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

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