As we write, England has been in ‘lockdown’ for more than a week. It is an extraordinarily testing time and everyone involved with CPRE Kent hopes you are keeping safe and well. The restrictions on travel that have justifiably and correctly been placed on us all in a bid to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus are doubtless taking their toll, to varying degrees, on people across the county. Certainly, access to the countryside that we love and cherish has diminished drastically. Sadly, for many, there is quite simply no realistic access to the woods, marshes, downs, beaches and rural highways and byways that we find so uplifting. However, there is natural beauty around us wherever we are. We appreciate that might not always be instantly apparent – the countryside is out of reach for many. But look outside. Spring is upon us and soon the annual riot of colour that brings will be exploding into its full glory. You will see (and hear) birds. Butterflies and bees are on the wing. You might have foxes or hedgehogs visiting your garden. The list is endless. Hopefully, there is green space near enough for you to visit. That public park you once took for granted has never meant more! And, as we take the daily exercise that we are permitted, we will walk down different tracks, paths and roads and discover places on our doorsteps that we didn’t know existed. All of us will get to know where we live just a little better. We can’t deny, though, that some of our favourite places are effectively out of bounds for the time being. However, those places will still be there when this crisis is over – we will return and surely delight in them more. And CPRE Kent will be here doing all we can to keep them safe. The spread of Covid-19 is an awful, horrible thing that is bringing personal tragedy to families across the country, but there has never been a better time to take stock of what we hold dear and the things in which we believe. We all need countryside close by, whether that’s protected landscape in the form of Green Belt or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or simply a collection of farms or stretch of undeveloped land between towns. Or, yes, the local park or green. That proximity to open space should be a basic right of every citizen in England, whatever their circumstances, whether in city, town, suburb or country. So we ask you to join us in taking a walk, slipping on the running trainers or hopping on your bike to savour the natural treasures around you while keeping your health and fitness in as fine shape as reasonably possible. You might also choose to enjoy the lack of planes in the sky or the fewer cars, trucks and lorries around you – our air quality has not been this good in years. Over the coming weeks, CPRE Kent will be demonstrating a slight change of emphasis. We’re aware the threats to our countryside won’t go away – and we will stay vigilant – but this is a time to celebrate the joys of landscape and nature and to stress their value to every single one of us. We will do that through our website and via social media. We have plenty of thoughts of our own, but this is an evolving process and we would love to hear your ideas. Please phone us on 01233 714540, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us via Facebook or Twitter. In the meantime, please keep safe. This crisis will end and we can all play our part in bringing that about sooner rather than later. We will leave you with some words from our friends at CPRE Hampshire: “If you’re able to get out in nature, in a way that keeps you and others around you safe, take some time to appreciate the beautiful things we’re all working to protect.”
Landscape is not always just about natural features…this is the Coldrum Long Barrow at Trottiscliffe (pic Walter Coultrip)
As most of us are all too aware, Kent is almost buckling under an onslaught of development proposals and we can but imagine the state of the county should many of them to pass.
But do you know how we fare compared with the rest of the region when it comes to our environment as it is now? If not, read on…
A study published last month (November) by the University of Sheffield and the BBC shows that, in a South East context, Kent is essentially average in terms of how much of our landscape has already been developed.
The analysis shows that 10.6% of the South East is developed, with the Kent figure being a shade lower, at 10.3%. Oxfordshire is the region’s greenest county, with just 7.2% of its landscape built upon.
The full South East league table places Kent at precisely halfway:
Back to Kent, and the least urbanised district is Ashford (5%) and the most urbanised Dartford (32%).
The full Kent league table is:
Tunbridge Wells 7%
Tonbridge and Malling 14%
How might those figures look in 50 years’ time? Perhaps best not think about it…
We have submitted our comments on the Thanet Parkway new station consultation.
These include the impact on the countryside: “It’s a jarring urban intrusion in an otherwise largely rural landscape, and the station’s proximity to St Augustine’s Cross will significantly erode the tranquillity of its setting.”
St Augustine’s Cross, photo: shirokazan
We also fear there will be more car journeys to reach the station:
“The station as originally envisaged was intended to serve Manston Airport, and therefore to reduce the need for passengers to and from the airport to travel by car. Under the current proposals, this station will be a significant generator of additional car journeys as it encourages out-commuting.”
Plus there is not a good enough alternative way of getting to the station:
“We note the cycle and pedestrian access from Cliffsend, but the fast dual carriageways which form much of the approach to the main entrance to the north of the station are not at all conducive to walking or cycling from other directions.”
The consultation ends on Sunday (19th). Read our comments here.
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
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.”
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
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
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 →
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
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”.