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Thursday, 20 March 2014

Hart Should Resign for Planning Appeal Fiasco

Green Party Councillor and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Thanet South,  Ian Driver, has called for the resignation of Thanet Council’s  Labour Leader Clive Hart for “breaking manifesto commitments, misleading voters and forcing the taxpayers of Thanet to pay  £100,000 to fund the bizarre and sickening spectacle of Thanet Council fighting itself at a Planning appeal”.

Driver’s accusations relate to a planning application to build 550 houses on prime agricultural land next to the  Westwood Cross shopping centre in Thanet  submitted  by property developers  East Kent Opportunities LLP (EKO), a 50:50 partnership between Thanet Council and Kent County Council

 When the application was submitted in 2011 Hart issued a statement   saying  “none of our 26 strong Labour Group of councillors have endorsed the EKO proposal.  We simply cannot understand how council officers were ever directed to make proposals which go so blatantly against TDC's own established policies …. in a time of austerity and cut-backs, officers have been allowed to carry out a substantial and extremely costly amount of work (preparing a planning application) that may well not meet the requirements of the full council”(1).

 In an interview with Kent News in  August 2011 Hart once again criticised the proposal  saying that “drawing up plans for housing (at the EKO New Haine Road site) was incredibly foolhardy and a waste of taxpayers’ money (2)”.

 In late 2011, the Labour Party seized control of  Thanet Council. Hart became Council Leader and was placed on the management board of EKO along with the Council’s Chief Executive, Sue McGonigal.

Records of secret EKO meetings obtained by Driver, via a Freedom of Information request, reveal that following Hart’s appointment to the management board  he threw his weight behind  the planning application despite his previous statements against the development and despite Thanet Labour Party’s 2011 election manifesto promise to protect open spaces and agricultural land, by ensuring “that wherever possible only brownfield sites will be developed”(3).

When EKOs application to develop the site was rejected by Thanet’s  Planning Committee in October 2013, Hart supported a proposal, at an EKO Board telephone conference  on 4th November 2013,  to employ a QC to advise on how to appeal against the rejection.  At an EKO board meeting on 14 November 2013 Hart and his colleague board members, including Thanet  Council’s  Chief Executive, Sue McGonigal , “resolved unanimously to:- Progress an appeal following the refusal by the LPA to grant planning permission”(4)

The appeal is scheduled to take place later this year and will take the form of a week-long public enquiry. Said Driver “total costs for the appeal will be close to £100,000. This bill will have to be picked up by council taxpayers. But this astronomic expense was totally avoidable. EKO could have chosen to submit a second planning application which addressed the rejection reasons and  which would have been free. Instead the Leader of Thanet Council and its Chief Executive voted for an eye-wateringly expensive full-blown planning appeal. In my opinion Hart’s  position as Council Leader is untenable. He tore up his promises to Thanet residents to oppose the application and he placed them in a position where they will be forced  to pay costs for the sickening spectacle of Thanet Council fighting itself. Hart should now do the right thing and resign”.

 

5 comments:

  1. Clive certainly seems to have got himself into a pickle. Sue McG ever in a hole and never stops digging. Is Harvey on his way soon or has he gone ?

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  2. Unfortunately they failed the public again last night at the planning committee by letting the developer get away with what they want at Vere Rd in Broadstairs. All that people wanted was that the developer keeps a footpath through the building site to give access to the footpath through the allotments - as the orginal planning permission had told them they should. And the planning committee couldn't enforce it. So the path will be closed for as long as the developer wants - and we'll be lucky if they open it again!

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  3. Well done for exposing this farce. EKO is a weird quango of TDC and KCC to rack up costs and encourage secrecy. Suing themselves is pure farce. With this alone and the Port secrecy and Airport failure Clive must go. He and Bob and Macgonigal have destroyed the area. They are useless: no confidence in them.

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  4. It would seem that Royal Sands is also heading for the courts. From what I have been told both officers and councillors may have frustrated SFP ability to complete the development
    It turns out that many of the delays have not been caused by the developer/funder. It seem once again that TDC legal advisors have not been given the full story and sequence of events....this could prove hugely costly to us ratepayer....first it was trans Europa , then the animal exports and now Royal Sands

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  5. I'm intrigued - this is a potentially absolutely huge story, with shades of Misconduct in Public Office. Why is it, I wonder, that it hasn't been picked up by the other blogs or the news media?

    How ironic would it be if another leader of the council (from the opposite side of the chamber) were to be charged with misconduct in public office? And, what would that tell us about some of the councillors sitting in the council chamber?

    Honestly, if TDC were a school, they would have been put in special measures. by now.

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