Sunday, 22 July 2012

Western Heights and Farthingloe

Western Heights and Farthingloe
Prior to 2012, Dover District Council (DDC) and China Gateway International (CGI) have been planning the sale of areas of Western Heights and Farthingloe for private development. The declared intention is to rake in enormous profits from the building of around 700 houses, a luxury hotel, a conference centre and several other buildings. There is also a plan, however not related to CGI, to build a mega World War memorial on Western Heights, designed to attract large numbers of visitors from all over Britain.

Parts of the unique heritage of this area of Dover's Green Belt are at risk of being put up for speculation, cemented over and permanently destroyed. The narrow road full of bends that crosses through Western Heights, and is called Military Road, is not designed to support large volumes of traffic, and so the area could become out of bounds for people walking up or down the slopes.

The construction of new houses, a hotel and a conference centre, as currently planned on this part of Dover's White Cliffs, even in the absence of a mega World War memorial, would certainly increase the local traffic considerably, as new residents would be transiting daily by car from rural locations to the town centres of Dover and Folkestone, while visitors would be accessing by car a hotel or a conference centre, drastically changing the present status of the area.

Speculation from Western Heights to Farthingloe
China Gateway International is presently pushing for a partial urbanisation of Dover's Western Heights, which is to a large extent a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and for large-scale urbanisation of adjacent Farthingloe, designated as Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Their intention is to sell on to developers the land they own, both on Western Heights and at Farthingloe, in return for an enormous profit. In order to achieve this, they need to receive building permission from Dover District Council. Developers would in turn sell the land, once it were built upon, to house-buyers. Many people in Dover, however, have decided to oppose these speculative objectives.

China Gateway International purchased the land they own on Western Heights and at neighbouring Farthingloe with the intention of selling it for speculative gains. In June 2012, CGI presented their planning application to Dover District Council, whose councillors are attempting to transform areas of the White Cliffs of Dover into urban settlements, notwithstanding the fact that Dover's local population is not in need of new urban areas. These proposed settlements are expressly designated for migrant settlers from other parts of Britain, in particular from London, as a number of local councillors have openly stated in public.

Dover District Council Corporate Plan 2012-2016
Under the above heading on the DDC website, the following text appears:
To make land available at Western Heights/Great Farthingloe Farm to enable progress towards the comprehensive proposals for regeneration, linked to the Town Centre, and maximise the tourism potential of this area, enabled and facilitated through a Planning Performance Agreement.”

Whoever wrote this official piece of legislation published by Dover District Local Government, seems to want to make people believe that the building of hundreds of houses in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as is Farthingloe, and on a Scheduled National Monument, as is Western Heights, will attract tourism. Yet sane reasoning leads us to believe it will deter tourism. The term "regeneration" to describe the desecration of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a Scheduled National Monument, and their transformation into areas sacrificed to a speculative money-grabbing cult, is beyond belief.

The White Cliffs of Dover in Return for Money
In regards to the China Gateway International planning application, Lorraine Sencicle, a local Dover historian who has achieved outstanding results in saving the Western Heights from decay and from previous development plans for houses, wrote on Dover Forum on 4th July 2012: "If given the go-ahead by DDC, the council will receive the New Homes Bonus fund - this is a levy on money raised from the development that can be spent on the District."

Quite clearly, DDC Local Government is intent on permitting the selling off of areas of the White Cliffs of Dover to developers in return for money. This would come by way of funds granted by Central Government, but only if the CGI planning application is approved, as this would enable CGI to sell the land they own on Western Heights and at Farthingloe either to developers, or directly to potential house owners in the form of lots.

China Gateway International is operating out of speculative interests, in the hope of massively increasing the value of the land they purchased in Dover in protected areas. In order to achieve this, they need to market their product, making people believe that it is in the interests of Dover that this land should receive building permission. Then they could go on and sell it for an enormous profit, while Local Government would receive funds under the New Homes Bonus scheme.

Written by D. Alexander

Update 1: Petition for Western Heights and Farthingloe
On Saturday July 7th 2012, Kent Highways gave permission for six people to run a petition in two streets in Dover, from 10am to midday. In this short lapse of time, well over 400 signatures were collected, with name and address, to halt the CGI development plans on Western Heights and at Farthingloe.

The vast majority of people in Dover who were asked, stopped and signed the petition, after reading its wording. Many who signed were already aware of the planning application, and expressed their disapproval of the development plans. Other local residents had not been aware, and without any doubt, signed.
All the passing visitors to Dover who were asked, also signed, many of these from Canada and Australia, and some from Belgium.

Will the Dover District Council Planning Office take heed of the petition, that in such a small period of time had such huge response? Or will they trample down democratic opinion and go ahead with a lucrative plan to sell off these areas of the White Cliffs of Dover?

Update 2: English Heritage and Western Heights
On Monday July 9th 2012, English Heritage released an official statement, part of which is as follows:
"However, we are recommending refusal of planning permission for this damaging scheme for houses in the interior of the Western Heights. The openness of the interior is an essential part of the Heights and we cannot support its infilling as proposed.

If permission were granted, the prospects of appreciating one of England’s greatest historic places would have been cashed in for an unnecessary 94 houses, the location of which is driven only by the land ownership and not by any strategic thought on the part of the applicant China Gateway International for its destructive consequences.”

Update 3: Democracy Is Rejected
CGI have made a new planning application towards the end of 2012, almost identical to the previous one, but with some modifications to the Western Heights plans. They want at all costs to build a settlement at Farthingloe, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The public consultation is running again, but this time there seems to be scant interest, as people have probably given up believing the Local Government will listen to what the evident democratic opinion is by way of a petition. 

When Democracy has failed to convince an elected local Government, which has quite clearly done everything by way of local legislation to push through the CGI planning application before it was even presented, after years of ongoing talks between DDC and CGI, then all one can hope for is that Democracy will prevail in the future, through new national legislation, allowing for referendums on important local issues: referendums that are binding!

The present DDC Council made the Corporate Plan 2012-2016 after the local Council elections, so they were not elected on a mandate to do this. They hadn't revealed their intentions to build settlements on Western Heights and Farthingloe prior to being elected. It was not part of the DDC core strategy either.

D. Alexander 

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