CPRE Kent handed Thurnham heritage award for Woodcut Farm bid

All smiles at the award presentation. From left: CPRE Kent director Hilary Newport and vice-president Richard Knox-Johnston, Thurnham parish council chairman Daniel Skinner and Maidstone CPRE chairman Gary Thomas

CPRE Kent has won an award for its bid to save a stretch of countryside near Maidstone.
Our attempt to stop development near junction 8 of the M20 (Woodcut Farm) was ultimately unsuccessful, but Thurnham Parish Council recognised our efforts by naming us winner of its heritage award.
CPRE Kent had applied at the end of last year to the High Court for a judicial review of Maidstone Borough Council’s inclusion in its Local Plan of the junction 8 site as a designated site for development.
However, in February this year we were not granted permission by the Honourable Mrs Justice Lang DBE to take forward the review.
The request for a judicial review had followed CPRE Kent’s submission, in November last year, a pre-action protocol letter to the High Court against the council deciding on a Roxhill Developments planning application for the site.
Despite the letter and protest from parish councils and local groups, the council chose to grant outline planning permission for the site.
A statement on the Thurnham Parish Council website says: “The Thurnham Heritage Award was instituted in cooperation with English Heritage.
“Most awards are top down: this is the opposite. It is a parish council recognising outstanding contributions to heritage in many forms and ways by organisations or individuals. It is awarded for one year.
“The award itself was carefully made by Thomas Fattorini in Birmingham from wood grown in Thurnham Castle.”
The presentation was made at a parish council meeting on Monday, June 18, at Bearsted’s Tudor Park Marriott Hotel.
Richard Knox-Johnston, CPRE Kent vice-president, said: “I am delighted the council has chosen to recognise us, and in turn CPRE Kent was very grateful for the support of Thurnham and other local parish councils in our efforts to protect Kent’s countryside.”
Maidstone CPRE chairman Gary Thomas was at the Tudor Park hotel to receive the award from Daniel Skinner, Thurnham parish council chairman.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Will you join campaign to boost protection of our listed buildings?

Down House, the former home of Charles Darwin at Downe, is Grade I-listed

The case of the Blue Boys Inn at Matfield (see here and here) is a depressing example of how some of our most important and historic buildings do not have the protection they merit.

The inn, which is subject to a planning application, is Grade II-listed but in a state of desperately poor repair, in part at least because of a weakness in planning legislation.

Now CPRE Kent is getting behind a campaign to tighten up protection for our most treasured architectural gems.

The issue concerns the listing of buildings, a process overseen by government agency Historic England, whose website states:

“Listing marks and celebrates a building’s special architectural and historic interest, and also brings it under the consideration of the planning system, so that it can be protected for future generations.”
Most of us are familiar with the concept of listing, but fewer know how levels of designation are decided upon, so here they are:

  • Grade I buildings are of exceptional interest; only 2.5% of listed buildings are Grade I.
  • Grade II* buildings are particularly important buildings of more than special interest; 5.8% of listed buildings are Grade II*.
  • Grade II buildings are of special interest; 91.7% of all listed buildings are in this class.

Anyone can nominate a building to be listed, while Historic England has its own programme of listing priorities. Either way, the agency makes its recommendations to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), who makes the final decision.

Once listed, a building has a measure of protection, with owners who want to make any structural changes having to make a listed building planning application separate to the ‘standard’ one to the local authority.

However, a potentially important building is vulnerable up to that point, even during the period when it is being assessed by Historic England for potential listing.

To tackle that failing, a petition has been set up by Bristol campaigner Neil McKay, who wrote to John Wotton, chairman of CPRE Kent’s historic buildings committee:

“There has been a long-standing problem in the UK with lack of protection for buildings which are undergoing assessment for listing.

“On numerous occasions owners or developers have exploited this weakness in current legislation to deliberately destroy historic assets to prevent possible listing.

“In a draft bill which was proposed in 2008, amongst other matters measures were proposed to provide automatic interim protection during the listing process.

“Unfortunately, this bill did not make it on to the statute books, and the loophole remains.

“Local authorities can choose to serve a Building Preservation Notice on a building considered to be at risk. But this is rarely done.”

Mr McKay notes that the Welsh Assembly has introduced legislation giving the necessary protection to historic buildings in Wales, but England has not followed suit.

To that end, he is petitioning the DCMS to give automatic interim protection to buildings proposed for listing in this country.

“I hope CPRE will agree that it simply makes no sense to allow historic assets to be destroyed before Historic England can even consider their merits for listing,” he wrote.

“The campaign is also supported by numerous heritage organisations including the SPAB [Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings], the C20 Society, the Georgian Group, Bristol Heritage Forum and the Victorian Society,” he continued.

CPRE Kent’s board and the branch’s historic buildings committee have endorsed his campaign and Mr Wotton has signed the petition, as has Lady Akenhead, chairman of CPRE Kent’s Tunbridge Wells committee.

Mr Wotton said: “The lamentable condition of the Blue Boys serves as a stark reminder of the damage that can be done to a prominent heritage asset while Historic England decides whether to list it.

“The petition has now attracted around 6,400 signatures and I urge fellow CPRE Kent members to support it.”

You can sign the petition here

Friday, November 10, 2017

Blue Boys Inn: council pledges to take action

A long way from its former glories: the Blue Boys at Matfield

A small victory, perhaps, in Tunbridge Wells district, but CPRE Kent has prompted some action in the long-running saga of the Blue Boys Inn at Kippings Cross, Matfield.

You can read the full background to the story here, but, briefly, Lady Akenhead, chairman of the Tunbridge Wells CPRE committee, and John Wotton, chairman of CPRE Kent’s historic buildings committee, wrote to the chief executive of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council asking the local authority to act to reverse the decline of the Grade II-listed building, which is subject to a planning application for a restaurant and take-away.

The letter read:

“We write to ask you, as a matter of urgency,
a) To ensure that the council acts to secure the proper preservation of the fabric and prevent further deterioration, by issuing an Urgent Works Notice;
b) To ensure that the submissions of details are decided promptly so that any further delay in the reconstruction of the building is not due to council inaction.”

In response, Stephen Baughen, the council’s building control and development manager, wrote that an Urgent Works Notice could not be issued because the building had been “left open in its current state prior to listing”.

Such a notice can only be used to return a building to its state at the time of listing.

However, Mr Baughen does state: “With regard to the prevention of further deterioration, the council has been in discussions with the owners since your letter and has confirmed that measures will be taken within the next week to repair the protective sheeting which covers the exposed areas and secure the building.

“As an authority we have on a number of occasions requested that the sheeting be reattached or adjusted when we have noticed or been notified that it has deteriorated. The owner has always complied within a few days of notification.”

He adds: “With regard to the conditions pursuant to the approved planning application, details have been submitted and are currently be[ing] assessed/negotiated.

“There have been some delays in this process but progress is now being made and several of the conditions have been discharged.

“Several conditions remain outstanding but discussions are taking place to satisfy these elements.

“Officers are in communication with the applicant regarding the timescales for the implementation of the permission.

“The council is committed to see the preservation and restoration of this building and will progress the outstanding matters as soon as possible.

“We will be monitoring the site in the next week to check that the sheeting has been appropriately secured.”

And if the council does not monitor the site, you can rest assured that CPRE Kent will be!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

New Kent Voice out now!

The spring/summer 2017 issue of Kent Voice is arriving on doormats this week.

cover photo for web

The magazine includes our latest article on the housing crisis – this time looking at the challenges and dilemmas facing a local planning authority. Other articles include the orchid treasures of Kent, a profile of our president, the artist graham Clarke, heritage, and wildlife and farming. Of course the regular campaigns, planning and district updates are also included.

There are some beautiful photos including this cover shot by Bjorn Sothmann and a few more, seen below. Thank you to all our supporters and members who contributed words or photos.

To read Kent Voice click on the magazine cover above or click here.

Elmley National Nature Reserve, Sheppy, Kent.

Cute lamb by Su-May Scords view, for FWAG article



Good news – appeal dismissed into 330 homes at Newington

A planning inspector has refused two appeals by a developer to build up to 330 homes on greenfield land at Pond farm in the village of Newington near Sittingbourne. CPRE Kent was a major participant in the planning inquiry last November.

Pond Farm, Newington, Photo Vicky Ellis

Pond Farm, Newington, Photo Vicky Ellis

The inspector has now dismissed the appeals on the grounds that “even after considerable weight is given to the social, economic and environmental benefits …… the substantial harm that the
appeal proposals would cause to the character of a valued landscape and their likely significant adverse effect on human health would significantly and demonstrably outweigh those benefits.”

Jillian Barr, CPRE Kent Planner, said: “This is great news for this beautiful part of Kent. The development would have drastically changed the character and landscape of the villages and we were extremely worried about the effect on air quality and human health. The inspector agreed with us on these important points and also agreed the harm caused could not be adequately mitigated. There would also have been a detrimental effect on heritage assets.”

pond-farm-newington-vic Continue reading

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

Continue reading

How can they harm our landscape and heritage?

mug shots Rose 006  By Rose Lister
When driving down the A2070 on the Eastern edge of Ashford you may notice the startling juxtaposition of industrial and retail buildings on the one side and a beautiful rural landscape on the other. You may be saddened to discover that this rural idyll presided over by the stunning Grade I listed St Mary’s church has been earmarked for employment development.

St Mary's Church, Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

St Mary’s Church, Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

‘Surely not!’ I hear you cry. ‘The rural church is set in rural surroundings, how can they be so harmful to our built and landscaped heritage?’ Unfortunately they can -the details can be found in the U19 policy and on the Ashford Borough Council’s (ABC) planning website. Our job is to ensure that everything that can be done to limit the harmful impacts of the site on the countryside and everything contained within it (man-made or living) is done. The current masterplan is a dull and uninspiring creation that has not currently been accepted by ABC. The little detail the masterplan has includes seven units of varying size, from large to massive, with suggested landscaping, new road links and parking. I shall be honest, these buildings are not to my taste. Their size, scale and suggested building material are unsustainable and harmful to the historic and living landscape, and that’s even before we consider the transport issues.

Continue reading

Stour Park will harm landscape and heritage

We have raised concerns about the huge scale of a planned warehouse development near Ashford and its impact on the important landscape and heritage setting.

The developers of Stour Park, Friends Life Ltd, have applied for permission to build enormous warehouses, 16 metres tall and covering an area the size of 31 football pitches (160,000 sq m). The site, next to Sevington and Mersham villages, is identified for commercial development in the local plan.

Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

We are concerned that the masterplan does not provide sufficient guidance to ensure that the harm to sensitive heritage, landscapes and communities is minimised and appropriately mitigated. The site is close to the medieval grade 1 listed St Mary’s Church and the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is essential that a sensitive approach to important views (heritage and landscapes), ecological mitigation, landscaping and building heights, colour, materials and orientation are agreed from the outset.

St Mary's Church, Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

St Mary’s Church, Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

Chairman of CPRE Kent’s Ashford Committee, Dr Hilary Moorby said: “We need to protect the setting of this important church and the AONB. The sheer scale of these giant buildings will change this beautiful rural area dramatically and everything possible must be done to minimise the harm.” Continue reading

Huge solar farm refused over landscape and heritage concerns

Good news – Maidstone Borough Council has refused an application for a 29,400 panel solar farm across 28 acres of agricultural land at Great Tong Farm.

We were concerned about the impact the site would have on the landscape and the heritage of the area – the site would be seen in views from the Greensand Ridge and was in close proximity to 23 listed buildings – including seven on Tong Farm itself.

Solar farm in Europe, photo flickr

Solar farm in Europe, photo flickr

The site lies in the Special Landscape Area of the Low Weald and Greensand Ridg and is bordered by three public rights of way. Headcorn’s built environment is 76 hectares. Proposed development would equate to 15% of this figure, increasing to 27% in conjunction http://trueviagraonline.com with the 220 homes already granted permission on Tong Farm.

The Kent Historic Buildings Committee, part of CPRE Kent, raised concerns on the setting of heritage assets on Tong and the wider landscape including Grade 1 Ulcombe Church. The objection stated “a considerable number of buildings stand to be affected, both individually, and as a group, and we would say the total effect of the proposal on the heritage environment is substantial”.

Historic England said the solar array would cause “modest harm to the significance of these listed buildings by altering the context that explains their historical purpose”. The site would be visible from Grade 1 Ulcombe Church, classified as an “important view”.

March 1st 2016


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?

Continue reading