Appendix A: Previous Studies

The North Downs Jigsaw Project - 1998-99

The KCC sponsored project was carried out in 1998-99 to gather information about rural settlements in the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Parishes within the AONB included parts of the District Council areas for Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Gravesham, Maidstone, Medway, Sevenoaks, Shepway, Swale and Tonbridge and Malling. Each Parish was contacted and asked to nominate representatives to be responsible for forming a critical photographic record of their parish.

At the project's conclusion, the key issues identified in the survey of the North Downs parishes fell under the general heading of:

Transport and traffic

Planning and development

Community issues

Countryside conservation

Copies of the results, including the main issues highlighted for North Downs parishes now follow.

Transport, Traffic and Infrastructure

Traffic volumes and speed , particularly on local roads and in settlements

General impact on roads - noise, light and air pollution, landscape intrusion etc

Road maintenance needs, - particularly during winter months

Paucity/No provision for public transport

Infrastructure development particularly the Channel Tunnel Rail Link

Planning, Development Control and Building Design

General Development pressure, intensification and all resulting effects

Maintenance of identity, scale and setting of rural environment

Impact of telecommunication masts, pylons and similar

Planning for local needs; low cost housing, rural employment etc

Impact of quarrying,, landfill, waste disposal and similar

Suburbanisation/Inappropriate conversion of old buildings

Community Issues and Local Amenities

Provision/Maintenance of: village shop/PO/pub/dispensing service

Provision/Maintenance of: village hall/school/library (building or mobile)

Need to improve community involvement particularly of young people

Need to improve policing to fight crime, vandalism, fly tipping etc

Countryside Issues - Land Management, Conservation and Recreation

Conservation - The way in which subsidy payments are paid to the agricultural industry is changing. The Common Agricultural Policy has just undergone the most radical shake-up since Great Britain joined the Common Market in 1973. The mid-term review (MTR) set to be implemented in 2005 will see subsidies paid on an Entitlement basis on the land, a definite shift away from a production based arrangement allowing more freedom and flexibility. (The difference being production based on crop area and entitlement on a single farm payment irrespective of what is grown.) The other important facet is modulation. This takes money away from traditional areas of support and increasingly is put into environmental schemes, such as the "Countryside Stewardship Scheme", in which the Belmont Estate is heavily involved. Agriculture is of little economic importance to many villages. The Industry is no longer perceived as being of any strategic importance in terms of continuity of food supply. Food is traded globally, so, therefore, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) can be removed from the food supply chain. There is a school of thought which argues that this may well happen post MTR on some of the less productive land in the first instance. The danger here is that great swathes of Countryside will appear unmanaged, untidy and eventually derelict. The various conservation schemes and rural development grants are the political will behind not allowing this to happen. Ultimately the fate of the face of the Countryside will be determined by the individuals that own and manage it, as it has been for generations.

The Impact of Modern Agriculture - There is probably less impact from modern agricultural methods today than there has been for thirty years or so. The changes highlighted above with the MTR, the Countryside Stewardship Scheme and the understanding of a moral obligation to the Countryside has made many landowners far more aware of their responsibility to the local flora and fauna. Within Europe, the UK has the strictest pesticide regulations of any state. The crop assurance schemes that exist are there to provide complete trace ability from field to table. Any producer who is not a member of a scheme will find it extremely difficult to market their produce. Originally sold as a premium market instrument (premium for having the assurance scheme) it is now the norm. Pesticides undergo strict evaluation that costs many millions of pounds before they get an approval licence. They are far more target specific, less persistent and consequently much safer for everyone than ever before and reassuringly expensive! People in Agriculture are better trained than they have ever been and better informed of the consequence of their actions especially when it comes to chemicals and fertilisers. Increasing use of computers and electronics has also helped to make things safer and more accurate. It is probably fair to say that farms will get bigger because the efficiency that size brings cuts costs. That, however, is unlikely to be at the expense of field size, woodland or other natural habitat that need to be preserved for future generations.

Loss of Tradition - In the single word "Globalisation" is the explanation for the loss of many of the traditional farming methods. More and more buying power is being placed in fewer hands. There is one grower of top fruit in South America who is able to provide as much as the entire English crop for one Supermarket's demand for pears of the right quality and at the right price. The logistics and the size of the figures show that it can be and is being done. Kent is famous for hop growing but it has recently been said that no hops (other than novelty) will be grown in Kent inside five years. Much of the production has been shifted to Northern Germany where the climate is ideal and the necessary labour readily available.

Horsey-Culture - Since farm incomes have come under pressure in the last decade it is noticeable that many have "diversified" by using redundant farm buildings for a variety of uses. The "classic" is the conversion of the "Oast house" into residential property. There has been a move towards small industrial units as there is often grant money available for conversion costs (more will be made available from modulation as time goes on) and then there is diversified business growth such as horse livery yards. Where there is strong demand these can be quite successful. The Belmont Estate has little interest at present in pursuing any of the above.

Improve provision for walkers etc. - Eastling has a network of footpaths and bridleways which are relatively well maintained. Many farmers, however, do rely on the goodwill of the walking public to point out areas of weakness such as fallen trees, poor gates etc., so that problems can be brought to the attention of management and action taken. It is not practical to expect everything in what is a natural environment to be perfect all the time.

Sporting Facilities for the Young - There are none. The Belmont Estate offered the village for a commercial rent the 2½ acre in front of "The Carpenter's Arms". The people living in the vicinity did not wish this to happen and mobilised a very effective "no" campaign. The people who the facility would have benefited most did not really get involved in the debate and consequently the idea was dropped.

The Eastling Parish Appraisal 2001

The Appraisal was carried out by the Eastling Parish Council with support from the Swale Borough Council in the spring of 2001. It was wide-ranging, with objective and comprehensive information on the village's history, natural and built environments, economy, people, services, transport, facilities and useful contacts.

The Main Points:

Eastling residents put a lot of store on the attractive countryside surrounding the village

Traffic speeds on roads in and around the village are a major concern

Half the village are against more street lighting - but more than a third would like it

Opinion on whether main drainage would be a good thing found 50% in favour and 33% against

Almost nobody wanted to see more housing in Eastling

Reliance on the car has become a way of life

The village post-box is very well used by most people

Some other services - like the bus, the library van and the phone box - are not used by the majority of villagers. But for those who do, they are regarded as vital

When it comes to what is happening locally the "Good News" is THE source people rely on

Half the village still use the milkman

Television is the top leisure activity and (apart from going to work or school) visiting friends or family is the major reason for journeys out of the village

Faversham remains the main shopping centre for most Eastling residents - with Canterbury more likely to be the destination for big purchases

61% of villagers are into recycling and 42% compost their garden waste

Cats are the top pet in Eastling

Eastling Village Survey 2000 (Project by Ben Bromley)

Most people regarded Eastling as attractive with 40% saying "very attractive"

95% of residents agreed that there was a need to conserve the natural surroundings and protect the existing built environment

74% of residents would welcome a village shop - although the sad reality is that the local population is too small to support one

73% would like to see a village green created. It was discovered that this demand for a green was uniform throughout the village area

Demand for a more regular bus service came mainly from younger and older people - those who need it most

10% of people would have welcomed a children's playground, and there were calls for more sports and recreational facilities in the village

Many found that the speed of traffic through the village was a problem, and regarded speed humps or a lower speed limit as a solution.

Appendix B

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