An outline proposal for 450 homes on arable land in Margate has been rejected again by Thanet council’s planning committee due to an “insulting” affordable housing offer, flood risk, harm to wildlife and agricultural land and concerns at the inability to provide required health care for new residents.
The proposal to build on farmland off Shottendane Road had already been sent back to the drawing board by councillors in April with the developer told the 10% affordable housing offer was inadequate. Thanet council’s Local Plan policy stipulates 30% affordable housing unless proved that this figure is unviable.
Gladman Developments Ltd, proposed to build the homes, a new distributor link road connecting Hartsdown Road, Shottendane Road and Manston Road, two new roundabouts, public children’s play areas and recreational routes.
The latest plan offered 15% affordable housing, meaning a rise from 45 to 68 properties on an 80% affordable rent and 20% shared ownership mix. There would also be approximately £4.9million in contributions to community and highways infrastructure.
However, Cllr Kerry Boyd said this was still far short of the 135 that would be included at 30%. She said: “It simply is not good enough.”
Cllr Boyd also read a statement from Cllr Reece Pugh who had been unable to make the meeting to say the affordable housing level was “unacceptable” and the development would “devastate the countryside.”
Speaking at the meeting, but unable to vote due to not being committee members, councillors Bertie Braidwood, Pauline Farrance and Candy Gregory made strong objections to the development.
Cllr Braidwood said 15% was “an insult to the community and council,” and did not meet the Local Plan rules. He added: “We cannot bend the rules to suit developers. If they can’t meet the requirements, then don’t buy the land.”
Cllr Gregory highlighted the flood risk at the site, demonstrated by water gushing down the road in last week’s heavy rains, and said it would lead to homes that were “unsaleable and uninsurable.”
She said without the natural drainage of the land water containing pollutants would swell Tivoli Brook and end up through the watercourse into Margate Harbour, impacting beach quality and having “a disastrous effect” on Thanet’s tourism economy.
Cllr Farrance said: “The paltry rise to 15% of affordable homes, when TDC policy is at least 30%, is totally unacceptable.”
She outlined once again the lack of GPs in Thanet, with 6,000 patients per GP at The Limes medical centre. She said: “The planning application may include costs for a new surgery or extension but a building is no use to residents when there are no GPs to care for them.”
She also raised the lack of a bird survey despite Skylarks being present at the development site.
Birchington councillor Phil Fellows questioned the ability to provide adequate healthcare and school places while Cllr Mark Hopkinson was just one of the councillors to highlight the near £20million profit predicted for Gladman, asking why some of this could not provide more affordable homes.
Cllr Helen Whitehead said national legislation forced councils to choose between “providing for some or providing for none,” later adding: “It (central planning legislation) does not work for Thanet.”
Officers said that 15% affordable housing was acceptable because Gladman had demonstrated a higher rate would not be financially viable and this had been corroborated by an independent assessment for the council. The planning and legal officers said to reject the application would lead to an appeal which Thanet would likely lose due to having no evidence to dispute the developers case – leading to significant legal costs to the council.
Despite officers’ recommendation to defer to officers for approval the committee overwhelmingly voted to reject the application.
The planning officer suggested getting a second opinion on the viability of the affordable housing figure but the committee were not swayed.
Cllr Mike Garner said: “With all due respect to everybody who has spoken, we have debated this twice, long and hard, we have listened to all the evidence and we have rejected it. We have said no to this application.
“We can go away and try to get it up to 18% or try and persuade us again around some of the evidence but we have said no. We need to stick to what we have said, we have rejected it.”
The legal officer said it was “not enough to say no” and a short deferral should be taken so officers can report back with evidenced reasons for the rejection.
Cllr Garner proposed officers come back to the next committee meeting with a report documenting reasons for the refusal based on the committee’s discussions which would be used to defend the decision in any appeal the developer may make.
The report will be brought to councillors to agree at next month’s planning meeting.
Westgate and Garlinge action group against housing development were not able to make a statement at the meeting as no public representations were allowed but they thanked members who spoke out.
Karen Ault, from the campaign group, said: “The strength of public opinion and the hard work of those that have gathered and collected data and turned it into good solid reasons for valid opposition to the large scale developments on inappropriate sites has now given our councillors the ammunition to vote with the courage of their convictions.
“Thanks to the efforts of our group we saw the previous vote increase from 4/7 to 1/11 against approving the application and sent a clear message that the public expect the council to represent our interests over the interests of developers and may be a turning point for how future similar planning applications are dealt with.
“While we are really pleased about the outcome of yesterday’s vote we are under no illusion that the fight is over.
“Despite the very clear statements that this application should be rejected on a number of grounds, the planning officer seemed to manipulate the meeting once again into agreeing the matter is returned for further consideration of the evidence to support the decision to reject on the grounds of affordable housing.
“We still assert that this development should not go ahead for many reasons including flooding risk and the lack of biodiversity assessments and mitigation. We will continue lobbying to stop this and developments on Garlinge and Westgate farmland.”