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.

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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.

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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.

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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