My congratulations to Saul Leese and Rebecca Smith at IOTG for putting the spotlight this week on TDC's Core Strategy and Policy 25. In the process they have highlighted the obfuscation, confusion and squirming about issues by 'Our Leader', 'Woger' and TDC's lead officer on the matter, Colin Fitt.
For those who are not upto flying speed on this issue, a brief reminder is needed. TDC's current Local Plan was completed in 2006 and allocated more than enough employment land for Thanet for the next 20 years at Eurokent and Manston Business Park. The situation concerning Thanet's designated employment land is supported by The South East Plan. However, even before Thanet's new dwellings figures were increased from 6000 to 7,500, TDC (together with its own little 'quango' without democratic control, EKO LLP) has been trying to change the designation of the Eurokent site from 'employment land' to 'housing' and began this process in April 2008. There are numerous paragraphs in the new 'Core Strategy' devoted to changing Eurokent's designation for 'housing for aspiring people' (expensive housing out of the reach of most in Thanet) and a Policy 25 is introduced that effectively states that any site on farmland can be developed in Thanet by 'over-riding' all other TDC policies if it 'promises' lots of jobs. Now forgive me but my understanding is that 'jobs' on offer has nothing to do with whether a Planning Application should be approved or not and is not part of The Planning Protocol.
Anyway, back to the IOTG article.I can imagine the situation where intrepid reporter Saul Leese went into to the luxuriously carpeted 'Ezekiel Towers' in Margate last week to 'interview' Colin Fitt and perhaps found a little 'cabal' of 'Mauwice', 'Woger' and Colin awaiting his questions?
Let's highlight some nonsense from 'Our Leader':
Obviously riled that Save Kent (CPRE) has criticised Policy 25 and a change to Eurokent, this is the petty nasty comment elicited: " People at Protect Kent have nice jobs and homes......." (How many houses do you have in Thanet, Cllr Ezekiel? Your Cllr declaration of interest in 2008 at TDC showed a finacial interest in 4 or was it 5?)
"I love the countryside ..............." ( There is no evidence of this as Thanet Earth, an industrial estate in every sense blots the landscape and huge warehouses given planning consent almost up to Acol, could do so shortly.) " Thanet Earth is a good example that showed benefits for the people in Thanet" ( Importing Spanish tomatoes and employing exactly how many local Thanet people? The facts are that most employees are foreign EU workers. So who is benefitting from Thanet Earth?) " We have had a lot of debate over the policy ( Policy 25) and it doesn't open the floodgates to building on a large scale." (What nonsense. He knows perfectly well that CGI owns some expensive farmland for China Gateway Phases 2 and 3 and you could hardly describe their declared proposals as other than building on the large scale! Mr Colin Fitt gives as an example, justifying Policy 25, just such development on the large scale!)
Lets now see even more utter tripe from our twice discredited Leader's, Deputy; 'Woger'(whose 'jumping like a salmon ' antics at Edinburgh Woollen Mill make him discredited also; let alone his antics concerning housing in Berkeley Rd): In answer to a question whether Protect Kent's concerns were justified he replied,
" This is just the first stage. They must submit a planning application." Of course they have to Cllr Latchford but if your Policy 25 says they can develop on agricultural land ,they will cite Policy 25 as justification for an appeal if you say they can't!) In answer to a question about ensuring jobs for people in Thanet, 'Woger's reply was " China Gateway can only employ 10% Chinese." (So despite numerous unminuted meetings with CGI, a visit to China organised and hosted by CGI, Cllr Latchford denies the 'Concierge' Proposals for Chinese Managers/ key workers and their families and the initial idea that 500 homes would be needed. for them. Each employee and family would be subject to British Immigration requirements any way, would they not?.)
Now to Mr Colin Fitt.
He seems to justify Policy 25 with the specious argument that it is there to 'catch the eye of planning consultants of major companies'. He said, " For example, if a company like Sanyo suggested a 'green wedge site' like Dane Valley Margate to build a factory, we would suggest somewhere else. These types of companies send out planning consultants and we believe that if this policy (Policy 25) was not in our core strategy they will think we're not open for business". ( Mr Fitt knows perfectly well that there is no way any company would even consider development on a protected by TDC Policy site in a 'green wedge'. What he assumes already is that he will not be able to say, 'we have just the site you need at Eurokent' which is the present situation, because Ezekiel, Latchford and EKO LLP are hell bent on making sure that Eurokent has housing on it (more lucrative) instead of employers employing workers.)
When asked by Saul Leese about how TDC could ensure that a Policy 25 development on farmland would lead to jobs for people living in Thanet, Mr Fitt replied, "There is the possibility of putting in place a legal agreement stipulating a percentage of jobs for people living in Thanet." ( Pray tell us how TDC can do this , Mr Fitt, in the face of EU and UK Employment Law?)
When asked about Housing Targets set by Govt, Mr Fitt replied, " We're told by the Government to ignore existing planning applications......" ( Really Mr Fitt? Where does it say this? Could you substantiate this extraordinary statement? He fails to mention that completions are already 2 years ahead of target , according to TDC's own Housing Audit and that it is not TDC ( other than EKO LLP who want to build houses on Eurokent) but private developers who have lead the way in exceeding the Govt's targets in thanet and will continue to do so.)
When pressed to explain why Eurokent (in the Core Strategy) should have 600 houses instead of being used for commercial development, Mr Fitt replied: " We designated the land at Eurokent for business 15 years ago. Its a good location for housing. They can walk to shops and schools." ( Notice how the question is not answered. He ignores the fact that Eurokent was included in the Thanet Plan 2006 for commercial development and that The South East Plan states that TDC should maintain it for that. It's a good location for housing for EKO LLP and Rose Farm Estates' profits, Mr Fitt, whilst you have failed to attract and have even actively discouraged development there for employment?)
I am flabbergasted with most of these comments by this ' long past sell-by date' Cabal at the top of TDC. As previous 'Strife' posts have tried to illustrate, TDC does not having a 'housing requirement deficit' even with the 2009 change in goal posts. There is no sound justification for housing on Eurokent and Policy 25. I hope all our TDC Councillors view these proposals for the sham they are. If Policy 25 is incorporated into The Core Strategy, stand by for industrial sprawl all over Thanet's remaining open and highly productive farmland as it is a 'charter' for development and ensures that China Gateway Phases 2 and 3 can proceed or any other development that CGI or any one else has in mind. Profits for developers like Rose farm Estates and CGI appear to have a greater priority with the present leadership at TDC, than helping to feed its population in 20 years time. I wonder why? To paraphrase Protect Kent's, Brian Lloyd, 'what an unusual approach to employment development.'