Rod Giddens: What has happened to Birchington’s Neighbourhood Plan?

Birchington Neighbourhood Plan

Rod Giddins – Birchington Neighbourhood Planning Adviser 2019-2023

Six years ago Thanet District Council and Birchington Parish Council signed an agreement. This allowed the Parish Council to prepare a Neighbourhood Plan and set out obligations of both parties.

Thousands of volunteer hours were then spent doing research, gathering evidence and consulting the community about their aspirations for the village. Specialist advice was sought and paid for by the Parish Council to make sure the draft Plan was fit for purpose.

Work on drafting the Plan continued through to formal public consultation in September 2021.

This was an opportunity for businesses, residents, visitors, local authorities, agencies and organisations to comment. The Plan was then amended. The draft Plan was approved by the Parish Council at the end of November 2021 and formally submitted to Thanet District Council a week later. It was advertised. Responses were kept to pass to the yet-to-be-appointed Examiner.

The Examiner was selected in March 2022 by the District Council (in consultation with the Parish Council) from a national register of experienced professionals. In June 2022, the contract between Thanet District Council was signed. It was now up to that Council to manage the process through to a Referendum of voters in Birchington. Examples of best practice from around the country show that an Examiner can take up to 20 days, across several weeks, to complete the examination, depending upon the complexity of the Plan. At all times, there would be open dialogue between the Examiner and the District/Parish Councils.

After three months the Parish Council was notified by the District Council that the Examiner would require some changes to the Statement accompanying the Plan.

Another three months later a meeting was convened by the Examiner and attended by District and Parish representatives. It was agreed that a further short public consultation should take place solely considering the Statement, not the Plan. This was done.

The Examiner committed to producing a draft Report on the Plan by the end of January 2023.

Further deadlines were set by Thanet District Council but, to date, there has been nothing, zilch, zero from the Examiner.

The contract between Thanet District Council and the Examiner provides that they can terminate this if he is not performing services to their reasonable satisfaction or has been prevented by illness, injury or otherwise from providing the services thus causing an unacceptable delay in completing the work.

Failure by the Examiner to deliver his report and the lack of action by Thanet District Council in enforcing the contract, is deplorable. They have shown a total disregard for all the hard work carried out by residents and Parish Councillors on compiling the Neighbourhood Plan since 2017. Six years!

One year after the Examiner was appointed, we still have no report nor any idea whether the Plan is acceptable or will need modifying. We don’t have a Plan approved and ready to submit to a Parish Referendum. In the meantime, the policies in the draft Plan do not have any legal status and cannot be used to affect planning decisions made by Thanet District Council.

Whatever happened to Birchington’s Neighbourhood Plan?

Thanet council says:

“When a Neighbourhood Plan is submitted for examination, the timetable is set by the Examiner. The council is not able to set deadlines in the way that it would for a standard consultancy contract. The timetable may change significantly, depending on the findings of the Examiner, as work progresses.

“In this particular case, the examination has taken longer than anticipated.

“We have recently been in contact with the Examiner and the report is expected imminently.”


  1. Yet again a total farce. As with everything within TDC hopefully the issue will just go away and why should we care we get paid. Whilst the residents spend their own time and effort for free.

    Planning were informed 1 year ago concerning the replacement windows in a conservation area from wood to plastic. Previously an application was refused to change to plastic. Whilst chasing up, the council stated that they have 4 years to take enforcement action….4 years this is a joke (not).

    Good luck BPC. As fare as TDC are concerned if its easy – like dropping a cigaret end (allegedly) we will enforce immediately otherwise zzzzzzzz hopefully the residents will just accept of depart this universe.

  2. 4 years and it’s imminantly due to arrive it’s like saying that the elephant is due to give birth as they thought the gestation was the same time but an Elephants is 12 months. 4 years is good going for tdc I expect another 6 months before it’s seen. Good luck Birchington.

  3. The council was Tory led until very recently (not mentioned in the piece). Hopefully, the new Labour led council will be more effective and the good people of Birchington will finally learn to stop voting for a party that is so incompetent – the conservatives.

    • I think over the six years the council has been led by UKIP, Conservative, Labour, Conservative and Labour again so not sure the administration is relevant

  4. What a good point,Kathy.
    But rather a sad reflection on the state of UK democracy, though. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, or which Party or coalition takes “power”, nothing really changes.
    We have a very centralized system in Britain. Westminster controls the laws by which local Councils run their areas and most money the Councils get to do this does NOT come from the Community Charge but comes from Westminster again. And ,if the London government does not want to properly fund local Councils(and they obviously don’t!), the money fails to arrive and the local Council, regardless of who is running it, has to cut back and look like they don’t care.
    There are a lot of criticisms of Thanet District Council. But, in the end, they just have to do what the London government will allow.

    • There are well run councils and there are lame ducks – they are all funded through the same mechanism. It all comes down to the quality of management and decision taking.

  5. Shocking but not a surprise for us familiar with TDC – lazy? Incompetent? Working from home? Can’t be bothered? Any or all of the above?
    By the way, the spokesperson got it wrong – I’m told the examiner can organise the examination how they choose but they still have a contractual obligation to do a good job and to do it in good time…not just when they feel like it. For some reason TDC thinks its a good idea to ignore all that.
    Most of us would have sacked the builder, plumber or solicitor who spent more than a year saying ‘next month’ to carry out a serious but relatively simple (for them) task.
    Good luck Birchington.

  6. The Council points out that “When a Neighbourhood Plan is submitted for examination, the timetable is set by the Examiner. The council is not able to set deadlines in the way that it would for a standard consultancy contract”
    So there you have it.
    The delay lies with the Examiner, not with TDC.

    • Do your homework Phyllis and don’t believe everything TDC says – the examiner can carry out the examination as he chooses but he can’t take as long as he likes to do it.
      So far he’s had more than a year to do 20 days work – it’s beginning to smell like rotten fish!

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