Campaigners continue fight against ‘decimation’ of Thanet agricultural land

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

Campaign groups protesting at the decimation of agricultural land for Thanet housing developments say some 40% of high quality land could be lost forever.

Westgate & Garlinge Action Group and Birchington Action Group against houses on farmland are urging people to object to plans for thousands of homes earmarked for construction on grade 1,2 and 3, food producing land in Thanet.

The building of 450 homes on 50 acres of farmland off Shottendane Road was one of the developments campaigners said would ‘irreparably damage’ the isle and protesters say they were buoyed by the rejection of the current proposals but the battle continues.

Ros Tapp, from the campaign group and part of a long-term farming family, said a petition against building on best farmland at Shottendane was signed by some 3,000 people within just days, showing the strength of feeling across the isle.

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

Land earmarked for development Photo Jack Scott

The Thanet Local Plan was adopted on 9 July 2020. It is a blueprint for development in the district up to 2031. The plan sets out how much development is needed to support the future population and economy. 

Thanet’s Local Plan has provision for 17,140 homes to be built between 2011-2031. Of this number 2,704 had been completed by March 2019.

Between 2021-26  the plan indicates 1,200 homes should be completed each year, equalling a total of 6,000 properties, Across 2026-2031 this number rises to 1317 per year to total 6585.

The plan is now under a review, with a call put out for more development sites, to take it up to 2040.

An estimated 750 hectares of fertile farmland is earmarked to be lost to developments including 2000 homes at Westgate and Garlinge, 1,600 homes at Birchington, up to 250 in Minster and 785 at Manston Green. Further agricultural land has been lost at Cliffsend and is likely to be built on at Shottendane once plans have been amended.

Farmland at Shottendane earmarked for housing development

Shockingly, the campaign groups say some farmers who are producing food on the land have not even been consulted over development proposals.

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

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

The statement adds: “All these developments are in the same character area and combined will lead to a loss of 30-40% of the high quality farmland which should be safeguarded.

“The remaining central farmland will be carved up by road improvements ,footpath and bridleway upgrades.

“All of this is on land owned by the same farmer who farms the Shottendane fields. None of this has been assessed. We know because the farmer has never been consulted.”

Land to be developed at Minster

Ros added: “Tenant farmers have no say if a landlord wishes to sell their land for housing developments. Losing land in a farming business leads to a loss of income and profitability. This puts further pressure on farmers already aiming to adapt to new Environmental land management schemes. We should be supporting farm and food businesses , not destroying them.”

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

The new Bill is aimed increasing the number of homes being planned across the country by more than a third and considerably speeding up the planning process.

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale told Parliament this week: “Roughly a million planning consents have been granted for houses that are as yet unbuilt. That one million would make a huge difference. A vast swath of brownfield land is available to be built upon, and the Members of Parliament for Kent will not stand idly by and vote for measures that will turn the garden of England into a building site. I have said it to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister before, and I will say it again now: we should not be using arable land—grade 1 arable land in particular—for development before all the other available sites, particularly in cities, have been utilised and all the planning consents have been used up. 

“The Members of Parliament for Kent want a moratorium on the use of agricultural land for development until all the other options have been exhausted. We shall fight that and vote against the Planning Bill if necessary.”

Thanet farmland

Photo Ros Tapp

Thanet is around  40 square miles or 10330 hectares. Of that around 6,000 hectares is farmland. An estimated 1500 hectares is in areas at risk of flooding leaving some 4,500 best and most versatile land. An estimated 600-750 hectares of this will be lost if current developments are approved.

Land at Westgate, earmarked for 2000 homes, is the site of award winning malting barley and high yields of premium crops. 

Strategic sites that have been approved for development include:

Westwood 1,450

Birchington on Sea 1,600

Westgate on Sea 2,000

Manston Green (planning permission granted so not counted in allocations)785

Land at Manston Court/Haine Road 1400

Land north and south of Shottendane Road 550

Fronting Nash/Haine Roads 1020

Other Housing Sites/Areas 1,691

Rural allocations 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, St. Nicholas 25

Young’s Nursery, Arundel Road, Cliffsend 12

An allocation of 2,500 homes on the Manston airport site was removed in  2018 after a vote aimed at retaining aviation use only on the land. The 2,500 homes were then reallocated to other sites including Minster, Birchington and Westgate..

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

53 Comments

  1. Serious proposal. Why not more tower blocks in the main towns instead? I hate ’em, but they seem to mostly be popular with residents.

  2. TBH I think Gale is a hypocrite, he was warned many times his support for RSP would result in more greenfield sites being built on instead of Manston. So we’ll done to Rodger the Dodger and SMAa your support for RSP has resulted in more agricultural land being built on than necessary. Your argument that the reopening Manston would stop houses being built has been shown up for the lie it always was, it was never ever houses or airport the houses were always going to be built !!

      • And why shouldn’t it be?
        There’s a really serious situation with vast areas of fields in Thanet being dug up for houses. Farm land that’s been around for centuries if not millennia, gone for ever.
        Meanwhile, Manston stands idle and empty (7 years since it closed. Given that the UK isn’t in economic ruin, it puts to bed the argument that Manston is a national aviation asset).
        The tories and UKIP got us into this mess. Let’s see how they sort it out.

        • I also bet someone would give a pro-Manston reply. Keep going, at this rate you’ll make me rich!

          Any response to my tower blocks suggestion? After all, they still build plenty of those elsewhere, and the pro-Arlington lot are always telling me how wonderful it is.

          • Well Peter, there won’t be any tower blocks where its proposed to build 785 dwellings within yards of the Manston runway! The aircraft will be about 50 meters high at that point, just before touch down! That could make them a hard sell, I don’t expect any Estate Agents would want to try and sell them!

          • A bit of forward thinking needed here!!! Instead of tower blocks up how about build DOWN so when climate change is complete we’ll be out of harms way!! May be a chance of flooding I suppose, but I bet TDC will come up with a bankrupting idea to get round that (for a couple of years anyway)

  3. AND THE RICH GET RICHER – thats all its about , they couldnt care less about us mere locals , once they have concreted over thanet they, or thier descendants will move on and do the same to another area.

  4. Ironic that some of the main players in the Birchington group are also enthusiastic supporters of a re-opened airport at Manston.

  5. “A vast swath of brownfield land is available to be built upon” said Roger Gale.
    Indeed so. It’s called “Manston”

  6. If Peter Checksfield actually reads the article it states that 2,500 of those houses could have gone on Manston so no surprises it got mentioned. Marva Rees is correct regarding supporters of Manston now moaning that the houses are being built near them, they were warned

    • I read the article. If you had read my initial response then you’d know that I came up with an alternative suggestion.

      • Ah, suddenly Peter is an expert home builder, as well as a blinker-visioned Manston supporter.

        So, perhaps consider the individuals’ personal choices here- many do not want to live with communal spaces, especially if they have children, pets or disabilities. They don’t want to share nor may not feel safe in communal lift spaces, nor want to cough-up shared annual ground rent & services charges- that would be need to be hiked to provide concierge and security services to counter their residential area falling foul of the lowest common denominator in that tower block. Look to The Old Tannery in Canterbury, as local example of flats that went downhill, quickly.

        As the old saying goes- an Englishman’s home is his castle and this is what the developers cater to. Otherwise, they’re apartments at high prices, such as Ramsgate seafront.

        • I do not support Manston.

          I do not oppose it either.

          Not everything in life has a simple yes/no answer.

  7. Now the judicial review laws are going to be changed Manston Airport will be opening as planned. To stop the likes of Dawes or other wokes trying to undermine the government.

    • Bill- what’s woke about fighting climate change, localised pollution and the decimation of Ramsgate?

      I’d suggest you pull your flat-Earth theory head out of your derrier and watch as the environment bill goes through.

    • They haven’t been changed yet.
      And even if, bizarrely, Manston gets the go ahead, it will fail as it has failed before, for exactly the same reasons.
      Far better to build a few thousand houses up there.

    • Not the Government, Sir Roger Of Riveroak! (Hypocrite), no third runway at Heathrow because of my poor grandchildren!, but Thanet is fine, let the children choke on avgas fumes! its a bit late to think about the greenfield sites now Sir Rogeroak!

  8. That Will be nice, straight out the dingies into shiney new houses. No more barracks, they are only fit for people who serve and protect our nation

    • Illegal immigrants will most certainly not be going”straight out the dinghies into shiny new houses”.

  9. Just think of all those DFLs rubbing their hands at the prospect of moving to Thanet.😊

  10. Maybe a few tower blocks should be built in Birchington, after all we already have two in Margate. See the attitude change now!
    We should not be fighting among ourselves or making smart alec comments, that is not what most people want to read of it. Blame Gale and the council for the position Thanet is in now. The saga continues!

    • The big difference is that all these arty farty DFLs in Margate love Arlington and its ilk, even putting on “art” exhibitions celebrating it. I would’ve opposed tower blocks anywhere in 1963 just as much as I do now.

      “Resident”, I blame “Gale” (Sir Roger Gale to you) for nothing. He’s been our MP for 38 years because he’s so good. Certainly he’s helped me in the past.

  11. Why are all these houses needed in Thanet.
    Could it be to accommodate people from elsewhere, or are there genuinely that amount of people on Thanet without homes ??

  12. If the new properties are either affordable or for social housing , then , perhaps , some of the outcry would be stilled . Unfortunately , these are pie in the sky wishes . Property developers want profit . Note how they reduce affordable housing at each application . Any sites for social housing – and there are many examples in Kent – are spoken for , and bought , by the London Boroughs as they carry on their policy of gentrification . Where is the legislation to prevent this ? It is a moot point that where did the money from the council housing sales in the past disappear to ? It didn’t build more housing stock , that’s for sure .

  13. Stop going on about Manston, look at getting rid of the old slum areas,such as Eaton Road parts o St Peter’s Road some parts of Clftonville and I’m sure the same can be said for other parts of Thanet. Rebuilding towns could be the answer but expanding them

  14. Before new build, taking farming land which will be needed and spoiling the surrounding environment why does the government not look at all the thousands of empty and unused properties including unused business
    properties in each area I have no doubt after being adapted for accommodation, refurbished it would meet the required number for housing proposed.
    Do not take our farming land and spoil the en

    • Property developers like greefield sites because they’ve got a “clean sheet”. No expensive remedial works that brownfield development might require.

  15. We are going to need thousands of new homes for when manston reopens.

    Homes for 1000’s of highly trained airccraft maintenance staff.

    Homes for 1000’s of highly trained ground staff

    1000’s of homes for all the HGV drivers.

    1000’s of homes for the huge Amazon warehouses.

    Ok we wont need to build homes for the toilet cleans or the litter pickers as locals can do that.

    Of our MPs want manston than we will need to provide homes for the workers that will move from Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton etc to be by the seaside.

    You cant have it both ways homes for the manston works will be needed.

    Now we all know manston is a non starter no one in their right mind would think a transport hub stick out on a limb in the bottom right hand corner of England is a good place for a cargo hub.

    So until manston is put to bed our farmland will be built on but we have to thank our MP’s and Tories for this mess

  16. Well it’s about time thanet came out of the dark ages and joined the rest of building world. People need somewhere to live and hopefully industry will follow giving people work.

    • Yes Bill I know only too well I myself I was a Foster Carer for KCC and independent fostering services for many years I looked after children from all over the UK.
      People don’t like change the houses will come no matter what people think or sign change is coming.

  17. Our daughter works for social services in London and they have orders from Mr Khan mayor of London to move all problems families out of London to “coastal towns” houses are being bought up by London councils.

    • Your daughter (if she exists and works for social services) should know that the London Mayor does not have responsibility for social housing – that is for the Boroughs themselves to manage. For the record the London Mayor has responsibility / input into TfL, London wide traffic initiatives, Metropolitan Police and London fire Brigade

  18. Phone Mr Khan and ask him what is the plan for Brent / Wandsworth / Islington Councils for years 22/23/24. Regarding anti social residents.
    Policy numbersAnti/rehouse. 29785691000ed Confe file. B

  19. I was against Manston being built on but now let them build then everyone in Thanet will suffer with more traffic on the roads more chaos more people( yuk) and more of every thing that we complain about now it does not bother me any more we can object and complain all we like because no b’stard council or otherwise are listening to the publics’ concerns before too long people will be looking to escape this dump and I will be at the front of the stampede

  20. I am certainly not going to phone Sadiq Khan. I would like to see printed, trustworthy statistics.

  21. You sound like someone who works for a spy network Marva. Do your own research don’t gleen mine. Markmywords I fully aware how useless Khan is and fully aware of how the administration of London works. More so than all these on here and you.

    • What a bloody ridiculous thing to say about me.Your research, Bill, seems to consist of a conversation with your daughter!

  22. i think re opening manston could be a fantastic idea , for the first 18 months it could be used to ship all the illegal parasites that are bleeding our health and social services to death. ( and the benefits system of course )

  23. If you build from new you can reclaim back all the vat you have paid out. If you refirbish and repair old property you loose your vat. Hence why developers love new 20% Returns.

  24. Last stats I saw stated Thanet had the highest number of long term empty properties in Kent, totalling around 1000.

    Let’s see some concerted effort in bringing these back into use as 1000 available houses would make a decent sent in the number of houses needing to be built.

    As for Gale, others have said it better than me. You reap what you sow. Manston would have been ideal for thousands of houses on a brownfield site. The dogmatic support of a pie in the sky scheme has led to lots of Greenfield land being built on.

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