Hundreds turn out for Gravesham Green Belt meeting

Richard Knox-Johnston, CPRE Kent vice-president, gives his presentation at the Istead Rise meeting

Almost 300 people packed Istead Rise community centre for a public meeting about housing development in north-west Kent.
The event focused on Gravesham Borough Council’s local plan consultation and questionnaire. It had been called by Gravesham Rural Residents Group because, it says, the local authority has not held any such meetings.
It was the first public meeting organised by GRRG, an umbrella action group that brings together representatives from the borough’s rural areas to debate the consultation review and develop a united approach.
Gravesham council is reviewing its policies towards the Metropolitan Green Belt and suggesting that some 2,000 homes could be built on sites currently within it.
At the meeting, on Friday, May 18, council leader David Turner defended the Green Belt review, which could remove land from the Green Belt to allow for new housing.
He said if this review was not held, there was a risk the government’s planning inspectors might take control of the process.
Bob Lane then gave a talk and slide show, with population projections challenging the council view that it needed to build up to 2,000 homes on Green Belt land, having increased its target from 6,000 new houses to 8,000.
The council’s belief that it had to wilt to pressure from Westminster or planning inspectors was challenged by guest speaker Richard Knox-Johnston, CPRE Kent vice-president.
His presentation (with slides) also illustrated why the Green Belt should be protected.
He pointed out that 2,000 houses would generate some 10,000 road journeys a day; this shocked many of those present due to the air pollution it would generate.
Mr Knox-Johnston agreed with Mr Lane that building on greenfield sites would allow developers to sell new housing at premium prices, which would not provide affordable homes for young families and first-time buyers – neither would it help residents on the council waiting list.
The audience applauded loudly both Mr Lane and Mr Richard Knox-Johnston at various points in their talks.
Local MP Adam Holloway gave his support to protection of the Green Belt and talked about his discussions with the Housing Minister.
The meeting wound up with a question-and-answer debate with the panel. Many residents expressed strong opposition to the council’s consideration of building on Green Belt land when more than 50 brownfield sites were empty or derelict in the borough.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Green Belt champion to address Gravesham meeting

This land near Higham is threatened with development for the planned Lower Thames Crossing (pic Paul Buckley)

Richard Knox-Johnston, CPRE Kent vice-president, will take to the stage at Istead Rise on Friday
(pic KMTV)

Richard Knox-Johnston, CPRE Kent vice-president, is joining the fray as campaigners step up their efforts to protect Green Belt land in Gravesham.
Mr Knox-Johnston, who is also chairman of the London Green Belt Council, will be speaking at a public meeting about housing development in the borough at Istead Rise this month.
The meeting is being organised by Gravesham Rural Residents Group because it says Gravesham Borough Council is not holding any such events as it reviews its Local Plan core strategy.
The council appears to be suggesting that 2,000 more homes than previously anticipated will need to be built in the borough and GRRG, of which Gravesham CPRE is a member, says the majority of options to cater for them entail the release of land from the Metropolitan Green Belt for development.
Although it has not set up any meetings about its proposals, GBC has produced a questionnaire asking residents for their views. However, the rural group believes this is flawed and “designed to make [respondents] support building on the Green Belt”.
As such, it is asking people not to fill in the questionnaire until they have been to the Istead Rise meeting, where they will be advised how to complete it if they do not wanting building on the Green Belt.
In a bid to attract as wide an audience as possible, the group is posing the following questions via social media:

Do you want more air pollution?

Do you want to wait longer for medical treatment?

Do you want your journeys to take longer? (traffic on the A227 is set to increase by 10,000 vehicles a day due to the planned Lower Thames Crossing)

Do you not want your children to attend the school of your choice?

Do you want to live in an extension of London?

Alex Hills, Gravesham CPRE chairman, said: “Gravesham Borough Council wants to build 2,000 homes on your Green Belt that they do not need to build.
“If you value your Green Belt, now is the time to fight for it!”

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Is Gravesham Green Belt up for grabs?

More Gravesham countryside could be lost to housing. This is Shorne Woods (pic Paul Buckley)

Fears of our Gravesham committee for the future of Metropolitan Green Belt land in the district appear to have been well founded.
The borough council has launched a consultation on proposals for the review of its Local Plan core strategy, which suggest 2,000 more homes than previously anticipated will need to be built in Gravesham.
The majority of options to cater for them entail the “release of land from the Green Belt for development”.
Gravesham CPRE belongs to Gravesham Rural Residents Group, a group formed in 2011 to defend the Green Belt, and Alex Hills has been active in the campaign.
Anticipating what was to come, the CPRE Gravesham chairman said in November last year: “The group is ready to fight again as people in Gravesham care about the Green Belt.
“In this area healthcare is at breaking point, air pollution is at dangerous levels – every one of our services is at breaking point, water supply and flooding risk in Kent are now pressing questions and our roads face gridlock – the Thames crossing alone will cause a doubling of the traffic on the A227, which runs north to south right through Gravesham.
“Is it not time we questioned the growth targets?”
Now the council, in launching its eight-week consultation, has identified three main areas for review:

  • How much development is needed
  • Where this development should be
  • If and how the Green Belt or any other policy constraints need to be changed to accommodate development

The local authority says a strategic housing market assessment carried out as part of the evidence base of the review found Gravesham had “a higher housing requirement of 7,900 homes, more than the 6,170 in the current plan”.
Further, it claims that an analysis using the government’s proposed standardised housing need assessment methodology suggests this should rise again to 8,000.
The council statement says: “When all urban sites and planning permissions are taken into account, Gravesham is about 2,000 homes short of its 2028 requirement.”
The options for housing allocation include:

  • Intensification of existing settlements
  • Expansion of existing urban areas
  • Creation of “a single new settlement through the merger of existing settlements”
  • Creation of a free-standing new settlement

The council document does not identify specific Green Belt sites for development but highlights an area running from Culverstone Green in the south of Gravesham up the A227 to Higham in the north as “a primary area of search”.
Council leader David Turner said: “With no Local Plan, the Green Belt could lose virtually all protection it has, allowing the local planning process to be sidestepped.
“Ideally, we would avoid building on Green Belt land. However, as part of this process, the council must look at all possible sites and rule them in or out.
“We are starting from the principle of brownfield land and other sites within the urban confines first but may need to seek additional land to meet our needs.
“When this consultation is complete, the council will draw up more detailed options and everyone will get the chance to comment again on those next year.”
The council intends to consult on a submission draft of its Local Plan in 2020, leading to submission, examination and adoption in 2021.
The consultation runs until June 20, 2018. If you would like to take part, visit bit.ly/2HDpjCF

Monday, April 30, 2018

Istead Rise campaigners win battle to save land for community

Rachel Westlake, Terry Annable and Roger Francis spoke on behalf of those who objected to the application

The threatened land at the junction of Weald Close and The Drove Way

A campaign supported by CPRE Kent against a contentious development in Istead Rise has won the day, with the local authority refusing planning permission for the scheme.
The plans for two bungalows at the junction of Weald Close and The Drove Way – in what is termed a soft landscape community asset site – were rejected unanimously by Gravesham Borough Council’s regulatory board.
The decision follows a battle by local residents supported by CPRE Kent that attracted some 160 people to public meetings. Posters, leaflets and social media were all used extensively during the campaign.
Alex Hills, CPRE Gravesham chairman, said after last month’s decision: “Huge thanks must go to the councillors for taking the time to read the lengthy reports and for listening to the views of the local residents.
“Also thanks to the planning officers who pulled together the reports and gathered the valid points held within the 108 objections received from local residents.
“This amount of objections is amazing for an application for two bungalows, where normally the most you would expect is around three to six objections.
“It showed the councillors very clearly how much people value the open spaces in their area.
“As a very experienced campaigner for CPRE Kent, it proves that people can make a difference if they stand together and put forward valid reasons in planning law why an application should be rejected.
“Everyone worked very hard on the campaign gathering information and leafleting the local community to raise awareness of this application.
“Special thanks must go to Terry Annable, Frank Booker and Rachel Westlake for being the central driving force of the campaign.
“The application raised the issue of the status, importance and protection that is given to open spaces within built-up areas all over Gravesham.
“There are some local policies in the Local Plan that protect these spaces and there is another that supports infill development.
“The application came about because there is no legal definition or definition in the Local Plan of what is or is not classed as infill development.
“If the application had been approved, every open space in Gravesham would have been under threat from developers.
“CPRE Kent supports infill development on land within built-up areas that is surplus to requirements or serves no purpose, but it has been proven that open spaces like that at Weald Close do serve an important and much-valued purpose.”

Monday, April 23, 2018

Lower Thames Crossing debate

We will be debating the proposed new Lower Thames Crossing at an important public meeting next week.

Wednesday, 2nd March
St John’s Catholic Comprehensive School, Rochester Road, Gravesend, Kent DA12 2JW

Doors open 18:00 for 19:00 start

Lower Thames Crossing image

Organised by Gravesham Neighbourhood Forums, the speakers are CPRE Kent Director Hilary Newport and Highways England Consultation Manager Martin Potts. The meeting will be chaired by journalist Iain McBride with maximum time for questions.

QE2 Bridge by Diamond Geezer, flickr

QE2 Bridge by Diamond Geezer, flickr

Meanwhile we have raised our concerns about the implications for pollution of the proposed new crossing.

Alex Hills, Chairman of the Dartford and Gravesham branch of CPRE Kent, said: “We all know that pollution is a killer with the young most at risk and yet the route being promoted passes many schools. We find it baffling that Highways England is not going to do a full modelling of the impact on air quality until after the route has been chosen.”(1)

Highways England documents state that no parts of the south east meet the ambient air quality directive(2) and Gravesend and Rochester town centres already exceed safe pollution levels. Experts calculate that pollution accounts for 40,000(3) early deaths a year. Research has proven that pollution can cause asthma, strokes and heart attacks, so should be regarded as a serious health issue.(4)

It is for this reason the government is supposed to be working towards reducing UK emissions by 60%.  Air pollution reduces brain function and development in children(5). A new tunnel and the associated road network leading to and from the tunnel will only lead to a worsening of air pollution levels in Kent and Essex.

Alex Hills said: “The increasing evidence on the effects of air pollution on people’s health makes the government’s insistence on a new road crossing indefensible. There needs to be a proper study into the alternatives. We have called for a sustainable transport strategy to ease congestion not just here but on the M20 and at Dover too.”

(1)Highways England document volume 6.4.3.6

(2)In 2015 the Supreme court ruled the UK had been in breach of the Ambient Air Quality Directive 2008/50/EC since 2010

(3)Royal College of Physicians-Channel 4 Despatches 22.2.2016

(4)Queen Marys Hospital London, Professor Jonathan Grigg and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary Professor David Newby, Channel 4 Despatches 22.2.2016

(5)Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona Professor Jordi Sunyer- Channel 4 Despatches 22.2.2016

For more information on our policy position click here.

February 25 2016.

Meeting with Planning Minister

Members of the Gravesham District Committee of CPRE Kent together with the Gravesham Rural Resident Group (GRRG) met with Minister of State for Housing and Planning Brandon Lewis on February 9th 2015. The meeting was organised by Gravesham MP Adam Holloway.

They wanted to raise their concerns about threats to the Green Belt from development plans. Gravesham Borough Council is revising its Green Belt boundary as part of its housing delivery review. CPRE Kent and the GRRG are opposed to any erosion of the Green Belt and the implications of any such erosion would stretch far beyond Kent.

Members of the delegation including Adam Holloway MP, CPRE Kent's Richard Knox- Johnston and Alex Hills and GRRG Chairman James Ferrin as well as parish councillors

Members of the delegation including Adam Holloway MP, CPRE Kent’s Richard Knox- Johnston and Alex Hills and GRRG Chairman James Ferrin as well as parish councillors

Chairman of the Gravesham Committee, Alex Hills said: “He made it absolutely clear that Strategic Housing Land Assessments (SHLAAs) should regard the Green Belt as an environmental constraint and housing supply figures must be adjusted to accommodate this. He also stressed that councils behind on delivering their five year housing supply target should not use that as an excuse to build on the Green Belt.”

Mr Lewis also called on all rural areas to form their own neighbourhood plans.

February 11th 2015