They came from Cliffe, they came from Eccles, they came from Tunbridge Wells, they came from Folkestone, they came from Thanet… north, south, east and west, they came from across the county to join Kent’s Day of Action. More than 1,000 people gathered on Sunday, November 28, for the Save Kent’s Green Spaces protest organised by Dave Lovell. All were expressing their anger and upset over the loss of so much countryside to development. The turnout of more than 30 groups on a bitingly cold day was an extraordinary result, especially given the short notice of the event. Mr Lovell, who had been so involved with the Save Capel group, said: “At least 30 groups came out, some of them joining up together. Most sent us photos and many of these have placed in a digital photo album.” Highlighting the staggering onslaught facing Kent in the coming years, Mr Lovell said: “We’ve estimated that 17,000 acres are under threat of widespread development – an area larger than Manhattan Island – but we know that’s nowhere near the true figure and that is scary. “The figures don’t cover just housing – they include solar farms, for example. And there’s the concern that those solar farms are the thin end of the wedge, paving the way for housing that will theoretically get its power from them. They can be a trigger for further development, which is happening around Capel [near Tunbridge Wells].” Sadly, many reading this will concur wholeheartedly with Mr Lovell’s view that “there is a huge scale of destruction coming like nothing we’ve seen before”. “This counting of the destruction of countryside is not being done by councils – no one is actually counting how much is being lost,” he added. He was understandably delighted that so many people came out: “It was a fantastic response. Anyone can put ‘likes’ or emojis on social media – it’s much harder to get feet on the ground. “When we started this, we had no idea what the response would be. But on the day itself we were sitting in the pub after our walk and the phones were going ballistic as the pictures came in. Then we had an idea of what we had achieved.”
Residents from Istead Rise and Meopham took part in Sunday’s Kent Day of Action to protest against building in the Green Belt. They met in the fields either side of Norwood Lane in Meopham, which are under threat of development, to send a clear message that they will do their best to defend the Green Belt in next year’s Local Plan consultation. Alex Hills, CPRE Kent’s Gravesham chairman, said: “Having so many people turn up at short notice sent a clear message to the government and the local council that now is not the time for rhetoric – we want to see you are serious about protecting the Green Belt. “Food-supply shortages have shown that we need the Green Belt, which is the county’s larder, more than ever.” Many residents expressed concern that there is not the water or basic infrastructure to support the amount of development proposed for Gravesham.
How much more development can Kent take? With the county subjected to increasingly crazy levels of housebuilding, a protest has been planned for people sick of the ongoing destruction of their natural environment. The Day of Action on Sunday (November 28) will involve groups across Kent marching, walking or just plain meeting up to demonstrate their anger and upset over the loss of so much countryside to an incessant barrage of housebuilding schemes. The Save Kent’s Green Spaces protest was put together by Dave Lovell, who had previously been involved with the Save Capel group battling plans by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council for 2,800 new houses at Tudeley and another 1,500 at East Capel. “We are essentially an umbrella group and hope to guide others in their lawful protest. We had also always intended that individuals who did not have a campaign to align to could get involved and we are now opening up to them, as well as others who might not be able to make it on the day,” said Mr Lovell. “We’re trying to ratchet up the political pressure and get Boris Johnson to put his words on protecting green fields into practice. “With the National Planning Policy Framework a toothless machine, we would like to see it become advantageous for housebuilding to be on brownfield land, including the repurposing of existing buildings, and disadvantageous for it to be targeted at greenfield land.” At the time of writing, 29 groups across Kent had signed up for the Day of Action. Among them are Save our Heathlands, who will be walking along the North Downs from Lenham Cross to Cherry Downs; Sittingbourne’s Rural Protection Group; Westgate & Garlinge Action Group in Thanet; and Farms, Fields and Fresh Air, Faversham, who will be taking a poignant route from a food hall to the fields being put up for development by Prince Charles. Supporters who join the walks or simply do their own thing are encouraged to take photographs of threatened sites and post them on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #SaveKentsGreenSpaces or email them, with their details, to email@example.com Mr Lovell said: “From the contributions and messages we’ve already had, we’ve estimated that more than 15,300 acres are set to be lost to the proposed housing developments that we know of – but there are far more out there. “We’re not saying the figure represents scientific analysis, even though it’s been checked by a statistician, but it’s a fair estimate. I am also not aware of any form of cumulative impact assessment that might be in place for what seems a huge loss of green space, agricultural land and wildlife habitat. “If the day is successful – and with so many groups taking part we are confident it will be – we hope that other counties will follow suit.”
To learn more or to take part in the Day of Action, whether as a part of an organised group or as an individual, please visit the Save Kent’s Green Spaces Facebook page here or email firstname.lastname@example.org