What a year for CPRE Kent! Happy Christmas from us all…

CPRE Kent will be continuing the fight for all that is good about our county’s countryside and coast. See you next year!

It’s easy to overstate the hyperbole at such times, but 2017 has been an extraordinarily busy year for CPRE Kent. Busy and momentous…
The highlight came late in proceedings, with this month’s Supreme Court victory where we successfully defended the Appeal Court’s decision to quash planning permission for more than 600 homes in Farthingloe Valley, in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
It was a complex case, but suffice to say the Supreme Court agreed with the Appeal Court’s earlier ruling that the planning committee at Dover District Council had not given legally adequate reasons for its decision to grant permission for a development it acknowledged would cause significant harm to a protected landscape.
It was a victory that should have far-reaching implications for both the performance of our local authority planning committees and the protection of AONBs.
Another success in which we were involved came at Pond Farm, Newington.
The dismissal in the High Court of a developer’s appeal against an earlier planning decision was the first instance in the UK of air quality proving a critical factor in such a judgment.
CPRE Kent had been in court in October giving evidence as the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government defended a planning inspector’s dismissal of two linked appeals made by Gladman Developments against the local authority’s refusal of planning permission for its scheme.
The issue of air quality is now rising up the wider agenda, leaving, we suspect, some of our planners not totally certain of the way ahead.
Fantastic victories, for sure, but at CPRE Kent we’re always keen to stress that we are not opposed to all development. Indeed, we want to see an emphasis on new affordable housing that will give people across the county the opportunity to live in their own home.
While we believe that the Farthingloe application, for example, should never have progressed as far as it did – and it is disappointing that it was left to CPRE Kent alone to contest it – we are aware that housing does need building.
Our viewpoint, happily, is simple: right homes, right places.
One extensive development is at Ebbsfleet, where there appears to be some progress on a project for which planning permission was granted some 15 years ago and should ultimately deliver about 15,000 houses.
CPRE Kent has not objected to this plan, but we will be monitoring it to see whether its concept of sustainability is met.
Things are very much different at Otterpool Park, a scheme adding a staggering 12,000 houses to Shepway District Council’s current identified need of 8,800 homes.
This is a development that has little going for it other, perhaps, than the pumping of a few council egos.
The area is already congested and prone to water stress, but with the Department for Communities and Local Government backing the project and the district council being both applicant and judge it is hard to see where we can get any purchase on opposing it.
So it hasn’t all been plain sailing, evidenced further by a 12km line of 5m-high pylons across east Kent being granted planning permission in August. Supposed mitigation for this highly intrusive scheme appears negligible.
Similarly disappointing was the approval of a Lower Thames Crossing east of Gravesend, which now has three lanes each way planned. CPRE Kent does not believe the new road will, should it be built, ease the problem of either congestion or air pollution at Dartford.
Staying with transport, we all accept that the implementation of Operation Stack is not acceptable and must be tackled, but CPRE has never backed the building of a huge lorry park at Stanford. Happily, the government is reconsidering the plans.
The battles will, we are sure, continue to come thick and fast. We support renewable energy, for instance, but that doesn’t mean every such scheme should be accepted without question.
The colossal scale of the proposed 890-acre Cleve Hill solar farm, near Faversham, for example, is surely too great. There have to be better ways to deliver energy, we believe.
CPRE Kent is also involved as a Rule 6 participant in two another inquiries that will run into next year – Woodcut Farm and Brabourne Lees – while our work in relation to Local Plans and any number of development applications is constant.
Whatever 2018 holds, we will, as ever, be fighting for this county’s countryside.
As for now, it’s time to take a break and we wish you all a happy, peaceful and fulfilling Christmas and New Year. Thank you for your support…

Friday, December 22, 2017