A bid to build houses at the former Club Union site in St Peter’s has been rejected by Thanet council’s planning committee for a third time.
Initially plans from the developer were for 30 properties at the Reading Street site, next to a conservation area, but these were rejected by Thanet council in March 2017.
An appeal against the decision was dismissed in August of that year with the Inspector saying that in the western area, by Convent Road, the density of the development would be more than twice that of the remainder of the site.
A revised proposal for the site reduced housing to 25, made lay out and building height changes and added a pedestrian and cycle path.
But this was again refused by Thanet council planning committee members in September 2018 and then had an appeal rejected by the Planning Inspectorate in April of this year.
A third attempt with a revised application for 24 homes went before the council’s planning committee last night (November 20). Prolonged debate included statements from officers and members of the public.
Three public speakers, including former TDC councillor Jenny Matterface, and two ward councillors, Aram Rawf and Paul Moore, spoke against the proposal while a representative from the developer spoke for the application. Many residents of Reading Street were in the public gallery.
One of the most contentious issues was over the possible loss of the public green space in Reading Street.
Broadstairs & St Peter’s Town Council have identified the site as a green space in the Neighbourhood Plan. But Thanet council Cabinet members agreed that it should be one of two areas to be removed and that those changes should go out for a six week consultation.
The Town Council says the sites were agreed after a rigorous approach recognised by the independent examiner, refuses to remove them and has referred the matter to the Secretary of State.
The recommendation for the Club Union application had been to defer and delegate to planning officers for approval but the committee unanimously voted to once again reject the proposals following a motion put forward by Cllr Steve Albon.
The application had received scores of objections from residents about the number and size of the houses and concerns over the green space which is used by the community and contains two memorial benches, planters and a post box.
Jenny Matterface, who is a member of the Club Union Action Group set up to co-ordinate the villagers’ campaign, said: “ ‘This has been a three year fight but the total support of residents in fighting this overwhelming planning application, is a credit to the determination of the community to protect its village, its eighteen Grade 2-listed buildings and the whole enjoyment of this important heritage area from inappropriate development.
“The possibility that open green spaces, enjoyed for decades, could be lost was a more recent factor in this whole process. Those memorial benches date from 1983 and reflect, as Sam Jaffa said in his speech, the close involvement of local families with this very special area. No discussion had taken place with the families whose loved ones are commemorated there and that was most hurtful to them.”
Craig Solly, from Thanet CPRE, added: ” I attended the meeting last night to witness a very strong local campaign with plenty of support from the people who care about Reading Street and their area.
“The speakers did a fantastic job in the three minutes they were able to address the planning committee. Planning should be inclusive of local residents and community and I am glad that the decision represents the people who care most about the area. They have clearly worked hard on all the matters on this application.
“On the issue on the Neighbourhood plan, what the district council has done is unjust. They are not allowing the people of Broadstairs and St Peters to have their say on the plan. Thanet council should without delay make this happen. Let the people in the area decide what is best for them and put an end to the controlling nature of the planners involved in this mess.”