Kent Environment and Community Network
KECN – the Kent Environment & Community Network – was set up in 2008 as a response to significant weaknesses in the planning system – specifically, its failure to provide adequate protection for the environment. KECN is a campaigning organization which is challenging this environmental deficit and supporting local communities in Kent and elsewhere in the quest for environmental justice.
Biodiversity is in dramatic decline, carbon consumption is growing and air pollution increasing in urban areas, and our green spaces are ever dwindling. And all this before the major changes about to be unleashed. With over 1000 pages of planning law set to be ditched in favour of the Coalition’s 52-page National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the chances of the environment getting the protection it needs do not look promising.
Decisions made under our planning system have a huge impact on the environment. But how will environmental concerns be properly addressed if there is no third party right of appeal; if unaccountable vested interests such as Local Enterprise Partnerships are to play a pivotal role in devising planning policy; if there is to be a presumption in favour of “sustainable development”; if existing targets for developing brownfield land are scrapped; and if bribery is to be legitimised by the proposed New Homes Bonus and other financial payments from developers via the Community Infrastructure Levy? There is widespread suspicion that the “localism” agenda has little to do with Mr Average having more influence in his community, and much to do with facilitating development regardless of environmental concerns.
KECN is campaigning to ensure that planning decisions are not determined solely by arguments about economic development, but that equal weight is given both to environmental protection and to the needs and wishes of local communities.
Hosting other groups
The Kent Environment and Community set up its website thanks to funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd. We thought that it would be useful for campaigning groups to have a ’Host’ website to use if necessary to publicise their campaigns. Currently, we are hosting Canterbury 4 Clean Air who have just successfully been granted£7500 from LUSH to employ the national sustainable transport expert Lynn Sloman to devise a sustainable transport blueprint for Canterbury. Please contact KECN at email@example.com if you would like to be hosted by us.
KECN responds to NPPF Consultation
KECN has submitted its response to the Government’s proposals to reform the planning system by introducing 52 pages of pro-development guidance to replace the thousands of pages of existing guidance. Madness indeed. The key legal concern is that the NPPF has not been subject to an Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). This is a legal requirement for any plan. The NPPF is a plan because it will be used to guide decision makers when there is no plan in place or when the plan is silent on the matter. A SEA would have resulted in a rather different more balanced NPPF.
Planning Democracy hosting a conference in Edinburgh
Planning Democracy is campaigning for a fair and inclusive planning system in Scotland. Their conference this year entitled: Planning: The People’s Perspective will be held on April 21st 2012 in Edinburgh. KECN representatives will be attending. To find out more about Planning Democracy and the conference follow this link.
Canterbury City Council declares large Air Quality Management Area
Canterbury City Council has declared on November 25th 2011, a large Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) covering parts of 17 streets in Canterbury.The first AQMA was designated in 2006. An AQMA has to be designated by law when air pollution is in breach of air quality objectives. Air pollution has now almost completely encircled the city. Air pollution kills. It is the invisible killer but medical research proves without doubt the danger to everyone’s health from air pollution. To see the Declaration and AQMA map open this pdf. AQMA2_Declaration
The ‘Zero Draft’ of the Rio + 20 negotiating document is out!
KECN with the organisation Thamesbank, is preparing for the negotiations in Rio this June and working towards the creation of a new international agreement that strengthens, clarifies, updates and ensures implementation of 27 principles of the Rio Declaration and the Agenda 21 Blueprint that emerged from the Rio talks in 1992. The first 2 sections of the Zero Draft document was recently finalised in New York. The pre-amended version of the Zero Draft is available here. The Zero Draft document sets out the parameters of the issues to be resolved although the parameters and precise wording can (and will) change.
Chaucer Fields Application Delayed
The Chaucer Fields planning application has been delayed. Apparently, the university intends to move forward with it in April. Meanwhile, the Village Green application gathers momentum.More evidence of use of the site for recreational purposes is being collected. There are 260+ people so far who have provided evidence. Please contact Ursula Harris for more information; firstname.lastname@example.org
Kingsmead Campaign Hots Up
The campaign to keep Kingsmead as a designated open space gathers momentum.Kingsmead is a four-and-a-half acre green site located in Canterbury in the Northgate ward.It was designated by Canterbury City Council(CCC) as open space and the local community when consulted upon it in 2004 made it very clear how they valued it. Sadly, but not suprising considering the previous disregard CCC has shown for community concerns, the council is in the process of selling it for a significant sum (c.over £4 million)to developpers.
The Council in its efforts to circumvent public outcry bungled through the consultation process back in September 2011 by not advertising the proposed sell-off properly before the formal decision to sell off the land was taken. KECN know understands that the Council has tried to remedy its errors by doing another consultation. Tut Tut-potentially a legal minefield.
Meanwhile, angry residents are investigating applying for village green status. KECN fully supports Sian Pettman and others who are trying to keep this valuable green space open and undevelopped. Any pro bono legal advice until the campaign groups raises some funds would be gratefully received. Please email Emily at email@example.com in the first instance.
Canterbury’s Local Plan likely to be environmental disaster
KECN understands that the ‘preferred options’ for development sites in the Canterbury District will be published in June. Interested readers may remember that the last preferred options published under the old planning system and quietly shelved in around 2010, were highly unpopular. There were to be thousands of new houses, all to go on green field sites with slip roads and business parks. What will change? Nothing, we suspect. Our glorious leaders have been releasing information in advance about how necessary it is that housing goes on green field sites and why this is supported by the community because it leads to economic growth. Perhaps this mantra really comes from the unaccountable partnerships that apparently run our council(s) behind the scenes like Canterbury 4 Business and the Local Enterprise Partnership? UGH-who will rid us of these dinosaurs? Of course, there is no mention of environmental restraints such as carbon footprint, biodiversity and long term sustainability. Things look just as dismal on the international stage. The pre Rio + 20 negotiations are not looking good. We may even lose rights hard won 20 years ago.
KECN has been working alongside Thamesbank with 56 NGOs to try and influence the Government’s aims for Rio. We have had meetings with Defra and other government officials with little apparent success. Few parliamentarians attended the Rio debate at the end of February and as most of you will know, Cameron will not be attending Rio in June. This is unfortunate because it shows how unimportant sustainable development and associated green issues mean to the Coalition. Clegg will be going however, some consolation. Here is a recent article on the current situation by André Abreu from France Libertés Foundation
Right to water is affirmed in the Rio +20 text, but social rights and Rio principles are still under threat in the definitions of the green economy.
A few weeks ago, the civil society groups involved in the UNCSD Rio +20 negotiations shared their deep concern about the threat against human and social rights in the draft text for the Conference, as well as the threat over other important collective principles established in 1992. During the past session of the UN negotiations in March, we had seen with surprise and disappointment a group of few member states in the offensive to bracket and delete any reference to human rights, including the right to water, in the draft text to be presented in June to the heads of state in Rio. At that time several NGOs, human rights experts, unions and social movements have mobilized to denounce the attack on the rights and over principles born in the Rio 92 earth summit.
During the last weeks these networks and civil society organizations have mobilized again to the negotiating sessions that started in the last days of April, proposing meetings and “side events” on the most sensitive issues about what we called “the rightsat risk”. These organizations are also putting pressure on the floor over the member states negotiators to ask for more clear positions on specific points. So we had this week finally an important victory in the chapter on water, with a step back of most countries opposed the right to water in paragraph 67, with
the exception of Canada that again requested its deletion. In the session of
April 26th when the water chapter was negotiated, Switzerland was the first
country to speak, stressing “the importance of right to water as essential in the text.” The United States, European Union, Israel and Australia, which had asked for deleting and bracketing in the last session, abstained this time the demand for
deletion of the right to water, even after Canada’s intervention asking to delete
the entire paragraph. Norway has retained its position supporting the rights and
asked the maintenance of the entire paragraph, in opposition to Canada. Finally
the G77 made a strong defense of the right to water, asking the paragraph
division into two parts to give better visibility to the first part on the right. According to the representative of the G77, “The right to water cannot be placed in the same level with the issues of management and investment.”
The networks and institutions who worked for years for the right to water been finally recognized in the UN General Assembly in July 2010 supports the position advocated by the G77, Switzerland and Norway in this process and cannot accept a setback in the Final Declaration of the Rio + 20 on this principle. After this week we are confident the Canada is now isolated and will have to accept the paragraph 67 and the affirmation of the right to water, but we still have to maintain the pressure and to get some victories on other paragraphs.
We know that in less than two months the heads of state of more than one hundred countries and representatives of thousands of organizations around the world will be in Rio de Janeiro proposing alternatives for implementing sustainable development and making choices that will be important to our society and our planet. Its important to say that we recognize that there are positive developments and new processes being opened in some areas like renewable energy, food security, oceans, or with the proposal for a Social Protection Floor. But on the other side we see clearly that on the context of the green economy some proposed market-based mechanisms are a clear offensive of the financial markets towards the commodification and financialization of natural resources essential for life, and more broadly represents a step backwards on admitting regression for some acquired social rights and the so called Rio principles.
We know that this victory for the right to water is certainly still partial, but it can be an example for putting energy of civil society at Rio +20 process and give us power to influence on the choices to be made in the coming months. We also need to expand and enhance the debate about where and how member states are captured by different economic interests in different subjects and what are the “red lines” that we believe important to highlight related to human rights and to some important other collective principles, such as the precautionary principle; the polluter pays principle; the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
Those are rights and principles already established that are being ignored or bracketed in the negotiation process.
For all those reasons we think it’s a real challenge to communicate better about these issues with the global civil society. Apart from a general and superficial vision of the green economy from one side, and in the other side slogans and protests – most of which legitimate and important – against the liberal model and against certain projects with huge social and environmental impact, we see that unfortunately the society in general is not aware about what is this green economy and what is going on in the Rio +20 process.
The Facilitating Committee of Civil Society has been promoting meetings, meetings and activities to increase social participation in the process and we hope that the People’s Summit for Social and Environmental Justice – to be held at the Flamengo park from 15 to 22 June –can be an important space to this public debate. As we read each week on the first page of the French satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné, “freedom of information only weaken if not used.”
International Policy Advisor
France Libertés Foundation
28 april 2012
What is UK planning system really about?
Read an article by KECN members about what the public are up against in the UK planning systemArticle_2012_JPL_Issue_3Read more about the hosting services KECN offers to other groups and campaigns