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Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Thanet Local Plan: TDC Abusing Power to Manipulate Outcome

Green Party candidate at the forthcoming Ramsgate Newington ward  by-election,  Ian Driver,   has accused  Thanet Council of  “abusing its power  to manipulate the outcome” of  its Local Plan consultation.

“The Local Plan is the most important document to have been produced by TDC in years” said Driver. “It sets out the Council’s  policies on housing, employment, industry,  transport and the environment  up until 2031. It will  have a profound  influence upon how our  district is developed  and shaped over the next 15 years” . An early version of the Local Plan was consulted on in February 2015,  provoking  a massive public outcry, including  demonstrations  and marches, when it emerged that 12,400 new homes  were planned to be built in Thanet;  many on farmland in Birchington, Westgate and Westwood Cross areas.  A secret report to councillors (1) has since recommended that the number of new homes required in  Thanet by 2031  should be  raised to 15,600 a staggering 26% increase.

The council received over 2,000 comments on its  early version of the Local Plan, many objecting  to the large number of homes planned for Thanet. It was intended that these comments would be taken into account in a final version of Local Plan which TDC must submit to the Government for approval. A timetable for the publication of the final version of the plan, including a second   public consultation,  was approved  by  TDCs Cabinet on 10 September 2015. According to the timetable the draft final plan would be published in February 2016 and the public would have between 6-8 weeks to make comments on it.  The plan, along with comments from the public, would be submitted to the Government in May 2016 who  would then being a formal  approval process (2).

But according to Driver this timetable has now been changed, with the publication and consultation on the final version of TDCs local plan being delayed until  after 31 May 2016.  The change to the timetable was, “sneaked in under the radar without anyone knowing or being told about it via the executive approval of UKIPs Deputy Council Leader, Lin Fairbrass,  without reference to other councillors” (3) said Driver.  He added: “My suspicion is that this delay has been deliberately engineered so that public consultation on the Local Plan  takes place during the school summer holidays when many  people are away from home or too busy looking after  kids to have the time to study and make comments on a complicated document several hundred pages long. Why do this? Because I believe TDC and UKIP are determined to get approval for its massively inflated housing numbers with the least possible resistance and objection from the public. This is undoubtedly driven by TDCs desire to maximise council tax income following its disastrous multi-£million financial losses on TransEuropa Ferries, Dreamland, Live Exports and the possibility of huge legal and compensation costs for breaking Health and Safety laws”.

Driver also points out that not only will there be a major consultation on the Local Plan but  two  further, and separate,  public consultations on Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) taking place at the same. These are an SPD on Manston Airport which will “set out the planning policy position for different areas of the site, defining the mix of uses that might be acceptable, and establishing design and other planning principles”(4)  and an SPD relating to the  management of several very important and environmentally sensitive Special Protection Areas and Sites of Special Scientific Interest in Thanet. Said Driver “running  three major public consultations on  issues of overwhelming  public interest  at the same time is, in my view,  an abuse of the democratic process. To then decide to run these consultations over a short, 6-8 week period, during  the school holidays when many people are away or looking after children appears to be a  determined effort by TDC to deprive hundreds of people of their democratic right to comment on important matters of public policy. This is simply not acceptable”.

Driver claims that “TDCs proposed actions breach the Government’s  best practice guidance on managing public consultation. Although not legally binding this guidance suggests consultation periods of up to 12 weeks should be allowed for  complex issues such as TDCs  Local Plan. It also warns that important consultations should not take place during holiday periods (5).  Driver  points out that  the Local Plan consultation is also likely to clash with a public consultation on Stone Park’s controversial  application for developing the former Manston Airport site which, it was recently  reported, will be submitted to TDC in April. “Stone Park’s application is bound be to controversial and many people will wish to make comments, but how will they find the time, if three other consultations of great public interest are taking place at the same time?”
 
Said Driver “had Thanet Council stuck to its original timetable  of consulting on the Local Plan in February/ March 2016  instead of during the summer holidays the conflict  with other important public consultations would have been avoided. As it stands the people of Thanet now face the possibility a catastrophic consultation car crash with up to 4 major public consultations taking place at the same time. This is simply not fair to local people and is totally avoidable”.

 

Ends
 
For more information contact Ian Driver on 07866588766 or ianddriver@yahoo.co.uk
 

  1. Ian Driver’s FOI request for a copy of the report about the 15,900 houses was refused by Thanet Council.
  2. See http://democracy.thanet.gov.uk/mgChooseDocPack.aspx?ID=4048 open public documents pack item 8
  3. See http://democracy.thanet.gov.uk/mgIssueHistoryHome.aspx?IId=26169&Opt=0
  4. See 2 above
  5. See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/consultation-principles-guidance

 

 

 

8 comments:

  1. What chance has the normal working man/woman got for FOI when you Ian get turned down.

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  2. As Ian has stated these consultation documents sometimes contain over several hundred pages. I'm sure that this amount of reading to digest deters residents from even reading them, as important as they are to our future. Doubtless a lot of the wording contained in these documents is quite unnecessary and could be abridged/edited. This would make it far more easy for residents to focus on the key issues that affect them and feel they need to comment on. Ian, you are again, doing sterling work with your relentless pursuit of 'Openness & transparency' in Local Government. Keep it up for all of us that haven't got the accumen to tackle these issues ourselves.

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  3. Democracy by baffling with BS. What is Fairbrass playing at? More windows to clean? These housing plans need throwing out. A petition already?

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  4. Wells and Fairbrass are proving to be disastrous. The civil servants are riding roughshod over them. How can we get rid? A snap election?

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  5. I'm a window cleaner!

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  6. Fairbrass should resign over this mess of construction

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  7. Has Wells forgotten to reveal the 4 Manston purchasers he mentioned?

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  8. Ukip and Thanet Tories have no policies to improve the area....just doing any rubbish the civil servants or kcc tell them.

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