Friday, January 07, 2011

A Game of Two Halves

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.

Firstly, I have to go back to 2006. That’s when the club received planning permission for a development that included a football stadium, 80-bed hotel, children’s play area, fitness club, theme bar, conference and banqueting suites, along with 10 five-a-sides and one full-size all-weather pitch. That application and the process it went through, before being approved, received widespread publicity at the time.

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.


Tony said...

I assume that planning permission has a time limit. When would it expire on this project. I seem to remember there were a considerable number of objections to the 2006 application but it was still approved.

DrM. said...

I can't immediately recall the date without asking for it but it's not so far off in the future I believe!

Marty said...

I wondered what had happened to the ideas that were proposed those few years ago. It'll be interesting to see what occurs in time.

Anonymous said...

Once again we are glad to have a reasoned voice in this council, it's just a shame that at the present time there only appears to be you and a couple of others who are seemingly not "for sale".

The Hartsdown Park issue could become one of this Islands biggest hot potatoes, it smacks right in the face of corruption and morality.The people of Margate DO NOT WANT THIS TO PROCEED, the pettition submitted to council is merely the beginning of the backlash that has been gaining strength since the planning was agreed last year.
We already have the 5 a side pitches sitting empty 99% of the time, do you really think that anyone is going to want to pay for something that they can get for free??
I hope that you can use your influence to bring this issue to a conclusion which protects this amazing parkland area for the people of Margate, exactly the way it was gifted in the first place.

DrM. said...

Thank you for your confidence but I resent the implication that any of my colleagues "Are for Sale"

In fact, I couldn't think of circumstances where it might even be possible for any one of us to influence process in that reflects self interest and potential reward. The prison sentence alone should be enough of a deterrent to any person that might try!

I will of course work to ensure that everything is done properly and transparently and I have every faith in my colleagues to do the same

DrM. said...

Once again the rumour mill is running on overdrive with none of those exchanging emails that I have seen on the subject, actually having spoken with me.

Firstly, if what I have written is not clear, then please do ask me (email or phone) directly rather than ask third-parties who are not in possession of all the facts.

Secondly, I would like to repeat that the watchword is 'public consultation'. Hartsdown Park is not suddenly going to disappear or be removed from public access and a planning application is simply that and needs to complete several important steps before it becomes concrete, figuratively or literally!