Another relatively short Blog. Its a busy time of year for all of us, you have less time to read and I have less time to write! As usual, some seasonal photos interspersed in the text to keep the beautiful fields and also Beverley Farm at the forefront.
1. Keynes III planning application
(student accommodation north of University road/west of Keynes extension)
Only a relatively small number of written representations have materialised at this point. The possible reasons for this were discussed in earlier Blogs, including the relatively limited amenity value of this site (aside from the playing field, see below) and the sense that it is at least less appalling than the 2011 proposals. However, it is important to stress that this does not mean that unconditional Planning Permission will necessarily be granted. Permission could be granted with modest or very extensive conditions attached; or it could be refused outright.
The reasons are complex, but two considerations are worth emphasising. First, the Development Management Committee will be taking into account the quality of the arguments put forward by those who have made representations, even if numbers are modest. If they are collectively convinced that the case presented by objectors is compelling, they will turn down the application, or attach strong conditions to require accommodation of objector’s concerns.
Second, the DMC will also need to take into account in its decision not only the objections of people and outside groups (civil society organisations), but also the ‘internal’ feedback received from its own institutions; from ‘technical’ consultees or expert bodies (often referred to as ‘quangos’); and a body designed to bridge the gap between the community, technical experts and the Council itself, the Canterbury Conservation Advisory Committee (CCAC)
It is interesting to note that the Keynes III application has generated a series of robust responses from the CCAC, but also a series of issues from experts inside and outside the Council. For example, Sports England refer to the loss of playing field space,and emphasise that compensatory space must be found as a matter of national policy. And in a remarkably strongly worded passage drawing upon the research which the University itself was required to do as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment the Council’s own Conservation/Archaeology section says that “overall the proposed [Keynes III] development will have a significant and permanent negative impact on the historic landscape and leave Beverley farmhouse isolated” (memorandum, 12 november 2012).
As you may recall I believe Beverley farm and its setting should be treasured and respected as an important part of our local – indeed the whole of Kent’s – heritage. In earlier Blogs, through maps, historically resonant language and text, I have tried to emphasise the deep, time honoured connections between the farm and the fields stretching southwards,towards Canterbury (ie, Chaucer Fields and the unspoilt proximate Southern Slopes). This new material provides expert confirmation that heritage is a major consideration further north: it shows that the Keynes III development would undermine the ancient field setting on the other side of this mediaeval farmhouse as well. This is made much worse by the knowledge that the University has still failed to present convincing evidence to substantiate its claim that already-developed places without any such profound heritage value, including the Park Woods and Giles Lane car park site, cannot be developed instead. I think this disregard for our heritage is unacceptable.
If you share my concerns, please do take a look at the Chapter 8 Cultural Heritage-1, and you may then yet feel the need to respond to the proposals. This could serve to amplify the concerns already emphasised in the internal Council memorandum.
2 Student Vote: Kent Union must now campaign to save Chaucer Fields
Let’s now turn to the situation regarding the fields south of University Road. You may have already picked up through the SCF Facebook page, in twitter feeds (see Blogroll and right hand side of this Blog), or Kent Union websites that something rather remarkable has happened since the last Blog in the world of student politics at the University. Surpassing the most optimistic expectations of people seeking to secure protection for the unspoilt Southern Slopes – including me – in an on-line ‘All Student Vote’, University students have voted to campaign to require Kent Union to campaign to save Chaucer Fields.
More students vote for their union to campaign on the issue as a policy priority than for sticking with the position formally prevailing up until now (‘neutrality’). But that is not all; there was a decisive endorsement of activism on this issue: 877 voted for the pro-unspoilt-Chaucer Fields policy change; 298 against the policy change; and 235 abstained (with 1,410 votes caste in total). Please refer to the Kent Union All Student Vote results site for more on the context and implications of this result.
So, not only have the staff union strongly endorsed the protection of Chaucer Fields (see earlier Blogs reporting on the UCU on-line vote and the outcome of an open meeting convened by UCU). Now the student’s union have taken the initiative too. It will take a while to absorb this result, and it will be exciting to see how Kent Union chooses to follow through on this new policy commitment.
Why were these efforts successful? Looking back my first reaction is that three ingredients may have been important. First, the extent to which most students share with most local residents a high level of recognition of the extent to which the currrently unspoilt landscape around the University is one of its most important assets. They know this differentiates it from many other Universities which are already often characterised by soulless grey sprawl. This is not least because this feature of the University setting is one of the key reasons people are attracted to come here to study in the first place. Moreover we also know from opinion poll reseearch conducted by Ipsos Mori for Canterbury City Council that students share similar commitments to preserving green open space to non-students, even in the face of intense pressures for development.
Second, there was a remarkable effort to secure a positive result from a small but extremely committed and dynamic group of students, especially Ayla Rose Jay. With extraordinary energy, they campaigned cleverly and passionately during the crucial time period on the run up to the voting deadline. Third, a good relationship has been built with key people in the community who have been working on this issue for a long time. Information and ideas were shared to ensure that Ayla and her circles were well equipped to use appropriate campaigning techniques, and to support their position with relevant evidence and argument.
3. English Ceilidh – Saturday 8 December Evening
Let me finish on another positive note! There’s been a high level of interest in this event, and all is set for a great evening. Its going to be a real community celebration, bringing together local residents, University staff and University students in a very special way. If you are free and would like to come, you do need to get a ticket, or reserve one, in advance. To do this, please either phone one of the SCF people whose numbers are shown below, or just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org I can have a ticket reserved for you at the door (note, they are £10, which will make an important contribution to the ‘fighting fund’ being built up in readiness for the costly efforts to secure the fields’ future in the years ahead). Please be sure to be on time – 7.30pm sharp!
All the best
Chaucer Fields Picnic Society