Thanet council Cabinet members are expected to approve the adoption of a new Thanet Draft Local Plan which will see 2,500 extra homes allocated to the villages, Margate and Westwood so aviation use can be retained at the Manston airport site.
The draft plan – which is a 20 year blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure on the isle – was voted down in January by Conservative and ‘rebel’ UKIP councillors with 35 against and 20 in favour.
The vote, which led to the collapse of the UKIP administration, was prompted by a change of status for Manston from aviation-only to a mixed-use designation to include 2,500 homes. An amendment to defer for two years the mixed-use designation pending the resolution of the DCO process was not sufficient to persuade the majority of councillors.
There were also issues over housing numbers with a strong campaign to protect sites mounted by the Birchington Action Group Against TDC Local Plan members.
The failure to vote through the plan led to the government stepping in to speed up the process. A fresh call for housing sites was made following the vote.
Thanet District Council is now in ‘intervention’ with the Government closely monitoring progress. If Thanet District Council fails to publish a new plan, there is a risk of further direct intervention.
Council leader Bob Bayford asked officers to provide two options for consideration by Cabinet. The first is the original plan, which was rejected in January 2018.
The second is an option which does not seek to change the existing ‘lawful’ aviation-only use of Manston and transfers the housing originally proposed for the site to other parts of the district.
However campaigners say they are not happy with the wording of option 2 which actually strikes out aviation only policies SP05 and EC4 and replaces them with ‘text’ that “that recognises the existing use of the airport and acknowledges the current Development Consent Order (DCO) process for the site.”
Members of Save Manston Airport association say the text will carry little, if any, weight in planning law and suggest a third option based on a decision made in Crawley which would mean the Manston airport houses do not need to be reallocated.
In Crawley’s case it was agreed as long as there is not a definite decision to build a second runway at Gatwick, the houses that might be built on there do not have to be built elsewhere, because if there is a decision not to build a second runway, they would then be built on that land.
Campaigners say the equivalent for Manston is that until such a time as the DCO is finally decided one way or another, the 2,500 houses originally proposed for the site can be safely left in limbo – as long as policies SP05 and EC4 are maintained.
Under the council options the homes would be allocated at:
Birchington (600 homes)
Westgate on Sea (1000 homes)
Westwood (500 homes)
Hartsdown, Margate (300 homes)
Tothill Street, Minster (100 homes).
This is in addition to the housing sites previously proposed in these areas. Having reviewed all available sites, the council says these are considered the most appropriate in terms of sustainability, transport and, local and national planning strategies.
Cllr Bayford said: “The priority has been to put before Cabinet a Local Plan which recognises the lawful use of Manston as an airport and which also provides an opportunity for the Development Consent Order (DCO) application to proceed.”
A DCO is the means of obtaining permission for developments categorised as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP). This includes energy, transport, water and waste projects.
Riveroak Strategic Partners hope to bring aviation back to the Manston site. However, their submission of a DCO, made in April, was withdrawn in May in light of issues raised by the Planning Inspectorate. It is yet to be resubmitted.
The local plan report adds: “In the event that a DCO (Deveopment Consent Order) is not accepted or granted, or does not proceed, the council will need to consider the best use for this site (including housing), in the next Local Plan review.”
A planning application for housing, business and leisure at the Manston site has already been lodged by landowners Stone Hill Park.
The recommendations from Cabinet on Monday 2 July will go to the Executive, Policy & Community Safety Scrutiny Panel for further consideration before going to full council on Thursday 19 July for a final decision.
The draft plan
Thanet’s Draft Local Plan –which runs until 2031 –sets out how much development is needed to support the future population and economy. Allocating land through the plan is designed to give the council greater control over where and what type of developments can take place.
Consultation was carried out last year on revisions to the plan included axing the aviation-use only designation at Manston airport and putting forward new isle sites including Manston Court Road and Haine Road.
Government guidelines currently dictate a build of 17,140 new isle homes by 2031.
This level of housing may need to rise even further following a government plans to standardise the way local authorities work out housing need.
The figure could rise to more than 20,200 homes, raising the requirement from 857 dwellings per year to 1063 dwellings per year.
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 9,328 properties to be accommodated.