Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Update on Tilden Gill Development

Here's an update from my friend S J Beecham about the public inquiry taking place in Ashford right now. All I can say is, if you CAN make it there, even for an hour, please do try. The planning Inspectors will note that.

The public inquiry started today and will run until Thursday, possibly Friday. The inspector has made one visit to the site and may make another.

I was disappointed in the turn-out - I know a lot of people are against this, and I know it's a workday, it's in Ashford etc. etc. but a public presence does matter, and the inspector will note it. You don't have to be there at 9:30, or stay for the whole day, but it would be helpful to put in an appearance.

The Inspector, Paul Clark, wants information on five main issues:
- Can acceptable access be provided
- Character and appearance of site
- Significance of heritage
- Housing supply
- Affect on local social infrastructure

The appellant has requested that access be a "reserved matter" (i.e. no decision made until outline planning stage) but the inspector has pointed out that he will read all documentation and take everything into account - he will decide whether it will be reserved or not later.

The inspector also said that, when it comes to housing supply, he does not want arguments based on exact numbers (as these can and do change, often frequently) but is more interested in understanding the robustness of the housing supply situation in the borough.

The appellant's case so far seems to be:
- Insufficient 5-year housing supply in Ashford borough;
- TENT1 was allocated and the proposed site is similar land, so that should pass too;
- Other access can be provided (no details given so far);
- Council's refusal was "confused and incoherent";
- Wants to rely on other cases on other sites as the core documents provided in this case are "untested";
- No borough local plan;
- Ashford not delivering social housing;
- NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) doesn't put a cap on maximum housing - so even if Ashford does have enough housing, and is delivering it, it doesn't mean developers can't build more;
- Enough mitigation can be made such that the development won't harm the surrounding area, including the AONB
- Proposed site currently so degraded that it's of no value for agriculture, amenity, or as a setting for Belgar farmstead.

Council's rebuttal so far:
- Lack of access renders whole project undeliverable;
- 5-year plan more than sufficient - appellant is basing argument on old figures;
- Proposed development is contrary to planning policies already in place, and is unsustainable;
- Proposed level of growth for Ashford is significantly different from the rural areas of the borough (hence cannot be used to support that level of growth in Tenterden);
- Council on TENT1 allocation warned that it should not be used to justify further piecemeal development;
- Site is neither urban, nor urban fringe, so development would adversely affect listed buildings and AONB;
- Re: "incoherency", lack of clarity had not been raised before today (and subsequent evidence suggested there was no misunderstanding)

So far, landscape architect Helen Neve and environmental/conservation architect Allan Cox (representing the Council) have been called to give evidence. Ms Neve was also subject to a cross-examination of well over 2 hours. I'm not going to to precis that, but feel free to message me if you want more details. The gist is the appellant sees the land as having no value other than to build on - some of the claims they've made so far have been beyond ridiculous all the way into outrageous. We've only heard some of those in passing, more info will be supplied tomorrow. "Clutching at straws" springs to mind, but that's perhaps not surprising as there's apparently more than I realised riding on this. This is apparently being viewed by developers in the region as a test case. If they can get this passed - on good farmland, with no access, with listed buildings on site, adjacent to an AONB and ancient woodland, and nobody but the landowner wants it - they can get anything passed, and it opens the door for unrestricted building in sensitive rural areas.

It's a 9:30am start tomorrow at the Civic Centre in Ashford, and is expected to run late. Anyone can attend. Parking is in the Stour Centre carpark (£10 for the day) or in Ashford Station B across the road (which I think is £6.90). A lawyer will speak tomorrow for the residents' association. Once all evidence is given and cross-examinations done, you may be able to speak if you want to so long as you ok this with the inspector beforehand (it looks like time will run very tight).

Friday, February 19, 2016

Clean Up Day 2016 is Coming!

This is the post that would have gotten posted yesterday had it not been for the over-zealous phishing software at Google that caused my T3 blog to be locked, pending deletion yesterday. Google did apologise for their transgression, which is nice. So, anyway...

We at T£ would like to invite you all to come on down to our semi-annual Clean Up Tenterden litter pick, on April 3rd at Highbury Hall. As usual we'll be gathering at 11am and sending you all off to different areas of the town (you can choose where you want to go) so you can pick up rubbish, bring it back so we can sort it, and then it'll be collected for disposal/recycling the following day. 

We had a good turnout last time, but let's see if we can make it even bigger and better this time! The trash has been piling up all winter and there's not too much foliage to hide it yet, so we should get a good pile.

Oh, and tell your friends, get them to come along - it's much more fun in a group!

Highlights from previous cleanups:

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

They're At It Again

So this plopped onto the doormat the other day...

Looks like Mr. Day is trying to get that land sold and developed again.

Last time, there was such an outcry by the general public against it that both Tenterden Town Council and Ashford Borough Council denied the application. It went to appeal, and subsequently to the Planning Inspectorate, and they will be hosting the public inquiry next week in Ashford (see letter).

Last time, the access point suggested was next to the Priory Way garages which were in disrepair. This time, that access point cannot be used since the ABC approved the construction of flats on the site. So the access point this time (get this, right) is apparently going to be two of the houses in Tilden Gill that are owned by a housing association.

Evidently the developer, Gatefield Estates, has a ton of money with which to force the housing association to sell the houses to them, which they will then demolish in order to create an access road.
Feeling pissed off yet? I know I am.

The public inquiry will be held at the Civic Centre in Tannery Lane, Ashford, on Feb 23, 24 & 25 next week. I encourage everyone who can attend to go and lodge your objections (again)!