Westgate and Garlinge Action Group to hold Farmland for Food not Houses rally

Thanet crops Photo Jack Scott

Westgate and Garlinge Action Group Against Housing Development Committee is holding a Farmland for Food not Houses rally on Sunday (April 10).

People are asked to meet at Westgate Community Centre Green in  Lymington Road  from 10.30am for the demo aimed at highlighting food security.

The action group was created at the beginning of last year to mobilise objections to a planning application for a ‘new town’ development on farmland at the edge of Westgate.

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.

(Image JTP/Millwood Homes)

The action group is fighting “the decimation of prime agricultural land,” for development at this site and others across the isle.

One if the issues they want to highlight is the use of Thanet’s farmland for crops

Sarah Bowers, speaking on behalf of the group, said: “The Westgate land destined for 2000 houses is capable of growing a wide range of crops, including wheat, barley, rapeseed, potatoes. Yields of wheat last year were 10 tonnes per hectare compared with a national average of 7 tonnes per hectare. This is because it is grade 1 farmland, defined as ‘excellent quality’

“Land within this grade has little to no limitations to agricultural use. This land can support a very wide range of agricultural and horticultural crops including top fruit, soft fruit salad crops and winter harvested vegetables. Yields are consistently high.

Potato field

“Most of the land in Thanet is grade 1 or 2. More importantly, it is not in a flood zone. Just 1% of England’s total land is Grade 1 and not in a flood zone (136000 hectares) of which Thanet has 3%. This is the country’s very best land for growing food and our farmland has great value for the future sustainability of the UK.

“High quality soil leads to high quality crops, and wheat grown on the Westgate fields meets the required standards for milling to make flour and can be used to bake 2 million loaves of bread.

“Food security is a hot topic now because of the war in Ukraine. However, campaigners including farmers are failing to see the huge issue that is loss of farmland to houses. They are concerned about rewilding but actually so much more land will be lost to development. The problem that the loss of land to concrete is not captured until it’s too late, ie after it has been developed. It is not proactive.

Photo Fran Daley.

“We know that we will lose at least 700 hectares of prime farmland to roads and houses in Thanet and our area is tiny and this loss will make remaining farms nonviable. More land will be lost until we no longer have farms in Thanet.”

Sarah has also submitted a question to Thanet council leader Ash Ashbee asking whether the authority will carry out a report on the value of farming in Thanet and also write to central government to demand that the housing figures for Thanet be revised to a more realistic level with farmland being preserved.

The adopted Thanet Local Plan – a blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure on the isle –has housing need calculated up to 2031 was for 17,140 new isle homes.

But a partial update being carried out means the plan has been extended to cover needs up to 2040 – and includes the need for land/sites to accommodate an additional 4,000-4,500 dwellings. Using the  Government “standard method” results in a housing need of 21,700 dwellings by 2040.

Westwood development – All top soil from the grade 1 land is removed and sold

The adopted Local Plan identifies an outstanding supply of 13,147. There are additional dwellings provided through the empty homes programme (540 units) and “windfalls” (3825 units). This means there is an outstanding requirement of just over 4,000 dwellings which needs to be accommodated as part of the Local Plan update.

Farmland developments earmarked for Thanet include the 2,000 homes at Westgate; 450 homes on land off Shottendane Road; 115 homes in Minster in addition to 214 homes already granted permission; 1,650 homes in Birchington; another 1,500 homes at Westwood for the Humber’s Mill development and 785 homes at Manston Green as well as numerous other sites.

Action group ‘development map’

A national petition is calling for a new strong environmental planning law that will end building on greenfield sites.

Find the petition here