The presence of three pairs of turtle doves – one of the fastest-declining species of bird in the country – was not enough to block permission for more than 200 new homes on the site of the former Betteshanger colliery. Quinn Estates last night (Thursday, May 27) won approval from Dover District Council’s planning committee to build 210 houses, 2,500 square metres of office space and 150 sq m of shopping space. The proposal was approved on the casting vote of the committee chairman. CPRE Kent had objected to the proposal and submitted a substantial environmental statement. Altogether, there were more than 80 objections, many relating to the loss of wildlife. A spokesman for the Friends of Betteshanger, the group formed to oppose the scheme, said: “There was some well-argued opposition, but ultimately it was agreed that Section 106 agreements to finalise mitigation and compensation were an acceptable way forward. “We hope we will see the day when environmental considerations really are centre-stage and wildlife is given the protection it deserves.” Extraordinarily, the mitigation reportedly included a pledge to relocate the site’s turtles doves – a migratory bird that winters in sub-Saharan Africa. Extraordinary… and depressing that such nonsense could be taken seriously by a planning committee.
The leader of Swale Borough Council has slammed as “diabolical” the decision by Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to back a 675-unit housing scheme at Borden, near Sittingbourne. It was announced yesterday (Thursday, April 29) that Mr Jenrick was backing an appeal inspector’s decision to give Quinn Estates outline planning permission to build up to 595 homes, a primary school, shop, rugby clubhouse, three sports pitches and a road joining Borden Lane with the A249. There was also full permission for 80 homes. To worsen matters for the local authority, partial costs were awarded against it. In a joint statement, council leader Roger Truelove and colleague Simon Clark, both of whom represent Homewood ward to be affected by the development, said: “The decision of the Secretary of State to give planning permission for the whole development between Cryalls Lane and Wises Lane is diabolical. “In upholding the appeal by Quinn Estates, Mr Jenrick has given permission for development on land outside the Swale Local Plan and for a spine road that will draw traffic through our ward, especially Homewood Avenue, and has given a signal to developers to make further incursions in land to the south of Sittingbourne. “The decision of the Secretary of State reinforces the belief that the government is determined to impose unsustainable development on the borough of Swale.” The Borden scheme had proved contentious from the beginning and sparked the headline “Robert Jenrick in new UK ‘cash for favours’ row” on the website OpenDemocracy, which reported that Quinn Estates had “made major donations to the Conservatives directly before and after Jenrick chose to take responsibility for deciding on Quinn’s bid to build 675 houses in Sittingbourne, Kent”. The story continued: “Shortly before Jenrick became involved in the decision, the developer, Quinn Estates, gave £11,000 to the Conservatives. Less than three weeks later, the firm donated a further £26,500 to the party.” It added: “In July 2019, the Swale local council signalled their intention to reject planning permission outright. Quinn appealed, and the issue was due to be decided by a local planning inspector. “But a letter sent by a senior civil servant on Robert Jenrick’s behalf on August 13 said that ‘the Secretary of State considers that he should determine it himself.’” The OpenDemocracy story, written in July last year, noted that “Quinn Estates, and the company’s owner Mark Quinn, have donated around £140,000 to the Conservatives’ central party and Tory MPs across the south-east of England in recent years, including almost £10,000 to Epping Forest MP Eleanor Laing and £5,500 to Folkestone MP Damian Collins. “Quinn companies have a number of projects in those constituencies, including a major proposed development in Epping Forest and a mix[ed] housing scheme in Folkestone that was given planning permission last year.” OpenDemocracy referred to an article elsewhere in which Mr Quinn dismissed any malpractice: “Asked about his approach to planning in 2018, Quinn said ‘Brown envelopes? Planning is given by a democratically elected committee. All their accounts are checked. We’re not allowed to do anything to jeopardise that.’”
Plans for North Weald Park were submitted to the local authority in June (pic Quinn Estates)
Many communities across Kent are experiencing the activities of Quinn Estates, so it might be of interest to highlight a scheme the developer is promoting across the estuary in Essex.
A decision is anticipated this spring on proposals for a ‘garden village’ development at the former North Weald Golf Club.
Quinn Estates and Redrow Homes submitted the plans to Epping Forest District Council that include 555 homes, a 70-bed retirement complex and 70-bed nursing care accommodation, as well as sports facilities and schools.
The developer’s brochure describes the scheme, entitled North Weald Park, as:
“A once in a generation opportunity to create a mixed use development with an incredible sporting and education legacy for Essex and Epping Forest District.
“Embodying garden village principles, the development will combine high quality housing with exceptional community, social and economic infrastructure.
“The proposals incorporate the creation of up to 690 new homes with 40% affordable provision and a new business community from a developer with a very strong track record for the delivery of commercial space.
“Through working with Epping Youth Football Club, UKA Karate Club and the Scouts, the development can deliver a legacy of enhanced sporting facilities for the people of Essex.”
The 165-acre scheme also includes a business park, park-and-ride to Epping station, Scouts facility and medical centre, together with “£5m-£10m” improvements to junction of the M11 at Hastingwood.
The planning application was submitted to the local authority in June and it is hoped it will be determined in May.
No mistaking the message! (pic Barham Downs Action Group)
Planners’ rejection of plans for a huge development in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has been warmly welcomed by CPRE Kent.
The proposals, put forward by developer Quinn Estates and landowner Highland Investment Company, targeted 300 acres of protected countryside at Highland Court Farm near Bridge.
They entailed 175 holiday homes, a stadium for Canterbury City Football Club, six rugby pitches, a business park extension, “innovation centre”, food and drink units and a “leisure hub”.
Last night (Tuesday, February 5) Canterbury City Council planning committee chose unanimously to decline planning permission for the scheme, which had already been recommended for refusal in a planning officer’s report listing 12 grounds as to why it should be turned down.
The project had been opposed by CPRE Kent, Natural England, Kent Wildlife Trust, Dover District Council, Barham Downs Action Group and several parish councils.
Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, said the decision was unquestionably the correct one: “We’re surprised that anyone could believe such an appalling scheme in an AONB [Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty] might ever be considered acceptable.
“We’re thrilled that Canterbury City Council’s planning committee rejected the plans so decisively and so comprehensively.”
Barrie Gore is chairman of CPRE Kent’s Canterbury committee. “It’s wonderful that a beautiful part of the countryside has been preserved, hopefully forever,” he said.
“The scheme was refused on grounds that I would have thought unassailable. So many who worked so hard to save this lovely part of the AONB, Highland Court House and the Highland Court Conservation Area from further development have had their efforts rewarded.
“The planning officer’s report was a very good one and summed up both sides of the debate extremely well.
“It was interesting that one of the councillors had calculated that only 14 per cent of the site comprised sporting facilities – much of the rest was simply for high-end holiday homes.”
CPRE Kent had opposed the project since its announcement. Speaking on KMTV in October 2017, vice-president Richard Knox-Johnston highlighted national planning strategy going back to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 designating areas of land not available for development.
“So this land is not available for any development on it,” he had 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.”
He 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.
He was scathing about the developer’s claim that the project would bring tourists into the county: “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.”
For more on this story (and a link to Mr Knox-Johnston discussing the project on KMTV), see here