Sunday, 25 October 2009

A TALE OF TWO PLANNING APPLICATIONS

This is an interesting tale of how perverse the Planning set up at TDC can be.

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The pic above, taken by one of the 'Strife' team was used, to support the case for a new illuminated sign at The Swan in Westgate. The application for the sign above the door had been refused by Planning Officers as The Swan was now in a conservation area. The applicant re-applied and the application was 'called-in' to The Planning Committtee last Wednesday. The advice by Officers to our Councillors was that they should refuse the application. The applicant sent all members concerned pictures, including the one above together with the case for 'improving' the situation by removing the sign on the right and in its place having the tasteful sign 'The Swan at Westgate'. Here is another pic of the new sign.


The applicant put his case in person to our Councillors on Wednesday and was supported by two of his Westgate Councillors who both urged the Committtee members to support the application on the simple grounds that the removal of one sign to be replaced by a more tasteful sign actually enhanced the objectives of the new Conservation Area. After discussion and the twilight activities of one Cllr being mentioned, The Planning Committtee unanimously approved this application.
This is a pic of another application considered by The Planning Committtee last Wednesday. Some readers might remember that an extension to Bradgate Caravan Park, at Lydden was resoundingly turned down by a Planning Committtee last year ( F/TH/08/0892). Our Councillors at the time considered that enough prime agricultural land was being lost in Thanet already.
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Well, with some self thinking Conservative Councillors kicked off The Planning Committee since last year, to be replaced by Ezekiel 'yes men/women', you might be amazed at how the re-application for exactly the same extension to Bradgate Caravan Park was dealt with last Wednesday. Officers were quite clear on their advice to Cllrs that the application( TH/09/0515) still ran against all sorts of TDC policies (CC1, CC2, CC9 etc) and that there was no case economically etc for this application to be approved and recommended it be turned down, AGAIN.
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A fascinating turn of events then ocurred. There was no plea before the Committtee from the applicant or any of his representatives, but Cllr Shirley Tomlinson quickly moved it to be approved, followed by a seconder; what a surprise that it should be her husband, Cllr Mick Tomlinson. A vote was quickly taken without any discussion or consideration by the Planning Committtee of the report to them by their own officers and every Conservative members hand shot up, including that Ind Cons, Cllr McCastree to approve. Such is the casual way that prime agricultural land is now developed on in Thanet. Heaven help us!
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Readers should be aware that Conservative members meet together before this Committtee for refreshments and that all members are required under Planning Law to consider an application on the basis of what they hear or discuss in Committtee, WITHOUT PRE-DETERMINATION.

I may just be a simple chap, but if there is no discussion or debate in Committtee and the only evidence presented to you is a recommendation to refuse from your Planning Officers and no pleas from the applicant, then the natural consequence should be TO REFUSE and a move to approve, without discussion, by a Cabinet Member, who also serves on the Planning Committtee, seems perverse.
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But this is democracy in Thanet at work, isn't it?
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The Swan may have needed to argue its case about a simple illuminated sign and have two local councillors argue the case cogently and well, to get approval in the face of Officer's advice but Bradgate can now take acres of prime agricultural land out of food production without any discussion at all in the face of Officers' advice.


20 comments:

Concerned resident said...

This gives me serious cause for concern that a precedent has been set for more agricultural land to be grabbed for non-agricultural usage.

No discussion on such a major departure from the Local Plan makes me wonder what was passing through the minds of the committee.

Had they all independently decided whilst ploughing through the pages of information that accompanies every planning committee meeting that this must go ahead?

There is only one conclusion I can come to and it's totally against the rules- predetermination. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during that pre-committee get-together.

Well done for exposing the way this council works.

Anonymous said...

Good old Shirl and Mick, they can be relied upon to get anything through. Just why are a husband and wife allowed to site together on the Planning Committee?
All looks a bit fishy to me.

DrM. said...

More guff Bertie...

The Swan had a sign all the way back to the time of it being the Ingleton hotel. However when the conservation area was enlarged, i fell foul of the conservation area rules on such.

The compromise was to remove the smaller sign with brewers logos on and have one single backlit sign as it would not in my view, breach the spirit of the conservation area rules.

The committee accepted the arguments made by the landlord Cllr King and me as being a fair one and you can't use this example to draw a contrast with Bradgate as they are quite different.

Anonymous said...

This would appear to be the Committee's most bizarre and distasteful decision so far.

If anyone ever thought that the Thanet Council was corrupt; this must be their biggest indicator of things being very, very wrong!

Anonymous said...

Cllr. Shirley Tomlinson is not a member of the Planning Committee but was substituting for another member .....she is also a Cabinet Member .........it doesn't look too good does it?

Ken Gregory said...

God bless youi ertie, but why lets facts get in the way of a good story.........

Fact, the conservative members on planning DO NOT meet prior to the planning meeting.

Fact The only meeting that takes place prior to the planning meeting is between myself and planning officers to discuss any changes to the agenda,(like the withdrawal of applications etc). Last Wednesday Cllr Ward attended this meeting (at my invitation) and does so when he can, in his role as the Labour 'Lead' member on planning.

Fact, not all the Conservative members voted for or against this application, I did not vote, and try not to unless required to, or feel that I have very strong views on an application, either for or against, and that those views have been reinforced by the debate

Fact, there was a strong debate, and views were put forward from both sides.



Come on Bertie, fair play please

Bertie Biggles said...

Interesting responses.
Guff, Dr M?
You evade the issue as does 'Our Ken'.
The background to The Swan sign was covered in my post and your laudable and effective support last week referred to. The fact that you had to get involved in a small application that had been refused once, when commonsesnse dictated approval, does provide a valid contrast for comparison. Your outlining the case again in your comment stands in stark contrast to the decision involving further loss of prime agricultural land in Thanet. Neither you nor Chair of Planning, have put forward any reasons to justify a perverse decision concerning Bradgate.
Where no case was put by the applicant or by a ward Cllr to support this application, it was approved in the face of Officer advice, TDC's stated policies and is a complete reversal of the decision taken by TDC's Planning Committtee last year. How interesting that a 'reserve' member should propose its approval?

Ken, thanks for correcting the 'refreshments'mis-information; I may be confused with refreshments before Full Council Meetings. As Chair, one would not expect you to cast a vote unless to resolve an impasse. Strong debate?

One would have thought that in light of Planning Officer's recommendations and the decision taken by your Committtee last year that as Chair you would have voted against. What has changed in regard to Bradgate's application since last year to make you change your mind?
Just a thought, has Cllr S Tomlinson and all members of your Planning Committtee been trained in their role to be Planning members as required?

Anonymous said...

Yes, what indeed has changed to justify the complete reversal of the committee's decision last year? Has the applicant made significant amendments to the plan that slipped past the planning officer but were spotted by the keen eyes of Cllrs. Tomlinson?

What justification is there for going against the current Local Plan where this site is not included for development?

Is this a precedent to allow Phases 2 and 3 of the China gateway application to get passed?

Come on, we need some answers. I'm surprised Cllr. Gregory didn't blame the government for this one.

We need more food grown not more caravans for holiday makers who in all probability won't add much to the local economy. Was it the old hoary chestnut of 'jobs' that swung it and if so, who will take these jobs? Locals or more incomers? I know we can't keep Thanet jobs for Thanet people but when most of the new jobs seem to go to those from elsewhere who here is benefiting?

How many locals work at Thanet earth? Weren't we promised 500 jobs there?

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine, together with his son , took agency work at Thanet Earth last week for three days!

There were only two other English speakers there and the rest Polish.

No one could even explain in English the jobs to them!

So much for the provision of jobs for the people of Thanet. Another bundle of lies that our stupid council either believes at face value, or just can't be bothered to check on before granting permission.

I presume that the new occupants at Bradgate will be Polish as well!

Peter Collins said...

Neither the agent nor his client spoke at a Planning Committee meeting where their application was down for 'refusal'. You mean neither decided to speak to fight their corner? That sounds most peculiar to me as I understand that the previous caravan park applications down for refusal both had speakers to put their side of the argument.

Could it be the applicant had been given some assurance the application would go through on the night? If the answer to that is 'yes' then some very serious questions need to be asked here. I cannot believe a businessman and his agent were content to sit back without a fight.

With regard to the 'strong debate' I understand this took the form of 'I move approval' and 'I second that'. Doesn't strike me as very strong debate, Councillor Gregory.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 20.02, you've perhaps hit the nail on the proverbial head. Static caravans to house imported workers. Now, why didn't I think that was the reason behind the application?

Is Bradgate a long-term residents' park or is it one where the residents have to move out for short periods to qualify the site as 'holiday' accommodation? I know people who live in various sites where they move into b & b for short periods, don't get on the electoral role as it's not classed as 'permanent accommodation' so live under the radar.

Perhaps someone will clarify the situation for me and tell me and you that we're wrong and it's intended to be only holiday makers there. Didn't the Nethercourt Hill site get permission to be twelve months of the year and that's in a public park. Who will be the occupants of that site?

Caravanning in February, anyone?

Anonymous said...

Polish people deserve jobs too...

Criticise the system by all means, but don't criticise people who try to better themselves, wherever they're from.

Bertie Biggles said...

20.02, thanks for that snippet. You confirm what I have long feared. Such is EU freedom of movement and Employment Law that we could have all Thanet covered in concrete, glasshouses and warehouses to provide jobs galore but without benefit to Thanet's unemployed electorate. TDC has not grasped this issue; nor has IOTG. Thanet Earth was lauded after planning consent, as providing upto 500 jobs for Thanet. Dutch firms and Dutch specialists built the place and provide the glass-house expertise whilst an agency based in Folkestone recruits 'packing staff'. There was never a sustained recruitment drive in Thanet for Thanet Earth and it does not surprise me that a predominantly Polish workforce is there. Last autumn when I rang the recruitment agency involved, I spoke to a charming young lady from, you can guess, Poland. Hardworking reliable Polish workers might perhaps be a better bet than many of our locals? The question that crosses my mind is has the loss of open versatile farmland to industrial warehouse based production on the grand scale really been of any benefit to Thanet?

Anonymous said...

No one is criticising Polish workers who want to better themselves and I'm afraid your correspondent misses the point, perhaps deliberately, Bertie. The whole point is that the council and Steve Ladyman support grand schemes such as Thanet Earth and China Gateway because a developer holds out the promise of job creation. If only it were all that simple.

As you say Thanet Earth didn't attempt to recruit locally despite promises of creating jobs suitable for mothers of school-aged children, students looking for weekeend work and those after full-time employment.

The only jobs advertised were for highly-qualified managers and those with technical expertise suitable for glasshouse production.

Why didn't the firm try to recruit packers locally is what should be asked? The fact no transport was being provided and Thanet Earth isn't exactly the most accessible location means only those with their own transport could get there.

I've met Poles working here and they were highly-qualified, professional people with the desire to earn some money, improve their English and return home.

If they are willing to do any work I say 'Good luck' but I do wish TDC would realise the jobs for Thanet is merely a ploy to get planning permission.

Anonymous said...

If you were an employer would you employ Thanet locals ?

Anonymous said...

You're assuming that Thanet's unemployed actually WANT jobs picking vegetables. Most would rather live on benefits.

Bertie Biggles said...

10.46 and 10.48,there is of course a hard-core who either don't want work or are un-employable and Thanet is no different from anywhere else in the country in this respect. However,there are still many in Thanet actively seeking work.

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall at the original planning committee meeting for China Gateway Councillor Shirley Tomlinson was lead for the Tory side and made that fatuous comment that 'this application is no different to Mrs. Jones applying to build an extension' to howls of derision. Is she wheeled out for contentious planning decisions and can we ask if she's had the full training required for a member of Planning? Is it usual for a stand-in at committees to be the lead?

I know if the applicant or his agent wishes to speak for the plan this is only allowed if there is a member of the public to speak against. Was there no one to speak against this scheme?

Anonymous said...

how sad most of the people whom read or even write on this bog (sorry blog site )is just beyond me i have never read so much rubbish in my life and how labour think they can do better is beyond me they must sit in the next room to the planning meeting
i think they won,t to get there facts right first ,or zip up god help ue if cllr harts wife gets in think of the noise then

Bertie Biggles said...

How nice of you to comment here as well 15.24.

I wonder why you fail to discuss the logic behind the Conservative Planning Members' enthusiastic support of a planning application turned down last year and utterly unamended this year; contrary to TDC policies and your own Planning Officers; unattended by the applicant or agent. I for one would love to hear a case being put.

So has anyone been selectively lobbying Conservative Planning Members or other Conservatives to pass this application? I am all for lobbying but ensuring ALL members are lobbied and would expect them to state this at Committtee.

One of the problems that can occur in such matters of course, is that undeclared interests, contacts, friendships, hospitality received etc etc have an awful habit of becoming known. I am often amazed at how like a small village, Thanet is. I hope, for everyone's sake involved, that this perverse granting of an application is just an idiosyncratic manifestation of TDC's version of local democracy at work and nothing else.