Thanet district election 2023: Housing development main topic of hustings in Westgate

Westgate hustings Photo Craig Solly

Housing and development were the issues raised at a hustings organised by Westgate and Garlinge Action Group against housing development on farmland.

The hustings at Westgate Community Centre was attended by around 50 people including local candidates.

The main topics were development, Thanet’s Local Plan, housebuilding targets and the impact of increasing Air B&B properties. Candidates from across the political spectrum were in attendance.

Photo Craig Solly

A spokesperson for Westgate and Garlinge Action Group said: “We were very pleased with the turnout and feedback was that people found it an interesting and useful evening.

“It gave opportunity for people to meet their local candidates for TDC  and there were some excellent questions and discussion of housing relating issues, in particular the plans to build on Westgate  and Garlinge farmland.

“The fact that so many candidates attended is an indication  that they are aware that this is a very important issue for local people and so a vote influencer.

“We were extremely encouraged that candidates, including the current council leader Ash Ashbee, appear to have a united front in that they would do all they could to halt this development. Ash Ashbee appeared confident in the council’s ability to be able to  do so in light of new planning policy.

“Of course, it remains to be seen if this will be put into action (by those elected).

“It was acknowledged that our action group is just one of many across the country lobbying hard to save farmland and green land,  and that that this has been instrumental  in changes being proposed currently by Michael Gove.”

Photo Craig Solly

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove, has proposed reforms to national planning policy which include a series of measures to water down the effect of local housing targets.

The Thanet local plan – a blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure –  currently 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 2021 a review began to extend the plan to 2040.

A Thanet council document published last year 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 goes to the local election polls