Westgate and Garlinge Action Group to discuss MP letter asking to ‘tear up’ Thanet’s Local Plan

Westgate & Garlinge Action Group Against Housing Development on Farmland

A public meeting of Westgate and Garlinge Action Group against housing development on farmland will discuss a letter by MP Sir Roger Gale to the Minister of State for Housing, asking what powers Thanet council has to “tear up the currently approved Local Plan.”

Sir Roger sent the letter to MP Lee Rowley at the beginning of May. In it he also asks if Thanet can produce a new Plan that “protects what little is left of our agricultural land and seeks to base further housing development upon an adequate supply of supporting medical and educational infrastructure.”

He criticised Thanet council for not taking action to revise the Local Plan – a blueprint for housing and infrastructure up to 2031- due to waiting  for changes to national planning policy and awaiting the outcome of legal challenges to the development consent order for Manston airport. He adds that the local authority says it is now awaiting clarification on the 2014 ONS figures that housing need is based on.

Photo Frank Leppard

In the letter Sir Roger says: “It is absolutely horrific to see the amount of farmland that has been sacrificed to the enormous housing estates that themselves make no provision for supporting infrastructure,”

The letter has also been sent to Rishi Sunak.

The Westgate and Garlinge Action Group will discuss the letter at its next meeting on Wednesday (May 29) at the Bake and Alehouse from 7pm. The meeting is open to anyone who wants to learn more about the group.

An action group spokesperson said: “Our group is not a political group, and we work alongside all councillors of different political preferences who, like us, want to protect our precious and high grade farmland from the current destruction caused by developers.”

The group says they are grateful for the raising of the issue of the loss of Best and Most Versatile (BMV) farmland in Thanet to housing developments “based on the unanimously agreed ‘over-predicted’ housing targets for the area.”

The group say the Local Plan needs to be revised now as “National Planning Policy Framework has added protection for our BMV farmland and our housing figures are not ‘mandatory,” but say members have been told housing target figures cannot be changed until the latest ONS figures are published, which will not be until 2025.

The group is particularly concerned about the plans for 1600 houses on farmland in Birchington and 2000 homes on agricultural land at Westgate and Garlinge.

Westgate and Garlinge Action Group at a previous demo

Sir Roger, five Thanet District Councillors and two Kent County Councillors, have written to the Secretary of State to call in the Birchington application submitted by Ptarmigan Homes.

They say: “The plans for this application have been changed considerably and serious concerns have been raised by locals relating to many aspects, none the least of which being the lack of secured funding for the North Thanet Link Road and its impact on the community.

“We are deeply concerned the area will become covered in half-built roadways leading to nowhere, which will be the very least of the problems to be faced by villagers.”

The group say action is needed now to protect agricultural land or it “will be the end of farming as an industry for many farmers, the loss of the wildlife and habitats which make our open spaces so healing and peaceful for our population.

“Roads are regularly being closed causing traffic mayhem on a daily basis.  Businesses are losing customers adding even further pressure on their finances, while locals are dodging vehicles driven by frustrated and impatient drivers along what are usually quiet residential side streets.

“Once our farmland is turned over to concrete the incidence of flooding and sewage releases will increase even further and once again our beaches will be closed, just as the precious summer season of business opportunities should begin.

“We want this madness to cease, for the good of everyone on the island, and return our farmland to our farmers and workers.  We must retain the identity of Thanet to one of seaside towns that welcome visitors to enjoy our beaches and countryside and work towards building only homes that we need, for the people of Thanet, on brownfield sites only.”

Leader of Thanet District Council, Cllr Rick Everitt said: “The council understands the anxiety in the community about the loss of Thanet’s agricultural land to housing, which is why I wrote to the Secretary of State last year asking him to call in such planning applications in Thanet, but the response from government made clear that they were not prepared to do that.

“The external planning inspectors already consider the infrastructure that is needed for a site to be viable as housing and won’t approve the local plan without that. The challenge for any district council is that delivery of most of it is in the hands of other public bodies.

“Making changes to our existing local plan requires a lengthy statutory process involving external examination. The timescale is not in the council’s control and it is measured in years. The government has also announced changes to the plan-making process, but is yet to provide full guidance on the methodology.

“Our plan is relatively new. It was only sent for examination by Full Council in 2018 and then adopted in 2020. However, even if we were in a position to proceed to examination with a new one now, we would be bound by the same 2014-based population projections which led to the need for 17,000 homes in the current one, because the government has delayed updating the statistics until next year.

“In fact, we already know that using this methodology would identify a need for thousands more homes and multiple additional sites which are simply not available in the urban area, so it makes sense to wait until we can base our new plan on more up to date numbers which should reflect the lower actual population growth since 2014. The timing is not about Manston.

“We also need to be clear that whatever the eventual number required, there is no prospect that an updated local plan will result in sites currently allocated for housing being removed. There is no practical mechanism to do that and a new plan is not a way to prevent development already in the pipeline. If we do not make timely decisions on applications based on the existing plan, they will simply be made by government planning inspectors instead.”

Action group meeting

Westgate and Garlinge Action Group Against Housing on Farmland holds public meetings on the last Wednesday of every month at the Bakehouse Westgate which is opposite Westgate United Services Men’s Club.

47 Comments

  1. Why is Roger Gale only now concerned about this?
    Why didn’t he support Cllr Everitt’s letter to the SoS earlier this year?
    Why didn’t he speak out on the current local plan – compiled by his Conservative friends – back in 2018?
    They got their airport and now cry crocodile tears about farmland.
    This is a politically motivated stunt from a party of corruption who know their time is up.

    • The Westgate and Garlinge action group against housing development on farmland was firmed in December 2021,Sir Roger Gake has been involved with the group from the very start,fact.

      • Neil some facts
        LPs run for 20 years, this one runs out in 2031. Pretty sure you can work out , including consultation periods, Who was the administration and MP at the time.
        Yet neither main party got this off to a start until UKIP won the election n 2015.
        Had they (Ezekiel et al) started the 2001 census of the UK would have been the starting point and the OAN would have been 12000 houses.
        In 2015 the starting point was the 2011 census and the OAN was now 17200 an extra 5200 houses.
        2500 of said houses were to be utilised on manston, designated as mixed use by UKIP yet Roger campaign for the airport site to be aviation only so when UKIP imploded in 2017 and the Tories took over again SP07 came into force and those 2500 houses were moved to Birchington and Westgate. fact

    • Labour wants to double house building so it will only get worse when they are voted in, to think otherwise is foolish at best.

    • The letter’s used to get past to Craig Mackinlay an MP in Broadstairs Craig Mackinlay was supporting the houses.

  2. Gale is covering his tracks. He knows that up to 4,000 houses – with doctors, schools and services- could have gone on the brownfield site of the derelict Manston Airport. Gale and MackInlay blocked that – as did Cllr Sam Bambridge – and so is directly responsible for developments in green fields in his own constituency. Get to Tories out!

  3. This is absurd.
    Thanet had a perfectly good provision Local Plan.
    It was rejected by UKIP and Tory councillors, and opposed by pressure groups such as “Birchington against the Local Plan”. They did this because the provisional LP didn’t reserve Manston for aviation only. Indeed, it provided for several thousand houses on Manston.
    Eventually a LP was adopted that said that Manston could only be used for aviation.
    There are a couple of consequences:
    The provisional plan used an earlier algorithm to calculate the number of houses the government said should be built here. Several thousand fewer than the later plan.
    And because of Manston’s reserved status, most of these homes, including the thousands of extra ones, will (and are) being built on greenfield sites around the villages.
    Talk about chickens coming home to roost.

    • Abysmal, selfish, short-sighted Nimbyism like this is destroying our economy and prospects for young people. Hopefully the next Government will ignore it all.

  4. And this folks, is why Sir Roger Gale has won every election for over 40 years.

    Meanwhile, Labour candidate Helen Whitehead has stayed silent on the issue. Perhaps she’s never heard of Birchington?

    • From what I can see from various FB groups, Cllr Whitehead has been far from silent.
      She’s pointed out many times that TDC wrote to the SOS earlier in the year to call these applications in and that there’s a limit to the their powers once a Local Plan is in place.

      • Wowee, she’s posted on social media – preaching to the converted.

        Maybe she’ll eventually venture outside Margate to the the areas she’s trying to get elected in?

        • Far from it. I’m talking about her posting on Birchington and Westgate sites.
          Less ‘the converted’ and more ‘the lion’s den’ where she’s concerned.
          The problem is that no one in Birchington wants to accept the truth that if memory serves, TDC had just 4 Labour councillors when the currently local Plan was created and yet they slavishly lap the Tory nonsense up because to do otherwise would be to admit they backed the wrong horse.
          Still – at least the good folk of Birchington can look up at the cargo planes if they don’t want to enjoy the lovely new houses in their village.

  5. The truth is that we don’t need these houses thanets population has only increased because of dfl and immigration. Manston was never on the cards for housing and would never been used for affordable houses just the rich over priced luxury estate. Housing other areas problem tenants is not thanets responsibility and the crime rate here in the last few years shows it. Stop the houses being built Thanet can’t cope

    • That’s my point.
      Why didn’t Roger Gale work with TDC earlier in the year when they wrote on behalf of residents to ask the SOS to intervene.
      He put politics ahead of working with the TDC Labour administration to stop development and only now takes action – placing the blame on Labour (who’ve only been in power for a year) for a Conservative Local Plan.

  6. The Local Plan was adopted on 9th July, 2020, almost 4 years ago.
    Why has it taken Rodger Gale all this time to work out that 17,000 houses will fill up a lot of greenfield space?
    Could his faux outrage be anything to do with an upcoming general election?

    • Exactly.
      This Tory hyporcrisy makes me furious. I remember watching the meetings back when Cllr Reece Pugh actually voted FOR the local plan, along with the building for Birchington, that he now so nobly opposes.
      They will do anything for a vote.

      • So why did he not work with TDC when asking the SOS to intervene?
        He had three years and sat on his hands.

          • God no.
            As a PPC – she’ll have far more important things to be doing with her time than sitting on comments pages.
            Nope – I’m just someone who has a deep deep hatred of Tory hypocrisy.
            …and it’s Mr Honest to you.

      • “do your own research/do some research of your own” is the clarion call of conspiracists who cannot back their bloviation with veracity.

  7. Here’s the reality – and links to the public documents that prove it … Gale pushed for this Local Plan to happen in exactly this way for development to happen on greenbelt land – rather than on the Manston site. He rallied and lobbied Conservative councillors to vote for this. It was in an extraordinary meeting of 19 July 2018. Minutes here:
    https://democracy.thanet.gov.uk/documents/g5072/Printed%20minutes%2019th-Jul-2018%2019.00%20Council.htm?T=1&CT=2

    Full agenda pack details very clearly that this option was AGAINST the recommendations of officers and would result in additional housing in Birchington (600 houses), Westgate (1,000), Westwood (500), Hartsdown (300) and Minster (100). See paragraphs 2.11 – 2.16 in agenda pack here:
    https://democracy.thanet.gov.uk/documents/g5072/Public%20reports%20pack%2019th-Jul-2018%2019.00%20Council.pdf?T=10

    Gale and Mackinlay lobbied for this, telling constituents at the time that the housing numbers were “Micky Mouse figures” and would never actually happen, in order to save his precious Manston site.

    Here’s a full list of the councillors, at the time, who voted for this to happen:
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1KAV-l2abfMLuXvRQfQmgyNjfd0VJDrMFEhaurRxS0cU/edit?usp=sharing

    And here’s a video of Roger and Craig Mackinlay at a “Save Manston Airport” campaign meeting talking exactly about how they feel about the issue of preserving the Manston site whilst building on local farmland …
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvVlQt5SSok

    Gale’s hypocrisy and reverse-engineering here is breathtaking.

    • It’s possible to support the airport AND oppose building on farmland. Us in North Thanet – and our excellent MP, who will undoubtedly be re-elected – aim high.

    • I just watched the video.
      At 4m58s Craig MacKinlay, supported by Rodger Gale, said:
      “I will take a bet with anyone in the room by 2031 we won’t building 10,000 houses let alone these Mickey Mouse figures …”.
      Got that wrong, didn’t they?

      • They haven’t built that many yet, so no.

        Unless we get a Labour government that is. What has Polly said about reducing building in Thanet?

  8. this will need a very large envelope , but the devlopers will get thier way as usual in thanet , theres not a gap anywhere these people wont jam a few houses in, money talks , andif theres not a gap they burn a new one , just think about all these fires that go undetected

  9. The Local Plan shows just what every bit of Thanet can be used for.
    It agreed that certain areas (but not Manston) would be dedicated to housing, others to recreation, industry and so on.
    No envelopes of any sort required.
    An application to build houses on land identified in the LP as development land will be approved.

  10. Perhaps if Raging Rick Everitt and his Cabinet Member for Levelling Land could be arsed to show up to a few residents’ association meetings I’d be more inclined to assume good intent on their part.

    The facts remain that Sir Roger has engaged closely with his constituents over many years when it comes to the protection of farmland, including robust challenges to TDC Planning and seeking out support from higher Ministries.

    All I can really remember coming from Labour at Cecil Square are patronising and soporific statements explaining why we can’t have good things, and that it’s pointless fighting for them. Very much like the one from Everitt in this article, and from Whitehead whenever she reckons we’re getting ideas above our stations.

    Good luck to all at WAGAG and other groups fighting the good fight.

  11. Looks like Roger is trying to look like he is anti housing despite his record on thwarting the original local plan to support his freight hub. Is there an election in the offing?

  12. Welcome to the isle of thanet Housing estate a concrete jungle along with canterbury whitstable Faversham part of the London Borough of north Kent this is the future we are looking at no more the garden of England but the patio of London.

  13. https://theisleofthanetnews.com/2019/04/15/invite-to-birchington-neighbourhood-plan-community-design-day/

    I wonder if anyone else recalls this event or attended back in 2019? An invitation to discuss the positives a 1600 home development in Birchington would bring. As I recall it was billed as not a huge estate dumped on the village, but a positive addition to the community, with green pathways to the sea, cycle routes, preserved archaeological sites and viewing platforms. To my shame I didn’t go, too depressed at the apparent fait accompli, seemingly approved by Sir Roger himself, as the whole thing reads as a positive blueprint for a “buffering” development, whatever that means.

    The local plan, and the ridiculous amount of new housing crammed into our already overcrowded dead end island, was foisted on TDC by the tory government. And whatever you think of the local council (run at the time by UKIP or Tory), by design or more likely ineptitude they had already kept the plans at bay long enough for the government in 2018 to threaten to bypass the council and give the developers the go ahead anyway:

    https://theisleofthanetnews.com/2018/03/23/government-confirms-it-will-step-in-after-failure-to-produce-thanets-local-plan/

    Maybe COVID saved us awhile. All in all, playing political blame games doesn’t matter. I personally hope Labour wins the general election and we can get a break from this wastrel and destructive government that has wrecked our country for the last 14 years, but have little hope that Sir Keir will save our fields and what’s left of Thanet, as he has committed to building new homes. Yes, they are needed, but not at the expense of wrecking local communities or fertile agricultural land. Brownfield sites first, surely?

    So if Sir Roger has changed his tune, fine. I suspect he’ll be a much better local champion fighting against a Labour Government than his own party in power.

    (Hope the links work- if not they can be found easily enough on this site)

  14. It’s ok for candidates etc to go on websites social media etc, many if not most people in Birchington and Westgate don’t use it, also local papers are to expensive £ 2.00 for a couple of pages.

  15. Meanwhile Labour Councillors & others have over turned Planning Depts recommendation not to covers 3-4 arable fields with solar panels.
    Any sensible green voter on hearing this would either eat or burn their flip flops.

  16. Gale remains oblivious to the fact that his vocal support for Manston Airport meant that thousands more homes had to be reallocated from that site to greenfield sites in his constituency. Irony.

  17. You have hit the nail on the head, like a typical tory, he is completely oblivious to any result of his actions. All under his and the Tories watch will result in thanet becoming a london by the sea, not pleasant.

    • London overall is a great place, and very green thanks to the many large parks and commons. Other cities could learn a lot from London.

      • So you do want all the green areas and fields built on, good to know your position on this. A little contradictory however as someone that likes to walk along the footpaths from the waste of money parkway to the nature reserve that won’t be there anymore. As you have stated previously.

  18. When the multiple times failed airfield fails again, which it definitely will as sure as day follows night, it will have to be built on, as the flawed local plan does not allow for an un economical and not sustainable airfield let alone for a closed down again airfield to sit without some kind of development. Thanet can’t afford the airfield on so many levels and it can’t afford the empty land there when it stops being an airfield again.

    • I suspect that if Manston had been built on the rest of Thanet would’ve been in the fireing line anyway. No more building, it’s not needed here at all, we are full. Go elsewhere and build like the Peak District or Dartmoor or the New Forest or Salisbury plain there plenty of room further north like Northumberland around Kielder.

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