Developer appeal quashed as importance of air quality is highlighted in court decision

The future’s still green at Pond Farm (picture by Vicky Ellis)

The importance of air quality has determined the outcome of a landmark legal case in a decision that is potentially tremendous news for environmental protection.

The dismissal in the High Court of a developer’s appeal against an earlier planning decision is the first instance of air quality proving a critical factor in such a judgment.

CPRE Kent had been in the High Court last month giving evidence as the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government defended a planning inspector’s dismissal in January of two linked appeals made by Gladman Developments Ltd against the local authority’s refusal of planning permission for its scheme at Pond Farm, Newington, near Sittingbourne.

The whole saga had started with Swale council’s rejection of Gladman’s plans for up to 330 homes and 60 residential and care “units” at Pond Farm on the grounds of harm to the landscape and increased air pollution, the latter factor relating specifically to the impact on the council’s Air Quality Management Areas at Newington and Rainham.

Gladman subsequently challenged that decision, but the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government’s inspector dismissed both of its appeals because of “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”.

Not content with that, Gladman then contested that dismissal on the grounds of the inspector’s treatment of future air quality and mitigation; the decision in relation to the Newington air quality action plan; and the decision’s claimed conflict with the emerging development plan for the village.

Now Mr Justice Supperstone of the High Court has ruled that none of Gladman’s grounds of appeal succeeded and has dismissed its latest challenge.

Richard Knox Johnston, CPRE Kent vice-chairman, said: “This is the first time air quality has been considered as a factor in determining a planning decision.

“It had been put forward as a reason for turning down planning permission in the first instance – and that has now been vindicated further.

“Although the developer was happy to provide mitigation, the court was not convinced that that mitigation would work.

“This is an important decision as it means that air quality is something that must be considered seriously when considering planning permission in polluted areas.”

CPRE Kent, which was an important participant in the initial planning inquiry in November last year, was present in the High Court as an Interested Party.

For previous stories on this proposed development by Gladman Developments Ltd, see:

here,

here

and here

For details of our legal team’s statement on the outcome of the case, see here

Monday, November 6, 2017

CPRE Kent on TV to debate huge AONB development scheme

Plans for a sprawling development in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty were put in the television spotlight last night (Wednesday, October 4) – with CPRE Kent vice president Richard Knox Johnston explaining why the scheme should be a non-starter.
The proposals, put forward by developer Quinn Estates and landowner Highland Investment Company, are targeted for 300 acres of protected countryside at Highland Court Farm near Bridge. They entail 300 holiday homes, a retirement village, business centre, restaurant and market, along with clubhouses and pitches for Canterbury football and rugby clubs and an equestrian, walking and cycling centre.
It had been intended for Mr Knox Johnston to debate the plans face to face with Quinn Estates chief executive Mark Quinn on KMTV’s Chris & Co., but unfortunately Mr Quinn was not able to make the live scheduling and so gave his views earlier in a pre-recording.
Mr Quinn called for a “wholesale review of the AONB and the Green Belt” and said his scheme would stop 300 people buying second homes in the area, allowing “more homes for normal people with normal jobs”. He said his proposal would make “a massive difference to the housing crisis”.
He further claimed there would be “a lot of benefits from those tourists [staying at the complex] with very little pain”. Canterbury wanted to grow and encourage tourists but had “hardly any quality hotels”, said Mr Quinn. “We will give them 1,000 beds a night,” he continued, stating that tourists would not drive into town but catch a bus from the proposed development.
Asked how he would respond to environmentalists objecting to the scheme, Mr Quinn said it wasn’t him who had decided “to put a junction there”. “If it was that important, the land, why did they allow a road to go through it?” he asked.
As for his proposals for sporting facilities, he said Canterbury was the only city in the country “without a resident football club” and that was “something we should be ashamed of”.
“I think it will be a boon, I really do,” Mr Quinn concluded about his scheme.
Following on, appearing live, Mr Knox Johnston of CPRE Kent told host Chris Price about national planning strategy going back to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 that designated pieces of land not available for development.
“So this land is not available for any development on it,” he said. “If we don’t protect these AONBs, in due course we won’t have any left. There have to be very special reasons as to why you would want to do any building on that sort of site.”
Mr Knox Johnston stressed the value and attractiveness of Highland Court Farm, noting how the North Downs Way, public footpaths, a cycle path and bridleway all passed through the site, which was important to people in terms of mental health and relaxation.
Asked about Mr Quinn’s claim that the project would bring tourists into the county, Mr Knox Johnston said: “That’s a supposition that he makes. There’s no financial plan or structure to support this, and any business would have done that properly beforehand to show how it can be done.”
He also said claims that the project would create 1,500 jobs should be taken with “a great pinch of salt”, noting that Mr Quinn should have made clear precisely how that would happen.
Mr Knox Johnston highlighted the fact that Brexit would probably mean the country would need to keep as much agricultural land as it could, referring to Highland Court Farm’s history of growing soft fruit.
Finally, he dismissed the idea of an AONB rethink, saying the designated areas had all been carefully set out – and should stay there.

Richard Knox Johnston, CPRE Kent vice president, talks about the Highland Court Farm plans on KMTV
Pic courtesy of KMTV

To watch the discussion on KMTV, visit kentonline.co.uk/kmtv/video/chris-co-wednesday-4th-october-2017-8518/

Canterbury development challenge: your chance to help

This map shows the roads in Canterbury, marked red and dark blue, where it is believed air pollution is in breach of legal limits.

Can you support two legal challenges aimed at saving hundreds of acres of countryside around Canterbury and cutting air pollution in the city?

Emily Shirley from Bridge and Michael Rundell from Wincheap hope to halt Corinthian’s Mountfield Park application south of Canterbury on the grounds on increased air pollution.

The application entails the building of 4,000 houses, roads, schools, a relocated and enlarged park-and-ride and possibly a relocated hospital set primarily on Grade 1 farmland.

Although the challenge was initially unsuccessful, Emily and Michael believe there are robust grounds to have the decision revisited in the Court of Appeal because of the increased levels of air pollution such a development would bring. Permission to appeal is therefore being sought.

The accompanying map shows the roads in Canterbury, marked red and dark blue, where it is believed air pollution is in breach of legal limits.

The second legal challenge concerns the Canterbury Local Plan, which was adopted in July this year.

It proposes 16,000 extra houses, new roads and associated car-accommodating policies.

It would create havoc on the roads, gobble up acres of beautiful countryside and worsen air pollution, say Emily and Michael.

A legal challenge was issued against the Plan on August 21. Emily and Michael are waiting to see if permission for the challenge has been granted.

Some £12,000 has been raised so far to help pay for both legal challenges, with a further £13,000 needed to reach the combined target of £25,000. This includes a Crowdjustice bid for £10,000, detailed solely for the second challenge and which has so far raised a little more than £2,000.

Please contribute if you can by sending a cheque to:

Kent Environment & Community Network

c/o Netherbury

Meadow Close

Bridge

Kent

CT4 5AT

Alternatively, you can contribute online at www.crowdjustice.com/case/canterburyairpollution

CPRE Kent welcomes new houses at Connaught Barracks

We have welcomed proposals to build 500 new homes on the Connaught Barracks site in Dover. The 136-acre garrison has sat derelict since the 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment left in 2006.

CPRE Kent Director Hilary Newport said: “We know there is a need for new homes, particularly affordable homes, and we support building on brownfield sites which have been identified in the local plan for development. Connaught Barracks is exactly the sort of site which should be developed and we welcome this plan. We also very much support small builders being given the opportunity to work on projects like this as the major housebuilders have clearly not been delivering the homes we need.”

Connaught barracks

The Connaught Barracks site was acquired by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) in 2008. It is considered challenging by private developers because of complex demolition and utility upgrades required before work can start. Under the new scheme, the Government will be commissioning construction directly with smaller building companies who will not have to undertake to deliver the whole site.

“We hope the building standards will include measures for energy efficiency and landscaping to create an attractive community with the right infrastructure and that it includes the promised 40% of affordable homes so needed in Kent,” said Dr Newport.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark, who is the MP for Tunbridge Wells, said: “Today’s radical new approach will mean the government will directly commission small and up-and-coming companies to build thousands of new homes on sites right across the country.”

Building is expected to start in 2016.

For more information on the Government scheme and the other sites click here.

To read our blog by CPRE Kent’s heritage specialist Rose Lister click here.

January 5th 2016.