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 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

Threats to our Green Belt double… in a year!

Kentish countryside lying in the Green Belt could be targeted by developers
Pic: Susan Pittman

Threats to London’s Green Belt, part of which lies in Kent, have doubled in just a year.

A report published today (Monday, October 9) identifies more than 400 sites earmarked for housing development in the Green Belt, a stretch of land around the city designated to remain essentially undeveloped and to contain urban sprawl into the surrounding countryside.

The report, The Accelerating Loss of London’s Green Belt – Who is to Blame?, reveals that the number of sites under threat from development more than doubled between July 2016 and July 2017, from 203 to 443, and the number of houses proposed on the London Green Belt increased from 123,528 to 163,474.

The counties facing the greatest development threats are Hertfordshire (44,974 houses proposed for Green Belt sites), Surrey (41,760) and Essex (35,674).

Any idea that Kent is getting off lightly, however, is mistaken. The deceptively small number of reported threats from LPAs (local planning authorities) in the county is likely to reflect slow progress with Local Plans rather than authorities working harder to defend protected land.

LPAs in Kent such as Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells, which are constrained by both Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are still in the early stages of Local Plan preparation. It is apparent, however, that the Green Belt in these areas is under great pressure.

Both LPAs have put forward their Issues and Options documents for consultation, making it clear that Green Belt land will be allocated for development, although it is not yet known to what scale.

The document – from the London Green Belt Council, a group of some 100 organisations that campaign against development on Green Belt land and represent more than 50,000 people – is published alongside an updated Threats to London’s Green Belt Map showing the locations of threatened sites.

It comes as the government is consulting on a new approach to calculating local housing need, which will lead to significant increases in housing targets for the majority of London Green Belt local planning authorities.

Richard Knox Johnston, LGBC chairman and CPRE Kent vice president, said: “This year’s data shows we were correct last year in predicting that there would be a further large increase in threats to the London Metropolitan Green Belt.

“While Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG ) spokespeople referred to our Safe Under Us? report year as containing ‘speculative and misleading’ data, our research proves that, if anything, we under-reported the scale of Green Belt threats.”

Catherine Maguire, LGBC campaigner, added: “DCLG figures claim only a small loss to the Green Belt nationally from 2016-2017. This dramatically understates the problem as it only takes account of development that has already taken place, rather than the development that is planned which is shown in our research.

“In fact, the evidence suggests that the threat numbers will increase even more because many councils have not yet published their plans, for example in areas such as south-east Essex, Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks.

Mr Knox-Johnston concluded: “Unless the government takes urgent action, we estimate that threats will increase to over 600 sites by July 2018.

“Councils are being pressurised by government to set targets which are much higher than are ever likely to be needed.

“None of this will have any impact on the overall supply of housing because land supply has not been the problem. But it will mean that Green Belt will be built on in preference to brownfield land as it provides greater profit.

“So this is fundamentally undermining the purpose of the Green Belt – to promote much- needed regeneration in run-down areas and contain urban sprawl.

“Also this encroachment will not meet the urgent need for housing for young families and young people due to the premium that comes with Green Belt land.

“Action is needed more urgently than ever if we are to avoid irreparable damage to the integrity of London’s Green Belt.

“Instead of proposing ill-thought-out methods for calculating targets which conflate housing need with market demand, the government should be encouraged to reduce the pressure on councils to build on Green Belt land by focusing on genuine housing need and restricting the ability of councils to de-designate Green Belt land.”

Monday, October 9

CPRE Kent on TV to debate huge AONB development scheme

Plans for a sprawling development in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty were put in the television spotlight last night (Wednesday, October 4) – with CPRE Kent vice president Richard Knox Johnston explaining why the scheme should be a non-starter.
The proposals, put forward by developer Quinn Estates and landowner Highland Investment Company, are targeted for 300 acres of protected countryside at Highland Court Farm near Bridge. They entail 300 holiday homes, a retirement village, business centre, restaurant and market, along with clubhouses and pitches for Canterbury football and rugby clubs and an equestrian, walking and cycling centre.
It had been intended for Mr Knox Johnston to debate the plans face to face with Quinn Estates chief executive Mark Quinn on KMTV’s Chris & Co., but unfortunately Mr Quinn was not able to make the live scheduling and so gave his views earlier in a pre-recording.
Mr Quinn called for a “wholesale review of the AONB and the Green Belt” and said his scheme would stop 300 people buying second homes in the area, allowing “more homes for normal people with normal jobs”. He said his proposal would make “a massive difference to the housing crisis”.
He further claimed there would be “a lot of benefits from those tourists [staying at the complex] with very little pain”. Canterbury wanted to grow and encourage tourists but had “hardly any quality hotels”, said Mr Quinn. “We will give them 1,000 beds a night,” he continued, stating that tourists would not drive into town but catch a bus from the proposed development.
Asked how he would respond to environmentalists objecting to the scheme, Mr Quinn said it wasn’t him who had decided “to put a junction there”. “If it was that important, the land, why did they allow a road to go through it?” he asked.
As for his proposals for sporting facilities, he said Canterbury was the only city in the country “without a resident football club” and that was “something we should be ashamed of”.
“I think it will be a boon, I really do,” Mr Quinn concluded about his scheme.
Following on, appearing live, Mr Knox Johnston of CPRE Kent told host Chris Price about national planning strategy going back to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 that designated pieces of land not available for development.
“So this land is not available for any development on it,” he said. “If we don’t protect these AONBs, in due course we won’t have any left. There have to be very special reasons as to why you would want to do any building on that sort of site.”
Mr Knox Johnston stressed the value and attractiveness of Highland Court Farm, noting how the North Downs Way, public footpaths, a cycle path and bridleway all passed through the site, which was important to people in terms of mental health and relaxation.
Asked about Mr Quinn’s claim that the project would bring tourists into the county, Mr Knox Johnston said: “That’s a supposition that he makes. There’s no financial plan or structure to support this, and any business would have done that properly beforehand to show how it can be done.”
He also said claims that the project would create 1,500 jobs should be taken with “a great pinch of salt”, noting that Mr Quinn should have made clear precisely how that would happen.
Mr Knox Johnston highlighted the fact that Brexit would probably mean the country would need to keep as much agricultural land as it could, referring to Highland Court Farm’s history of growing soft fruit.
Finally, he dismissed the idea of an AONB rethink, saying the designated areas had all been carefully set out – and should stay there.

Richard Knox Johnston, CPRE Kent vice president, talks about the Highland Court Farm plans on KMTV
Pic courtesy of KMTV

To watch the discussion on KMTV, visit kentonline.co.uk/kmtv/video/chris-co-wednesday-4th-october-2017-8518/

New Kent Voice out now!

The spring/summer 2017 issue of Kent Voice is arriving on doormats this week.

cover photo for web

The magazine includes our latest article on the housing crisis – this time looking at the challenges and dilemmas facing a local planning authority. Other articles include the orchid treasures of Kent, a profile of our president, the artist graham Clarke, heritage, and wildlife and farming. Of course the regular campaigns, planning and district updates are also included.

There are some beautiful photos including this cover shot by Bjorn Sothmann and a few more, seen below. Thank you to all our supporters and members who contributed words or photos.

To read Kent Voice click on the magazine cover above or click here.

Elmley National Nature Reserve, Sheppy, Kent.

Cute lamb by Su-May Scords view, for FWAG article

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Good news – appeal dismissed into 330 homes at Newington

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

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.”

pond-farm-newington-vic Continue reading

How can they harm our landscape and heritage?

mug shots Rose 006  By Rose Lister
When driving down the A2070 on the Eastern edge of Ashford you may notice the startling juxtaposition of industrial and retail buildings on the one side and a beautiful rural landscape on the other. You may be saddened to discover that this rural idyll presided over by the stunning Grade I listed St Mary’s church has been earmarked for employment development.

St Mary's Church, Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

St Mary’s Church, Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

‘Surely not!’ I hear you cry. ‘The rural church is set in rural surroundings, how can they be so harmful to our built and landscaped heritage?’ Unfortunately they can -the details can be found in the U19 policy and on the Ashford Borough Council’s (ABC) planning website. Our job is to ensure that everything that can be done to limit the harmful impacts of the site on the countryside and everything contained within it (man-made or living) is done. The current masterplan is a dull and uninspiring creation that has not currently been accepted by ABC. The little detail the masterplan has includes seven units of varying size, from large to massive, with suggested landscaping, new road links and parking. I shall be honest, these buildings are not to my taste. Their size, scale and suggested building material are unsustainable and harmful to the historic and living landscape, and that’s even before we consider the transport issues.

Continue reading

Stour Park will harm landscape and heritage

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

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

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

Goodbye and thank you from Brian Lloyd

We said goodbye to Senior Planner Brian Lloyd on Friday. He had worked for CPRE Kent for eight years and transformed the way we dealt with local plans and planning applications and issues. As well as making a major contribution to the plan making process across the county he was involved with neighbourhood planning and advised, trained and helped parish councils.

Brian and his partner Jean, photo by Paul Buckley

Brian and his partner Jean, photo by Paul Buckley

brian 3

Brian said: “A big thank you to everyone that came along to my leaving party on Friday and to those that contributed towards my leaving gifts – a camera and membership of Kent County Cricket Club for 2016. This was extremely generous, and most unexpected, as were the lovely flowers presented to Jean. It was wonderful to see so many people who had travelled from all corners of the County to send me off.  I am really looking forward to having time to do the things I have not been able to, especially when the better weather comes, and spending more time at cricket will most definitely hit the spot. It has been a privilege to meet and work with so many people who feel so passionately about Kent’s countryside, and it’s has been inspiring that so many people give so much time to CPRE and their communities to try and ensure that future generations can enjoy it as we have been able to. I wish you all well and I am sure that I will see many of you again in the future.”

Hilary Newport presents Brian with his gifts, photo Paul Buckley

Hilary Newport presents Brian with his gifts, photo Paul Buckley

Important Judicial Review

A High Court judge will today and tomorrow consider whether the decision to grant planning permission for more than 600 homes on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty near Dover was lawful.

We have taken the plans for Farthingloe and the Western Heights to Judicial Review in a last ditch attempt to protect this beautiful and iconic landscape.

South across the valley to site B from Little Farthingloe Farm 2

View across the valley at Farthingloe, photo Brian Lloyd

Dover District Council has granted planning permission for 521 houses and a 90 dwelling retirement village in the AONB at Farthingloe and a large hotel on the historically important Western Heights.

We have discovered that the Government’s planning experts had recommended in 2013 that the then Secretary of State for Planning Nick Boles “call in” the application because of the question mark over justification of building in the AONB.

We finally have a copy of the un-redacted letter (dated 19 June 2013) recommending this, obtained after a two year process of Freedom of Information requests.

The two statutory advice bodies, Natural England and Kent Downs AONB Unit, as well as CPRE Kent and the National Trust all requested that the outline planning permission be called in for a public inquiry. The planned development would have a major detrimental impact on the AONB, was contrary to national planning policy, was not sustainable and was not part of Dover’s agreed Development Plan.

In the advice to the Secretary of State, the planning casework officer said: “If you decide not to call-in this application, this could place the protected landscape of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at risk, leading to potential negative press coverage and reputation risk for the Government.”

There was shock and disappointment when the decision was made NOT to call in the application in July 2013. Planning permission was granted in April 2015.

“A Judicial Review is not a decision to be taken lightly,” said CPRE Kent Chairman Christine Drury. “But as this planning decision was so clearly wrong and so important it is now up to us to fight for the AONB through the Planning Court.  In planning law, AONB has the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty and we do not believe there are the exceptional circumstances to justify the destruction of this fantastic landscape.”

A High Court judge will consider the case for judicial review and hear the arguments on Tuesday and Wednesday this week (December 15th and 16th).  We expect the judgement early in the New Year.

December 9th 2015

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.

HousingEstate_2167w

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 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

Council U-turn Criticised

A recommendation to approve plans for a business park at Waterside Park by Junction 8 of the M20 has astounded CPRE Kent as it is a complete U-turn on the part of Maidstone Borough Council.

We believe the planned development of warehouses, industrial premises and offices would be detrimental to the countryside setting of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the important heritage setting of Leeds Castle.

The council refused similar plans in February but now appears to have caved in after the developers made minor adjustments. The proposal, involving 16 hectares (39 acres) of prime agricultural land, is not identified for development in either the existing or proposed new Local Plan and breaches important national planning policies that seek to protect the countryside.

The officers’ report recommending approval will go to Maidstone’s Planning Committee on Thursday (16th October).  Although the planners still admit that “the development would cause significant harm to the countryside and setting of the AONB”, they consider that this harm is outweighed by the economic benefits.

CPRE Kent is just one of many organisations opposed to the scheme – there are also objections from Kent County Council, Natural England, the Kent Downs AONB Unit, the Kent Wildlife Trust, Leeds Castle, the Joint Parishes Group and many local people.

“We are amazed at this about turn,” said Brian Lloyd, Senior Planner for CPRE Kent. “This is greenfield land in the open countryside where development should not be allowed under both local and national planning policies.  We would seriously question the claimed economic benefits to Maidstone as it will just as likely attract employees from Ashford and other parts of the county with its proximity to the motorway.  There is no justification for developing in this location when considerable employment land has already been identified in area such as Ashford, Swale and Canterbury which would not impact on an AONB and one of the county’s prime heritage and tourist sites.”

We are calling on council members to stick to their original decision and adhere to their own Development Plan and national planning policy and refuse the plans.

#WasteOfSpace Campaign

Have you spotted abandoned buildings and derelict sites in your area which could be used for housing development? The CPRE is calling on people to identify disused brownfield sites in order to save greenfield sites and help protect our countryside.

The #WasteOfSpace campaign is running until January 2015. Please join in by nominating a local brownfield site, for example an empty shop or abandoned factory. These will be added to an interactive map online which will help politicians and developers to identify sites and also raise awareness of the brownfield/greenfield debate.

“If more disused brownfield sites and empty buildings were re-developed, it would save greenfield sites and protect the countryside. Not only that but it would make our towns more vibrant and help get rid of eyesores and derelict buildings,” said CPRE Kent Director Dr Hilary Newport.

Folkestone waste of space

Abandoned building in Folkestone

So far three sites in Kent are on the map – the derelict building next to Grace Chapel in Folkestone; disused land in Island Road at Canterbury; and space in Rochester next to the bridge over the Medway. But we know hundreds more exist.

A CPRE report earlier this year found that the Government’s planning reforms are unnecessarily damaging the countryside and failing to prioritise the re-use of brownfield land and regeneration of urban areas.

“Brownfield developments can be costly because of de-contamination and complications over ownership, but these are all matters that could and should be overcome,” said Dr Newport. “They won’t be, though, if we continue to promote so-called easy to develop greenfield sites.”

To nominate a brownfield site and add it to CPRE’s ‘WasteOfSpace’ map of England, please send an image of the site (as simple as a quick snap on a smartphone) and an address of the site – either a postcode or rough street address. Send the image by:

emailing wasteofspace@cpre.org.uk
tweeting @CPRE with the hashtag #WasteOfSpace
posting to the Facebook group #WasteOfSpace

To view the map: http://www.cpre.org.uk/how-you-can-help/take-action/waste-of-space