Dover. The 136-acre garrison has sat derelict since the 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment left in 2006.

CPRE Kent Director Hilary Newport said: “We know there is a need for new homes, particularly affordable homes, and we support building on brownfield sites which have been identified in the local plan for development. Connaught Barracks is exactly the sort of site which should be developed and we welcome this plan. We also very much support small builders being given the opportunity to work on projects like this as the major housebuilders have clearly not been delivering the homes we need.”

Connaught barracks

The Connaught Barracks site was acquired by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) in 2008. It is considered challenging by private developers because of complex demolition and utility upgrades required before work can start. Under the new scheme, the Government will be commissioning construction directly with smaller building companies who will not have to undertake to deliver the whole site.

“We hope the building standards will include measures for energy efficiency and landscaping to create an attractive community with the right infrastructure and that it includes the promised 40% of affordable homes so needed in Kent,” said Dr Newport.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark, who is the MP for Tunbridge Wells, said: “Today’s radical new approach will mean the government will directly commission small and up-and-coming companies to build thousands of new homes on sites right across the country.”

Building is expected to start in 2016.

For more information on the Government scheme and the other sites click here.

To read our blog by CPRE Kent’s heritage specialist Rose Lister click here.

January 5th 2016.

Concern over planning reforms

The Government this week (Monday 7th December) published a consultation proposing a raft of new changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

We welcome the presumption in favour of brownfield housing development  which would make it clear that development proposals for housing on brownfield sites should be supported, unless overriding conflicts with the local plan or the National Planning Policy Framework can be demonstrated and cannot be mitigated.

However we are very concerned about some of the other proposals.

In particular, a new ‘housing delivery test’ (paras 27-33) will likely lead to more green fields being released for development as councils either plan for more development in advance or have to find new sites to develop when existing targets are not met. We believe that the ‘delivery test’ in its proposed form will allow developers to cherry pick greenfield sites instead, letting the brownfield sites go to waste.

Lullingstone, photo by Susan Pittman

Lullingstone, photo by Susan Pittman

The proposal to encourage new settlements (para 19/20) is also concerning – the area required for entirely new settlements is far greater than that required for just the housing. Councils are already encouraged in the current NPPF to bring forward new settlements. The proposed new policies could serve to force local people to accept large speculative schemes in unsuitable places that had been previously rejected in recent local consultations.

The idea of more quickly bringing forward development on brownfield sites in the Green Belt was trailed in the Spending Review. We believe each case must be considered carefully as brownfield in the Green Belt often contains valuable open land and open parkland that should not be developed. Paragraph 49, meanwhile, suggests that councils will be able to designate parts of the Green Belt for small developments of ‘starter homes’, entertaining the possibility of urban sprawl and drawing focus away from brownfield sites that have connections to existing infrastructure and amenities.

CPRE will be submitting a response to the consultation, the submission date for which is the 25 January 2016.

Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said:

“This consultation is really concerning. Instead of addressing the current difficulties in bringing forward the right sites for the right homes, it proposes to release yet more land for development, often in the countryside and possibly in the Green Belt.

“The current policy isn’t working, but these proposals will make things worse. Releasing unlimited amounts of greenfield land will not deliver the Government’s welcome pledges to regenerate brownfield sites.”

December 9th 2015

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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.

HousingEstate_2167w

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

Unrealistic housing targets threaten countryside

We are calling for an overhaul of the way local authorities set housing targets in order to stop countryside being lost unnecessarily.

Extensive research commissioned by CPRE has shown that local authorities are in effect being asked to base their plans on aspiration rather than need, which is resulting in ever higher housing targets and the consequent, unnecessary release of countryside for development – without resulting in an increase in overall housebuilding.

Shorne Village, photo by Roy Dinnis

Shorne Village, photo by Roy Dinnis

In Kent many of the targets are unrealistic – e.g.18,560 homes planned for Maidstone, 15,600 for Canterbury and 15.600 for Thanet. The total for the county is around 165,000. Kent does not have the infrastructure for these additional homes, the impact on the countryside and environment will be devastating and irreversible. Continue reading

CPRE Kent response to proposed planning reforms

The Government has proposed sweeping reforms to the planning system including:

* Automatic planning permission on all suitable brownfield (former industrial) sites, removing unnecessary delays

* Power for the Government to intervene and have local plans drafted when councils fail to produce them and penalties for those that make 50 per cent or fewer planning decisions on time

* Stronger compulsory purchase powers to bring forward more brownfield land, and devolution of planning powers to the Mayors of London and Manchester

* Major infrastructure projects which include housing development to be fast-tracked

* End the need for planning permission for upwards extensions for a limited number of storeys up to the height of the adjoining building in London

* Higher-density development around key commuter hubs

* Redefining “affordable housing” to include discounted market housing, i.e. starter homes.

 

Photo: CPRE

Photo: CPRE

CPRE Kent response:

CPRE Kent agrees that we need to build more homes, especially affordable homes.

In 2012-13, the UK hit a post-war low of 135,500 homes. Last year the figure recovered slightly to 141,000 homes.

However we know there are existing sites with planning permission for thousands of homes in Kent and elsewhere and we believe more should be done to actually get these homes built. Too many companies are landbanking (the practice of buying land as an investment, holding it for future use  or selling it on with permission but without specific plans for homes to be constructed – i.e land trading). There should be measures put into place to make them actually deliver these new homes within a certain time.

We have long been calling for better use for brownfield sites and are glad the government is backing this. However there still needs to be local consideration about sustainability and infrastructure and which sites are suitable for housing development. CPRE believes there should be a strong presumption in favour of “brownfield first” with these safeguards.

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#WasteOfSpace Campaign

Have you spotted abandoned buildings and derelict sites in your area which could be used for housing development? The CPRE is calling on people to identify disused brownfield sites in order to save greenfield sites and help protect our countryside.

The #WasteOfSpace campaign is running until January 2015. Please join in by nominating a local brownfield site, for example an empty shop or abandoned factory. These will be added to an interactive map online which will help politicians and developers to identify sites and also raise awareness of the brownfield/greenfield debate.

“If more disused brownfield sites and empty buildings were re-developed, it would save greenfield sites and protect the countryside. Not only that but it would make our towns more vibrant and help get rid of eyesores and derelict buildings,” said CPRE Kent Director Dr Hilary Newport.

Folkestone waste of space

Abandoned building in Folkestone

So far three sites in Kent are on the map – the derelict building next to Grace Chapel in Folkestone; disused land in Island Road at Canterbury; and space in Rochester next to the bridge over the Medway. But we know hundreds more exist.

A CPRE report earlier this year found that the Government’s planning reforms are unnecessarily damaging the countryside and failing to prioritise the re-use of brownfield land and regeneration of urban areas.

“Brownfield developments can be costly because of de-contamination and complications over ownership, but these are all matters that could and should be overcome,” said Dr Newport. “They won’t be, though, if we continue to promote so-called easy to develop greenfield sites.”

To nominate a brownfield site and add it to CPRE’s ‘WasteOfSpace’ map of England, please send an image of the site (as simple as a quick snap on a smartphone) and an address of the site – either a postcode or rough street address. Send the image by:

emailing wasteofspace@cpre.org.uk
tweeting @CPRE with the hashtag #WasteOfSpace
posting to the Facebook group #WasteOfSpace

To view the map: http://www.cpre.org.uk/how-you-can-help/take-action/waste-of-space