Activists continue to fight the ‘decimation’ of Thanet farmland – The Isle Of Thanet News

UNDER CONCRETE: Campaigners have produced this map to show the estimated loss of farmland to development

Campaign groups protesting against the decimation of farmland for Thanet housing estates say around 40% of high-quality land could be lost forever.

Westgate & Garlinge Action Group and Birchington Action Group Against Homes on Farmland are urging people to oppose plans for thousands of homes to be built on Tier 1, 2 food producing land and 3 in Thanet.

The construction of 450 homes on 50 acres of farmland off Shottendane Road was one of the developments which activists say would ‘damage irreparably’ the island and protesters say they are encouraged by the rejection of the current proposals, but the battle continues.

Ros Tapp, from the campaign group and a member of a long-time farming family, said a petition against construction on Shottendane’s best farmland had been signed by some 3,000 people in just days, showing the strength of feelings across the island.

Thanet has some of the most fertile land in the UK which is used for crops such as premium potatoes, wheat, barley, cauliflower, rapeseed and maize for biofuels. Campaigners say this food production will be lost forever if the development of agricultural land is not halted.

Land intended for development Photo Jack Scott

Thanet Local Plan was adopted on July 9, 2020. It is a master plan for the development of the district until 2031. The plan sets out the extent of development needed to support the future population and economy .

Thanet’s local plan calls for the construction of 17,140 homes between 2011 and 2031. Of these, 2,704 had been completed by March 2019.

Between 2021 and 2026, the plan indicates that 1,200 houses should be completed each year, which equates to a total of 6,000 properties. Over the period 2026-2031, this number increases to 1,317 per year for a total of 6,585.

The plan is currently being revised, with a call for more development sites, to take it to 2040.

An estimated 750 hectares of fertile farmland are set to be lost to development, including 2,000 homes in Westgate and Garlinge, 1,600 homes in Birchington, up to 250 in Minster and 785 in Manston Green. Further farmland has been lost at Cliffsend and will likely be built at Shottendane once plans change.

Farmland in Shottendane earmarked for housing development

Surprisingly, campaign groups say some farmers who produce food on the land were not even consulted on development proposals.

A submission by Neil Woodward on behalf of the Westgate Group said: “This landscape is vital for food production and the birds of protected farmland.

“By not engaging with local farmers throughout the planning process and by not considering current land use and the economic viability of the farmer producing food on these two fields ( Shottendane), the central character area is likely to lose current agricultural practices, eroding the current benefits it provides.

The statement adds: “All of these developments are in the same character area and combined will result in the loss of 30-40% of the high quality agricultural land that should be saved.

“The remaining central farmland will be cut up by road improvements, footpaths and bridleways.

“All of this is on land belonging to the same farmer who operates the Shottendane fields. None of this has been evaluated. We know this because the farmer was never consulted.

Land for development in Minster

Rose added: “Tenant farmers have no say in whether a landlord wishes to sell their land for subdivisions. Loss of land in an agricultural business results in loss of income and profitability. This puts additional pressure on farmers who are already trying to adapt to new environmental land management schemes. We should be supporting agriculture and food businesses, not destroying them. »

This week, a relaxation of planning laws was announced in the Queen’s Speech. The programming bill will mean decisions on new development will be made via the zoning of land either for growth, where developers will be allowed to build homes and related infrastructure without individual planning consents, or for protection where development will be restricted.

The new bill aims to increase the number of planned housing units across the country by more than a third and significantly speed up the planning process.

Sir Roger Gale, MP for North Thanet

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale told Parliament this week: “About a million planning permits have been granted for houses not yet built. That million would make a huge difference. A vast swath of brownfields is available to build, and Kent MPs will not sit idly by and vote for measures that will turn the Garden of England into a construction site. I told my right hon. Friend the prime minister before, and I’ll say it again now: we shouldn’t use arable land – tier 1 arable land in particular – for development until all other available sites, especially in cities, have been used and that all planning consents have been exhausted.

“Kent MPs want a moratorium on the use of farmland for development until all other options have been exhausted. We will fight against this and vote against the planning bill if necessary.

Thanet Farmland

Photo Ros Tapp

Thanet is approximately 40 square miles or 10,330 hectares. Of this total, approximately 6,000 hectares are agricultural land. An estimated 1,500 hectares are in flood risk areas, leaving some 4,500 of the best and most versatile land. It is estimated that 600-750 hectares of this area will be lost if current developments are approved.

Westgate land, intended for 2,000 homes, is the site of award-winning malting barley and high yields of premium crops.

Strategic sites approved for development include:

Westwood 1,450

Birchington-on-Sea 1,600

Westgate on the sea 2,000

Manston Green (building permit granted therefore not counted in allowances)785

Land at Manston Court/Haine Road 1400

Land north and south of Shottendane Road 550

Facing Nash/Haine 1020 roads

Other sites/housing areas 1,691

The rural allowances are:

Tothill Street, Minster 250

Land at Manor Road, St Nicholas 10

Land at Walter’s Hall Farm, Monkton 20

Land south side of A253, Cliffsend 62

Land north of Cottington Road, Cliffsend 41

Builders Yard south of 116-124 Monkton Street, Monkton 20

Former Jentex site Canterbury Road West, Cliffsend 56

Foxborough Lane (south side), Minster 35

Land at the length, Saint-Nicolas 25

Young Nursery, Arundel Road, Cliffsend 12

A 2,500 housing allocation on the Manston Airport site was scrapped in 2018 after a vote to keep aviation use only on the ground. The 2,500 homes were then reallocated to other sites including Minster, Birchington and Westgate.

Find the petition Say NO to further loss of farmland in Thanet here

Amalia H. Mercado