Motion to pause major housing application defeated at fiery Thanet council meeting

House building in Thanet

By Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Esson

A move to pause major housebuilding projects across a district has been defeated at a fiery Thanet council meeting last night (October 12).

Heckles from the public gallery blasted new housing targets with supporters of the proposed halt saying “planet Thanet will be destroyed” if it was not agreed.

But the Labour administration at Thanet council condemned the move as “gesture politics” while all other parties in the council backed it.

The motion was first mooted in July calling for a three-month moratorium on planning applications of over 10 homes in the district due to fears over crumbling local infrastructure.

Green councillors Mike Garner and Tricia Austin, put forward the debate but a decision was deferred to allow TDC officers to research the legal implications of such a move.

A report presented ahead of the full council meeting on Thursday (October 12), recommended members reject the bid on grounds it could prompt government intervention and high costs.

Green councillor Mike Garner

Introducing the motion, Cllr Garner told the packed council chamber at the Civic Centre in Margate the pause was intended to “allow for a review into the impacts the current housebuilding programme is having across Thanet”.

The St Peter’s representative specifically cited the state of Southern Water’s infrastructure in the district as a worry, which has recently seen sewage controversially released into the sea around Kent.

He stressed the motion “isn’t proposing that all building work in Thanet should stop, as much as some here might like that to be the case”.

There are 748 homes currently with planning permission for construction in the district, he pointed out from the report, and made clear those should continue.

Cllr Garner detailed statistics from the officers’ report which show there are 1,551 long term empty homes in the district, and almost 5,000 when including holiday lets and second homes, prompting an observer to loudly say “disgusting” from the gallery.

“I do not believe it is at all unreasonable for us to act on our residents’ concerns,” he concluded, to a round of applause from the public gallery.

In response, leader of the council Rick Everitt (Lab) said: “The administration absolutely recognises the level of public concern about the scale and location of planned development in Thanet.

“No responsible council could pass the motion in front of it tonight.”

The Newington representative stressed to the room that if the council paused planning applications, it would “simply be decided elsewhere on the same policy basis, without local democratic input”.

He added the council would also face legal costs attached to fighting decisions and lose income from planning application fees.

The officers’ report notes how if the council passed the motion, developers could choose to bypass the local authority and apply for planning permission directly through the government’s Planning Inspectorate.

“A pause would imperil the affordable housing that we desperately need in this district,” Cllr Everitt continued.

“Voting for it tonight knowing it cannot be delivered is not serious politics, it is simply performance, and our residents deserve better than that.”

During a later item at the meeting, £12 million funding was agreed to be released to finance further affordable housing schemes across the district.

The Conservatives, the council’s opposition group, backed the housing pause proposal.

Group leader Cllr Reece Pugh said when they were in the council’s driving seat before being defeated in May, the Tories “did a hell of a lot trying to fight the housing numbers”.

“It is in the best interests of residents to support this motion, to pause any major new consents across the Isle,” he added.

Cllr Phil Fellows (Conservative) said: “A number of us have been calling for a moratorium on house building and large planning applications in Thanet and also looking at ways we can we call in the local plan to have the numbers re-looked at.

“Every request has been met with a no, it’s not possible. This was a chance for us to draw breath and step back and take stock of what us as councillors, and as a council, are allowing to happen here in Thanet.

“Our health services are maxxed out, our roads are constantly clogged, our water and sewage system are in meltdown, it’s clearly an unsustainable position to be in, and it’s definitely unsafe. No one can argue these points.

“The local plan is certainly creating more issues than it solves. That’s for sure. And to be clear I did not vote for this Local Plan. My village of Birchington is under siege from developers, with one planning application alone for 1600 houses on grade one agricultural farmland. If you think about that number..1600 and that won’t be the end of it… then you can clearly see the destruction that is coming for our village life forever. It’s absolute madness and it’s tragic for all of us that live here.”

Cllr Kristian Bright (Lab) told the room “none of us want to see houses built on greenfield, I think we’re all agreed on that”.

But he added: “We need new houses, there is a housing crisis in this country.”

A member of the public loudly mumbled “bull****” at his mention of the housing crisis.

“This is purely about gesture politics [and empty words],” Cllr Bright added.

Cllr Will Scobie (Lab) said: “The way to change this is to have some political stability and not have motions saying we should stop development.”

Shortly after, a member of the public called out: “There will never be enough housing, it’s about time you realised that.

“Planet Thanet will be destroyed before you realise there will never be enough housing.”

Cllr John Davis (Con) told the room “we are traumatised by what is going on,” with development.

“We need a firebreak, we need to send a robust message across the chamber and to parliament that this community has had enough.”

Cllr Tricia Austin (Green) seconded the motion, decrying the “fire and brimstone” predictions of officers about the consequences of the potential pause.

When time on the debate ran out, chairman of the council Cllr John Edwards (Lab) attempted to move to the vote, with residents and councillors shouting at him to allow continued debate.

One resident cried “down with autocracy”.

A call for a recorded vote was defeated, but the ruling Labour majority opposed the motion, with all others voting for, and it did not pass.

‘Disappointed’

Following the meeting, Cllr Garner said: “”I’m obviously disappointed the motion was defeated but, even though the debate itself too often descended into shouty political point scoring rather than a reasoned discussion, at least we were able to air some of the issues that residents have repeatedly raised with us.

“The issues themselves, which include a Southern Water infrastructure that isn’t ‘fit for purpose’, GP services increasingly under pressure, and an increasingly congested road network, won’t be going away.

“Although, as a district council, the provision of these services is not our responsibility, the Green group of councillors will continue to press for action to be taken when promised improvements aren’t delivered.”

Winding up petitions submitted to High Court for 18 Sunningdale House companies

37 Comments

  1. Housing crisis ? There certainly is – far too many being built whist our infrastructure is awful. One hospital ; virtually no dentists; doctors ; rubbish roads ; in fact Planet Thanet will end up a city with no open land between our towns . A gutless decision to allow any further new builds 😢😢😢

  2. Labour will not hold power in Thanet, everitt is gutless and clueless, he just wants to look good whilst doing nothing. Thanet will become a concrete jungle unless the council listen to the people, but that does apply to all parties.

  3. My (albeit limited) understanding of planning law is that Local Authorities aren’t allowed to simply stop processing planning applications.
    If they’d have done so – would the govt have just stepped in?
    I think the local plan is the problem to be honest – who decided to allocate houses to the fields in the first place.
    Woild have been Conservatives or even UKIP wouldn’t it?

  4. It’s such a shame Labour didn’t vote to support this. We have a housing crisis but its not only about homelessness, it’s about the wrong houses in the wrong places.
    Everitt seems to have decided TDC can’t do this as it might upset Central Government, funny I thought Cllrs were elected by us to represent our interests, not those of MP’s.
    And the meeting was chaired really badly with Cllr’s prevented from speaking.
    It’s time these Labour Cllrs stopped blick voting and acted like individuals.

    • I elected my councillors to do a job not give responsibility to the government.
      It’s sad that people fell for this and wanted Labour to wash their hands of planning in Thanet.
      If they’d have done that – there would be the obvious outcry of ‘looney left council’ refuses to do their job.
      Tough decision to take – particularly on such contentious issues but that’s what comes with being in power.
      Easy to moan on the sidelines and I’m sure the Conservatives and the rather unhinged TIGs will continue to do so.

      • Across the Country each Council were given a total of dwellings to build (does one scheme fit all? of course not. Was there any flexibility? NO) Thanet in 2015 hadn’t drawn up a Local Plan for 11 years Lab & Tory Councils were not going to grasp the thistle. It fell upon UKIP to “grow a pair” or the Government would step in and as an incentive told Councillors if they didn’t more houses would be imposed. Because of the delay producing a Local Plan the numbers were higher. I was in a cross party meeting when a Ex Chief Planning Inspector sent by the Government told the Councillors present. There, you have it the numbers were IMPOSED by the Tory Government, despite Tory Councillors tell barefaced lies to the residents saying them it was UKIP!! At another meeting we were told by the KCC Highways rep they were £30 million short for the infrastructure. The 2 local MPs gave huge amounts of “lip service” but were totally powerless to change anything. Developers either landbank or keep the level of build down to maintain prices, the former site of the St Georges Hotel , bottom of Surrey Road has had hoarding for over 15 years!! . I could go on?

    • The Council is quite correct to reject this motion.
      If TDC doesn’t build the houses it is required to do under the Local Plan, there will be consequences – the government will impose itself.
      We did have a much better Local Plan, but this was ditched by Tory and UKIP councillors, leading to the situation we now find ourselves in.

    • Garry Saunders; reading the meeting papers would be helpful in understanding this.

      We couldn’t vote for the motion because it would not have paused development; it would have worsened it.

      If as a Council we refused to process planning applications, those applying can apply to central government for determination; and as we would be going against our statutory duties in not determining applications, even currently protected land would then be opened up for development.

      This motion could not have paused development; it would have increased it, and therefore couldn’t be supported.

      • Helen Whitehead.
        Protected land,where is that then?? From most residents opinions all land is up for grabs and Thanet will become the urban sprawl many predict it to become,and as for one councillor bringing the farmers into the fray last night,it’s pretty well known that St.Johns college are offering up acres of farmland for development in Thanet that was bequeathed to them to use for the benefit of the people of Thanet,can’t see that happening,and apart from that other farmers are purely tenants and will be elbowed out one way or another!I think in all honesty LA’S and their respective planning departments are,with all due respect,just going through the motions. How can one minute the Dept.for levelling up say LA’S have the power to determine planning and the next minute LA’S say they can’t, and I know things are potentially changing,but that will be too little, too late!
        Thanet is screwed,it will become a dumping ground for London LA’S housing lists overspill with no concern for its agricultural BMV land,its communities, its beaches,its heritage, anything in fact.All that’s happening for now is paper shuffling,lip service and empty promises of doing the best for our district.Its all a load of rubbish,the die has long been set for Thanet,it’s game over,last one out,turn off the light!

        • “no concern for its agricultural BMV land”

          You do realise that farmers are selling up to devs because Brexit, tory policy and supermarket profiteering mean they’re no longer financially viable to run, correct?

    • Council rejects planning application. Miffed developers take it to the planning inspectorate. Planning Inspectorate gives planning application the all-clear.
      That would be the likeliest scenario, were the council to have supported the proposed motion.

      • Kelly; it isn’t.

        Our Section 106 (affordable) homes go to those on our housing list.

        All the best, Helen.

  5. Well, at least we can say local and national Labour are in agreement on this.

    Keir Starmer threatening to bulldoze through the planning system to get houses built and local Labour refusing to entertain a pause in the concreting over of Thanet.

  6. If the motion had been passed then all the planning applications would be approved by the Secretary of State with no local input. For every decision not made during the ‘pause’ council taxpayers money would have gone to fatcat lawyers to pay for all the legal fees for the appeal, at a cost to cuts in local services. And then it was only a ‘pause’ to get answers to questions that are already known as they were mostly answered in the officer’s report, before returning to approving legally valid planning applications as usual!! Pointless at best.

    It’s easy to be on the side of popular protest. A lot harder to be on the side of sensible adult politics. The Tories were a bit thin on the ground: maybe some of them realised that too and stayed away deliberately.

    Why did the rest vote for what they know will harm the council and local services? Could it be something to do with a general election coming up and wanting to stir up anti-Labour sentiments? Check out the motives before jumping to conclusions.

    Want to see change? Pester the local MPs who are responsible for the national legislation that local councils have to comply with. Don’t let them fob you off by saying planning is a local council responsibility. Legislation and national policy are their responsibility.

    • @Helen, I can’t comment on Tory reasons for supporting Thanet Greens motion. Thanet Greens however proposed this to get a mature, wise and properly adult conversation about our housing and farmland situations – threats and benefits.
      In part this view has been formed by hundreds of questionnaires completed by Villages residents over the last few years.
      It is not anti-labour posturing, as you imply, but rather an attempt to get all Cllr’s to understand the need for discussion. As it turned out our Labour Group chose to champion immature posturing along with some Tory’s.
      Just watch the TDC mtg video and you can see this all too well.
      Getting central government to look at our situation is crucial and reasonable. Refusing to even ask, for fear of rejection, is cowardly in the extreme.
      By their actions you will know them.

      • Did you read the officer’s report about the consequences of passing the ‘pause’ motion? TDC take no decisions, developers Appeal to Sec of State who makes the decision with no specific consideration of local issues, TDC pay the legal costs for both sides, lining the pockets of lawyers, ultimately risking cuts to local services residents need in order to find the money to pay those lawyers. That’s not mature or wise. It’s irresponsible.
        The problem with being in ‘power’ means making responsible decisions even when those decisions are not popular.
        The solution is not attacking local councils or councillors, it’s talking to the people who can make a change. The laws and regulations are national. Some local council passing a motion that would put them in breach of national legislation is not going to change national law. MPs change national law. It’s Sir Roger Gale and Craig McKinley that should be the ones being targeted with the petitions and resident questionnaires. Because obviously they don’t know what’s going on in their constituencies. By their inactions we know them.

        • I have to ask, who was “attacking” local Cllr’s? And you say the solution is talking but the video of the TDC mtg shows the chair happy for some
          Members to harangue in pretty aggressive ways for extended periods so time for talking was prevented.
          Pausing large planning applications for three months would not cause the legal or governmental problems you describe, it would take Government more than three months to find Thanet on a map! Let alone start some formal process that would lose them Tory votes.
          You present yourself as the grown-up, the knowlegeable adult having to humour little children. But actually you’re refusing to accept the wisdom of the Pause Housing motion and are attacking and misrepresenting its supporters to what purpose? To hide your guilt at not acting responsibly? Or maybe your shame at the undemocratic and unrepresentative behaviour in the Council Chamber?
          The Motion would have provided time to talk and consider.
          You could still do that – let’s see.

          • Garry; yes, it would cause all of those issues.

            Central government doesn’t have to “find Thanet on a map” – developers simply have to submit their applications, then shunt them straight to central government for a decision when we choose not to process them.

            Central government don’t have to do anything; developers will do it for them.

            You have Planning experts and Councillors with senior responsibilities for Planning explaining very clearly that the motion would not have worked, but you are still insisting that it would, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

            Have you read the briefing notes?

  7. And when Labour come in to power they have promised to DOUBLE house building so say goodbye to every last bit of green space and farmland in the South east. The Labour Party seems determined to concrete over the whole of southern England and all of our precious and irreplaceable farmland.

    • Yep, the nation has seemingly no wish to limit migration into the country and so we need to build large numbers of homes and that’s before we even start to catch up with existing demand. Then you have the awkward truth that far more people want to live in the south east of england than other areas and we can’t force people to live elsewhere. Sothe homes will be built.

      • We will end up like those millions living in Gaza. Talk about sardines and overcrowding with the political unrest and what that brings in the way of fighting among themselves, coming here next at this rate!

        • Just curious, who do you imagine will be securing the Thanet borders to keep us in, blockading supplies of energy, food, water and medical materials and them bombing us all to hell?
          Maybe the west Kentish folk?

      • Pretty clear that our “nation” has no power whatsoever about policies on refugees and migrants. Decisions have been with politicians always.
        The idea that our housing problems are related to migrants is silly and ill-informed at best.
        It’s about decades of housing and planning policies that prioritise the interests of the “already wealthy” over our populations’ needs.

    • ” irreplaceable farmland.”

      You mean the farmland that is no longer commercially viable thanks to brexit, supermarket profiteering, and failure of domestic political policy of the Tories, right?

  8. Rick Everitt is not soft,just realistic, painfully so.
    If you ‘pause’planning applications,one of two things will happen, firstly PiNS will rule on the application on the basis of none determination,secondly,central government will intervene, especially this one and put in its own commissioner’s and more poor planning will ensue.The green party is I am afraid,badly advised,and the Tory party is disingenuous, in other other words voting for something they wouldn’t vote for when in office.Being hypocritical is not unknown in the Tory party.
    What Ms Whitehead and Steve Albon should be doing is to torpedo (there is a pun here for naval students) the TDC planning office for their business as usual low grade,urban sprawl policies, where they even decide on what is viable and what is not.I do remember having a row with the former TDC CEO about why housing design was of such a low quality in Thanet, and why none of it was properly insulated,or had grey water systems or solar panels.She bleated that developers could not afford these things,poor lambs.
    Westwood Cross is a complete disgrace and needs refashioning.Planning policy should be refocused to discourage car dependency and encouraged to build better houses that are beautiful,well made and built with climate change in mind.
    The dreadful things that Barratts and Persimmon have put up, will be pulled down within two decades.
    If the Labour party is form the next government, they will need to insist on building to a much higher standard, with decent not car dependent neighbourhoods.
    As for the baying mob of NIMBYs support the end of right to buy,more social housing, and incentives for key workers to live and work in Thanet and other similar communities.
    At least 40% of house buyers refuse to look at new builds.Why anyone would buy these poorly designed and built dwellings is beyond my ken.You have more consumer rights over the kitchen equipment in these houses,than the houses themselves.

  9. Some facts
    The current adopted Local plan should have been proposed before 2011. The Tory administration under Ezekiel didn’t even start work on a draft.
    The OAN would have been based on the 2001 census which then have been 12000 dwellings
    The proposed draft wasn’t debated until UKIP took charge in 2015 the OAN had by then risen because the number of houses would have been based on the 2011 census. So now 17200 and increase of 5200 dwellings. Thanks Tories.
    Then in 2018 UKIP lost out because of the defection of the Thanet Independents and the Tory administration promptly moved a further 2500 houses onto green fields. Thanks Tories

    • “Surely we now work to improve the infrastructure?”

      Which you can see happening if you’d rive down Haine Rd towards Lord of The Manor roundabout. Traffic capacity is being increased.

  10. Strange that this article failed to mention the 10% increase in allowances that Councillors approved for themselves! Well done to those opposition members who opposed it

    • I can’t believe this hasn’t been flagged by the local media.

      A 10% pay rise, backdated to May all pushed by the Labour Group and their Leader

      Will cost the local taxpayer £25k per year. How many toilets could that have kept open ?

      Disgraceful and totally tone deaf to the cost of living crisis facing many Thanet residents.

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