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My original thoughts on this has been widely supported by all Peninsula Parish Councils, Ward councillors Cllr. Filmer, Cllr. Pendergast , Medway Cllr Simon Curry and our MP Kelly Tolhurst (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport).  

RSPB,  Kent Wildlife Trust and officers at Medway Council have also been very helpful and supportive. Of course, progress has taken a bit of backward step because of the Coronavirus emergency.

It has become evident after much discussion that an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty [AONB] would be a better and more appropriate designation.

So what is the difference between an AONB and a National Park ?
AONBs and National Parks are actually of equal importance for landscape and scenic beauty, the difference is that AONBs exist for the purpose of conserving and enhancing their natural beauty. National Parks, in addition to this, have a second purpose – To promote understanding and enjoyment of the area’s special qualities by the public. Because of this extra (and substantial) layer of responsibility they have their own independent National Park authorities with full planning powers running them.

AONB designation usually covers a wide area and many types and uses of land. Not all parts of an AONB are necessarily open to the public. In fact, most are not, as they are privately owned just like anywhere else. Towns and villages are sometimes included, and often small areas which are not at all beautiful get included too, with a secondary aim of meeting the need for quiet enjoyment of the countryside and having regard for the interests of those who live and work there.

We are continuing with the work behind the scenes and hope to bring you news as it develops. In the meantime please indicate your support be completing the survey if you haven’t done so already.

Should the Peninsula be a National Park
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Peninsula park update

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My original thoughts on this has been widely supported by all Peninsula Parish Councils, Ward councillors Cllr. Filmer, Cllr. Pendergast , Medway Cllr Simon Curry and our MP Kelly Tolhurst (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport).  

RSPB,  Kent Wildlife Trust and officers at Medway Council have also been very helpful and supportive. Of course, progress has taken a bit of backward step because of the Coronavirus emergency.

It has become evident after much discussion that an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty [AONB] would be a better and more appropriate designation.

So what is the difference between an AONB and a National Park ?
AONBs and National Parks are actually of equal importance for landscape and scenic beauty, the difference is that AONBs exist for the purpose of conserving and enhancing their natural beauty. National Parks, in addition to this, have a second purpose – To promote understanding and enjoyment of the area’s special qualities by the public. Because of this extra (and substantial) layer of responsibility they have their own independent National Park authorities with full planning powers running them.

AONB designation usually covers a wide area and many types and uses of land. Not all parts of an AONB are necessarily open to the public. In fact, most are not, as they are privately owned just like anywhere else. Towns and villages are sometimes included, and often small areas which are not at all beautiful get included too, with a secondary aim of meeting the need for quiet enjoyment of the countryside and having regard for the interests of those who live and work there.

We are continuing with the work behind the scenes and hope to bring you news as it develops. In the meantime please indicate your support be completing the survey if you haven’t done so already.

Should the Peninsula be a National Park
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Norse Planning

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Mr Chairman 

Thank you for the opportunity to address this Planning committee.

Deangate Ridge is a site of the highest sensitivity in the Medway area:

Its is Protected in the Local Plan as an Area of Local Landscape Importance and in an 

area designated as Protected Open Space. 

The site is also adjacent to the Chattenden Woods and Lodge Hill Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). 

It is registered as an Asset of Community Value  which is not mentioned in the report as far as I can see.  It is clearly a “valued landscape” in national policy terms, which should be “protected and enhanced”. I would ask you to refer to  National Planning Policy Frame work  paragraph 170.

The Report does not deny that the development is directly contrary to the development plan and causes harm to amenity but claims that this is outweighed by public benefits of providing what is effectively a depot for Council service vehicles. The report tugs at our heart strings by referring to transport for special needs children an argument used, if I recall when this Council chose to close the site.

In fact the vehicles to be stored there are: 12 small vans, 11 flatbed vans, 12 tippers, 3 tractors, including trailer towing, 38 mini buses  which may increase to 42 and 17 shipping containers, all to be  kept at the site.

There is reference to an alternative sites assessment but no details are provided. The report says all the alternative sites were rejected for various reasons, including excessive costs.

 Can I ask again for a copy of that “alternative sites assessment”?

If this action is just the Council saving money it cannot be a relevant consideration or justification for development that is directly contrary to both national and local policy.

There is also no reference to the shameful precedent that development of this site sets:

Norse – the occupier –  unlawfully moves onto a rural leisure and public open space  site in breach of planning control without planning permission; fells five mature trees and clears open green area; deposits 17  large shipping containers and brings some 76 diesel engine vehicles onto the site. Who gave them permission to do this – the Council?

It then applies for planning permission and offers, in mitigation, to paint the containers green when the weather improves  and replant some trees on the site (not semi mature) .

Government policy is that this kind of behaviour is to be discouraged.

Further, it is conceded by the officers’ report that the development will add to the traffic movements all of which will go through the Four Elms Air Quality Management Area, which already exceeds legal standards.. The vehicles stored on the site are entirely diesel-engine buses vans and lorries and will go  “exclusively” through the Four Elms Air Quality Management Area, mostly in the peak hour – when at its most polluted. 

The Four Elms Air Quality Management Area was declared because it is transport related pollution and exceeded the maximum permissible levels of Nitrogen Dioxide. This development will add to the levels of pollutants already harmful to human health.

 The Council is under a statutory duty to improve air quality in the Four Elms Air Quality Management Area in accordance with its own Air Quality Management Plan;

 Medway now has the second worst air quality in the south east outside London.

 An article in the national press describes official attitudes to this area, the Thames Estuary including the Hoo Peninsula  as if it was some kind of “cultureless wasteland… as if it was a vast brownfield site for which any kind of development can only be counted as an improvement. 

The Report utterly fails to reflect the environmental sensitivity of the site and the mitigation offered is derisory. The development will further degrade the golf club, its landscape  and blight its prospects of being brought back into public use.

Officers are recommending you grant planning permission with no guarantee that the temporary permission (to October 2021) will not be renewed or extended?

I would ask to  refuse the permission or defer the decision pending the occupier providing a full, up to date Alternatives Site Assessment.

Councillor

Ron Sand

Norse planning application at Deangate

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Image by Tony Broad
Image by Tony Broad

In liaison with the Deangate Community Partnership I have submitted further objection to the recent planning application for change of use of part of the Deangate site.

I hope these images and the knowledge that Medway Council ignore the fact  that the entire Deangate site is registered as an Asset of Community Value  inspire you to write and comment to : Planning.representations@medway.gov.uk and say that “Deangate should play a vital role in the Heath and Wellbeing of the residents of Medway and the Hoo Peninsula and not be used for commercial use”.

 

Response from the Deangate Community Partnership on behalf of its members.

Image by Tony Broad
Image by Tony Broad

Proposal: Temporary change of use (until 31 October 2021) of first floor of clubhouse building to office use and temporary use of former golf course car park (until 31 October 2021) for parking of associated office workers cars; minibuses; grounds maintenance equipment / vehicles and storage of 17 Shipping containers.

Location: Deangate Golf Club Dux Court Road, Hoo St Werburgh, Rochester, Medway, ME3 8RZ

Application Type : Full Application.

The Deangate Community Partnership wishes to register its fundamental objection to this development.

It is stated in the Transport Statement that the development  has taken place at the invitation of Medway Council.  This is a retrospective application for development which has already taken place without planning permission and is therefore in breach of planning control and unlawful.

As such, it sets the worst possible precedent and example to other developers and to the community  by carrying out the development first and then seeking retrospective permission once the change of use has taken place.

In a written ministerial statement in December 2015, the then Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis, outlined the Government’s concerns about the harm caused by unauthorised development and announced a change to planning policy to make intentional unauthorised development a material consideration that would be weighed in the determination of planning applications (including retrospective applications) and appeals.  The policy was put in place following concern about unauthorised development in the Green Belt, but applies equally to all unauthorised development, including this proposal.

The fact that the development has taken place with the encouragement of the Council which is also the local planning authority is wholly unacceptable action by a responsible public authority, and is directly contrary to the Government’s policy.

The development is not in accordance with relevant saved policies in the  Local Plan or the National Planning  Policy Framework 2019.

The current statutory Local Plan is the 2003 Medway Local Plan. The site is within the countryside, lying well outside the settlement boundaries. It is a site to which relevant saved policies in the Local Plan would apply. Policy BNE 25 Development in the Countryside is one of the saved policies in the Local Plan  and has been extended by direction of the Secretary of State. It accords with the NPPF and should therefore be given full weight.

BNE 25 states:

Development in the countryside will only be permitted if:

(i) it maintains, and wherever possible enhances, the character, amenity and functioning of the countryside, including the river environment of the Medway and Thames, it offers a realistic chance of access by a range of transport modes; and is either;

(ii) on a site allocated for that use; or

(iii) development essentially demanding a countryside location (such as agriculture, forestry, outdoor or informal recreation); or

(iv) a re-use or adaptation of an existing building that is, and would continue to be, in keeping with its surroundings in accordance with Policy BNE27; or

(v) a re-use or redevelopment of the existing built-up area of a redundant institutional complex or other developed land in lawful use; or

(vi) a rebuilding of, or modest extension or annex to, a dwelling; or

(vii) a public or institutional use for which the countryside location is justified and which does not result in volumes of traffic that would damage rural amenity.”

The proposal does not maintain and enhance the character, amenity and functioning of the countryside, Nor does the development fall within any of the categories (ii) to (vii) in BNE25 above and therefore is directly contrary to the principal countryside protection policy in the statutory development plan. There is therefore a statutory presumption in section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 against the development. The NPPF requires the Council, in determining applications to recognise the intrinsic natural beauty of the countryside.

The development is also directly contrary to the NPPF which seeks to protect existing open space, sports and recreational facilities.

The NPPF statesExisting open space, sports and recreational buildings and land, including playing fields, should not be built on unless: a) an assessment has been undertaken which has clearly shown the open space, buildings or land to be surplus to requirements; or b) the loss resulting from the proposed development would be replaced by equivalent or better provision in terms of quantity and quality in a suitable location; or c) the development is for alternative sports and recreational provision, the benefits of which clearly outweigh the loss of the current or former use.

Whilst the development does not involve new buildings as such, the 17 storage containers have a particularly unattractive industrial character and adverse visual impact and are damaging to the rural character and amenity of the area. The development leads to the use of the site for storage of heavy equipment which requires goods vehicles to transport it and which are often parked on the site.

Deangate is a vital part of Medway’s network of high quality open spaces and opportunities for sport and physical activity is important for the health and well-being of communities. The NPPF requires that applications for development of such sites should be based on robust and up-to-date assessments of the need for open space, sport and recreation facilities.

The application fails to support a strong environmental objective by contributing to protecting and enhancing our natural environment. Developing Deangate as described in the application fails to make effective use of land by help to improve biodiversity, use natural resources prudently, minimising waste and pollution or move us towards tackling climate change or a low carbon economy, contrary to the NPPF.

The application describes the Golf Course as “redundant”. This prejudges the question as to whether there is a viable future for the golf club. The use has not been abandoned nor could it be unless a permanent material change of use has been granted.

There is no recognition that the site is part of an Asset of Community Value, which is a material consideration as the site has a social objective in supporting the strong, vibrant and healthy communities of Medway and the Hoo peninsula.  It provides an accessible service and open space that reflects  the current and future needs of health, social and cultural well-being of residents.

The Transport Statement submitted with the application is inadequate as it appears to make no assessment of the effect of goods vehicles on the site which has poor access to the primary road network. It amounts to a short and limited traffic count which does not appear to distinguish the heavy vehicles using the site. Dux Court Road has an alignment that is notoriously narrow and twisting. There is a particularly narrow pinch-point between the site entrance and the roundabout onto Peninsula Way.

The Deangate Community Partnership urges the Council to refuse permission and to use its enforcement powers and take all necessary steps to require the use to cease as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely

For and on behalf of the Members of 

The Deangate Community Partnership (unincorporated body)

 

The Twenties a Decade of Change

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By Tony Peake
Copyright Tony Peake

The sun has set on 2019 as dawn breaks on a new decade, “The Twenties” a century ago it was dubbed the “Roaring Twenties”, a “Decade of Change”. A 100 years on what are our hopes and aspirations for the future  ??

 A greener, cleaner, brighter and more prosperous future for the Hoo Peninsula within the Greater Thames and Medway Estuaries, undoubtedly an area of outstanding natural raw beauty and deserving of recognition as a National treasure. 

The Twenty Twenties must be a decade of inspiration, of conservation,  and enhancement of this unique Peninsula with its heritage, Special Landscape and  internationally recognised protection.

It must also meet the needs of those who live and work here or visit to explore and enjoy our ancient woodlands starkly beautiful marshland, stunning wildlife and rich estuarine habitat.

we welcome you to be part of this exciting plan, to share your expertise, enthusiasm and love of the countryside Be part of this historical move to safeguard the continued legacy of our unique Peninsula .

Please drop me a note at ron.sands@medway.gov.uk if you would like to help in any way.

Ron Sands

National Character Area

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In 2013 Natural England described the Hoo Peninsula as a National Character Area (NCA) predominantly a remote and tranquil landscape of shallow creeks, drowned estuaries, lowlying islands, mudflats and broad tracts of tidal salt marsh and reclaimed grazing marsh that lies between the North Sea and the rising ground inland. It forms the eastern edge of the London Basin and encompasses the coastlines of South Essex and North Kent, along with a narrow strip of land following the path of the Thames into East London.
Despite its close proximity to London, the NCA contains some of the least settled areas of the English coast, with few major settlements and medieval patterns of small villages and hamlets on higher ground and the marsh edges. This provides a stark contrast to the busy urban and industrial areas towards London where population density is high and development pressures are increasing. Sea defences protect large areas of reclaimed grazing marsh and its associated ancient fleet and ditch systems, and productive arable farmland. Historic military landmarks are characteristic features of the coastal landscape. Further information

Our Peninsula consisting of very productive A1 agricultural farmland renowned for cereal, root vegetables, soft fruit and traditional English orchards helped give rise to Kent’s much loved title “The Garden of England”.  Add this to our extensive areas of ancient woodland,  world renowned and internationally protected intertidal habitats, lowland wet grazing  and a rich historic heritage and you begin to understand  the reason all the Peninsula Parish Councils are calling on Medway Council to listen to the growing concerns for the future of our unique and distinctive area that we all know and love  and to support our bid for National Park status.

We need Medway Council to acknowledge the importance and value of this landscape. To understand that the mosaic of wetland habitats that are the envy of the world can be the centre piece of a new National Park close to the city of London  based here in Medway. A park that will give not only the people of Medway and Kent but the whole country the chance to experience The Hoo Peninsula along with our castles and historical Dockyard with its strong  military heritage.
We need Medway Council to understand and promote this “sense of distinctiveness and uniqueness “ that encompasses the tranquility of the marshes with its nationally and internationally sites, with the agricultural and industrial sites working hand in hand where individual villages intertwine with historic sites. 
This Peninsula, our Peninsula is ready to become a National Park, to secure environment for the future and safeguard our heritage and  prove that our mix of urban and rural landscapes should and must be protected.
Should the Peninsula be a National Park
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Hoo Stop Line

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During the Second World War, the Hoo  Peninsula was one of the most heavily fortified areas anywhere in England.  Defensive ‘Stop Lines including pillboxes, barbed wire and anti-tank ditches cut a swathe across the whole landscape  linking up the villages.
The purpose of these defences was simple, they were part of Britain’s Outer London Defence Ring in response to the threat of German invasion. The  intension was to delay and hold back enemy armoured columns that were expected to drive inland from the nearby invasion beaches and ports.

Today only fragments of this military landscape survive. Enough still remains to gain an impression of what was once was expected to be the front line against invasion.


The Hoo Stop Line; anti-invasion defence line stretched for approximately eight miles between the River Thames near Cliffe and the River Medway to the south-east of Hoo St Werburgh .

The War Office plan for the Stop Line shows a total of sixty infantry and eighteen anti-tank pillboxes. Each individual component would have been encircled in barbed wire for extra protection. There were probably other earthworks such as slit trenches.

The Hoo peninsula was a heavily militarised zone during the Second World War with Hoo itself designated as a defended village in 1941 with its own garrison. A further one hundred troops from the 347th Searchlight Battery, Royal Artillery were located at Kingshill Camp to the west of Bell Lane. High Halstow village to the north and the Royal Navy Ammunition Dump at Lodge Hill were also garrisoned.

The stop line was intended to provide a man-made defence against invasion. 

Development of the Peninsula must be sympathetic to the Hoo Stop Line and its historic structures and continue the excellent work already undertaken at Allhallows on the historic  Slough Fort  

This is another example of how important the cultural heritage of the Peninsula is and   shows why it should celebrated in a National Park.

Please show your support and agree with me by completing this simple survey.

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City to Sea

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The Hoo Peninsula is part of and the central focus of the Wider North Kent Marshes which stretch  from Dartford in the west to Whitstable in the east.  This area is internationally renowned and protected for its wetlands and nationally protected by sites of special Scientific interests. However the Development in Hoo and its out lying villages is not the only threat this important and most precious place faces.

The new Lower Thames Crossing which will cut right across an area of wetlands near Higham and will inevitably increase the pressure on the need for new housing and business to support the ever increasing population.


The more I learn the more I feel I need to stand up for this special an unique place.

So what do we mean when we say a new National Park? Clearly we do not live in an area you would normally associate with the status of “National Park” we are not in the “Lake District” or “The New Forest” why would we ever consider making the Hoo peninsula a National Park?

Consider for a moment, London, which has just become the first “National Park City,
“London will be: a city which is greener in the long-term than it is today and where people and nature are better connected. a city which protects the core network of parks and green spaces and where buildings and public spaces aren’t defined only by stone, brick, concrete, glass and steel”.

The Hoo peninsula and its Greater North Kent Marshes is in a unique position between the City and Sea, it could and should be a landscape asset maintained as a legacy for all our futures a place of unique biodiversity sensitively accessible to everyone.

Planned to achieve an environmental balance to the city and able contribute to the carbon neutralisation of the growing urban sprawl an area to create wealth and employment in tourism and leisure and local produce.

Rural regeneration of a landscape designed to showcase this unique area between the Thames and Medway estuaries featuring it’s raw beauty
as Dickens described a landscape rich in history.

Massive schemes for road bridges, unco ntrollable  and unsustainable development, fill me with fear and dread that we are on the cusp of losing what we have forever.
Join me in the fight for the future. 

Should the Peninsula be a National Park
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Why a national park

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In 1861 Charles Dickens ‘ famous novel Great Expectations was published and I’m sure many of you will recollect his famous words written about our marshes that are as relevant now as they were nearly 160 years ago .

“Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the rivers wound, twenty miles of the sea.  My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. At such a time I found out for certain that this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard………. and that the flat dark wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dikes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing was the sea…..

Dickens was describing a scene unchanged to this day. With your help, future generations will be able to make the same comparisons.

The idea of making the Hoo Peninsula a National Park is not a new one. Others before us have realised how important this unassuming piece of real estate is to our Natural and Cultural Heritage.

Most would never see it in the same light as the picture postcard destinations such as the Lake District or the New Forest.

But,

The Hoo Peninsula is, in my opinion, the second most important wildlife site in England, internationally designated and protected.

The Hoo Peninsula is home to the Thames and Medway Estuary Marshes covering an area of 38 sq miles from Gravesend rounding the Isle of Grain to Rochester. It is the central most important and fundamental feature of the greater North Kent Marshes which stretches from Dartford all the way to Whitstable.

The Hoo Peninsula is the custodian of a Ramsar, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protected Areas (SPA). They include coastal grazing marsh, intertidal mudflats, salt marsh and fresh water lagoons. At the end of the escarpment of the North Downs lies Northwood Hill, a National Nature Reserve, overlooking the marsh to the north.

Picture if you will the dikes fanning out across marsh to the estuary beyond channelling the gently ebbing and flowing tide. Look a little closer and see the myriad of wildlife feeding on the richly fertile mudflat with its high content of organic material ideal for the filter feeding scavenger Invertebrates and of course flocks of wintering wildfowl, phenomenal and spectacular in numbers.

In the foreground the vast expanse of lowland wet grassland lies in front of the sea wall maintaining a bio diverse food source when the salt marsh is covered by the tide.  True Dickens Country!

Unlocking the potential of the Hoo Peninsula to development will herald the beginning of the end for this national treasure for ever and the unstoppable march of the urban fringe.

Please join with me and help make the Hoo Peninsula a National Park.

Help Protect our Natural and Cultural Heritage.

Help to make it a place where people and nature are better connected.

A place that continues to be rich in wildlife.

A place where we, our children and our grandchildren, can connect with nature and benefit from exploring, playing and learning.

We are among the most Nature depleted nations in the world our government statisticians tell us that :-

We have lost 97% of our wildflower meadows since 1930.

We have ever more specie of birds in decline.

Insects and invertebrates are struggling.

A third of our British bees are in decline.

 WE MUST START NOW to make a change by embracing the idea of a National Park for the Hoo Peninsula, perhaps even encompassing the whole of the North Kent  Marshes. Making the whole area as large as the North Norfolk Coast.

We have the landscape, the raw beauty, the geology, the geography, the biodiversity, the history, the archaeology and the rare species of plants and animals.

What we now need is the will to start to plan and to work together with a real ambition to achieve a healthier, happier future and ensure our wonderful countryside is greener, more beautiful and PROTECTED FOR THE WHOLE NATION.

Please visit my website and pledge your support for the Hoo Peninsula National Park.

Www.ronsands.co.uk/whats-the-latest

Peninsula a National Park ?

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The Peninsula should be designated a National Park

We all aware that the Medway Local plan, originally due to be updated in 2003 is still not published.  In its present draft form it relies on a £170 million grant, not yet approved by central government to make sufficient improvements to our infrastructure for any large-scale sustainable development. In the meantime predatory unrestricted development is extending the urban fringe ever further on to the Peninsula.


I believe the Hoo Peninsula as a whole has sufficient merit to be declared a national park. The last National Park designated in the UK 2010 was the South Downs.
A national park shares two statutory purposes:-

 

To conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the area,
To promote the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the area.


The special qualities of a National Park include their
Landscape and views
Geology and geography
Biodiversity and rare species
Archaeology and history


I believe that our Peninsula meets all these criteria. Becoming a National Park would afford protection against unsustainable development and would enhance and celebrate it for what it is, a unique area full of natural and cultural heritage.

.

We fought long and hard to protect the peninsula from becoming the site of an international hub airport. The nation is in equal danger in of losing it again to the ever-growing urban sprawl.


Please lead your support and join with us to protect our Peninsula, an area of environmental, historical, national and international importance.

 

Ron Sands

Should the Peninsula be a National Park
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