Village Green Application Public Inquiry dates: Weeks beginning 23 February & 16 March 2015

Introduction

After a long wait, the dates for the Public Inquiry in relation to the Chaucer Fields/Southern Slopes Village Green Application (VGA) to Kent County Council (KCC) has been announced! This has taken a long time, because KCC have  been processing a large number of Village Green Applications from across the county with very limited resources, and because there was a legal dispute to resolve in advance over the appropriate timeframe of the Inquiry 

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More information on timing and process is provided below, courtesy of the Save Chaucer Fields group (see Blogroll). Their text is slightly abbreviated and edited here. This Blog is interspersed with some photographs taken on the fields recently, which try to capture a little of  the autumnal beauty of the fields, trees and hedges there at this time of  year.

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Please read their update carefully. If you live locally, we hope you will be able to show your support by attending some of the Public Inquiry sessions in 3-4 months time.

All best Chaucer  Fielder

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Update from Save Chaucer Fields group

A date has been set for the [Kent County Council] Village Green Application Public Inquiry.  There had been a delay in setting a date for the Inquiry, [most recently] due to pre-arranged commitments from both ourselves and The University. But now dates have been determined. It will start on Monday 23rd February 2015 and last for 5 days. It will then adjourn and resume on Monday 16th March and last for up to 5 days as necessary….

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 ….. in the coming weeks SCF will concentrate on preparing strong evidence [for  the relevant time period, 1991 – 2011] to put before the Inquiry.  A suitable venue will be agreed in due course, details of which will be publicised.

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It’s a Public Inquiry, open to all. We hope that supporters of this lengthy campaign will find some time to attend during the hearing, and demonstrate to The Inspector that local people are interested in seeing Chaucer Fields protected for future generations.

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Photographic summertime 2014 Blog

Mistle Thrush

Resident Mistle thrush, late may 2014, later nested successfully,

chaucer fields ©Mark Kilner.

 

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“Cuckoo Spit” caused by froghopper nymphs, june 2014, Bushy Acres, chaucer fields

 

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Blackbird, june 2014, Beverley Boughs, chaucer fields

 

 

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Unidentified fruit, July 2014, Jack Cade’s carvet, chaucer fields

 

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Oak foreground Cathedral background, June 2014, Bushy Acres, chaucer fields

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Speckled Wood, Pararge Aegeria [Linnaeus, 1758], June 2014, Bushy Acres, chaucer fields

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Walkers, june 2014, Dover Down field, chaucer fields

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Jay, June 2014, Beverley Boughs, chaucer fields

 

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Honey bee, July 2014, Dover Down field, chaucer fields

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Ancient path from Blean church to Cathedral, June 2014, Dover Down field,            chaucer fields

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Meadow Brown, Maniola jurtina [Linnaeus, 1758], June 2014, Jack Cade’s carvet,    chaucer fields

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An otherwise irritating sign put to good use by a house sparrow, July 2014, Dover Down field, chaucer fields

 

Whitethroat

Whitethroat , late may 2014, thought to be in transit,

chaucer fields ©Mark Kilner

 

First Blog of 2014 – important Local Plan news and upcoming picnic

Dear all

Profusion of hawthorn ('may') across hedges

Profusion of hawthorn (‘may’) in Roper’s twitchell & Jack Cade’s carvet,  april 2014

This is undoubtedly one of the best times  of year to enjoy the unspoilt Chaucer Fields and the Southern Slopes. The grass is lush and verdant, the deciduous trees are visibly  springing to life with new foliage, and the hedgerows are full of blossom, most dramatically hawthorn (see above). Perhaps the best time of day to appreciate the fields is when this visual display is joined with the sound of birdsong, as day breaks. In a future Blog, I intend to upload recordings of the spring dawn chorus. But for now I’ll intersperse the Blog in the usual way with photographs which try to capture some  of the beauty of the Slopes in April, and show in simple ways how they can be enjoyed by children.

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scooter riding inside Roper’s twitchell, Cathedral in distance, Chaucer Fields, April 2014

Its been a while since the last Blog appeared. A key reason for this has simply been a lack of major news to report. Of course the unspoilt fields  continued to be used by local residents, visitors and the university community; but in policy terms, the first few months of 2014 have continued the ‘waiting game’ described in earlier Blogs as having characterised much of  2013. But as we move towards the summer, important local policy news is now beginning to emerge. I’ll first of all summarise the situation  on that, and then report an informal happening which will take place on the fields next month – the latest in our series of musical picnics.

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house sparrow, jack cade’s carvet, Chaucer Fields, april 2014

1. Policy development – draft District Plan submission finalised

As you will recall from earlier Blogs, Canterbury City Council’s emerging new Local Plan is fundamentally important for everyone who is concerned about the balance between ‘development’ and other priorities. That’s because the Plan’s content and specific policies will be the  key reference point in determining where and how building is to be encouraged or permitted, and where it is to be discouraged or prohibited for decades to come. It is crucial to recognise that the future of those parts of our landscape which are currently unspoilt and valued as such by local people for heritage, recreational and environmental reasons is at stake here: policy commitments to protect and respect such special places made in this document are going to be absolutely crucial in the years ahead.

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Climbing an oak tree in Dover Down field, Chaucer Fields, april 2014

As expected, in recent months  the remarkably high value attached by communities to the Southern Slopes  as unspoilt shared green space emerged strongly from the local consultation process. Numerous submissions stressing the importance of Chaucer Fields and the Southern Slopes as a whole were forthcoming  from individuals and knowledgeable local groups.

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Westgate towers viewed from Dover Down field,  Chaucer Fields, april 2014

The good news is that the mass of  evidence and argument put forward in this way  has now  been taken seriously by Canterbury City Council in specifying the content of the District Plan. Drawing on both lay submissions and advice from planning and landscape experts, earlier this month CCC officials initially suggested that Councillors needed to consider incorporating specific protections for the Slopes.

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The recently restored bench at the north of Chaucer Fields, just south of Beverley Farm (close to University road) – one of the best used viewpoints

And this is precisely what has happened as the Plan has proceeded through the relevant decision making committees. It has been amended to explicitly recognise the value of the fields. And it has been good to witness that the issue has been treated as an entirely non-partisan one, uniting all strands of political opinion. First the CCC Overview Committee recommended the adoption of ‘open space’ protection for the Slopes; then the CCC Executive Committee followed, although reframing the proposed protections as a matter of  ‘green gap’ policy (because the land is technically outside the ‘urban envelope’, these policies are the more appropriate ones);and finally on 24th april, the full Council endorsed  this ‘green gap’ status for the Southern Slopes as part of its general approval of the Plan as a whole.This has taken shape despite a late formal objection to these protections being made by University management, as reported at the final  Council meeting  (although the substantive grounds for this objection are not currently known).

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Bluebells in the  Southern Slopes wooded area east of Chaucer Fields (nr. Elliot path), april 2014 . Both woods & fields would be protected under the draft  CCC  ‘green gap’  policy

The idea of a ‘green gap’ here resonates well with strongly held local sentiment that the fields should be suitably protected as a highly significant ‘green buffer’, ‘green belt’  or ‘green lung’ benefitting both local residents and the University community at large. More specifically and formally, this status (Policy OS5) would mean that any ‘development’ which “significantly affect[s] the open character of the Green Gap, or lead to coalescence between existing settlements”; or which would  result in “new isolated and obtrusive development within the Green Gap” would be explicitly prohibited.

Close up, Southern Slopes bluebells, april 2014

Close up, Southern Slopes bluebells, april 2014

This is all very encouraging news. However,  it is important to stress that the draft Local Plan incorporating these green gap protections for the Southern Slopes is not yet legally adopted policy. There are several further steps to be completed. Most importantly, these include  a 6 week period during which interested parties are  entitled to make representations concerning the Plan’s legality and “soundness” . The Plan also then needs to be scrutinised and signed off at national level by the  Planning Inspectorate (an executive  agency of the Department for Communites & Local Government). The Inspectorate will undertake a detailed and thorough review of the CCC Plan, supporting policies, and the representations received during the recent and upcoming consultations.

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Peacock butterfly, Inachis Io, Bushy Acres, Chaucer Fields, April 2014

 2. Collaborative Musical Picnic – 3.30pm onwards 11th May

On a less “heavy” note I am pleased to announce that plans for our next picnic  are now well advanced! This informal happening is jointly facilitated by CFPS and the Abbots Mill Project  (see Blogroll, top right). It is being actively supported by the Save Chaucer Fields group, Greenpeace Canterbury, and by environmental representatives from the UCU (the University of Kent’s main staff union) and from Kent Union (the student’s union).  We hope you’ll come if you live locally: 3.30pm onwards, sunday 11th may.

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Tree climbing with attitude, Bushy Acres,Chaucer Fields, april 2014

Tips include:

  • bring a rug etc, as the grass is rather long and can be damp in places
  • bring your own refreshments (and bags to take away rubbish)
  • bring props for games: popular in the past have been frisbees, kites, football, rounders and cricket (on those parts of the fields where the grass has been cut)
  • bring musical instruments if you feel inclined to play
Mowing the grass in the shadow of the Cathedral, Bushy Acres, April 2014

Mowing the grass in the shadow of the Cathedral, Bushy Acres, April 2014

Of course, many of the popular play activities undertaken on the fields at picnics and other times don’t require you to bring anything: including tree climbing, “it” and other tag games, hide & seek and  exploratory games – for children, but also anyone who is young at heart.

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Runner, Bushy Acres, Chaucer Fields, April 2014

Alongside these ‘do it  yourself’ activities, there’ll be the chance to:

  • learn about local environmental issues from the groups mentioned above;
  • listen to local acoustic musicians, including Richard Navarro, Jules Madjar (Canterbury Buskers Collective)Ivan Thompson (Hullabaloo etc), Katy Windsor, Frances Knight, and some musicians and singers from Roystercatchers;
  • join a procession involving  Dead Horse Morris’s “Jack in the Green”, the “incredible walking ivy bush” making a (reincarnated) return appearance after a couple of years;
  • hear Mark Lawson’s fabulous tales – another return visit, back by popular demand.
Whitstable's Mark Lawson in storytelling action

Whitstable’s Mark Lawson in storytelling action, Chaucer Fields picnic May 2012

The Jack will have already welcomed the rising sun on mayday, and paraded the streets of Whitstable during may day celebrations earlier in the week. The Jack is made of ivy gathered from various parts of the District, including ivy gathered from the Southern Slopes/Chaucer Fields. His constitution and  participation symbolises how respect for green space is a shared priority for local people from across the local area

Jack in the Green (walking ivy bush!)

Jack (walking ivy bush!) amazes local children, Chaucer Fields picnic, may 2012

Let’s hope the weather is good to us!

Hope to see you at the picnic

Sadly some fine trees were felled by winter storms. However, even logs provide  play opportunities for imaginative young minds!

Sadly some fine trees were lost or damaged during the winter storms in December 2013 and January 2014. However, in some places new viewing vistas of the Canterbury cityscape have opened up; and even logs provide play opportunities for imaginative young minds!

Chaucer Fielder

Chaucer Fields Picnic Society

 

 

Next picnic date (21 Sept), District Plan deadline (30 Aug) & CAT Open Day

Dear all

I hope you are having  a good august. As you’ll have seen first hand, or may have picked up from the SCF Facebook site, the grass has now been cut, and the hay has been made!  So the fields are very much in late summer mode – for example, see image of Dover Down field below. This Blog will pick  up some of the threads of the last one, and is interspersed with some recent snaps from the fields:

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Southern part of Dover Down field looking north, Chaucer Fields, late August 2013

Draft District Plan consultation deadline looms

A reminder:  The deadline for sending in your responses to Canterbury City Council (CCC) in relation to the proposed local plan, which has enormous implications for the character of our landscape and environment for years to come, is the end this month (5pm Friday 30 August). In an earlier Blog I included a link to the relevant website. However, it is clear that some people have found understanding and navigating the specific route for responding presented via this portal to be  opaque and excessively complicated.

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Cathedral framed by Cade’s carvet hedge, southwards view from recently restored bench close to Innovation centre bus stop, august 2013

I was pleased to learn earlier this week that local community groups are sensibly suggesting that people  can respond in a much simpler and less time consuming way:  CCC should still take your feedback into account to the same extent as if you had followed the tortuous portal approach.

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Unspoilt  Southern Slopes, between Bushy Acres and Eliot pathway, August 2013

What is this simpler approach? In what follows I have drawn upon and supplemented the guidance of one of the leading community groups the material relating most obviously to the situation regarding chaucer fields, the unspoilt southern slopes and the University. They rightly emphasise you shouldn’t feel the need  to make a detailed or complicated response: a simple snail mail  letter or e-mail will do. But it’s a good idea to say which particular enumerated and named policies you’re referring to, where this is possible:

  • ·         Write to or email CCC if you agree with the proposal that the University of Kent should be required to produce a Masterplan for its campus, which maintains its campus character, respects the setting of the site in the wider countryside, and includes a landscape strategy, write to say that you support policy EMP7.
  • ·        Write to or email CCC If you agree with the proposals to protect the environment, including views across the city from the University slopes, and protecting open spaces, write to say that you support policies HE2, LB2 and OS8
  •        Write to or email CCC if you welcome  the provisional decision not to consider the Southern Slopes as a potential site for housing development (200-300 houses) because this would dramatically violate Sustainability Objectives (Evidence base:  the  SHLAA-sites-Analysis conducted by AMEC for CCC in 2012)

 You can send your comments by post to Planning Policy Team, Planning and Regeneration, Canterbury City Council, Military Road, Canterbury, CT11YW; or by e-mailing planning.policy@canterbury.gov.uk

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A juvenile jay foraging in apple tree dating back to Mount’s nursery days, southern part of Bushy Acres, august 2013

CAT Open Day, archaeological excavations

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Ross from CAT discusses evidence of burial at the Keynes III/Turing excavation

I attended this fascinating event in the morning. Expert CAT staff were on hand to share their wealth of knowledge about how what is being found on the Keynes III/Turing college site adds to our understanding of how our ancestors were living 2-3 millenia ago. A highly informative guided tour of the site was provided.  Amongst the highlights for me on the day were:

  • learning that the place was a local centre for our ancestors throughout the entire iron age, although there was also modest evidence of settlement as early as the bronze age. It would have been a hive of activity  at the same time that Bigbury camp, just a few miles away near Harbledown (well known internationally as the place for a key military struggle between local people and the invading forces of emperor Claudius in 54 AD) was also famously flourishing
  • finding out that the site hosted differentiated areas for habitation (evidenced, for example, by pottery and charcoal from fire pits) and working life (including textiles: in particular numerous loom weights have been found). There is also ample evidence of burial and material relating to  funeral pyres, suggesting  that sacramental ceremonies would also have been performed here
  • confirming that the people who inhabited the site were involved in trade and transactions with others from outside the area, and even beyond England. Kent has long been proud of its role as a vanguard of civilisation in the British Isles from before the common era, a status documented by contemporary Roman writers. A beautiful horse-design coin originating from the North West of continental Europe, then part of the Roman empire (perhaps from what is now Belgium or France), probably about two thousand years old,has been unearthed  on the Keynes III/Turing site (see image).  Our iron age ancestors in this place were apparently systematically engaging in monetized commerce with our continental neighbours when other parts of the country were still relatively insular and isolated!
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Pre-Roman invasion coin from continental Europe found at Keynes III/Turing excavation

Please see the CAT project site for more on this project in general. At the time of writing information on the success of  the open day has not yet been posted, but  hopefully an update will appear soon.

Next CFPS Picnic: Date confirmed

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Meadow Brown  basks in mid day sunshine, Bushy Acres, August 2013

I am delighted to announce that discussions on the timing of the collaborative picnic involving CFPS with local civil society groups has progressed, and we have now agreed a date: PM SATURDAY 21st September. Please put the date in your diaries now. I’ll report more detail on the plans in a future blog in terms of timing and content, but it’ll include all the usual CFPS activities (socialising, formal  games, informal play, musical  entertainment etc) and more besides.

Enjoy the rest  of your week!

Chaucer Fielder

Chaucer Fields Picnic Society

Guest Blog – an American student’s perspective

Introduction

Welcome to the first “Guest Blog” from the Chaucer Fields Picnic Society!  We start with a contribution from Justinian Dispenza, an American student who was studying for a year in Canterbury in  2010-11. Justinian was one of a group of  students, from Britain and abroad, who took the initiative in efforts to highlight the environmental value of unspoilt Chaucer Fields. A Film Studies student here for a year from Indiana University, Justinian applied his skills in two ways to draw attention to the situation. His Hedgerow Havoc video, when posted on YouTube, secured hundreds of hits,  bringing humour and a sense of fun to the campaign, and helped catalyse large numbers of students to take part in the Chinese Lantern Event of February 2011. If you haven’t seen this clip, you can it now  by clicking here: Hedgerow Havoc . Second, Justinian went on to capture the event itself on video, another YouTube film which has meant that people who were not there at the time have been made aware of what happened that evening  [see Blog Roll, right].

 

Justinian being serious, Roper’s Twitchell, August 2012

 

Justinian  developed  an interest in environmental issues at school through involvement in recycling projects. He has subsequently worked with several British and US-based international environmental NGOs as volunteer and paid staff, including the Sierra Club student’s coalition, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and People & Planet. In relation to Chaucer Fields, as the Blog captures, he is committed to the cause for the long term, and is spreading the word amongst peers in Indiana, and other Universities. He is hoping to work in Environmental media in the UK or elsewhere in Europe when he graduates in 2013.   Justinian is currently visiting Canterbury again – including Chaucer Fields of course (see photos). He is using the city as a base for wider European forays, combining visits to old friends, touristic travelling and  the  take up of volunteering opportunities in organic agriculture. He sees these efforts as part and parcel of his commitment to environmental respect and social justice.

Justinian not being serious, Roper’s Twitchell, August 2012

JUSTINIAN’S GUEST BLOG

Chaucer fields. They are home to dog walkers, runners, cyclists, frisbee players, picnic makers, amateur photographers, tree climbers of all ages, and everything in between.  But, is it even more than that: It is so much more.  These fields, and the Southern Slopes of which they are part, are in my experience one of the major reasons for international students choosing to study at the Universiy of Kent.

As an international student, I had many options to study all over the world and had a list of 5 or so programs that accepted me.  I come from a small town in the USA and I grew up around parks, picnics, and the great outdoors although Indiana’s great outdoors are significantly flatter than the natural beauty you have in the UK! So  when I got the brochure from the University of Kent and saw the aerial shots of the University, its massive “green belt”  – clearly seperating it from the city, yet with Canterbury at the same time within easy reach –  I instantly knew that this place was going right up near the top on my list.  Universities in the US tend not to  have green belts: concrete and tarmac usually dominate.

I have always felt that the UK is at least five years ahead of the United States on progressive thinking and environmental responsibility and foresight.  And this thinking, of which the British should be proud, is bound up with real actions and practices. I am constantly telling my friends back in the USA how amazing it to witness people of all ages banding together here protect something they believe to be worth fighting for.

To make this post even more topical, I found out recently that my favourite spot of small woodland left on Indiana’s campus had been bulldozed without warning to expand our University’s School of Business. This last bit of unspoilt forest was taken and destroyed without so much as a blink of an eye from the general student population. Unfortunately, those of us who would like to have tried to stop it were either out of town, or too few to stop the bulldozers.  In the USA, we have been so quick to pave everything, cut ourselves off from  our natural suroundings and turn them into sterile short grass parks, interspersed with  Mcdonalds-style catering and consumption opportunities.   For those of you who don’t know, “managing nature” in America often means putting a fence around a piece of land and spraying it with pesticide every couple weeks.

Since England isn’t much bigger than my home state of Indiana and has 6 times the population –  and the South East is especially densely populated – I am convinced that the effects of losing a green space such as this would so much more devastating. It would hit hard wildlife, local nature lovers, and have knock on effects on the health and well being of locals, University staff and students alike.

Here in Canterbury, you have already fought with more vigour and strength than I have ever seen back home and it has been an inspiration to me and my Indiana friends  who have been following the development of this campaign. There is no danger of the passivity I reported in Indiana in your part of the world. The momentum behind the Chaucer Fields campaign just seems to keep on gathering. But – if  Chaucer Fields were to be been turned into a concrete revenue generation opportunity for the University in spite of this, what would have been done?  There is simply no going back. You never hear of someone tearing down a hotel to plant a garden.  Fight for this green space with everything you have.  I only wish as many of my American colleagues were as passionate about saving green space!!

PLEASE DON’T GIVE UP THE FIELDS AND SLOPES.  This thriving expanse of green space shared by so many really, really must be kept so that future generations from Britain, the USA and all over the world may share in its beauty. Ideally, the University of Kent should have a re-think on the matter, and recognise it is in its own interests to nurture and respect this wonderful place. It should develop ways to meet student accommodation needs, on or off campus, which don’t do so much damage, and  which do not severely erode its environmental reputation, and undermine its green credentials. This is counter productive, since it will obviously discourage environmentally aware students like me from choosing to study here.

Table: People & Planet’s Universities Green League table, People & Planet

Year University of Kent Christ Church University
2007 50th 93rd
2008 48th 81st
2009 21st 70th
2010 89th 56th
2011 94th 31st
2012 107 th 33rd

Source: data from subpages for relevant years at  http://peopleandplanet.org/

Where am I coming from with this? As the data of well respected NGO People & Planet –  with whom I have been involved for a couple of years now –  show, the University of Kent’s lack of  green sensibility  has already demonstrably lead to a collapse in its national environmental management &  performance rating. This has unfolded especially over the past four years. There are also devils in the detail. It may be significant that its relative position has also dramatically weakened locally, as other institutions close by have improved their positions. For example, see the Table above comparing the University of Kent with Christ Church University. It now seems to me its green reputation is going to deteriorate fast at international level too, and adverse knock-on effects in terms of recruitment will follow.  That is, unless it listens to its students, staff, and local people and withdraws the ‘development’ plans in the interests of all. 

the potential despoilment of Chaucer Fields: Pictures louder than words

Dear all

A busy bank holiday weekend looms. I had intended to write some text, but have run out of time. So instead, I’ll just pass on one important piece of information, and leave you with two images. Sometimes, pictures can speak louder than words.

UCU-hosted meeting. As per previous CFPS Blog (and reported in this week’s Kentish  Gazette) this meeting will take place in Eliot college this coming thursday 10 may, 1-2pm. As the Blog noted, the exact venue is Eliot lecture theatre 2.  UCU have been asked to make sure there is good signage. Other parts of Eliot college are being used at this time for examinations. It is of utmost importance the students involved are not in any way distracted during this process: their futures are at stake.  Whether you are coming to the meeting from outside the University, or are a staff member or student already on campus, please be really careful to avoid making any noise or disturbance at all, before/during/after the meeting, anywhere near to the college.

Chaucer Fields: Unspoilt, google earth image (plus Heritage map labels)

Despoiled Chaucer Fields:  Google earth, superimposing ‘development’ information from Planning Application

The draft “Heritage map”  (see earlier Blog) gives a starting point for labelling some key features. Clearly, a single image or map cannot do justice to the level of environmental, amenity and heritage harm which would be  caused by the development on this (8-football-pitch size) site. We choose to highlight just two aspects.  First, how development would wipe out hedgerows. And second, the loss of some of the main pathways (including some which have been well trodden for over three centuries). The location of the proposed hotel, multi-storey accommodation blocks, roads, roundabout and car parks are shown in black ink;  threatened hedges using colour-coded arrows; and  main paths at risk as brown lines

Chaucer Fielder

Chaucer Fields Picnic Society