Farmer’s shock at notice to quit Margate agricultural land tended by family for generations

Jonathan Tapp has been told to quit part of the land he farms by this October

A farmer whose family has been tending land in Margate for more than 200 years says he was shocked to receive one year’s notice from Thanet council to quit 50 acres of his farmland.

Jonathan Tapp can trace the family’s farming roots back to the Napoleonic Wars through the Taddy, Hatfeild and Tapp holdings and agricultural tenancies but says the area he farms is now “being nibbled away” from all sides.

He has received notice to quit land forming part of Hartsdown and Twenties farms in Shottendane Road by October 2024. The land currently produces potatoes through intensive farming as well as crops including wheat, beans, barley and oats.

Thanet council owns the site after it was sold to predecessor, the Margate Corporation, in 1923. It was let back to the family as tenant farmers. But now the council proposes to use part of the farm for a small Gypsy and Traveller site and another part is earmarked for use by Kent County Council for an Inner Circuit road network.

Jonathan said: “There have been encouraging comments on social media that buoy you up a bit but it was quite devastating. There have been fruitless exchanges with (council) but it does not seem to get through that we are running a business here with employees.

“It was unexpected to receive one year’s notice to get off. There is an idea that one year is plenty of time but we are running on a five year rotation.

“The notice was a bit of a shock. They had made noises the previous year about wanting to do things with the land and include it in the amended Local Plan so I made a mental note that we probably had another ten years. One year’s notice was sudden and unexpected.”

The Margate farmland Photo Ros Tapp

Jonathan has already lost some 50 acres of land at Shottendane which was sold for development by the private owner in 2022 and gained approval for a controversial 450 home development last year after a ruling by the Planning Inspectorate. Further land will be lost for KCC’s road widening plans and the use of land at Quex could also become uncertain as areas in Birchington diminish due to housing developments.

Jonathan currently retains some 450 acres in Margate and another 250 acres at St Nicholas but says this is a very small holding with most farms covering some 2,000 acres.

The lease for Hartdown and Twenties farm off Shottendane Road was initially granted to his grandfather Aubrey, then taken over by his father Arthur who passed away in 2019. Jonathan has been farming the site since 1983. He says, despite claims there was once woodland on the farm, it has been greenfield going back to the Bronze Age according to an archaeological survey carried out in 2000.

The area proposed for the new Gypsy and Traveller site Photo Ros Tapp

Thanet council says the proposal for the land is for two access points, one from Caxton Road and the other from Shottendane Road, with four permanent pitches and a community room, a children’s play area and an area for animals.

There are also proposals to transfer a section of the land to Kent County Council, for use in the proposed Major Road Network (Inner Circuit) improvements and a linked sustainable drainage scheme. This scheme is designed to reduce the pressure on the A28 and A256 trunk roads.

The wider plan includes allocation for housing under the Thanet Local Plan review.

‘Vast majority of site unaffected’

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “As a council there is a duty of care to all the people that live in Thanet.

“No decisions have been taken about proposing a small section of the Shottendane Road site for Gypsy and Traveller provision.

“The vast majority of the land at the Shottendane Road site is unaffected by this proposal and is still available for agricultural use.

“The council intends to undertake a consultation exercise, the preparation, completion, and review of which is likely to take a number of months. This will include engagement with local residents and members of the Gypsy and Traveller community. Following that consultation, the proposal will be reviewed.

“The current farmer has already been invited to meet with the council to discuss both the proposal and future agricultural tenancies on the site.”

Last month, council Cabinet members agreed to carry out the consultation on the Gypsy and Traveller provision at the site. This would be then subject to a planning application which will not be submitted until after consultation and further discussion by councillors to review the results.

Photo Jonathan Tapp

However, questions have been raised as to why just one site – the grade 1 agricultural land- has been put forward for consultation, particularly as the recommendation from councillors at a scrutiny meeting on January 16 was that multiple sites should be consulted on.

Council leader Rick Everitt said sites had previously been assessed in 2019-2020 with further work and visits carried out by the then-Conservative administration between 2021-2023. Shottendane was identified as a potential Gypsy and Traveller site at that time.

Cllr Helen Whitehead told the meeting last month that a meeting with Mr Tapp had been arranged.

She added: “That discussion, as it could have done previously, will also cover discussions of long leases for part of the site and short term leases for other parts. The reason for the termination of the lease links to the fact that all of this land is linked under the current lease.”

The yellow rapeseed field is the area proposed for development Photo Jonathan Tapp

She said there were complications around separating the current lease, with part of the site needed by KCC for the Inner Circuit road network, and so a new lease is needed.

Answering questions on social media Cllr Whitehead said the housing numbers required in Thanet by central government assessments and the withdrawal of housing plans for the airport site had left “no useable brownfield” and made options “limited.”

A call for sites in 2021 resulted in no offers externally to support development of a Traveller site, meaning the land has to come from that in council ownership.

However, Thanet Independent Garlinge councillor John Worrow says other, brownfield sites must be considered.

He said: “Protecting our farmland is a manifesto commitment that I take seriously, as I’ve seen part of the field opposite my own home get built on.  I also have a strong connection with the travelling community going back to my childhood, and my godson is of Romany heritage.

“However, it isn’t a question of choosing one over the other. It is absolutely crucial that we find a suitable brownfield site for the travelling community as we don’t currently have a proper site in our district.

“But I can’t understand why the council’s cabinet have singled out Farmer Tapp’s grade 1 farmland instead conducting a Thanet wide consultation as suggested by  the vice chair of the Overview and Scrutiny committee.”

Cllr Worrow has set up a Save Farmer Tapp’s Farmland group which is attracting support on social media.

Jonathan said: “I appreciate the overwhelming support from everyone. With a dedicated team, we’re working tirelessly to save our farm.

“Food security is crucial in today’s unstable world. All I am asking is that Thanet council’s leadership allows me to continue farming on my ancestral farmland.

“This farmland isn’t in the Local Plan (a blueprint for housing and infrastructure for the isle), so the council’s leadership doesn’t have to take it away from us, they can quite easily find a brownfield site which would be more appropriate for their project.”

Thanet farmland

Photo Jonathan Tapp

Thanet has some of the UK’s most fertile land which is used for crops including premium potatoes, wheat, barley, cauliflower, oilseed rape and maize for biofuels. Campaigners say this food production will be lost forever if development of agricultural land is not halted.

Thanet is around 40 square miles or 10330 hectares. Of that around 6,000 hectares is farmland. An estimated 1500 hectares is in areas at risk of flooding leaving some 4,500 best and most versatile land. An estimated 750 hectares of this will be lost in total to development, some of that land has already been built on.

Developments include proposals for 2000 homes at Westgate and Garlinge and1,600 homes at Birchington, up to 250 in Minster and 785 at Manston Green. Further agricultural land has been lost at Cliffsend and Shottendane.

Previous Traveller site assessments

Travellers’ site proposals Photo Gavin Wallis

In December 2019 approval was given for further work to assess Potten Street in St Nicholas-at-Wade, Tivoli Brook in Margate and Ramsgate Port for use as temporary tolerated stopping sites.

But both Ramsgate Port and Tivoli Brook were removed from the plans in July 2020 and Shottendane was then added to the list without any meeting by the working group responsible for assessing the sites.

Thanet council’s Cabinet members in July 2020 considered 14 sites, looking at nine more than the task and finish group had presented in its report in 2019. The Shottendane site was scored as the most suitable option.

In September 2020 proposals for temporary tolerated Traveller sites at Potten Street car park and the land at Shottendane Road in Margate were put on hold.

Thanet council instead opted to launch a ‘call for sites’ through its Local Plan review but this yielded no responses, prompting the council to look at its own land holdings.

In 2021, a bid submitted to the government’s Gypsy and Traveller site fund for a capital grant to assist with the costs of establishing a site was unsuccessful. Delivery of the current project is dependent on the appropriate funding arrangements being in place.

Thanet currently does not have an authorised Traveller site, with the nearest being in Canterbury and Dover although these are often over-subscribed.

The Inner Circuit

  • New road link between A28 Brooksend Hill and Minnis Road Birchington
  • New road link between A28 Brooksend Hill and Acol Hill/B2050. Birchington
  • New road link between Shottendane Road and Manston Road.  Margate
  • New road link between Hartsdown Road and Shottendane Road.  Margate
  • Widen Nash Road along its existing alignment (or new alignment in line with future masterplan for the site) Westwood
  •  New road link between A256 Haine Road and B2050 Manston Road (on site section)

Consultation to take place over creating Gypsy and Traveller pitches at land off Shottendane Road


  1. I just find it incredible that so much of our farmland is being destroyed, in 10 years time we will be sorry when we cannot produced whats needed for our country and Thanet will become flooded everywhere because of the concrete,our roads cannot cope now with people moving down here how many of these new houses are being taken up by local people??? or are they people coming from expensive areas selling up and moving here. What is this fixation about Shottendane Rd? sending traffic where to? coffin house corner is already gridlocked and surrounding Rds up to Victoria traffic lights all are so busy that you have to leave 30 mins extra sometimes to get through I think it about time we started rebelling about all this. Its ok for KCC to dictate whats going to happen about roads being built but how many of these planners live here?

    • Only going to get worse when Labour gain power as they have promised 1 million homes a year to be built. That’s over three times as many houses that are already being built.

  2. Oh dear prime farming land, what is the answer, grow your own Veg?
    Shocking once again from Thanet District Council.

  3. When will these “intelligent” people realise that you cannot grow food on concrete. These crazy ideas will force us to import more and more food and be counting the cost far too soon. Farms are there to keep the people of this country fed.
    Phil Hughes.

  4. I am amazed at the sheer incompetence of TDC. Not an ounce of common sense or loyalty to Mr. Tapp. It is like the Wild West with a bunch of cowboy councillors snatching farming land to give / allow travellers and gypsies to set up homes — TDC expect its struggling rate payers to pay . Unbelievable stupidity. More appropriate to release this crazy plan on April the first 🫢

  5. At some point I’m sure local Labour will realise their administration isn’t just going to be judged on buying some homes for the homeless and finding a site for the travellers. It’s by far the most binary administration I can remember in Thanet.

    Building a travellers site over this grade of farmland is crass stupidity. But I guess as national Labour are rowing back on their green credentials so local Labour are just following their example.

    • We have all had enough of Tories in power and labour are just as bad. Don’t listen to the people of Thanet just think of themselves. Manston was never an option to build on and now the excuses of no other brown sites available, what rubbish comes from there mouths. No land was put forward for travellers as we all know what will happen. History shows that a UXB was in that area and it was never cleared so under there is a large bomb just waiting to blow, so TDC what you going to do with that????.

      • Get the royal ordnance disposal teams in like they usually do after surveying the site with ground penetrating radar.

  6. Mr Tapp should check the rental agreement closely when the farm was sold to the Margate Borough Council and rented back to his family under what circumstance or conditions could he be given notice to quit? There may well be a clause in the rental agreement that is not being adhere to by TDC. It’s worth a check.

  7. Excellent article Kathy Bailles.
    I hope the Labour Cabinet wake up and rethink this unnacceptable solution.
    KCC’s road provision too will just fill up with more cars and through concrete decision making mash up our environment and uniqueness of the Thanet landscape.
    Making this place into another Greater London suburb is as destructive as the failing Westwood Cross gridlock and useless shopping centre that in the last 3 decades has destroyed trading in our major towns. A self-inflicted wound by Councillors who chose to ignore the damage these shopping centres cause to local communities. This was known at the time and TDC defied a Secretary of State prohibition on this development.

    Is there a petition for this campaign?
    TDC is losing the plot!

    • Dear Clare , you are 100% correct. This ridiculous idea must have been concocted by lunatics. It is ( or should be ) common knowledge that Thanet farmland is a prized asset due to it microclimate , as unlike most other areas the farmers get 2 crops a year ; ie early crop new potatoes ( feb to lifting in may / June — then winter cabbages and cauliflowers etc . We have lost huge amounts of land to new housing , and to lose more Thanet farmland for any reason whatsoever is the height of stupidity. Jonathan Tapp has been a respected farmer all his life I believe and must be horrified by the nutcases who have proposed this plan 😢😢😢

  8. ONS figures released just last week show Thanets population growth as ‘NO CHANGE’!! So with the exception of social/affordable housing no new houses are actually needed,so why listen to a Government trying to force 17140 homes on to a 41sq mile island,mainly on food producing farmland that has a sewage system that can’t cope now!? And as for the moronic road proposal that is definitely the work of….well,insert your own words!!😡😡😡😡

  9. If Mr. Tapp is reading, may I suggest he contacts GB News? Failing that, the Mail or Telegraph. Something needs to be done!

  10. Not right at all. Why would you stop renting to a farmer who has has employees and actually brings a benefit to the town. Instead kick a farmer off land their family has worked for many generations, to set up a site for the traveller community. Complete joke TDC

  11. It’s no wonder that Labour spends years in opposition when one sees what they are like when they get into local government. London and TDC are two bad examples of how bad Labour can be.

  12. The utilised agricultural area (UAA) is 17.0 million hectares in 2023 and accounts for 70% of the total area of the UK. The total utilised agricultural area has remained between 17 and 18 million hectares since 2003. Hardly all the UK farmland disappearing is it ?

    • No, but locally it is. TDC, laughingly, declared a “climate emergency”, meaning that we should be eating food with the lowest carbon footprint possible.

    • The population has more than doubled since 1871 when just under 31.5 million lived in the UK and has grown by around 8.2 million since the start of the twenty-first century. Even if the land use remains static (which as Ms Pink points out, is not the case locally), we are not increasing agricultural output in tandem with the population increase, so we are relying more on imported food, a questionable strategy.

      • Good luck Jonathan . You may need it as you are dealing with people proposing a plan that is unfair; daft ; and nonsensical in any and every aspect. We have endured the destruction of our towns with such low footfall that it is unviable to trade or even support banks or MacDonalds and now we seem to be witnessing even more crazy schemes .

    • England is 13 million hectares total including urban.
      Grade 1 not in a flood zone is 136000 hectares of that. So this land is our very best 1%. Better farmland yields
      Ore, usually requires less input & is suitable for fruit and vegetables.. Not really sensible to lose it.

    • 13 million hectares in England total including urban land.
      136000 hectares total of grade 1 land not in a flood zone.
      So only 1% of England’s land is in this category.
      This land has higher yields, lower inputs, and supports fruit and vegetables . Not sensible to lose it for our future generations.

  13. I hate to put a spoke in the collective venting of spleens in this column,but perhaps a bit of data might help.
    Firstly, for the benefit of the barrack room lawyers in this HYS, I am sure even TDC have ensured that the old MBC rental agreement was renewable annually.Those sort of tenancies were quite common at one time, and if a project was in the offing, it was beneficial to both sides, as the farmer received a capital sum and could hope that the council would not boot him off for sometime, and so it has proved.Apart from the traveller site, a ring road is in prospect,and once that is built the change is permanent,the moral being if you want to retain farm land reduce car use.
    Next,the old malthusian food trope. Farm productivity has increased considerably.If we take 1973 as a baseline, today the figure is the early 1950’s a period which seems beloved by many of you, the figure was around 60.
    The amount of land used by agriculture has not changed at around 6m hectares, but it has waxed and waned over the last 150 years. Thanet is a bit unusual in that around 15% of the land is urban in character, compared to 5 to 6% in non metropolitan Kent. 9.5 million tonnes of food are wasted each year in the UK.
    Farmer Tapp and his colleagues are very efficient, but this comes at a price.That price is nature which is out competed by modern farming techniques, which is why there is more nature in urban ares than in the mono-cultural agricutural areas.
    I get that TDC is not the flavour of the month.I also get that you think the electors of Thanet made a mistake in not electing a UKIP/Reform/Tory Council, but if you are going to criticise them do so with robust data, not just anger.
    Think about this. If travellers turn up in Dover, the police will move them to Thanet or Canterbury. Why? Because Dover has a traveller site and the other Districts do not.If you want to repeat the annual run round the island with the travellers carry on as you are.
    One other thing. Manston is supported by your good selves,what do you think was there before.Yes, farmland.
    Finally, traveller sites might reduce your house price, but many in Thanet do not have a house to be devalued, so perhaps you should count your blessings.

    • Robust data? MBC agreement? What is that? A capital sum? No. The tenancy agreement is Agricultural Holdings Act (AHA) type, AHA tenancies can be difficult to terminate with limitations on serving notice and the notice taking effect.
      AHA tenancies are often referred to as tenancies for life, seeking to provide protection for tenant farmers and to encourage long term investment, productivity and efficiency. AHA tenancies can also enjoy succession rights.

    • Perhaps a bit of “robust data” will help you.

      Canterbury has an authorised travellers site.

      Police can’t move travellers onto other sites in other areas.

  14. The proposed site, older residents will remember flooded from Tivoli park, across the now cricket ground and along as far as California farm. The council of the day chose to neglect tivoli park entirely under the excuse that it was being allowed to return back to nature. Tivoli Brooke has that title for a reason. Regarding travelling communities on the site I suppose a caravan floats a while before sinking. Access to the site via Caxtonis crazy, having been designated one way due to its width past the junior and infant schools before opening up again past the playing fields. Dig deep enough into this issue and I’ll bet someone will benefit money wise from it as is always the case when TDC are involved

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