Development Part 2: Telegraph Road

the other travellers came walking down the track and they never went further and they never went back

Mark Knopfler

On a warm sunny afternoon, three of the team set of to interview a willing developer to get a feel how it might be to walk a mile in his shoes.

What you have to understand is you must be quite stupid ” he says “if you believe vast swathes of our landscape has been “concreted over“, here in Kent, or elsewhere. It’s bullshit.”

He asks the three of us how much Folkestone & Hythe district is built on, we own up to our ignorance. It’s 8%

Screenshot from 2018-08-24 11-13-17

When examined under the microscope of scrutiny, it appears that the data supports the developers claims.

All these NIMBYS running around telling anyone who will listen to their “alternative facts“, are killing the truth. If we developers did that we’d be crucified.”

Nimby’s are wilfully blind” he continues “what they have to remember is the volume of influence of rural/urban development, of course it has an impact via noise, pollution and infrastructure for example, I except that, but we do our best to mitigate that with greener material and technologies. Each of us spend a decisive amount more time surrounded by, moving in, living in the built environment, and this does have a significant psychological effect on each of us leading us to overestimate how much of it there is, just like so many NIMBYS do.

According to Corine Land Cover data, it turns out that the developer has a valid empirical point. Claims that the UK is being “concreted over” is way of the mark.  Building land cover data from Ordnance Survey informed by Corine and Dr Alasdair Rae from the Urban Studies and Planning Department at the University of Sheffield, very clearly shows buildings cover less of Britain than the land revealed when the tide goes out; which to our minds is quite an astonishing fact.

The Corine land cover data has been divided into four broad categories by :

  • farmland – pastures, arable land, orchards, vineyards et cetera

  • natural – moors, forests, lakes, grasslands et cetera

  • built on – buildings, roads, airports, quarries et cetera

  • green urban – parks, gardens, golf courses, football pitches et cetera

When taken as whole for the UK, our animated developer tells us just 5.9% of the UK is built on. He asks us if 10% would be too much, to be built on. We counter with the fact that the birth rate is at its lowest in the last 10 years and he better wait till things pick up in the bedroom department.

“Funny guys, I’ll remember that.” he says grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Screenshot from 2018-08-25 01-15-20


The top three built on districts in Kent?” we feel like naughty school boys who forgot to do their homework  “Dartford at 32%, Thanet at 27% and Gravesham at 21%.” came his loud reply “Apart from Tonbridge & Malling (14%) none of the other eight remaining districts reaches double digits.

Screenshot from 2018-08-24 15-29-06 Screenshot from 2018-08-24 14-32-32

He’s looking pleased as punch with himself. And without taking a breath he’s off again.

Dartford, Thanet and Gravesham residents may have good reason to say no to more building and if I lived in one of them, to right I’d be a NIMBY.

Now into his groove, he asks

As for the other eight districts in the county, the land built upon is under 10%, so why shouldn’t we developers build on any available land brownfield and greenfield? If farmers want to sell and Councils give permission to us developers, it’s legal, there are those who could give moreaffordable housing

Screenshot from 2018-08-24 11-09-57 Screenshot from 2018-08-24 11-11-25

Development is the price of progress and NIMBYS have got to get over it“,

says our all cylinder firing developer.

Also another bug bear is the way NIMBYS always remind you that summer’s will be drier and warmer, but forget to add in the bit about milder wetter winters and that’s where we have to find the solutions to conserve water and the industry is working on it and made huge strides.”

Without warning he stops and completely tangential throws in a curve ball question:

“Have you ever listened to Love Over Gold by Dire Straits and the first track Telegraph Rd? The lyrics narrate a tale of changing land development over a span of many decades, that’s life, that’s progress and neither me nor any NIMBY is going to stop it. Delay yes, stop no.”

Some of the reasons given by our developer were in our opinion rather lame, others stood up under closer scrutiny. NIMBYS, will have to come up with new and innovative arguments, if they wish to delay or even stop development. The same tired arguments need re-inventing and based on sound evidence.

As we headed to the pub; bathed in warm summer sunshine, we listened to the song our developer mentioned, and he has a point, the lyrics are quite apt and give a fair reflection of development, however, we’ll leave you to decide that:

The Shepwayvox Team -Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful

Copyright  for images and data rests with the European Commission; Acknowledgement: Produced by the University of Leicester, The Centre for Landscape and Climate Research and Specto Natura and supported by Defra and the European Environment Agency under Grant Agreement 3541/B2012/R0-GIO/EEA.55055 with funding by the European Union.

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7 Comments on Development Part 2: Telegraph Road

  1. Having been trained as an Urban Planner, this is the task of planning – to establish planning aims (i.e., stimulate the local economy, provide quality housing, promote environmental sustainability, ensure equitable distribution of the costs and benefits of development both within the project and across the affected communities), all considered in both space and time. All aspects of the development must be considered, as well as trade-offs, and this process should be transparent and open to public scrutiny. This means that each of the aims and consequences of proposals for attaining each should be studied and well-documented, and the documentation should be available to the public for inputs, rebuttals, additional evidence, alternative proposals, etc. Questions that have been raised about Otterpool – e.g. about the impact on road infrastructure, education, health, air pollution, etc. are ESSENTIAL considerations in this process – as are questions about the ‘affordability’ of the proposed housing and the distribution of the costs and benefits (e.g. to developers, Shepway taxpayers, local residents, potential local homebuyers, etc.) and must be studied objectively and impartially, and the results made public, with ample opportunity for ‘learning’ on all parts, until the proposed development is understood to be both appropriate and beneficial. The term ‘NIMBY’ unfortunately is extended to cover all of those people who have legitimate concerns and questions that have not been answered appropriately. At the end of the day, there will still be NIMBYs, but far fewer; in the face of an open and transparent process with ‘learning’ on all sides, there were be a lot more people who become convinced that the development is a public good instead of evil. Where there is still disagreement, and this has a strong objective basis (i.e. environmental impact assessments showing unacceptable levels of air pollution, or water shortage), a plan should not be allowed to go ahead until such issues can be resolved.

  2. I have lived in ignorance regarding the amount of the UK “concreted over”. The map of the UK is very revealing indeed. Not so naive now. Thanks to the SV Team for shaking me out of my ignorance.

  3. The percentage of land given for farmland is almost exactly the percentage of our food we produce. If we are to stop being so reliant on food being flown in from all over the world, should farmland be the last place to build? Environmentally, economically and ethically?

    The Shepwayvox Team: Brilliant line of reasoning DW.

    • “If we are to stop being so reliant on food being flown in from all over the world, should farmland be the last place to build” so may solutions to local food security; stop eating foods that are grown outside of the UK; stop growing bio-fuels, adopt GMO, eat much less meat. No easy solution, but as per the article, we don’t need vast amounts of agricultural land to solve the housing problem, so adopting simple one solution will offset the drop in available land.

  4. There are many valid questions being raised against Otterpool Park, but as yet I don’t see much about employment. The aspiration for 10,000 homes would lead to a crude estimate of 20,000 jobs being required (and is likely to be an underestimate) – this figure is greater than the number of employees (direct and through concessions) employed by House of Fraser in their 58 outlets. So where and what are these jobs going to be at Otterpool Park? Are they going to be shops and stores, warehousing and distribution, light industry, heavy industry, and where are these businesses to be sited? It would appear more than likely that the business park area shown on the plans would be insufficient, necessitating more building, more infrastructure and more pollution.

  5. Having thought more about this article what seems to be lacking from the developers comments are any aspects of scale, proportion or appropriateness. To ensure that local people have access to affordable housing and services is indeed progress, however the proposed scale of development far exceeds local need. Is it really progress to relocate a large number of people from one area to another when the infrastructure exists in their original location but not in the new? The only people who seem likely to benefit from this “progress” are these self same developers .

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