Friday, April 05, 2013

Localism at its Finest

Lisa Wickins and her dog Paxton

The public gathering this morning to object to plans to build a Tesco Express in Westgate-on-Sea, was both remarkable and impressive, given the awful weather and the early hour.

I hadn't expected so many people to arrive and to receive a new petition and letters to deliver to Thanet Council, representing the views of 1,900 residents, who are strongly opposed to the application.

The fact that even the elderly and the infirm was prepared to support the protest, expresses the degree of sentiment, felt by many people in Westgate, that allowing the building of a new store of this size, would set an unacceptable precedent for a town and a community which values its unique Victorian character and history.

The Weather isn't Stopping Me!
Members of the council's planning committee arrived just after 9am for the official site visit and by 09:20, the crowds were overflowing on to road outside Beano's cafe.

While the Kent Highways officer still maintains that the both Station Road and the plans for the building are quite acceptable in his view, we were all treated to a rather different street scene, as a bus and a TDC refuse collection lorry, struggled to negotiate the busy road with its 'ample provision' for parking.

The members of the Planning Committee, heard several speeches from the public and I added a few words of my own (see video). I did sense some degree of sympathy towards the Westgate residents but to reject the application, they need to identify a solid reason to refuse Tesco, within the planning legislation and our local plan. So it's now very much a matter of 'wait and see' what they come-up with on Wednesday 17th April, when a decision will be made.

Ample Parking Provided!
One interesting new objection voiced this morning by a railway worker, was that permission was previously refused  to develop on the site because of 'freshwater wells' that lie beneath it. I haven't heard of this before and so it's a new angle to explore.

I was very pleased to see the planning committee take its time to explore the site and hear a briefing from the council's planning officer, Luke Blaskett, on what the final building might look like.

Local trader, Reg Bell, pointed-out that if the plans were accurate, then a lorry parked hard-up against the Tesco loading bay, would knock-off the canopy in the plans. It was then revealed that Tesco's sympathetic reflection of the town's Victorian canopies, was actually a tiny facsimile of about a metre wide and not quite the grand vision of a conservation-friendly building they had been selling the public.

We have a Plan
So where are we now?

Beyond looking for any and every reason to object, which hasn't yet been explored, the final decision on whether we will welcome a Tesco Express to Westgate-on-Sea, rests in the hands of the planning committee.

I believe, as do many others, that we have a strong case for refusal built on real concerns surrounding heritage and conservation issues.

When I addressed the members of the planning committee this morning, I remarked once again that Westgate enjoys a unique heritage and history, which should not be trampled upon for the purposes of development when I believe need for such cultural vandalism cannot be shown to exist.

Cllr Jack Cohen - Chair of the Planning Committee
If a well-documented heritage conservation area and the visible strength of local opinion means anything to our council, then under our local plan, there should be sufficient reason to object to Tesco's efforts, as has been done successfully in so many other towns and villages throughout the country.

Without a doubt, Westgate needs a thriving local economy and new businesses but that should not come at the expense of its unique heritage and against the polarised views of a local community, who this morning, were prepared to brave the wind and the cold to make their opposition unequivocally clear.

The Planning Committee Meets


Anonymous said...

NIMBYism at its worst!

Paul James said...

From what you have reported Simon, you and the other objectors have done all you could. True democracy in action. I applaud you all.

Anonymous said...

Ok Anon of 11:38, let's build it in your back yard then, but you probably don't have one.

Anonymous said...

If this is your backyard 12:45 then I'm assuming that you live on a bench on Westgate station.

Anonymous said...

11:38.. No, NIMBYism is when you don't want jumbos flying 300 foot over your head throughout the night.. Stopping Tesco spoiling the look of your high street is localism. Apparently.

Anonymous said...

Surely NIMBYism at its best.

Alyson White said...

This isn't NIMBYism - it's defending where you live for the whole area not just Westgate. A message has to be sent to the likes of Tescos that they can't just ride roughshot over the local people.
As you haven't mentioned it - my thanks go to Cllr Bruce for addressing the crowd and explaining the planning rules for site meetings. It was useful to have the information and support from someone of his standing.

Anonymous said...

No doubt I will be corrected if I am wrong but surely it is not the likes of Tesco riding roughshod over local people, but the planning laws that allow this sort of thing to happen. If they were to ride roughshod then the bulldozers would be at work wherever they fancied building a store.

Anonymous said...

I could not get down Station Road this morning due to a delivery to Edwards Newsagents by a lorry.

Lets have Edwards shut down now.

Lets have traffic wardens in Westgate to stop all day parking by shop workers.

1 o'clock Rob said...

To all those who want to have a Tesco Metro in Station road...


Anonymous said...

I don't know about the others Rob, but I was shopping in Margate because Westgate is currently too expensive!

Anonymous said...

1 o'clock Rob,

I am happy to let the elected councilors deal with the application, I don't feel the need to try to shout loudest, will be happily shopping in the Tesco's when/if it's built, as like anon 7:44 I can't currently afford to shop in Westgate.

This whole campaign is Nimbyism at it's very worst. It seems that nobody anywhere wants a Tesco's, funny how 1 in 7 people shop there, wonder where they live..

1 o'clock Rob said...

Tesco Metro will do nothing to bring down the cost of shopping in Westgate though... just look at the price, and lack of choice, at the Tesco in Westbrook!

It won't be long, 10-15 years, and we'll be paying even more for the privilege of localised shopping as we'll be doing everything else online and having it delivered! In 30 years time even the out of town shopping mall extravaganzas will be gone.

Anonymous said...

"Price and lack of choice" in Westbrook? I suggest you have a good look in all the other Westbrook shops, where it's impossible to even buy fresh fruit and veg (at any price). But as someone else has pointed out, if nearly all the residents of Westgate are truly against this, then if / when it opens they'll carry on shopping in Co-Op and Edwards and Tesco will fail...

Anonymous said...

Take this how you will Simon. You were cut off in mid flow when your allotted time was up in the debate. I don't know if anyone else was allowed to speak beyond their allotted time. However, the chairman must be impartial, and as such must avoid being seen to give an unfair advantage. Therefore he may already have made his mind up in favour of a no build.

Fed up said...

Interesting that when you look at the planning history of
This site that the application for office use was withdrawn in 2008, due to a councillor only willing to support retail use!

Anonymous said...

Simon, hasn't retail use already been agreed?
If so then your fighting the name above the door not
The retail use.

Simon Moores said...

Tesco is simply incidental.. almost invisible as you are correct that retail use has been agreed. However, economic impact has to be taken into account by a single large retail store and not four small shop units as originally granted

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this Simon, but is "economic impact" a planning
Issue? Wouldn't it be more of an impact having four
Specialist shops there that would directly impact
Existing businesses? I've also heard a pound shop is interested if T pull out.

Simon Moores said...

The economic impact on the surrounding economy is a point for consideration within the local plan

Anonymous said...

I really love the picture of Jack Cohen with WWRA Tom King showing his friendly face to everyone.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comment on re Tesco in Westgate

Simon Moores said...

Yes do have a look for the most unusual attempt at malice and muck-spreading from an obsessive with an unusual personal agenda.

"Cllr Moores" (That's me) was 'Never' a member of the planning committee. In fact the deceased Cllr Goodwin was and Cllr King of Westgate is. End of malicious rumour spreading I think "Diane" don't you?

Quote what it has to do with a single 1000m2 retail outlet in Station Road from a change of use, is hard to fathom but never let the truth get in the way of a good story!