Saturday, December 08, 2007

Over-developed and Over-done

Kent News reports:

"A threatening phone call is not putting off a Kent film maker organising a second screening of her controversial piece claiming Thanet is being over-developed.

Producer Christine Tongue said she had the call from an anonymous man warning her not to show the film again"

So one crank call is enough to suggest a conspiracy? At least that the implication. Christine should try running a 'Blog' site!

And then South Thanet MP Steve Ladyman weighs in:

"Dr Steve Ladyman, Labour MP for South Thanet, Thanet MP said he thought that Tory-run Thanet council’s current policies risk ruining the island’s environment.

He said: “The council is not so much over-developing rather than inappropriate developing. “They are looking to put houses on tennis courts and sports fields. The council is already ahead of government requirements for house building, so I am not sure why they are still looking to put even more on back gardens. It will change the shape of Thanet eventually.”

What utter rubbish from a member of the same government that has made it frustratingly difficult if not close to impossible for councillors like me to challenge new developments. I've written about this before and I'm sure other local councillors will contribute to the comment thread.

None of us want Thanet concreted over and we are all concerned by the number of houses and developments springing-up - many of these in people's gardens too - Thank you Labour government - But instead of wringing our collective hands and blaming the local council, we need to clearly understand why those people, your elected representatives, who are committed to making Thanet a better place for all of us, are presented with a raft of legislation by government that appears to work against the public interest in protecting the local environment.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

"we need to clearly understand why those people, your elected representatives, who are committed to making Thanet a better place for all of us, are presented with a raft of legislation by government that appears to work against the public interest in protecting the local environment."

OK. I am willing to try and understand. Tell me.

DrMoores said...

Almost the same question that David Miliband was avoiding answering on the BBC Politics show last month.

There's a great deal of hot air about placing the responsibility back with local councils but the regulations, as they stand, favour the developer and local councils, strapped for cash, can't afford to fight battles they are almost bound to lose on appeal and pay the high legal costs that go with it.

Ken Gregory said...

Ok, I will try.

Since 1995 I have been a member of the planning committee in Thanet. Starting as a novice, I believed that our committee had real power.

Stupid me. If an application conforms with government guidelines, the committee refuses it at their,(and your) peril.

To put it in a nutshell, 'The government tells us to build more homes, we cannot reasonably refuse' If we do , then when an application goes to appeal we run the risk of having made a 'reckless' deciscion. Result costs against the local authority, (average £30K a case)This means local taxpayers foot the bill!

My view is that each application should be judged on its merits (or otherwise),but we as a local authority are being increasingly sidelined by central government.

Michael Child said...

Ken Simon nearly all of my dealings with the TDC planning department have been to do with the Pleasurama development. Now over the last few years the architect has submitted about 5 sets of plans all with considerable errors, which the planning department have approved, each set being replaced with another as I have pointed out the errors in them.

Back in March the new Architect who has taken over from the one who made all the errors told me that he had submitted a new set and had made lots of changes. So I wrote to the TDC planning department asking for a copy. When they wouldn’t send me one I phoned the Architect who told me he had been instructed not to talk to me.

I have since written on numerous occasions to TDC asking for a set of these new plans, with no result. The only conclusion that I am able to draw from this is that TDC’s planning department are colluding with the developers to conceal plans that are bad from me and the other people in the town.

You have to appreciate that this is Ramsgate’s largest development and TDC have announced work in it is due to start imminently.

While I do appreciate that government restrictions make it difficult for the planning department to operate effectively, the message I receive and I suspect many others too is that TDC in on the side of the big developers to the detriment of the rest of us.

Cllr David Green said...

Housing Completions in Thanet for the last 5 years are rising from 367 per year in 01/02 to 651 in 06/07.
Completions for the last ten years:-

95/96 234
96/97 244
97/98 366
98/99 268
99/00 286
00/01 297
01/02 367
02/03 334
03/04 416
04/05 441
05/06 494
06/07 651

The South East Plan proposed 28,900 new homes per annum across the South east to 2026. Thanet’s share was to be 325 per year for 20 years or 6500 (So our current build rate is well above that proposed by SEEDA, and has been for some time).

This (28,900) will not satisfy Government who wish to meet the growing aspirations for housing in the South East. A consultants report came back with three alternatives scenarios of 33,000, 37,000 and 46,000 per annum
The Examination in Public has just ended. The inspectors reported recommendation of 32,000 between 2006 and 2026 means 7500 for Thanet averaging 375 per year.

Over the ten year period 2001- 2011 the Thanet Local Plan makes provision for 4,200 new homes; that is 420 per year.

This figure is higher than SE Plan requirements (either original, or the inspector’s revised recommendations), so for Thanet at least, it is not Government Policy that is driving house building numbers. It reflects much more over optimistic local assumptions about anticipated economic growth through the airport and business parks. Here in Thanet we should also never lose sight of the now 4500 family units on our housing waiting lists and the stress and strain that this causes, particularly on children. It is questionable though whether the right type of property is being built to meet these needs, or whether TDC is allowing developer’s profits to be over dominant.

The last three years figures for housing completions indicate that completions are running well beyond even local plan assumptions and are increasing. This is without any impact yet from major developments at Westwood, Sea Bathing, The Lido, Pleasurama or Thanet College, which together will provide around 2000 units alone. Added to those already built (2783), this already exceeds the Local Plan (2001-2011) target.
This all means that despite what they tell you Simon, there is no overall pressure from National and Regional policy for Thanet to accept unsuitable building.
Of course the assumption in England has always been that a land owner can build what they like on their land unless there is good reason to refuse. Good reason in this case means does not comply with the Local Development Plan (Now called the Local Development Framework). It is only the complacency of your group on TDC that stops suitable local planning changes being introduced.

Anonymous said...

I went along, some years ago, to be filmed by Christine Tingue and Co who had claimed to be making a film about Thanet's decline.

I spoke about policing. The failure of Thanet Police in public order and licensed premises policing. How, eventually, Ramsgate Mayor L Richard Taylor obtained a report from a bouncer, had it formally typed and presented to Home Secretary via Jonathan Aitken MP.

I wanted to speak about the Panorama programme of 1975/6 which featured a character Edwin Baars. Mr Baars had been discharged from a mental hospital (I think Buckinghamshire) with a hospital social worker letter "This man is truly in need of sympathetic help and guidance". With the simpering letter he was given a single rail ticket to Margate where he arrived homeless.

Eventually Baars (and how many others) would find themselves homed in one of the area's ex boarding houses which had changed use to Care Home under Section 37 of the National Assistance Act 1937
After the Panorama programme I was interviewed as a DHSS benefits clerk at Broadstairs and accused of being Panorama's source. In fact Charges under the Official Secrets Act were mentioned.

Note: Under the Act it was a duty of DHSS visiting officers to use channels to report poor care standards, suspicions or poor accommodation etc, for expert inquiry, via DHSS Regional Office. In spite of things like a care home resident in Margate dying one week after a benefits VO report was all OK (As I understand it she allegedly died malnourised amongst her own urine and excrement) there appeared to have NEVER been a case of a Thanet DHSS visiting officer actually reporting poor care. Typically Thanet (Pay me to do a job but can I avoid the challenging bits)

So two factors. Police and dumping of vulnerable on the area. The failure of police to police public order at night. The threat by police to oppose licence renewal of clubs who called them for assistance. hence responsible clubs appeared statistically bad and irresponsible clubs (who never sought to uphold order in their areas) appeared as good.

The report submitted by Ramsgate Mayor led to todays licensing schemes for bouncers. But the orignal intent was to licence Thanet bouncers so as to create a vehicle to prevent the area's corrupt police methods.

At the time of the Official Secrets Act threats the Princiuple Civil servant, Fred King, told me that the duty of a civil servant is to protect the ministers tail. Then he told me that NO Section 37 Care Home in Thanet actually got all it was entitled to from Supplementary Benefits. Hence on the one hand the care homes appear to have been rendered less viable by being underpaid and on the other the VOs could be relied on not to raise inquiry about possibly consequent p-ss poor care standards.

Since licensed trade, in a seaside resort, and change of use to care home in some boarding houses are both legitimate economic activity in Thanet then it seems entirely reasonable to cite (in the matter of decline) that public authorities (police and DHSS) were involved in undermining legitimate business.

I would not mind meeting an argument that I am mistaken. Because the argument can be weighed.

But what happened was that the film makers wanted to lead. Don't worry about yer own opinions what do you know, especially as a former bouncer, about Frank Thorley and Jimmy Godden. Well I knew nothing.

There was a lady councillor who had sidled up and she eavesdropped what I was saying to camera. I wandered back and heard her objecting to the film makers if they considered including that contribution critical of public authority.

There is editing and editing Simon.

But no one should be making threatening phone calls. The film makers do what they do. It is their camera.

Let free speech flow.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Cllr Green for digging out home completions! As many have suspected in the past few years, home building in and aroud Thanet has more than kept pace with the impositions of Central Government. That said, these impositions remove the power from Local Authorities as Cllr Moores so rightly points out through the threat of litigation. I do however think that all the time you are not prepared to take on developers through fear of the cost to the tax-payer, as an authority, you will be seen to have no teeth and be a 'walk-over'. I would like to see TDC take on some developers more rigorously to establish the precedent that they are not the 'walk-over' they seem. It would be £30,000 of tax-payers money well spent!
I had an issue some time ago over the expansion of a well known Westgate and Birchington caravan site that continues to be the most visible blot on Thanet's rural landscape and what amazed me at the planning meeting that I attended was the way, a huge expansion, despite failure to comply with screening requirements from the previous expansion, was approved and yet a modest 2 caravan expansion on another site was not allowed despite excellent screening and no impact on the area. Such perversity in the planning process is truly amazing and perhaps enforcement is the issue that needs attention.?

Cllr David Green said...

I think you may be confusing the perversity of some individual planning application decisions, which I've experienced myself, with the planning policy process.
Local Planning Policy can override Regional or even National Policy, if its well evidenced. An example is the local policy on one bedroom flats in Cliftonville. The local policy can then be used to turn down individual inapropriate applications. For example, we could remove the permitted development "right" of developers to demolish buildings in the conservation area. This would give much more control over preserving the character of many important areas.

DrMoores said...

Quite correct David and you know quite well the efforts that have been made in Cliftonville in respect of local policy. You also know the nature of the ODPM straightjacket and may have indeed watched young Miliband squirming under interrogation on TV as I did about the complete mess that government has caused!

Michael Child said...

Simon I noticed you didn’t reply to my comment, but I have an idea and have and put things in aviation terms, you have now been transported to live in Biggleswade this is not so bad as it seems with the Old Walden Air Museum just down the road however at Cardington someone is building the R101 would you comment.

Anonymous said...

Think the medication has worn off. Don't any of you have lives!
No wonder nobody read Greens blog and it died. Now he puts his waffle on this site for a bit of ego and to bore us to death too.
Is there no escape from the anoraks!

Cllr David Green said...

Shows a certain lack of bottle to switch to anon posting when being unpleasant?

Anonymous said...

Oh pleeeease don't mention bottle darling. Your dear leader gets so upset his knuckles go white and his gleaming teeth clench in a grimace.
What I said isn't unpleasant, its true. Your blog is no more. It is an ex-blog, it has ceased to be, it has joined the choir invisible and cannot even be nailed to its perch!
Why not try to develop a sense of humour about things. I haven't switched to anon. I always use anon so when I meet you you don't know its me and spoil the Ramsgate fun!!!!!
I didn't call you an anorak. But if you feel like one thats not really my fault is it? After all, if the cap, or should I say anorak fits..........

DrMoores said...

Sorry Michael, the Blog has been quite busy today with comments and I'm inclined to dip in and out as I have other things to do. I should have had an aircraft over the Everton game this afternoon and another promoting the 'Big Fight' on Sky but the weather had other ideas!

We've dealt with your Pleasurama concerns on many occasions here and I have even raised them on one occasion for you directly with Sandy E and Brian W.

I hear what you are saying but I'm a back-bencher, Ramsgate isn't in my "patch" and I prefer not to get involved, if you don't mind, beyond providing a suitable forum here for further debate.

David, given my history, I can't think of anyone I know who might accuse me, to my face, of a "lack of bottle." I don't have to or indeed feel the need to post anonymously.

Fortunately, the comments directed at you here are rather kinder than those that one might find directed at me and others on local weblogs by fictional characters, which you visibly endorse on your own now defunct weblog.

Rumour has it that party central or even Dr Ladyman has instructed you to stop posting, because its pink tint and poor spelling shows Thanet Labour at its finest. Is that correct or did you simply become bored with the whole exercise?

Michael Child said...

Thanks Simon I don’t think Sandy’s or Brian’s comments ever got to me, perhaps you would be kind enough to pass them on, you know how inept I am with the whole internet thing.

I had a long and detailed discussion with the environment agency last week, they have at last received the approved plans for the Pleasurama development so they can comment on it officially.

Imagine plans for a cuboid, all of its sides are rectangles, all of the sides are at right-angles to the next side. There are four drawings one of each side, the front is 16.25 meters high, the back is 16.5 meters high, and the sides are 17.5 meters high. There are also two drawings of cross sections, one shows it as being 17.5 meters high the other as it being 16.25 meters high.

This is what the approved plans for the Pleasurama development show, and it is using this information that the environment agency have to calculate where the ground floor level is relative to the flood line.

Based on this information they are supposed to comment on a building where if a mistake is made 1,500 people will be trapped inside between the cliff and the sea while the wave action causes it to collapse.

Simon would you like me to post you these plans,they are quite interesting having peoples heads And vehicles embedded in the concrete ceiling , only 48 peop[le were killed in the R101 incident here we ae talking about 30 times that amount

You must bewrong about the spelling see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/schools/id3.htm it’s Steve not david who cant

Anonymous said...

Isn't this site fun. First we had Bottle Brown and now we have a Green Bottle! Thanks for the idea Councillor! !Ha Ha Ha!
Who needs TV with this kind of advanced debate to entertain us. Never knew politics could be such fun.
Ten green bottles hanging on the wall, ten green bottles hanging on the wall..........!
A catchy new theme song for the good Councillor. We'll all sing it to him next time we meet.

Rick Card said...

Simon

I think you should moderate for ad hominem fallacy. Playing the man not the ball.

Interesting that anon uses a comfort plural "We'll all sing it to him next time we meet".

A Freudian slip revealing that anon does not, in reality, have the bottle to stand alone.

Michael Child said...

Anonymous both David and Simon are doing their best, comment under their own names like me they probably know no other way, I just hope we never all meet at a public enquiry well at least you will be well out of it, funny? Sorry we olds look at our towns and at least try

DrMoores said...

10:04, you are treading a thin line in regard to breaking the acceptable use rules, so lay off the personal comments please.

Richard Card, (AKA Irritating Bloke) my weblog is not the place for you repetitive, over-long and confused ramblings over Special Branch, the IRA and Maggie Thatcher. I have deleted two of your comments - I have warned you about this in the past - so either keep to the point or I will ban you from making "Any" contribution to the Blog.

Anonymous said...

AHEM.
Just to get back on topic for a mo, (I know your personal squabbles are much more important than the concreting of Thanet)
If there is a strong feeling in TDC planning that the Govt is riding rough shod over their authority, why not try to enlist the support of the Local People? (irony intended) You might even find the developments that TDC is so helpless to stop, could be prevented! Is that why no such campaign is ever started? I don't think you would have much problem garnering support for a public campaign.
Judging by the bickering going on here though, none of you have time for such trivialities.
Is that the sound of concrete mixers I hear above your din?

Michael Child said...

I have had a long look at all the comments, one thing that stands out is no one seems to want over intensive housing and nothing much else in out Thanet towns.

Now despite the obvious and probably necessary political jousting which the more severe it gets the more one is inclined to think the perpetrators are more trying to blind themselves to the shortcomings of their own parties, that they themselves are only too painfully aware of, than anything else.

I wondered from David’s 6.02 post if this means that the council could if it wanted to designate areas of the town centers where shops had to remain shops. If so this would have the affect of stabilising shop rents and rates at a level that was related to what businesses could afford. Our towns without shops would be a bit grim and at the moment we seem to be going that way. If any of you don’t understand what I mean by this I have detailed my own shops position in this respect at http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2007/11/endangered-species.html this isn’t a problem unique to Thanet last year we had 3 secondhand bookshops in the family now mine is the only one left. You could argue that they are something benificail to both the cultural and physical environment.

Now with the Pleasurama building the whole planning process went wrong, the architect designed a building that just didn’t fit in the space available, and because no one in the planning department or the cabinet had the nerve to tell him to design a building that fitted between the flood line and the top of the cliff we in Ramsgate have suffered for years of having our main leisure area a deserted building site.

What happened instead was the architect was given a remit to fit a 4 story building in a space only big enough for a 3 story building, clearly impossible. Simple things just don’t work, for instance under the flats is a car park but the ceiling has been lowered so far that if a car catches fire it’s too low to get a fire engine in to put the fire out.

At the residents meeting about the development the planning officers and developer admitted that the ground floor of the building would flood, but treated this problem as one would in the case of a river flooding, completely unable to make the further step that the sea sometimes has great big waves.

On top of all this every few months cabinet members and the developers announce that work on the building is going to start, or in one case arming themselves with spades and going down there and digging a hole in the pretence that work had in fact started.

Now the start date for repairs to the dangerous cliff is January 7th next year and it will be about a year before it is safe to start building work, so what is going on chaps?

So surely there must be some sort of legislation or rules in the book to deal with this sort of situation, I have likened this to the case of the R101 airship because the government organization that built it was forced into a predicament by politicians of having to fly to India in an airship that they new was not safe and badly deigned, that hadn’t even had a bad weather test flight, nearly all of the important people who could have stopped this from happening including the MP, had they had the nerve, burnt to death in the resulting accident.

Michael Child said...

At this point in time I would like to thank all of the planning officers and cabinet members who came and refuted what I had said, it’s always nice to know that everything is really all right.

Anonymous said...

Wow! This guy Richard Card cannot keep the IRA out of anything! I thought that I had a bee in the bonnet about some issues but this makes them pale into insignificance!

DrMoores said...

OK Richard.. As you are unable to keep your obsessive - compulsive fixation with Harold Wilson, Maggie Thatcher and the IRA to youself you are banned from making any further comments on his weblog.

I'm not providing a soap box service for people like yourself. If you have a personal war to wage on the authorities and the history of the 1970's, start your own weblog but kindly do not use mine for your wild allegations.

Any further comments you care to make will be deleted, so don't please don't bother to respond!

Anonymous said...

Having just returned from a week away, I find this thread interesting.

Dealing with Cllr Green’s “housing” completion figures, these are irrelevant.

They are irrelevant for two reasons.

The first is that developers and speculators build housing, the Council doesn’t. The motivation is profit. There’s nothing wrong with that. Profits provide jobs, and development, and, providing the development is balanced, that should be a good thing. After a decade of a booming property market, it would be a surprise if there were not a high rate of housing completions. The same thing happened in the late 80s before the 1990-1994 property crash. It’s telling that Cllr Green’s figures start from 1995, at a time when you could not give property away.

The second reason is that the majority of those “housing” completions are, in fact, flats. There is a glut of them. I’ve been watching the number of unsold flats in Thanet climb rapidly, from around 500 in May to around 800 now. So much for a housing shortage. Well over one third of all the properties for sale in the area are flats. There are several complete unsold blocks for sale to any lucky individual who thinks they can make money on them. We have a glut of the things. Two controversial applications in my own Ward I’ve had to fight off were for the demolition of fine old houses to be replaced by (guess what) blacks of flats. Between them, had they succeeded, 28 flats would have replaced two houses. It’s hardly a surprise the numbers look high, but, as with everything with this absurd and wretched government, tractor factory production numbers tell you nothing about quality. At the first planning meeting, my case was the ninth up; seven out of the preceding eight were for flats.

It’s no good arguing that local planning policy can over-ride central government dictat. It simply can’t. Cliftonville West is a highly unusual area, and it is only in such cases that a local policy can be enforced. There are also numerous problems in forming policy, which does not catch unintended targets, such as sheltered or retirement accommodation.

Like Simon and Ken, I have been dismayed by how little control a District Council has in planning. The system is based on a permissive assumption. If you cannot find a sound reason in planning law and guidance to decline, you must approve. I liken it to a slightly loose-fitting straitjacket. We need reform. A higher hurdle for Appeals, and stronger protection for garden space (which currently has no more protection than a disused gasworks – don’t please tell me about invasion of green space – it’s a weak argument in live cases). We need proper, segregated counting of completions in different sectors that we can cite locally.

All the time Westminster is controlled by intellectually challenged target freaks, that’s simply not going to happen.

Cllr. Ewen Cameron

Anonymous said...

Cllr Cameron, is there a way surplus flats that are on the market un-sold can be purchased by TDC to remove people off the 'housing list'. I know some people who would regard a small flat of their own as a huge improvement on sharing, with wife and child, their parents home!

Anonymous said...

It's a nice idea in some ways, 2:23, but the Council has neither the powers nor the finance to buy property for people on the housing list (let's ignore the monthly applicants from outside the area who join this list).

If the Council did have these powers, and the finance, I suspect it would achieve more by building housing than by buying it - particularly after a decade-long boom in property prices, which has seen the price of the average house/flat multiply three-fold or more. The market itself looks like it's set to cure at least part of this, but's that's an argument for a whole other day.

Ewen Cameron (off to fight a newly appealed demolish-and-build planning app in my Ward for - "a block of flats")

Anonymous said...

Ironic then that conservative councillor can use this to their advantage and suddenly get planning permission after many years of trying by getting elected and onto the planning committee. This on a tiny piece of land that is everyone elses backgarden.