My KCC Election Manifesto & Video

Sunday, 30 March 2014

EKO Dodgy Meeting & Information Request

My requests for information about KCC/ TDC property speculation company East Kent Opportunities (EKO) and its planning application and appeal relating to 550 houses at its New Haine Road site are meeting with  resistance. Are there things  which KCC and TDC want to hide?  See below a freedom of  information request I sent to EKO Executive Officer, Matt Hyland.
 
This is the same Matt Hyland who along with a highway consultant and a planning consultant  held a meeting with Thanet Councillors (including planning committee  councillors) on 9th October 2013  less than a week before the  Planning Committee met to decide the EKO application.  At this meeting, which was chaired by senior Council Officer, Madeline Homer who is responsible for the Council's Planning service , Hyland and his colleagues  reportedly lobbied hard to persuade Councillors to approve an application which was  contrary to Thanet's planning policies. Many people, including myself,  believe that this lobbying meeting was in breach of TDCs Planning Protocol. The Protocol only allows planning applicants the opportunity to give a brief presentation at planning committee meetings.  It makes no provision for an applicant to invite all 56 Thanet Councillors (including members of the Planning Committee) to a cosy chat with tea and biscuits with the intention of trying to persuade them to support an application which breaks TDCs rules. Would you be allowed high level access to decision makers to discuss your application to build a garage or an extension? Of course not!
 
What happened here is in my opinion an abuse of process. I will be asking questions about who ordered this briefing and why, especially bearing in mind the subject under discussion was against TDC policy!
 
Some people have said to me that because the EKO planning application was large and strategic in nature, holding a briefing of Councillors was the right thing to do. If this was the case then why does  TDCs Planning Protocol not allow for special exceptions such as this?  Even if a such a meeting was permissible under the Protocol, holding that meeting less than a week before the Planning Committee made a decision on the EKO application is highly inappropriate. Its timing could be seen by many as an unfair and improper effort to influence the thinking of decision makers  immediately before an important meeting. Would you have the chance to do this with your garage or extension planning application. This is nothing short of unfair and improper lobbying access which the overwhelming majority of planning applicants are prevented from doing. In my opinion the lobbying meeting of 9th October brought Thanet Council's planning process into disrepute!
 
The unfolding saga of the EKO planning application and the planning appeal appears to be all about the Leader of the Council  and senior council officers trying their best to persuade, force and bully democratically elected councillors to accept a planning application which was against Council Policy and which was unanimously rejected by planning committee members. This is an outrage and those responsible for subverting and conspiring against the Council they lead or work for should be brought to book.
 
 
Dear My Hyland
Please provide me with

1. Copies of the full audited accounts of EKO from its  establishment to date, including the breakdown of incomes received and all expenditures made on a year by year basis.
2. Copies of the full non-redacted minutes of every EKO board meeting since its establishment
3. Copy of the EKO risk register
4. Copy of the EKO Business Plan
Please tell me how many times Councillor Paul Carter has attended meetings  of the EKO  board and the dates.

Please advise me how much money has been spent by EKO on
1. The preparation of the planning application for building houses on the New Haine Road site, including application fees and the cost of external consultants and the cost of public consultation

2. The preparations made to  date of the planning appeal against Thanet District Council's Planning Committee rejection of the above planning application  including application fees and the cost of external consultants
3. An estimate of the total expenditure to be made by EKO in preparing, submitting and presenting the above  planning appeal against Thanet District Council.

Yours sincerely
Ian Driver

4 comments:

  1. It is right that councillors should be properly briefed before making major decisions. However, they should be briefed by planning officers who remain impartial and do not express an opinion one way or the other. You are absolutely correct to highlight this abuse and you are absolutely right to ask who authorised this meeting.

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  2. Well done Ian: EKO is a quango mess ever since it was established. FOI is needed on how much we are paying for this KCC/TDC quango to do what they should do - and not in secret.

    Staff costs and expenses and councillor expenses would be useful to know too. EKO should be closed - any council can handle planning for houses.

    The same sort of development quango for Ebbsfleet New Town was also raised.

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  3. What a surprise the officer responsible for the Council’s Planning Service is McGonigal’s lackey Madeline Homer.

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  4. If as select committee was sitting they'd ask her what relevant experience she had for her role. We've already seen that managing the beaches isn't good preparation for managing a harbour.

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