A planning appeal over a controversial 450 home development in Margate enters its second day today (January 12).
The Inquiry opened yesterday and is headed by Planning Inspector David Cliff.
The appeal, which is being conducted online, follows three refusals for permission by Thanet council for Gladman Developments Ltd to create the development off Shottendane Road. Rejection was based on the reduced amount of affordable housing offered – 15% rather than the standard 30%.
However, Mr Cliff has acknowledged a number of other concerns were raised by councillors and action groups including Westgate and Garlinge Action Group and Salmestone Ward Residents Association.
Mr Cliff has said he will not limit the inquiry to just the affordable housing issue but will also allow concerns including biodiversity, infrastructure and flooding.
Day one had contributions from a number of interested parties including Salmestone ward councillor Pauline Farrance (Independent), Cllr Kerry Boyd, SWRA vice chairman Rowan Dickman, Jacqui Brown from the Westgate Garlinge Action Group, Cllr Reece Pugh and North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale.
Flooding, sewage capacity, the loss of agricultural land and the ‘forcing’ of a Local Plan on Thanet using out of date data were some of the issues raised by Sir Roger.
He said farmland was being “sacrificed” needlessly to build roads that were needed but not at such a cost.
He also said that although the housing allocation at Shottendane Road – and other developments- was allowed for in the Local Plan, the Plan was imposed on Thanet by former Local Government Secretary of State Savid Javid, adding: “This is not a ‘local’ plan.”
Sir Roger said the requirement for 17,500 houses was based on old ONS data and Thanet actually needs just half that amount which could be accommodated on brownfield sites.
He also raised the issue of flooding and sewage outlet from the Tivoli Brook culvert onto Margate main sands and the incapacity of the Southern Water system to cope with the current situation even before new houses are built.
He said: “The sewage system as it stands is not sustainable….the surface water from roads and roofs goes into the same system that carries the sewage. When we get the kind of storms we have had over the last few years the system becomes overwhelmed and the storm drains cannot cope and the only solution is to release raw sewage into the sea (to stop it backing up into properties and gardens.)”
Sir Roger said both he and South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay have called for a moratorium on housebuilding in Thanet until sewage systems are upgraded.
The MP also raised fears that Thanet’s farms will no longer be viable if so much land is lost to development, again reiterating that brownfield land should be used instead.
He added: “The site at Shottendane Road will make that farm unviable and developments at Garlinge, Westgate, Birchingston and Brooksend will make other farms unviable. We have to have economies of scale.
“If we build over all this farmland – which is in the Local Plan – then farming in Thanet will not be viable.”
He added that despite the developer saying there was no heritage interest in the site, farming is ‘Thanet’s natural heritage’ and “We are talking about destroying so much that there will be nothing left worth saving.”
He also highlighted a change of view in government focused on being self-sufficient and reducing CO2 emissions due to importing, saying: “It would be perverse if this was allowed to go ahead when government is saying ‘hang on, we need this farmland to grow crops on and protect the environment.”
The issue of the scarcity of GPs and healthcare provision was one of the points raised by Cllr Farrance who said seriously overstretched local health services will not be able to sustain the addition of at least 1080 more residents.
She said: “I am aware that Thanet council has stated that this is not in their remit, as the requirement is for the Kent and Medway CCG to state a required sum of money for a new building or extensions to existing surgeries.
“However, whenever I talk to residents about the proposed development, they always voice their fears about more lives being put at risk when we all know that our services are so stretched already. Therefore, it is clear that we cannot consider any new homes until this over-riding problem of GP services is addressed.
“Salmestone Ward is in a truly unique position.Firstly, Margate is an area of great deprivation, being the 67th most deprived area (out of 32,844 neighbourhoods) in England and Wales, and the second (out of 902) most deprived in Kent,
Currently, the GP provision in Thanet is woefully inadequate. In particular, The Limes Surgery in central Margate has approximately 6,000 patients per GP, whereas the national average is 2,038. And it is The Limes Surgery which would accommodate all these new residents – a total of at least 1680 new residents – including the approved development of 250 houses in Salmestone Ward already adding over another 600 patients to The Limes Surgery.
“In October 2020, the Kent and Medway CCG wrote to the TDC planning department to justify a developer’s contribution of £388,800 towards new buildings/extensions to GP surgeries in order to accommodate the additional residents. This report from the CCG made no mention of the increased number of doctors, nurses and other professional staff which would be required to run the service. “However, in April 2021, the CCG publicly declared that there was a problem with the GP service in Thanet, revealing that Thanet continues to “struggle” with a low number of doctors, and pledged to offer more support to a ‘fragile’ GP system.
“It is important to note that this public declaration was made 6 months after the CCG made their formal report to TDC. This report did not acknowledge that there was any difficulty in providing GP and other professional health services to the residents of Margate. either at that time, or with the addition of up to 2,000 new residents. “Clearly the CCG should be asked to produce a revised up-to-date report on the state of GP services in Margate.
“There have been significant problems in Thanet for many years. In their 2017/18 annual report the CCG noted Primary Care infrastructure across the CCG could be destabilised to a critical point due to multiple GP and Practice Nurse vacancies.
“In January 2019, The Royal College of GPs compared population data with GP workforce numbers from NHS digital and found that Thanet has one of the worst GP to patient ratios in the country, with more than 2,500 patients for one GP.
“In August 2019, Dr Jihad Malasi (pictured), chair of NHS Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group, stated that GP practices were unable to sustain themselves financially, with closures on the isle meaning surgeries had dropped from 17 to 13 in just 18 months. He said that many of them had not been able to get the right staff and they have not been able to get locums.
“GP shortages and an ageing population contribute to tough working conditions for doctors. The isle has the country’s second highest number of patients aged over 75 years old per full-time employed GP, as well as the fifth highest overall number of patients. This combination of high overall numbers of patients per GP and high numbers of patients aged over 75 years old suggests that doctors working in primary care in these areas face some of the toughest working environments in the country.”
Cllr Farrance also highlighted Newington Road Surgery in Ramsgate which stated that a decision to manage lists was due to having nearly 8,000 patients and just two GPs despite advertising since 2015 for a new GP to join the team.
She added: “Along with others, for the last three years I have been actively campaigning and lobbying the CCG to encourage them to offer incentives for GPs to work in Thanet, and particularly Margate, since 2018. The CCG has told us that they have tried everything, and it is impossible.
“It is therefore clear that this is not acceptable, and it seems clear that TDC and the CCG have no alternative but to ensure that our local GP services are improved before the number of residents increases due to newbuilds.”