Geoffrey Day & Son of Westgate, I am informed, built some bungalows in Berkeley Rd, Birchington some years ago but ended up with a postage stamp of land at the end of the road. (see the picture above)
They tried desperately over the years to build on this minuscule plot as the series of planning applications to TDC below, shows:
TH//81/349 - detached bungalow- REFUSED -" the plot of land is of insufficient size to accommodate an additional dwelling".
TH/82/0298 - detached bungalow -REFUSED - reasons were as above and in addition 'has a cramped appearance out of character and detrimental to the area'.
TH/83/ 0456 - block of 7 garages - REFUSED - 'unduly obtrusive' ; 'creating noise and other disturbances'.
TH/87/1251 - two storey , two bedroomed dwelling with detached garage - REFUSED - despite the property being 4.2m from the Northern boundary, reasons were as above but 'the property would have inadequate rear amenity space'.
There was then a pause of 17 years, until 2004, when another application appeared:
TH/04/0297 - a two storey dwelling - REFUSED - ' a cramped appearance'.
But this application was then 'appealed' by Geoffrey Day & Son and Mr Jonathon Bore, an Inspector appointed by The Secretary of State, promptly ruled ' THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED' and cited his reasons. (An interesting note is that application F/TH/04/0297 is missing from the http://www.ukplanning.com/ site and therefore cannot be viewed unless you ask for it at TDC and I cannot show you what was envisaged)
Anyway, the Planning Inspector was pretty clear in his statement about building a house on this minuscule plot. He stated " the scheme would appear incongruous in this prominent position within the street and would detract from the character of the area'.......'I am unconvinced that a two bedroom, two storey dwelling can successfully be accommodated on this site.".... 'the overall form and siting ...would still result in a cramped and incongruous building squeezed over into one side of the site with substantial walls close to two boundaries, another substantial wall facing the nearest bungalow and an odd two storey gabled profile to the road".
Well you might say, a pretty clear decision from the Planning Inspector! You would be wrong; because below is a picture of the house taken by my researcher last Thursday morning.
It appears to be everything the Planning Inspector said it would be. So how and why did this inappropriate building get Planning Consent from TDC?
Well, Geoffrey Day & Son made another application in 2006, F/TH/06/0984 that was initially delegated to a Planning Officer. There was a small problem. The application had to go before the Planning Committee ' due to the applicant being a local Councillor and Member of The Planning Committee'. ( Forgive me for not mentioning this earlier but they were referring to Cllr Simon Day who represents Birchington North and who I am told is now Vice Chair of Planning and a member of The Standards Committee; anyway he was noticeable by his absence from the Phase 1 Application Site Visit for China Gateway.)
Well, Simon Day and Geoffrey Day & Son , after 25 years of trying to put a two storey incongruous dwelling on a miniscule piece of land achieved their goal at last and were so confident that their application would be approved that they cleared the site of vegetation in the late Autumn of 2006. You can go and look at it and make up your own mind about whether the Planning Inspector was right in his opinion.
My research assistant popped round the side to look at the back of the building and reported to me that the gap between the back wall of this property is literally a metre from the fence of a neighbouring property and that 'there is no room to even swing a cat or have access for The Fire & Rescue Service should it be required'.
So what you might say?
Having seen how much work our Councillors have to deal with, they rely very much on advice from Officers. My understanding is that this application did not get a formal site visit from the Planning Committee or from Full Council but most importantly the Planning Application was 'recommended to be approved' by the case Planning Officer who I am told was a Junior Officer and recently employed by TDC.
The Planning Officer told our Councillors that, ' Whilst the appeal was dismissed (in 2005), the Inspector did suggest that:
" any dwelling proposed for this small unused rough area at the head of the cul de sac would need to be imaginatively designed ..... (OMITTED BY PLANNING OFFICER WAS - " to ensure that it did not harm the appearance of the area or neighbours living conditions.)...'This is a unique site requiring a one of approach.' (No other quotation was made from The Inspectors Report when he dismissed the application of 2004).
This is in my opinion, is an utter distortion of what the Planning Inspector said in 2005 about this site and how it should have been dealt with and as a result was misleading advice to our Councillors.
If such a travesty and distortion of the 'history' relating to an application can occur in terms of advising our busy , over-worked Councillors, how can we be convinced that China Gateway will not get the same 'treatment' when reported to our Councillors?
How much confidence can we have in these words, concerning China Gateway , recently reported in the press;
"What we should be doing is allowing officers to tell us what is proposed so when ALL THE EVIDENCE IS GATHERED, (my capitals) and it ends up in the chamber at the council, we do it with some knowledge of the area." (Ken Gregory, Chair of Planning)