Councillors have delayed making a decision on resubmitted plans for a development in Ramsgate that was quashed after a Laleham Gap School parent took it to Judicial Review.
The resubmitted proposal by Kentish Projects for 23 houses,15 flats and parking on land off Stirling Way was recommended for approval with deferment to officers so legal agreements could be signed off.
But the decision was put on hold until after councillors can make a site visit following some confusion over which areas pupils used for recreation and whether these would be overlooked.
In October 2020 Thanet council approved the plans for the build, sited in the perimeter of the Eurokent Business Park and bounded by Royal Harbour Academy and Laleham Gap Schools.
But the decision was challenged with the Judicial Review brought by the parent and last July the High Court allowed the claim on all six grounds in the parent’s claim and quashed the planning permission.
The development site, immediately adjacent to the school, is owned by an LLP joint venture in which Thanet council and Kent County Council are partners which gave rise to claims of an appearance of bias by the council, something the judge agreed with.
The result was an order for Thanet council to quash planning permission for homes at Stirling Way, overlooking the school playground, with the decision branded as unlawful and having the appearance of bias.
A new application was submitted by Kentish Projects in December and was discussed by councillors on Thanet’s planning committee last night (March 16).
At the meeting a representative for Kentish Projects said the developer did not think the plan was “controversial” as the land was earmarked for housing in the Local Plan.
She added: “This site will deliver 38 dwellings for first time buyers with at least 11 affordable homes.”
She added that Kentish Projects would be paying significant developer contributions including £25,769.62 for Foreland Fields School expansion and £25,373 for new or replacement play equipment at Jackey Bakers Rec.
Laleham Gap headteacher Les Milton spoke against the proposal, raising the reasons the Judicial Review to quash the application was granted, including the perceived benefit for the council and the decision being made by officers with no committee hearing.
He added: “The Local Plan identified 20 dwellings, this plan is for 30 – a 90% increase in dwellings, 90% increase in noise, 90% increase in air pollution and a 90% more demand on the roads outside Laleham Gap School.”
Mr Milton said the school, which caters for pupils who are autistic and/or have complex needs, would be overlooked by a development too close to Laleham Gap’s boundary. Overlooking would affect the Post 16 and Year 11 recreation area and also the primary play area, he said.
Parent Jo Holden also spoke against the plans saying: “Imagine building works taking place next to your safe space. I have real concerns over our children’s mental health and well-being.”
Newington councillor Rick Everitt said he could not support the application, adding: “We have to be mindful of the impact on the children in the school.”
He also said that with another 500 homes plan in the area due to come up the Kentish Projects scheme seemed to be “a skirmish in a larger war.”
Cllr Steve Albon said the decision needed to be brought back to committee after legal terms were agreed for the sake of “transparency.”
Cllr Jill Bayford said that although she was sympathetic to the school the 38 home project was small compared to others that would be submitted in the area and “we desperately need homes.”
Cllr Becky Wing, who was a teacher for 26 years, said the impact on children with additional needs had not been looked at thoroughly enough.
Confusion over which parts of the school site were used for recreation, and whether these areas were private or could be easily viewed from the road, arose with Mr Milton and Cllr Wing saying the image of the site being shown was out of date.
Planning officer Iain Livingstone, who said the image was in fact taken two weeks ago, suggested a site visit would help clarify which areas were affected.
Councillors voted in favour of this suggestion – meaning a decision on the plans was put on hold.
The visit will take place on April 1.
I note from this that even the court thinks policy decisions should be made by councillors not delegated to their salaried employees. That’s how democracy works in most councils. But will our elected members listen?
In fact, the vast majority of planning decisions at all councils are made by officers. This one should not have been, but it isn’t practical – or necessary – for councillors to decide every single planning application submitted. Any application can be called before councillors if members decide they want to make it, which is the important point.
They must be made to listen Tony, act in the clear interests of the community or be sacked!
This is a Special Needs school for children with additional needs. They should not be hampered in their learning by the distractions of adjacent homes overlooking them. Most ordinary schools have the surroundings of sports fields. In fact Laleham Gap had that at their previous school before it was sold off for housing when they moved here. These children need peaceful surroundings to help them nurture and succeed.
Are “most ordinary schools ” really “surrounded by sports fields”? I will try to find out, but if anyone can direct me to current statistics, that would be helpful.
No need to worry.
The proposed development is separated from the school by a large staff car park.
I’m going to at that vist and telling the council what idiots they have working for them. The plans should be thrown out full stop