A group set up in a bid to save Westgate agricultural land from being developed hopes to mobilise residents into action.
The Westgate Action Group Against Housing Development says a planning application for a huge 2,000 development of a ‘new town’ on farmland at the edge of town will mean a massive population increase, lost green fields and a change of environment ‘forever.’
Millwood Designer Homes wants to create up to 2000 homes, including up to 100 Extra Care units, a care home, two form entry primary school, health centre and shops, cafes and restaurants on 237 acres which includes agricultural land either side of Minster Road.
The site can be broken into three main parcels, divided by the existing roads. The first parcel is on the west of Minster Road. The second parcel lies between Minster Road and Garlinge High Street. The third parcel extends east of Garlinge High Street.
A full application has been submitted for 120 homes earmarked as a “new Dent-De-Lion neighbourhood,” with views of the Dent-De-Lion Gatehouse and fronting on to a village green with a ‘feature pond.’ This site will be accessed from Garlinge High Street / Dent-de-Lion Road.
The development has been named The Gallops. Millwood say the new town will include green spaces, play areas and walking and cycle routes. Plan amendments have been made based on feedback from community meetings and exhibitions, including one held last November.
But the action group says members are concerned about: “the decimation of prime agricultural land and that this development will increase the population of Westgate from approximately 7500 to 11,500 changing the character of Westgate forever.”
A spokesperson for the group said: “Our aim is to raise awareness of the planning application and provide information to support and mobilise residents in responding .
“We believe this development cannot be considered separately to other similar developments planned for Birchington and Shottendane and so we aim to collaborate with other groups in Thanet .
“We believe it is important to ensure there is sufficient time to consider the application in the light of a number of significant changes and additional evidence.
“The first phase planning application was made at a time of national emergency and many people were not aware of it. There are questions regarding the algorithm used to calculate housing numbers and why Thanet been allocated 10% of the Kent housing quota when it represent only 2.7% of the area and has significant food production.
“The application appears to extend beyond the designated allocation as agreed in the Local Plan.
“One of our members, Ros Tapp, estimates we are losing one third of the central undulating chalk farmland cited as area of character in local plan.
“We do not believe the application has fully considered the extensive wildlife population on the farmland. There has been a climate emergency declared locally, nationally and internationally. It is incomprehensible why there are plans to proceed to decimate acres of prime agricultural land, failing to protect this for food production now and for future generations at a time when we need future food security.
“We are urging residents to contact their local town, district and Kent county councillors , MPs and Secretary of State for housing.”
Millwood says it is planning to include wildflower meadows and bug and bee hotels as well as areas for foraging, an orchard and a heritage trail. There will also be natural play and sensory areas.
Planning documents say: “This first phase of development provides an opportunity to create a visually striking gateway and set a high standard for the future phases of development. The Gallops, Land at Westgate and Garlinge, has been designed comprehensively, demonstrating the potential to deliver up to 2000 new homes in a sustainable manner, with no fundamental constraints on development that cannot be appropriately mitigated.”
The proposed site is larger than that suggested in Thanet’s adopted Local Plan, which is a blueprint for housing, development and infrastructure on the isle up until 2031.
Westgate was originally allocated 1,000 homes but a vote in 2018 to retain Manston airport as aviation-use only instead of mixed-use development meant 2,500 proposed homes had to be reallocated to new sites.
The reallocation included 1,000 homes for greenfield sites either side of Minster Road in Westgate, bringing the draft plan total for the town to 2,000.
Westgate Town Council has also opposed the development plan. A statement says: “We have always been opposed to the building of houses on the grade 1 and 2 agricultural land, the loss of separation between Westgate and Garlinge, the loss of open space and the over development of our small town.
“We believe that other, preferably brown field sites should have been chosen for a development of this size. We understand that there is a need for housing, however we have always been concerned that the methodology used to calculate the housing need in Thanet caters for developers and those moving to Thanet from outside the district, more than local residents.
“We are concerned that this methodology which does not value agricultural land will result in Thanet becoming more and more densely populated with no concern for the over-arching impact on our towns, our residents or the environment.
“As the local plan was approved last year, we had to concede that this land will be used as a strategic site for housing against our will. We are now eager to ensure that if houses go ahead that they are future looking, take the environment and our residents into account and do not impact the town in a negative way, now or in the future.”
At PMQs today I asked the Prime Minister that if he is the friend of the countryside will he announce an immediate moratorium on the use of all farm land for housing while the whole policy is reviewed?
It’s a great pity that Mr Johnson did not listen or answer my question. pic.twitter.com/sd9o1rHyn0
— Sir Roger Gale MP (@SirRogerGale) February 10, 2021
North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale this week called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to announce and immediate moratorium on the use of all farm land for housing until policy can be reviewed.
The PM said the request was “unrealistic” although he appeared to believed Sir Roger was calling for a halt on all construction.
The planning documents can be viewed on Thanet council’s planning page, reference OL/TH/20/1400
To join the Save Our Fields campaign email firstname.lastname@example.org
There is also a dedicated Facebook page and Twitter and Instagram pages @saveourfields