Kent… so just how built-up is it?

Landscape is not always just about natural features…this is the Coldrum Long Barrow at Trottiscliffe (pic Walter Coultrip)

As most of us are all too aware, Kent is almost buckling under an onslaught of development proposals and we can but imagine the state of the county should many of them to pass.
But do you know how we fare compared with the rest of the region when it comes to our environment as it is now? If not, read on…
A study published last month (November) by the University of Sheffield and the BBC shows that, in a South East context, Kent is essentially average in terms of how much of our landscape has already been developed.
The analysis shows that 10.6% of the South East is developed, with the Kent figure being a shade lower, at 10.3%. Oxfordshire is the region’s greenest county, with just 7.2% of its landscape built upon.

The full South East league table places Kent at precisely halfway:

  • Oxfordshire 7.2%
  • Sussex 8.7%
  • Hampshire 10.2%
  • Kent 10.3%
  • Buckinghamshire 10.8%
  • Berkshire 16%
  • Surrey 17.2%

Back to Kent, and the least urbanised district is Ashford (5%) and the most urbanised Dartford (32%).

The full Kent league table is:

  • Ashford 5%
  • Tunbridge Wells 7%
  • Dover 8%
  • Maidstone 8%
  • Sevenoaks 8%
  • Shepway 8%
  • Swale 8%
  • Canterbury 9%
  • Tonbridge and Malling 14%
  • Gravesham 21%
  • Thanet 27%
  • Medway 28%
  • Dartford 32%

How might those figures look in 50 years’ time? Perhaps best not think about it…

Friday, December 22, 2017

Move quickly if you want to respond to housing consultation

Housing yes, but the right type, the right places… and the right numbers (photo by Hastoe)

Time is almost up if you want to respond to the government’s consultation on future housing provision.

The Department for Communities and Local Government document Planning For The Right Homes In The Right Places has sparked alarm across much of the South East.

Its proposed new methodology on determining housebuilding levels could leave some counties facing colossal hikes in the number of homes they are required by central government to build.

However, the burden is not being shared equally and, extraordinarily, some counties, even in the pressurised South East, could be asked to build fewer houses than previously scheduled.

Conversely, Kent is being targeted for a disproportionately large increase in the number of homes its must build.

If you think that is unfair – or indeed have any views on what the government could be about to unleash on us – you have until 11.45pm tomorrow (Thursday, November 9) to add them to the consultation.

CPRE has already responded and is encouraging others to do the same, even at this late stage.

You can do so here

For more on the consultation, see here

To read how Kent could be targeted disproportionately heavily, see here

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Landscape Heritage?

By Rose Lister

In my last article I asked what you think of when someone mentions heritage. Have I opened your eyes to the idea that heritage covers more than just bricks and mortar? Now let me ask you, what about hills? What of the valleys and rivers that stand stretching and winding through our county? What of the farmlands that make us the Garden of England? Our landscape is something we all use and rarely consider to be an inheritance, a place of magnificence that holds the secrets of our past. Our landscape feeds us, clothes us and gives us shelter. It gives us the air we breathe. Do we really appreciate it?

In recent years our built heritage has been making waves in the planning system showing that what we created in ages past is precious. Don’t you think that the landscape this lies in deserves to make the same waves? Areas such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty have long been recognised and now the settings of historic buildings are also making their mark. In 2014 Barnwell Manor in Northamptonshire won an appeal case that affected the setting of a Grade I listed building. 2015 saw a home win for CPRE Kent when the Waterside Park application was quashed due to the developments negative effects on the setting of the Grade I listed Leeds Castle.

Leeds Castle Aerial Shot, photo Leeds Castle Foundation

However, although landscape that was the main issue, it was the attachment to the heritage asset that made it worth saving. Surely the same curtesy should be extended to our landscape heritage?

Since 2014 CPRE Kent has been fighting a battle to save our landscape heritage. The Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has been the subject of a skirmish between developers and defenders. The prospective development at Western Heights and Farthingloe is threatening our landscape heritage. Much of the AONB is carefully managed – it is home to much of Kent’s historic fruit farming industry, it thrives with ancient woodland, the landscape holds the stories of generations long gone, even some of the species that live there are endemic. As such this beautiful and versatile landscape has been threatened for the very reason it was designated. It is a beautiful place and people will pay a premium to live in it.

Farthingloe view from Western Heights, photo CPRE

Farthingloe view from Western Heights, photo CPRE

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CPRE Kent objects to sites on greenfield land

We have objected to the high number of inappropriate, unsustainable greenfield sites identified in the Maidstone Local Plan.

Commenting on the council’s latest consultation into additional site allocations, Gary Thomas, Chairman of the Maidstone Committee, said: “It is disappointing that Maidstone has set such a high housing target of 18,560 homes, the consequence of which is the number of inappropriate and unsustainable sites which could change the character of many villages and communities within the borough as well as lead to the loss of beautiful greenfield land and important agricultural land.”

View of valley from Boughton Monchelsea, photo by crocus08, flickr

View of valley from Boughton Monchelsea, photo by crocus08, flickr

We particularly object to the concentration of sites in Boughton Monchelsea:

  • Land at Boughton Lane Loose (75 homes) – grade 2 agricultural land, greenfield, within an area defined as the Loose Landscape of Local Value
  • Boughton Mount, Boughton Lane (25 homes)- grade 2 agricultural land, greenfield, within an area defined as the Loose Landscape of Local Value
  • Land at Church Street / Heath Road (40 homes) – loss of woodland, within Landscape Character Area No. 29 Boughton Monchelsea to Chart Sutton Plateau’ lack of school places and impact on pedestrian safety by school
  • Land at Lywood Farm, Green Lane (25 homes), – unsustainable location and increased traffic
  • Hubbards Lane (8 homes) – inappropriate greenfield site, grade 2 agricultural land.

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Plans for 450 homes “unjustified”

Plans to build 450 homes on Green Belt land in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Fort Halstead near Sevenoaks have been slated as totally unjustified by CPRE Kent.

Sevenoaks District Council has not considered alternatives to this mass housing plan which a developer claims is needed to secure employment prospects at the site.

Our comments come as part of the consultation into modifications to the council’s Allocations and Development Management Plan. A planning inspector has ruled that the site should be used for employment purposes, but accepted that would need “some level” of residential development to make it viable. However, officers misrepresented this to council members and said the inspector had accepted “significant residential development”.

CPRE Kent is very concerned that the Council then simply accepted the developer’s figure of 450 homes and relied on the developer’s own assessments rather than doing its own research, as asked for by the inspector.

“We agree that the site should continue to be used for employment,” said CPRE Kent Senior Planner Brian Lloyd. “However, it cannot be justified to build 450 homes in a remote area, without services and facilities, to support them. The council needs to carry out a proper assessment of how many homes are required and come up with alternative plans more in keeping with this sensitive site.”

If 450 homes were built it would equate to 15.5 hectares of residential development, plus additional land for open space and a village centre, all to achieve just four hectares of land for new employment.  We fail to see how this would comprise an ‘employment-led’ development, as claimed by the council.

We are also doubtful of the claims that the area cannot attract businesses when its proximity to the M25 would make it attractive to potential employers. We ask why more remote sites in less prosperous parts of Kent, such as the Kent Science Park near Sittingbourne, are thriving and growing without the need for residential development to support them?

The site is in a prominent and sensitive position on the top of the scarp of the North Downs. Currently the development is low density and activity is largely confined to daytime.

“Building 450 homes would change the character of the site dramatically and forever,” said Brian Lloyd. “There must be better options.”