CPRE Kent is legally challenging the decision by Canterbury City Council to award itself planning permission for the expansion of a car park over an area of undeveloped riverside. The local authority approved its own planning application on Tuesday, October 15, meaning that, if it goes ahead, the Wincheap Park & Ride extension will cover a stretch of floodplain next to the River Stour, an area known as Wincheap Water Meadows. This is a Local Wildlife Site, lies in an Area of High Landscape Value and is part of the designated Stour Valley Green Corridor. The city council says it needs to extend the park & ride at Wincheap once a new A2 slip road has been built, but CPRE Kent, supported by the Save Wincheap Water Meadows campaign, says there are other sites that could be used or alternatively part of the existing car park could be decked. CPRE Kent has now launched a judicial review to challenge the council planning committee’s decision and the way it was arrived at. The legal challenge rests on three grounds: • Failure to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment • Legal errors in the Habitats Regulation Assessment • Misleading claims that the site had been ‘allocated’ in the Local Plan and that it would not have a harmful effect on the landscape Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, said: “This is not the sort of action we take lightly, but sometimes a planning decision is simply wrong and we can’t stand by and watch a precious natural asset to so many people be destroyed. “This is very much one of those occasions.” Save Wincheap Water Meadows is working with CPRE Kent and has pledged to raise £5,000 to help fund the initial phase of the legal challenge, paying the costs of preparing and filing the application for judicial review. A campaign spokesman said: “We need your support. Please help us to save this precious stretch of river valley for future generations.”
If you would like to contribute to the campaign to save Wincheap Water Meadows, please click here
On Tuesday, October 15, Canterbury City Council approved a highly controversial planning application to extend its Wincheap Park & Ride car park on to a large stretch of floodplain next to the River Stour, an area of land known as Wincheap Water Meadows.
The principle of extending the park & ride is largely uncontentious. Part of the existing footprint of the park & ride will be lost when a new slip road off the A2 is constructed, and there is an accepted need to replace the parking spaces lost and increase capacity for the future.
What is highly contentious is the choice of location for the extension. The council’s chosen location is a large area of functional floodplain outside the city’s urban boundary. The car park will extend for more than 250 metres along the Stour in an Area of High Landscape Value, a designated Green Corridor and a Local Wildlife Site. The council’s planning report pretends there will be no real landscape impact and that views of the car park from the Great Stour Way on the opposite riverbank will only be “glimpsed”. In reality, the landscape impact is likely to be substantial. Views across the river from the Great Stour Way, at present greatly enjoyed by the large number of walkers and cyclists who use it, will be turned into something much less attractive. As the application was made by Canterbury City Council for its own land, many members of the public feel the council had an even greater duty to present the facts of the application in an unbiased and comprehensive manner. As it is, the planning report reads like a report from the applicant itself rather than an impartial assessment.
Development on the water meadows breaches many of the council’s own policies and strategies, including many policies in its Local Plan, its Open Spaces Policy, its Riverside Strategy, its Green Infrastructure Strategy and the Canterbury Conservation Area Appraisal. However, the council argues that local residents had the opportunity to object when it consulted on its Transport Strategy in 2015-2016 and that the principle of development on that location was accepted when the Local Plan was adopted in 2017. The fact that residents simply did not know where the extension was going to be located is conveniently ignored. The Environment Agency objected strongly to the first planning application earlier this year but was informed by the council that it couldn’t maintain its objection as it had not objected when the Local Plan was approved. Kent Wildlife Trust has also submitted a very strong objection, saying: “We regard the compensation strategy proposed for this development as fundamentally flawed and in clear contravention of existing national and local planning policy.” Many of the opponents to the application point out that Canterbury City Council owns most of the large industrial estate adjacent to the park & ride and that it should be building car parks on brownfield land rather than greenfield land. However, the council refuses to consider any other alternative. It claims that its recent Declaration of Climate Emergency means that reducing the carbon emissions from cars takes precedence over the protection of the natural environment – claim many people find totally perverse. The Save Wincheap Water Meadows campaign has attracted a huge amount of public support and the Canterbury branch of CPRE has played a lead role in challenging the application. There are more than 3,100 signatures on a Change.org petition, 775 representations from the public objecting to the planning application (with only one representation in favour) and more than 460 members in the campaign’s Facebook group. There have been many letters and articles in the local paper and large numbers of people attending the council meetings where the park & ride proposal has been discussed. There have also been a number of songs written about the campaign by a local musician, Richard Navarro, including the one below:
You can read thecouncil’s planning application report here