Monday, 15 June 2009

CAN COUNCILLORS TRUST WHAT THEY ARE TOLD ANYMORE BY OFFICERS?

It would appear that TDC Planning Officers (with a little help and guidance from Asset Managers and even the Director himself perhaps?) can look in two directions in regard to the same planning application like the Roman God Janus (shown in the pic above.)
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If you haven't twigged what I am on about yet, yes, its back to 1 Granville Marina and application F/TH/09/0052. My thanks to a regular reader for drawing my attention to the brief in the agenda sent to Planning Members and included in TDC's Agenda minutes on its own web-site.
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If you click on the details below you will see that TDC's Case Planning Officer, Luke Blaskett, recommended for The Planning Committtee to be held on Wed 20th May 2009 that Councillors 'REFUSE' the application and cites it being contrary to Thanet Local Plan Policy HE1 and Medway Structure Plan Policy QL10.

Yet, in a matter of less than 10 working days, the very same Case Planning Officer now recommends Councillors 'APPROVE' the unchanged application at their meeting this Wednesday, 17th June. ( I am assuming that Planning Members received their brief in TDC's mail of Monday 8th June.) What is really good is that he now cites Kent and Medway Structure Plan Policy QL10 as the reason why he says 'approve'. (No mention of Thanet Local Plan Policy HE1 this time round). He also reveals that he has received advice from TDC's Assets Manager (Justin Thomson) who presumably has as his superior, Mr Brian White.
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It was interesting that this application was 'pulled' at short notice in May and not dealt with by the Planning Committtee and here it is back again with an 180 degree 'u-turn' by a professional planning officer the following month.
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This whole business starts to look decidely odd and even 'fishy'.
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We have a developer who demolished a Grade 2 listed building without consent ( a criminal offence); a lack of prosecution by TDC; a lack of enforcement by TDC ; a sudden change of recommendation by a professional Planning Officer quoting a Kent and Medway policy ( remember that TDC Policy should govern its actions as it is an LPA in its own right) as his 'authority' for him to make two diametrically opposed recommendations in less than a fortnight! What he fails to draw members attention to is the simple fact that this Kent and Medway Policy was written to assist owners of Grade 2 listed buildings to improve and maintain such a property; not to assist an owner who has without LPA consent reduced two-thirds of it to a pile of rubble!
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One is left with the conclusion that TDC either is acting with gross incompetence here or that dealings with developers and meetings that our Councillors know nothing about have been taking place with TDC and junior staff are being required to jump in an entirely different direction as a result. It starts to raise serious questions about the integrity and impartiality of the whole planning process at TDC.
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For me, this is the most worrying aspect of this whole application. If we cannot trust the utter impartiality of our planning process, where are we to turn? The law enables TDC to both prosecute the owner for this demolition and insist he reinstate the property or take it off his hands. The cynical demolition of this property ocurred 7 months before the recession we are now in began and property prices stalled; to argue that the 'extra' accommodation of luxury flats is now needed to make a profit is just tough.
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Honest, upright Councillors on The Planning Committee on Wednesday need to consider this application carefully and ask some searching questions about the history of this application; events that led to it and perhaps consider that some-one is trying to make a farce of the whole planning process at TDC.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well researched Bertie - just unbelievable that this sort of thing keeps happening and there doesnt seem to be any kind of closure on dirty dealings in Thanet!
Time for some integrity in local politics!

Anonymous said...

Read the reports, see the differences, and then realise what a plonker you are bertie

Anonymous said...

Bertie - I have sat in a Planning Meeting and heard a Planning Officer give information that I knew to be wholly untrue. The reasons for the numerous episodes of 'incompetence'? shown by this department can only be guessed at. Planning Officer Luke Blaskett is no exception, they all seem to operate in a similar vein.

PS - Honest upright Councillors on the new Planning Committee?

Anonymous said...

Well now we have a newly elected Town Council in Ramsgate to fight on our behalf - Yippee!!

Bertie Biggles said...

22.40, I have both reports in hard copy in front of me now. Please explain how an 180 degree turn-around can occur in such a few days? The only spurious argument put, is that the extra development would give the developer a modest profit from rebuilding something he knocked down in the first place having been given a report by his own surveyor in 2007 suggesting it as a course of action.

What is interesting in the 'approve' advice is this comment from Luke Blaskett, the Case Officer at TDC's Planning Dept:
"I am of the opinion that following consultation with the Council's Conservation Officer, that the propoposed development would not be considered favourably, had the Listed Building been intact."

He, without realising it, makes the very point as to why consent should not be given i.e. this building should never have been two-thirds demolished without TDC and English Heritage consent and approval. TDC by approving consent is allowing a developer to gain a reward from carrying out an illegal and criminal act and citing, spuriously, various policies to bring this about.

My dear fellow, if my reasoning on this issue makes me a 'plonker', then I am happy to be so termed.

Anonymous said...

Thought you might be interested to note that one enforcement officer was given the leader's award for council officers (his photo is up in Cecil Square to prove it!) this or last year - not sure why? or if he was the one charged with Ramsgate or not? May have been awarded it for his work in other areas of Thanet?

Stop Manston Expansion Group said...

a couple of phone calls to english heritage confirms they have been in touch with TDC about the marina restaurant.

Unfortunatley, grade 2 listings are ten-a-penny, and they only really get involved with grade 2*'s and grade 1's.

Its up to the council to enforce fines, start legal proceedings, and with their track record you didn't really think they would deal with the issue firmly, did you?!

The council should be publishing all letters in support/agains the plans, which they have not. The only thing they seem to be guilty of in this case. They can do what they want - jail the owners, or let them develop it how they see fit.

Roll on next year, when the only option available to vent your feelings to this council comes up - vote them out.

Bertie Biggles said...

Thanks, Steve. It would seem that EH are as lax and incompetent about issues that they have a remit in law to enforce as the EA seems to have been in Thanet!