Thanet Cabinet members agree extra homes across the isle to protect Manston airport site – but strike out ‘vital’ aviation policies


Thanet council Cabinet members have voted to move forward with a new option on the Thanet Draft Local Plan which will see 2,500 homes allocated to the villages, Margate and Westwood instead of the Manston airport site – but also strikes out both the policies (SP05 and EC4) in place to protect aviation.

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 Development Consent Order submitted by Riveroak Strategic Partners was not sufficient to persuade the majority of councillors.

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.

RSP hope to bring aviation back to the Manston site via the DCO being granted by government. However, their submission of a DCO, made in April, was withdrawn in May in light of issues raised by the Planning Inspectorate.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.

A planning application for housing, business and leisure at the Manston site has been lodged by landowners Stone Hill Park.

Choice of two options

Tonight (July 2) the plan was brought back to the table with the option of approving the same draft previously rejected in January or going forward with an option aimed at retaining aviation at the site.

But the wording of option2 has caused concern amongst aviation campaigners and many councillors who are in favour of bringing the airport bck into use.

The option states: “Draft Policy SP05 (protecting aviation-only use) would be deleted, and replaced with text that recognises the existing use of the airport and acknowledges the current Development Consent Order (DCO) process for the site.

“This also provides the opportunity for any other interested parties to pursue the operational use of the airport through agreement with the landowners or through becoming an indemnity partner as part of a potential CPO process with the council.

“The statement regarding existing use is not a policy statement; it is simply a recognition of the current planning status of the site. This also means that current Policy EC4 (and other airport-related policies) would not be continued or replaced with equivalent policies in the new Local Plan.”

Anger at aviation protection policies being deleted

There was some confusion in the Chamber about whether the EC4 policy would be amended until council officer Adrian Verrill confirmed it would be deleted. This means it will only be effective until a new plan is adopted.

Objections to striking the policies out came from members including Thanet Independent Councillor Stuart Piper who said the proposal “goes against the wishes of the vast majority of Thanet and their elected representatives.”

Conservative councillors for Westgate Sam Bambridge and Carol Messenger both spoke against removing the EC4 policy saying it would “leave the airport unprotected.”

‘Move homes to Cliffsend’

Cllr Bambridge also said the pair would fight plans for extra houses in Westgate “every step of the way” and that the homes, and those proposed for Birchington – amounting to 1,600 homes on top of those already allocated – should be moved to Cliffsend instead.

‘Judicial review’

Labour’s Peter Campbell questioned the accuracy of the option acknowledging the DCO process saying as RSP had withdrawn it “there is no DCO that is active on the site.”

UKIP councillor Derek Crow-Brown said backing option 2 would mean putting forward a local plan that was not sound and would lead to judicial review – meaning the plan could be legally challenged.

Next steps

Council leader Bob Bayford said issues could be looked at when the plan goes to the council scrutiny committee on July 11 before going to a full council vote on July 19. If the plan is voted through there will be a six week consultation before it is submitted for public examination.

The three Cabinet members present at the meeting, including Cllr Bayford, recommended the draft plan with option 2 to go forward to the scrutiny panel against officer recommendations for option one.

The plan also includes a policy to introduce a temporary ban on new foster/residential homes for children being created in Cliftonville West where there are more than 6 people -including carers – on the premises.

No-one is happy

Aviation campaigners say they are not happy with the wording of option 2, saying the replacement ‘text’ will carry little, if any, weight in planning law.

Those who are backing Stone Hill Park’s plans for housing, business and leisure say the new option effectively mothballs the site – which SHP own – until the end of the new local plan on 2031.

Government intervention

Thanet District Council is in ‘intervention’ with the Government closely monitoring progress due to the authority’s failure to put in place a local plan.  If Thanet District Council fails to publish a new plan, there is a risk of further direct intervention, such as the government or Kent County Council drawing up the isle’s blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure.

Under option 2 the extra homes would be allocated to:

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.

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.