Anger at ‘lack of consultation’ over 2,000 home plan for Westgate agricultural land

Artist impression via Millwood Homes public exhibition boards

Westgate Town Council says community concerns over a 2,000 homes development in the village have been ignored.

Millwood Designer Homes intends to submit a hybrid planning application – for both outline and full permissions on different phases of the build- to Thanet council next month.

The developer plans to create 235 acres of homes, a new primary school and health centre, accessible areas of open space and walking and cycling links.

The proposed site is larger than that suggested in Thanet’s draft Local Plan, which is a blueprint for housing, development and infrastructure on the isle up until 2031.

Under that plan Westgate was originally allocated 1,000  homes but a vote to retain Manston airport as aviation-use only instead of mixed-use development meant 2,500 proposed homes had to be reallocated to new sites.

The reallocation resulted in an extra 1,000 homes for greenfield sites either side of Minster Road in Westgate, bringing the draft plan total for the town to 2,000.

Artist impression via Millwood Homes public exhibition boards

In recent exhibition boards Millwood Homes says: “Our vision is for a sensitive extension of Westgate-on-Sea through a complementary, integrated and sustainable new neighbourhood that offers new homes, important infrastructure, create new jobs, accessible areas of open space and walking and cycling links.

“Up to 2000 homes are proposed, including affordable housing and the potential for up to 100 homes for the elderly.”

Phase one of the plan is for 120 homes. Millwood will apply for full planning permission for this site which is earmarked as a “new Dent-De-Lion neighbourhood,” with views of the Dent-De-Lion Gatehouse and fronting on to a village green with a ‘feature pond.’

Via Millwood Homes public exhibition boards

The following phase will consist of:

Parkland Frontage- with detached homes, play areas, tree planting and swales to create a parkland edge.

The Greenway and Avenue- with homes, raingardens and clusters of trees.

Mews and Courtyard- with smaller homes.

However, Westgate Town Council set up a Neighbourhood Plan Steering group in 2017 and carried out a community survey which revealed the majority of 500 residents who responded did not want housing to be built on prime agricultural land and that they felt 1000 homes was overdevelopment for the town.

A town council spokesperson said: “The results also showed that residents wanted space between the existing and new neighbourhood to prevent encroaching on existing residents’ houses.

Development protest held in 2018

“Many felt that some houses should be built but the use of prime agricultural land was not appropriate given the need to protect it for food security and to protect the countryside in Thanet. Residents felt that a small number of affordable homes, homes to down size to and family homes were reasonable.

“The steering group raised these concerns with Millwood Homes and also asked how Westgate and Garlinge would benefit from this development through the community infrastructure levy e.g. would the developers contribute to local facilities such as our community centre?

“Not one of the concerns raised by residents and the steering group have be allayed.

“The total area of the agricultural land used by Millwood Homes has increased significantly, including all the land down to Shottendane Road from the east edge of Westgate.

“Millwood Homes and (architects) JTP have not consulted the Westgate and Garlinge residents. During master planning it is only correct that developers consult the members of the public during the design process. They have instead just consulted the steering group -and they did not take on board their suggestions – and then, for one day after most of their designs for the 2000 house master plan had already been completed, they consulted the residents. The Town Council are very shocked that local residents have not been able to input properly into the design and that Millwood Homes intend to submit the masterplan design in December.”

The town council has also raised concerns about the lack of information regarding what community infrastructure levy would be in place with only contributions to the new inner circuit road at Shottendane mentioned by Millwood.

The town council spokesman added: “ We believe that the next step is to change the law on agricultural land so that Thanet’s top quality farmland does not continue to be concreted over. Furthermore, the method by which the housing need is allocated should be changed from a district wide plan to Kent wide plan so that areas of low quality land instead of top quality farmland.

2,000 homes are planned for greenfield sites either side of Minster Road in Westgate

“Housing is important, especially affordable housing for our young people, but this overdevelopment and destruction of Westgate and Thanet as a whole needs to be stopped now.”

The view is backed by campaigner Craig Solly, who has consistently highlighted issues with Thanet’s draft Local Plan.

He said: “Since the draft local plan in 2015, residents have always objected to the inclusion of Westgate’s allocation with  a petition, signed and raised to council.  What we have now is a planning application which will be objected to in the same scale and loudness as before.

“The behaviour of the developer is highly questionable in that consultation has not been undertaken before the planning application is submitted.   Westgate Town Council has been ignored with no input into the plans.  The timing of the application is questionable as there are some modifications and public consultation on the local plan left to do.

Artist impression via Millwood Homes public exhibition boards

“Development should be built in the right places and it is clear to local residents that this isn’t the case.  This development fails to recognize will encourage more traffic and loses more high quality farmland than stated in the local plan.”

Millwood Homes says it will carry out public consultation in the first quarter of 2020 and aim to start work on site by the end of next year.

Further comment from Millwood Homes via architects JTP has been requested.