BATTLE LINES REDRAWN

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that any landowner should want to maximise income from their property, and that any landowner should therefore possess hope that all their land be upgraded: from agricultural to commercial and from commercial to residential, and that the slightest tinge of beige on their land will result in it being declared “a brown field site” and therefore ripe for development.

Similarly it isn’t surprising that everyone else will object to development. What more does development constitute after all than noise and pollution and more hassle and somebody else’s gain? Why should anyone agree to that?

Neighbourhood Plans were designed to try to secure consensus in communities regarding development and, here in Wye, our Neighbourhood Plan has to a large part been successful in this. The community has been widely consulted. A number of points of view have been presented. The plan is now written and lodged with Ashford Borough Council awaiting a review by an inspector.

It may come as no surprise to him/her, given the traditional battlelines of landowner and neighbour outlined above, to find that there is broad community consensus expressed in the plan but that not all landowners are in favour. Indeed there are a couple of notable objectors who have lodged comments on the Ashford Planning website set up for the purpose.

The first is Ed Cyster, who owns the Harville Farm to the west of Wye, who is about to develop the site known as WYE2, and who has recently applied for planning permission to convert one of the barns close to Wye Court into an MOT testing station. He has objected to the plan (quelle surprise) through DHA Planning on the basis that he wasn’t consulted on the community’s decision to reject WYE06 (sometimes called WYE 2B) as a future site for development (there was a questionnaire?), and saying that housing allocation in the Neighbourhood Plan was based on out of date figures.

I’m sure if I were in his shoes I’d be clutching at similar straws.

The second are the new owners of the WYE3 site: Telereal Trillium. Similarly, they play the ‘out of date’ card, saying that their own decision to allow Wye School to permanently reside in the Kempe Centre makes it so. This, they claim, means that much of the wording around the Grade 1 and Grade 2 listed college buildings needs to be rewritten as there is no longer any chance that Wye School will be a tenant.

I’m not sure that’s the case. It’s more straw-clutching. The policies surrounding the Grade 1 and Grade 2 buildings already entertain a number of different uses.

Looking at some of the other comments from Telereal Trillium, it becomes clear that they do not consider the consultation around the Neighbourhood Plan to be of much consequence. They consider for example the idea of a walkable settlement to be arbitrarily drawn at 400 meters rather than arrived at by consultation. They also perceive the ADAS site to be ripe for residential development, dismissing the community’s idea for a solar farm on the site. And they see no reason at all to specify how many houses might be built in the community, preferring to itemise a list of places ripe for development in WYE3 (the Grade 1 and 2 buildings, other buildings in Wye, the ADAS site and finally the brownfield land alongside Occupation Road (is it really brown?).

I think such comments negate any idea that these people might be wanting to work ‘with the community’.

It is perhaps unfortunate that the purchase of WYE3 occurred at this late stage in the progression of the Neighbourhood Plan. The result is that our first real connection with Telereal Trillium is in the form of this rather negative and, with regard to development, aggressive document. They are just interested in making money. As far as they are concerned, the rest of us can go to hell.

The battle lines have been redrawn and it’s clear that we still have a fight on our hands. Up sticks all…

About jasperbouverie

I am Jasper Bouverie. I have two blogs: jasperbouverie.com which is about promoting sustainability in the village of Wye in Kent (and beyond); and FunderFilms.com which I will fill with short films dedicated to promoting social and environmental awareness and change. Find me on Twitter: funderfilms and finelinej
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