Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Westwood Cross Conundrum

Councillor Chris Wells has his own thoughts on Westwood Cross to share with Thanet Life.

Dear Editor,

The agony of the public meeting at Hoverspeed, Manston, last Thursday evening was plain for all to see. It was, at the same time, tense, cynical, threatening, comic, and despairing.  In a less charged atmosphere, many of the misunderstandings could have been cleared away – but there and then it was always going to be tough.

Timescales became very confused, ranging from the early 90’s to the 2015’s. Intention became very confused, mixing the Councils quasi – judicial role in planning, with its policy for economic development of the area, and the government’s plans for housebuilding in the South East.

So, perhaps now in a calmer moment, can I suggest we all ponder the following points?

  1. The allocation of this area for housing was indeed put out for public consultation in the year 2000 (as a matter of record, no more, under the previous labour administration of TDC).  Since then, of course, Westwood Cross has opened and residents around it and travelling past it, feel blighted by the traffic volumes and seemingly ineffective highways planning for its development.  In plain terms, the original consultation and current anger stem from different baselines of experience.

  2. This comes at a time when other ‘pinch points’ – chiefly the Victoria Road traffic lights in Margate – are already causing huge frustration across the island.  This leads to more and more vehicles using side roads as rat runs to avoid the queues.

  3. In light of this, Roger Gale, Thanet District Council and KCC members have worked to bring forward the final connecting phase of the East Kent Access Road – which will assist.  However, to residents this still appears to feed into inadequate and ill thought out road arrangements around the new development, Manston Court Road and Star Lane.

  4. It is accurate to say that the government has demanded high housebuilding volumes across the South East.  It is also true to say that Thanet, with its housing waiting list and growing economy, needs new homes.  It is equally true to say that over the last 20 years or so, many people, perhaps especially around Manston, moved to Thanet because they did not want to live in '‘suburban roundabout hell'…and now it is pursuing them here.

  5. What residents don’t want to hear, but is almost certainly true, is that housing development will take place because of these pressures.  The key issue for residents in my KCC division – in Star Lane and Gordon Road – is that traffic should not be diverted through or around this formerly quiet residential area, already suffering with Westwood Cross overflow, frustrated rat runners, and a sheer inability at times to get onto the main roads at all.

  6. Restricting access was hardly mentioned on Thursday night, but may well hold many benefits.  Restricting access to Manston Court Road for lorries; to the Star Lane and Gordon Road area, to the new development from the Westwood Cross roads at all.  These are neither complicated nor expensive partial solutions, but would be seen by many as at least swift actions to try and lessen the impact on their daily routine.

We need some truly inspirational thinking from our housing and highway planning teams if this is not to be a running sore in relations with local residents to Westwood for many years.  Time to pause and think it all calmly through.

Yours sincerely

Chris Wells
KCC Member, Margate and Cliftonville


Anonymous said...

Chris - as far as your point 4 is concerned "the housing waiting list" - do you mean rented social housing?
Because there seem to be plenty of houses unsold in Thanet.

Do we really want people moving here who cannot support themselves and their families?

If we exported all the scroungers back to wherever they came from then I am pretty sure there would be enough social housing for those locals who are in low paid jobs and can't afford to buy their own house.
I don't like subsidising social housing, but at least if it goes to hardworking but poorer people its worth providing.
I just don't like paying , even indirectly, to supply free housing and benefits for teenage girls who deliberately or carelessly got pregnant, and people who don't want to get a job.

I am fed up walking around the town centre and seeing gaggles of teenage single mums with their pushchairs, eating drinking smoking and throwing down litter. They are real Vicki Pollards.
Its sad - and expensive for us.

Chris Wells said...

One thing that did become evident last week was that the social element of any housing for this area would be on a shared ownership basis to provide affordable housing rather than the traditional social housing approach. The rationale for this is the lack of homes for fist time buyers locally, and the close proximity to the development of traditional social housing in some quantity.


James Maskell said...

The Westwood Cross housing development is a massive issue for Thanet and especially in Salmestone ward which will have the bear the brunt of it. Ive talked to a lot of residents who are worried about the effects this development will have. I dont think the development is appropriately placed. I know the Council wants the houses as close to Westwood Cross as possible and thats understandable why, but with Ramsgate Road much more busy than before Westwood Cross's opening, Nash Road is used as a second route. With the expanded Westwood Cross, this pressure will be increased even more. Residents on Nash Road have already gone to the papers to highlight their safety concerns on that road. The Victoria Lights are still dangerous. When the road works were going on, one resident counted over 50 cars turning right off College Road!

My fear is that with the 1000 houses will come well over 1000 cars. I dont think a school will be built there, bearing in mind the KCC plans to reduce over capacity in schools. Therefore a lot of children will have to travel across the isle...Im sure you can see the problems there. Safety for pedestrians needs to be taken into account here. I know when Ive walked to Westwood Cross its been too dangerous to cross Haine Road.

Jobs is an issue as well. Do we have the jobs available? If not, where are they going to come from?

As Ive said before, I dont think the houses should be so close to Westwood Cross. We need local leaders to speak on residents behalf. Unfortunately the only representative for the area is Cllr Wells. The residents need representation from Ward Councillors at TDC level as well. That way you have the breadth of representation which is needed on issues like this. Where are Cllrs Fuller and Young? Their attendance rates are the worst in the Council. There is no excuse for being lazy, especially on an issue like this.

I have no doubt planning permission will be given. Its going to happen, especially since Labour have already indicated they will support it. What needs to be done is that local residents are consulted fully and their views taken into account, not as a one off but at every part of the process.

Anonymous said...

I have had a nice flat for sale for 60,000 and had only one offer in 2 months and that was from a landlord who wanted to rent it out.
Apparently even this amount is too much for anyone working locally to afford.
I also have a modern 4 bed house for sale for 139,000 and have not even had anyone look at it.
Does this show that homes are too expensive for workers in the area?
The only places that seem to sell easily now are retirement flats which are not dependent on the local economy for funding.

Cllr David Green said...

As usual, Chris Wells is good on the analysis of a problem, if a little late coming forward. He did the same trick with the community centre in Broadstairs, and never did get there over Turner Offshore! He is less good at solutions, perhaps this is the reason he hasn’t made Cabinet at either KCC or TDC?

Chris knows that the amount and location of housing at Westwood was a major debating point in the Thanet Local Plan, which he has voted for on at least two occasions at Thanet Council.
The decision to support this had little to do with Government demands; the amount of housing agreed to locally was a third again more than that in the South East Plan and the Kent Structure Plan. The reasons are due to responding to the local demand for housing due to changing family structure, anticipated growth stimulated by the airport and business parks, and the chronic need to reduce the Council’s housing waiting list (currently at around 4000 family units). The Government are only now beginning to catch up with these demands across the South East. Senior Kent politicians know this, and admit it privately, despite their public protests.
The choice was a major large development, or many smaller incursions into the countryside and green corridors. Once again this was debated over a number of years, was subject to a public enquiry before a Government Inspector, and was voted for by Chris Wells amongst others.

Chris is right in that the major problem with the proposed development concerns transport links around Westwood. He also knows that local transport issues are clearly a County Council responsibility. The development of the Westwood Cross shopping centre has been a major success for Thanet, judged by the jobs created and the flow of shoppers. Unfortunately we have a County Council who’s “vision” extends no further east than Canterbury. The County politicians opposed Westwood Cross and have contributed little to dealing with any anticipated traffic problems. Thanet has even had to finance a traffic study of the area. The answer is surely to separate the through traffic from that destined for the Shopping centre, and to provide transport within the Westwood complex itself to discourage hopping from one car-park to another. Chris would be well employed prevailing upon the County Council to engage in the problem. District Councillors have little impact now the Tories have withdrawn from the Joint Transport Committee.

Much can also be done to reduce the traffic impact of the housing development itself. The more self contained it is, with shops, community centre, primary school, good foot and cycling routes, the better. The location, near to Westwood, will of itself help to reduce the need for every household to have a number of cars. This could be reflected in the number of parking allocations. Much can also be done to protect those living immediately around the site from the worst impacts. We will be looking to these when the application comes to Planning.

Overall, I will judge this particular application on its merits, both in terms of transport impact, and on how well it meets the need for housing in the district, both to encourage growth in employment, and for social housing. It may be that we will have to delay until County produce a satisfactory transport plan.

Mr Friday said...

There is some serious sitting on the fence happening here.

Ignore the wishes of residents at your peril Councillors as you know what is happening next May.

James Maskell said...

Cllr David Green, has Labour performed a U-turn? I recall at the meetings over the Pearce Signs development that Labour said they would stand up for local residents and that they couldnt support it due to amongst other things, the transport issues. But now you are coming out not only supporting the housing development but calling for more development to an as yet undetermined size! Perhaps you could explain this apparent contradiction...

How much bigger does the eventual town of Westwood need to grow before Labour can be satisfied that it is "self contained"?

Anonymous said...

If Cllr Green thinks by reducing the parking space allocation in a housing development he will reduce the number of cars the residents own he is living in cloud cuckoo land.
Its a bit like TDC's view that if you limit the availability of wheelie bins then households won't generate so much rubbish.

Chris Wells said...

One of the most often asked questions of politicians, is why cant you sit down together and thrash out a solution without all the carping and the bitching? I think Cllr Greens response on this site explains exactly why. I simply cannot be bothered to join him in the gutter with a reply to all that unnecessary sledging, leading to essentially the same suggested solution as I had made. Grow up, David, these are peoples lives not some sort of fantasy game for your puerile entertainment.

DrMoores said...

No personal remarks please Chris..or indeed David. Time to call a truce I think!

Cllr David Green said...

Well said dr, I suppose it was a little cheap. Chris annoyed me by suggesting I was dishonest on another forum. This is probably the most important planning issue in Thanet for some time. It is vital that we get it right.

Chris Wells said...

Which is why I made strenuous efforts to be apolitical in what I said. I had hoped that would be given a little respect..

Anonymous said...

Ahem. Now play nice.

Back to the subject. Aren't the developers/owners of Wastewood Cross also the developers of the proposed housing? In which case it would be silly to put the extra 1000 prospective consumer households anywhere else wouldn't it?
I think we should be told.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of housing etc I heard from a usually reliable source that a Housing Association has bought a number of the new apartments opposite Aldi supermarket on the old petrol station site in Northdown Rd Cliftonville.
What this area really needs is more challenged tenants on benefit - NOT!
I wonder if they just couldn't sell them to private owners in that area?