We have plenty to celebrate in our success and influence over our first 80 years, although we continue to face enormous challenges in Kent. We have a tough fight on our hands to protect our beautiful county for future generations to enjoy and we rely entirely on your support to help us win!
Below are just some of our recent victories and successes:-
August 2010:- Kent International Gateway (KIG) stopped
On the 5th August, Secretary of State Eric Pickles announced that he had refused planning permission for the massive Kent International Gateway (KIG) development at Bearsted.
Whilst the Inspector, Andrew Phillipson, advising the Secretary of State found support for the proposal insofar as general Government policy supports the inland transport of freight by rail rather than by road, he was damning of the significant environmental damage it would do to this attractive and protected area of countryside, and that the location was in no way suitable as a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) as claimed by the applicant.
In recommending to the Secretary of State that the application should be refused permission, Mr Phillipson concluded that:
“…the benefits that the development would offer in terms of facilitating the transfer of freight from road to rail, are unproven and, in my view, unlikely to be realised in practice. I accordingly take the view that the planning balance firmly indicates that the appeal should be dismissed.”
Richard Knox-Johnston, Chairman of Protect Kent said:
“Now that we have had chance to digest the Secretary of State’s decision and the Inspector’s Report, it is clear that this is a knock-out blow for KIG. This is a resounding success, not just for Protect Kent, but also for the many thousands of individual residents who saw this as an ill thought out and purely speculative proposal.”
“This Public Inquiry cost Maidstone Borough Council £1 million, and has caused up-set, anger and anxiety to thousands of people for over three years. AXA should be thoroughly ashamed that they tried to impose such a proposal on such an attractive area of countryside and its local communities.
I hope that this decision will send out a strong message to others who might be thinking about putting forward similar proposals, especially those promoting land at Borough Green. This decision has made it even more difficult for rival schemes and has put environmental issues at the heart of any future considerations.
Finally I would like to pay tribute to those residents of Bearsted who not only made their views known but who took the trouble to attend every session of the inquiry. There is no doubt that the Inspector was impressed with this commitment. I would also like to pay tribute to the Stop KIG team and the Joint Parishes Group for all their efforts in fighting this application.”
August 2010:- North School Farm Saved!
We were delighted that Ashford Borough Councillors have thrown out a KCC plan to build 25 houses on the site of the North School Farm, Ashford. Although the school and the county council had reached an agreement on relocating the school farm, many local residents were concerned about other aspects of the plan, in particular the additional traffic problems along Essella Road and the junction with the Hythe Road, and the implications for road safety.
Sean Furey, Deputy Director of CPRE Protect Kent, said: "This is a great result for passionate campaign run by local residents, and students and parents at the North School. They put in a huge amount of work and it is to be welcomed that councillors listened to those concerns and took action."
December 2009:- CPRE Protect Kent wins KOS Award
At the end of 2009, we won the prestigious Kent On Sunday 'Business Awards' in the Charity category which brought a prize fun of £150,000 in advertising in the Kent On Sunday newspapers, which helped us raise awareness of the many challenges and opportunities for the environment and countryside in Kent.
October 2009:- New Kingsnorth power station binned
Along with many other groups, we were vociferous in our opposition to a new coal fired power station at Kingsnorth, on the Hoo Peninsula. We had two main concerns - firstly the lack of commitment to Carbon Capture & Storage, which might reduce the greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere that are helping to drive climate change; secondly, air quality in Medway is very poor and the nearby power stations are an important factor which affect people's health in Strood, Rochester, Gillingham and Chatham.
We were also fierce critics of the policing of the 2008 Climate Camp at Kingsnorth and the heavy police presence at public meetings around that time, with our Chairman, Richard Knox-Johnston, appearing in a BBC Panorama documentary on the topic.
April 2008:- Successful judicial review against KCC Highways 'Super Depot', at Wrotham
We stopped Kent County Council plans for building a huge 'Super Depot' after a long battle over their decision to grant itself planning permission for the proposals, which included a salt store and garage for highway vehicles on The Poplars site on the A20.
The Kent branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, community action group Keep Boroughs Green and Wrotham Parish Council contested the decision on the grounds that the site is entirely within the Green Belt and the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In June 2007, CPRE Kent applied for a judicial review, which was given the go-ahead by a High Court Judge and scheduled to take place in May.
However, ahead of the legal fixture, the county council announced it was no longer pursuing The Poplars as a site for the super depot.
The decision has been described as a "relief" by campaigners, not least CPRE Kent, as we spent around £50,000 in fighting the council's plans.
Our Director Dr Hilary Newport said: "We regret intensely that so much time and money should have been spent in reversing the decision, but a lorry depot and salt store on this site would have been directly contrary to the council's own stated policies for protecting Kent's countryside.
"Building the Wrotham super depot would have set a terrible precedent for development in protected landscapes."
Keep Boroughs Green spokesman Pete Gillin said: "Our success demonstrates that KCC's civic vandalism in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty is unacceptable in English law."
Wrotham Parish Council chairman Harry Rayner also welcomed the news, but warned that it was necessary to ensure that the council rescinded the planning permission for the depot.
August 2007:- Cement Block factory in Green Belt at Borough Green withdrawn
The Public Inquiry into the proposed factory at Ightham Sandpit collapsed after a successful judicial review process by local action group, Keep Boroughs Green. The result is that applicants, H + H Celcon, withdrew their planning application for a new factory and are considering how to recover their substantial costs from the council.
The application for the factory was tightly bound to the proposed Borough Green bypass. Celcon had pledged to pay for this scheme, in exchange for a factory in the Green Belt and the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). This prompted calls by CPRE Kent and others that Celcon were attempting to “buy” planning permission that otherwise wouldn’t be permitted under national and county planning policy.
Kent County Council (KCC) had told Celcon, and the planning inquiry, that planning permission for the bypass, granted in November 1991, was still valid. This would mean that if planning permission for the factory was granted, then construction of the bypass could get underway without delay.
It was this promise of a valid planning permission that prompted Celcon to submit the factory application on land protected by its Green Belt and AONB status, where they would have to demonstrate “very special” and “exceptional” circumstances.
However, investigations by Mr Ron Saunders, Chairman of Keep Boroughs Green, and a senior member of CPRE Kent, showed that the planning certificate saying the planning permission was valid, issued by KCC days before the start of the public enquiry, could not be valid and so neither was the planning permission for the bypass. Mr Saunders showed that 1991 planning permission had 16 conditions that had to be met. Some of these related to clearing up any contaminated land at the Sandpit. Ground investigations by Celcon, for the enquiry, showed that most of the site was heavily contaminated by oils and other hydrocarbons, but they were, apparently, at a loss as how they could have got there despite managing the site since the late 1980s.
With no evidence that the necessary conditions had been met, KCC had no right to issue a planning certificate that would allow construction of the bypass to get underway. Keep Boroughs Green challenged KCC on this, through a judicial review process. KCC backed down and in a statement said:
“Following this re-consideration and review of the basis upon with the Certificate was issued, the County Council concluded that there was insufficient evidence upon which the Certificate could have been issued. It therefore did not contest the application for judicial review.”
On learning this, Celcon withdrew their planning application in a letter dated 30 July.
“It introduces a high degree of uncertainty that previously did not exist, thereby significantly affecting the timing and potential viability of the new factory.”
CPRE Kent supported local people and made direct representation against the factory. It said that a factory would lead to the loss of tranquillity and landscape character in the Green Belt and AONB while increasing noise and light pollution that would harm the quality of life of many residents far beyond the confines of the site.
Mr Ron Saunders, Chairman of Keep Boroughs Green, and Vice-Chairman of CPRE Tonbridge & Malling district committee said: “While I am delighted that Celcon have chosen to withdraw their application, I am deeply concerned at the behaviour of KCC in their attempts to run roughshod over planning policies and procedures. If we can’t trust our local authorities, who can we trust?”
Mr Harry Rayner, Chairman of Wrotham Parish Council, said “It was clear that KCC were happy to see wonderful countryside around Borough Green and Wrotham spoiled by the factory in exchange for a free bypass. Although this is a great victory, we will be vigilant of future plans and make sure that Celcon clear up the contamination on their land.”
A CPRE spokesman said: “The collapse of the inquiry amid scenes of drama and acrimony has exposed what must be described as either incompetence or just pure bungling by KCC.”