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The Strange Case of the Missing Hedge

Folkestone West Train Station Car Park from Shorncliffe Road (From Google Photos https://goo.gl/maps/qx1mxMR8tvtCmGFF7)

Not a Hedge, December 2020 [Google Streetview]

As a part of a piece of casework for a local resident, I've been on the trail of a missing hedge...

When 7 years ago, Folkestone West Train Station got its shiny new car park by Shorncliffe Road, one of the planning conditions was planting along the new fence by Shorncliffe Road. This would over time soften the border, reduce light spill from the car park, create a habitat, provide more oxygenators, food for animals: all the good things.

But when you look today, there the hedge, or any sign of it, isn't. It's not there. No sign it ever has been. Not a bush. Fencing: yes. Hedge: no.

So off I went to ask Network Rail where their hedge was - they put in the planning application to build the car park, and surely they would know. However, talking to Network Rail is an acquired art, and I haven't acqyuired it. The contact form at https://www.networkrail.co.uk/communities/contact-us/ seemed promising, but gave no email address, the online contact form doesn't have a "you've lost your planting" option.

I went for the online chat. I suspect the online chat operator hadn't had a missing hedge reported before: it took a while. However, in that online chat in early April, I got across the message that for Folkestone West Station Car Park CT20 3PA:

  • Planning for this car park was granted for application Y13/0468/SH. Landscape Proposals state "long term objective to create a semi-evergreen hedge to help prevent light pollution to the neighbouring houses."
  • Planning for this car park was granted for application Y13/0468/SH https://folkestonehythedc.force.com/pr/s/planning-application/a1n2o000002zGefAAE/y130468sh?tabset-185b1=2
  • Landscape Proposals Condition 4 (and the Details Condition drawing) uploaded 20 Oct-2014 say that the purple planting area along the Shorncliffe Road fence perimeter was specified to be grown to 1.25m along the length of the fence with the "long term objective to create a semi-evergreen hedge to help prevent light pollution to the neighbouring houses."
  • As the below Google Streeetview of the fence shows (June 2019 & December 2020), 7 years after that document, which was a condition of the planning permission for the car park itself, no such planting exists. The light pollution it was intended to baffle for neighbours is therefore an issue, and I've be grateful if the planting scheme could be installed as agreed as part of the planning application.
  • https://goo.gl/maps/UbPytSgHtzPegAJy7 Dec 2020
  • https://goo.gl/maps/nvpnVsPQezjQrRQa8 June 2019

They were gripped. I didn't even need to explain about the enforcement notices for exactly that planting on the planning history. They sounded like they'd had enough.

So they promised to look at it and come back to me, and I waited, and chased, and on 27th April George Paterson, Southeastern's "Stakeholder Engagement Manager" contacted me to say they were looking into this, and would come back to me.

And after some to and fro with George, today he tells me: "Our facilities team say that we will replant the area this autumn.".

Thanks George and Southeastern: good work.

Now, where that hedge went is interesting: the contractor provided photos of it being planted, but there is no sign today, or on any Google Streetview photos of that area in the past. It simply disappeared. If if had just not taken then you'd have expected some sporadic groth, or residual planting, but there is nothing. However, we can now look forward to its reinstatement, and a slightly greener corner of the district.

Case closed...