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

Manston: the story moves forward

The end of the line for airport operations at Manston?

What is to be done with the Manston airport site? One of the most contentious issues in the county could have moved at least some way towards resolution with Thanet District Council’s Cabinet approval of its draft Local Plan for publication.
It of course covers a range of issues as the local authority sets out the isle’s planned development until 2031, but the subject that has attracted the greatest coverage and sparked the greatest division of opinion is the future of Manston.
Now, plans by site owner Stone Hill Park Ltd for 2,500 homes (a figure that could ultimately increase to 4,000), business units and sporting facilities would appear to have been backed with last Wednesday’s (October 25) approval of the Plan, which includes an allocation of 2,500 properties at the site.
A succession of operators struggled to make the airport work as a commercial venture and in May 2014 then-owner Ann Gloag, the joint founder of the Stagecoach bus company, closed it before selling a majority stake of the 750-acre site to “regeneration specialists” Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner, who rebranded it Stone Hill Park.
Alongside this, however, would-be airport operator RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) stated it had the plans and the funding in place for the site to be revived as a freight hub.
It says this would be a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project and the Secretary of State can grant seizure of the site through a Development Consent Order (DCO).
It is intending to apply to the Planning Inspectorate for the DCO by the end of this year, with a subsequent decision from the Secretary of State expected by the end of 2018.
RSP says the granting of the DCO would allow it to have a a refurbished airport back in business by 2020.
Such hopes, however, took a nosedive when a TDC-commissioned report concluded that Manston was not viable as an operational airport.
It was subsequently little surprise when council policy incorporated Manston as a site suitable for redevelopment as something other than an airport.
CPRE Kent has been following the saga closely, producing a substantial response to
RSP’s Manston Consultation earlier this year. It can be viewed here.
Commenting on the latest news, Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, said: “We believe in sustainable use of brownfield land, but it’s got to the right development in the right place.
“We trust that if the Stone Hill Park scheme does go ahead, it will negate the need to build on valuable agricultural land elsewhere in Thanet.”

Monday, October 31, 2017

CPRE Kent welcomes Medway Council attack on proposed housing hike

CPRE Kent today applauds Medway Council’s Cabinet for its withering rejection of proposed government policy that would see it face an “unrealistic and totally unacceptable increase in the levels of housing” to be built in the district.
Further, we support the council’s call for Kent and Medway MPs, as well as other local authorities in the county, to join it in expressing to central government the concerns that an increasing number of people and organisations have about the burden of housing development Kent would be expected to take.
It is telling that a Conservative-led council should offer such trenchant criticisms of the DCLG’s own policies.
After yesterday’s Cabinet meeting (Wednesday, October 25), the council released a fierce statement blasting the DCLG’s demands:
“At yesterday’s meeting of Medway Council’s Conservative Cabinet, members strongly rejected proposals from the Department for Communities and Local Government which would see an unrealistic and totally unacceptable increase in the levels of housing required within Medway,” it said.
“Independent consultants have previously determined Medway’s Objectively Assessed Need (OAN) for housing as 1,281 dwellings/year.
“This figure has been used as a core component of Medway Council’s Local Plan to assess the housing needed over the period covered by the plan (2012-2035).
“This work has already produced the ambitious figure of 29,463 homes required by 2035, [for] which the council has been tirelessly working to identify the land and infrastructure necessary to facilitate delivery.
“However, the flawed proposed government methodology would see a 29% uplift in the level of housing to be allocated to Medway, calling instead for 38,295 houses in the same period.
“The government may state that its approach represents a 5% increase across England, but there is significant variation in this figure.
“Within the South East, the average rise is an appalling 35%, yet the Conservative Group is disgusted to find that there are other local authorities who have in fact seen a fall in their level of housing need.
“Such authorities are largely in the north of England, reflecting the disjointed and disproportionate nature of this policy compared to the efforts the government has already been making to rebalance the economy and deliver the infrastructure in the north that would be able to support these homes.”
Responding to the statement, CPRE Kent vice chairman Richard Knox-Johnston said: “We welcome Medway Council’s statement as a first realistic reaction to the increased housing demand it has been allocated and the problems it will cause.
“CPRE has been saying for some time that the infrastructure is simply not sufficient to deal with the proposed new figures, while the DCLG approach does not address the real needs of young people and young families.”
Stressing further the views of his council, leader Alan Jarrett said: “Medway, like most of the South East, is an area already straining at the seams to accommodate the originally proposed level of growth, and therefore any increase to this figure will absolutely not be tolerated by Medway Conservatives.
“Whilst the Cabinet recognises the need for housing, and is already leading by example through the establishment of its own housing company, the sustainability of the government’s plan must be seriously questioned.
“Medway simply does not have the physical or social infrastructure to cope with any increased housing target. It is extremely unrealistic of DCLG to propose a change of target in the face of developers’ reluctance to build homes and a current lack of skilled workers to deliver these homes.
“Myself and my Conservative colleagues implore the three Medway MPs, and other Kent authorities and MPs, to follow suit in conveying to DCLG the severity of the concerns we have here in Kent and Medway.
“If the government were to ignore comments from this council, not only would this jeopardise the reams of work that have already gone into the production of Medway Council’s Local Plan but we face a scenario in which existing housing delivery targets will not be able to be met.
“On behalf of Medway residents, the Conservative Group will not stand idly by whilst our green spaces and our housing market are decimated.”

Thursday, October 26, 2017

We’re back in court again, this time battling for a site in north Kent

What future for Pond Farm at Newington?

After the high-profile Farthingloe Valley appeal hearing at the Supreme Court yesterday, CPRE Kent has been back in court again today (Wednesday, October 18).

This time we are in the High Court supporting the decision to reject a scheme for up to 330 homes and 260 residential and care “units” near Sittingbourne on the grounds of harm to the landscape and increased air pollution.

Gladman Developments Ltd is challenging the dismissal in January this year of two linked appeals it made against the refusal of planning permission for its scheme at Pond Farm, Newington.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government’s inspector had dismissed the appeals because of “the substantial harm http://onhealthy.net that the appeal proposals would cause to the character of a valued landscape and their likely significant adverse effect on human health”.

Gladman is now contesting 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.

Defending January’s decision to dismiss Gladman’s appeals are the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Swale Borough Council.

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

The hearing is due to finish tomorrow (Thursday).

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Our fears over 4,000 homes approved for south Canterbury

The biggest housing development ever proposed in Canterbury has been approved. Canterbury City council has given outline planning permission for the 4,000-home Mountfield Park ‘garden city’ in south Canterbury. It stretches from Canterbury’s southern edge as far as the village of Bridge and includes shops, office space, sports pitches, two primary schools and a potential new site for Kent and Canterbury Hospital.

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Photos: Vicky Ellis

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We fear that Mountfield Park will have a severe negative impact on Canterbury. It is not an appropriate site because it will damage the visual setting of the world heritage cathedral.

Canterbury Committee chairman Dr Alan Holmes said: “The development will be on some of our best and most versatile farmland – it is vital to preserve this because we already import over 60% of our food and food security is an important issue. There are other low grade sites or we advocate prioritising development on brownfield sites.

“We also fear there will be a considerable worsening of traffic congestion, particularly on the Dover Roads, and this will in turn worsen air pollution. The Royal College of Physicians has raised concerns over deteriorating air quality as the result of traffic emissions and the serious impact this has on public health.”

To read our submissions on Mountfield Park click here and here.

November 14th 2016

Pond Farm, Newington Planning Inquiry

CPRE Kent has set out its case against proposals to build up to 330 homes on greenfield land at Pond farm in the village of Newington near Sittingbourne.

We will be taking part in a planning inquiry into the plans by Gladman Developments Ltd. next month. Gladman is appealing against Swale Borough Council’s non-determination of the outline planning application.

Pond Farm, Newington, Photo Vicky Ellis

Pond Farm, Newington, Photo Vicky Ellis

Concerns include:

  • the site is not allocated for housing in Swale Borough Council’s local plan
  • it would increase the village size by 30% and change the character and landscape of both Newington and nearby Hartlip
  • loss of grade 1 farmland (orchards), loss of hedgerows and risk to protected wildlife
  • it would increase air pollution on Newington High Street above acceptable EU levels, add to congestion and have an impact on safety on the A2
  • it is unsustainable with no proper transport infrastructure plans
  • the Ramblers Association is joining with CPRE Kent to object to the permanent loss of important footpaths used for recreational and health purposes
  • harm to the setting of important heritage assets

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To read our full evidence papers click here and scroll down to consultation responses – there are seven papers in total.

October 18th 2016.

Reaction to the Autumn Statement

CPRE has reacted to the Autumn Statement and Spending Review, where the Chancellor made a number of announcements on issues affecting the countryside.

Housing:

We have long been asking the Government to stop fixating on the planning system. Figures show that planning permissions are not the issue; the issue is that developers are not building the homes for which they have permission. Landbanking is a major problem and we are saying to developers to get on and build to deliver the housing we need.

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Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at the CPRE comments:

“Although we welcome a focus on brownfield development, we’re wary of moves to develop brownfield sites in the Green Belt – many Green Belt sites classed as ‘brownfield’ contain a lot of valuable open land, often historic parkland, which should be kept undeveloped. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

CPRE Kent response to proposed planning reforms

The Government has proposed sweeping reforms to the planning system including:

* Automatic planning permission on all suitable brownfield (former industrial) sites, removing unnecessary delays

* Power for the Government to intervene and have local plans drafted when councils fail to produce them and penalties for those that make 50 per cent or fewer planning decisions on time

* Stronger compulsory purchase powers to bring forward more brownfield land, and devolution of planning powers to the Mayors of London and Manchester

* Major infrastructure projects which include housing development to be fast-tracked

* End the need for planning permission for upwards extensions for a limited number of storeys up to the height of the adjoining building in London

* Higher-density development around key commuter hubs

* Redefining “affordable housing” to include discounted market housing, i.e. starter homes.

 

Photo: CPRE

Photo: CPRE

CPRE Kent response:

CPRE Kent agrees that we need to build more homes, especially affordable homes.

In 2012-13, the UK hit a post-war low of 135,500 homes. Last year the figure recovered slightly to 141,000 homes.

However we know there are existing sites with planning permission for thousands of homes in Kent and elsewhere and we believe more should be done to actually get these homes built. Too many companies are landbanking (the practice of buying land as an investment, holding it for future use  or selling it on with permission but without specific plans for homes to be constructed – i.e land trading). There should be measures put into place to make them actually deliver these new homes within a certain time.

We have long been calling for better use for brownfield sites and are glad the government is backing this. However there still needs to be local consideration about sustainability and infrastructure and which sites are suitable for housing development. CPRE believes there should be a strong presumption in favour of “brownfield first” with these safeguards.

Continue reading

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.”