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Final blows landed in KIG campaign

KIG the inquiry logo
KIG the inquiry logo

Key players in the Kent International Gateway inquiry are making their final statements this week.

The inquiry into plans to build a 285-acre road and rail freight depot near Bearsted will close on Wednesday.

Before then, inspector Andrew Phillipson will hear closing statements from all sides involved in the inquiry, including the Joint Parishes Group, StopKIG, Maidstone council and KIG's own legal team.

Today Protect Kent were among the first to land their final blows in the fight to stop the giant depot being built.

Chairman Richard Knox-Johnston criticised the government for allowing the inquiry to be held "without proper consultation" and set out the key environmental and economic arguments against the depot.

He said it would put off tourists, said it should not be built next to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and questioned why KIG's impact on horse-riders had not been considered.

Richard Knox Johnston, representing CPRE at the KIG inquiry
Richard Knox Johnston, representing CPRE at the KIG inquiry

He also revived concerns - refuted by KIG during the inquiry - that building the depot unstable gault clay could put the foundations of the M20 and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link at risk.

In his conclusion, he said: "The people living in the affected area around this site are looking forward to a period of uncertainty. For the next four to six months they will have to live with this threat hanging over them.

"They are very angry and fearful. They are disturbed that their villages and homes could be devastated by this large and unnecessary application, claiming to be for the good of the country.

"Bearsted is a beautiful village with a strong heritage. It is a village that visitors long to see with its green and its pub. It is in the heart of the Garden of England. Surrounding it is some of the most beautiful countryside in southern England.

"To destroy this unique area for an ill-thought through speculative development [...] would be a disaster which all those who live in the area and those visiting it would regret forever."

Those representing KIG could only sit and listen as opponents lined up to force home their disapproval of plans.

Richard Ashness of StopKIG, the anti-KIG campaign body with more than 9,000 members, said KIG's assertions that the depot would help reduce carbon emissions were not backed by evidence. Instead he accused the plan of being "speculative", and merely pandering to climate change policy.

He said KIG is: "unable to prove the development will reduce carbon emissions - it is a speculative property development seeking to exploit government policy and concerns on climate change."

He said any benefits from KIG would be minimal, while there were currently other schemes - such as a rail head at Dover, the use of east coast ports, and other possible Strategic Rail Freight Interchange sites - which would more effectively reduce carbon emmisions.

He said the KIG idea was "vaguely trying to piggyback unsuccessfully on government policy to reduce carbon emissions and shift frieght from road to rail [...] StopKIG considers that the nationally important decision on KIG that will affect the lives of millions of people for years to come cannot be based on such vague and unjustifiable aspirations."

In summary, he also said KIG would "devastate and destroy" local communities; prejudice policy to encourage housing and employment growth at major growth points in the South East; and would harm the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

This view was backed by Kent AONB itself which said the development would harm the AONB as it would be clearly visible from the North Downs and other areas. Light pollution would also be significant and the development should be refused.

The Joint Parishes Group said KIG would cause harmful pollution to residents living close by, of which there were many, and that the plan should be refused on several grounds.

KIG was contrary to the European Landscape Convention, it said; and the site lies within a Special Landscape Area, which should not be developed industrially. The group questioned KIG's suggestion that the development would be no more obtrusive than poly-tunnels, adding: "Parallels between a seasonal and non-permanent structure and rail interchange are spurious."

KIG are set to put their closing submissions to the inquiry tomorrow.

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