The highly contentious planning proposal for 450 homes on farmland off Shottendane Road in Margate has been rejected – again – after being brought to Thanet council’s planning committee for a third time.
However, there was confusion over what exactly could be voted for in the official reason for refusal and the need for a second show of hands after a miscount.
The proposal by Gladman Developments Ltd 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.
The application was discussed again last night (July 21) to agree on reasons for refusal which can be used as defence if the case is taken to appeal.
Councillors were advised by officers to vote to reject the development because the harm of not providing 30% affordable housing outweighing the benefits.
The refusal statement was: “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.”
During the meeting concerns over the application were once again raised with Cllr Bertie Braidwood saying he hoped to see the application finally “kicked into the long grass” adding that the 5% rise offered for affordable housing showed “margins can be increased when needed,” although he suggested “greed” was also evident.
Cllr Braidwood and ward councillor Candy Gregory also raised the recent Judicial Review won by a Laleham Gap school parent which branded the granting of permission for another development unlawful. Both pointed to one reason, which was Thanet council’s financial interest, with land ownership an issue in the Laleham Gap case and an overage agreement which could finally benefit TDC applicable to Shottendane.
Cllr Gregory was ‘shut down’ when raising issues around freedom of information requests about the Gladman development, being told by officers it was ‘not relevant.’
Fellow ward councillor Pauline Farrance questioned why the 30% affordable housing figure could not be reached, saying: “ Apparently it isn’t viable because Gladman have to make a profit of £20 million. Am I alone in being bemused by this figure? Why could Gladman not make a smaller, but very handsome profit, and meet TDC’s policy for 30% affordable homes?
To put this in context, and to quote from the officer’s documents before us –
Currently 29% of the population are on a low income of less than £16,000 per annum. Our average earnings are within the bottom 20% of the whole of England. So more than 80% of the population in Thanet, cannot afford to buy an averagely priced terraced house.
Those who are renting in the private sector are spending over 50% of their earnings on living costs. To be affordable, the National Housing Federation identifies that only 30% of income should be spent on housing costs.”
She also raised the issues of the lack of biodiversity surveys and mitigation, wildlife, the loss of farmland and the issue of greatly increased pressure on access to healthcare services.”
Cllr Steve Albon said the reason the site had been included for housing in Thanet’s Local Plan – a blueprint for development and infrastructure on th isle – was solely to facilitate the completion of an inner circuit (roads) and he believed the development would increase rather than decrease congestion.
He added:”We have to make a stand, we have to make a stand for our residents and we have to make a stand for ourselves. If we lose it, we lose it and we know there will be costs.”
However, officers reiterated that there were “no cogent reasons” in planning policy to refuse on any basis other than the lack of affordable housing and said this still left the council at risk of costs via an appeal.
Cllr Mike Garner disagreed, saying there was solid evidence of issues over flooding, wildlife and healthcare and those reasons should be included in the refusal.
He added: “I agree with everything Cllr Albon said especially the need for us to make a stand and that’s exactly what we did at the last committee meeting.”
However, the final vote rejected the development on the basis of the lack of affordable housing outweighing any benefits.
This was passed despite confusion over whether other options could then be taken if members wanted other concerns included in the official reason for rejection.
The vote had to be taken twice due to a miscount.
A comment caught on the mic at the end of the discussion between the chairman and chief executive about pressure groups ‘popping up everywhere’ and the hope it was not the start of ‘rejecting’ all developments has provoked some anger with the Westgate and Garlinge Action Group Against Housing taking to twitter to comment on “TDC’s attitude to objectors.”
Gladman Developments may now take the application to appeal.