Court Case Special!
The fight for accountability and democracy went to the High Court at the end of last month. No stone was left unturned in examining UG's case and the Council's defence. For details of what the case was about- Download Urban Gravesham's latest newsletter (October 2014).
Thanks to the many citizens of Gravesend who contributed, in both large amounts and small, to the cost of the Court Case to have the planning permission for the Heritage Quarter thrown out. As an example of 'people power' this was extremely moving. It has proved that people are prepared to stand up and be counted and to hold the Council to account.
However, High Court cases are extremely expensive. We are still collecting donations for our fighting fund. Help us in the fight to save Gravesend, to make a donation download the form and send it to the address shown.
What happens next?
A verdict is awaited. It could come in the next few days or it could take a couple of months. If we win, then the planning permission for the Heritage Quarter will be thrown out.The Council's Regulatory Board will have to take its decision again. We will, with your help, seek to persuade Councillors to listen to the judge and the people, and to turn the scheme down, once and for all.
Watch this space!
Gravesend Heritage Quarter Judicial Review:
Urban Gravesham's fight for fair, transparent and democratic planning decision gets the 'go ahead' from the courts. (posted 10/08/14)
Urban Gravesham's legal fight to overturn Gravesham Borough Council's decision to grant final planning permission for the huge and over-scaled Heritage Quarter development took a huge step forward last Tuesday (30th July).
The Honourable Mr Justice Lewis has issued his decision - Urban Gravesham's case- that the Council did not follow lawful procedures, and did not consider all relevant matters when it issued planning permission- is strong. He gave leave for Urban Gravesham to take the Council to the HIgh Court.
The Council issued a press release that was parroted in an unthinking way by a certain local newspaper (title of article - 'Judicial Review granted - sort of') that stated that UG had won on a 'technicality'. It also quoted Council Deputy Leader Lee Croxton as criticising UG for being undemocratic and costing tax payer money. However:
1)There is no such thing as a 'technicality'- there is only the law. Even the Councillor Croxton can not ignore the law.
2) Councillor Croxton talks about democracy. However, the Council's decision to grant planning permission was not taken by our elected representatives at an open and transparent meeting. Instead it was taken in secret by unelected planning officers.
3) Its down to the Council to save further expense to the taxpayer. All it has to do is allow our elected representatives to make an open and transparent final decision.
Read the legal documents posted in the courts by Urban Gravesham
Read the judge's verdict
Gravesend Heritage Quarter: Council's Secret Deal
When Councillors on Gravesham Borough Council's Regulatory Board narrowly agreed in principle to grant planning permission for the massive out-of-scale Heritage Quarter scheme a year ago, they were told by planning officers that over £9m in contributions would be sought towards affordable housing, roads and schools via a planning (Section 106) agreement.
Under threat of a High Court injunction from Urban Gravesham’s lawyers, the Council’s lawyers have grudgingly produced a copy of the agreement which reveals that only about 1/3 of that amount has been secured.
Most of the secured contribution would merely go towards providing replacement town centre car parking on some unspecified site. Only £1m is being offered for off-site affordable housing– a long way from the £3.6m demanded by the Council's Cabinet.
Absent from the Agreement is the replacement church hall, the community provision and the promised £250,000 boost to the Old Town Hall. Furthermore, the Church, in their position as major landowners within the Western Quarter, are not signatories to the agreement. The whole of the Western Quarter, including the proposed shopping centre with its promise of jobs, investment and regeneration appears now to be on ice.
A further £3.5 m of contributions may follow – but this is subject to the whole development going ahead, and the development producing a financial surplus after developers’ profit has been skimmed off. However, the viability report carried out by Gravesham Council’s own advisers, Mouchel, stated that the scheme is likely to have a negative value and is not commercially viable.
Download the financial (Section 106) agreement
Download the Council's consultants' assessment of the viability of the Heritage Quarter Scheme
Download UG's comparison of funding sought and funding now agreed.
Gravesend Transport Quarter- will KCC Councillors vote to close the Station Car Park and allow heavy traffic through the Community Square? (posted 30/01/14)
Following a visit to Gravesend on 19th January, Councillors at Kent County Council will make a planning decision on the ill-fated Gravesend Transport Quarter Scheme in March.
The huge multi-storey car park proposal has been dropped, along with plans for a bus 'interchange'. All that remains is the proposal to spend a staggering £8 million on diverting traffic flows from the north of the Railway Station to the south.
The 242 space commuter car park would be permanently closed to make way for the new southern road, as would disabled spaces at the car park and at Railway Place. Even more bizarre is the proposal to divert service traffic (Including large lorries) from Tesco, the Thamesgate Centre and town centre shops through the very narrow Railway Place, and along the east side of the Community Square! A historic building at the Rathmore Road/ Darnley Road junction would be demolished to provide a widened junction at this point.
The scheme is in Kent County Council's programme of works and is to be funded by the Government's Homes and Community Agency. However, the last say lies with Kent County Council's Planning Committee.
Urban Gravesham thinks that the whole scheme is a crazy waste of money that will be highly inconvenient for commuters who use the Rathmore Road car park, and that it will only serve to ensure that Railway Place and the newly traffic calmed Community Square are ridden with traffic, noise and fumes.
TO OBJECT TO THE PROPOSALS email email email@example.com quoting Gravesend Transport Quarter and planning ref KCC/GR/0148/2012. Include your name and address. Your e-mail does not have to be complicated- simply state what you think about the proposed permanent closure of the Rathmore Road car park, the loss of commuter and disabled parking, and rerouting of heavy service traffic through Railway Place and the Community Square etc.
Download UG leaflet on the scheme (handed to KCC Councillors on 19/02/14)
Read Urban Gravesham's letter to KCC Councillors
Learn more about the Transport Quarter
Its official! Buried bear pit is of national importance (posted 12/01/14)
Back in 2012, and along with a range of other campaigners, Urban Gravesham became involved with the disused factory site that was once the location of the famous Rosherville Gardens- dating from the 1830's and at its height in the 1870's visited by 1 million visitors per year- many of whom travelled by paddle steamer from London. Frequent visitors included Dickens, Lillie Langtry, and Gaiety Girls.
An archaeological investigation on the old AEI factory site came across the well preserved remains of a bear pit- the one time home of 'Rosie the Bear' - who along with other exotic creatures entertained the crowds. Parts of the old Italian Gardens on the site were also rediscovered
We tried to persuade the Government's Homes and Communities Agency, who own the land, along with Gravesham Borough Council in its capacity as planning authority, to drop plans to deposit 1000's of tons of landfill from the London Crossrail project over the remains of the gardens. However, they refused to listen and the historic features are now reburied under tons of earth.
However, we have just learnt that English Heritage have 'listed' the bear pit. This means that it is a historic feature of national importance.
Whist we recognise that not all the old Rosherville Gardens can be restored, we think that the land owner should restore the bear pit and features of the Italian Gardens as a small local park as the centrepiece of high quality development. We hope that this time the Homes and Communities Agency and Gravesham Council (which calls itself the listening Council') should actually listen...We will be writing again to both organisations. Watch this space.
And in the Blue corner (posted 17/07/13)
Since the Gravesham Regulatory Board resolution to grant planning permission for the Gravesend Heritage Quarter scheme, planning permission has been granted by Dartford Council to expand Bluewater by 20%. Both Gravesham Borough Council and Heritage Quarter developers, Edinburgh House, had objected to the Bluewater scheme on the grounds that the retail viability of the Gravesend Heritage Quarter scheme would be affected.
UG agrees. It is now very questionable whether the retail part of the HQ scheme will be built at all. UG thinks that Gravesham Regulatory Board Councillors should look at the whole matter of the Heritage Quarter scheme again.
Read Gravesham Council's letter of objection and report
Gravesham Borough Council Regulatory Board resolves to give Heritage Quarter Scheme planning permission (posted 01/05/13)
At a meeting last night (30/04/13) GBC's Regulatory Board resolved to grant planning permission to the Edinburgh House Heritage Quarter proposals. It was, however, a controversial decision- three Councillors voted for it, three against, and three abstained, thus leaving the casting vote to the Chair, Councillor Jane Cribbon- hardly a ringing endorsement.
This permission is subject to to agreeing financial contributions for health, highways and other matters. These have not been agreed and until they are, the scheme does not officially have planning permission
The meeting was a farce- hundreds of people, the vast majority against the scheme, turned up to observe (as is their right) democracy in action. They were denied access to the Council Chamber where the meeting was taking place, and were instead decanted to the Woodville Halls to watch the meeting via a televised link . The meeting was delayed when the link went down and eventually ended at 10:45pm- by which time many concerned citizens, who stand to have their flats thrown into darkness by the scheme, had had enough of this particular brand of local democracy, and had gone home.
To read more
Urban Gravesham - the Civic Society for Gravesend and Northfleet
We are an ordinary group of citizens who care about the character and environment of the urban areas of Gravesham.
We aim to support positive changes to the town centre but we will, where necessary, campaign against changes that we think would damage the character of area.
We have been involved in major campaigns to save the Heritage Quarter (round St Georges Church and the Market Square) and the Transport Quarter (round the Railway Station) from mass development.
Our major achievement has been to stop the building of a 32 storey tower on St Andrews Gardens.
or phone 01474 359223
Join Urban Gravesham
Membership is £5 per year.
Download the membership form
and return it with your membership fee to the address shown on the form. Please consider including an extra amount to help us pay for our campaigns.
Make a donation...
We need funds to continue campaigning on your behalf to save Gravesend. In particular, legal fees cost money. Please consider donating to our fighting fund..
Make out Cheques to:
20 Ridgeway Avenue, Gravesend, DA12 5BB