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.