Thanet council and UKIP group leader Chris Wells has handed in his resignation

Thanet council leader Chris Wells

Thanet council leader Chris Wells has resigned his post.

The move follows a meeting with Thanet Conservative Party leader Bob Bayford this month to discuss the changed group arrangements within the council chamber following the defection of 12 UKIP members to Independent status.

Cllr Bayford, as Leader of the largest group now on council, has moved to form a fresh administration. Cllr Wells agreed to step aside to minimise disruption and maintain stability at the council by ensuring a vote for a new leader without the disruption of a vote of no confidence.

Cllr Bayford said: “This is an appropriate way to recognise the changed council groupings and a sensible way forward following the fault lines that emerged across the Chamber during the Local Plan vote of 18 January.”

Cllr Wells has today (Monday 19 February) given formal notice of resignation as of Wednesday, February 28, allowing the calling of an extraordinary council meeting to take place on Thursday 1 March to elect a new Leader for Thanet District Council.

Deputy Leader, Cllr Lin Fairbrass will be acting leader for the period between the resignation taking effect and the results of the Leadership election.

Cllr Wells said: “It has been a rare privilege to lead this council through some difficult times, facing declining budgets and increasing demand for services. My resignation recognises a simple fact of political life, that an administration needs to win votes to get policy through, and an administration supported by 13 or so of 56 Councillors would be a highly unstable proposition.

“The uncertainty that would create damages the smooth running of the council, something so many have worked so hard to maintain in challenging times.”


The resignation will signal the end of the country’s first UKIP council, elected in a landslide victory in 2015.

The party won 33 of the 56 seats. But the group has since suffered defections and resignations.

In 2015 Beverley Martin, Ash Ashbee and now-disgraced former councillors Konnor Collins and Helen Smith, who were later arrested on theft charges, set up the Democratic Independent Group in protest at a lack of action on Manston airport. They were then joined by Cllr Jeff Elenor, who later resigned his seat because he moved out of the area.

Cllr Martin later returned to the UKIP fold.  Cllr Ashbee joined the Conservatives. Cllr Emma Dawson crossed to the Conservatives in 2015 and Cllr Peter Evans followed in 2017.

UKIP regained the majority when the party took back the Northwood seats in a by-election following the resignation of Mr Collins and Ms Smith in 2016.

Cllr Bev Martin

The Party then lost its majority again last July when Cllr Beverly Martin defected, this time to the Tories. Its sway was further reduced when the Margate by-election in August returned Labour’s Ian Venables to the seat.

Councillors Suzanne Brimm and Alan Howes

That same month Birchington ward councillors Suzanne Brimm and Alan Howes announced they were quitting the party to serve as Independents.

This month the Thanet  Independent UKIP Group was formed by the 12 UKIP members who voted down the Local Plan.

It means the political composition of TDC is: 21 Conservative; 13 UKIP; 12 Thanet Independent UKIP Group; 6 Labour; 2 Independent Group and 2 Independent.

What will it mean for the Manston airport site?

Photo John Horton

All serving Conservative councillors at the Local Plan vote last month rejected the publication stage. The group has consistently backed the aviation-only designation for the site with Cllr Bayford telling the January meeting: “We feel that every effort should be made to facilitate a return of aviation.”

Aviation is also staunchly backed by both Conservative MPs for the isle.

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay said: “I am positive that a Local Plan, in accordance with national requirements can be delivered, but short of the 2,500 houses that were allocated under the Cllr Wells plan to the Manston site.

“Manston should, in my view, be maintained as zoned for aviation use only. This can be the working document to be put forward, and hopefully agreed by the Planning Inspector.”


  1. I felt that Stuart Piper was surprisingly pro-Tory for a UKIP councillor during GE2017…now he’s effectively given the Conservatives leadership of the council.

    • I’ve heard it said that UKIP Councillors are “Tories with fewer brain cells”. Seems about right to me: they’re all in it together.

  2. Now it is up to all the UKIP Councillors to unite again, and carry on with what they promised on their Manifesto in 2015.
    Ideally, to work with Council Officers on the DLP and Manston as an Airport. If Suzanne Brimm, Alan Howes and Beverley Martin re-joined them, they would still have the Majority.

  3. Their Election Manifesto promised to limit the amount of housing being built in Thanet. By voting down the Local Plan they’ve scuppered any chance of having a say in that.
    Whether or not RSP’s DCO is successful has nothing to do with the LP nor with TDC.

  4. It’s all very clear. The Tory-UKIPs and the UKIP-Tories are joining forces with the Independent UKIP-Tories to swap around the deckchairs on the Titanic so that nothing unfortunate could possibly happen. Thanet Council is, indeed, an example to the rest of the country! Just not in a good way!

  5. The question you have to ask (and answer!) is why Chief Executive Dr Sue McGonical resigned and why both Iris Johnston and Chris Wells both did a U-turn on Manston? There in lies the problem at TDC. CEO Mad Homer is the current incarnation of this Hell spung upon us by KCC. Until she goes (and maybe the rest of the Senior Management Team) there will continue to be problems with regard to the policy people want to see enacted because they will block it every way they can!

    • Madeleine Homer is not a villain, she is a civil servant. Ann Gloag is not a villain, she is a businesswoman. Cartoonish personifications are tedious and incorrect.

      No planning inspectorate in their right mind would or should give a DCO for a brand-new cargo hub airport -proposed by a brand-new company with no experience of running a successful airport -in such an unsuitable place and so very close to a town of 40,000 people. Especially when the legal owners of the land propose exactly the kind of development of which the government approves.

      • Your response shows a complete lack of understanding of the very real problems at TDC beyond Chris Wells. You clearly did not find the actual answer as to why Dr Sue McGonical resigned and why Mad Homer was installed. Homer should actually commit to her actual job and do what the Councillors ask and not bully them into what she and Paul Carter wants for Thanet! I would have some respect if she showed any respect the job she holds. Democracy is not a game!

        • I didn’t ask any questions about Madeline Homer and Sue McGonical (is that the right spelling?). Why should? Ms Homer seems to be giving realistic advice to a group of people who have already made their minds up about something.

  6. What’s the point in all this twaddle with musical chairs and side swapping. UKIP are Tories in any case, they tried to fool us but failed, they can all go back to their own party now and stop playing games at the expense of Thanet’s future. How many times do they need to be professionally told that their is no viable use at Manston for an airport? I know we are in the far corner of Kent, nearly surrounded by sea but are they all village idiots? RSP, with no proof they can run an outfit of er, anything, want’s our Government to agree to a Compulsory Purchase Order of a large area of prime real estate and hand it to them so they can give aviation a go even so that several reports have been done on this that says it will not succeed in the short or even long term! Now our MP’s are grovelling on RSP’s behalf to the Secretary of state. This is absolutely, stunningly incredible and I just think everyone has gone mad and lost their senses.
    There is much more to Thanet than Manston, the Local Plan was very credible and carefully planned out taking everything into consideration, not just Manston. These bureaucrats couldn’t care less for Thanet or it’s residents.

    • There are “professionals” and then there are real professionals like RSP and the highly credible team they have put in place to secure the DCO of Manston Airport. The anti’s are out of plays now. There is nothing they can do. The Council and the vast majority of Councillors – at least 35 want to preserve the airport. That game is over and nobody will tolerate a repeat of Homers behaviour. So with the airport protected as an airport and the DCO in progress the airport is coming back. Its really great to see common sense taking hold and the majority of Thanet’s residents coming together to protect our biggest asset – the airport! Shout and scream from the sidelines as much as you like – you won’t be heard when the planes are once again flying over the houses YOU chose to live in!

      • Nothing the pro-airport faction can do, either. What a spiteful attitude you have to those who disagree with you, Mr. Connor.

        • Not spiteful it just seems some people are in denial of the facts that the airport has been there 100 years and is still designated as an airport and that most houses where built whilst the airport was there and most have the choice as to where they live – including directly under the flight path!

          • There is a difference between an airport and a military airfield. I don’t think anyone denies that aviation use on the ex-airfield started about 100 years ago. But that it is still designated as an airport- yes, true, but only because several people on the council decided to close their minds to new evidence which indicated strongly that A) the middle of Thanet had never been a good place for a successful commercial airport , B) aviation is extremely damaging to people’s health and to the environment.

            As for your statement that most people can choose where to live – I wonder if this has ever been true.

          • True – military Airports make more noise during the day and at night. They have no flight regulations – they don’t consult – they tell people what they are doing and that is it! So count yourself lucky that a commercial airport that is highly regulated by the CAA is taking over rather than the military again!

      • “and then there are real professionals like RSP and the highly credible team they have put in place…” Like Azimuth Aviation, whose presentation was torn to shreds by the very organisation on whose evidence their case relied? RSP who after a year of fuging still find it necessary to put back its submisdion by three months – yet again? RSP, the “real professionals”, who have neither office, phone nor email address, and a web site registered in the name of one of its director’s wives?

      • Excellent community building comments – a real them and us !!!

        Your comments appear to be based the occasional flying activities in the past. I seriously doubt the proposed freight terminal will be anything like the past, if it should ever go ahead, and will be nothing but a nightmare for all residents living around the old airport site. I wonder who will be the first to complain when the night flights disturb sleep or when children and elderly in the area start to suffer the effects of the additional pollution.

      • Ian, I think you are really out of touch with what most of Thanet wants. People are slowly coming to realise what the DCO means for the area. On an weekly basis I talk to people in Thanet and all, without fail, are shocked and appalled by what the DCO and RSP proposes. It’s really not good in anyway for anyone except the directors at RSP.

        ..and highly credible team? I’m surprised you can even write that down without thinking twice..

        • The DCO does not mean Night Flights in the way some antis are suggesting. Failing to understand the nature of scoping and exploring the extremes would be negligence on the part of RSP if they hadn’t done so. To try and use that information as if it where set in stone is vexatious at best and in reality a lie!

  7. The Bloodless Coup. Surely now, in the interests of democracy NEW ELECTIONS should be callled !!! The council take-over by another political parties representatives, who did not have sufficient votes to control the council, should only be temporary.

  8. I think the majority want a successful airport with goog jobs. However that is highly unlikely We may get a freight hub with few jobs and a blight on all homes under the flight path. A large supermarket would likely create more job benefits to the area. If and it’s a big If any jobs will be lost to new tech methods with minimal staff but all the problems that airports create

    • The old airport may have only created 144 direct jobs but the new one will create many more because at last there is a business plan that is viable. The freight forwarding/consolidation and MRO operations will create many more jobs. Housing estates create none and only further deplete council coffers once the new build bonus has been spent! This is very much old ground not worth going over again. The airport is coming back!

      • But you keep going over this old ground. Perhaps you would favour us by giving a summary of RSP’s business plan that shows how it will succeed when in the padt the airport lost £100M, and every repory on the place says it will fail. I found RSP’s consultation documents impenetrable: clearly you found them less so. Your help would be appreciated.

        • Andrew I would suggest that it is you going over old ground! If you can’t interpret a business plan are you really best placed to comment on it? However as I am feeling generous at the moment I will explain. The number of Aircraft Stands will make the airport profitable. Previously there was only one stand – insufficient to turnaround aircraft in any efficient way. With a dozen or more this changes significantly. Also the ancillary operations such as MRO and freight forwarding functions will add much to the Airports viability. All businesses require turnover to generate profits and the multiplier effect will enable the airport to succeed. RSP would not have already spent £7million on this project if they thought it wasn’t going to be profitable!

          • The number of aircraft stands is irrelevant if there are no aircraft to fill them. Where will they comr from? A couple of crates of daffodils? A palette of washing machine spares? Where will the other 9,999 atms come from?

          • The aircraft come from other airports – that’s what they do! Lol Freighter capacity is all out – there is no capacity left. It is stalling growth. They are not competing with anyone because there is no capacity left and Brexit will mean that situation will only get worse. It actually doesn’t matter where that capacity is anymore because we are an Island and it needs to go somehow!

  9. £7 million is peanuts compared to the value of the land if it is designated for housing purposes. A snip for RSP if they can get hold of it before it is so designated!

    • Fortunately that will never happen now. To property developers that’s the only thing that matters – the value of the land. That’s why it was so important to retain it as an airport which the Planning Inspectorate confirmed at the Inquiry. To an airport operator it’s about the runway and what aircraft it can take. So not about the money for RSP unlike Gloag who only took it on for £1 on the basis that she would get change of use – she hasn’t and never will. How much did SHP invest in their plans for Manston – diddly squat! In fact they pimped it out to developers wide and far and then ended up pimping it as a lorry park for a few million. All they have done is take. 4,000 houses will not help Thanet the airport will.

      • Why do you think it will never happen?

        “It’s not about the money for RSP”? What is it about for RSP then? Aesthetics? Religion?

        SHP are not pimps in any sense. They are businessmen and businesswomen. And so are RSP. SHP want to make as much money as possible for themselves and their shareholders. And so do RSP.

  10. Ian, are you Comical Ali (aka Baghdad Bob), the information minister who used to keep us in fits with his interpretation of events during the Iraq War?

  11. Now that Wells has stepped aside, Dale Crawford has no excuses left for not revealing the identities of the four investors he claims are ready to step in and reopen Manston. There are some who say the German bloke is just engaged in an elaborate scam. I guess we’ll see pretty soon.

  12. Good. Now they can get on with the job of supporting aviation at Manston like the majority of the electorate asked for and make a challenge on the housing numbers. Cleaning up the streets would be good too. All the best of luck to the new administration whatever that looks like.

  13. This whole episode could have been conscrewed as land banking. Manston as airport or farm land is worth 10-12 million. As mixed use housing it’s over 50 million. Someone gets very rich very quickly. Developed even more. Do the maths. 3500 dwellings at an average of £200,000 each. 50% profit on each dwelling. Eye watering. I personally don’t think SHP in its original form would have ever been built. It would have been sold off in packages to the highest bidding developers and the reincarnated to whatever they wanted. It’s all a massive con trick. All you have to do is get outlined planning permission. You don’t even have to lay a brick to make a fortune.
    However this is not unique to Thanet. It is happening all over the South East where supply and demand keep property value high.
    What Thanet really needs is a couple of thousand social dwellings which local people can afford to rent or buy. There is land else where which could be used for this.
    This is achievable but there has to be a will to achieve this.
    Also a good case needs to be fashioned to question the 17,000 houses the government want built in Thanet. I fear the Local infrastructure would need substantially more investment to cope with over 35,000 extra local people. These numbers are irresponsible and dangerous unless real investment comes from central government first.

    • And RSP’s scheme, masterminded by a struck off solicitor, aided by an MP whose is thrilled that the voting down of the Local Plan meant that the land price would be devalued, isn’t land banking too?

      • …and SHP’s scheme, fronted by a disgraced ex Policeman, aided by a unprincipled Scottish anachronism whose is thrilled at the prospect of inflating land values on the pack of her £1 purchase for an airport (for which she had no planning permission) to change into housing isn’t Land Banking?!!!! Give it a rest! ????

        We could be here all day! Lol

        • If the council had had any sense they would have given permission for change ofuse for a few buildings on SHP’s land.

          Do you have any proof that Ann Gloag is either unprincipled or an anachronism?

          Is there something inherently wrong with buying a brownfield site for £1 , if by some extraordinary chance it’s offered for sale at such a low price?

    • Yes, Thanet needs a couple of thousand social dwellings. Perhaps some of them could be built on SHP’s land. Perhaps the government will grant the local council some money for it, rather than encouraging house- building by private developers. Perhaps the government will rescind the right to buy which has gone a long way in destroying this country’s stock of council housing.

  14. I am beginning to see the link between the vote for the UKIP/Tory airport at Manston and Brexit.In both cases, many people were persuaded to vote for an idea that was a pipe-dream but was sold as all planned and easy to achieve.But,now reality is setting in, some of the original voters don’t want to admit their mistakes so they cling to the idea that the airport WILL be built as soon as a private company appears over the hill like the US cavalry. And Brexit WILL work as soon as ,once again, the US cavalry arrives over the hill with a magic trade deal. In both cases, some people voted for what they wanted but the Tory/UKIP Parties that persuaded them had no idea of the difficulties involved. Now we have to scrabble round trying to pick up the pieces.

  15. I hear that the Reverend Piper has found himself out in the cold. Having scuppered the local plan and led his naive band of followers to destroy the UKIP administration, he now finds that the Tories don’t want him either. This is both interesting and amusing because it wasn’t that long ago that Sir Roger Gale was pressing for a grand coalition between Piper’s renegade band and Bayford’s minority of Conservative councillors. Could it be that Thanet’s Conservative councillors now realise that they’ve gone too far in doing Sir Roger’s bidding. They agreed to help Piper scupper the local plan, but they can’t stomach the idea of going into coalition with him. Did they even think this far ahead? What a mess.

  16. Basically those people who live no way near the Airfield support Cargo Hub and they are by far the majority of Tory Broadstairs and SandwichThere is this argument that those who live near the flight path either chose to or can just go – they don’t matter. And this is cynically called democracy. Democracy – counting of heads. Residential houses built with planning permission paid for by owner occupiers their interests in this case a very substantial number across Ramsgate to Herne Bay are more important than the commercial success or otherwise of a Cargo Hub.No point mentioning Consultations organised to persuade people with bureaucratic enticement and pages of tentative data. Ordinary residents not qualified to make safe judgements on highly technical matters. However I still hope the Airfield will remain intact that both the current proposals will be rejected and before long a beginning will be made in bringing it back to use as a Regional Airport with. Passenger and modern non polluting cargo planes. In a n unhurried and orderly manner

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