After the Thanet Local Plan was rejected by 35 votes to 20 on Thursday 18th January our council is now in a state of crisis. Conservative, UKIP and independent district councillors objected to one aspect of the draft plan – the proposal for mixed use development on the former Manston Airport site. The land, which has been disused since the airport went bust in 2014 was earmarked for 2,500 homes as well as heritage aviation. Conservatives and UKIP had pledged to reopen the airport and have clutched at proposals to run an air cargo hub from there.
I now believe Thanet residents face chaos as faceless Westminster bureaucrats could move in to run council affairs in the absence of a local plan. I fear that they will now dictate the future of the area, imposing the numbers and locations of house building that will now take place. More land, both prime agricultural and green belt could be built on. Bear in mind that land owners will want to sell. Residents views will not be taken into account by the DHCLG. The 2,500 houses earmarked for the Stone Hill Park (SHP) site will have to be shoehorned in elsewhere. Its not just Manston, all other aspects of the local plan have by consequence been rejected because of this Tory cause celebre. The so called in-ring road, so badly needed to assist free movement of traffic, I presume is also stymied.
Not only do we face the erosion of our local democracy but I am extremely perturbed to be told by Roger Gale in a BBC Radio Kent interview that he has a ‘secret’ agreement with Sajid Javid of the Department of Housing Communities and Local Government (DHCLG). This issue is of such importance locally that any such agreements or ‘extensions’ to timetables should be shared and be transparent. Whilst we have Roger and his secret deals, we also have our hapless South Thanet MP, Craig Mackinlay complaining about being locked out of the Thanet District Council (TDC) meeting on Thursday. Arrive early next time.
I have now written personally to Craig Mackinlay, Roger Gale and Sajid Javid seeking clarification, as has the Labour group. If there were agreements reached prior to the full Council vote on the 18th January which were not shared, that is also undemocratic and completely unacceptable.
Frankly I hope that the Stone Hill Park owners continue with their innovative project which will bring quality homes including a minimum of 30% social housing, advanced manufacturing units which will bring high quality jobs, jobs that invest in green technology, an Olympic sized swimming pool, a wave pool and new woodlands.
I’m adamant that based on the best evidence available, that a DCO for an air cargo hub will not be granted. The concerns of air and noise pollution and night flights will need to be fully taken into account.
It’s extremely disappointing that many residents under the flight path who are vehemently and justifiably opposed to and worried about a potential air cargo hub, will have to deal with that ambiguity for longer. This unappealing environmental threat is causing anxiety and is depressing house sales in the area. It’s time to move forward in step with residents’ wishes and put to bed ideas that are now past their sell by date.
Like others, I am acutely aware that our local aviation history is important. SHP have taken into account local feelings by adding heritage aviation into the plan, but this hasn’t satisfied other Thanet District councillors. I’m disappointed to say that people are being misled, there are no plans for lots of passenger flights, just cargo. Developers of the cargo hub, Riveroak Strategic Partners should make this perfectly clear.
Manston has become such a focal point for political discussion in Thanet. However, I would urge you to remember the damage Tory austerity is doing. I believe local politicians of all parties should focus on the NHS crisis – locally the closure of Stroke Services and local GP practices is extremely bad news – poorly paid insecure employment, low educational attainment in the area, and the housing crisis.
We urgently need social housing to be built and more funding for the QEQM in Margate is vital. Following the cataclysmic collapse of Carillion and the reported teetering of Interserve, TDC seriously need to consider bringing back services ‘in house’ and more should be done to create economic prosperity looking forward not backwards.