Oh dear, what a muddle! No sooner had plans for almost 1,100 new homes at Sturry been approved by Canterbury City Council than permission for part of a nearby relief road was refused at county level. The city council’s desire for a relief road intended to ease congestion at the A28 Sturry level crossing had been central to its backing for the housing. It was Tuesday, February 9, that Canterbury’s planning committee gave outline permission for 630 new homes and a primary school at Sturry and full permission for 456 homes at Broad Oak, where more than 800 square metres of commercial space at Broad Oak won outline permission. Developers of both housing schemes – which were treated as one strategic site – were each to put £8.8 million towards the relief road, with another £1.2 million provided by the builder of the Hoplands Farm housing estate at Hersden. However, the county council’s refusal to back a critical part of the scheme means more than £5 million earmarked for the road by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership will now not be forthcoming. It is understood that the spine road through the Sturry development, which was approved by city councillors, will still be built. However, on Tuesday, March 9, a three-lane viaduct over the River Stour to a new roundabout at Sturry Road fell foul of County Hall, which slated the proposal to stop traffic heading towards the city from using the level crossing, the prospect of drivers using rat-runs to avoid the link road, potential danger to pedestrians on Sturry Hill and the impact of the viaduct on boats on the Stour. CPRE Kent had earlier objected to both housing projects, along with many others, including Sturry and Broad Oak Action Group, the Woodland Trust and Sturry Parish Council. Sturry resident Peta Boucher is one of many who had campaigned against the housing schemes’ shortcomings. She is among those who suspected deeply flawed development would be pushed through because Canterbury planners feared losing the SELEP funding, which had a mid-February deadline. Sharon Thompson, KCC head of planning applications, had stressed the potential problems of refusing permission for the viaduct. “The housing developments will still go ahead regardless,” she said. “In the event of refusing the application, all of the housing growth in the north-east of Canterbury would use the existing and constrained highway networks. “KCC and the Planning Inspectorate have identified that network as being inadequate to take that growth.” In other words, if traffic congestion at the Sturry level crossing is bad now, the scale of the impending housing development is going to make it a whole lot worse. Last word to Ms Boucher, speaking after the city council had approved the mass housing development back in February: “Its acceptance is a depressingly stark example of how strategic planning should not be done.” Can anyone seriously argue?
As Canterbury continues its descent from revered cathedral city to soul-crushing urban sprawl, a dispute over hundreds of planned houses highlights the sorry state of an overly complicated and disjointed planning system. Many were delighted when a proposal for 650 homes at Sturry, north-east of the city, was rejected in November by Canterbury City Council’s planning committee – citing policy law that had not been addressed – but it has returned with the number of homes reduced slightly to 630 and some rejigging that has still not tackled the issues highlighted by councillors. The Environ Design (Sturry) development forms part of the same strategic site as a separate proposal, from Barratt and David Wilson Homes for 465 properties at neighbouring Broad Oak. Central to the debate is the council’s desire for a relief road intended to alleviate congestion at the A28 Sturry level crossing. Proposals for a relief road have been around for some 30-40 years, so it has come as little surprise to see it raise its head again. Developers from several sites will have to pay a contribution towards the road; with regard to the Sturry and Broad Oak elements, this would be paid once 500 houses had been built and sold within an agreed timescale. South East Local Enterprise Partnership has earmarked £5 million for the road, about a fifth of which has already been spent on design. The proposed development site has a chequered history. In 2005 the council concluded it was not sustainable for housing and did not allocate it in the Local Plan. It took a similar view in both 2010 and 2014 before, in 2017, allocating it as a way of funding the relief road. Concerns over traffic, issues with environmental impact, absence of affordable housing, excessive density and poor design all counted against the scheme when it was refused in November. Just possibly, it would be encouraging to think, they realised the proposed road would do little more than shunt traffic congestion a mile or two down the A28 (it would re-emerge close to Canterbury sewage works). Sturry resident Peta Boucher is one of many who have campaigned against the proposed development’s shortcomings. She said: “This and other nearby applications are not just about relieving traffic at the crossing – they’re about opening up new developments in the area. “The road, with its 22,000 movements a day, would be built through the middle of the new estate. It would be huge, noisy and polluting, complete with a viaduct near the sewage works. “The Local Plan suggested a figure of 1,000 houses between Sturry and Broad Oak, but that figure has already been pushed up. “The scheme abuts ancient woodland [Den Grove Wood], where up to 50 per cent of the trees could be axed for roads reaching into the new housing. There would be a buffer zone around the wood – which will be closed to public access – but it would do nothing to protect the wildlife within the area or to create safe natural corridors. Councillors were concerned about dog mess killing the woods, but we have more serious concerns. “There is serious lead pollution on the former shooting ground that forms part of the site – you really would not want to build there. We are not against new housing in the area, but we want good housing with proper facilities for all. This proposal will double the size of the villages without adding any new infrastructure. “We know we need housing, but we need excellent housing. Apart from the fact no affordable homes are proposed, the density is far too high and some properties would be sandwiched between the road and the railway. “A tiny community hall is planned on a roundabout, making it almost inaccessible! The developers say they will build a primary school, but they’re not needed as we already have Sturry and Hersden primaries. They’re not planning any playing fields for the estate residents as they will supposedly be provided by the new school. “Open space would be limited because the woods will not be open to the public, while allocated space would have SuDS [sustainable drainage systems] and sewage pits in them. “Natural England has had well-documented concerns over foul water being released to the River Stour, while Southern Water has said there is no capacity for this development. “To deal with some of this, two huge sewage tanks are proposed – one at Sturry and the other at Broad Oak. These would be emptied once a month and of course the waste transported through the estate.” Phew! And the list is far from exhaustive… Ms Boucher is among those who suspect a deeply flawed development will be pushed through because Canterbury planners fear losing the SELEP road-funding, which has a mid-February deadline. “We’re being sold down the river for £5 million,” said Ms Boucher. With reports in local media that the council leader has written to members of the planning committee “reminding” them of their obligation to hold to the Local Plan, the signs are perhaps ominous. Either way, the whole sorry saga is a mess – this is not how strategic planning should be done. Further, the amount of mitigation work necessary to address the damage caused by this desperately poor scheme, should it be accepted in its current form, would blight the area for years.
Some 550 acres of farmland south of Canterbury are to be lost to a giant housing scheme. Canterbury City Council has approved the 4,000-unit Mountfield Park “garden city”, which developer Corinthian Land says it will begin building next year and finish within 15 years. Access will be primarily through New Dover Road, with Nackington Road and Pilgrims Way providing alternative routes. There will also be a 1,000-space park-and-ride site and a new junction on the A2, together with shops, office space, sports pitches and two primary schools. The scheme had first been backed by the city council in December 2016, but legal challenges delayed matters until Tuesday’s (December 22) 7-5 vote to approve by the council’s planning committee. Corinthian now has detailed permission for 140 homes and outline approval for another 3,860. The developer says 30 per cent of the development will comprise affordable homes.
Canterbury City Council has announced its intention to revoke its permission to extend the Wincheap park & ride over an area of valued water meadow. This follows CPRE Kent’s legal challenge to the permission on three grounds: • Failure to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment • Legal errors in the Habitats Regulation Assessment • Misleading claims that the site had been ‘allocated’ in the Local Plan and that it would not have a harmful effect on the landscape The council’s decision follows an announcement from Highways England that it could not sign off the planned slip-road from the nearby A2 funded by the nearby Cockering Farm development, thereby rendering the proposed changes to the park & ride redundant.
Plans for 900 new homes in Herne Bay have been turned down by councillors despite officers recommending they be approved. The 136-acre site at Sweechbridge Road had been allocated for development in Canterbury City Council’s Local Plan, but concerns over open space and density saw Taylor Wimpey’s application for hybrid consent refused. Consent was being sought by the developer for an initial 193 homes of the scheme, together with access works, drainage infrastructure, open space, landscaping and street-lighting. Outline consent was also sought for up to 707 further homes, up to 27,000 square metres of employment space, a care home, shops, a community centre, a school, open space and infrastructure works. Planning officers had recommended the scheme be approved, a planning report saying the site “forms the major part of a strategic allocated site for a mixed-use development in the Canterbury District Local Plan”. It continued: “The application site will provide a significant amount of the homes that are required to meet the district’s need, as well as providing employment opportunities for local people. This application is therefore acceptable in principle.” However, the proposals were refused at a planning committee meeting on Tuesday, September 1. A council spokesman said members had concluded the scheme would not provide for “sufficient high-quality open space for active and continual use due to the amount of that space which contains attenuation ponds/features”, making it contrary to national planning policy. Further, the development “at 40 dwellings per hectare is over-dense and would amount to an overdevelopment of the site given the location of the site”, while its proposed 22.5 per cent affordable-housing provision failed to meet the 30 per cent sought by local planning policy. Members also found a “lack of sustainable infrastructure such as solar panels and electric vehicle-charging points”, against Local Plan policy, and “highways arrangements proposed would not provide safe movement within and around the proposed development”.