A contentious outline proposal for 450 homes on arable land in Margate will come before members of Thanet council’s planning committee for a third time next week.
The proposal by Gladman Developments Ltd to build on farmland off Shottendane Road was 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.
In June the application was rejected yet again by Thanet council’s planning committee due to an “insulting” affordable housing offer of 15%, flood risk, harm to wildlife and agricultural land and concerns at the inability to provide required health care for new residents.
Gladman Developments Ltd, propose 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 68 properties as affordable housing 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, councillors rejected this as inadequate and despite officers’ recommendation to defer for approval the committee overwhelmingly voted to reject the application.
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 developer’s case – leading to significant legal costs to the council.
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 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. This was agreed by committee vote.
That report, which will be presented to councillors on Wednesday (July 21), says councillors could vote to reject the development because the harm of not providing 30% affordable housing outweighs the benefits.
The suggested reason is: “The proposed development, by virtue of the proposed level of affordable housing, would not meet the identified need for affordable housing in the district, thereby not providing the required homes to create a balanced and mixed community.
“This harm is considered to significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the development, therefore the proposal would not constitute sustainable development and is contrary to Strategic Priority 3 of the Thanet Local Plan and the objectives of the National Planning Policy Framework.”
The report says there are (as of July 9) 1563 households on the housing register applying for social housing.
The Council’s Housing strategy (March 2020), says: “Currently 19,471 households or 29% of the population are on a low income, which is defined as less than £15,988 per annum. On average earnings are £462.50 per week which is within the bottom 20% of the whole of England. Only 19.12% of households are in the lower managerial and professional occupations.
“This presents the challenge that more than 80% of the population in Thanet, cannot afford to buy an averagely priced terraced house and those who are renting in the private sector are spending over 50% of their earnings on living costs. The median income for Thanet is £25,000 and to be affordable, the National Housing Federation identifies that only 30% of income should be spent on housing costs.”
The report notes that Thanet has had a ‘low delivery’ of affordable housing in recent years. Evidence for the Thanet Local Plan stated that 397 affordable units were required each year to meet affordable demand.
Despite outlining a reason for rejection based on the low level of affordable housing planned for Shottendane, the report then goes on to explain why this is likely to fail.
It says; “It would be expected that if a decision on this basis was appealed that significant weight would be given to the viability evidence provided and independently assessed by the council, and substantial weight would be afforded to housing delivery on a strategically allocated site, when the council are in presumption in favour of sustainable development, as well as the clear highway, ecological and economic benefits of the proposed development.
“The development also complies with wording of the council’s affordable housing policy SP23 in providing viability evidence, and therefore there is no policy conflict from the development on this point. Officers have reviewed an appeal decision issued in June 2021 for a decision by Newark and Sherwood District Council, which outlines the expected weight to be given to a reason for refusal on insufficient affordable housing, when a viability case has been independently agreed. This appeal was upheld by the Inspector, granting development due to the benefits of the development and evidence provided outweighing the identified harm. In the case before members, it is expected that greater weight would be given to the benefits of the proposed development, as the council has not met the Housing delivery test, and 15% affordable housing is being proposed – in the appeal case, none was proposed.”
The report rejects all other reasons for refusing the application, such as flooding, saying: “officers are not able to provide a cogent planning reason for refusal on this ground.”
Campaigners from the Westgate and Garlinge Action Group Against Housing Development has sent a letter to committee members to ask them to stick with the rejection despite the report not giving any firm grounds for refusal.
The letter adds: “As a group we have sent in lots of evidence as to why this development should not go ahead, along with examples of other councils that have rejected Gladmans (land agents) and won on appeal.”
The report says councillors can vote to reject on the affordable housing basis or on that basis plus other reasons or vote to defer to officers for approval.
A letter from the developer says if, as proposed, Kent County Council meets the cost of the distributor road between Hartsdown Road and Manston Road – through its Major Network Fund – then this would leave funds to meet the 30% requirement.
The letter says: “In the event that funding within the S106 for road improvements was not later required, that funding would deliver a much higher level of affordable provision, potentially rising to the full 30%, albeit part of this would be offsite.
“Our application has therefore never sought to evade provision of affordable housing, but to ensure the maximum level of affordable housing can be provided within the constraints of the major investments in local roads which are required. We acknowledge however, that Members concerns pivot around the provision of onsite affordable housing.”
It will be discussed by the planning committee on Wednesday (July 21).
Save Our Fields fundraiser
A craft fair will be held tomorrow (July 18) to raise funds for the Westgate and Garlinge Action Group Against Housing Development.
Committee member Karen Farmer has organised the event which will take place from10am to 4pm at Westgate Community Centre in Lymington Road.
Entry is free and visitors will find a variety of beautifully handmade craft. There will also be a raffle on the day and refreshments for sale.