Following Councillor Simon Cook’s statement at the last Bridge Parish Council meeting indicating that Canterbury City Council are considering the possibility of further house building at Brickfields in Bridge, we can now confirm that a suggestion by council officers to build 40 new homes at Brickfields is to be discussed by the Policy Resources Committee on 11th November 2015. If given the go-ahead it will be put to the full City Council on 19th November 2015.
The suggestion is just one of a number of possible amendments to the Canterbury District Local Plan which will be considered. Despite the plan’s proposals for nearly 16,000 new homes in the district, it recently failed to gain approval from the government’s inspector because it did not provide a constant five year supply of new housing as planning law now demands.
The suggestion for 40 new homes on Brickfields is a smaller number than the 90-115 which was first considered (and rejected) by the city council when preparing its Local Plan, but it is five times larger than the suggestion for 8 put forward by Bridge Parish Council in their offered allocation for the plan. If the new suggestion for Brickfields is supported by councillors on the 19th, a formal proposal will be put forward and a consultation process, along with the various environmental and infrastructure assessments of the Brickfields site, will begin.
Interestingly Brickfields was chosen for consideration again, despite being rejected the first time round, because it was offered up in Bridge Parish Council’s draft Neighbourhood Plan, and because it scored highly in an initial unofficial and preliminary Sustainability Assessment by a contractor. Having spoken to that contractor and studied their assessment methodology, BridgeNature.org is able to suggest that the type of assessment which was conducted was not entirely suitable as a means of locating and ranking building plots against each other in the way that it was. Further, having conducted our own sustainability study of Brickfields using the official criteria, we believe that this proposal at Brickfields would not pass muster in a full, properly conducted Sustainability Assessment which took ‘real world’ factors of the location into account.
We remind readers that, contrary to some popular local myths, Brickfields is a greenfield site within an AONB and within Bishopsbourne Conservation Area. In law, the fact that some of the field was dug for clay many years ago does not make it a brownfield site any more than if it had been dug for turnips. In law, the fact that it was targeted in 1963 for more building works by the developer of Western Avenue does not mean that planning permission was granted, or that any such permission would apply today. In fact, the opposite occurred, the land became protected in 1968. In law, the fact the Bridge Parish Council labelled Brickfields an ‘exception site’ in their draft Neighbourhood Plan, does not mean that it is an exception site: it is not. Exceptional permission to build has not yet been granted and the field does not become an exception site until it has been.
The 40 new dwellings now suggested for Brickfields, combined with 30 more off the High Street near Conyngham Lane, totals some 70 new houses which were neither outlined in the original Canterbury District Local Plan, nor the draft Bridge Neighbourhood Plan. All the proposed houses would be on greenfield land, within an AONB and within Conservation Areas which, in theory, should mean that most of them are refused permission at the outset; but we doubt that will happen. Assuming at least 30 percent of the total built would be allocated for affordable housing, that would far exceed the valid ‘need’ (not want) assessed by recent surveys in the village, and it would breach planning law regarding building in an AONB, which should only occur when there is a specific and proven need for affordable housing in the immediate area. To address general need locally there are currently plans to build many hundreds of affordable homes just three minutes away at Mountfield Park on Barton Farm.
In their objections to the Canterbury District Local Plan, The Campaign to Protect Rural England argued that the plan was overly ambitious to the extent that it probably would not be able to deliver; a fault which would result in various other inappropriate, non-planned sites having to take up the slack. It seems they may have been right!