serving the villages of 
Charing and 
Charing Heath
 
 
 
On this page we will place updates on this application.
 

Update July 2017

 

On July 19th Ashford Planning Committee unanimously voted to refuse the Gladman application. All members asked to have their individual votes against the proposal recorded. The decision document, as well as the comprehensive report by the planning officer, can be viewed at http://planning.ashford.gov.uk/planning/details.aspx?systemkey=105796&pageindex=0



Update 11th May 2017

 

Dozens of objections have been lodged against this application. They can all be seen on the ABC website http://planning.ashford.gov.uk/planning/details.aspx?systemkey=105796&pageindex=0   Importantly KCC Highways have objected. 

 

The Parish council objection was lodged on April 23rd

 

On May 4th, the Parish Council wrote an open letter to the Wheler Foundation trustees formally asking them to withdraw their support from the proposal and also raising other issues.  (Please see attachment in the table below:)

 

Earlier the Parish Council wrote to the transport planning consultancy, Prime Transport Planning challenging their clear undercount of traffic on Pluckley Road . The letter also points out some of the key issues they ignored. Prime Transport Planning has only existed since March 2016. Prior to that its two leading people worked for Gladman and worked on this project then.(Please see attachment in the table below:)

 

The application will be discussed at a forthcoming planning meeting of Ashford Borough Council. We await a date (it is not on the agenda for the Planning Committee May meeting).

 


 
 

Planning application 17/00303/AS. Land South of Railway Line and West of Pluckley Road, Charing.

Charing Parish Council objects strongly to this application. The proposed development is completely unsustainable. Following is a summary of our reasons with more details in the following pages.

1. A development of 245 dwellings would be out of scale with the village and be disruptive particularly when added to other proposed developments.

2. Current facilities in the village, including the school and the surgery, would not be able to cope with this scale of expansion.  Parking, already a major problem, would become a nightmare.

3. The proposed access has major and serious problems that we do not believe could be overcome.

4. It would add substantially to the well-known traffic problems on Pluckley and Station Roads and the A20/Station Road junction.

5. Pedestrian access to the village centre, the school, the church, bus stops, and even the close-by station and surgery is unsatisfactory and cannot be improved. Wheelchair access is very difficult.

6. The proposed drainage plan is unsustainable.  There are risks of damage to the water supply and increasing flood risk downstream.

7. Protected species, including dormice, would need to be moved and would be at permanently increased risk from additional cats.

8. The historical and archaeological assessments are inadequate (see the letter from Wendy Rogers of KCC heritage).

9. The proposed 8 years of development means that neighbours will be exposed to the problems of construction for far too long.

10. The suggested benefits are exaggerated and in no way compensate for the disadvantages.

11. Developing this site would be contrary to paragraphs 32, 35 and 103 of the NPPF, to policies CS1, CS15, CS20 and possibly CS21 in Ashford’s core strategy, to TRS17 in the Tenterden and Rural sites DPD, to policies HOU4, TRA5, TRA7, ENV8 and ENV9 in the draft Local Plan and to guidance in the Charing Village Design Statement. 

 In sum, it would be a disaster for Charing.

The Parish Council fully accepts that Charing will need to take its share of additional housing. But other sites, capable of delivering a substantial increase in housing, are considerably more suitable (see Annex A). 

 We note that our objections are supported by Pluckley, Smarden and Little Chart Parish Councils. 

Detailed points

1. The development would be out of scale.

Charing ward, including outlying areas, currently has around 1,200 houses (1,135 in the 2011 census and Poppy Fields, a development of 61 houses, has recently been completed). By itself 245 houses would be a 20% increase in size; if current planning permissions and applications are added in this would exceed 30%. With other, generally preferable, sites that have been under discussion and an allowance for windfall the village would be faced with a nearly 50% increase. This is completely unsustainable and would be hugely disruptive both practically and socially.

It is therefore completely contrary to Policy CS1C of the Core Strategy and to Policy HOU4 (in no way is this “minor development”) of the draft local plan. It would be contrary to guidance in the Village Design Statement regarding the avoidance of “hard” edges to the settlement and to sprawl.

Annex A gives details of sites under construction, which have been granted permission, are the subject of current planning applications or are known to be under discussion. 

2. Current facilities would not be able to cope with this expansion.

i) Charing surgery, which services many surrounding villages, is already close to its theoretical physical capacity with patient numbers approaching 10,000. It is already having to plan for additional growth from housing developments in the pipeline and there are often complaints from parishioners regarding difficulties in getting appointments. An additional 500-600 patients from the proposed development would be hugely disruptive. As the comment from the surgery manager shows, Gladman have not consulted with the surgery even when this has been requested.

ii) The analysis from KCC (see KCC letter regarding provision of county community services) shows how local schools are close to capacity. Substantial physical expansion of Charing primary school would be required to cope with additional numbers.

iii) Parking is already very difficult in our main shopping street, the High Street. Given the distance and the pavement issues (see below) most residents from the proposed development would drive rather than walk to the local shops and this would make a difficult parking situation into an impossible one. Many will soon choose to drive elsewhere to places where parking is not an issue so our High Street would not benefit. 

 Again this is contrary to policy HOU4 in the draft local plan.

3. The proposed access has major and serious problems that we do not think can be overcome.

There are so many issues here that it is difficult to know where to start.

i) Eastlands was chosen as the access simply as it was currently up for sale – not as it was the most suitable point.

ii) The proposed access is on a bend with limited visibility. It is well documented (see letters from residents) that the previous owners of Eastwell used regularly to cross the road to help visitors and each other drive out of the property safely. Visibility splays are clearly insufficient at current speeds and are further impeded by vegetation in adjoining gardens which would not be under the control of the developer.

iii) As our letter to the transport planners (see annex 2) demonstrates, the number of vehicles using the road has clearly been seriously underestimated.

iv) As the documents submitted by the applicants show, traffic along the road regularly exceeds the speed limit and it appears accepted that traffic calming would be needed to reduce speeds to 30mph. Even at this speed visibility splays at the entrance seem barely sufficient and if this is not done, splays would be even more insufficient. However, it seems incomprehensible that the means proposed – eg a speed table at the entrance, speed cushions and/or chicanes – can seriously be considered along this road. This is not a residential street but the main access to Pluckley, Smarden and the Weald beyond from the A20 and it is signed (and far too well used) as a lorry route. It is used by emergency vehicles not just to reach other villages but also to reach the emergency accesses to the M20 by the “pincushion”.

The delays and inconvenience to emergency services, the additional noise from vehicles braking and accelerating or traversing speed bumps and cushions and the associated increase in pollution have clearly not been properly considered. It is noted in the application that noise levels on parts of the proposed development would exceed WHO guidelines and traffic calming measures would make this worse.  We note that the safety audit suggested that chicanes would be unlikely to work properly.

KCC’s guidance to traffic calming makes it clear that both residents and emergency services should be consulted in the early stages of considering any scheme. There has been no consultation of residents and no evidence of any consultation of the emergency services. 

v) The entrance is directly opposite a driveway to three houses. There is no pavement on the East side of Pluckley Road at that point so residents of these three houses would be obliged to cross Pluckley Road diagonally at the junction point.  The layout would cause other problems which are well explained in the letter from Colin Burns of 31st March. This problem is ignored in the transport assessment.

4. It would add substantially to the well-known traffic problems on Pluckley and Station Roads and the A20/Station Road junction.

i) As mentioned by many residents the speed and bends on Pluckley and Station Road can cause difficulties already for residents exiting from their homes or from side roads such as Burleigh Road or Hitherfield.  On the transport planning consultancy’s own figures the estate will see additional traffic movements in the order of 1,300 to 1,350 trips per day adding to a road which is already taking far more traffic than it was designed for.

ii) Most traffic from the estate is likely, as the transport assessment states, to turn north travelling through Station Road to the junction with the A20. On the transport consultancy’s own assessment likely traffic flows will reach the point at which capacity problems occur by 2021. Residents already see noticeable backing up of traffic from the junction in peak hours. The dangers of the junction itself are well known; in addition to the injury accidents formally recorded non-injury accidents are frequent. While some allowance has been made by the transport consultancy for other traffic growth in the future, no specific allowance in these calculations appear to have been made for significant new developments along the A20 at Harrietsham and Lenham, nor for proposed developments at Pluckley and Smarden.

iii) Station Road has a notorious pinch point, where its width is under 5m, by the junction with Surgery Close. Two HGVs or other wide vehicles cannot pass each other without one mounting the pavement; such pavement mounting is a regular occurrence and well documented. The bends in the road exacerbate this problem for long vehicles. The impact of pavement mounting is made worse by the fact that pavements are narrow endangering pedestrians. This problem is ignored in the transport assessment.

iv) Pedestrians frequently need to cross Station Road. The pedestrian crossing of the A20 is on the opposite side of Station Road to the surgery, station and parish hall requiring pedestrians from the other side of the A20 using these facilities to cross between the Parish Hall and Surgery Close/car park. The bends in Station road impede sight lines particularly for pedestrians crossing from east to west. Additional traffic will clearly make this even more hazardous for pedestrians. This problem is ignored in the transport assessment.

v) The problems with Station Road were sufficiently serious and well known to be the subject of a meeting attended by KCC and ABC councillors (including the KCC councillor responsible for the Highways portfolio)  and senior officials in June 2015.

vi) The additional traffic on Pluckley and Station Roads would increase the hazard to children walking to school bus pick up points.

vii) Traffic turning south and driving through Pluckley would add to well-known existing traffic problems there. See the objection from Pluckley Parish Council.

viii) The travel plan suggests that some residents of the estate could be persuaded to cycle. The amount of traffic on Pluckley and Station Roads and the problems mentioned above would act as a significant disincentive for this.

ix) Please see the letter from Michael Croom (March 27th) which gives more detail of some of the Puckley and Station Road issues.

5. Pedestrian access to the village centre, the school, the church, bus stops, and even the close-by station and surgery is unsatisfactory and cannot be improved. Wheelchair access is very difficult.

i) While the Station, Surgery and Parish Hall are reasonably close, pedestrians walking to the village centre, school and the nearest bus stop are, according to the transport assessment, faced with trips of 1.2 to 2 km. This by itself is a distance which would persuade many people to go by car particularly in adverse weather, with small children or if they expect to have heavy shopping to carry.

ii) To access all facilities, including the Station and Surgery, pedestrians would need to cross the railway bridge. The pavement here is narrow – 1.00-1.04 metres only with a high kerb.  It is difficult for wheelchair users or for people with pushchairs or small children as single file is the only safe option. Two pedestrians therefore cannot pass easily without one stepping into the road. It is alarming to walk along when an HGV or other large vehicle passes and downright scary if two are trying to pass each other.  Because of the constraints of the bridge there is no possibility of widening the pavement unless the bridge is rebuilt. This problem is ignored in the transport assessment.

iii) To access the village centre, school etc pedestrians will have to cross Station Road which is not always easy (see 4 iv) and will become worse due to the traffic. This problem is ignored in the transport assessment.

iv) These difficulties will add to the disincentive to walk rather than drive.

v) There is no disabled access to the Up platform at the station. This point is ignored in the transport assessment.

vi) The footpath mentioned as an alternative route in the transport assessment is a longer route and is muddy in winter or when wet. It is not normally a viable alternative.

vii) Given the above, the options for sustainable travel set out in the transport plan are clearly over optimistic. The suggestion made in the transport plan that Gladman would fund a bus stop at the entrance to the development would be welcome - if it was on a regular bus route.

 

The problems outlined in 3, 4 and 5 above mean that the proposal is contrary to: NPPF paragraph 32 (second bullet requiring safe and suitable access for all), 35 (third bullet requiring conflict between traffic, cyclists and pedestrians to be minimised), to Ashford Core Strategy policy CS15 (paragraphs 3 to 5), Policies HOU4,TRA5 and TRA7 of the draft Local Plan, and to the guidelines in the Charing Design Statement.

 

6. The proposed drainage plan is unsustainable.  There is a risk of damage to the water supply and increasing flood risk downstream.

i. The drainage plan in the Flood Risk Assessment has a number of unexplained features that bear no resemblance to the land gradients or the existing rainfall run off pattern. These will have a significant impact on groundwater levels and as such the plan is completely unsustainable. We note the objection from KCC Flood and Water Management suggesting a potential increase in flood risk elsewhere (contrary to the requirements of NPPF para 103). Please also see the objection from Michael Exon dated March 17th regarding the proposed increase in water outflow to the stream that runs through his land.

ii. The area is close to the pumping station which supplies water to Charing and the town of Ashford and is in groundwater protection zones 4 and 2c. There is therefore a risk of contamination to the water supply. As the comment from South-East Water points out, drainage will need to be carefully designed to minimise potential impact on groundwater quantity and quality. For the reasons quoted the proposed drainage system would not meet this test and would thus be contrary to policies CS1, CS20 and possibly CS21 of the core strategy, policy TRS17 of the Tenterden and Rural Sites DPD, policies ENV8 and ENV9 of the draft local plan.  

7. Protected species, including dormice, would need to be moved and would be at permanently increased risk from additional cats.

 i) As indicated in the ecological assessment the site is home to protected species including grass snakes, slow worms and dormice. Some of these may have to be moved. Currently only three cats are known to frequent these fields. Substantially more cats would be around if the development happened sharply increasing the risk to the protected species.

ii) The area also contains a wide variety of plants including some at risk from changing ecological conditions (please see the comment from Jacky Langton of April 24th).

8. The historical and archaeological assessments are inadequate (see the letter from Wendy Rogers of KCC heritage).

The inadequacies of the assessments are fully covered in the letter from Wendy Rogers. We have no further comment except to say that the majority of Station Road, which would be seriously affected by construction traffic and the increase in traffic generally, is in the Charing conservation area and contains seven listed buildings most of which are close to the road.

9. The proposed 8 years of development means that neighbours will be exposed to the problems of construction for far too long.

Such a length of development is completely unreasonable. If it will take that long to sell all the houses this by itself suggests that the site is too large.

10. The suggested benefits of the development are largely illusory.

i) The socio-economic benefits outlined all implicitly – or explicitly - assume that the impact of the development is not offset by losses elsewhere. For example (para 3.3.8) “It should be noted that Gladman Developments’ methodology only accounts for outputs coming directly from the proposed development and assumes that the construction workers employed on-site will not cause or be sourced from reductions elsewhere in the labour market (i.e.displacement); nor does the methodology take account of the proportion of outcomes that would have been secured anyway without the development (i.e. deadweight). As such, it is assumed that the majority of construction workers will come from the ‘slack’ stock within the industry, particularly at the local level.” The assessment assumes that the development will provide 254 full time equivalent construction jobs whereas it states that there are only 50 people seeking construction work in the Ashford area so this assumption must be incorrect.

ii) Equally people living in the new development would not have miraculously appeared but would currently be living and spending their money elsewhere.

iii) We also question how much spending power would come to local shops since the development is barely within easy walking distance and parking is very difficult. See comments above (1iii).

iv) Finally, while we do not dispute the general comments on housing affordability based on earnings to house prices, we do challenge the statement that Ashford is particularly unaffordable. The assessment quotes an average house price to average earnings figure of 11.8 for Ashford compared to 10.9 for the south-east and 8.3 for England. However the latest data published in March by the Office for National Statistics had a 2016 median house price to median average gross earnings ratio of 8.63 for Ashford compared to an England average of 7.72; Ashford was lower than the south-east average of 9.43, not higher (1).

 

Charing Parish Council,

6 Haffenden Meadow,

Charing,

Ashford,

Kent.

TN28 0JR

Tel: 01233 713599

cpclerk@charingkent.org

26th April 2017

Annex 1

Housing under construction, granted planning permission, the subject of current planning applications or otherwise under discussion in Charing.

1. Blackberry Lane. 6 New homes under construction

2. Yewtree Park. Planning permission granted for 7 mobile homes and planning application made for 20 additional homes

3.  Orbit and Char 1. Detailed application for 51 age restricted dwellings (detailed planning application) and around 40 open market houses (outline application). Total 91 dwellings on a site that had been earmarked for housing for some years.

4. Former Green Health Club. Planning application for 10 flats submitted.

Total above: 134

Addition sites under dicussion

5. Northdowns Garage. 20 new homes proposed in draft Local Plan

6. Wilkinson  Close Mark 2.  Possible further 6 local needs homes and 2 open market bungalows.

7. Broadway Slip. Owner believed to wish to build 4 to 6 homes

8. Parsons Mead and Land beside Burleigh Bungalow. Under discussion. 35 to 45 homes possible.

 9. Wheler North. Put forward as omission site for around 100 homes.

10. Land adjacent to Lyndhurst House opposite Bowl Road. Put forward as omission site for 5 homes.

Total above: 172 to 184

Grand total: 306 to 320, an increase of 26-27% excluding windfall.


 

Annex 2 – Text of Letter sent to  Prime Transport Planning, 30th March 2017

 

Dear Mr Schumacher and Mr Clements,

Outline Planning Application 17/00303/AS Land South of Railway Line and West of Pluckley Road, Charing, Kent

 Charing Parish Council has recently reviewed this application, including your transport assessments.  We believe there is a clear error in your measurement of the amount of traffic on Pluckley Road. Your figures are not consistent with either previous traffic counts or with your own figures for the junction of Station Road (which Pluckley Road becomes after the railway bridge) with the A20.

I attach a pdf of a previous survey carried out in 2012 by DHA Transport for Future Biogas Ltd. Please review the detailed data in the appendix on pages 88 to 101 for the fifth measuring point which measured traffic on Pluckley Road.  You will see that peak hour flows are considerably higher than yours (even though 2012 was still affected by the economic overhang from the financial crisis). To take just one example, peak weekday am flows northbound averaged 223 vehicles per hour according to DHA compared to your 121. 

The traffic flow diagrams in appendix C of your assessment also show that the Pluckley Road counts are inconsistent with the counts you report for the Station Road/A20 junction. At the am peak your 121 vehicles travelling north appear to become 256. This is clearly impossible given the absence of any major feeder road between the two count points. Southbound traffic flows for the am peak and both north- and southbound flows for the pm peak show similar inconsistencies.

The figures you have for the junction are both more realistic and consistent with earlier surveys allowing for the pick-up in the economy between 2012 and 2015. I can also add that a 2005 survey on Station Road produced data broadly consistent with the 2012 figures.

The only conclusion must therefore be that your Pluckley Road counts are wrong.

In addition we would like to ask why your transport assessment took no account of the following points:

·        The narrowness of the pavements at points between the proposed development and the A20 crossroads – in particular the pavement over the railway bridge and that at points on the east side of Station Road

·        The well-known pinch point on Station Road where the narrowness of the carriageway means that for two HGVs or other wide vehicles to pass one another one has to mount the pavement

·        The fact that pedestrians walking to and from the village centre to the Surgery, station and parish hall who use the pedestrian traffic light crossing on the A20 have to cross Station Road, battling with poor sightlines when crossing from East to West. Residents from the proposed development  will have to make this crossing too

·        Difficulties for disabled people with eg the narrow pavements and the lack of disabled access to the Up platform at the Station.

May we suggest that you review your findings in the light of the undercount on Pluckley Road and the points above?

Finally we were intrigued to note from the email exchanges at the back of the Transport Assessment that you both started work on this project you were part of Gladman. May I ask whether you feel able to exercise the required degree of independence from you former employer?

©charingparishcouncil 2012 

Copyright of all material remains with the original contributors. No material should be reproduced in any form without the permission of the contributors. If in doubt, advice should be sought from the Parish Clerk before any material is reproduced.

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