By Jacqui Brown and Sarah Bowers of WAGAG
Westgate & Garlinge Action Group Against Housing Development on Farmland (WAGAG) now hosts monthly meetings for anyone who is concerned about the loss of productive farmland throughout Thanet.
These public meetings are on the last Wednesday in the month 7pm-9 pm at Westgate Town Council offices opposite the Carlton Cinema in Westgate and are in addition to bi-monthly committee meetings where progress and future action plans are discussed. The last public meeting was standing room only so after the next meeting on October 26 we may have to find a new venue. Watch this space.
These public meetings are always productive, and we come away with something we can action. We are keen to work with other local campaign groups such as Birchington and Minster and residents’ groups such as Salmestone Ward Residents Association who fought the Shottendane Road application. We have already had input from members of Birchington and Minster action groups so far at the meetings.
KCC Councillor (Thanet Villages ward) Derek Crow-Brown attends our meetings and is a valuable source of information and advice. If there are any other campaign groups out there who would like to work with us please get in touch via our Facebook page or by email (see below).
At the September meeting there was rightly a lot of concern about the recent announcements made by the government in the mini budget and the proposed further deregulation of planning is one of the areas we are currently focused on. There was also a lot of anxiety that there seems to be a lack of awareness across Thanet about the scale of development the isle is facing over the coming years. The majority is on prime productive farmland like the fields in Westgate & Garlinge, Birchington, Minster, on Shottendane Road and at Westwood Cross and will have a massive impact on all of Thanet’s residents.
Our local plan to 2031 brings an additional 17,140 houses to Thanet (21,700 dwellings by 2040). Bearing in mind that our isle is just 40 square miles that is a lot of extra houses and traffic in a relatively small area. To put it in perspective, the whole of Kent will have an additional 180,000 houses so Thanet is taking almost 10% of the total for the county. Most of these houses are destined to go on our farmland and permission has already been granted for the hundreds of houses that you see going up at Westwood Cross, and fences have gone up just past Sainsbury’s as well as near the Manston Tesco. In addition, there are sites at Shottendane Road and at Minster that have approval, and anyone who visits St Nicholas at Wade or Cliffsend will have seen all the new houses being built there.
Residents have a right to be concerned about all these houses when it is already very difficult to get a doctor’s appointment and it is well known that recruiting GPs to Thanet is a challenge. School places and a lack of jobs are another concern as is the amount of traffic that all these additional houses will generate.
We are also very concerned about losing around 700 hectares of some of the best farmland in the country. At a time where food security is becoming a global issue it seems very wrong to be building on prime farmland that should be growing food as it has done for centuries.
Because of all these concerns and the announcements made in the recent mini budget many North Thanet residents and members of the WAGAG committee have already written to our MP Roger Gale. We would urge others to please do the same or to contact Craig Mackinlay if you live in his constituency (contact details below).
Email Roger Gale: email@example.com
Email Craig Mackinlay: firstname.lastname@example.org
Email WAGAG: email@example.com