All the attention has so far been on the planning aspects of the Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP). However, it has other important sides to it, not the least of which is the impact of any development on the environment. The residents of Benenden have clearly stated, several times, that one of their top priorities is to preserve the rural nature of the Parish. To that end the Environmental Group have been carrying out an environmental audit.
One of the more enjoyable tasks allotted to the NDP’s Environmental Group has been to walk the many footpaths and note the ancient woodland, mature trees, hedges, ponds and pits which articulate the landscape around Benenden. It is said we have more than 26 miles of footpaths in the Parish, an offshoot of which has been the requirement of the Plan to note any views of importance. It turns out that we have more than our fair share and I’m sure everyone has their own favourite (see below). Almost everywhere you go, you turn a corner and spread before you will be vistas of the Weald, with steep-sided wooded gills, undulating fields and trees and ancient farmsteads nestled within a medieval fieldscape; looking south the countryside falls away towards Romney Marsh.
Due to our location, draped over a series of ridges, the views are often much more than just a glimpse of a well-known landmark, like the Sandhurst windmill or the clock tower of Saint Ronan’s, in the distance. From the footpath north of Hinxden Dairy, you can look north, south and west, a sweeping panorama towards Cranbrook, Hawkhurst, Northiam and beyond; on the edge of Parsonage Wood you can take in fields dotted with sheep and the rise and fall of the countryside beyond; and from the road to Dingleden a tree-filled landscape that looks as if it hasn’t changed since Saxon times.
Views are important to the identity of the Parish and luckily they are valued in the NDP. The question is which ones to choose? A number of views have been already mapped and registered and will be included as being of special significance and therefore to be given protection; developments will be restricted or refused if they interfere with them.
The Environmental Group would welcome suggestions from readers of the village magazine about which views they feel should be included. Please send a photo, together with a description of the view and where the photo was taken, to the Editor (contact details p.1 of the Parish Magazine, or email firstname.lastname@example.org).
The best will be featured on the NDP website, where you’ll find more about the work of the NDP Environmental Group.
Minnie Garnier, Benenden Neighbourhood Plan: Landscape & Green Environment Groupwww.benendenneighbourhoodplan.org