Broadstairs and St Peter’s Town Council will take a battle with Thanet council over two ‘community green’ sites to government following legal advice.
Last night (September 2) town councillors agreed to ask the Secretary of State to force Thanet District Council to hold a referendum on their Neighbourhood Plan.
It is thought to be the first time that the Secretary of State will be asked to intervene in a Neighbourhood Plan process.
The move comes after Thanet council Cabinet members agreed that two areas out of 18 proposed as Local Green Spaces in the town plan should be removed and that those changes should go out for a six week consultation.
But the Town Council says the sites were agreed after a rigorous approach recognised by the independent examiner and refuses to remove them. The town council has sought legal advice from Town Legal LLP – responsible for creating the Government framework for Neighbourhood Plans – after Thanet council overran the time limit for the referendum and based its decision on a what the lawyers say is a “flawed” report from officers.
The Neighbourhood Plan
The Broadstairs and St Peter’s Town Council Neighbourhood Development Plan will help shape development in the area up until 2031.
The draft NDP was ready for public consultation in 2018 and then submitted to Thanet District Council. It was then reviewed by an independent Examiner, who in June of this year deemed the plan, subject to some modifications, as meeting the relevant requirements and ready to go to referendum.
Thanet council decision
But a report from TDC officers to Cabinet members in July said two green space proposals, for the corner of Rumfields/Fairfield Roads and the green spaces at the entrance to the old Club Union site in Reading Street, should be removed as “not meeting the ‘basic conditions’ set out in the National Planning Policy Framework…and not (being) in general conformity with the strategic policies of the development plan for the area – as set out in the emerging Thanet Local Plan.”
This decision has resulted in the plan not going to the next stage of referendum in the five week deadline.
One issue is that a planning application has been lodged for the old Club Union site which would mean moving the entrance across the proposed green space area.
According to the legal document from Town Legal LLP “the Town Council is frustrated by TDC’s inaction and suspect that the delay in progressing matters may be a deliberate stalling tactic to enable a pending planning application to be determined, which requires the Reading Street LGS for access purposes.”
The site has been put forward previously for town green status but has been delayed by planning applications which have twice been rejected on appeal.
Campaigners against the Club Union development include Mike and Brenda Boniface, the treasurer of the Club Union Action Group, and Jenny Matterface – who were present at the town council meeting.
The meeting was told that the legal advice highlights “eight reasons why what TDC is doing is not in the legal domain of what they are allowed to do with the Neighbourhood Plan.”
Reasons include “incorrectly” assessing the Neighbourhood Plan against the draft Local Plan when it should be using the currently adopted plan from 2006; “an inadequate level of consideration or analysis in the report to Cabinet (about) why officers consider that the Reading Street and Fairfield/Rumsfield Roads LGS do not meet the designation criteria”; “an inadequate level of consideration or analysis as to the specific contents and recommendations of the (independent) Examiner’s report and proposed modifications.”
Town Legal LLP also say no option was given to Cabinet members in the report to put the Neighbourhood Plan to referendum and “This failure is arguably contrary to the legal duty on Local Planning Authorities.”
They say a new six week consultation is “unnecessary” and that Thanet council has “misdirected itself” by relying on information in a “flawed” officer’s report.
They say TDC could only legally modify the plan in a way not recommended by the examiner when this is to ensure compatibility with EU or human rights obligations or to correct an error – none of which apply according to the legal advice.
The legal report adds: “We consider the circumstances in the present case fall squarely within the Secretary of State’s intervention territory.”
Taking the fight to government
Town councillor Rosalind Binks put forward a recommendation last night which, with some slight amendment, was unanimously agreed that the town council would “make a reasoned request to the Secretary of State for him to direct Thanet District Council to hold a referendum on the Neighbourhood Plan.”
This would also include a request for a “holding direction” from the Secretary of State “restricting TDC from granting planning permission” at Reading Street.
Cllr Binks told the committee: “I have been in touch with MP Craig Mackinlay and presented him with the legal advice and he said he is happy to go and speak with the Secretary of State on our behalf.”
Club Union campaigners
Following the meeting Mrs Matterface said: “The Club Union green has been used for decades by the community, there are two memorial benches, planters and a post box. It is open green space enjoyed by the community and for the residents of Reading Street should be available for use without hindrance and given the appropriate status and protection.
“We have ample evidence that the greens aren’t owned by the applicant and we also have a portfolio currently at KCC for a village green status application but it has been held back twice by the latest and previous planning applications. These are ‘triggers’ that can delay a village green status application.”
Thanet council’s decision notice on the matter states: “The two proposed Local Green Space sites (at Fairfield Road/Rumfields Road and Reading Street) were considered for inclusion in the draft Local Plan, but were not included as they do not meet the criteria in the National Planning Policy Framework. The approach in the draft Neighbourhood Plan therefore contradicts the position set out in the draft Local Plan.”