Secretary of State for Communities, the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP has written to Thanet council to confirm there will be continued intervention to speed up the process of the isle’s Local Plan publication.
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.
Thanet is just one of two authorities, the other being Wirral, which received letters written on January 28 to say “continuing failure to get a Local Plan in place” has resulted in the intervention.
In November 2017, the government confirmed it would consider intervention in 15 local authorities, including Thanet, where there had been a failure to produce a local plan.
In March 2018 the intervention process was continued in Thanet, Wirral and Castle Point. A team of planning experts led by the government’s Chief Planner provided advice to the Secretary of State on the next steps.
These will include the Secretary of State directing Thanet to make amendments to the local development scheme if it thinks it is necessary.
In the letter he adds: “I am also directing Thanet District Council to, within eight weeks of the date of this letter, amend its Local Development Scheme (dated July 2018) to provide for the completion of a review of their Local Plan within six months of its adoption.”
The action comes due to Thanet’s failure to adopt an up to date Local Plan. In January last year the plan was voted down by Thanet councillors with 35 members against putting the plan forward to the next stage and 20 in favour.
The vote, which led to the end of the UKIP administration, was mainly based on the change of status for Manston which proposed to ditch aviation-only use designation and replace it with a mixed use for development.
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.
In July Thanet councillors 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.
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.
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
Lack of progress
In the letter to Thanet council James Brokenshire says intervention must now take place due to the lack of progress made in the plan.
The last plan was adopted in 2006 and ran out in 2011.
The letter states: “Thanet have consistently failed to bring forward a Local Plan in accordance with its Local Development Scheme as legally required, having failed to meet Local Plan milestones in at least six Local Development Schemes since 2006.
“Thanet lack of a five-year housing land supply further highlights the authority’s failure to plan for and deliver the homes people need.
“In my judgement, given the authority’s track record of persistent failure in plan-making, the intervention I have decided upon will provide more certainty and is the best way of ensuring that a Local Plan will be produced in accordance with the Local Development Scheme timetable.”
The Secretary of State says that given recent actions by the council the government will not forcibly prepare the isle’s local plan but will closely monitor progress, adding: “should you fail to comply with the directions in this letter or should your draft Local Plan fail at examination, I will consider whether to take further action to ensure that a Local Plan is put in place.”
He has also highlighted his concern at Thanet’s low level of housing supply and delivery.
A Thanet council spokesperson said: “The council has significantly progressed with its Local Plan which was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate on 30 October 2018, with a public examination expected in the coming months. The council has reviewed the actions in the Secretary of State’s letter and can confirm that arrangements are already in place to meet the majority of requirements set out, any others will be incorporated into our processes without unnecessarily delaying examination of the plan.
“Given this positive progress and constructive dialogue with MHCLG, the council is disappointed that there wasn’t more recognition of this within the letter and will be responding directly to the Secretary of State. The council will continue to work positively with MHCLG to progress with its plan.”
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.