Nailbourne

Biodiversity on the bund

Spring 2017 and the bund along the Nailbourne has been strimmed; but is it necessary at this time of year? Image © Copyright BridgeNature.org 2017.

Those who regularly stroll in Bridge Meadows will have noticed that, in the last days of April, the flood prevention bund which runs along the bank of the Nailbourne between the ford on Mill Lane and Bridge Place was strimmed to bring the long grass and wild plants down to ground level. This was maintenance work done by the Environment Agency in what was set to become an annual spring cutting programme to prevent the growth on the bund becoming too high and too permanent. Access for regular inspection of the bund is important and it therefore needs to be kept in manageable condition.

However, BridgeNature.org has been in contact with the EA to see if the annual cutting of the wild plants on the bund can be rescheduled for autumn. This would preserve an important wild habitat for many riverside plants and creatures through the spring and summer, while there is minimal risk of flooding.

We are pleased to report that experts at the EA have been most open to the idea of rescheduling the maintenance to improve wildlife biodiversity through the summer. Strimming will now cease in the spring and become an annual event each September. The work will include a ‘preamble’ along the bund to inspect the area for wildlife and trigger escapes before the area is strimmed. The inspection will also provide an important pre-winter check for the bund itself.

As a further consequence of the initiative, BridgeNature.org has been invited to assist the EA by monitoring wildlife along the Nailbourne and the bund so that measures can be put in place to safeguard specific animals or rare plants should it be deemed necessary. If members of the public become aware of any particular issues of concern we would be grateful to hear about them.

 

The myth of ‘The Balance of Nature’

Nature does not stand balanced like some perfectly poised dancer pirouetting on a bar. Little Egret, Bridge. 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016

“The idea of a balance of nature has been a dominant part of Western philosophy since before Aristotle, and it persists in the public imagination and even among some ecologists today. In fact Nature is not in balance, nor has it ever been at any stage in Earth’s history.”
John Kricher. ‘The Balance of Nature; ecology’s enduring myth.’

On 7 February 2017 we finally had to concede that the Nailbourne had dried up. Not a trickle ran in constant flow through Bridge. Since it is a bourne, an occasional stream, which leaks from fissures in the chalk beneath East Kent, this is not to be unexpected; but it spells disaster for our local wildlife and the precious ecosystem of a rare chalk stream. A rich and varied biodiversity nurtured by the cool springwater will be lost: a delicate, heirarchical food chain which was gradually establishing itself in the heart of our valley will break and fail. Many species will either die or move elsewhere.

It is a populist notion that such events are all part of what some people call the ‘Balance of Nature’. They are not. Balance implies a system of self-correction, a sustained position of equilibrium. This is not what happens in Nature. The natural world does not stand balanced like some perfectly poised dancer pirouetting on a bar; it reels and lurches from one disaster to another, like a confused boxer losing badly in a fight.

“Nature is not a balance, it is just one catastrophe after another!”
Professor Richard Dawkins

When a natural catastrophe occurs on a large scale in a meteor strike, a flood, a volcanic eruption, or, on a smaller scale, perhaps the drying up of a village pond or a local spring, there is destruction and there is death. This creates a vacuum in the natural world and Nature abhors a vacuum. Something, in a quest for survival, will fill it; this invariably will be some species of plant or creature which is more suited to the new environment. An opportunity arises, something seizes it, but this opportunism must not be confused with ‘balance’, for the state of things will now be different, the equilibrium has not somehow been restored. Things have changed and in consequence there may now be a new order in the food chain, a new king ruling the jungle. He will rule as long as the new conditions remain or until the next catastrophe arrives to topple him from his place. It’s a continuing struggle for survival in which each individual in each species fights for itself in the face of ever looming death. In the 3.5 billion year history of life on Earth, over 99% of all the species that ever lived here are thought to have become extinct, either because they just couldn’t live in the environment in which they found themselves, or because a new, more advanced or adapted species was able to out compete them. This is a process called ‘speciation’ and we modern humans may face it one day as did Neanderthal man who failed to compete with us.

Mother Nature is not of gentle mind, she is a violent and ruthless ruler in her empire of the sun. Her flowers bloom sublime, but don’t be confused by her apparent charm and her fondness for the young: she has no compassion. Her disasters appear random, but they are all a consequence of her brutal rule. There is an order in the chaos, but it is heartless, inequitable and cruel. Life on Earth staggers on, trying to navigate through constant adversity and change: ‘carpe diem’, seize the day and do your best to survive, but be assured your death will come and you won’t be calling it a balance when the reaper swings his scythe.

Sometimes we think we see Mother Nature as a beauty, dancing elegantly to illuminate our lives in the darkness of her universe. Her beauty, her dancing and even the colours of her dress are mere mirage; but the miracle, the sublime, spectacular miracle, is that she ever manages to stand at all. We must hope we never live long enough to know when she finally collapses and her empire turns to dust.

 

 

Of brilliance and tragedy

Kingfisher at the Old Sheep Dip, Bishopsbourne, 1 Nov 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Kingfisher at the Old Sheep Dip, Bishopsbourne, 1 Nov 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Why is the Kingfisher so called? You may wonder how this diminutive bird earned his regal title. He does not have the majestic posture of the heron, or the fearsome aura of the osprey, but stand quietly on the bridge on Sheep Dip Lane for a few moments, watch a Kingfisher exercising his skills in the Old Sheep Dip, and you too may agree that this extraordinary little bird really is the sovereign of his craft.

This year, once again, we have at least one pair of Kingfishers living on our bourne and delighting all those who get a glimpse of them. They are mesmerising birds to watch: their colours in flight are brilliant and their skill is incredible, even though everything they do appears to be done at great speed. They arrive in a flash of electric blue darting low across the water, then perch on a prominent rock or branch overlooking a stretch of slow moving water watching for fish and small swimming creatures. When prey is sighted, they will plunge in a curving dive to enter the water, sometimes several feet away from their vantage point, and rarely seem to fail to make a catch. This is in part because of their the ability to switch instantly between two forms of vision: in the air their vision is monocular, but under water it is binocular, meaning they can instantly correct for the refraction of light in water to retain sight of their prey.

When a fish is caught the Kingfisher will return it to the perch, ensure it is dead, clasp it more aerodynamically in the beak, then, with great urgency it will fly off to feed the young in the nest. This will be a burrow two to three feet long, somewhere along the riverbank. There may be up to six chicks waiting eagerly for food, and with each of them needing perhaps a dozen small fish a day, the parent birds have a busy time keeping them fed.

As a species the Kingfisher is a master predator whose future seems secure; as individuals, from day one their lives are full of hazards. If they survive in the nest, free of predators and fluctuating river levels long enough to start fishing for themselves, they may drown at the first attempt, or they may be driven from their home before they learn sufficient survival skills. Many youngsters die within the first couple of weeks of leaving the nest. Then, with the onset of winter and freezing temperatures, ponds ice over and fish hide deeper, food is harder to find and many Kingfishers simply die of starvation or exposure. Only a quarter of all our Kingfishers, including the young, are thought to live from one breeding season into the next (1). That proportion appears to be enough to keep the species in continuity, for now, but we must treasure these crown jewels of the riverbank and do what we can to ensure our lives do not restrict theirs.

In Britain the appalling children’s ‘sport’ of throwing stones at Kingfishers thrived, with official encouragement, for centuries, but today these iconic little birds are specifically listed for special protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and extra penalties apply to anyone who harms them or disturbs a nest.

(1) RSPB figure.

A visit from the Shovelers

Male Shoveler duck, Bourne Park, 31 Oct 2016. Image © Copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Male Shoveler duck, Bourne Park, 31 Oct 2016. Image © Copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

This week we have seen the arrival of some Shoveler ducks (at least two males, possibly two pairs) on the lake at Bourne Park. The Shoveler is about the same size as the mallard, and while the male is quite different in appearance from the male mallard, with large areas of white, patches of brown and a very dark green head, the female is a less spectacular mottled brown, which makes it harder to distinguish at distance from a female mallard. However, the most distinctive feature of both male and female Shovelers, if you can get close enough to observe it, is the large wide bill which it sweeps from side to side on the surface of the water or wet marsh mud looking for food. The edge of the bill has comb-like structures on it which allow the bird to effectively filter water and mud for the small edible creatures which it lives on.

Female Shoveler duck, Bourne Park, 17 Nov 2016. Image © Copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Female Shoveler duck, Bourne Park, 17 Nov 2016. Image © Copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

During the Summer the Shoveler is a fairly common water bird in the South East of England and up the North Sea coast to the Humber Estuary, but it is rare in other parts of the country. In Winter many other Shovelers fly south from Scandinavia to substantially boost the numbers here.

We have not recorded Shovelers on the lake at Bourne Park before. Those that we did see were very shy of humanity and kept their distance.

A flower of evening

Evening Primrose. Bridge Meadows. September 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Evening Primrose. Bridge Meadows. September 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Down in the meadows, in the first field off Brewery Lane, there stands tall, on the raised bank of the Nailbourne, one single specimen of Evening Primrose. Despite the name, it is not really a primrose at all, but its pale yellow petals have a similar allure and the same softness of hue when each new flower opens into bloom in the evenings of late summer.

The Evening Primrose is distinguished by its tall stem with flowers (usually yellow, but not always) growing off it towards the top, and for the cross shaped stigma in the centre of the flower. It is now considered a naturalised British wild flower but actually all the fifteen species to be seen in this country originated in the Americas, from regions as diverse as Chile and Canada, and many arrived here only in the 19th century.

We can be sure this Evening Primrose was not planted there upon the bank: instead it is far more likely that at some point since the flood bund was created a couple of years ago a seed will have dropped from a passing bird and nestled into the mud. The ability to spread and thrive in this way makes the plant a ‘Primary Coloniser’, one of the first plants to settle in newly disturbed or barren ground. Once it has flowered and produced seeds, this plant will die off leaving somewhere between 25,000 to 100,000 seeds to be eaten by birds or dispersed in the wind, but very few of these new seeds will ever get to germinate.

Of course many people will know of the Evening Primrose, and the oil derived from it, for its legendary ability to heal ailments of all kinds: a huge industry has been built upon it. However, some distinguished medical scientists insist there is no proven scientific evidence of the plant’s ability to heal anything at all.

Some of us just enjoy seeing the flowers lighting up the riverbank.

Sidney Cooper’s cows

Cattle in the Nailbourne. July/August 2014. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Cattle in the Nailbourne. July/August 2014. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

The recent sunny weather has, at times, made it rather hot for walking about in the fields, but one way of cooling down is to have a paddle in the Nailbourne as it flows through the meadows. The picture above, taken this same week in the summer of 2014, shows our local cows paddling near the pond. Watching cattle in our dreamy local landscape, some of us may be reminded of the paintings of Thomas Sidney Cooper.

Sidney Cooper, as he become known, was a local lad, born in Canterbury in 1803. After showing promise as a youngster with his paintings and drawings from nature in the local area, he studied at the Royal Academy in London. He became famous for what were at the time considered truthful, realistic pictures of cattle and sheep and this reputation earned him the nickname ‘Cow Cooper’, an epithet of which he may possibly not have been particularly proud; although he became very successful in his field, so it apparently did him no great harm.

It is well recorded that he painted farm animals within the Canterbury District, particularly along the Great Stour, and it is not too far fetched to imagine that he may also have visited Bridge with his paints and his canvas and an old wooden easel. However, despite his prowess at painting animals, Sidney often called in an associate called Frederick Richard Lee to paint the landscape within which his animals were set. This scenery was often of a rather ethereal and romantic nature, in contrast to the supposed truth of Cooper’s portrayal of the animals themselves.

In Canterbury, Cooper set up a small art school which was known as the Canterbury Sidney Cooper School of Art. His great nephew William Sidney Cooper attended the school and followed the same path painting farm animals and landscapes, also with great success. Another of the school’s students was a certain Mary Tourtel who became famous for her stories of Rupert Bear.

Many of Sidney Cooper’s paintings of cows and sheep are now owned by the Tate Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, but the largest collection is in the Beaney Institute in Canterbury.

Whence the water?

In the meadows behind Bridge Place the bourne is reduced to a stream but it is still flowing.

In the meadows behind Bridge Place the bourne is reduced to a stream but it is still flowing.

Stand on one of the wooden bridges in the meadows behind Bridge Place, look down at the Nailbourne and you might get the impression that all is well with our little bourne as it trickles beneath your feet. But take a stroll through the meadows to Bourne Park and the source of this flow becomes more uncertain. Is the bourne still flowing? Has it stopped and what we see is the draining of the lake? Or is there yet another, more mysterious, source?

At the sheep dip the Nailbourne looks its usual self, and the presence of Little Egrets, Kingfishers and a heron suggest plenty of small fish remain.

The Sheep Dip. 13 Oct 2015.

At the sheep dip the Nailbourne looks its usual self, and the presence of little egrets, kingfishers and a heron suggests plenty of small fish remain in the water.

At the lake in Bourne Park the level of water is substantially lower than at the beginning of the summer.

Bourne Park lake. 13 Oct 2015.

At the lake in Bourne Park, the level of water is substantially lower than at the beginning of the summer.

This is the scene where the Nailbourne (no longer flowing) joins the stream (left) from the spring in Bourne Park.

The junction of the two flows. Bourne Park. 13 Oct 2015

Above, the scene where the Nailbourne (no longer flowing in from Bishopsbourne) joins the stream (left) which runs from the spring in Bourne Park.

The dry Nailbourne channel looking towards Bishopsbourne.

Bourne Park, looking towards Bishopsbourne. 13 Oct 2015.

Looking across the park towards the house of Joseph Conrad we see that the Nailbourne is clearly no longer flowing in from Bishopsbourne and beyond.

In the channel of the stream from the spring at Bourne Park this looks like a puddle, but it is flowing.

The channel from the spring at Bourne Park. 13 Oct 2015.

Water in the channel of the stream from the spring at Bourne Park looks just like a puddle, but it is flowing at a trickle.

Further towards the spring in Bourne Park the channel is just mud.

The spring channel, Bourne Park. 13 Oct 2015.

Yet further up, towards the spring near Oswald’s Cottage, the channel is just a muddy ditch.

The spring or bourne which gave Bourne Park its name is just a big puddle. To the right is the channel which would run off towards Bridge if the spring were in flow.

The bourne at Bourne Park. 11 Oct 2015.

Reaching the spring or bourne which gave Bourne Park its name, we see it is now just a big pool. To the right is the channel which would run off through the park towards Bridge if the spring were flowing.

So after many months of continuous flow, the Nailbourne, as we know it, has ceased. The stream currently trickling through Bridge appears to be water draining from the lake at Bourne Park, perhaps supplemented by water seeping from fissures somewhere along the channel. Unless we have high levels of rainfall the flow through Bridge will presumably stop completely soon, as it has already in Bishopsbourne and villages upstream. Going into winter this scenario would perhaps be welcomed by Bridge residents who have previously experienced flooding, but it would present a natural disaster for the wildlife which has made the bourne its home for the last year or two. The absence of the bourne may only be temporary, but while it is gone its magical influence in our valley will be sorely missed by those who love the wildlife it nurtures.

Addendum. 19 November 2015.
One month later the bourne is still running through Bridge and, although the channel from Bishopsbourne remains dry and the largest spring in Bourne Park still appears not to be flowing, the water level in the lake remains about the same. BridgeNature.org has identified the position of a number of possible fissures along the bourne channel from which it appears water must be seeping. Whether or not these seeping points are technically considered to be additional springs or just underground run on or leakage points from the same source we don’t know.

Tankers pumping again

A Southern Water tanker working again in Bishopsbourne. 11 Feb 2015.

A Southern Water tanker working again in Bishopsbourne. 11 Feb 2015.

Residents of the Nailbourne Valley may be disturbed to hear that Southern Water have begun tankering operations again on pipes connecting to the main sewer running through the valley.

According to Alan Atkinson, the Bridge Parish Councillor who liaises with Southern Water and monitors their local activities, the water company began tankering work again last Saturday as a precautionary measure. Tankers are taking sewage from a lateral pipeline behind a row of houses on The Street at Bishopsbourne and we understand it will be taken to the Canterbury water treatment plant or one further down the valley towards Sandwich. This action is to relieve pressure on the main sewer because groundwater levels are so high: at least one house further along the row adjoining the Mermaid pub has an ingress of groundwater into their sump and this is being pumped out into the street.

Many residents may be surprised that pumping is again necessary after what we were told were extensive repairs to the sewer network and a relatively dry winter. However we should point out that this is stage one of any emergency plan, it is precautionary, it does not involve release of sewage into the river and in fact its very purpose is to prevent risk of any such leakage.

The river runs high

The Nailbourne at Barham Sunday 25 January 2015.

The Nailbourne at Barham Sunday 25 January 2015.

For most of this winter the water running in the Nailbourne through Bridge has been coming, not from Lyminge and the river channel through Barham, but solely from the spring in Bourne Park. However, just a couple of weeks ago the Environment Agency’s latest groundwater levels update stated that, despite what many regard as a relatively dry winter, they were becoming concerned about high levels of groundwater in the valley, and dramatically increased river flow was probable.

As the EA accurately indicated, a few nights of heavy rainfall recently have been enough to cause the underground acquifers to spill their brim and the river is now in full flow through Barham, Kingston, Bishopsbourne, Bridge and beyond.

Because of the high level of water in the river, last weekend, the 24th and 25th of January, saw the brand new flood barrier at Mill Lane, Bridge brought into action for the first time and Mill Lane is now closed to traffic.

Those who visit the river frequently will note that the water level seems to fluctuate quite a lot during the day, so anyone seeing low levels may be tempted to wonder why the barrier is in place. Return a few hours later and the answer may be more clear.

January 2015 and the new flood barrier at Mill Lane, Bridge is called into action for the first time.

January 2015 and the new flood barrier at Mill Lane, Bridge is called into action for the first time.

New Bridge Neighbourhood Plan greeted with dismay

The fields at Brickfields, pictured here in October 2014, are not a building site, they are Grade 2 (very good) agricultural land within a Conservation Area and an AONB.

The fields at Brickfields, pictured here in October 2014, are not a building site, they are Grade 2 (very good) agricultural land within a Conservation Area and an AONB.

On Saturday many Bridge residents received a copy of the Consultation Draft of the new Neighbourhood Plan. The plan is a proposal for a legally binding document, covering the future direction of a variety of aspects of our village for the next 16 years, and it has been put together by a committee, some of whom are not elected members of Bridge Parish Council and are not named in the plan so, unfortunately, we have little idea of who they are and what are their interests and associations. We understand that Bridge Parish Council itself has not yet approved the draft plan and they will vote on whether or not to formally adopt the final plan at a later stage.

BridgeNature.org being an advocate of environmental protection, our particular concerns within the proposed plan concern any proposals for building development on green field land in the area and any other policies which may have environmental impact in our Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and green spaces. In this respect one might initially be reassured by the statement on page 16 of the plan which says:
“The Neighbourhood Plan will continue to oppose any development in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) on the south side of Canterbury to maintain the existing open space.”

Bridge is of course within the AONB on the south side of Canterbury. It is astonishing then to discover these policies put forward in the plan:
“Policy C2
To support further development at Brickfields, Mill Lane for more affordable, rentable family homes with local connection restrictions.”

“Policy C3
To support the small-scale development of ‘retirement’ dwelling units that allow local people to down-size but stay within the community.”

“Policy C4
To provide at least one small home with two or fewer bedrooms for every one large dwelling with four or more bedrooms.”

BridgeNature.org greets these policies with dismay, and we remind readers that Brickfields is green field land in a Conservation Area within our protected AONB. Building on such land is not permitted in law unless a case can be proven for exceptional need to do so. Section 14 of the National Planning Policy Framework 2012 (the current law) states:

“14. At the heart of the National Planning Policy Framework is a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which should be seen as a golden thread running through both plan-making and decision-taking.

For decision-taking this means:10

approving development proposals that accord with the development plan

without delay; and

where the development plan is absent, silent or relevant policies are

out of date, granting permission unless:

–– specific policies in this Framework indicate development should be restricted.9

9. For example, those policies relating to sites protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives (see paragraph 119) and/or designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest; land designated as Green Belt, Local Green Space, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Heritage Coast or within a National Park.”

The Neighbourhood plan’s next policy, Policy 5 appears to create more confusion:

“Policy C5
To make maximum use of brown field sites for housing development and not support building on green field sites unless they have been designated as exception sites. (Policy C2 above).”

Referring back to ‘Policy C2 above’  which supports building on the field at Brickfields may give readers the impression that Brickfields has already been marked for housing because it has been designated as an ‘exception site’. This would be a misunderstanding of the facts. The National Planning Policy Framework 2012 allows for local authorities to make exceptions to planning restrictions on green field land if a need can be shown for small scale rural developments of affordable housing, providing a number of other strict criteria can be met. Any area of such building would be an ‘exception site’. Brickfields has not been the subject of any formally accepted application or legally verified investigation of these criteria since the introduction of NPPF 2012, so to label it a designated exception site would be wrong. Amidst this confusion, by saying that it will… ‘not support building on green field sites unless they have been designated as exception sites’ Policy 5 can be read as indicating that the plan will support building development on any of our local green fields, all of which are potential ‘exception sites,’ if special need and criteria can be proven by interested persons. This is an alarming confusion.

So what are the special circumstances which would justify building more housing on protected green field land? Primarily affordable housing for locally connected people if a need can be shown. The plan indicates that the current affordable housing was over subscribed. Surely this is inevitable: there is no doubt that the country is short of housing and lots of people with some family or historical connection to Bridge would like to live in brand new, affordable housing overlooking beautiful countryside. But that doesn’t explain an exceptional need to build within a Conservation Area and AONB here in Bridge when we are about to see 4,000 houses built a short walk away just across the A2 at Barton Farm. There are few jobs in Bridge and we only have one school which has limited places (at primary school level only) so any new residents are likely to travel frequently to Canterbury past Barton Farm in any case for work, schooling, shopping and other activities.

By law, any new affordable housing development must comply with sustainability guidelines. The land at Brickfields and other fields on the edge of the village has been shown not to comply with those guidelines on a whole range of criteria because housing there would inevitably exacerbate our water, drainage and sewerage infrastructure problems and place a further burden on our school, medical and transport facilities while encroaching on the green fields of our AONB.

One might have assumed that last winter’s flooding disaster, right through the Nailbourne Valley, with groundwater and sewage entering people’s homes, might have put paid to any further talk of housing development in the area, so it is astonishing that it should be proposed now. However the plan adds a caveat on page 9.
” In view of recent flooding in the village (2000/1 and 2013/14) the plan will campaign vigourously to ensure that any new housing development has adequate drainage and sewerage facilities….”
It goes on to list some of its demands in Policy E2 indicating that: Surface water is… only discharged into the ground. Surface water will not be permitted to discharge …into the Nailbourne, …the water gully, …a combined sewer  …the foul water system.

So where do the authors of the plan think the surface water from these developments is going to go, and what are they going to campaign for? The plan advocates Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) for any new homes. So, what are SuDS? Essentially they are areas of nice green space that soak up the water; a great idea in cities, but on the outskirts of Bridge green space is exactly what the new houses would be covering up! The idea doesn’t make sense, because SuDS are primarily about creating green spaces within large urban areas so that water doesn’t drain down the streets and overpower the drains. At Brickfields any drainage or groundwater released into the fields will simply drain down to the river upstream of the village adding to the already serious flooding problems of Bridge, Patrixbourne, Bekesbourne and beyond. This proposal would merely add to our flooding problems and any implied guarantee that ‘the authors of the plan will campaign vigourously’ for better drainage is sadly rather meaningless.

Brickfields Close: roofing, new road and parking spaces create a large run off footprint for a relatively small number of dwellings and inevitably it all runs downhill down to the Nailbourne.

Brickfields Close. Inevitably run off from this area all runs downhill to the Nailbourne.

Regarding the Brickfields land itself, it seems there are some perpetuating myths about it which abound within the village and should be dismissed for what they are:

Myth 1: Brickfields is a brown field site.
Not true. Apart from the footprint of Brickfields Cottage, the fields are by law green field land in agricultural use. The fact that they were once used for digging up clay to make bricks no more makes it a brown field site than if it had been used for digging up potatoes.

Myth 2: It’s written into the deeds of houses in Western Avenue that houses can be built on Brickfields.
Not true. The covenant on house deeds in Western Avenue was an agreement between the home buyer and the builder in the 1960s that the builders could build more houses in the area if they got the necessary permissions. Any such private agreement does not imply that planning permission was granted, will be granted, or should be granted by the Local Authority 50 years later. Furthermore planning law has changed dramatically since the 1960s, particularly in regard to restricting building developments in Conservation Areas and AONBs so there is much more legal protection on the land today.

Myth 3: Brickfields is just waste ground which was designated for housing in the 1960s.
Not true. The land at Brickfields is Grade 2 agricultural, green field land in agricultural use and it has been rented on a long lease for that purpose. (Grade 2 is the second highest level out of 7 effective classifications. Half of the farmland in England is Grade 3.)

Myth 4: Canterbury City Council own the land so they can do what they like with it.
Not true. Even Canterbury City Council must comply with national planning law including special protections for Conservation Areas and AONBs. Should they attempt to bypass these laws it is the duty of Bridge Parish Council and our residents to stop them.

BridgeNature.org was created in order to champion and campaign for the protection of our local countryside, so we must speak out on this issue. We understand that people need housing, but we find it extremely disappointing to be presented with a plan which advocates building houses on a protected green field within our own AONB when there are already proposals to build huge numbers of new houses in the district, including 4,000 homes a short distance up the road. For many of those new residents Bridge village centre will be nearer and more convenient than the centre of Canterbury. Any new housing in Bridge will only add to the infrastructure and welfare problems of our village.

We urge Bridge Parish Council to reject this plan in its current form and to state within a revised one that it does not support any further building on green field land within our AONB. We also ask residents to voice their opinions against these building proposals in the questionnaire enclosed with the plan and at a consultation session with the plan’s authors at Bridge village hall on Saturday 1st November between 10am-1.00pm.