Thanet council will make an expression of interest to have three new investment zones on the isle.
Thanet District Council has been working with Kent County Council, government officials and stakeholders to develop expressions of interest for the Port of Ramsgate, sites across Manston including Manston Airport, MoD site and Mountpark and for Dreamland/Arlington.
In September Kent was named as one of 38 areas earmarked as an investment zone in the now sacked Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini budget.
One of the aims is for accelerated development, meaning there will be designated development sites for housing and commercial development. The need for planning applications will be minimised and where planning applications remain necessary, they will be radically streamlined.
Businesses in the designated sites will benefit from time-limited tax benefits such as 100% business rates relief on newly occupied and expanded premises, and full stamp duty tax relief on land bought for commercial and residential development. Accelerated development will also mean more land for residential and commercial development,.
According to the government, Investment Zones will be “designated sites where businesses will benefit from time-limited tax incentives and streamlined planning rules to deliver investment, create jobs and build the homes that communities need”.
Kent County Council as the Upper Tier Authority for Thanet will be responsible for submitting an application to central Government, including the expressions of interest from the district councils within the county.
Potential Thanet sites
Thanet council leader Ash Ashbee has approved the in principle expressions of interest at the Thanet sites.
The Port is owned and operated by the council but Manston airport and Dreamland are privately owned.
A decision notice published on TDC’s website says: “If any of the expressions of interest in Thanet are successful, this does not mean that there is approval for an Investment Zone.
“There will be subsequent decision gateways and development phase to put together a delivery plan. The delivery plan is required to ensure that the Investment Zone meets the strategic, delivery and legal expectations set by central government.
“These delivery plans will need to confirm that sites will represent value for money for taxpayers and deliver the growth objectives set out through the Investment Zones programme. At this stage it is not clear how this process will be managed, the timescales linked to this, and what central government’s guidance is for the next process.”
Ramsgate Port is also included for regeneration and development under the £19.8million Levelling Up Fund.
Dreamland has a £4million allocation from the Margate Town Deal fund to be used towards the renovation and reopening the cinema building which has been empty for more than a decade.
The site will be turned into an entertainment and conference centre with space allocated to community use – understood to be the People Dem Collective group which headed up Black Lives Matter demos last year – and charities.
The allocation caused controversy with some questioning why the privately owned business is receiving public funds. The Dreamland estate was sold by Thanet council to park operator Sands Heritage Ltd in 2020 for £7million – £2.3 million for the Dreamland estate and £4.7million to buy the car park area which was finally handed over this month.
The bulk of Manston airport is owned by RiverOak Strategic Partners which currently has an approved development consent order from government to create an air freight hub at the site. RSP paid £16.5 million to buy the airport site from former owners Stone Hill Park in 2019.
The expression of interest decision has been made under ‘urgency procedures’ and is exempted from call-in.
Thanet council says this is because of “ timescales set-out by central government between the announcement about Investment Zones, releasing the guidance and the deadline for submission means that Thanet District Council has been unable to move through the formal decision making process.
“This would normally include a Cabinet Decision and time for call-in from Scrutiny. Following the guidance there was only two weeks in which to develop the expressions of interest before the submission deadline. These are in-principle expressions of interest that will require further development if successful, and therefore will follow due process.”
Thanet Green Party councillor Mike Garner said he is extremely concerned at the investment zone proposals.
He said: “I am extremely concerned that these three areas of Thanet have been nominated as Investment Zones without the council having any clear idea of what that means for those areas.
“ A number of organisations like the RSPB and CPRE have already highlighted that any further weakening of planning regulations is likely to lead to further harm to the environment and can be seen as an attack on nature.
“I agree with them and believe that we should be working harder to deliver the affordable housing and new job opportunities needed within a framework that protects and enhances our environment rather than ceding control of large areas of the district to developers who are looking to make money ‘at any cost’.”
Thanet Labour Party leader Cllr Rick Everitt said: “It is right that the council takes opportunities to support regeneration, but the government has rushed this policy out and there is insufficient clarity about what they involve. Cllr Ashbee referred to the benefit of business rates from a reopened airport at council last night – is the council now willing to forfeit them?”