The battle for Marden makes its mark far and wide

The young have voices, too: protestors at Marden
Yellow and black has become the colour scheme of choice in the village
The message is clear…

Proposals for a 2,000-home garden community at Marden have sparked a huge wave of opposition.
After almost 2,000 people marched through the village (still!) in protest during the spring, a petition carrying almost 3,000 names was handed to 10 Downing Street on Friday (July 12).
The March for Marden, on Saturday, May 18, organised by Marden Planning Opposition, had seen protestors take to the streets wearing yellow and black – the colours that have bedecked much of the village on window posters and hedge banners over recent weeks.
Meanwhile, the group has set up a website (see here); drawn national media coverage; and seen its Facebook group attract more than 1,000 members.
Chairman Claudine Russell said: “The scale of this proposal is truly shocking and has united the people of Marden in fighting this development.
“We simply don’t have the infrastructure or services to support 2,000 more houses and two new schools, and it would mean Marden would cease to be a village and instead become a town.
“We are determined to show the council the strength of opposition as early as possible in the process. The scale of this development, which effectively doubles the size of Marden, is unthinkable in terms of traffic congestion on country roads, loss of wildlife habitat and negative impact on both the village’s heritage and the well-being of the people who live here.”
The proposals have been submitted to Maidstone Borough Council by three landowners, developer Countryside Properties and consultancy DHA Planning in response to the local authority’s Call for Sites ahead of its Local Plan review in 2022.
Countryside Properties has argued that Marden would benefit from the scheme through new facilities and better links to Maidstone town centre; it also says it is speaking with people who live and work in the village.
The campaign against the plan is supported by Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone and The Weald, who said: “We need to make sure the homes we need are built in the right places with the required infrastructure, and this proposed development is simply not in keeping with the beautiful rural community of Marden.”

You can learn more about the campaign at:

  • Web: www.savemarden.com
  • Twitter: @save_marden
  • Facebook: Marden Planning Opposition Group
  • Email: mardenplanningoppositionpr@gmail.com

Monday, July 15, 2019

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

Threats to our Green Belt double… in a year!

Kentish countryside lying in the Green Belt could be targeted by developers
Pic: Susan Pittman

Threats to London’s Green Belt, part of which lies in Kent, have doubled in just a year.

A report published today (Monday, October 9) identifies more than 400 sites earmarked for housing development in the Green Belt, a stretch of land around the city designated to remain essentially undeveloped and to contain urban sprawl into the surrounding countryside.

The report, The Accelerating Loss of London’s Green Belt – Who is to Blame?, reveals that the number of sites under threat from development more than doubled between July 2016 and July 2017, from 203 to 443, and the number of houses proposed on the London Green Belt increased from 123,528 to 163,474.

The counties facing the greatest development threats are Hertfordshire (44,974 houses proposed for Green Belt sites), Surrey (41,760) and Essex (35,674).

Any idea that Kent is getting off lightly, however, is mistaken. The deceptively small number of reported threats from LPAs (local planning authorities) in the county is likely to reflect slow progress with Local Plans rather than authorities working harder to defend protected land.

LPAs in Kent such as Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells, which are constrained by both Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are still in the early stages of Local Plan preparation. It is apparent, however, that the Green Belt in these areas is under great pressure.

Both LPAs have put forward their Issues and Options documents for consultation, making it clear that Green Belt land will be allocated for development, although it is not yet known to what scale.

The document – from the London Green Belt Council, a group of some 100 organisations that campaign against development on Green Belt land and represent more than 50,000 people – is published alongside an updated Threats to London’s Green Belt Map showing the locations of threatened sites.

It comes as the government is consulting on a new approach to calculating local housing need, which will lead to significant increases in housing targets for the majority of London Green Belt local planning authorities.

Richard Knox Johnston, LGBC chairman and CPRE Kent vice president, said: “This year’s data shows we were correct last year in predicting that there would be a further large increase in threats to the London Metropolitan Green Belt.

“While Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG ) spokespeople referred to our Safe Under Us? report year as containing ‘speculative and misleading’ data, our research proves that, if anything, we under-reported the scale of Green Belt threats.”

Catherine Maguire, LGBC campaigner, added: “DCLG figures claim only a small loss to the Green Belt nationally from 2016-2017. This dramatically understates the problem as it only takes account of development that has already taken place, rather than the development that is planned which is shown in our research.

“In fact, the evidence suggests that the threat numbers will increase even more because many councils have not yet published their plans, for example in areas such as south-east Essex, Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks.

Mr Knox-Johnston concluded: “Unless the government takes urgent action, we estimate that threats will increase to over 600 sites by July 2018.

“Councils are being pressurised by government to set targets which are much higher than are ever likely to be needed.

“None of this will have any impact on the overall supply of housing because land supply has not been the problem. But it will mean that Green Belt will be built on in preference to brownfield land as it provides greater profit.

“So this is fundamentally undermining the purpose of the Green Belt – to promote much- needed regeneration in run-down areas and contain urban sprawl.

“Also this encroachment will not meet the urgent need for housing for young families and young people due to the premium that comes with Green Belt land.

“Action is needed more urgently than ever if we are to avoid irreparable damage to the integrity of London’s Green Belt.

“Instead of proposing ill-thought-out methods for calculating targets which conflate housing need with market demand, the government should be encouraged to reduce the pressure on councils to build on Green Belt land by focusing on genuine housing need and restricting the ability of councils to de-designate Green Belt land.”

Monday, October 9

The housing crisis – a builder’s view

The following article by Susannah Richter appears in the latest edition of Kent Voice. We would be interested in your feedback.

Unrealistic housing targets are putting more pressure on the housebuilding industry than ever before. In Kent, the total 20-year figure is 158,500 new homes, with recent objectively assessed housing need of 18,560 in Maidstone, 15,600 in Thanet, 16,000 in Canterbury and 29,500 in Medway. The industry is dominated by the big companies, so what are the barriers faced by small and medium sized builders and can they provide solutions to the housing crisis?
Pentland Homes was set up by landowning farmers in the 1970s and now builds around 100 homes a year, up from just 30 during the recession five years ago. Most of its development sites are brownfield (79%) – including empty schools, a disused factory, a former pub and MoD land.
But Managing Director Martin Hart says brownfield sites are complicated: “Firstly, they are bought at risk because we don’t know what problems we may find. We are currently building on the site of an old potato packing plant at New Romney which was entirely concreted over – we didn’t know what to expect when we removed the concrete. If something untoward was found, a small company could go bankrupt on just one unlucky brownfield buy.

Martin Hart

Martin Hart

Pentland Builders

Pentland Builders

“Secondly, if a site has been brownfield for a long time it often has greater ecological value than greenfield land which has been ploughed and treated. We have to get ecologists involved and it can be costly if we need to move or provide for species or could even prevent planning permission. Either way it will cause delay – again something many small building companies cannot afford.”
This is exactly what happened at Lodge Hill, a former army camp in Medway identified for 5,000 homes. Over the last 20 years it has become home to 1.3% of the national nightingale population as well as bats, great crested newts, toads, lizards, slow worms, grass snakes and adders. This will be the subject of an interesting planning inquiry. Continue reading

Important meeting on Maidstone Local Plan

Great public meeting last night (11th February) on the Maidstone Local Plan

Lots to hear about gridlock, urban sprawl, sustainability and loss of greenfield and farmland from 18,560 new homes. We think unrealistic housing targets based on flawed numbers threaten our countryside: see the CPRE report Set up to Fail by clicking here.

set up to fail
Chaired by BBC Radio Kent’s John Warnett, over 200 concerned people turned out to hear MPs Helen Grant and Helen Whately and councillors as well as CPRE Kent.

 

Canterbury Local Plan Legally Unsound

A top planning barrister has judged the Canterbury Local Plan legally unsound because it has failed to properly assess sustainability and environmental impact after dramatically increasing the number of houses needed by more than 50%.

Richard Harwood QC was commissioned by Herne and Broomfield Parish Council, backed by CPRE Kent and a number of other local organisations (1), to judge whether the Local Plan was legally compliant.

He concluded that when Canterbury City Council greatly raised its housing target, it should have re-assessed the impact on habitats and the environment, and whether or not the proposed distribution of housing remained appropriate and sustainable. This it failed to do.

Little Barton Farm Canterbury

In January 2010, the council consulted on a Local Plan with a target of 10,200 new homes by 2026 (510 per year). In 2012, this target was revised to 15,600 new homes by 2031 (780 per year). However, despite the significant increase, the council relied on its earlier environmental assessments of where new development should be located.

Continue reading