Thanet and its Local Plan… where are we now?

Manston has hogged the Thanet headlines for so long… perhaps too long?

We have reported the machinations of Thanet and its Local Plan before on this website – and the tale is set to develop as district councillors prepare for the latest stage in this lengthy saga.
To remind you of the backdrop, in January Thanet district councillors voted down the draft Local Plan that had been presented to them, the future of Manston airport the most high-profile issue contained within it.
The council’s cabinet had earlier approved the draft Plan, which included an allocation of 2,500 properties at Manston; this appeared to be endorsement of site owner Stone Hill Park Ltd’s plans to build 2,500 homes (a figure that could rise to 4,000), business units and sporting facilities there.
However, January’s vote by the full council saw that draft Plan rejected.
Divisive an issue as Manston is, many saw the voting as politically motivated and indeed the leader of the council, UKIP’s Chris Wells, stepped down from his role the following month, Conservative Bob Bayford subsequently taking over as leader of a minority administration.
No sooner had this unfolded than, in March, Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government – frustrated with the local authority’s “persistent failure” to produce its Plan – wrote to Cllr Bayford, announcing he would be sending Chief Planner Steve Quartermain to the isle to intervene.
It is understood that two government planners have been left effectively in situ to ensure the Plan is finally published. In other words, the government has taken over production of the Thanet Local Plan from the district council.
This month councillors will receive a set of papers briefing them on the forthcoming adoption of the Plan, which will map out the isle’s development until 2031 and is due to be published this summer.
There is uncertainty over how matters will proceed from here and to what degree Thanet councillors will have any say in the Plan’s adoption. Indeed, how much public consultation will there be?
What we do know, in a situation that still seems very from clear, at least to the wider public, is that the council has put together three options for the Manston site in the Plan:

  • Manston is designated for aviation use, with 2,500 homes allocated for other sites in Thanet. It is understood these are Westgate (1,000 extra homes), Birchington (600), Westwood (500), Hartsdown (300) and Minster (100).
  • A  decision on Manston is deferred by the council for two years, allowing RSP, the group behind plans for a cargo hub airport, to push for a Development Consent Order, which would force Stone Hill Park to hand over the site.
  • Manston would be recognised as appropriate for aviation use, but it would not be designated as such for two years.

Quite what’s going on with the third option might not be readily apparent, but, either way, Thanet CPRE hopes to be involved in the Plan’s development:
“We are looking forward to engaging with the Chief Planner,” said chairman David Morrish. “A lack of public consultation was highlighted by the DCLG earlier this year as a failing in the Thanet process, so we hope that doesn’t repeat itself this time round.
“And with crazily high – and unsustainable – figures of some 21,000 new homes being rumoured, it’s important as many people as possible get involved.”
It is also worth recalling the earlier words of Geoff Orton, Thanet CPRE secretary, in relation to Manston airport: “What would be the point of building 21,000 homes without it. If there’s no airport, what economic future does Thanet have?”
As for those ridiculous housebuilding targets, Mr Orton said: “The official figure of 17,000 was already a hike on the previous 12,000 – now we could be looking at a figure north of 20,000. And all this without the airport?
“Further, we’ve lost the deaf school in Margate, along with two care homes – and more rumoured to be going. And with retail becoming more automated, what are Thanet’s young people going to do for work?”

For more on this saga, see here

For more on the Manston airport site, see here

For CPRE Kent’s response to RSP’s Manston Consultation last year, see here

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Is Gravesham Green Belt up for grabs?

More Gravesham countryside could be lost to housing. This is Shorne Woods (pic Paul Buckley)

Fears of our Gravesham committee for the future of Metropolitan Green Belt land in the district appear to have been well founded.
The borough council has launched a consultation on proposals for the review of its Local Plan core strategy, which suggest 2,000 more homes than previously anticipated will need to be built in Gravesham.
The majority of options to cater for them entail the “release of land from the Green Belt for development”.
Gravesham CPRE belongs to Gravesham Rural Residents Group, a group formed in 2011 to defend the Green Belt, and Alex Hills has been active in the campaign.
Anticipating what was to come, the CPRE Gravesham chairman said in November last year: “The group is ready to fight again as people in Gravesham care about the Green Belt.
“In this area healthcare is at breaking point, air pollution is at dangerous levels – every one of our services is at breaking point, water supply and flooding risk in Kent are now pressing questions and our roads face gridlock – the Thames crossing alone will cause a doubling of the traffic on the A227, which runs north to south right through Gravesham.
“Is it not time we questioned the growth targets?”
Now the council, in launching its eight-week consultation, has identified three main areas for review:

  • How much development is needed
  • Where this development should be
  • If and how the Green Belt or any other policy constraints need to be changed to accommodate development

The local authority says a strategic housing market assessment carried out as part of the evidence base of the review found Gravesham had “a higher housing requirement of 7,900 homes, more than the 6,170 in the current plan”.
Further, it claims that an analysis using the government’s proposed standardised housing need assessment methodology suggests this should rise again to 8,000.
The council statement says: “When all urban sites and planning permissions are taken into account, Gravesham is about 2,000 homes short of its 2028 requirement.”
The options for housing allocation include:

  • Intensification of existing settlements
  • Expansion of existing urban areas
  • Creation of “a single new settlement through the merger of existing settlements”
  • Creation of a free-standing new settlement

The council document does not identify specific Green Belt sites for development but highlights an area running from Culverstone Green in the south of Gravesham up the A227 to Higham in the north as “a primary area of search”.
Council leader David Turner said: “With no Local Plan, the Green Belt could lose virtually all protection it has, allowing the local planning process to be sidestepped.
“Ideally, we would avoid building on Green Belt land. However, as part of this process, the council must look at all possible sites and rule them in or out.
“We are starting from the principle of brownfield land and other sites within the urban confines first but may need to seek additional land to meet our needs.
“When this consultation is complete, the council will draw up more detailed options and everyone will get the chance to comment again on those next year.”
The council intends to consult on a submission draft of its Local Plan in 2020, leading to submission, examination and adoption in 2021.
The consultation runs until June 20, 2018. If you would like to take part, visit bit.ly/2HDpjCF

Monday, April 30, 2018

Permission for judicial review on Woodcut Farm is refused in High Court

Woodcut Farm… ripe for development, believes Maidstone Borough Council

CPRE Kent, in its application to the High Court for a judicial review, was not granted permission by the Honourable Mrs Justice Lang DBE against Maidstone Borough Council’s inclusion in its Local Plan of land at junction 8 of the M20 (Woodcut Farm) as a designated site for development.
CPRE had submitted a pre-action protocol letter to the High Court  in November 2017 against the council making a decision on the Roxhill Developments planning application for the site.
In spite of our action and considerable protest from parish councils and local groups, the council chose to grant outline planning permission for the site.
Richard Knox-Johnston, vice-president of CPRE Kent, said: “This is very disappointing and rejects the views of local people who are being ignored by Maidstone council.
“It also flies in the face of two inspectors at previous inquiries that the setting of the Area of Outstanding Beauty, the visual amenity and that it will be in the setting of a heritage asset were enough grounds to reject previous applications in the same area.
“We believe that the inspector and Maidstone councillors have been misinformed by their planning officers and that this will come to light in the future.
“We also believe that the dismissal of considerable evidence on deterioration of air quality in Maidstone not only affects health in the borough but is especially dangerous for young children.
“Their application, at present, is only an outline application and we shall continue to examine the details in the future, particularly those that affect the environment.”

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

There’s a storm over Thanet… so the time is right for CPRE’s district committee to meet

There’s more to Thanet than Manston! This is Joss Bay, Broadstairs

These are tumultuous times in Thanet, following the district council’s rejection of its own draft Local Plan last week (Thursday, January 18).
The political fallout for the country’s only UKIP-led local authority has yet to settle, with the council leader under pressure to step aside, largely due to his stance over the future of the Manston airport site.
When, in October last year, the local authority cabinet approved a draft Local Plan that included an allocation of 2,500 houses at Manston, it appeared to be backing plans by owner Stone Hill Park Ltd for housing (the figure could rise to 4,000), business units and sporting facilities there.
However, last week at a meeting of full council 35 members voted it down and now adoption of a revised Plan is likely take anything up to 18 months.
The concern is that Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, will now step in, with his department imposing its own plan on Thanet, possibly including an increased housebuilding target – up from 857 a year (a total of 17,150 up to 2031) to 1,063 (more than 21,000) – if proposed new government methodology is accepted.
Meanwhile, would-be airport operator RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) says it has the plans and the funding in place for the site to be revived as a freight hub.
So… Manston and the Local Plan are certain to be discussed during tonight’s (Thursday, January 25) meeting of CPRE’s Thanet district committee at Monkton nature reserve, but they will not of course be the only issues covered.
Other topics on the agenda include heritage strategy, the government’s 25-year plan for the environment (A Green Future), planning applications and Neighbourhood Plan updates.
Tonight’s meeting is at Monkton nature reserve at 6pm.

You can read more on Manston and the Local Plan here and here
For CPRE Kent’s response to RSP’s Manston Consultation last year, see here

Tunbridge Wells housing numbers too high

We have responded to the latest consultation on Tunbridge Wells local plan challenging the huge housing numbers planned which would cause severe environmental damage, loss of countryside, green space and ancient woodland.

CPRE Kent’s Tunbridge Wells committee has raised many concerns in its comments on the Issues and Options consultation.

We dispute the need to provide 650 to 700 houses per year. Given that employment growth in the borough in the 21 years from 1991 to 2013 was zero, the jobs forecasts which project an ever-rising volume of employment seem unduly optimistic and if the increase in jobs is not forthcoming, this volume of housing development could turn the borough into a dormitory for businesses elsewhere. The population and household formation forecasts on which the housing need assessment is based may also be too high.

View from Horsmonden Church by James Stringer

Committee chairman Elizabeth Aikenhead said: “Most importantly, housing development on this scale together with its infrastructure clearly cannot be accommodated in a borough with so many environmental constraints without causing serious damage to the environment.”

It is also contrary to the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework. CPRE Kent does accept that there will have to be new development within the borough but this should continue to be at no more than the rate previously required under the Core Strategy. Even that amount of development will be very difficult to provide without serious environmental damage.

Lamberhurst in Spring by Jonathan Buckwell

Taking the proposed Strategic Options one by one, Continue reading

CPRE Kent response to Medway Local Plan

CPRE Kent is calling for a commitment to improve the environment and community health as well as save valuable farmland in its response to the Medway Local Plan consultation.

Allhallows Marshes by Amanda Slater

Allhallows Marshes by Amanda Slater

We will be asking Medway Council to:

  • recognise the contribution of agricultural land to local sustainability, and invest in improving ecosystems for healthy communities, well-being and resilience;
  • Include “access to nature” when planning growth;
  • enhance the understanding of biodiversity conservation across whole landscapes;
  • make adaption to climate change a priority;
  • proactively assess underused or vacant sites (especially brownfield) that might contribute to regeneration or meeting housing need, including small sites;
  • consider sustainability when assessing sites (such as the employment park at Kingsnorth on the Hoo Peninsula), including transport infrastructure and other services;
  • consider accessibility of local people to space and countryside;
  • ensure Green Belt is given the highest level of protection, as specified in the recent Housing White Paper;
  • continue with the designation of development gaps and areas of local landscape importance;
  • consider the impact on air quality of all development and associated travel.
  • Photo: diamond geezer

    Photo: diamond geezer

    Cycling on the Hoo Peninsula by Steve Cadman

    Cycling on the Hoo Peninsula by Steve Cadman

CPRE Kent Planner Jillian Barr said: “A strong and ambitious vision is necessary to deliver growth, protect the environment, but also to deliver improvements to the environment and community health. This is essential to Medway’s future. We are pleased that the council is consulting so thoroughly at this stage of the plan process and recognise that there are challenging targets. There is a proven link between access to nature, space, dark skies and tranquillity and the health of communities and we hope the council will take this fully on board now and when looking at sites over the next 18 years.”

CPRE Kent has now submitted its full response to the plan – read it here.

June 5th 2017

Otterpool Park – the wrong location and concern about water shortages

We have written to Greg Clark MP, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to express our concerns for the proposed garden town of 10,000 homes in Shepway, Otterpool Park. The following extract from Hilary Newport’s letter sums up our concerns:

Otterpool Park 2

“While we entirely support the principles of high quality, sustainable design and place-making, we strongly disagree that this is the right location for a garden city of this scale. The existing pressures for development in this area are extreme, not least with the region being categorised by the Environment Agency as being under ‘severe water stress’, and we question the wisdom of drawing even more housing in to a county and a region which is already struggling to accommodate the housing  targets being generated in local plans.

Sheep in fields at Otterpool

Everything in this view would be urbanised

“In its submission draft of the Shepway Core Strategy (January 2012), the District Council included a policy which outlined its ambitions for 800+ homes on the former Folkestone Racecourse, immediately adjacent to the land acquired by the District Council for its proposed Otterpool Park. At examination, the inspector comprehensively rejected this policy as unsound, being neither justified nor necessary to meet housing targets. A further policy outlined the concept of a ‘Strategic Corridor’, covering the area proposed for Otterpool Park as well as the urban areas of Hythe and Folkestone, for mixed use development in furtherance of the Council’s growth agenda. This policy too was rejected by the inspector as unsound. Since the adoption of the Shepway Core Strategy (November 2013) it is difficult to see what has changed to suggest that the plans for Otterpool Park are now either sustainable or necessary. I hope that your department will take these issues into account in considering Shepway’s submission.”

June 27th 2016

 

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.

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.

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