Gladman pushed back for a third time: ‘a great day for democracy’

Harvest time on Thanet’s wonderful farmland: Gladman wants 450 houses to be built here

“A great day for democracy,” was how the chairman of Thanet CPRE described the third refusal of plans to build 450 houses on farmland at the edge of Margate.
The Gladman Developments bid to win planning permission for the development at Shottendane Road was rejected by Thanet District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday, July 21.
CPRE Kent, through its Thanet committee, has contested the Gladman scheme throughout on a range of issues, but the principal concern for the planning committee has been the proposed cut in affordable housing from 30 per cent (as set in TDC Local Plan policy) to 10 per cent on the first application and then 15 per cent on the second.
As part of its third attempt, Gladman offered 68 properties as affordable housing on an 80 per cent affordable rent and 20 per cent shared-ownership mix. It also claimed it would make almost £5 million in contributions to community and highways infrastructure.
However, this was not enough to convince the planning committee, which was looking to agree on reasons for refusal to be cited should the case be taken to appeal by Gladman.
In the end, the statement for refusal read: “The proposed development, by virtue of the proposed level of affordable housing, would not meet the identified need for affordable housing in the district, thereby not providing the required homes to create a balanced and mixed community.
“This harm is considered to significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the development, therefore the proposal would not constitute sustainable development and is contrary to Strategic Priority 3 of the Thanet Local Plan and the objectives of the National Planning Policy Framework.”
David Morrish, Thanet CPRE chairman, said: “This is a great day for democracy and common sense. Let’s hope it’s a lesson to other would-be speculative developers that Thanet council won’t be deterred from defending its own policy to provide affordable housing.
“It took three meetings of the planning committee, but it’s been good to see councillors defending the housing policy.”

  • For more on this scheme, as well as the way Gladman operates, click here

Monday, July 26, 2021

CPRE Kent urges Thanet council to be bold and refuse Gladman application that runs contrary to Local Plan

Under threat from Gladman: countryside at Shottendane Road, Margate

Thanet District Council will tonight (Wednesday, July 21) reconsider the Gladman Developments bid for planning permission for 450 houses at Shottendane Road, near Margate. 
CPRE Kent has long argued against this development, both during the Local Plan process and the current attempts to win planning permission. Despite this, only one significant ground of dispute appears to remain between the council and Gladman, and that is the issue of affordable housing.
This is because Gladman only wants to provide half the amount of affordable housing that TDC considers should be provided.
Thanet’s planning committee is reminded that Gladman is not in the business of building houses – rather, it is in the business of maximising land value through the securing of planning permissions.
It is worth noting that Damian Green, MP for Ashford and former First Secretary of State (de facto deputy prime minister) highlighted Gladman as the only company with which he had “flatly refused” to speak.
Gladman is a land agent or land promoter, taking on the costs of securing a planning permission on the basis that it then splits the resulting profits with that landowner when it sells to an actual housebuilder. 
This incentivises putting maximum pressure upon a council to approve as quickly as possible and encourages negotiating out as many future costs as possible so the permissioned land can be sold at a premium. 
 As Gladman says on its website: “It is in our interests to optimise the value of your land as we, like you, only get paid when the land is sold.”
The point is, this land has not yet been sold on, meaning everything is theoretical until this point.
If the council insists on the full level of affordable housing being provided, the purchaser will need to reflect this in the price it pays for the land. This is exactly what planning policy guidance on viability expects should happen.
For these reasons, CPRE Kent is calling on Thanet District Council to be bold and refuse this application as contrary to the adopted Plan.

  • Our comments on the revised application are here
  • Details of the Gladman business model are set out on its website here
  • For more on this story, see here

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Delight as Thanet council ‘sticks to its guns’ and sends back Gladman housing scheme

The attractive landscape on the edge of Margate targeted by Gladman Developments

The decision to refuse a revised planning application for 450 new houses on farmland at Margate has been warmly welcomed by CPRE Kent’s Thanet committee.
The scheme from Gladman Developments had first been refused by Thanet District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday, April 21, with seven members voting against it, four voting in favour and two abstaining.
Loss of farmland, flooding, challenging topography and impact on wildlife were all noted as reasons for refusal, but the main concern was the proposed cut in affordable housing from 30 per cent (as set in TDC Local Plan policy) to 10 per cent.
Gladman came back with the level of affordable housing increased from 10 per cent to 15 per cent – a rise described as pathetic by David Morrish, chairman of Thanet CPRE – and on Wednesday, June 23, this was also refused by the planning committee, this time by an overwhelming vote of 11-1.
Thanet CPRE had objected to both Gladman applications for the Shottendane Road site.
This was despite council officers saying the 15 per cent figure was acceptable as Gladman had claimed a higher level would not be financially viable. They recommended the decision be deferred to officers for approval.
“Thanet CPRE is delighted that Thanet council’s planning committee is sticking to its guns and defending its Local Plan policy to ensure that 30 per cent of all housing-zone major developments is genuinely affordable,” said Mr Morrish.
“It has resisted attempts by a land promoter to chew into the countryside, resisting paying minimal costs to the community and placing profit above people.
“It is great that councillors have not been cowed by ‘advice’ from planning officers threatening dire problems if the council turned down this application.
“A CPRE national report showed that experienced land promoters, such as Gladman, which can afford expensive lawyers and multiple appeals, often win against local authorities at appeal, leaving them confident in their ability to gain planning permission that goes against local wishes.
“For example, the Gladman website states: ‘Whilst we try to achieve planning permission locally, sometimes for a variety of reasons this is not possible and the site is refused permission at planning committee. This is nothing to worry about; on average around two thirds of our sites go through the appeal process.’.
“Meanwhile, councils are retreating from the appeals process due to high expenses and the perceived low chance of winning – standing up for their own policies is seen as an unmerited expense.
“Let us all hope that Thanet councillors will have the courage to not retreat on this important matter and follow their own consciences rather than the diktats of council officers and threats of greedy land promoters.”

  • For more on this story, see here

Monday, June 28, 2021

Pathetic! CPRE Thanet chairman slams cut in affordable housing as Gladman tries again to push through housing scheme

Big deal! Gladman is raising its affordable housing commitment from 10 per cent to 15 per cent in its ‘revised’ scheme

A scheme from land agent Gladman Developments for 450 new houses on farmland on the edge of Margate will be reconsidered by Thanet councillors this evening (Wednesday, June 23).
The plans were narrowly refused by the planning committee on Wednesday, April 21, with seven voting against them, four in favour and two abstaining.
Loss of farmland, flooding, challenging topography and impact on wildlife were all cited as reasons for refusal, but the primary concern to councillors was the proposed cut in affordable housing from 30 per cent to 10 per cent.
Planning officers had argued that potential infrastructure funding made the cut in affordable housing acceptable.
Now Gladman has come back with the level of affordable housing increased from 10 per cent to 15 per cent – still half the target figure set by Thanet District Council planning policy.
Thanet CPRE has lodged an objection to the revised proposal, referring to several issues. Of course, it is difficult to see how the plan could now be deemed acceptable simply because of the risible increase in affordable housing.
David Morrish, Thanet CPRE chairman, said: “It’s an outrage that one part of Thanet council is producing a plan for 30 per cent affordable housing while another part appears to be negotiating that figure down to 15 per cent.
“Of course, if this scheme is approved, it will set the benchmark for every other developer here to push for lower levels of affordable housing – eventually, no affordable housing will be built.
“These apparent negotiations appear to have been done behind closed doors, with no community involvement. This pathetic increase from 10 per cent to 15 per cent is insulting to the wider local authority and the people it represents.
“A further concern is that councillors, or at least some of them, did not appear to have been given the information that the local authority is likely to benefit to the tune of £2-3 million should the development proceed. This is due to a covenant involving Margate Town Council, which formerly owned the land.
“There are many issues with this scheme – for example, there is no clear strategy for disposal of foul-water, which will have to be pumped to another system, while the effect on surface drainage is certain to be detrimental.
“Long-running problems with water quality where Tivoli Brook meets the sea will only be exacerbated by this development if it goes ahead. As if the beaches of Margate haven’t had enough of such problems in recent years!”

  • For more on this story, see here

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Gladman pushed back in Margate… for now

A proposed cut in the scheme’s affordable housing was deemed unacceptable by the planning committee

A proposal by land agent Gladman Developments to build 450 houses on agricultural land on Margate’s Shottendane Road has been turned down… but it will be returning.
The scheme was narrowly refused by Thanet District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday evening (April 21): seven voted against it, four were in favour and two abstained.
There are many issues with the plan, such as loss of farmland, flooding, challenging topography and impact on wildlife, but the principal concern to councillors was the proposed reduction in affordable housing from 30 per cent to 10 per cent.
It also became evident that support for it was down largely to its role in new infrastructure, being linked to other housing proposals at nearby Westgate (2,000 new properties) and Birchington (1,650) that, via Section 106 payments, will between them fund a new ‘inner circuit’ road complete with three roundabouts and two link roads.
Planning officers argued that this infrastructure funding made the cut in affordable housing acceptable. Happily, enough councillors did not agree – although the committee did vote for the Gladman scheme to be brought back to it with amendments.

For more on this story, see here

Friday, April 23, 2021

Thanet farmland targeted by Gladman

The red arrows mark where Gladman would like houses to be built

Tonight (Wednesday, April 21) Thanet District Council will decide whether planning permission should be granted for the building of 450 houses on agricultural land on Margate’s Shottendane Road.
The applicant, land agent Gladman Developments, has already cut affordable housing on the site from 30 per cent to 10 per cent so is not addressing the issue of providing affordable housing for local people.
The planned development is linked to proposed housing schemes at nearby Westgate and Birchington via Section 106 payments for a new ‘inner circuit’ road. Together, they would mean the loss of some 750 acres of farmland.
The attractive character of central Thanet’s undulating chalk farmland will be changed forever by the proposed housing, roadbuilding and streetlighting, while open views from footpaths enjoyed by so many will go, with some of the footpaths absorbed into new housing estates.
Farmland birds such as skylarks and other wildlife will lose their habitat. And another chunk of Thanet’s long farming heritage will be lost.
CPRE Thanet has put in a strong objection to the proposed development, while you can read the submission from Margate Civic Society here

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Thanet council proposals to charge public in planning process: we question lawfulness, lack of democracy and equity

Thanet council plans to charge a fee to process public comments it deems long and complex

A consultation on Thanet District Council’s Statement of Community Involvement closed last week – and CPRE Kent is less than impressed.
A Statement of Community Involvement sets out how a council intends to engage the local community and others in planning matters. It is an important document that should help ensure that planning process is fair, open and accessible to all.
Or not, in the case of Thanet.
While CPRE Kent made several comments on the detail of the document, it is TDC’s intention to charge a fee to process public comments that it deems long and complex that has caused us most concern.  
Not only do we question the lawfulness of this, but we also point out that it is undemocratic and potentially discriminatory.
We have called for this proposal to be removed from the document. If it is to remain, as a minimum we have asked for the basis on which the charge is deemed lawful to be reported back to members.   
The outcome of the consultation, along with any resulting changes, will shortly be reported back to Thanet council members before formal adoption.
We will be watching the response very closely.

  • For more on Thanet planning issues, click here

Monday, April 12, 2021

Confirmed: Manston DCO has been quashed

Manston… the story with more twists than a flamenco-dancing snake

The granting of a Development Consent Order allowing developer RiverOak Strategic Partners to reopen Manston as a freight hub has been quashed.
The Department for Transport had already accepted that the DCO approval letter from Andrew Stephenson, Minister of State for Transport, did not contain enough detail on why the conclusions of the four-man Planning Inspectorate’s Examining Authority were effectively dismissed.
And today (Tuesday, February 15), the department agreed to a High Court Consent Order stating the minister had indeed not laid out adequate reasons explaining his decision to go against the advice of the inspectors.
The Examining Authority had been clear that the DCO should not be granted.
The revocation of the DCO meant a judicial review of Mr Stephenson’s decision scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, February 16-17, at the High Court did not go ahead.
The review had been launched by Jenny Dawes, chair of Ramsgate Coastal Community Team. 
However, on Wednesday, December 2, she wrote on her CrowdJustice page set up to help fund the judicial review: “… yesterday my solicitors received a letter from the Treasury Solicitor, acting on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport, which said ‘my client has agreed to concede this claim on the basis of ground 1(b), namely that the Secretary of State did not give adequate reasons in his decision letter to enable the reader to understand why he disagreed with the Examining Authority Report on the issue of need for the development of Manston Airport’.
“We subsequently learned that the Interested Party, RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd, will not be defending their claim.”
With neither the DfT nor RiverOak contesting proceedings, the High Court judgment was short. It did, though, result in the government being ordered to pay Mrs Dawes’s legal costs of up to £35,000; RSP was ordered to pay additional costs, again capped at £35,000.
A statement from RSP said: “In the High Court today, Mr Justice Holgate approved a court order which had been agreed by all the parties to the Manston judicial review in December last year.
“The order allows the judicial review on the ground that the Secretary of State for Transport did not give adequate reasons for his decision. It also quashes the Manston DCO and orders costs in favour of the Applicant.
“The effect of the order made today is only to require the decision to be re-taken following a further representation period, it does not reverse any earlier stages of the process. The Secretary of State is likely to explain the reasons for his decision in more detail this time round.”

  • For more on Manston, see here

Tuesday, February 15, 2021

Coastal bungalows scheme thrown out

The setting of Pegwell Bay has been spared the unpopular proposal for six bungalows on a greenfield site

Plans for a bungalow estate on the edge of Pegwell village have been refused.
The application for the six properties failed to make the Thanet District Council’s planning committee following a critical officer’s report.
CPRE Thanet had made a strong objection to the scheme, as did Pegwell and District Association – a member of CPRE Kent.
The officer’s report included the following observations as reasons for refusal:
“The site is located within the countryside, outside of the village confines, and within a Landscape Character Area, which is characterised by its openness and views of Pegwell Bay and the former Wantsum Channel.
“The erection of six dwellings within this prominent location, which would be visible in long views and in wider views across the open countryside opposite, is considered to cause severe harm to the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside, and the valued Landscape Character Area, and harm the character and appearance of the adjacent Conservation Area, contrary to Policies SP24, SP26, HE02 and QD02 of the Draft Thanet Local Plan, and paragraph 170 of the NPPF.
“Furthermore, insufficient information has been submitted to address highway and ecology concerns.
“The environmental harm caused through the development is considered to significantly outweigh the extremely modest economic and social benefits provided, and is therefore not considered to be sustainable development.
“The application has also failed to provide an acceptable form of mitigation to relieve the pressure on the SPA, contrary to paragraph 177 of the NPPF and the Habitats Directive.
“It is therefore recommended that the application is refused.”
David Morrish, Thanet CPRE chairman, said: “These commentaries, I am glad to record, very much mirror the objections that we submitted.”

  • To read more on this story, click here

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Our stolen night skies

The orange mushroom cloud of Thanet Earth blights much of the east Kent night sky (pic Craig Solly)

Light pollution is an acknowledged blight on both the rural and the urban environment, but perhaps less known is its detrimental effect on wildlife and even our own health. Vicky Ellis investigates.

We humans seem preconditioned to take rather than give back – perhaps nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to nature and our dark skies.
Dark skies are more than just pretty stars in the sky or moonlit trees on a clear night. As romantic as that sounds, the darkness we inexplicably try so hard to flood out is vital for not just our health and well-being but also the health and well-being of flora and fauna.
As more and more housing is built, along with ancillary infrastructure, the more street lighting, outside lighting, security lighting and garden lighting goes up, with little or no regard for the damage caused to our ecosystems that rely on darkness for their very survival.
Why are dark nights so fundamental? This article hopefully goes some way to explaining how important dark nights are and why they should be protected, embraced and treasured.
The night sky with its wondrous stars and moon are part of our heritage. It belongs to no one and everyone at the same time. There is not one person alive who has right over our night sky and not one person who has the right to rob the joys of the night sky from anyone else. It should be our fundamental right to see, enjoy and benefit from the darkness and the tranquillity it generates.

Health

Over billions of years, life on Earth has evolved to rely on the rhythmic cycle of night and day to govern our physiology. It’s part of nature’s DNA and therefore part of our DNA. Science is now uncovering the deadly effect light pollution has on our flora and fauna, from birds, amphibians, mammals, insects and plants to our own health and well-being.
The process behind these circadian rhythms is initiated by photons signalling via the retina a tiny part of the brain responsible for the secretion of melatonin.
Melatonin begins to increase at dusk and peaks around midnight, relinquishing a cascade of chemical signals responsible for the regulation of sleep and wake cycles, body temperature, metabolism and appetite.
Leptin is one of these hormones. Sometimes referred to as the ‘hunger hormone’, it is released primarily from fat cells and ironically contributes to the regulation of body weight, curbing appetite while we sleep. According to epidemiologist Dr Richard Stevens from the University of Connecticut, who has studied links between ALAN (artificial light at night) and human health, one theory as to why it’s important our appetite is suppressed during the night is because ‘back in the day’ foraging for food when it’s dark would have been a high-risk strategy resulting in the likelihood of us becoming food.
All ALAN, be it computer screens, streetlights shining through windows or indoor and outside lights, interfere with circadian rhythms to varying degrees by interrupting regulation of melatonin. Obesity is one consequence among many and is linked to low levels of leptin.
Other studies have found a strong correlation between low melatonin levels and disrupted circadian cycles with heart disease, diabetes, depression and cancer – particularly breast cancer.
Further studies implicate ALAN as having a negative psychological impact on health. On the other hand, Dacher Keltner, a psychologist from the University of California, claims that observing stars rotating gently above our heads creates a feeling of awe and amazement that can elicit a sense of positivity.

Blinded by the light: this illumination on a retirement estate near Faversham can be seen for miles around (pic Vicky Ellis)

Ecology

Nocturnal animals, which sleep during the day and come out at night, have their natural rhythm drastically disrupted when their night-time environment is destroyed by ALAN. Predators use light to hunt, while prey species utilise darkness to stay safe and other fauna use night-time features to navigate. When affecting ecology, ALAN is sometimes referred to as ‘ecological light pollution’ and can affect nature down to the tiniest organism. Spiders, for instance, will seek out light sources to spin their webs as insects are attracted to the light, so it makes sense to exploit this to their advantage. The same can be said of bats feeding on moths.
However, this disruption in predator-prey balance can result in crashes in prey populations, as we are witnessing now with insects, especially flying insects. While it is unlikely that ALAN is the sole driver of our insect population crash, it is a contributing factor.
ALAN is just one more avoidable man-made negative that affects nature’s natural balance. Nocturnal insects such as moths navigate at night. ALAN can severely inhibit this ability to navigate, interfering with reproductive success. Artificial light sends moths into a frenzy around the light source, which often results in them either being picked off by predators or dying from exhaustion. Flowers that bloom at night rely on moths for pollination. If there is no other night-time pollinator not affected by light pollution, the plant will be unable to reproduce, drastically altering the local ecosystem with sometimes disastrous consequences.
Many will have heard birds singing at night in an illuminated tree, something that makes us feel uncomfortable because we know it is not right.
Other fauna negatively affected include frogs that use a light-dependent compass to find their way at night, using this light to find their way to breeding ponds. Studies have shown ALAN to also cause developmental deformities such as retinal damage, impeded juvenile development, premature metamorphosis, reduced sperm production and genetic mutation.
Frogs croak at night under cover of darkness during their mating season. ALAN can disrupt this, interfering in successful reproduction and negatively affecting population numbers.
Light and glare from ALAN can have a devastating effect on wetlands, home to amphibians such as frogs and toads and migratory birds. Migratory birds often navigate at night using the moon and stars. ALAN can trick these birds into deviating from their migratory routes, sometimes with fatal consequences. Irresponsibly-lit tall buildings in cities around the world draw these doomed birds, which then collide with them.
Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) in America states that brightly-lit tower blocks in Toronto could be responsible for tens of thousands of bird fatalities a year.
The volume of flora and fauna negatively affected by ALAN is so far-reaching that it would be impossible to list each species, but they range across the spectrum to include such animals as turtle hatchlings, some of which turn the wrong way at night. Instead of heading for the moonlit ocean, tragically they are drawn to the bright lights of towns and roads.

Whether in town or country, many can’t escape the light pollution of Thanet Earth (pic Craig Solly)

Crime and safety

We often hear people panic at the mere suggestion streetlights are turned off after hours, citing safety as a primary reason. Others are that streetlights make people ‘feel’ safer and that the accident rate might increase ‘tenfold’ if street lighting is removed, either in towns or on dual carriageways, and crime rates will soar. It may come as a surprise, but these perceptions are not backed by science or fact, and in some cases, it is quite the opposite: street lighting can do more harm than good when it comes to crime and safety.
Many people reside in the countryside with no street lighting for miles and manage to survive quite adequately, avoiding being run over, burgled or attacked, while cars do not suddenly lose control when no streetlight is on.
A number of studies make the same findings, but two major papers draw similar conclusions:
The first study found, in summary, the following results:

  • Switch-off (permanently turning off streetlights) was not associated with an increase in night-time traffic collisions or crime
  • Part-night lighting (for example streetlights switched off between midnight and 6am) was not associated with an increase in night-time traffic collisions or crime
  • Replacing conventional yellow lighting with white light was not associated with an increase in night-time traffic collisions and was associated with a reduction in crime, though estimates were imprecise
  • Dimming of conventional yellow light or white light was not associated with an increase in night-time traffic collisions and was associated with a reduction in crime, though estimates were imprecise

It concluded that turning off streetlights resulted in “little evidence of harmful effects… on road collisions or crime in England and Wales” and “found no evidence for an increase in collisions where street lighting was reduced at night”.
The second study of reviewed literature concluded: “In the light of these findings it can be considered highly unlikely that the Cambridgeshire part-night lighting scheme will cause an increase in crime.”
What are the figures for rural crime, where few or no streetlights occur, as opposed to towns, often heavily peppered with streetlights?
According to statistics from the Office for National Statistics 2018-19 crime and justice bulletin, the rate of violence against any one individual was 20.2 per 1,000 population in mainly rural areas compared with 29.5 per 1,000 population in mainly urban areas.
For sexual offences the rural figure was 2.2 per 1,000 against 2.8 per 1,000 urban areas and the rate for recorded crime was also lower in rural areas than urban areas, for example robbery, domestic burglary and vehicle offences. The figures here were 4.3 per 1,000 population (rural) versus 9.5 per 1,000 in urban areas.
There is of course more reason for these figures than just a lack of streetlighting in rural areas, but these figures may tell us that streetlighting does not seem to have any influence on keeping people safe at night.

Pollution

It has been found that ALAN can increase atmospheric pollution negatively, affecting the air we breathe. A recent study presented by Harald Stark from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that ALAN destroyed nitrate radicals and in so doing prevented the natural night-time reduction of atmospheric smog produced by fumes generated from cars and factories.
Every night the nitrate radical NO3, which is destroyed by sunlight, builds up during the night, neutralising some of the nitrogen oxides (NOx), which pollute the air during daylight hours, leading to increased levels of ozone (O3), which can cause breathing difficulties.
Further research, cited by Kelly Beatty in her article Night Lights Worsen Smog, claims to show that this clean-up is inhibited due to nitrate radicals being destroyed by vertical night-time light-glow spillage emanating from outside lighting on the ground.
Astronomers who study the night sky are particularly sensitive to even the lowest levels of light pollution. Indeed, skyglow can destroy their chances of studying the night sky completely.

… and this is what we’re missing (pic Bob Mizon)

How can we reduce the impact of ALAN?

Of course, the one preferred default is no light at all. However, the type of bulb you use can have a huge impact on how many insects are attracted, especially winged insects.
It is recommended that we use warm-coloured LED bulbs for outside lighting and avoid white LED sources. A study by Michael Justin from the University of North Carolina found incandescent light bulbs were attracted the highest number of insects, followed by CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps), halogen globes and cool-coloured (such as blue) LEDs.
The second-best light was the ‘bug light’ and surprisingly the winner, with the fewest insects attracted, was the warm LED bulb.
We can use light fittings that angle the light down where it is needed and do not allow the light to flood out across fields and into the night sky. As pretty as that lantern is, it’s not night-friendly. Further, lighting need be kept on only when necessary – we can turn it off once in bed or when our visitors have left. These are only small gestures in the great scheme of things, but if everyone did this it would collectively make a huge difference. Who knows, we might even get back our night sky and nature can begin to slowly mend.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Can we allow this popular cliff-top walk to be ruined by bungalow estate?

Pegwell Bay and the surrounding area attracts walkers from far and wide (pic Vicky Ellis)

The walk from Pegwell village along the cliff-top towards Pegwell Bay is enjoyed by locals, visitors and ramblers alike – but its setting will be ruined if a bungalow estate at the start of the footpath is granted permission.
A developer is looking to build the six bungalows on the edge of the village, which would of course itself suffer from the plans should they be approved by Thanet District Council.
Pegwell and District Association – a member of CPRE Kent – is objecting strongly to the application and inviting all concerned by the proposal to make representation by Thursday, September 17.
The application number is OL/TH/20/0564
The association is objecting to the application on the following grounds:

  • The planned scheme is totally incompatible with the rural nature of Pegwell village and its cliff-top setting – a designated conservation area.
  • The application seeks to widen the public footpath TR15 to create access to the proposed development. This is wholly inappropriate for this popular track that forms part of the England Coast Path and the Contra Trail, which is extremely popular with local people, walkers and visitors alike.
  • The loss of hedgerow that would be entailed in the planned widening of the footpath noted above is not acceptable. Hedgerows are a scarce feature in Thanet and home to a tremendous amount of wildlife.
  • The building of the bungalows would result in the loss of high-quality agricultural land, although note the observation below on an earlier planning application (OL/TH/20/0876).
  • The proposed development abuts the Thanet Coast Special Area of Conservation and is unacceptably close to Sandwich and Pegwell Bay NNR –Kent’s largest National Nature Reserve – and the Thanet Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
  • The planned road entrance would be an obvious safety hazard to road- users and pedestrians alike.
  • The proposed access route would necessitate the loss of hedgerow between the site and Pegwell Road – see observation on hedgerows above.

If you would like to make a representation, visit https://planning.thanet.gov.uk/online-applications and search OL/TH/20/0564

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

£34 million on a new station that will increase journey time from Thanet to London: a ‘robust business case’… apparently

This is what a (£34 million) white elephant looks like

Sometimes a planning decision leaves you struggling for words – and that by Kent County Council’s planning committee to approve a parkway station that will increase journey times from Thanet to London certainly hits the spot.
Councillors decided by eight votes to five to approve the £34 million Thanet Parkway project, choosing to put aside a Department for Transport statement from 2018 that its panel was “concerned that accommodating an additional stop at Thanet Parkway would add two minutes to the journey on the line between Ashford and Ramsgate”.
The county council argument has been that the station will in fact cut journey times to London by three minutes – yes, you read that correctly: three minutes – although it is by no means clear how even that laughably small reductionwill be achieved.
Extraordinarily, Thanet now has eight railway stations.
The committee made its decision in a virtual public meeting on Wednesday, September 2.   
It is telling that committee members representing Thanet all voted against the scheme regardless of their party affiliation – but what do they know?
Clearly the statement by Sharon Thompson, the county council’s head of planning applications, that “We are confident the business case is robust” carried more weight, despite a lack of supporting evidence.   
KentOnline reported how committee vice-chairman Dick Pascoe dismissed the idea that Thanet would be oversupplied with train stations by talking about Chinese restaurants: “A Chinese restaurant wanted to open in a Kent area where there were several Chinese restaurants and we did not say no,” he apparently said.
How £34 million for a scheme that will increase journey times represents a robust business case is something you might like to ponder over your evening Horlicks. As for the Chinese restaurants thing, perhaps it’s best not to think about it.
For more on this baffling decision, click here    

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Thanet Parkway railway station: is this the most expensive white elephant we’ve spotted for a while?

Early impressions of a Thanet Parkway station

Just weeks after the announcement that Kent County Council was facing the biggest financial crisis in its history, its officers are recommending that a £34 million Thanet Parkway railway station be approved.
The officers claim the development of the station will enable journey times from Thanet to London to be cut by three minutes… and yes, that is put forward as a positive.
KCC planning committee is to decide on the scheme during a virtual public meeting on Wednesday, September 2, from 10am.
Just to clarify a little background to that impending decision: a cost of £34 million (the initial estimate was £11 million), the loss of some 23 acres of high-quality farmland, no permanent station staff and no commercial bus services… all for a saving of three minutes’ journey time.
And even that alleged saving is very much up for debate. A damning Department for Transport statement from 2018 said its panel was “concerned that accommodating an additional stop at Thanet Parkway would add two minutes to the journey on the line between Ashford and Ramsgate.”
So the time-saving from Thanet to London is, in truth, down to one minute, while the journey from Ramsgate to Ashford, for example, would actually take longer!
Then factor in the added driving time for travellers using the Parkway rather than existing stations such as Margate and Ramsgate (and the resulting congestion) and it’s difficult to see any benefit to this scheme at all.
South East Local Enterprise Partnership has granted £14 million towards it, the government £12m and Thanet District Council some £2m. That leaves some £6m for the county council to pay.
It is reported that KCC could have to make up to £130 million savings… Thanet Parkway station might be a very good place to start.

  • To read more about the (very expensive) Thanet Parkway white elephant, click here

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Wind farm plan stopped in its tracks

Alok Sharma refused a Development Consent Order for the Thanet Extension Offshore Wind Farm (pic Vattenfall)

Proposals for a new wind farm off the east Kent coast have been blocked.
Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has refused a Development Consent Order for Vattenfall’s scheme for the 34-turbine Thanet Extension Offshore Wind Farm.
The developer said the new wind farm, which would have incorporated larger turbines than those already sited around much of the county’s coast, could have more than doubled the capacity of the existing 100-turbine Thanet Offshore Wind Farm.
The refusal, announced in June, centred on a potentially negative effect on the development of ports, as well as the new wind farm causing a maritime navigation risk.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

‘Shocking’: CPRE Kent director responds to decision to grant Manston airport DCO

Manston: flying again in 2023… maybe

A developer has been granted consent to reopen Manston airport as a freight hub – a move described as shocking by the director of CPRE Kent.
After two postponements of the decision, in January and May, the Department for Transport finally announced today (Thursday, July 9) that the RiverOak Strategic Partners scheme to reopen the airport six years after it closed was being granted a Development Consent Order.
RSP says it will be investing £300 million in the scheme, which it claims will create up to 6,000 jobs at Manston. The developer predicts the reopened airport will be operational from 2023 and able to handle at least 10,000 freight movements a year.
The decision effectively dismisses the conclusions of the four-man Planning Inspectorate’s Examining Authority, which had been clear that the DCO should not be granted.
Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, said: “It is shocking that four inspectors spent some nine months preparing a report and concluded very strongly that the DCO should be refused.
“The developer was not able to demonstrate need, there were adverse impacts on traffic and transport and there were concerns over noise pollution.
“Most importantly, though, the Examining Authority recommended the Secretary of State refuse the DCO due to conservation of habitats and species regulations.
“In short, the inspectors’ conclusions were ignored.
“This decision flies in the face of the Heathrow third-runway judgement where the Court of Appeal ruled that proposals had failed to consider this country’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions.”
Although by law the Manston decision had to be made in the name of Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, the DfT said Mr Shapps had “not personally been involved in this decision because of a conflict of interest, following previous statements of support made prior to his appointment as the Secretary of State for Transport” and the decision had “in practice been allocated to and taken by the Minister of State for Transport, Andrew Stephenson”.
Sir Roger Gale, MP for Thanet North, told the BBC’s South East Today: “The new airport, when it opens, will be the most environmentally-friendly airport in the world – it will beat Helsinki by a country mile. It’s going to be net-zero carbon – we’re going to be proud of it.”
The same programme reported that RSP had said there would be five flights an hour – but no night flights.

Thursday, July 9, 2020