Thanet councillors have voted to move forward with a new Draft Local Plan which will mean the re-allocation of 2,500 homes to greenfield sites in the villages, Margate and Westwood as part of a pledge to retain aviation use at Manston airport.
The reallocation of the homes comes with the removal of a mixed-use development designation for the airport put forward in a version of the draft plan which was rejected in January. That vote led to the collapse of the UKIP administration.
The draft plan – which is a 20 year blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure on the isle – has now been approved to go to the publication and public comment stage by a vote of 31 in favour and 21 against.
Members of UKIP and Labour spoke vehemently against approving the option, saying the plan was unsound and would lead to rejection at the public examination stage and result in the government taking control of Thanet’s housing and infrastructure proposals – potentially costing the authority tens of thousands of pounds.
Thanet District Council is already in ‘intervention’ with the Government closely monitoring progress due to the authority’s failure to put in place a local plan. Failure to publish a new plan, would risk further direct intervention, such as the government or Kent County Council drawing up the isle’s blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure.
Protecting the airport
The authority’s ruling Conservative group and most Thanet Independent Councillors (TIC) backed the option as the best way to protect aviation at the airport site, saying they were honouring the election pledges made to residents. But reception for the housing figures put forward were lukewarm with many opposed to the reallocation of development. Cllr Carol Messenger, who voted in favour of the plan, vowed to fight extra housing proposals for Westgate. This echoed by TIC Bertie Braidwood who voted against the plan saying despite his support for the airport he had to put his constituents fears about extra housing first.
Independent Suzanne Brimm, who voted against the plan, vowed to fight over-development in Birchington saying the plan would mean ‘excessive housing foisted on Birchington” resulting in it becoming a town.
Two amendments have been added to the draft plan following recommendations from a scrutiny meeting on July 11 and Cabinet meeting this afternoon.
The first is that the 2,500 reallocated ‘airport site’ homes would be phased towards the end of the Local Plan period in 2031.
The reallocation will be: Birchington 600 homes; Westgate on Sea 1000 homes; Westwood 500 homes; Hartsdown, Margate 300 homes and Tothill Street, Minster 100 homes.
In urging members to back the option and vote through the plan Conservative councillor Peter Evans caused some dismay when he said: “These homes will never be built,” implying an aging and dying population would negate the need for development.
Councillor Peter Campbell asked why the plan was to build on green fields when there is “a huge brownfield site sat in the middle of Thanet unused,” referring to the airport land.
The second amendment concerns the Development Consent Order process. 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.
Consortium Riveroak Strategic Partners hope to bring aviation back to the Manston site via a DCO being granted by government. They resubmitted their DCO to the Planning Inspectorate (PINs) this week after withdrawing the first submission in May.
The draft local plan includes text that recognises the existing use of the airport and acknowledges the current DCO process for the site but specific aviation policies have been deleted as officers say they cannot produce evidence to warrant their inclusion.
The second amendment indicates that the status of the Manston site will be reviewed after a minimum of two years if a DCO or compulsory purchase of the land has not been agreed by that date.
Airport site landowners Stone Hill Park have submitted a masterplan for housing, business, infrastructure and leisure at the site. A question over whether the draft plan would mean instant rejection of this application was not answered.
Efforts to get the SP05 aviation protection policy reinstated were denied.
The draft plan also includes a policy to introduce a ban on new foster homes in Cliftonville West.
The vote marks the start of the final pre-submission stage of the Local Plan process. There will now be a further opportunity for the public to comment on the draft plan. This is proposed to run from Thursday, August 23 until Thursday, October 4.
Anyone wishing to speak in front of the Planning Inspector has to submit a comment at this stage – submissions from earlier stages of the local plan process will not be included.
Comments from the public will then be shared, along with the draft Local Plan, to the Planning Inspector for examination. Public hearings are then expected to begin in February 2019.
Full details on how to comment will be published ahead of the publication period. An e-mail will be sent to all of those who have previously commented on the Local Plan via the council’s online planning portal, Inovem.
Leader of Thanet District Council, Cllr Bob Bayford, said: “Tonight’s vote was the right decision for our Local Plan. We now have a way forward that provides an opportunity for options around the airport to materialise – whether that’s through the DCO process or through another interested party as a possible indemnity partner of the council.
“It’s important that we now continue with the process and ensure that the public take this opportunity to comment before we submit our draft plan, along with all of the evidence, to the Inspector. We can’t afford any further delays to the process and will be sticking to the timetable to provide assurance to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government that further intervention will not be necessary.”
What is 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.
Government guidelines currently suggest a build of 17,140 new isle homes by 2031.
The figure could rise to more than 20,200 homes, raising the requirement from 857 dwellings per year to 1063 dwellings per year, if new government guidance is followed.