New planning rule book: ‘a speculative developers’ charter’

CPRE has slammed the government’s revised planning rule book, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), as a “speculative developers’ charter”.
In a damning early critique, the organisation says the government has not fulfilled its promise to “build attractive and better-designed homes in areas where they are needed”.
Indeed, the document, published on Tuesday, July 24, continues to “favour the delivery of any development, rather than development that meets communities’ needs, respects the environment, and adheres to policies in the NPPF other than those which deal with housing delivery”.
CPRE’s main worry is the introduction, in November, of a ‘housing delivery test’, which sees councils further encouraged to set high housebuilding targets – the new policy has clearly been designed to enforce those targets.
The test will mean councils are penalised when housebuilders fail to deliver homes in their areas; the ‘punishment’ is the removal of local control over planning decisions.
This, of course, will leave countryside open to speculative development.
Other CPRE concerns include:

  • a failure to provide an effective brownfield-first policy
  • the continuing failure to support provision of affordable housing in rural areas
  • the discouragement of neighbourhood planning because of uncertainty over the validity of Local Plans older than two years

Matt Thomson, CPRE’s head of planning, said: “Rather than delivering ‘what communities want’, as it claims to promise, the new planning rulebook and its new ‘housing delivery test’ will result in almost all Local Plans becoming out of date within two years.
“It is a speculative developers’ charter and will lead to the death of the plan-led system.
“Without a Local Plan, councils and communities have little control over the location and type of developments that take place. Local communities’ needs are ignored and valued countryside [is] destroyed for no good reason.”
Despite its disappointment with the revised NPPF, CPRE applauds some positive moves within it. They include:

  • National Parks and AONBs reinstated as having the “highest status of protection”
  • Maintenance of Green Belt protections and an improved definition of “exceptional circumstances” for releasing land from Green Belts
  • Exclusion of National Parks, AONBs and Green Belts from the Entry Level Exceptions Sites policy
  • “Social housing” reinstated in the definition of affordable housing

Hilary Newport, director of CPRE Kent, said: “Unfortunately, the revised NPPF carries on a situation where too much of the power within our planning system lies with developers.
“The housing delivery test, for example, does nothing to restore the balance that’s needed so local planning authorities can direct the development that’s needed to the places it’s needed.”

  • For more on CPRE’s response to the revised NPPF, see here

    Friday, August 3, 2018

Blean greenfield site saved (for now) in High Court win over government

The land at Blean Common saved from development
(pic Canterbury City Council)

CPRE Kent welcomes the news that a greenfield site in east Kent has been saved, at least for the time being, after a High Court victory for the local authority over the government.
Canterbury City Council took the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to court after a planning inspector granted planning permission for 85 homes at Blean Common next to the Royal Oak pub.
The council’s planning committee had previously refused the application, but the applicant, Gladman Developments Ltd, appealed the decision.
During April’s subsequent court hearing, the council argued the inspector had misinterpreted policies in both its Local Plan at the time and the then-emerging Local Plan concerning development in the district and on greenfield land specifically.
And yesterday (Tuesday, June 26) in the High Court, Mr Justice Dove backed the council’s case, quashing the decision of the planning inspector, meaning the appeal must be redetermined by a different inspector.
Further, the Secretary of State was ordered to pay the council’s legal costs of £19,218. There is the right of appeal against the court’s decision.
The council had refused the planning application on grounds including the fact it was a sporadic form of development outside of the village area of Blean, would represent a harmful form of development in a rural location and was detrimental to the character and appearance of the surrounding rural environment in general.
Simon Thomas, the council’s head of planning, said: “It’s highly unusual for us to take the government to court in this way, but there were important issues at stake here.
“Our Local Plan has very clear policies on where we will allow development and on the protection of our precious countryside.
“The inspector misinterpreted these and reached a decision that we felt we had no option but to challenge on behalf of local residents.
“It is not the end for this specific planning application, though, as the Planning Inspectorate is now required to reconsider the appeal.”
Land agent Gladman has been involved in planning conflicts across the country, much of its approach entailing working at the minutiae of local authorities’ five-year land supply, arguing they are not providing the new housing required of them by central government.
Gladman does not build the homes itself. Rather, it seeks to win planning permission allowing developers to put up developments not planned for by local councils.
Unsurprisingly, this has led to disputes up and down the land, with many cases going to public inquiry.
The company’s website says: “Gladman is the UK’s most successful land promoter with an unrivalled success rate of over 90%…
“We have achieved planning permission for over 10,000 new homes and have secured planning permission on over 60 sites in the last year.”
The behaviour of speculative land agents is one of the most taxing issues facing local authorities and countryside campaigners today.
Tom Fyans, CPRE’s director of campaigns and policy, said: “We are deeply concerned at the stress and impact this sort of speculative behaviour is having on our countryside, wildlife and on rural communities – land promoters actively work against local wishes for the sake of their own profit.
“Changes must be made to close these loopholes in national planning policy to ensure the planning system drives developments that are needed and welcomed by local authorities.”

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Istead Rise campaigners win battle to save land for community

Rachel Westlake, Terry Annable and Roger Francis spoke on behalf of those who objected to the application

The threatened land at the junction of Weald Close and The Drove Way

A campaign supported by CPRE Kent against a contentious development in Istead Rise has won the day, with the local authority refusing planning permission for the scheme.
The plans for two bungalows at the junction of Weald Close and The Drove Way – in what is termed a soft landscape community asset site – were rejected unanimously by Gravesham Borough Council’s regulatory board.
The decision follows a battle by local residents supported by CPRE Kent that attracted some 160 people to public meetings. Posters, leaflets and social media were all used extensively during the campaign.
Alex Hills, CPRE Gravesham chairman, said after last month’s decision: “Huge thanks must go to the councillors for taking the time to read the lengthy reports and for listening to the views of the local residents.
“Also thanks to the planning officers who pulled together the reports and gathered the valid points held within the 108 objections received from local residents.
“This amount of objections is amazing for an application for two bungalows, where normally the most you would expect is around three to six objections.
“It showed the councillors very clearly how much people value the open spaces in their area.
“As a very experienced campaigner for CPRE Kent, it proves that people can make a difference if they stand together and put forward valid reasons in planning law why an application should be rejected.
“Everyone worked very hard on the campaign gathering information and leafleting the local community to raise awareness of this application.
“Special thanks must go to Terry Annable, Frank Booker and Rachel Westlake for being the central driving force of the campaign.
“The application raised the issue of the status, importance and protection that is given to open spaces within built-up areas all over Gravesham.
“There are some local policies in the Local Plan that protect these spaces and there is another that supports infill development.
“The application came about because there is no legal definition or definition in the Local Plan of what is or is not classed as infill development.
“If the application had been approved, every open space in Gravesham would have been under threat from developers.
“CPRE Kent supports infill development on land within built-up areas that is surplus to requirements or serves no purpose, but it has been proven that open spaces like that at Weald Close do serve an important and much-valued purpose.”

Monday, April 23, 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

Inspector dismisses developer’s appeal against refusal of housing scheme

The government inspector dismissed the appeal by Quinn Estates

Just when some benighted residents had perhaps begun to feel that the onslaught of housing development on the county could not be held back, news comes of a victory in the village of Ash, near Sandwich.
A scheme by Quinn Estates for 104 homes, business units and a Scouts hut north of Sandwich Road had been turned down by Dover District Council at the start of last year, but the developer chose to appeal that decision.
At a hearing last month, however, the planning inspector dismissed Quinn’s appeal, citing the loss of high-quality agricultural land and the damage the proposed development would cause to the rural setting.
Further, the inspector noted that DDC was able to demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land.
CPRE Dover was represented at the inquiry, objecting to the planned development – on a site not allocated for housing in the council’s Local Plan – noting not only the loss of farmland but also the highways problems it would bring the village.
CPRE Dover chairman Derek Wanstall said: “We supported the council on the grounds it had given for rejection and also stressed the highways issues the scheme would bring.
“With the impact of other developments as well, we would effectively be reverting to the time before the Ash bypass was built – the place would grind to a halt with the amount of added traffic.”

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Now we wait for Brabourne Lees decision

Brabourne Lees is surrounded by glorious countryside

CPRE Kent is in what has become over recent months a familiar position of waiting… in this case for the outcome of the public inquiry into a proposed housing development at Brabourne Lees.
The two-week inquiry into Gladman Developments Ltd’s appeal against Ashford Borough Council’s refusal to grant planning permission for 125 homes in the village at the foot of the downs ended on Friday last week (January 19).
The local authority was defending its decision and the CPRE team gave the bulk of their evidence to the hearing, at the Civic Centre in Ashford, during the first week of proceedings.
We have been told to expect the inspector’s decision on or before Monday, April 16.
In the meantime, CPRE Kent is preparing to give evidence into next month’s public inquiry into Gladman’s plans for 245 homes at Pluckley Road, Charing.
It is scheduled to start on Tuesday, March 13, and expected to last six days.

Friday, January 26, 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

So what now for Manston? And for Thanet?

Manston… its future hangs in the balance

In a collision of some of Kent’s more enduring stories, the thorny subject of Thanet District Council’s Local Plan is being voted upon tonight (Thursday, January 18), with housing numbers and Manston airport certain to be among the main factors debated.
The Plan of course covers a range of issues, mapping out the isle’s planned development until 2031, but the subject that has attracted the greatest coverage and sparked the greatest division of opinion is the future of the Manston airport site.
Manston’s days as an airport could be numbered, following the revelation of plans by site owner Stone Hill Park Ltd to build 2,500 homes (a figure that could rise to 4,000), business units and sporting facilities there.
Those proposals appeared to have been backed in October last year when the local authority’s cabinet approved the draft Local Plan, which includes an allocation of 2,500 properties at Manston, but tonight it is to be voted upon by the full council in circumstances so contentious that some are predicting a change in regime at the local authority.
That could occur should council members refuse to adopt the Local Plan, a situation intensified by that fact that Thanet is one of 15 councils to have been put “on notice” by Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, for its lack of progress in putting forward its Plan for examination.
If the Plan is refused tonight, its adoption is likely to be set back by anything up to 18 months, prompting Mr Javid’s department to step in and effectively impose its own plan on Thanet, most notably, it is feared, an increased housebuilding target – up from 857 a year (a total of 17,150) to 1,063 (more than 21,000), assuming proposed new government methodology is accepted.
In contrast to the Stone Hill proposals for Manston, meanwhile, would-be airport operator RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) has stated that it has the plans and the funding in place for the site to be revived as a freight hub.
It says this would be a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project and the Secretary of State can grant seizure of the site through a Development Consent Order (DCO).
It had intended to apply to the Planning Inspectorate for the DCO by the end of 2017, with a subsequent decision from the Secretary of State expected by the end of this year.
RSP says the granting of the DCO would allow it to have a refurbished airport back in business by 2020, but such hopes nosedived when a TDC-commissioned report concluded that Manston was not viable as an operational airport.
However, a recent leaked email from the council’s chief executive revealed a proposal for a two-year deferment on accepting the scheme for housing and business at Manston. This would give RSP time to pursue the DCO.
So… a rejuvenated airport or Manston new town? What is the opinion of CPRE on the isle?
Geoff Orton, Thanet district secretary, said: “We have agreed not to take a view on the airport as feelings are so mixed.
“Those in favour of an airport, though, see the airport as an employment opportunity. 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 what appear to be eye-wateringly high housebuilding targets, Mr Orton echoed the views of many in highlighting their constant increase alongside a local economy that has almost been a byword for unemployment.
“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?”
In what is looking increasingly like a perfect storm, the loss of Thanet’s remaining open space is another likely depressing outcome of the forthcoming political machinations, but Mr Orton believes that could be offset to a large degree through brownfield development.
“Thanet is the worst district south of Bolsover for empty properties, while we have a real problem with our high streets. There’s also the deaf school site, while the Canterbury Christ Church University campus is due to be closed. All can be used for housing.”
And a final word from Mr Orton?
“The longer Manston is held in reserve as a relief lorry park, as suggested by the Transport Minister is a possibility – and we know all about the Stack dilemma – the more opportunity for a sensible Local Plan assisted by neighbourhood planners to develop, and the more strategic value our threatened Class I farmland assumes.”
Indeed. Tonight’s meeting at the Thanet District Council offices in Margate should be interesting…

For more on the Manston airport saga, see here

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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Government’s 25-year plan for our environment… what is the CPRE view?

Will Kent’s wild places be better protected as a result of the government’s 25-year plan? This is Westbere in the Stour valley (pic Richard Brooks)

The publication on Thursday last week (January 11) of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan met – as perhaps is the case with most things emanating from our political leaders – a mixed response.
It was difficult to argue against the principles it embraced and most commentators have broadly welcomed the plan, although it has been criticised for a lack of detail and commitment to concrete action.
To make up your own mind, you can read the 125-page document (or at least as much as you want to read!) here.
Just to give you an idea of the government’s stated intention, in the meantime, Prime Minister Theresa May says in the plan’s forward:
“Our natural environment is our most precious inheritance. The United Kingdom is blessed with a wonderful variety of natural landscapes and habitats and our 25 Year Environment Plan sets out our comprehensive and long-term approach to protecting and enhancing them in England for the next generation.
“Its goals are simple: cleaner air and water; plants and animals which are thriving; and a cleaner, greener country for us all. We have already taken huge strides to improve environmental protections, from banning microbeads which harm our marine life to improving the quality of the air we breathe to improving standards of animal welfare. This plan sets out the further action we will take.
“By using our land more sustainably and creating new habitats for wildlife, including by planting more trees, we can arrest the decline in native species and improve our biodiversity. By tackling the scourge of waste plastic we can make our oceans cleaner and healthier. Connecting more people with the environment will promote greater well-being. And by making the most of emerging technologies, we can build a cleaner, greener country and reap the economic rewards of the clean growth revolution.”
And Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, adds: “It is this Government’s ambition to leave our environment in a better state than we found it. We have made significant progress but there is much more to be done. The 25 Year Environment Plan that we have published today outlines the steps we propose to take to achieve our ambition.”
So what does CPRE make of it?
Belinda Gordon, our head of government and rural affairs, said: “The introduction of a 25-year Environment Plan is a fantastic commitment to long-term investment in the health, protection and enhancement of our countryside.
“We are delighted to see the Government taking measures to improve our National Parks, Green Belts and wider landscapes.
“However, despite the Government’s best intentions, we are concerned that the plan does not adequately address the growing development pressures on England’s countryside.
“England’s land is a finite resource – it is vital that we ensure we have a planning system that ensures the best use of land, while protecting our landscape and the wider natural environment.
“We look forward to working with the Government to make sure our planning system delivers what our communities and environment need.”
Belinda gives greater detail in her blog A vision for change here, in which she talks of “a sense of disappointment about lack of detail in some areas while some anticipated announcements were not in the final plan”.
We would be keen to know your views, so please feel free to get in touch with us via email, Facebook or Twitter.

Monday, January 15, 2018

CPRE Kent team stands up for Brabourne Lees at public inquiry

Brabourne Lees sits at the foot of the Kent Downs AONB

These are lively days indeed for CPRE Kent.
No sooner has the dust settled from our appearance in the High Court, where we gave evidence in the successful battle for Pond Farm, Newington, and our Supreme Court victory in saving Farthingloe Valley from destruction by developers than we have a team involved in a public inquiry.
This time we are giving evidence to a planning inspector hearing the appeal by Gladman Developments Ltd against Ashford Borough Council’s refusal to grant planning permission for 125 homes at Brabourne Lees, a village at the foot of the Kent Downs AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).
The local authority is defending its decision and the hearing, at the Civic Centre in Ashford, is expected to conclude by the end of this week (Friday, January 19).
And – after that – we’re giving evidence in another public inquiry, this time into a proposed development at Charing. It’s scheduled to start on Tuesday, March 13, and expected to last six days.
All the best to our team… fighting, as ever, for Kent’s countryside and quality of life.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Kent… so just how built-up is it?

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:

  • Oxfordshire 7.2%
  • Sussex 8.7%
  • Hampshire 10.2%
  • Kent 10.3%
  • Buckinghamshire 10.8%
  • Berkshire 16%
  • Surrey 17.2%

Back to Kent, and the least urbanised district is Ashford (5%) and the most urbanised Dartford (32%).

The full Kent league table is:

  • Ashford 5%
  • Tunbridge Wells 7%
  • Dover 8%
  • Maidstone 8%
  • Sevenoaks 8%
  • Shepway 8%
  • Swale 8%
  • Canterbury 9%
  • Tonbridge and Malling 14%
  • Gravesham 21%
  • Thanet 27%
  • Medway 28%
  • Dartford 32%

How might those figures look in 50 years’ time? Perhaps best not think about it…

Friday, December 22, 2017

Woodcut Farm: CPRE Kent will continue the fight

Woodcut Farm: the challenge goes on

CPRE Kent can confirm that we will be challenging part of Maidstone Borough Council’s Local Plan.
The decision was made after last night’s (Thursday, November 30) approval by the local authority of a scheme to develop almost 17 hectares of land at Woodcut Farm, near junction 8 of the M20.
We had asked in a pre-action protocol letter to the council that it delay making a decision on the planning application, by Roxhill Developments, stating our belief that inclusion of Woodcut Farm as a designated site for development in the Local Plan was unlawful.
More precisely, we were challenging the council’s allocation of 16.8 hectares for up to 49,000 square metres of “mixed employment floorspace” at the site:  Policy EMP 1(4) of the Plan.
The letter was lodged through our solicitor Richard Buxton, asking that the council’s planning committee did not debate the Woodcut Farm application  last night.
However, the committee went ahead with the debate and made the decision to approve the outline application by seven votes to five.
Richard Knox-Johnston, CPRE Kent vice-chairman, said: “Maidstone councillors were given legal advice that our letter was only a threat and not a legal challenge in itself.
“That advice was not correct and we believe the council was misinformed.
“As a result we will be proceeding with a legal challenge early next week.”
Christine Drury, our chairwoman, said: “CPRE Kent will never give up on the countryside.”

Friday, December 1, 2017 

CPRE Kent challenges part of Maidstone Local Plan

CPRE Kent believes development of Woodcut Farm should not be included in Maidstone council’s Local Plan

CPRE Kent is challenging Maidstone Borough Council’s Local Plan.
We have sent the local authority a pre-action protocol letter requesting that it delays making a decision on a planning application for Woodcut Farm near junction 8 of the M20, due to be discussed by its planning committee tomorrow evening (Thursday, November 30).
The council adopted its Local Plan in October, but we are not happy with the inclusion of the Woodcut Farm site in the Plan, which we believe to be unlawful.
Specifically, CPRE Kent is challenging the council’s allocation of 16.8 hectares for up to 49,000 square metres of “mixed employment floorspace” at the site; this is Policy EMP 1(4) of the Plan.
We have lodged the letter, through our solicitor Richard Buxton, asking that Maidstone council’s planning committee does not debate the Woodcut Farm application, from Roxhill Developments, tomorrow.
The council has been given until 4pm today (Wednesday) to confirm postponement.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

‘The worst possible place to put a solar farm’

The special landscape of Graveney Marshes would be destroyed if the Cleve Hill solar park was approved (picture by Vicky Ellis)

As if north Kent was not under enough pressure of development, monstrous plans for the country’s largest solar power station have been announced for a site on the North Kent Marshes.

The scheme, proposed by Hive Energy and Wirsol, has been named Cleve Hill Solar Park and would, if built, cover an eyewatering 890 acres of Graveney, Nagden and Cleve Marshes.

The developers say their scheme would provide power for some 110,000 homes. This would be “equivalent to the number in Swale and Canterbury combined”, according to one report in the local media; if that’s the case, it might be salient to ask where all that energy from the nearby Kentish Flats wind farm is going!

A possible capacity of 350 MW would be five times that of the UK’s current largest solar park, at Lyneham in Wiltshire, which produces 69 MW.

The colossal size of the Cleve Hill application makes it a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), meaning the decision on whether it goes ahead will be made by Greg Clark, Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The North Kent Marshes are internationally important for birds and the area being targeted by Hive Energy and Wirsol borders an extensive Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protection Area (SPA) and Ramsar-designated site.

Much of the targeted site itself lies within the Natural England-designated Greater Thames Estuary Natural Area and Character Area, while almost all of it  is noted as an Area of Greatest Habitat Opportunity (enhancement) and as a Biodiversity Opportunity Area.

That’s an awful lot of titles and designations, demonstrating how important this area is wildlife… and of course for the many people who use it for walking and so many other recreational activities.

Hardly the place for the UK’s largest solar power station, you might think!

This very special landscape is enhanced by an incredible array of birdlife, particularly wildfowl and waders, while numbers of marsh harriers – a bird of prey on the brink of extinction in this country not so very long ago – are high.

Further, the Cleve Hill site adjoins two Kent Wildlife Trust reserves – Oare Marshes and South Swale – while the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds manages large chunks of the nearby Seasalter Levels.

CPRE will scrutinise this proposal in much greater detail over the coming weeks, but director Hilary Newport said: “If I was to think of the worst possible place to put a solar farm, it would be here.

“We absolutely support the principle of renewable energy, but [the panels] should be on roofs, not trashing landscapes in an astonishingly beautiful part of the North Kent Marshes.”

Monday, November 13, 2017

Move quickly if you want to respond to housing consultation

Housing yes, but the right type, the right places… and the right numbers (photo by Hastoe)

Time is almost up if you want to respond to the government’s consultation on future housing provision.

The Department for Communities and Local Government document Planning For The Right Homes In The Right Places has sparked alarm across much of the South East.

Its proposed new methodology on determining housebuilding levels could leave some counties facing colossal hikes in the number of homes they are required by central government to build.

However, the burden is not being shared equally and, extraordinarily, some counties, even in the pressurised South East, could be asked to build fewer houses than previously scheduled.

Conversely, Kent is being targeted for a disproportionately large increase in the number of homes its must build.

If you think that is unfair – or indeed have any views on what the government could be about to unleash on us – you have until 11.45pm tomorrow (Thursday, November 9) to add them to the consultation.

CPRE has already responded and is encouraging others to do the same, even at this late stage.

You can do so here

For more on the consultation, see here

To read how Kent could be targeted disproportionately heavily, see here

Wednesday, November 8, 2017