Friday, April 06, 2007

The Best of a Bad Job?

I spent two hours this afternoon flying a friend, who takes photos for different Kent council planning departments, all around the county. We were photographing, new developments and greenfield sites further developments and there were a great many of them.

It's hard to find anyone who is in favour of greenfield development in the county but from what I understand, local councils have very little choice in the matter and Westwood is a fine example.

In simple terms or at least as I understand it, we could either accept the housing plan for Westwood on 'Favourable' terms; i.e. squeezing concessions like roads and amenities from the developers and KCC or TDC could object. If that happened, then the appeal could cost the local taxpayer anything up to £750,000, would tie-up the planning department for a year and given central government guidelines on housing development, would, in all probability, lose.

Westwood would get the bare minimum in the contract, the houses would still be built, the amenities would be less and Thanet would be a bigger loser.

At least on the positive side, there will be more housing for the people who need it, more jobs and the maximum benefit from a development that I, like many others, am instinctively opposed to.

What was the alternative, can anyone tell me?


Anonymous said...

Are you really saying that with Government policy being what it is in regard to housing over the South East, TDC has no choice really other than to expend vast sums futilely or let it proceed?

Could TDC not claim, in light of UN predictions on Global warming and on food shortages to come, that prime agricultural land will be in great demand to feed our Nation before this century is out? In view of UN predictions on food shortages world-wide due to Global warming, is not this Governments policy on housing simply foolish and lacking in any long term strategic thinking. It used to be said that the state's primary purpose was to defend its people; should it not now be to feed its people? Or of course the residents of the new Westwood could be urged in 2050 to dig up their gardens to grow veg in a campaign reminiscent of "Dig for Victory" in the 2nd World War?

Anonymous said...

More jobs, where! More people neeeding housing , where. You have stated before how bad the traffic situation is at Westwood! This is ridiculous. Why is the Conservative council, bowing down to the Labour dictations! Westwood will be a disaster for all of Thanet. Local businesses are already collapsing because of Westwood Cross. The centre of Thanet is a car park due to the traffic! And now they want to make it worse! What jobs have been created to warrant this new housing project? None that I am aware of! Get real! Start supporting the residents of Thanet who want the jobs! If any real jobs are ever going to be forthcoming!

Cllr David Green said...

I'm afraid Simon you will learn from experience that Planning Officers will always warn of disaster if Members dare to question their plans.
As for Government pressure for more housing, yes there is pressure, through the South East Plan and the Kent Structure Plan. However Thanet is already more than meeting the requirements of those targets. The Thanet Local plan accepted higher targets than required regionally because we were told anticipated economic growth required it. This growth,airport and business parks has not happened.
I can only speak for myself, there was no whip on this from the Labour side.
I want to support a development of upto 1000 houses because I think it would help with economic development and because we need the affordable housing.
However I will only support it if the highways problems of the whole area are sorted out, and we get at least 30% social and affordable housing. What was on the table on Thursday did not deliver that, so I voted against.

James Maskell said...

Ultimately the choice is the way 10:30pm put it. Councils have limited powers and its the Government which put them under this pressure.

I was at both meetings and heard all the evidence. Basically the choice was that we grant outline planning consent and take the concessions we can which will help local residents to manage with the development (and the concessions were hardly small ones) or to point blank refuse and go through a lengthy appeals process, which the Government Inspector would probably have backed, given his quotes read at the meetings. It would have cost the Council hundreds of thousands of pounds and we would have had the plans shoved in our faces.

Its a hard call to make but I strongly feel that it was in the best interests of local residents and the wider communities to take the application and get what we can out of it to limit its impact. Central Government are the ones passing down dictats on housing quotas. If someones to blame, its them.

This isnt the end of the mater though. The meetings this past week were just for outline permission. Now we can work on the detail and try to get the best deal for those who will have to bear the brunt of it.

As for the Labour Whip, bearing in mind every Labour Councillor voted together on the issue (did Councillor Young vote in favour or against? I couldnt make it out) I strongly doubt that there was no whip...

chris wells said...

David, the labour group had a truly shameful evening on Thursday. Keep to your pretence of no whip, keep to your line of individual objections, you fool noone but yourselves. You want the development at 1000 not 1020 or 1060 house, huge difference there! You want better infrastructure to support it, and heard what had been achieved but scorned it, you want more social housing,but voted against any on Thursday trying to stop the development for political gain.

Richard Nicholsons quoting of a press release prediction of smaller population growth, leaving out the fact it related to a period after this development finishes sums up your weasel wording and positioning.

Go and tell voters you voted against, but be honest about it. there were no amendments on social housing or roads were there?

sue said...

I find it hard to think of new roads as "concessions", and it's awfully decent of them to think about providing "amenities" too. We are spoiled really.
Judging by the number of consumers at Wastewood Cross on any given day, the development is necessary to enable it to continue.

Anonymous said...

One might argue Cllr Wells that representing the wishes of over 5,000 residents by voting against the proposals for Westwood is a perfectly proper thing for our representatives to do, having condidered the matter carefully, whether Labour or Conservative.

As comment moderation is in place I am surprised that the 'Doc' has not taken you to task over your phrase "sums up your weasel wording and positioning". You are aware, I am sure, that a certain lonely voice in Thanet has been barred from Thanetlife by Dr Simon for obnoxious comments of a personal nature.

As a natural conservative supporter I can do without one of our Labour councillors being insulted by a Tory councillor. Please remember that you do a disservice to your argument when you resort to abusive adjectives as "weasel". Weasels encounter sufficient prejudice in the countryside and as a result of 'Wind in The Willows' without you bringing them into the argument in a prejorative way. I feel an apology to Cllr Green and to the weasel population at large in our fields and hedgerows is called for.

Mr Friday said...

I was there on Wednesday night. Anyone know the reasons why Cllr Fullarton withdrew from the debate and vote before it all started ?

Anonymous said...

This is pure speculation but:
a. intestinally indisposed?(Norovirus doing the rounds again)
b. perhaps following the custom of withdrawing if you have a vested interest in the matter.