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Local Plan Withdrawl puts ‘Medway in Jeopardy’ and ‘on the Road to Ruin’
At the recent Medway Council Cabinet meeting it was agreed unanimously by the Cabinet members to accept the recommendation to present the draft Regulation 19 Local Plan for debate by the full Medway Council.
The draft Local Plan as presented was hailed by Councillor Rodney Chambers as “Our ambition for the future of Medway”.
Councillor Potter confirmed he was “happy to support the recommendation” stating “This is a key piece of local policy”. It is “Ultimately about putting our destiny back in our hand”. He continued that “Without it, it is a road to ruin”.
The draft local plan has now been removed from the Council agenda with Planning Portfolio Holder Jane Chitty stating it is “to ensure members have the full suite of all documentation relating to the draft plan.”
This begs the question, given Councillor Chitty’s comments when presenting said recommendation to Cabinet, why was the draft plan as presented by the Portfolio Holder incomplete?
Councillor Chitty clearly set out the Council’s responsibilities saying
“I want to explain a little about the local plan process. The process has been laid out by consecutive governments. We have to comply with that process. So everything we do as a local authority, and this applies to everyone has to reflect what government has sought from us and that is an irrefutable fact.”
Cllr Chitty then went on to stress the need for compliance
“The reason I am pushing about complying with government requirements, the first thing the Inspector will do is measure Government requirements and what this authority has done to comply and I have to say with absolute honesty if we had missed out on one of those compliances it would fall at the first hurdle and we cannot allow that to happen.”
“It will put the whole of Medway in jeopardy in a number of different ways.”
There can be no doubt about the emphasis Medway Council has placed on the compliance requirement.
Councillor Chitty confirmed “compliance has to be the key word. And we have actually employed people to check and double check to ensure that that compliance is fully understood.”
In light of the Portfolio Holder’s own words, it is clear she has failed manifestly by presenting an incomplete document that likely “would fall at the first hurdle”.
This failure has dire consequences and by her own admission puts “the whole of Medway in jeopardy”.
Commenting on the draft plan, Councillor Pendergast said “Not only is it incomplete it contains glaring and obvious errors which makes you wonder if the Cabinet members actually read it” He continued “Mass replacement of the Cabinet would do more harm than good but each cabinet member should take a long hard look at themselves.”
Councillor Sands, who opposes unsustainable development anywhere in Medway, not just on the Peninsula, suggested people could no longer have any confidence in the Planning Portfolio holder stating “Councillor Chitty should seriously consider her position not just as a Portfolio Holder but also as a Councillor” adding “Whether she remains in post in light of everything that has happened is ultimately a question for the Leader of the Council. This is a defining moment for his leadership.”
Cllr Pendergast Cllr Sands
Interesting morning yesterday spent with fellow councillor George Crozer at Chatham Docks now under threat from landowners Peel L & P who supported by Medway Council want to close the docks.
The closure of the Docks would have a devastating impact on Medway leading to:
The loss of 1,440 jobs both at the docks and through local supply chains
The loss of £150 million of annual investment into the Medway economy. Chatham Docks is the largest single sector source of revenue in Chatham.
Yesterday first hand I witnessed the skill and dedication of a highly trained workforce and their professionalism.
Kelly Tolhurst MP made a passionate speech in the House of Commons to save the docks, to save our maritime history from the maniacal rush to build build build at all cost and damm the consequence. Her speech heaps even more pressure onto landowners Peel L&P and Medway Council who want to turn Medway’s 400 year old commercial port into riverside flats. Another example of the build at all cost mentality from Medway Council who’s City of Culture bid should embrace this 400 year old port and its part in the maritime history of the Medway Towns, but as we know Medway Council are very selective on the parts to preserve and enhance just look at the plans for the Hoo Peninsula which would be the jewel in the crown for most local authorities but for our council it’s a place to put at risk the National and International protected area, and to totally destroy Hoo Village a village mentioned in the 1086 Doomsday Book.
All because they refused to stand up to Government and say NO we cannot meet these ridiculous house building targets, we cannot destroy the history and the heritage of Medway our job is to protect and preserve the environmental areas, to allow our great farming history as part of the Garden of England to continue with crop growing and not turn these fields into fields of bricks and Tarmac.
Local Parishes of the Peninsula are uniting, our MP is championing our cause to save Chatham Docks and our beloved Peninsula.
Today the government announced the launch of the 2025 UK City of Culture Competition. You’ll be aware that Medway Council are entering the race for this prestigious title to take advantage of valuable tourism and economic benefits.
Medway has world class heritage and the potential to become a major cultural destination. It also has international and national protected areas here on the Hoo Peninsula, it’s a unique and stunningly beautiful area. A motion put to a full Medway council to consider attaching the Hoo Peninsula to the Kent Downs AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) supported by the two independent peninsula candidates and Medway Labour Party was in stopped in its tracks by Medway Conservative. The leader of that party and leader of Medway Council instructed his party to vote against the motion, stating the Hoo Peninsula has enough protection already, But it’s not enough protection to stop his plans to build more than 10000 homes here, destroying acres grade one agricultural land that has helped fed the nation for hundred of years and on a peninsula that is by his own admission unsustainable.
This could have been a joint campaign for Medway communities and businesses to come together and shape Medway’s future not only as a City of Culture but as the custodians of a world class landscape rich in history and natural heritage with distinctive biodiversity. This should become a major part of Medway’s plan to combat climate change and the ecological emergency in its declaration of a climate emergency.
A chance to even discuss what an ANOB could bring to the Medway towns thwarted! A chances explore the vision of what the combination of Medway’s historic, cultural and natural heritage could have brought to a city of Culture bid, dismissed without a thought.
“This proposal would harm the character, function and appearance of the countryside, would harm that Area of Local Landscape Importance, (would have) unacceptable impact on the setting of the country park and would also be unacceptable in terms of its impact and viability of the rural footpath network.”
These words could be written by Medway about the Hoo Peninsula but Medway Conservatives are whipped so much they won’t even discuss the possibility. The Peninsula should and could be an ANOB.
This opening statement was written in objection to an appeal application for 800 houses around the Capstone Valley. 800 houses not the 10,600 planned for the Peninsula.
Medway’s favourite son Charles Dickens wrote “a Tale of Two Cites” but Medway has now become a Council of two sides of the River, The South side protected at all costs against development and the North side a national and internationally protected area with the most exceptional landscapes where the drive to develop fields of agricultural crops into fields of brick and tarmac is unrelenting.
Medway Council’s HIF project “Unlocking Medway’s Future” includes:
I wonder if “ Unlocking Medway’s Future “ actually means sacrificing Frinsbury, Wainscott and the Hoo Peninsula when in another statement made to the planning committee explained how despite the needs of the council to meet its housing targets, officers had concerns about the density of homes on the site, disruption of the views from Darland Banks, and the potential impact of the development on the residents living on the northern edge of the site.
800 houses in Capstone and a worry about density, 10,600 houses in Hoo and a decision being railroaded through.
It’s our choice so make your voice heard email your MP your Ward councillors and the leaders of Medway Council. They need to hear your opinion!
I believe that the Master planning and creation of local communities should be with the co-operation of the people living there so can invest and engage in the very neighbourhoods they live in.
Damson, Goat Willow, Hawthorn and Elder… not cast members from a Harry Potter film, but some of the many species of the trees that developers over the last few years have ripped out because they are apparently ‘low quality’, or ‘over mature’. The other day I was stood on the edge of a site taking a long gaze at the destruction developers are reaping on our wonderful Peninsula, I could see, out of the corner of my eye one of the developers representative giving me a long hard look.
We are all aware of the benefits of trees, for oxygenation and drainage, but trees such as the Damson is a food plant for not only humans, but a large number of butterflies and moths, its flowers attract many pollinating insects. The fruit is also a food source for birds and mammals.
Goat Willow, also known as the pussy willow, is the main food plant for the Purple Emperor butterfly. Its catkins provide an important early source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects, and birds use goat willow to forage for caterpillars and insects.
Hawthorn, is much loved by insects and invertebrates and nesting birds. At one it was thought that if you burned elder wood you would see the devil! Many residents of the Peninsula believe we know that devil! Elder is also known as the ‘Judas tree’. Judas Iscariot is said to have hung himself from an Elder tree. The removal and destruction of these or any trees flies in the face of Medway Council’s climate emergency .
National Planning Policy Framework 2019 states that planning decisions should enhance the natural and local environment. Medway Local Plan 2003 states developments should seek to retain trees, woodland and hedgerows. Councils should make the most of natural resources, but this apparently doesn’t apply on the Peninsula.
The HIF Project will destroy not only fabulous grade one agricultural land and hedgerows, but trees and wildlife habitats and those natural outdoor spaces that have such a restorative effect on peoples health and well-being. Our Hoo Peninsula for which we are the latest custodians must be protected, we cannot allow this project to be railroaded through on a nod and a wink at Gun Wharf.
So I ask you to join me and demand that Medway Council leave our Peninsula greener in the long term than it is today. Rich in wildlife, a place where people and nature are better connected, a place where children can benefit from green spaces to explore, to learn and to play much like I was lucky enough to do as a boy!
There is a campaign to save Deangate, a ready made country park, from a spur road being driven through it and to open it up for development.If you haven’t yet signed the petition or you have friends and family that haven’t please add your weight. The Peninsula needs your support.
Consider this, our Local Authority buys a parcel of land in 1972 to build a golf course to further the health and well being of its residents. Since 1972 the course and club house facilities become a much loved hub for not only golf but social interaction and well being for local people.
In 2008 the Local Authority begins a decade of golf course and amenity improvement promising a world class facility we can all be proud of. The improvements are to be self funded by allowing millions of tons of soil from development to be dumped on the course’s driving range and existing par 3 course.
During this decade of improvement, the immensity and disruption of the project hits and the golf course loses revenue due to the temporary closure of the amenity (the driving range and par three course). It also stifles a vital introductory element of sport for the youth but it is all worth while as the community watches the improvements taking place from the comfort of the club house with its extensive views.
In 2018 and almost in the week the new facility is opened the Authority’s governing Cabinet suddenly announce its intention to close the whole facility on the grounds that it has consistently lost money over the previous 10 years. (It is important to note that many if not most of the Council’s recreational facilities are run at a loss and are poorly maintained, “Splashes” as an example has just (2021) been grant a 5M capital upgrade by the authority, no doubt needed due to lack of good maintenance over its lifetime).
After much public outcry and indignation and after the decision close is “called in” to the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee the Cabinet closes the facility. In an act of commiseration its leader announces a £50,000 study into the possibility of a sports centre to replace the loss. This hasn’t materialised to date.
Local protest fails but is successful in convincing the Authority to register the whole of the site as an Asset of Community Value, a move normally taken by an authority against a third party (like a pub) when the owner closes a much loved and vital amenity in the pursuit of profit. This has resulted in the unique situation of a Local Authority registering an Asset of Community Value against itself as the owner.
Shorty after closure the Cabinet commission a £150,000 study to establish how much the site it is worth in terms of development and now in 2021 the authority propose building a road way through the site and announce the concept of “Parkland living at Deangate”, all in the name of ‘New Routes to Good Growth.’
Saving Deangate is not a local issue. No community in this country would quietly stand by whilst its local authority disregards the health and well being of the community it serves, however small.
Please take this opportunity to have your say and sign the SAVE DEANGATE PETITION.
We all agree that the recent history of the demise of Deangate Ridge Golf Club was the betrayal of the trust residents placed in Medway Council to do right by the people of the Medway and the Hoo Peninsula. The latest consultation on the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) application is further proof of that betrayal.
The consultation documents for the HIF are available on line Medway.gov.uk/futurehoo
The consultation seeks your comment and approval for plans to unlock massive growth in Hoo and High Halstow. These plans will herald another 10,000/12000 homes and the obvious increase traffic that will bring. Relief is planned by creating additional access to Hoo via a spur road connecting the A289 Halsted Way to the Main Road roundabout and an additional roundabout some 500 yards further along Peninsula Way towards Bells Land just before the Windmill Public House. See map.corrected map
Please not that the route shown here by Medway Council is not correct. Lodge Hill lane roundabout should be on Lodge Hill Lane. Medway say they didn’t correct the map to save confusion with a previously published map!!
The new spur road, from the new roundabout will cut directly North westwards into the golf course by the 7th tee, across the 6th green and down, what we came to known as, Cardiac Hill before leaving Deangate to connect with another new roundabout on Lodge hill Lane, onwards to Upchat roundabout and down to Higham road where it will connect to the A289 Halsted Way by a flyover and slip ways.
Those first reassuring much protected views of Deangate seen as you leave Main Road roundabout to head out onto the peninsula will be lost forever. So why spoil this vista ? Why drive a new road through Deangate? The HIF team at Medway will tell you ‘it’s to assist traffic flow”. But we know in reality it’s about houses, lots of houses, described in another Medway publication “ Planning for Growth on the Hoo Peninsula “ as Parkland living at Deangate.
In 2018 we came together spontaneously to fight to save Deangate in numbers that far exceeded those that initially responded to the proposition of an airport. That fight failed but we got partial success in as much that Medway Council agreed that Deangate Ridge and its sports complex was and is an Asset of Community Value (defined by the localism act 1988). It would appear they are about to betray that trust too, only time will tell.
Some Medway Councillors see the Peninsula and Deangate Ridge in particular as the answer to satisfying Government housing targets. Some see it as protecting the Capstone valley against development, so much so that they have successfully blocked the sale of access land at Shakespeare Farm to the detriment of much needed Council funds. The right approach of course is to identify all of the land assets of Medway worth saving and making a strong enough argument to government for a reduced allocation of housing numbers. The Council’s NIMBY approach to this problem is to the detriment of the most ecologically important asset they sadly control. Medway Council are now hell bent on the destruction of Deangate on the altar of the Capstone Valley and the seeming wrath of their constituents and continue to not listen to voice of reason. In the meantime the health and well being of the community of the Peninsula is neglected and Deangate is in part a Norse transport depot.
Now whilst proposing a road through Deangate to facilitate housing targets the Council refuse development in Lordswood /Capstone and publicly complain that 2000 houses in Lidsing would swamp Medway Hospital. Do they not realising 12000 houses on the Hoo Peninsula would exacerbate the problem to much greater degree.
The battle to protect our Peninsula is here now and it’s starts with saving Deangate. I urge you to once again let your voice be heard, Deangate is at the heart of the Peninsula and a ready made country park. The car park is there. The education block is there. There is even a golf driving range as a source of income. Maybe with the assistance of the Parish Councils and the help of us all we can build a Peninsula Heritage Centre/Museum to celebrate the rich heritage history and ecology of this wonderful Hoo Peninsula.
Cllr Ron Sands
John F. Kennedy once said “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” That certainly applies to Hoo resident Ted Smith.
Ted, an active member of the Hoo Neighbourhood Plan team and a founder member of Hoo Stop Line Heritage Trail group has worked tirelessly to save four Second World War pillboxes and a roadblock, all part of the Hoo stop Line. This culminated in an application to add this defensive structures to the list of buildings of Special Architectural Interest.
Ted said, ” One small victory in our fight to preserve Hoo Peninsula. After fifteen months I have managed to secure Grade 2 listing for a group of WW2 pillboxes and road barrier plinths. With the continuing development spreading along Stoke Road, Hoo, I felt it was important to protect these first. I hope there are others who feel like taking up the cudgel to protect a lot more of the peninsula assets. This is part of the message I have received from Historic England:-
In response to concerns regarding use of the diversion routes by HGV’s, the Head of Integrated Transport advised that in recognition of this issue, sections of the diversion routes would be made one way only. In addition, he confirmed that on some roads weight restrictions were in place. He confirmed that Operation Overflow was still in place if this was needed and he agreed to discuss with staff within his team the need for improved communication with businesses in Cooling when there were to be diversions or road closures. The Head of Integrated Transport confirmed that the proposed diversion signage would be permanently in place but would clearly indicate that it was only relevant when a road closure was in place.
These comments are from official Council minutes of Rural Liaison Committee:
So, we have to ask WHY are residents still losing their lives? WHY are our ‘B’ roads gridlocked? WHY do Kent Police stand by and watch HGVs use a totally unsuitable country lane causing gridlock? Could it be that Medway Council have put a price on the lives of Peninsula residents? Do they consider speed cameras, which costs on average £100k a mile for average speed cameras, so a cost of £400k from Four Elms roundabout to High Halstow completed linked system? £400k after the millions and millions they are making from developments on the peninsula. £400k is that too much to prevent yet another family feeling the crushing pain of losing a loved one?
Medway tunnel has speed cameras, Frindsbury Hill has speed cameras, but there are no speed reduction cameras on Peninsula Way. It seems that they really do treat us as second-class citizens on the Peninsula, and so in memory of Brian Durden and all of the others maimed or killed on the altar of ‘cost saving’ on our one and only road on and off the Peninsula, we must come together and demand safer roads and better protection for both pedestrians and vehicles. The A228 Peninsula way is unsustainable now and certainly cannot sustain 12000 new homes for the future Make your voice heard here by commenting.
I write to offer prayers and sympathy after the tragic death of a Chattenden man at Four Elms Hill, another death on a road that Medway Council readily admit is at its capacity.
It is important to remember that we the residents of the Hoo Peninsula have constantly echoed our feelings that the A228 is simply not designed to accommodate the amount of traffic now using it and simply how dangerous the road is becoming each day. With further commercial expansion at Kingsnorth and Grain, and with Medway Council’s plan to ‘unlock the potential of the peninsula’ by building another possible 12,000 houses and with very little positive information on infrastructure to accommodate such plans.
How many times will residents be cut off using the main road to the peninsula in times of an emergency?
Too often will the police stand by and let HGVs attempt a small B-road through Cooling and High Halstow, blocking it at a time thousands of people are attempting to get home, resulting in people spending hours in their cars, some with your babies and children, some being senior citizens, some even being forced to walk home or sleep in their cars.
How are emergency vehicles meant to cope with this gridlock? Babies won’t wait for a traffic free night to be born. Heart attacks and other serious illnesses can happen at any time. Experience has shown many times that the Peninsula becomes parallelised when incidents happen on our one and only road. Why after years of promises is there no protocol to inform large distribution companies on the peninsula to delay HGVs leaving depot? Why no signage warning HGVs no access to the Peninsula before they try to come on through unaccommodating roads? Do we need more or better enforcement of the speed limit on Peninsula way?
I have asked for a meeting with Kent Police to make sure they understand how isolated residents feel when our main road is blocked, and when lorries gridlock the only other option, the B-road at Cooling. Is it time for width and weight restrictions on that B-road? What if any protocol is in place for emergency services to access and leave the Peninsula when the main roads are blocked due to an emergency? I will spend today and the next couple of days trying to get answers to these questions. Not least why Medway will not divulge plans for improvements.
So, the first shots in the battle to have our Hoo Peninsula recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) by way of my motion to Medway Council was defeated despite fabulous support from Medway Labour Group with wonderful statements from Cllr Vince Maple (Labour leader) and Cllr. Simon Curry, and support from Cllr Mick Pendergast our other Peninsula independent Cllr. The conservative group voted against the motion, but as I said, just the first shots in our battle.
I have also been working hard on a ‘Peninsula Planning Forum‘ to bring a combined discussion to planning and associated matters that affect us all on the Hoo Peninsula Bringing together Parish Councils and Peninsula stake holder groups to respond to Planning applications in a professional way will mean a collective united voice and begin to give rural residents a real voice. In this time of the seeming overwhelming changes to our villages, I believe we would be stronger and more confident with one voice.
The primary aims of the Peninsula Planning Forum are to provide:
A united response to planning applications that affect the Hoo Peninsula.
A vision for the principles of land use on the Hoo Peninsula
Analysis of proposed Medway Council Planning Policy for these areas.
Recommendations for sustainable growth informed by environmental, social and economic drivers.
I have written to Stake holders and Parish councillors to ask for their views and support. It is even more important during this Covid emergency and with the restrictions it brings, that a connection and on-going interaction and debate is continued, albeit virtually.
With the approaching Remembrance Sunday when we fall silent in tribute to the fallen of the two world wars and other conflicts, can I gently and respectfully remind all to wear a poppy with pride and give what you can to the British Legion Appeal in memory of those who gave all.
Whilst we remember the fallen, just take a minute or two to also think about those wounded in the service of our country, be it physically or mentally, and for the sacrifices they made that allow us the freedom that we all enjoy.
HOO PENINSULA PARISHES TAKE ON MEDWAY COUNCIL OVER INFRASTRUCTURE BID.
Two Hoo Peninsula Parish Councils have engaged top lawyers Leigh Day to issue a warning to Medway Council over their multi million road building “HIF” programme. The £170 million “Housing Infrastructure Fund” grant from the Government is intended to provide the extra road and rail capacity to allow the building of 12,500 houses mainly within two parishes on the Peninsula – High Halstow and Hoo St Werburgh. The largest sum £86 million is for new roads, bringing at least a doubling of road traffic onto the Peninsula with its internationally recognised ecology and habitats.
Parish Councillors decided to use the top legal team of solicitors and barristers which successfully stopped the Heathrow expansion in its tracks earlier this year. Leigh Day have written to Medway Council, criticising their refusal to provide any information about the environmental impact of the massive road building proposals or to even tell local community any of the detail of their proposals.
“ Medway Council seem to believe that they are entitled to plan our future in secret by agreeing to concrete over large parts of the Peninsula without telling us how it will affect our communities, our ecology and our living conditions.” says High Halstow Parish Council Chairman, George Crozer
Both parish councils are concerned that Medway Council will enter into binding agreements with government housing agency Homes England to deliver specific infrastructure projects that will foreclose public debate about less harmful alternatives. This would be unlawful, says the letter, because of Medway’s failure to consult the Hoo Peninsula community, or to assess the environmental impact before entering into the agreement. As a result both Parish Councils are unable to progress their neighbourhood plans while they are being being kept in the dark about Medway’s proposals.
The entire reasoning behind the HIF programme is to expand the highway capacity to allow even more vehicle traffic onto local roads, to serve a massive house building programme on poorly located sites in the rural area.
“This cannot be the way forward,” says Cllr Crozer, “Medway are refusing to give the Parish Councils the information they need to understand how they will be affected, in terms of traffic, air quality and the effects of building thousands of new family homes on our treasured greenfield landscapes, with nothing in the HIF programme for providing the local health, education, retail and other services that we need, forcing new residents to use their cars for all their daily needs. Anyone would be suspicious of Medway’s motives when they are so desperate that they won’t tell us what they are doing, leaving us with no alternative but to resort to the courts!”
See Solicitors letter below.Letter, LD to Medway Council (16-07-2020) (as sent)
The Jewel in the ecological crown of Hoo St Werburgh is the magnificent Medway Estuary and Marshes. Seen from the foreshore the estuary forms a single tidal system with the Swale and joins the southern part of the Thames Estuary between the Isle of Grain and Sheerness forming the Northern section of the renowned North Kent Marshes.
The site has a unique complex arrangement of tidal channels, which drain around large islands of salt marsh and peninsulas of grazing marsh. There are large areas of mudflat, which have high densities of invertebrates providing a good food source for wading birds. Grazing marsh can also be found landward of some sea walls in the area. Small shell beaches occur too, particularly in the outer parts of the estuary. The area is very flat and low lying, with large expanses of uninterrupted views.
The complex and diverse mixes of coastal habitats support important numbers of waterbirds throughout the year. In summer, the estuary supports breeding waders and terns, whilst in winter it holds important numbers of geese, ducks, grebes and waders. The middle and outer parts of the estuary represent the most important areas for the birds. Important areas for birds include the Saltings and Hoo flats on the north side and the stretch from Copperhouse marshes eastwards towards Chetney marshes on the south side. The islands within the Medway also provide good habitat for protected birds, in particular some of the breeding species. The two main protection designations are the Medway Estuary and Marshes Ramsar site and Medway Estuary Marine Conservation Zone. These the whole foreshore and intertidal habitats from Upnor to Grain (and beyond) and across the medway to Gillingham and Rainhan and on to the Swale.
“Newt counting delays” in our planning system are a massive drag on productivity and prosperity of our country says our Prime Minister Boris Johnson
It seems that having a go at the ecological protection our planning laws provide is the new blood sports of our prime minister. Challenging the value of ecological protection is nothing new. In November 2011, George Osbourne, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, launched a similar attack. In its White Paper of 7 June 2011 entitled ‘The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature’ the Government stated its ambition:
“We want to improve the quality of our natural environment across England, moving to a net gain in the value of nature. We aim to arrest the decline in habitats and species and the degradation of landscapes. We will protect priority habitats and safeguard vulnerable no-renewable resources for futures generations. We will support natural systems to function more efficiently in town, in the country and at sea. We will achieve this through joined-up action at local and national levels to create an ecological network which is resilient to changing pressures.”
Less than six months later, Osbourne announced that he wanted to make sure that so called “gold plating” rulesprotecting things like habitats was not putting “ridiculous costs on firms by burdening them with endless social and environmental goals”. DEFRA reviewed the impact of the Habitats and Wild Birds Directives and found that Natural England had actually objected to only 0.5 % of the 26,500 consultations on development it received each year.
If developers and Councils follow the rules, development is entirely possible whilst at the same time looking after our wildlife and most precious environment. The means of protection is already in place to protect our ecology for future generations to enjoy and is for the benefit of all. It just requires those charged with its protection to have the will to enforce it.
Both the PM and Medway Council would seemingly disregard the crucial role that nature, wildlife and our environment has to play in keeping us both physically and mentally sound as we work and play. It is evident to the people of the Peninsula the importance our natural surroundings – especially during this ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Nature has provided people with much solace during this coronavirus crisis and we know that we need nature not just for health and wellbeing but also because restored natural habitats can capture carbon. The government plans Investing in roads will put more cars on the road. And investing in unsustainable developments and undermining vital environmental protections, will mean nature continues to lose out and will leave us open to the catastrophic impacts of climate change.
The facts are that healthy ecosystems on the land and better understanding of the role nature based solutions can play to absorb more carbon will help us deal with climate change something Medway Council declared in the Climate change emergency in 2019.”making Medway a place to be proud of the key outcome of becoming a “clean and green environment “
And now especially as the slow recovery from lockdown begins we are in place a quite unique place to start to deliver a green recovery to bring back lost habitats,protect our beautiful places and to ask planners and developers to design places where people and nature thrive together,preserving,protecting and promoting our natural green spaces.
We do not believe Medway Council knows what the effect will be on our ecology of building 12,500 homes on the Hoo Peninsula. We do not believe they have done the simplest of ecological assessments or paid any attention to the Paris Accord on Climate Change in their submissions to the HiF bid. They are leading us blindly into an unsustainable future.
We must DEMAND Medway confirm that the HIF bid conform to the Paris accord on Climate Control and that a thorough Ecological assessment has been undertaken with positive results. Or pull out of the HiF agreement and rethink development on the Hoo Peninsula.
20 June 2020
Dear Kelly Tolhurst
Encouraged by your recent letter in response to our colleague Councillor Linda Atkinson, I have been asked to write to you on behalf of the High Halstow Parish Council and its Neighbourhood Forum, to seek your assistance in relation to Medway Council’s approach to development on the Hoo Peninsula and, in particular, their refusal to disclose to us or to discuss with us the details of the proposals for transport infrastructure on the Peninsula. We write to you as our local MP, but with the pride of knowing that you are also Minister for Transport in the Government.
The High Halstow Neighbourhood Forum is currently preparing a Neighbourhood Plan for the Parish of High Halstow under the provisions of the Localism Act 2011. This is likely to include identifying substantial areas of land for new housing. As you may be aware, the most recent draft of the emerging Medway Local Plan seeks to allocate land for about 12,000 new homes on greenfield land on the Hoo Peninsula, with about 800 new homes proposed for High Halstow, more than doubling the population within the plan period and in addition to substantial development already permitted.
The Peninsula has only one serious road access; the A228 Peninsula Way. Serious congestion occurs, particularly at Four Elms junction and roundabout in both the morning and evening peak hours and the Four Elms area suffers from serious air quality problems as a result. When the A228 is closed, as happens regularly, by a serious accident or other obstruction, the Peninsula is effectively blocked off from the outside world. High Halstow itself is served by narrow rural roads with passing places and no facilities for pedestrians or cyclists. High Halstow is poorly served by public transport. Development in the villages of High Halstow and Hoo in recent years has been opportunist, taking the form of individual applications with no overall masterplan or framework for development. The result is piecemeal planning with poor quality development. In a recent answer, planning and regeneration officers were unable to identify a single example of good design on the Peninsula, despite the rash of permissions in recent years. A large part of the problem is the absence of an up to date Local Plan, and no masterplan or design guide. The Regulation 19 draft Local Plan is continuously delayed and is entirely contingent on a Housing Infrastructure Fund grant of £170 million principally to provide new or improved roads and other transport links including a rail link to Gravesend and the Medway towns with onward connections to London. However, the prediction is that the new rail link will provide a modal shift from use of the car to rail of only 8%. The Parish Council are well aware of the need for new housing in Medway and for improvement to transport infrastructure. We are also aware that this must be balanced with need to protect and enhance the exceptional biodiversity, heritage and landscape resources that the Peninsula contains.
We recognise that it is a central plank of Government Policy to include people and communities in decisions about their future, rather than to exclude them as the planning process has tended to do in the past. The Localism Act was passed by Parliament with that express objective in mind and it is reflected in the National Planning Policy Framework.
With this background in mind, the Parish Council and Neighbourhood Forum had hoped to be able to participate fully in the preparation and planning of proposals for development and transport infrastructure on the Hoo Peninsula, together with and alongside its neighbouring Parish of Hoo St Werburgh, which bears to brunt of the Medway housing proposals in a proposed new “Rural Town”.
To inform our participation in the process, we both had sought information from Medway Council, and, to a lesser extent, Homes England, about the specific proposals and the environmental impacts of those proposals in the HIF bid that would most affect our communities.
Instead of providing information to assist our involvement, we have been dismayed to be met with a wall of what we can only describe as direct obstruction and hostility from Medway Council, together with the publication of a document called “Planning for Growth on the Hoo Peninsula” which is most remarkable for its failure to provide any information of substance about what the Council is proposing.
In particular Medway Council have directly refused to answer our questions about the details of the HIF funded infrastructure and their environmental impacts, claiming, as an exemption, that to do so would affect their ability to make decisions. It is their clear and stated intention to ensure that the details of the transport infrastructure proposals and their environmental effects are not disclosed to us until after the HIF agreement with Homes England is signed, presumably to ensure that we are not put in a position to be able to question any of the proposals subsequently. Not only is such behaviour contrary to the objectives behind Localism and the legislation that Parliament and the Government has put in place to secure local community involvement in the planning process, but it is also directly frustrating the Parish Council and the Neighbourhood Forum in preparing our Neighbourhood Plan. We have been astonished to find the leader of the Council, Councillor Jarrett, describing the very limited responses we have had from the Council as “clear and continued engagement with the local community”. He has had no engagement with the Parish Council and the officers’ engagement has been limited, slow and largely unhelpful, being mainly directed to ensuring that we are not informed about details of the HIF proposals and their impacts.
Of course, the statutory procedures that will accompany the Local Plan will allow for the statutory public consultation and participation in that exercise, in due course, but all the indications are that Medway Council does not intend to open up the content of the HIF programme to public discussion at any point prior to its final agreement with Homes England. The content of the HIF programme will therefore dictate and severely limit the options available at the Regulation 19 stage of the Local Plan. The HIF programme for Hoo has been drawn up to provide the transport infrastructure that would support a Regulation 19 plan which has yet to be published and whose environmental impacts have not yet been assessed. Yet it will inevitably pre-determine and severely limit the scope of any modifications that the Inspector will be able to make in order to ensure the Plan is “sound”. The proposals for the Peninsula are to be largely fixed by the HIF agreement and we, and the Inspector, will be faced with a stark choice between going along with the HIF proposals (whatever they turn out to be) or having no Local Plan at all. The results of years of failure to deliver a Local Plan have already disfigured the Hoo Peninsula with inappropriate and poor quality development unsupported by essential adequate infrastructure in terms of education, medical facilities and the availability of local and accessible jobs, services and facilities.
We have suggested that this would best be achieved by the provision of a detailed masterplan incorporated into the statutory process as an Area Action Plan for the Hoo Peninsula, so that we can see exactly what is proposed and how it will affect our local communities. That suggestion has been met only with silence from Medway Council.
As things stand, the behaviour of Medway Council, who continue to treat the inhabitants of the Peninsula as some kind of backward indigenous colony incapable of participating seriously in the planning of our own future, and the Peninsula as a derelict wasteland, crying out for new development, is raising fear and disillusionment in the democratic process.
We therefore respectfully request that you intervene to assist us by ensuring that the HIF agreement between Medway Council and Homes England is not signed until the Parish Council and the local communities most affected by the proposals are consulted fully on the details of the HIF Infrastructure programme and its environmental effects have been assessed and published.
High Halstow Parish Council
PS. The Neighbourhood Forums hold regular combined virtual meetings. I have been asked to invite you to join us, even if only for a few minutes, to discuss these issues.
Developers are stepping up efforts to bring forward development in High Halstow ahead of the Local plan and our Neighbourhood plan.
Esquire Estates has now presented proposals to The Neighbourhood Plan Committee for 30 new homes at Sharnal Street. Although we like the design we have serious concerns about sustainability and reliance on the emerging Local Plan and HIF.
Redrow is beginning to engage with Medway Council ahead of an application for around 760 homes on the land East of the village between Christmas Lane and Britannia Road.
Medway Council have been given a target from Government to build 38,000 new homes by 2039. Medway Council are planning to build around 12,500 of these new homes on the Hoo Peninsula in Hoo and High Halstow.
The new homes cannot be built unless they are sustainable, and that means: Sustainable road access, sustainable public transport and sustainable ecology. Medway Council plan to do this with the help of the Housing Infrastructure Fund HIF. The fund (£170M) will have to bring forward that sustainability by 2024 before new home can be built.
In the meantime, because Medway have failed to produce a Local Plan there is no longer any specified allocation of building land. This leaves us vulnerable to developers.
During the past two decades we are at a loss to name any net gain in amenity or sustainability that new development has provided. In fact, all we have gained is the loss of our much loved and used Deangate Ridge golf course.
The Parish Councils of High Halstow and Hoo are united in their attempt to curtail the development of the Hoo Peninsula and ensure that whatever development is brought forward is the very best it can be and provides real sustainability.
We have been delighted with the response you have already made to our call to action and are encouraged by the response to that call from our MP Kelly Tolhurst.
We must keep up the pressure though and ask you to write again to Kelly Tolhurst, to Medway Council and/or to our Ward Councillors. For more information and ideas for your letters please see other pages for our letter of objection to the Sharnal Street proposals and letter to our MP Kelly Tolhurst. Further material and question are in the article in last month’s High Halstow Times.
Please comment to proposed developments by: