Rebel UKIP councillors help to sink the Thanet Local Plan vote

Councillors voted the plan down

Twelve rebel UKIP councillors were among the 35 that voted against publishing Thanet’s Draft Local Plan this evening (January 18) – and it is believed the group will demand council and group leader Chris Wells steps down.

Thanet’s Draft Local Plan is a blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure up until 2031. The plan sets out how much development is needed to support the future population and economy. Transport, employment and infrastructure -such as roads, schools and GP surgeries – are also examined in the plan.

Consultation was carried out last year on revisions to the plan, including axing the aviation-use only designation at Manston airport which was shut down in 2014

But the change of status for Manston was the sticking point for members of the administration’s own party as well as for the Conservatives and three Independents.

An “11th hour” amendment to defer for two years the mixed-use designation for Manston airport pending the resolution of the DCO process was not enough to get the plan voted through to publication stage.


Speaking at the start of the debate council Chief Executive Madeline Homer warned of the “consequences” of voting against taking the next step with the Local Plan, including a potential loss of ability to stop development on the isle – including the airport site – Judicial Review and the risk of central government now stepping in to take over the plan process.


Council leader Chris Wells urged members to “hold your heads high, pin your shoulders back and vote yes to retain local control.”

But Conservative group leader Bob Bayford had already announced that the Tory group could not, despite the amendment, support voting in favour of the plan, adding: “We feel that every effort should be made to facilitate a return of aviation.”

Labour’s Peter Campbell and Michelle Fenner spoke in favour of the plan, with Cllr Fenner calling a vote to reject it “foolish and reckless.”

The result of the vote was 35 to reject and 20 in favour. One councillor was absent from the meeting.

Thanet Labour group leader Jenny Matterface said: “Residents need to be aware that by voting down the plan going out for comments we will now have faceless bureaucrats deciding what happens in Thanet and we have no say in what happens.

“The airport supporters could end up with thousands of houses there as the site is large enough for huge numbers of properties.”

But Tory councillor Mick Tomlinson said that it was “the right choice” and aviation must be retained for the airport site.

The vote

Twelve UKIP, 20 Conservative and 3 Independents voted to reject. Among these were UKIP Cabinet member for housing Rev Stuart Piper (pictured), Ramsgate mayor Trevor Shonk (UKIP) and former UKIP Cabinet member Suzanne Brimm (now Independent).

The result brought cheers from a packed public gallery. Many residents were unable to get into the meeting. Among them was South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay who was turned away, being told the Chamber was full.

‘Mixed Use’

Thanet council had said there was no evidence to support retaining the aviation-only designation at Manston airport and so earmarked the land as a site for 2,500 homes.

A mixed use plan has been submitted to Thanet council by Stone Hill Park, which owns the Manston site. The plan is for up to 4,000 new homes over 20 years; a new hi-tech manufacturing business park; a new country park and a state-of-the-art sports and leisure village.


But campaigners and RiverOak Strategic Partners, which aims to reopen the airport site in a £300m project to create an air freight hub with passenger services and business aviation, and demanded the aviation only designation be kept in place. RSP is currently carrying out consultation and plans to lodge a Development Consent Order with the government which would allow a CPO of the land.

What happens next?

The plan’s housing target is 17,140 new isle homes by 2031.

Some 1,555 homes have already been constructed; another 3,017 have been given planning permission; 2,700 are accounted for through windfall housing –sites that have historically had planning approval and may be put forward again – and 540  are already empty homes.

This leaves 9,300 properties to be accommodated.

The overall figure for the isle could possibly now rise to more than 20,200 homes following a threat of government intervention issued in November by Secretary of State Sajid Javid, from the Department for Communities and Local Government. He said the failure of Thanet and 14 other authorities to meet deadlines to put a local plan in place meant the government may serve notice of its intention to intervene.

This could result in the higher housing target due to government proposals to standardise the way local authorities work out housing need.

The voting down of the plan means it will most likely not now make a deadline of submission to Planning Inspectorate by March 31.


The rebellion of so many UKIP councillors also leaves the position of leader Chris Wells in question. Rebel UKIP councillors are now understood to be calling a meeting where it is thought they will tell Cllr Wells to resign his position or they will all quit the party to become Independents.

Cllr Wells said a vote against would allow the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to intervene, with Thanet’s “failure to follow legal advice showing (we) have not learnt the lessons of the past.”


  1. Wonderful that a good number of the UKIP councillors finally challenged their leader. For too long decisions have been controlled by the cabinet system. This was one vote that all Councillors got a chance to have their say!

  2. While a bloody fiasco with a bit of luck it will be the end of Wells which is definately some consolation in my book!

    • They were voted in to do a lot of other things. Things which are more important than getting another airport on the previous airport’s old site.

      • They were voted in BECAUSE they promised to save Manston. Yes, they are responsible for doing “a lot of other things”, but they were elected on the back of their commitment to keeping an airport at Manston, which the majority of residents seem to be in favour of.

  3. Departure of Chris Wells always going to be good news. Didn’t like the Local Plan, but we must ensure our Council works it’s socks off to stop central ‘government’ imposing greater idiocies on Thanet.

  4. Thanet is more than just Manston, all those councillors who recklessly voted the whole Local Plan down should be the one’s resigning. Now the Government will decide, and they have already warned that thousands more houses than were planned will have to be built. Those Councillors have shot themselves in the foot.

  5. Those who are gloating over the inevitable resignation of the council leader seem to miss the point. There is no question that this is a fiasco, but the consequences for Thanet are dire. The Local Plan was long overdue. Labour had failed to progress the plan during their tenure and, on election, Chris Wells was handed the poisoned chalice. It is now likely that Thanet District Council will be stripped of its planning powers and the government will step in to impose a further 3000 houses on the area. The protesters have rejected the plan because they didn’t want to see 2500 houses built on the site of the former, failed airport. Now they have to find somewhere to put those 2500 houses and they have to find space for another 3000 as well. On top of this they will have to come up with thousands more houses for the employees of their glorious airport. Maybe all of those people who will now see estates springing up on farmland behind their homes and at the ends of their roads will welcome this victory. Maybe they won’t. But one thing is certain. If the campaign was about preventing housing from being built, it has backfired spectacularly.

    • What about the water and sewers. There are problems already and it will cost millions to fix. So empty threats about housing. The Government are not the ogres people are led to believe.

    • Stone Hill Park’s owners sound like the kind of developer of which the government approves wholeheartedly. I expect SHP will speed up their more detailed application now that the local plan has been rejected.

      Manston remains an unsuitable site for a commercial airport. And the poisoned chalice is now, let us hope, in steadier hands.

    • This was published by Roger Gale last week …

      Thanet has an excess of land available to meet the projected demand for housing without recourse to the use of Manston airport.

      When I stated that fact some weeks ago I was challenged by the Leader of the Council, Cllr. Wells, to “put up or shut up”. my assessment has now been confirmed by a report prepared by the independent planning consultancy RPS group.

      In their findings, published last week, the consultants show clearly that without building houses on Manston Airport well in excess of 100% of the space required to meet Government targets to 2031 has been identified and it is arguable that not only is Manston not required but that some of the Grade One agricultural land that the present administration has included in the draft Local Plan should not be prioritised either.

      It is also the case that even if the changes to calculations proposed by the DCLG, and quoted by Cllr Wells and officers as a ‘ frightener’ should Thanet Council reject the draft local plan, were to be imposed then a new figure of 21,260 houses, however unlikely they are to actually be built, could readily be achieved without including Manston Airport in the land bank.

      Cllr Wells and his administration was elected on a promise that ” Only UKIP can be trusted to issue a compulsory purchase order for Manston Airport” under the slogan “Love Manston, Vote UKIP”. No equivocation, no ifs or buts, no mention of RiverOak or any other ‘Strategic Partner.’

      The 2015 Thanet Draft Local Plan states that “it is considered that a successful airport has the potential to be a significant catalyst for economic growth” and adds that the principle purpose of the Manston Airport Area Action Plan ” should be the retention, development and expansion of the airport and aviation operations”. That Draft went out to consultation and gained wide public support.

      Cllr. Wells’ administration now seeks to change the current designation as an airport and for aviation uses to a new mixed- use development combining, by 2031, a minimum of 2,500 dwellings in addition to those already identified and provided for, together with other commercial development. That proposal is not supported by an adequate environmental impact assessment and makes no provision for vital infrastructure including not least water supply.

      I hold to the view that post- Brexit it is vital that we retain and develop Manston as an airport in the National and in the local interest. Once lost, it can never be replaced. Unless, therefore, the Council is prepared to withdraw its’ change of use proposals for Manston, which can be done swiftly and without further consultation, then elected Councillors should ignore the dire warnings of Cllr. Wells and officers and reject the current draft local plan. Given the political will there is still time to revise and adopt a realistic plan before the end-of-March deadline and I do not believe that the Secretary of State is likely to take precipitate action to seek to penalise Thanet for the preservation of the unique national asset that is Manston Airport.

      • Roger Gale considers that Ramsgate is an acceptable sacrifice.He is strangely enthusiastic about RSP’s plans.

    • What Thanet needs is jobs to support the owners of these proposed houses! Our social services are stretched to the limit already, without job opportunities on a scale an airport could deliver it is all a waste of time. Get the schools, jobs, healthy service needs in place before building homes !

    • So how many houses built so far as a result of the vote? If you can see into the future so presciently,you should be on the council!

  6. No serious developer will rush to put in planning applications for the construction of houses on Manston Airport now. The saved elements of the 2006 Local Plan continue to prevail, just as was confirmed to be the case by Inspector Nunn following the Stone Hill Park Public Inquiry into change of use. In the absence of the new Local Plan, the Stone Hill Park proposals are dead in the water, thanks to the vote taken tonight. Stone Hill Park will be well-advised to sell the site to a willing buyer without delay. In the absence of that, the value of the site will be determined in accordance with the requirements of the Planning Act 2008 and will in any event be valued as a derelict site with only one authorised use: it is reserved for aviation-related purposes.

    • A willing buyer who wants to build a dirty great noisy airport there, do you mean? Or one who will let it return to Nature, trees and wildflowers breaking through the runway, native birds nesting there in peace, dewponds forming, where little creatures can come to drink the unpolluted water- that sort of thing?

  7. The Council has till the end of March to submit the revised Local Plan with Aviation Only retained at Manston Airport. It needn’t be a big deal to do this. Wells’ attempt to bully Councillors into submission has failed and his job isn’t far behind! He had every opportunity to support Manston but turned his back on the people of Thanet for Gloags cronies. This is just the beginning of the end for Wells!

    • I can’t see how telling councillors the facts is bullying.

      Re the councillors who voted against the Local Plan despite knowing the probable consequences – why on earth did all the Tory councillors voted in a plan which is likely to have depressing (in several senses) results for their more rurally situated constituents? Why this mass folly ?

      • ….because they where not the facts! Sir Roger Gale today said that Sajid Javid is quite relaxed about it and happy to wait for the revised plan (with the airport included) to be submitted in due course. They would rather see the right plan rather than one that would have been immediately rejected by the Inspector!

          • …all of them!
            There are plenty of places to build enough houses in Thanet without both destroying the open countryside and Manston airport. This was the only way Wells could bully his Councillors and theaten the local community. It was ALL scare mongering!

  8. Yet to hear why Councillor Wells thought, when ‘Saving Manston’, that 12,000 houses was ‘unrealistic’ and what TDC have done about prioritizing the renovation/conversion of empty residences and retail premises. If we stand to lose thousands of jobs to Automation, Living Wage, Ongoing Austerity it is unclear what TDC proposes to do to upskill the workforce and find sufficient employment for their proposed 40-50,000 population increase as well – never mind the infrastructural implications. The ‘dissenters’ were, fortunately, the hard-headed ones – let us hope that Thanet’s special circumstances are understood by HoLoCoGo and a sensible and proportionate LP eventually emerges. For the present post Carillion environment hard to see a mad rush of well-financed developoers to Powerhouse Thanet/East Kent Engine (and let us hope that estate development risk is well diversified and we don’t end up half-built like, say, Sicily.)

  9. No amount of egregious propaganda and the volte-face stance of Chris Wells and his cohorts on this vital issue can ever get away from the indisputable fact that UKIP were voted into town hall power almost solely on a commitment to save Manston airport. That is certainly why I voted for them. But I will not make the same mistake again.

  10. There are far too many people who don’t understand the facts. Neother Chris Wells, nor anybody else on the council, can draw up a new local plan in which the site is reserved for aviation. Local plans have to be evidence-based and they have to be realistic. The only available evidence is that an airport at Manston isn’t viable. You can’t reserve the site for something which may never be feasible. The real damage with trying to do so is that the legal owners will be able to sue the council. If the council is deliberately obstructing their proposal in favour of some fairytale vision which is not underpinned by evidence, it could cost the local taxpayer millions.

    • Yes they can! They are fully entitled to preserve Manston as laid out in the current Local Plan. There is NO requirement to allocate any piece of land on in any way than the Council chooses (unless by DCO/National Emergency etc) In fact the Planning Inspectorate recognised the status of the airport at the recent Inquiry. This was merely an attempt by Wells and Homer to bully Councillors into submission but he failed! Also the Minister Sajid Javid has no issue with the delay and is relaxed about it to the point that he is happy to extend the deadline for a new Local Plan to be put in place with the airport preserved as it righly should be as there is no chamge of use on the site. This is correct because the airport represents an important piece of National Infrastructure. So in essence you are wrong as is Chris Wells and Mad Homer. It was all bullying and most people are clever enough to recognise this. Stone Hill Park has failed and has failed badly to gather any traction with the people of Thanet and East Kent.

  11. Perhaps there should be a second council vote on the Local Plan, now that there has been time for the possible consequences to sink in more fully.

    • So how many houses built so far as a result of the vote? If you can see into the future so presciently,you should be on the council!

    • There’s already been a vote – demanding another one immediately after a vote that hasn’t gone the way you wanted undermines the democratic process,and thus democracy itself.

  12. There seems to be extra information available which those who voted against the plan did not, or could not,fully consider. This also happened with the Brexit referendum.

    A suggestion is not a demand.

  13. Actually, forget that suggestion. If members of the public know about RSP’s plans for a massive, noisy, dangerously polluting cargo hub at Manston, then of course all the councillors know about it. In which case the ones who voted against the Local Plan clearly don’t care a fig for thousands of local residents, i.e. the inhabitants of Ramsgate, Herne Baay, and everywhere in between.

  14. TDC’s decision on Thursday will be ruled unlawful. The local plan has to be evidence based and there is no evidence that a new airport is viable. Contrary to what some very stupid people have said, councils cannot prevent a developer from utilising a brownfield site, particularly when they cannot demonstrate a 5 year housing supply elsewhere. There are already legal precedents for this in Thanet. UKIP has simply demonstrated that it isn’t fit for office. The Conservatives have simply revealed themselves as unashamed political opportunists.

  15. There will be no true democracy until Wells, Homer and Howes go. The Thanet District Council Politburo have to be ousted along with the filing cabinet full of MOU’s they have signed with the various developers who would ultimately destroy Thanet. We need open Government in Thanet but most importantly of all we need transparent democracy!

    • Ironic, isn’t it, that one reason there is a housing crisis is an earlier Tory government’s introduction of the right to buy.

  16. Talk about transparent democracy is hypocrisy of the highest order. The pro-airport sold their argument against housing at Manston by portraying it to people as a straight choice; aviation or housing. But it isn’t a choice. The housing has to be built. Even Sir Roger Gale has now conceded that the numbers are correct and all of these houses will have to go somewhere on the Isle. So the failure to agree to building some of them at Manston just means that thousands of houses will now have to be built on farmland and green spaces. Is that what people wanted? I don’t think so.

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