I'm finding that as the TDC Cabinet Member for Planning, I'm frequently the last person, if at all, that any member of the public, opposition councillors or indeed the media, asks when it comes to finding an authoritative response on an issue; even though readers will know, I'm easy to contact and quick to share information where I can. Last month's Montefiore tennis courts debacle in council was an example of what happens when the facts are ignored and an already resolved issue finds a new life of its own as a convenient political football.
Another example was the artistic photograph of a Ramsgate hairdresser's wife displayed on the wall of the building in the town's conservation area. The headlines scream: "Council Loses Battle" but the reality is somewhat different. One can't put-up a large advertising poster on a building in a conservation area without planning permission. It's like putting-up fly-posters! Without approval, you can be prosecuted. Fill-in the appropriate application form, as I said in a BBC news interview in the summer and your request will be properly considered. So when finally these forms were duly completed and submitted, the application was granted. End of story. No lost battle on my part but hey, didn't it look good in newspapers! And did anyone bother to ask? Of course not because then, it wouldn't have been a good story!
This evening, I would like to set the record straight with the correct position relating to development at Margate Football Club’s Hartsdown site.
There have recent been reports in the press that may have given residents the wrong impression and I think it’s important to make it clear exactly what’s happening.
The situation today is that planning permission still exists. Some parts of the application has been built or developed, namely the five-a-side pitches, and should the football club wish to build the rest of what was approved, they would be perfectly within their rights to do so as long as this remains within the permissions already granted.
If they wish to make material changes to the application that was approved, then they would need to submit an amended application. It’s something that frequently happens and every time it does, the council then asks for the public’s views, before making a decision. That would happen here as well. No planning application would be decided, without first giving people the opportunity to comment.
If the club required more land for the project, then the council, as the landowner of Hartsdown Park, would also need to give consent to the leasing of the land. With a major investment into Hartsdown Leisure Centre in the last year, I think it is most unlikely that the council would give approval for park land to be used for leisure facilities. We see Hartsdown Leisure Centre as the major leisure facility in that area.
The ball lies firmly with the football club. The decision is a simple one. They can build what’s already been agreed, or if they wish to change it, they can apply to the council. I want to make it abundantly clear, that if this is the case, local people will have their opportunity to have their say on the matter and we will of course be taking their views into account in any decision we make on the park’s future.