Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's Wednesday

Tonight's the night when Margate Football Club will present their revised plans for a hotel and stadium at the Westgate Pavillion at 8pm. There will, I'm sure, be an opposing group of residents, who may wish to express their views and concerns, following the petition against further development on Hartsdown Park, recently submitted to Thanet council.

I will be there in no other capacity but to listen to the debate and answer any questions where I might have useful answers. This is of course, a planning matter and subject to council officers advice and the decisions of the council's Planning Committee. Over the last week, I've heard and read a number of contradictory stories and from what I gather, confusion appears to exist over what was permissible at the time the club's application was granted in 2006 and what exists today. This is very much focused on the long lease the football club requires for the park as the rules on public consultation  have changed and the council's position is that:

- A new lease is required before anything can be built on the site
- Even the existing planning permission requires a new lease
- The artificial pitch granted in 2010 needs a lease
- The lease is subject to public consultation; residents will have their say

Whether the revised or amended application for the hotel is bigger, smaller or even a different shape is clearly a planning issue but it's the public consultation that remains pivotal. Before last year it wasn't an issue but now the council is actively consulting with residents over developments and considers long leases of 25 years or more as equivalent to an asset disposal process, the goalposts have moved, if you'll forgive the pun and local residents will be pleased to hear that they have their say and can influence the future of the park.

Contrary to what some readers have suggested, I have absolutely no issues with the Football Club or indeed any antipathy towards sport at all. Dig-up some very old copies of the Thanet Gazette and you'll find me in the sports pages as a much younger man. It's the process which remains the subject of debate and the fact that local planning rules may have overtaken the original 2006 application, as encouraged by public opinion and concerned residents, the council is now consulting much more closely than it ever did in the past.

Meanwhile, you may have seen the council press release on Houses of Multiple Occupation, HMO's. With my Cabinet colleagues, I'm working hard to address a number of problems that have been dropped on us, here in Thanet over the last ten years or so by central government policies and this is one of them.


Tony2 said...

Whatever the outcome I hope that it does not mean a loss of valuable open space. Thanet has less than half that recommended by English Nature. Concreting over our Island deprives communities in terms of health and wellbeing. Planning Departments need to be more sensitive to these issues.

DrM. said...


The point is that without public approval and council planning approval in combination, no development can proceed!

Anonymous said...

And what happens if the football club's petition attracts substantially more names than the original petition? (As I am told is the case).

DrM. said...

First off, they aren't all local residents and as such, I understand, are not party to the surrounding consultation process of those immediately impacted by any planning decisions

Secondly, as far as I can see they have 189 signatories but don't appear used the proper process which now exists for an e-petition so they will have to submit a written version instead.

Thirdly, I'm very happy to attract as many diverse opinions on the subject as possible.

Anonymous said...

But several paper petitions do exist which are signed by Thanet residents.

What exactly is the area defined as 'imediatley impacted'. 1 mile 2 miles or 10 miles as this also impacts on the original petition which as I understand has been signed by people who do not live in Margate.

DrM. said...

This would be something that Democratic Services would probably determine by postcode or proximity or as in the past, those who have previously expressed a view. I have no idea, its an opinion but does not detract in any way in my own mind from the much broader principle of consultation.

Anonymous said...

So it does not matter where you live as long as you have previously expressed a view even if they live in Margate Florida.

DrM. said...

Please don't waste my time being obtuse!

DrM. said...

I'm told that the council contacts residents whose boundaries adjoin the area concerned but can widen that at their discretion.

Everyone can be invited to have a view where public consultation is involved and notices would be placed in the press, outside the football club, on the web etc encouraging the widest possible comment.

DonW said...

As a Thanet resident over five decades I truly love the natural environment that we enjoy here. I also find myself depressed by the poor state of our local economy. It does surprise me that our local council does not therefore do all it can to support projects that can bring a degree of prosperity to our local economy, rather than look to apply the letter of the law to put obstacles in the way. OK, there are some changes to the plans approved in 2006, hardly surprising given the global economic collapse that has occured in the intervening period. Perhaps more surprising is the fact that there was actually investment available at all to move this forward. As others have mentioned what would be great would be to see TDC working together with Margate FC to rapidly move this forward any retain the investment available - rather than let an opportunity slip away. I know we will soon enjoy the benefits of the Turner Centre but surely Thanet should also be looking to support smaller scale investments in the area as well. Maybe I'm being naive but wouldn't it be great to see a council that actively looked to assist inward investment opportunities.

DrM. said...

Interesting point!

The council does everything it can to support inward investment when supported by sound, viable financial and business plans.

The council is also listening to residents and allowing the people, through consultation to decide the fate of a publicly owned asset. That's called democracy strangely enough and you should be delighted that we have a process in place to support it!

Michael Child said...

Simon I don’t quite follow this business of proximity, something that follows if the person next door to you wants to build an extension, I know common sense isn’t the prerogative of government but surely when it comes to public parks, football clubs, public buildings then any consultation must apply to the people who use them.

After all if you live in a flat with no garden and children a short walk from the park, you are going to need to use it much more than someone living in a house with a large garden next door to the park.

I speak as someone with children, living in a flat, with my children’s favourite park about a mile away.

Anonymous said...

its not a democracy.......its a vendetta

DrM. said...


Consultation is just that. All views are taken into account with proper weighting to immediate neighbours directly impacted by any proposal or decision!

Anonymous said...

"Consultation is just that. All views are taken into account"
But, of course, only if they are aligned with those of the council!

Anonymous said...

After what was a strange and sometimes frustrating night of debate i just wanted to say thanks for the level headed nature of the limited input you were allowed to make.
I feel the process of public consultation is now even more important to ensure that all of Margate are given the right to an informed decision on this most emotive subject.
I know that there are many people yet to have their say on this and one way or another its only right that they are heard.
As stated before, we are indeed happy that there is now a system in place that allows views to be registered and listened to, something that this Island has been without for so long due to a certain "different" way of dealing with these types of issues.
I thank you for your continued patience on this and the other matters currently "active" that are affecting Thanet.

DonW said...

Dr M,
Thank-you for taking the time to reply to my comment. You make some interesting points.

I am indeed in favour of democracy and indeed the democratic process has been served up until now with the granting of various permissions for the development at Hartsdown Park. What I am less enamoured by are the less welcome bedfellows of democracy; bureaucracy and obfuscation.

What was clear from the meeting last night was the central point as to whether the amended plans for the hotel development at Harsdown Park should be subject to amended planning review or a completely new review (I apologise if my terminology is incorrect but hopefully the meaning is clear). If full planning permission must indeed be sought then this would preclude the football club from being able to proceed as the financial implications are too severe. However, from a purely common sense perspective it is hard to see how a reduced size hotel development can require a completely new application when clearly the environmental impact can only be reduced - and indeed it has the same shaped roof.

Now, as I say that's just my "common sense perspective". Surely there is scope within TDC planning to look at it similarly. If not it strikes me as excessive bureaucracy at play, which we keep hearing is something all forms of government are striving to avoid.

DrM. said...

Don.. it's not bureaucracy and do you really imagine that for one moment I would waste my time with such!?

Anonymous said...

DonW makes an excellent point, and one that many others share. A smaller-scale hotel with a lesser impact is surely better for both the council and those local residents that show concern. The weight of public support for the plans is encouraging, and restores my faith in the Thanet public.

Andrew said...

It's vital that the "bureaucracy" is right. If it isn't and the planning process is found to have been flawed just imagine what ammunition this would give the so-called NIMBYs - not my choice of words but one that seems to be used whenever supporters of this project refer to anyone who expresses even the slightest hint of doubt.