Thanet council leader’s letter to government to request review of housebuilding targets

Council leader Ash Ashbee

Thanet council leader Ash Ashbee has written to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up to request a review of the current housing situation in the district and for a flexible approach to housing targets to reflect local needs.

The letter follows measures made by government alongside the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill following a rebellion by some 60 MPs who backed a plan to ban mandatory housing targets in England,

Secretary of State Michael Gove announced the measures to give local councils greater control over housebuilding in their areas. These include looking at local housing needs rather than mandatory housing rate targets, making it easier to develop brownfield rather than green spaces and introducing a registration scheme for short-term lets.

New guidance sets out that local authorities are not required to review Green Belt to deliver homes. Brownfield land will be prioritised for development, with the government launching a review into how such sites are used.

‘Persistent building of homes’

Cllr Ashbee wrote: “I know that you are aware of the work that we have commenced to utilise our success with the two Levelling Up funds that seek to create new opportunities for residents and boost inward investment.

“It is through these initiatives that we will see economic growth, not through the persistent building of homes which many of our residents cannot afford.

“With your new approach and future legislation it is hoped that our district will see housing numbers that reflect the various elements of our unique situation of static population growth, declining birth rate and the unique geographic pressure from being such a small district bounded by the sea on three sides.”

Thanet Local Plan

The Thanet local plan – a blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure –  has housing need calculated using the Government’s “standard method” resulting in a figure of 21,700 dwellings in the district by 2040. The local plan up to 2031 – with 17,140 homes required – was adopted in July 2020 but at the end of last year a review began to extend the plan to 2040.

Thanet council is currently considering around 200 sites on the isle that have been put forward as potential areas for development or open spaces following a ‘Call for Sites’ last year.

Change needed says Thanet council

But a housing document discussed by Thanet council Cabinet members in September says housing figures should be calculated by using the 2018 census-based population figures, so that numbers better reflect local need.

The document also highlights how councils are penalised by government for not delivering the required number of houses per year despite many of the issues being down to slow constriction by house builders.

Thanet council says the housing delivery test should be changed to a planning permission test permissions, meaning councils would be judged on the planning part of the housing delivery process that they actually control. There could then be new sanctions for land owners, developers and land agents who fail to bring forward allocated and consented sites for development.

Land for affordable housing

Thanet council also recommends a new designation of Affordable Housing land so that affordable housing providers are more able to compete for land acquisition with developers and housebuilders. A use of compulsory purchase powers for affordable housing delivery is suggested along with a funded national programme of affordable housing delivery with increased grant rates to enable providers to compete for available land.

The report says funding is also needed for  infrastructure, such as the major road network, and this should be allocated according to identified need not a competitive bidding process that inevitably leaves some areas, particularly those with the least ability to raise match funding, without key infrastructure.

Local Housing Allowance

Thanet council also wants an urgent review of the Thanet Local Housing Allowances.

The Local Housing Allowance sets the maximum amount a council will pay in housing benefit for a private rental but this has been fixed by government since 2020 and despite Universal Credit and other benefits going up in line with inflation next April this is not the case for LHA. The council says rates need to realign with the cheapest 30% in the private sector. Currently LHA rates are less than the cheapest rentals on the market, meaning tenants have to make up the shortfall out of limited income.

Thanet council receives around 1,000 homelessness applications each year. The council is landlord of 3034 properties but demand outstrips supply.

The letter to government comes on the heels of calls by councillors from all political parties to tackle the housing crisis in Thanet including a call to action from Labour’s Helen Whitehead.

Members of Westgate & Garlinge Action Group Against Housing Development on Farmland have also written to Michael Gove to ask why amendments to the planning system do not include protection of agricultural land.

Westgate & Garlinge Action Group write to government to call for agricultural land protections

Frozen Local Housing Allowance rates making Thanet’s homelessness plight ‘even more challenging’

Thanet council proposal to tell central government it “is failing people in housing need”

Margate councillor calls for emergency action over isle’s unaffordable rents and increasing homelessness

New Thanet council plan aimed at tackling housing crisis


  1. Interesting point

    “unique geographic pressure from being such a small district bounded by the sea on three sides.”

    If I understand this point because thanet has sea on 3 sides it doesnt need as many houses ?

    But TDC supports a cargo hub airport which is surrounded by sea on 3 sides ! Which obviously is poor for a cargo hub as it can only go west or north west ! Making manston a non starter as being in a poor geographic position.

    It seems to me TDC are completely out of their depth. Want to stop building on farm land which is great but doesnt want to use thanets biggest brown field site. TDC only want to use the term geographic position when it suits them but turn a blind eye to manston because it doesnt suit them there.

    Shame as thanet could have had a purpose built village with doctors surgery, schools, green space etc but TDC decided to get into bed with a struck off solicitor and his mates.

    Now we have farmland being turn into housing, which will join villages and towns up. Making for one big concrete jungle. The amount of housing along the Haine Road to lord of the manor is madness.

  2. Good to hear and should be applauded BUT…. actions speak louder than words! Thanet and its farmland are unique and if TDC have a crumb of conscience and responsibility about them it should be protected at all costs! Time will tell and let’s hope we don’t witness the death of an island!!

  3. Housing doesn’t provide permanent and long term jobs – an airport will.

    My argument for limiting amount of house building in Thanet has also long been the fact that we only have a limited amount of land on which to build, unlike most other councils in the UK, hence I fully agree with the – “unique geographic pressure from being such a small district bounded by the sea on three sides.”

    • Jane

      unique geographic pressure from being such a small district bounded by the sea on three sides

      That’s why it difficult to attract big businesses because thanet it at the end of England. The same way lands end doesnt have big business and a cargo hub.
      Cargo hubs are in the centre of countries with good infrastructure.

      Why land at manston and than put your cargo on a HGV to transport it to the cargo hubs in the Midlands, when you can land in the Midlands !

      Any back to houses, it still believe that the huge brown field site at manston would have been the best option.

      • An excellent summary.
        Someone once observed that 75% of Manston’s potential customers are fish.
        We *could* have had a Local Plan that limited new housing to 11,000. But a combination of Tory and UKIP councillors, obsessed with an airport, scuppered that.
        So now we have hundreds of acres of brownfield site with (let’s face it) nothing happening, whilst houses are being built on Greenfield sites around Thanet.

      • you cant build or touch Manston, didnt you know its designated part of Albania, Syria, Africa, Afganistan, Iran, Iraq and anyone else who demands homes, health care, education legal aid and any other thing their little hearts desire xx

      • If you read up, Mr X, you would realise that it is expected that 75% of all incoming cargo will depart by air to other destinations, not road. The operative word is “hub”. In addition, Manston’s location ensures that onward transmission of airborne particulate pollution, greenhouse gases and noise will mainly go out to sea, although being a cargo hub, the number of flights will be only a fraction of the number that would be required for most NSIP airports that depend upon passenger traffic. In any case, you are raking over stone cold coals. The airport development has been consented, twice, and the second DCO Decision Letter addresses the issues raised in the first. If the basis for the Application seeking leave to APPLY for judicial review is refused, as expected and in line with the Bristol and Southampton Airport decisions in 2022, then that’s that: you should then be doing everything possible to make enable the airport to be the key to our local regeneration. Significantly, the Southampton Airport case was decided by the very experienced and long-standing presiding head of the Planning Court within the Court of Administration of the High Court. His expertise is beyond question. Don’t expect him or those under him to take a different view over the permission stage for any possible judicial review of the Manston Airport DCO.

        • “The operative word is “hub””
          Something like East Midlands Airport, then? Somewhere well connected with transport infrastructure and logistics.
          You claim “it is expected that 75% of all incoming cargo will depart by air to other destinations …” – then why stop at Manston at all? Just keep on, to a proper airport such as Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted or EMA.
          “onward transmission of airborne particulate pollution, greenhouse gases and noise will mainly go out to sea” – ie over the poor souls who live in Ramsgate.
          I’m fascinated by your bluster over the legal processes.
          Wasn’t it your learned, legal opinion that the DCO would be granted, that the JR wouldn’t be approved, that the JR would find in favour of the SoS?
          And impressive though the credentials of the legal eagle hearing the Southamoton case are, the Manston JR application will stand or fall on its merits, not on Dr R John Prichard’s opinion.

        • Think the delays imposed by JR’s will be helpfull to the airfield reopening.
          The world of air cargo is always changing, the world of low cost flights/holidays are forever increasing. Although manston was to be a freight hub, East kent population is ever increasing. Why trek to gatwick or further away for our flyaway holidays or business trips.
          THere is local and national demand for cargo and self loading freight (passengers) The cargo slots could be shared with locost airliner operators.
          JR x 2 = shot themselves in both feet. sorry to say.

    • ‘we have a limited amount of land on which to build,unlike most others councils’. Could you,please, elaborate and share your evidence?

    • The jobs provided by an airport, in the unlikely event that Manston ever happened, would be fewer than those created by Wetherspoons when it opened in Ramsgate.
      And the consequences for Ramsgate, its visitors and tourists, would be frightful.
      RSP acknowledge this to be so.

      • Andrew, the infrastructure development at Manston will happen, except in the very unlikely event that the second Jenny Dawes JR proceeds and succeeds. The number of jobs was carefully assessed by Sally Dixon who in large measure on the strength of her work on the socio-economic impacts and jobs that the airport will create has been made a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Transort & Logistics. Her “bottom up” methods have also now been adopted in other aviation policy assessments, not least by HMG.The comparison with Wetherspoons is risible. RSP do not agree that the consequences for Ramsgate will be “frightful”: quite the contrary. They agree that they will be “significant” in very limited areas, Ever see any tourist destination or harbour that didn’t benefit from proximity to an airport?

        • Ah. Sally Dixon. She was RSP’s expert who had no business plan, wasn’t she? I witnessed her presentation to KCC (on behalf of RSP), at which event Louise Congdon of York Aviation proceeded to forensically shred Ms Dixons complete argument. It was quite difficult to watch, and at times I (almost) felt sorry for her.
          Why is the comparison with Wetherspoons “risible”? Isn’t it the case that, at a stroke, the opening of the Royal Pavilion in Ramsgate (right under the flightpath) created more jobs than Manston ever saw or is likely to see .. with no environmental impact? Or is it the case that any opinion, either than Dr Pritchard’s, is risible?
          Is this what you mean by “limited consequences” for Ransgate:
          ‘RSP has identified that Ramsgate, Manston Wade, West Stourmouth and Pegwell Bay will be the most significantly impacted by the developments “to a point where there would be a perceived change in the quality of life” for residents.’?

        • Whilst we are admiring the impressive credentials of some of the players, perhaps the good Doctor would confirm that RSP’s main player was struck off by the SRA for 23 counts of embezzlement and was obliged to resign as leader of Shropshire Council?
          Would he also tell us how many of the airport enterprises (including previously at Manston) this principal was involved in ever made any money, or, indeed, is still functioning at all?

        • Oh! I’ve just remembered … your mention of “tourists” jogged my memory.
          Wasn’t the principal of RSP involved in the collapse of the Travel Club of Upminster (about 12 years ago) leaving thousands of holiday makers stranded? Something about not signing up with ABTA or something?

  4. Councillor Ashbee made the good point that population growth in Thanet is “static”.
    The birth rate is declining, too.
    So the housing need in Thanet may not be as dire as often touted. Yes, local young people DO need affordable housing but too many old geezers like me carry on living in the three-bed family home long after the offspring have left. But there just aren’t enough(affordable) smaller houses /flats to move into, to free-up my three-bed semi for the next generation of families. So we stay in our three-bed semi, looking at the Estate Agent’s windows and shake our heads at the extortionate price of smaller homes.
    The prices are set by the house building companies, not by what Thanet needs and can afford.
    At least Cllr Ashbee is trying to create a link between what Thanet needs and the level of house-building that occurs(not to mention the size and type of home required).
    This link was broken long ago when central government clearly decided that East Kent could be made part of the London commuter belt, hence the High Speed train service and the creation of Thanet Parkway to serve the capital.
    But the government was never very good at joined-up thinking and failed to realise that the trains are run by private companies that screw the last penny out of the staff and the passengers ,so that the number of London commuters that want to take the risk of living in East Kent, while taking the train to London every morning, has never been enough.

  5. Cllr Ashbee is using weasel words like ‘affordable’ and ‘brownfield’.Another word is ‘green belt’.What do these mean? I can show you parcels of land which look the same but one will be brown field and the other green belt.What does ‘affordable’mean?
    What is needed is good quality housing both for private and social should be built speedily,not be car dependent,designed better and built better.
    The house building industry is claiming vast profits for a poor quality product.
    There is nothing high speed about the high speed railway, except between London and Ashford.Thanet Parkway is not going to mean high speed travel either.
    We need to think about more intensive housing and building upwards instead of increasing urban sprawl,with low level estate housing.

    • Yes, I agree about building upward , NOT sprawling out sideways.
      In fact, it is London, with its much younger population ,desperately wanting somewhere to live, that should see the bulk of new home-building.
      From my limited experience of my, and others families, I can identify a whole generation of twenty-odd-year-olds who would only want to live in a flat. And will continue to do so for many years ,until permanent relationships with potential for children, come along. I recall a number of relatives and young friends who needed to live in London and, at great financial sacrifice, managed to get some really decent flats with great views over the city. They didn’t want much more at that stage of their lives.
      If more such flats were to be built, in high tower blocks, at affordable prices, there would be less demand for housing generally.
      In fact, retired individuals and couples, whose child-caring days are over (at least regarding their actual offspring) might prefer such flats as well, especially if all facilities were available and, maybe, there was an age -limit (only over 50s, maybe).

      The only way is up!

    • George Nokes, I can give you one pointer about what is NOT “Brownfield”: just look at the beautifully rich soil that is being turfed up on both sides of the New Haine Road. Soil that any born farmer would regard as heaven-sent. It is insanity to put housing there, OR industrial properties. That should have been reserved for agricultural use ONLY. There are plenty of other sites where you find solid chalk just inches below the surface: plant your new houses there, but not to be gobbled up by London boroughs to locate those they want to move on, together with a £5000 bung for settling into an area where they more likely than not will feel out of place. Let’s also hope that those new houses going up will not have three-quarter sized furniture in their photographs and display houses as happened in the tiny Persimmon homes in the first developments between the Haine Road and Star Lane: ghastly.

  6. Just out of curiosity will these possible new homes be for a) the yuppies from London? b) the massive influx of illegals or c) for the decent British people who are living in the Thanet area? If it is all about a and b then I along with many other people protest. I for one am sick and tired of all the work getting priority for the a and b groups start listening to the voters who have elected you to serve and protect us.

  7. Given we don’t restrict where people can choose to live ( with the exception of those who are reliant on support for their housing needs) and that i’ve yet to see great swathes of new homes that remain unoccupied after being completed. You have to accept that there’s a demand for all the new housing being built. At which point it turns into nimbyism not wanting housing built.
    Until such time as the UK decides to restrict inward migration to a significant degree, persuade people to live in more densley populated households / move to other parts of the country , there is going to be ever increasing demand for housing especially in the south east. Landowners and builders will meet that demand whilst there is a profit to be made. No government is going to prevent housebuilding and will more likely seek to encourage it. Things are not going to change the basics.

    • Quite so!
      If I were an investor with several £M to invest, would I put my money on a dubious airport scheme (over a dozen International aviation experts say it won’t work) lead by a serial overseer of airport failure, where, even if it did work, it would take decades to show a profit; or would I invest in housing, guaranteed return in a very short time?

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