From Bulldozers, bees and bounds….to pre-history,presidents and picnics

One White Sugar University Road view

source: One White Sugar, Faversham (see Blog text below )

This Blog is admittedly something of a rag-bag of information and observations. If it is the chaucer fields ‘picnic’ aspect that you are here to find out about, Sunday 5th May is the key date for your diary. Please scroll down to the end of the Blog. But I hope there are other points of interest in what follows.

No news: expected Chaucer Conference Centre planning application

The nearest thing to news here is what  hasn’t happened. The University’s Chaucer Conference Centre planning application, expected to have materialised by now (on the basis of what University authorities chose to tell us last year), has not done so. Unfortunately, no news is not necessarily good news in this case. Although there are ongoing and imminent changes of personnel at the most senior level at the University which we might hope could lead to fresh thinking on this matter, there is as yet no evidence of policy change. So we’ve no obvious reason to believe the University has abandoned its plans to replace fields, trees and beautiful vistas with tarmac, multi-storey buildings and high rise blocks. It seems most likely that delays beyond its control, or deliberate stalling, explain this latest episode of policy drift.

temp all phots to 21 april 13 1049

One of the  favourite oak trees amongst climbers, with the cathedral and marlowe theatre in the background. Southern part of Dover down field, chaucer fields, april 2013

Unspoilt Southern  Slopes Imagery 

Happily, spring in with us in earnest at last. The unspoilt Southern Slopes, including chaucer fields, are now coming to life with verdant fresh foliage, the hum of bees and other insects, and resonant birdsong. This includes the melodious singing of robins, wrens, blackbirds and thrushes; the chirping of house sparrows and dunnocks; the cackling of the several members of the crow family that frequent the fields; the repetitive calls of chiff-chaffs, tits and  finches; and the drumming and characteristic laugh-like cries of great spotted and green woodpeckers.

temp all phots to 21 april 13 1406

Honey bee, Bushy Acres field, middle part of chaucer fields, April 2013

No new photos from Mark Kilner this time, I’m afraid (see previous Blog and Blogroll, right). But I did stumble across the image at the top of  the Blog. This is a striking artistic representation from Nigel Wallace, founder of the Faversham business White One Sugar, which specialise in posters and cards capturing iconic Kentish and national scenes. The style is inspired by mid twentieth century railway advertising posters. They have developed a number of Canterbury images. You’ll notice the one here captures the Cathedral framed by the unspoilt landscape. This is famously  part of the remarkable panoramic views whose integrity would  be undermined forever if building south of University  road and east of Chaucer College were to proceed. Nigel tells me that this is  one of their best selling representations of Canterbury.

A Pesticide Free Zone

In what follows, I’ll revert to interweaving some more of my own amateur photographic efforts into the  text this time round. I have paid  some attention this time to life which is able to flourish by virtue of the fact that this land has never been subjected  to pesticides, chemical sprays or other contaminants over the years, unlike much other proximate land. This is a topical international issue at the moment, with the ongoing debate on whether or not to control much more tightly at European level the use of the pesticides with wildlife in mind  – especially  in the light  of the dramatic decline in bee numbers in recent years.

XXX Dover Down Field, late may

Small Copper,  Dover Down Field, late may 2012

To underscore the value  of the fields in their  unspoilt state from this perspective, I’ve included photos from the last few days,and last summer, of the commonest types of  bees and  the butterflies which are in evidence here at these  times of year.  A less well know manifestation of the fields’ spray-free past is  the existence of a wide range of fungi. A friend of mine who was studying botany some years ago, told me that in a single morning of mycology field work, he catalogued at least 35 varieties of fungi on the Southern Slopes. The combination of trees and uncontaminated open space on the slopes is especially conducive to their flourishing.   

temp all phots to 21 april 13 1003

small tortoiseshell, south western part of Dover Down field, chaucer fields, april 2013

CAT excavations beginning: Keynes III site north of unspoilt Southern Slopes

Anyone expecting to experience the wonderful tranquillity which has been a signature feature of the fields for so many years will have been struck by the uncharacteristic temporary intrusion of noise during the day time this month. As people who venture to the northern part of the fields, or University Road users will have witnessed, the reason is that the diggers and bull dozers have been active to the north and east of Beverley Farm. They are clearing the ground in historic Saw Pett field for the ‘Keynes  III development’ student accommodation blocks. As a condition of giving planning permission, Canterbury City Council required that Canterbury Archeaological Trust (CAT) conduct excavations on the site.

temp all phots to 21 april 13 149

Initial trench at Keynes III site, east of Beverley farm and north of University Road,            4 april 2013

Seeing the fields close to Beverley Farmhouse being dug up in this way is a troubling sight – in my opinion, especially sad in the context of the University never having demonstrated convincingly that other, alternative sites –  including Park Wood and Giles Lane car park (with compensatory underground parking) –  could not have been developed. However, unlike land further south, this part of campus was already earmarked for commercial development several years ago.

temp all phots to 21 april 13 1271

Digger for Keynes III site close to Beverley Farm, april 2013

Moreover, encountering this ‘development’  so close by will, for sure, harden the resolve of the many people already committed to preserving the unspoilt  fields further south, below University road, to do everything possible to ensure this can never happen there. Witnessing the digging will also surely raise awareness of the threatened status of the proximate area amongst regular and routine University road  users who, up until now, may not have given the issue much attention.

temp all phots to 21 april 13 1287

Working on the Keynes III site, mid April 2013

There’s also something positive to report on how the process will unfold. Regular readers of this Blog will be aware how important CAT’s work has already been in drawing on historical documentary evidence on the heritage value of the setting of Beverley Farm – both north and south. But the ongoing archeological work seems set to systematically evidence, for the first time, that the significance of this place for human settlement  long pre-dates the medieval origins of the farmhouse over half a millenium ago. As expected given the ancient impact of man on the shape of the land and character of the place, CAT have advised me that some Pre-Historic finds are already in evidence.

temp all phots to 21 april 13 1387

Honey bee, Dover Down field, mid april 2013

This  is hardly surprising, since in very local terms the Beverley Farm setting  is obviously nearby to  the iron age centres of Canterbury and Bigbury Camp. Indeed from a county-wide perspective, this part of Kent is especially rich in prehistoric settlements (see Alan Ward’s chapter ‘Overall Distribution of Prehistoric Settlement sites’ in Lawson and Killinggray’s Historical Atlas of Kent, Phillimore, 2004). Perhaps this will remind University authorities that the campus’s presence here accounts for just a fleeting moment of historical time: It should be approaching its land stewardship responsibilities with great care and humility.

temp all phots to 21 april 13 1253

Male chaffinch, southern part of Chaucer Fields, mid april 2013

Indeed, I think this is a good chance for people from both communities to work together for a common heritage interest, and the dig is going to be ongoing for several months. So please watch do continue to watch this space for .

  • updates on finds as the excavation unfolds; and
  • opportunities for the local and university communities to get actively involved as volunteers in the process of revealing our past.
temp all phots to 21 april 13 1309

Buds on one of the apple trees presumably dating back to Mount’s nursery days earlier in the 20th century. Central southern part of  chaucer fields, april 2013

Kent Union election for sabbatical officers 2013/14

I have written to congratulate the President-elect of Kent Union, Chelsea Moore, on her electoral success last month. She’ll take up the sabbatical position as head of the University of Kent’s students’ union, covering the academic year 2013/14, in the autumn. What has this got to do with the fields? For now, Kent Union’s adoption of a policy to ‘campaign to save chaucer fields’ in response to the all student vote (ASV) last year has not really generated any visible results under the current leadership, despite suggestions  reported in an earlier Blog that these might be pending. But we can I suppose assume that it has helped shaped the approach taken in handling the issue in behind-the-scenes discussions with the University authorities. And there is of course still ample time for the existing leadership to take a more publicly apparent contribution.

temp all phots to 21 april 13 1312

Spring growth inside one of  Chaucer Fields’ many hedges, april 2013

But looking further into the future let’s hope that Kent Union’s approach will become bolder and more transparent. In a pre election statement, Chelsea chose to emphasise how “Research highlighted that students feel there is a lack of social areas on campus where they are not prompted to spend money. I would lobby the University for more communal areas on campus for people to relax and socialise in comfort.” ( see About Chelsea Moore).

temp all phots to 21 april 13 1376

Blue tit glimpsed through Jack Cade’s carvet, central part of chaucer fields, april 2013

Protection of the currently unspoilt Southern Slopes clearly goes hand in hand with this aspiration: it is indeed precisely a communal area which allows for relaxation (as well as much else besides, of course). Combining this with the policy commitment she will inherit from the 2012 ASV, we can hope that the protection of chaucer fields  will be an important priority for Kent Union in 2013/14

Bee, Dover Down field

Honey Bee, Dover Down field, end of may 2012

5th May: Beating the Bounds… and a picnicking invitation

The historical fascination of Beverley Farmhouse and  the Southern Slopes are not just to do with pre-history or the medieval period. One of the most fascinating documents to be turned up by CAT in their 2011 research was an early eighteenth century map. (See Hill’s map, with the proposed 2011 ‘development’ plan boundary incongruously superimposed. This is a bit confusing to the modern observer, because north and south are inverted!)   The resonant historical field names on this 1706 map (which I have resurrected and used in this Blog over the past year) are striking. But one thing also in evidence is that the cartographer is unable to give a clear parochial boundary! This is because the land close to where the double hedge (“Roper’s twitchell”) is now prominent was then clearly not part of either St Stephens or St Dunstans parish. The issue was only resolved by magistrates, with the parish boundary unambiguously defined in law some years later.

temp all phots to 21 april 13 135

Bell Harry tower and Bushy Acres field trees, Chaucer fields, April 2013

Against  this backdrop, the continuation of the ‘beating the bounds‘ tradition, to demarcate where the St Stephens-St Dunstans boundary was finally situated, is especially interesting. Two years ago, Reverend Justin Lewis-Anthony led his parishioners over these fields as part of the process of beating the bounds of St Stephens. This year on sunday 5 May Reverend Mark Ball will be doing the same for neighbouring St Dunstans, including walking through Chaucer Fields. By so doing, he will also be drawing attention to the importance attached by the church to land with which it is historically deeply associated, and which is currently highly valued and widely used by the local community.  If  you are free on that day , please come to witness this tradition.

Unspoilt view of St Dunstan's church, June 2012

Unspoilt view of St Dunstan’s church from close to University road, from June 2012

We will be holding a  picnic which aims to coincide with the presence of the St Dunstans parishioners on the field. It will involve the usual combination of music, recreation, relaxation and socialising. It will almost certainly be in the afternoon, but more details will be circulated by email, texts, tweets and on the Save Chaucer Fields Facebook page closer to the time.  Hope to see you there!

Beating bounds from Foxworthy

Source: Customs in Kent, Tony Foxworthy, 2008, Country books, reproduced with permission

Best wishes

Chaucer Fielder

Chaucer Fields Picnic Society

Advertisements

Belated welcome – 2013

Dear all

mid november 2012 chaucer fields and song school 186

A belated Happy ‘New’ Year!  There’s one important, and perhaps under-reported development to note with the first Blog of 2013. We learned this week that Canterbury City Council officers are  recommending  to the Development Management Committee that the Keynes III development be granted planning permission. More on that below. Other than that, there’s nothing dramatic to pick up on: in a sense the “waiting game” continues in the run-up to March. However, there are some healthy signs that the momentum is steadily gathering in terms of actions and planning on the part of those seeking to protect the Fields as unspoilt shared green space. I’ll intersperse the text relating to the unspoilt slopes with images from last weekend’s snow on the Southern Slopes, including Chaucer Fields. As ever when it snows, many families and students were out and about enjoying the scenic beauty, and making the most of the opportunities to have fun that the weather presented!

1. Keynes III: Councillors likely to approve planning permission on 5 February 2013

A report has been written by officials for the Councillors who sit on the Development Management Committee of Canterbury City Council recommending the proposed development –  west of the existing Keynes II extension, and north of the Innovation centre (between Giles Lane and University  Road) –  be granted planning permission. Typically, Councillors vote in line with recommendations, so it is very likely that permission will be given. The report (download here) affirms the development is potentially positive both in terms of dealing with currently unmet accommodation needs for students (for the benefit of the University and city/District alike), as well as being on balance conducive to implementing existing business park plans.  (This is argued to follow especially from the construction of a new access road which would service both sets of needs).

As discussed in earlier Blogs, this was not a foregone conclusion. While the overwhelming majority of local opinion was in favour of the development – not least simply out of relief that it is less appalling than the Chaucer Fields megasite alternative originally mooted in 2011 – there were reasons for questioning the plans. Some of these perspectives were expressed in feedback received from expert bodies inside and outside the Council, and also by lay people too.

In a Chaucer Fields Picnic Society Blog written when the application was submitted in November, you may recall that four considerations were highlighted. However, since then, new information  has surfaced, much of it reported clearly in the officer’s report, which has lead to a revision in my position in respect of three of these issues.

  • Playing Fields: The objection has been withdrawn in the light of belated clarification by the University, following an internvention by Sports England, on the temporary nature of the playing fields in the context of its overall playing field provision;
  • Pre-existing Development Policies: The original objection, on the grounds of lack of clarity relating to the business park, has been withdrawn. That’s because a clear account on how the plans relate positively to long established policies (the District Plan, Supplementary Planning Guidance and linked Briefings), covering development of the land north of University Road, is included in the officer’s report.. (The University’s own material on this issue had been vague and incoherent, hence my initial objection);
  • New evidence on the Resilience of demand for University places (not in the officer’s report) suggests the absolute number of students seeking residential accommodation may be stable (even if, as a proportion of all students, the number seeking residential accommodation may fall in response to the new financial environment). The related objection has been withdrawn.

Accordingly, I have written to the  Council (download here) to say that  the earlier representation should be adapted. The view is expressed that planning permission should not be unconditionally withheld.  While the impact on the landscape north of Beverley farm (and the University Road) it problematic, the officer’s report does seem to put forward a balanced justification for allowing development there, in terms of policies and priorities which are democratically determined, and already in place.

However, it is suggested that the other point made in the original letter – that the alternative site analyses have been wholly inadequate – still stands, and it is noted that the Council’s report does highlight  ‘reservations’ on this point. Accordingly, the view is expressed that planning permission might reasonably be given, but given more conditionally: It is suggested it could be forthcoming  if and only if the University is now able to demonstrate conclusively that other sites are not appropriate (including especially the obvious options of Park Wood and Giles Lane car park (with compensatory underground parking)). Its failure to do so convincingly to date, given the importance of the issue, is frankly unacceptable. So, this basic requirement is still outstanding, and has not gone away. And the Council is always going to be haunted by ‘reservations’ and doubts about avoidable loss of green space, albeit of relatively modest amenity value,  unless this condition is attached and demonstrably and unambiguously met.     .

2.  Southern Slopes Forum (SoS Forum) initiated January 2013

mid november 2012 chaucer fields and song school 215

So evidently Council officials have been hard at work in recent weeks in drawing together the evidence needed by Councillors to make an informed decision. For their part, the promoters of the ‘development’ at the University  have been publicly silent for around 3 months now, although no doubt further work has been undertaken behind closed doors, especially in preparation for March’s public enquiry and potential planning application on Chaucer Fields themselves (see previous Blog).

mid november 2012 chaucer fields and song school 128

Elsewhere, those who embrace a positive vision for the Southern Slopes as unspoilt space have been preparing the ground for the future. Most importantly perhaps, the Save Chaucer Fields (SCF) group, the coalition of residents associations which has been central in driving the grass roots campaign against  ‘development’ on the unspoilt fields since 2011, have  prioritised working with relevant parties in preparing for the Village Green public inquiry. With the University conspicously choosing to be incommunicado, focussing on this crucial groundwork has made good sense. Please do refer to the ‘refreshed’ SCF homepage,and the SCF village green sub-page, which contains very important information about the pending public inquiry (see also the January newsletter, below).  Week beginning 18 march is the key moment, with hearings taking place on campus, but at an institution which is constitutionally separate from the University: the venue is the  Franciscan International Study Centre, Giles Lane, Canterbury CT2 7NA.

mid november 2012 chaucer fields and song school 223

It is significant too that a Southern Slopes Forum (SoS Forum) was initiated this month to facilitate communication and co-operation in defending the unspoilt Southern Slopes in the months ahead. The Forum is informal but will meet regularly, and includes CFPS, the Save Chaucer Fields group; participation from Kent Union, the students’ union, with community zone and environmental interests coming forward (now with a clear mandate to defend the Fields in the aftermath of last term’s decisive all student vote requiring the Union to campaign to Save Chaucer Fields); and involvement by the University and Colleges Union, the University of Kent staff union, whose members voted in favour of protection for the Fields last year.

mid november 2012 chaucer fields and song school 119

The SoS Forum intends to liaise with and potentially involve the many other sympathetic parties who share  commitment to the fields – including local church groups (especially the Church of England, with its historic stewardship role in relation to community land); the Canterbury Society, Greenpeace, local recreation groups, individual student-led societies, and a number of local businesses and local and national charities, including those who were mentioned in CFPS Blogs in 2012. The idea is to make sure that the collective voice of civil society on this matter cannot be marginalised. Not only will this voice be heard, but it will necessarily be heard with increasing volume and persistence!

mid november 2012 chaucer fields and song school 229

3. Upcoming Social and Fundraising Events March – May 2013

In its latest newsletter (see below) SCF report that they have set a target of £4,800 for the weeks ahead – especially to cover the costs of legal advice in pursuing the Village Green Application, and the costs associated with contesting the Chaucer Conference Centre Planning Application expected in March.Chaucer fields newsletter 2013 (fundraising) .

The SoS Forum are keen to build on the success of previous fundraising community events to support the campaign. And I am pleased to say that the joint SCF-CFPS Ceilidh, featuring traditional English dance music from Roystercatchers, at the end of  last year raised over £500, as well as bringing people together for a great – and different, for many – night out. Attendees included not only local people without University connections, but UKC staff and UKC students currently studying here with origins as far afield as the Middle East, China and the Caribbean!  We’ll need more events like this to keep the momentum going.

mid november 2012 chaucer fields and song school 166

Indeed, as mentioned in the newsletter above – and you’ll be aware of this if you follow Save Chaucer Fields on Facebook – a further fundraising quiz on the evening of 9th March in St Dunstans church hall is also planned. These events are indeed great fun, good for community morale, and strongly recommended. And: this is  an especially important event, happening as it does at the beginning of  March. Please do try to go if you can, or if you are unable to do so, please consider making a donation to the cause (see above).

mid november 2012 chaucer fields and song school 183

Aside from further quizzes, other collaborative events currently being  planned for 2013, with guidance form the SoS Forum,  include::

  • A further Roystercatcher English Ceilidh, and related  acoustic musical happenings on the University campus and beyond
  • As weather permits in the Spring, a series of picnics involving play and recreation
  • A gathering on the Southern Slopes focussed on the ‘Jack-in-the-Green’ constructed by Whitstable’s Dead Horse Morris, to mark the arrival of May, as happened in 2012
  • A celebration of  “Beating of the Bounds”  – also in May. In collaboration  with  local church authorities, this will be based around the parish boundary (between St Dunstans and St Stephens) that has across the Southern Slopes for centuries –  as well, of course as other places in Canterbury further south where the boundary lies. This ancient tradition has long been enacted in and around our city (see photo below), and has a fascinating history in this particular place. The Blog will have more to say about this tradition in the months ahead!
Beating bounds from Foxworthy

Source: Customs in Kent, Tony Foxworthy, 2008, Country books, reproduced with permission

Best wishes

Chaucer Fielder

Chaucer Fields Picnic Society

mid november 2012 chaucer fields and song school 203

Short Blog – updates and reminders

Dear all

This is going to be a shorter Blog! I think I may have tested many people’s capacity to absorb complex information to the limit with the last one! I’ve got a couple of night time views from the fields in this one (a) because these have barely featured at all in the rich Google images library relating to the fields that has emerged over the past couple of years; and (b) simply because the only chance I have had to be on the fields with a camera recently has been after night fall. Please remember – the beautiful juxtaposition of the Cathedral and other historic and significant buildings (such as Westgate towers, St Dunstan’s church, and now the new Marlowe Theatre) with velvety darkness will be lost forever if the high rise sprawl represented by the proposed Chaucer Conference Centre proceeds. The ‘buffer’ supposedly retained under the 2012 plan as a ‘concession’ is frankly pathetic in size compared to the majestic scale of the current unspoilt space there.  And light from the ‘development’ would necessarily spill over, effectively connecting the campus to the northern edge of the city. The distinction between campus and city would be lost.  Light pollution would be ubiquitous, and opportunities for people with limited mobility or transport options in the densely populated northern part of the city to stargaze conveniently will be lost forever. But…. I digress and I said I’d keep it short! So here goes:

Dover down field view, free of proximate light pollution, november night

1. Keynes III Pending Planning Application

Thanks for your feedback on the last Blog, which had suggested that people consider writing in with views on the 2012 Keynes III Planning Application. It does seem like many people are really torn on this: they are united by their resistance to the Chaucer Conference Centre, at the same time it is recognised that moving the student blocks northward is less appalling than situating them on the unspoilt Southern Slopes further south, as per the 2011 proposals. As described before, SCF have not encouraged people to object.  Morever, people who don’t live extremely close have not had formal notice of the proposal.  That is to say, most have not been prompted to offer written representations by Canterbury City Council who, following existing practice, have defined ‘neighbours’ in a  limited way, and not written to anyone south of University road. (They advise me that just 40 addressees have been notified about the current application).

Personally, I will still be writing submitting objections. You don’t need to have received a letter from the Council: anyone can do this (see the information on how in the last Blog). However, in the light of an exchange with Richard Norman of SCF, I have decided to modify the grounds for my objection, and raise 4 points rather than 5. I now think it unwise and hazardous to try to link this particular Planning Application to a ‘Master Plan’, because if this were to be done, the latter would necessarily be rushed and of poor quality, and could lock us in to premature decisions.  It would  take time to do this properly, because it needs to meaningfully involve engagement with affected parties if it is to be credible. And affected parties would include University people, as well as the host community, especially people living in Canterbury,  Blean and Tyler Hill, so the process would need to be time consuming and extensive. If you want more background on this, the exchange with Richard Norman is public, and can be viewed in the ‘comments’ at the foot of the last Blog.

Night time view of Cathedral and Marlowe theatre, from top of Dover Down field. Absence of light pollution in foreground and middle distance results from existence of unspoilt green buffer from bottom of field right up to University road

Accordingly, these and only these will now be my grounds for objecting:

1. The University has demonstrably failed in its Keynes III application to make a convincing case that alternative, more appropriate sites, including those earmarked in the District Plan, cannot meet the need for student accommodation. This is, first, because each of the alternatives, presented in turn and in isolation from one another in the submitted documentation, involve unsubstantiated assertions about cost and logistical feasibility; and  second, the University has failed to consider possible approaches which involve the provision of the necessary accommodation by combining developments across more than one alternative site. In sum, it has failed to ‘join up’ its analysis.

2. The Keynes III development cannot reasonably be considered out of the context of a more developed account of the plans for a ‘business innovation park’ or ‘science park’ north of University road, near to Beverley Farm and the Canterbury Innovation Centre in its immediate vicinity. At the moment, it is unclear to almost everyone what this ‘park’ will involve, and there is certainly little information in the public domain.

3. The University’s claims about the level and nature of demand for student accommodation which underpin the Keynes III Planning Application do not adequately account for the true characteristics of its current  student body, nor the likely effects of the new  fee environment on domestic undergraduates’ choices. This is because the University is not merely a ‘residential University’, as is currently claimed, but in practice caters significantly for students who choose to commute from outside the immediate vicinity (that is, while living neither on campus nor in the city of Canterbury, but further afield) Moreover, the new fee regime is set to render the representation of the University  as a essentially a  ‘residential University’  increasingly inaccurate and outdated.

4. The Keynes III development may involve the loss of land, some of  which can be described as ‘playing fields’. By apparently failing to make commitments to secure ‘like with like’ provision, the University may be violating national regulations.

Please note, if you wish to write, the deadline is TOMORROW although the Council have kindly indicated that representations after this deadline but before the determination of the decision (perhaps early in 2013)  will all be taken into consideration by the Planning Management committee

2. English Ceilidh: 8 December, 7.30 pm onwards, St Stephens Junior School

On a lighter not, there’s already been significant interest in this, and it seems set to be a great evening. Please do try to come if you can. I am pleased to be able to tell you that not only will you get a discount from Murray’s General store at the Good’s Shed if you show your Ceilidh tickets. Now Clive Barlow, of Press Wine Services, has kindly confirmed he is also offering a discount on his excellent wine if you these tickets are shown. For more on Clive, his expertise and philosophy, please go to his profile at the Institute of Masters of Wine

If there are any other Goods Shed people who wish to offer a discount to Ceilidh attenders, please let me know! The Goods Shed management and staff have long been supportive of our cause, and we are most grateful. This is just the latest way of expressing their support.

3. Student vote urging Kent Union to campaign to protect Chaucer Fields ongoing

I wanted to finish the Blog by wishing those involved with this effort good luck. The odds are stacked heavily against them, for all the reasons discussed in the previous Blog, but now I know more about the process, I think there’s may be additional reason too.  The vote on the issue is buried at the bottom of a long list of issues, and may well escape the attention of potentially interested but very busy students. But – hats off to them for taking the initiative, and showing that commitment to our unspoilt green space can potentially be something that unites students and the rest of us. The on-line vote is currently ongoing until wednesday, please see Kent Union Zone information for more details.

UKC students promoting the protection of Chaucer Fields, saturday 24 November 2012

all the best

Chaucer Fielder

Chaucer Fields Picnic Society

Essential September : VGA meeting reminder (11 September) plus another key diary date (22 September)

Dear all

A large and increasing number of people are clearly watching developments around Chaucer Fields and the Southern Slopes ever more closely. What are the signs of this attention? A large ‘Save Chaucer Fields’ banner now stands proudly just south of Dover Down Field, so for the hundreds of people who walk past this spot, the issue simply can’t be ignored (see below)

Save Chaucer Fields banner on southern boundary of Chaucer Fields (Dover Down Field)

But this dramatic symbol right next to the Slopes is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve drawn attention in previous Blogs to some of the ways in which interest and attachment has been expressed over recent months through a whole range of actions and happenings. And indeed the CFPS wants to  help to communicate some of the sheer depth of energy and commitment that is demonstrably out there.  Looking at the number  of recorded hits – by the end of last month, over 2,500 visits to the CFPS Blog had been made – it is evidently having some success in raising awareness in the local community, nationally, and in many countries overseas (more on that in a future Blog…).

Hawthorn berries, Jack Cade’s carvet, early September 2012

As many of us return from holidays, important  events loom. I’ll use this first Blog of September essentially to remind you of something reported before, but also to give a futher update. Events are about to unfold rapidly: this month, it turns out, and its not just about the Village Green Application.  We’ll look at that first, but read on to find out more….

1. Village Green Application (VGA) meeting,

Westgate Hall 11 September, 1 pm onwards

The single most important reason that September is vital is the Village Green Application. Please refer back to the previous Blog for all the details, but one further logistical detail is worth pointing to. As reported there, the general  meeting starts at 1pm, but please be warned that  VGAs from other parts of Kent are on the agenda too. It is quite likely that the Chaucer Fields application won’t start to be discussed until after1.30pm or even nearer to 2pm. So do be aware that the Chaucer Fields part of the meeting won’t begin until a bit later on.

St Dunstan’s church and Roper’s Twitchell from Bushy Acres field, August 2012

2. New Development: University of Kent to begin seeking to promote revised Proposal in September too

Now for something of a bombshell. The University has apparently chosen this month to start the process of trying to promote a modified development Proposal, presumably in order to prepare the ground for re-submission of the long deferred Planning Application to CCC (Canterbury City Council) . In a message to Canterbury City  Councillors sent on 20th August the scheme’s architect, Professor Keith Mander, indicated that:

  •  On 10th September, there will be a preview of “revised proposals for student residences and a conference suite”. This is apparently  a closed invitation to Councillors (elected CCC members), a few CCC officers (officials), and a few  “other stakeholders” (a euphemism for other people or organisations the promoters consider relevant. Their identities have not been revealed. But this is an exclusive event, and it is revealing that members of the host community or University people [staff, students….] are apparently not considered to be “stakeholders”)
  • A “public consultation” will begin on the 11th September which will include an “open day for the general public (including detailed presentations)” on Saturday 22nd September.

What is going on? Its hard to know, because nothing has  been defined properly. Apparently, the organisation of these events, and the process of “consultation” more generally, have been left deliberately vague, and no further information was provided even to  invitees in terms of substance, content or location. This seems like short notice, and it is strange that the development’s promoters has not yet even announced this formally to the community through ithe University’s usual publicity routes. The “open day”,  for example, is now only two and a half weeks away.  It has to be said that this evasive lack of transparency does not seem helpful for University-community relations, given the extraordinary level and depth of public concern. It seems that an opportunity is being missed to learn from the mistakes of the past (the disastrous ‘Local Dialogue consultation’ [sic] and the deferred Planning Application of 2011)

Blackberries, Jack Cade’s Carvet, September 2012

In addition, this particular choice of timing, with the “preview” scheduled for before the VGA meeting at Westgate Hall, seems simply bizarre. It is bizarre because on 10th September, the members of the relevant KCC committee will have not yet have decided how to respond to the VGA, which will potentially transform, or set in train a process for transforming,  the legal treatment of the land forever: that meeting, as emphasied above, is on 11th September. Indeed as reported in an earlier Blog, Keith Mander in a presentation at an open UCU meeting (UCU are the main University staff trade union)  stated that the existence of the VGA had forced the University to put its development proposals on hold, because potential private sector funders were averse to the associated uncertainty.

The relevant  question must be: What has changed since that UCU open meeting? The University  seems to be either confident in a way that it was not then that  the VGA proposal to be discussed on11th September can be dismissed – effectively pre-judging a quasi-judicial process. Or, for reasons which are shrouded in mystery, it now believes it can fund the proposal in spite of the uncertainty created by the VGA. Perhaps the proposal has been dramatically altered to make it more palatable to its financial backers (in the for-profit banking sector), or other routes for finance are now being lined up.

Foraged Southern Slope Blackberries and Apples – ready for crumble!

We will have to wait and see to find out – for privileged ‘stakeholders’ this will be on 10th september; and for humble members of the host community, University staff and students, presumably we may be told some time from 11th september onwards. You may well be getting angry at how confusing and convoluted this has become. Sadly, it is confusing and convoluted, and that’s all I can say for now. Of course, I will report back on the VGA outcome as soon as the decision has been made next week. But please do try to be there if you possible can, as this is an important moment for Canterbury.

“Save Chaucer Fields” supporters, 1st september 2012

I will for sure also pass on information about the pending University “consultation” and “open day” as soon as this is available, but given the track record to date, we had better nor hold our breathe on that! In the meantime, let’s take heart from the excellent gathering organised by SCF last weekend, to rally supporters in readiness for next week’s meeting (see picture above, and there may be story in tomorrow’s Kentish Gazette).  In spite of the difficult time of year, it is clear there was an excellent turn out! Finger’s crossed for next week!

all best

Chaucer Fielder

Chaucer Fields Picnic Society