Published: 13:09, 24 November 2020
| Updated: 17:20, 24 November 2020
Campaigners are urging people to help fight plans which could see thousands of new homes built on green belt land.
Many were rejected but the proposals could still see more than 3,700 homes built on protected areas, and with consultation now under way, the Gravesham branch of The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has called for people to speak out to prevent the loss of more countryside.
"Our beautiful fields could be turned into housing estates under proposals by Gravesham Borough Council," they say in a new leaflet. "Across Gravesham a staggering 3,790 houses are proposed which would swallow up 21 areas of precious Green Belt. These include:
"1,705 houses in Meopham and Sole Street across nine green sites.
"1,810 houses in Higham and Shorne across seven green sites.
"275 houses in Istead Rise across five green sites."
The CPRE says if the plans aren't stopped, new developments will lead to longer waiting times for doctor or dentist appointments, longer hospital waiting lists, problems obtaining school places, congestion on roads, noise, pollution, the loss of wildlife and the loss of villages.
They add: "Gravesham Borough Council claims these extra 3,790 homes are needed to house a population that’s expected to burgeon over the next few years. However the projected figures they base this on are highly debatable.
"There are also several brownfield sites in the borough that could be developed, saving our farmland and open spaces from destruction.
"Even though we are in lockdown and in the middle of a global pandemic, Gravesham Borough Council are continuing with this consultation. Even though many in the rural area are not online.
"This consultation is threatening the fabric of our villages and way of life. We are already set to lose so much to the Lower Thames Crossing. We need to draw the line now.
Our green, open spaces are vital for our mental health and wellbeing. We need them now more than ever. Once they’re gone, they’re gone."
Gravesham council has previously encouraged people to have their say on the document which guides how the borough should develop between now and 2036.
It shows residents and businesses the amount of development needed and where this should take place. It also acts as a guide when making decisions on planning applications on a day-to-day basis.
Consultation was due to close on December 10 but was pushed back after the country went into a second lockdown. People now have until 5pm on December 31 to comment.
Cllr Brian Sangha, Gravesham council’s cabinet member for strategic environment, said: “As we explained at the launch of this consultation, the government has made it clear it expects councils to continue with their plan making processes and to conduct consultations online as a result of the pandemic.
"When the Prime Minister announced the second lockdown, we recognised the difficulty that could cause people in responding and extended our consultation accordingly.
“In the last year, plans have been approved for substantial developments on brownfield sites in Gravesend town centre, including The Charter, M Block at Gravesend Hospital, and Clifton Slipways, which when complete will see 584 new homes created, with developers working on plans for other significant brownfield developments ahead of applications being submitted. However, we have always been clear that we simply cannot meet the house building targets we have been set by government through brownfield development alone.
“What we are hoping for from this consultation is constructive feedback from residents and other interested parties as to how we can meet the challenges those targets set us, particularly if they do not agree with some of the development sites proposed. Simply saying, ‘No, we don’t want development in these places,’ will not make the problem go away.”
For those without access to a computer or the internet, you may be able to book a computer terminal at Gravesend Library by visiting www.kent.gov.uk/libs. These remain available during lockdown.
Find out more and have your say at localplan.gravesham.gov.uk. You can comment by email to email@example.com or by post to Planning Consultation, Gravesham Borough Council, Civic Centre, Windmill Street, Gravesend, DA12 1AG.
People can also support the CPRE campaign by clicking here or visiting www.cprekent.org.uk