This document has been produced by us as a family in response to the Master Plan proposed by the University of Kent.
We would like to query the assumption that the University’s expansion should be at the expense of Blean’s rural landscape. Is the creation of a series of large ‘business clusters’ or a vastly expanded University even necessary in a future of instant worldwide communication? Blean is an unlikely silicone valley and Discovery Park in Sandwich seems to fill most of the requirements of a high tech hub for associated research in Kent. While planning for the next fifty years these proposals are unduly blinkered by an attempt to solve the University’s immediate transport and space problems.
Unable to develop south towards Canterbury has Blean been considered a soft target for this eventual enormous expansion of car parks, roads, business parks and house building. We have restricted our response to the area that concerns us most directly. We leave it to others to discuss the sustainability, viability, necessity and impact of this vast scale of development in Blean and Tyler Hill. We entirely understand the motivation behind the creation of such an imaginative and far reaching document we would however refute the suggestions that have been made at it’s unveiling that it is only a series of ideas, ‘for the future’.
Unfortunately we cannot disregard the impact such a document has already had on Blean, and on the house and land that we still consider ‘home’. The first phase – the University’s ‘EARLY WIN’ – involves intensive development around the church and the village, incorporating car parks, new roads, large business areas, probably extensive housing and all serviced via the narrow and winding Tyler Hill Road. The implication in the Master Plan document is that this will also be an ‘EASY WIN”. The following pages are an attempt to understand the impact of these proposals and to put our case for a rebuttal of the Master Plan. The illustrations attempt to strip away the disguise from the large body of words and pretty images in the Master Plan.
Our contention is that the Master Plan may be using the developers classic ploy of proposing a ‘worst scenario’ in order to confuse and divide the residents of Blean. Possibly in the hope that a reduced and more reasoned application will be met with a resigned sense of achievement. If the first phase of the Master Plan the ‘EARLY WIN’ is at the core of the growth of the University then it would be much more honest and productive to make that clear. Disguising an ambition to build housing, car parks and roads in a cloud of pretty images, parkland settings and beguiling words is not a sophisticated or positive way forward.
We know the land surrounding ‘The Northern Landholdings’ extremely well – we grew up in Blean and still own considerable land in the village. It is very unfortunate that large buildings, many as large as 50 metres long, new access roads and potential housing have all been designated in areas that are extremely close to neighbouring landholdings. These areas of land and gardens would enable direct access to otherwise ‘landlocked’ University owned land. We do very much hope this isn’t yet another developers trick to intimidate, and is in fact only artists licence, and an unfortunate coincidence.
As a family we grew up in Blean in the Mill House, and we own Mill Field, Glovers Field and Glovers Mill. We manage an additional field (brown on the map). The three fields are used by the David Graham Centre for sheep grazing and educational farm work. The land we own shares two long boundaries with the University’s proposed Master Plan. Extraordinarily large buildings in the suggested Blean Church site are within metres of Mill House and Glovers Mill. The majority of the buildings indicated throughout the development are around 50 metres in length. The University’s ambitions to become a parkland university are laudable, though unfortunate for Blean, as it appears that the village and it’s rural environment are to be sacrificed for this grand master plan. We have been asked on various occasions to provide land for low cost housing on Mill Field. With the Rural Housing Development Officer and Canterbury planners support we had positive interest and enthusiasm from Local Housing Associations and self build organisations in an attempt to facilitate a low density development. These all came to an inconclusive end amid considerable local objections from Blean residents. We didn’t progress further than these discussions.
The Master Plan proposes a fundamental change in the character and environment of Blean. We fully understand that it is a draft and imaginative discussion document and suggests a possible 50 year future. However the University seems to have totally failed to recognise the enormous and now permanent blight that these proposals have had on Blean. It seems remarkable that Blean residents were not involved earlier in a more open and free ranging discussion. The charming drawing at the core of the proposal document does little to disguise the damage incurred, Blean is now blighted.
The document has to be taken at face value, a parkland and car free future for the University is to be at the expense of massive and ill considered development in Blean. Presumptions have been made about access, ownership, ‘sustainability’, rights of way, conservation areas and the more general impact upon the historic, rural village landscape. We would suggest that the shock of the scale of these proposals coupled with the rather self satisfied assumption that it is all to Blean’s advantage is a very short sighted and potentially insulting approach.
It becomes apparent in a close reading of the Master Plan that development in Blean is considered necessary for the further growth of the University. Among the rhetoric of parkland and country house estates there is a rather elegant solution to the University’s major problem – expansion and traffic. The proposed growth on the University site will be predominately within the present parking areas. Creating an as yet undefined amount of parking at Blean and connecting it by a series of new roads clears the way for on site expansion. The creation of business clusters, and cricket pitches, is also, and forgive our cynicism, possibly disguising a lucrative ambition.
There are proposals within the Master Plan document for housing on the land next to the church and the village as part of a first phase ‘EARLY WIN’. This early win for the University means in essence Blean becomes a dumping ground for Park and Ride, two, possibly three new roads, vastly increased traffic and a very large number of proposed large buildings in six business clusters or extensive areas of housing. If as is suggested the Northern Land Holdings developments become an early phase of the Master Plan then Blean becomes an EARLY WIN for the University, but a disaster for the village.
The White Family