Christine Drury, Ashford committee chairman, reports
on events, changes and concerns in her area
CPRE Kent’s Ashford committee, which incorporates the Ashford Rural Trust, held its AGM at the Picturehouse cinema on Wednesday, March 6. The new cinema marks a milestone in the regeneration of the town centre. There is still much to do before the town can be said to be thriving, but Ashford Borough Council’s commitment to brownfield and delivering on it was well worth celebrating. We are very sorry that Graham Galpin, who did so much to champion the town-centre big projects, became a high-profile casualty of the elections in May, losing his ward seat by just one vote. We have also had to make changes in the CPRE Ashford committee as a result of those elections. The members of the committee are as elected at the AGM, but the honorary officers will now just be chairman Christine Drury and honorary secretary Sandra Dunn. Linda Harman stepped down from her vice-chairman role to commit fully to her new roles as borough and parish councillor. Congratulations, Linda! We are also pleased to continue working alongside Rural means Rural and the Village Alliance, now both being run by Sharon Swandale, who has joined the committee, along with Samantha Reed of the Limes Land Protection Group in Tenterden. The speculative proposal by Wates for 250 homes on a highly valued local landscape that defines the green spaces and shape of Tenterden is a disgrace. And to call it windfall development is an outrage. Tenterden is a jewel in the High Weald AONB. Wates should stop pushing this idea now before its reputation is damaged by it. The committee is hard at work in and around Ashford, trying to ensure the best possible outcomes and sensible phasing where possible for sites that are in the Local Plan approved in February. The other huge preoccupation is with the impacts on Ashford, Ashford borough villages and the natural environment that will occur if the Otterpool development goes ahead in Folkestone and Hythe district. The promoters seem to be focusing entirely on the immediate ‘red line’ area and ignoring the potentially devastating wider impacts on the AONB to the north and Aldington and Ashford villages to the west, as well as the highly sensitive drainage and flood defences of the whole area. Wednesday, June 5, 2019
Being destroyed soon: land earmarked for Otterpool Park
Plans for a vast new town near Hythe have moved a step forward with the submission of a planning application for Otterpool Park to Folkestone & Hythe District Council.
The scheme, devised by the local authority itself (when named Shepway District Council) entails the building of 8,500 homes.
A statement on the Folkestone & Hythe District Council website says: “Like all planning applications, it will be subject to the usual validation period. All documents will then be available to view to allow further opportunities for feedback.
“The Leader of the Council, Cllr David Monk, said the much-anticipated planning application was a major milestone in the ambitions for a new Garden Town.”
The region is already severely water-stressed; the low water levels at Bewl Water are clear to see in this picture
On the day the Environment Agency has released a report warning we could be facing water shortages as soon as 2050, concerns have been raised about such provision for the planned Otterpool Park new town near Hythe.
The report, The State of the Environment: Water Resources, paints a sorry picture of unsustainable levels of water abstraction, leakage from water companies – estimated at three billion litres a day nationally – and high demand combining to harm ecology and wildlife, as well as threaten public supply.
Introducing the report, Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd said: “We need to change our attitudes to water use. It is the most fundamental thing needed to ensure a healthy environment, but we are taking too much of it and have to work together to manage this precious resource.
“Industry must innovate and change behaviours in order to reduce demand and cut down on wastage – and we all have a duty to use water more wisely at home.
“With demand on the rise, water companies must invest more in infrastructure to address leakage instead of relying on abstraction and the natural environment to make up this shortfall.”
According to the EA report, levels of abstraction are unsustainable in more than a quarter of groundwaters and one fifth of rivers, leading to harmfully reduced flows.
Climate change and population growth are expected to exacerbate the problem, with summer river flows and groundwater levels likely to fall yet further.
The government has already introduced a plan for abstraction reform that will review licences and introduce greater controls to protect resources, while its 25 Year Environment Plan, announced in January, aims to reduce individual water use – on average 140 litres per person a day – by working with industry to set a personal consumption target.
Predictably, given its population pressures and low rainfall, the South East is the region most likely to face water shortages.
With all this in mind, it is salient to question how water will be provided for the huge levels of housing growth within Kent predicted by the government’s new proposals for calculating demand.
One of the largest potential developments in the county is the planned 10,000-home Otterpool Park near Westenhanger.
Graham Horner, CPRE Kent’s local chairman, said: “Looked at objectively, the local water company is not even planning for the number of people envisaged to be in the area.
“Affinity Water is carrying out a public consultation on its draft Water Resources Management Plan, but the number of households referred to isn’t anywhere near the figure in the Folkestone & Hythe District Council Core Strategy Review.”
So how is this apparent disconnect going to be tackled?
“The current council core strategy allows for 90 litres being used per person per day for strategic developments, but the core strategy review has a relaxed figure of 110 litres, so it’s going in the wrong direction,” said Mr Horner.
“Further, the actual local figure is 127 litres being used per person per day, although nationally it’s 140 litres.”
It’s not overly encouraging reading, but the one positive is that personal water consumption in Folkestone and Hythe area is lower than it is nationally.
Mr Horner puts this down essentially to two factors.
“I suspect people in this area are aware there’s a water shortage, while the penetration of metering – which means people have to pay for what they use –in this area is above average.”
As for the future, Mr Horner believes new homes will be fitted with water-saving features such as shower aerators, but even there he sounds a cautionary note.
“You can’t police these things. People might find they’re not happy with the water pressure in their shower and retrofit different systems.
“Quite simply, we’ve got to get people to use less water. It’s about education.”
One way forward might be recycling, but it has an image problem.
“We can re-use water and waste – collect it, treat it and stick it straight back into the aquifer. But people don’t want to drink their own waste.”
Nevertheless, in the face of the EA warnings about our existing water stresses and future water availability, it is clear we need to challenge the assumption that the majority of economic and population growth will continue to be focused on the South East.