Thanet is a step closer to having a Local Plan.
After months of political posturing and squabbling, including the rejection of an earlier version, district councillors voted on Thursday evening (July 19) to recommend the draft Plan go to public consultation.
The full council’s backing, by 31 votes to 21, of ‘Option 2’ for the Plan represents a decision, certainly, but a large degree of uncertainty still clouds the way forward.
After the public consultation, the Plan will go back to the council, which will decide on any amendments before submitting it to an inspector for the Examination in Public.
A main sticking point had been the status of the Manston airport site, but last night’s decision, which went against the recommendation of officers, sees it retained for aviation use, at least in the short term.
That means the 2,500 homes that had been earmarked for Manston in the earlier – and subsequently rejected – draft Plan will now be redistributed elsewhere across the isle:
Westgate-on-Sea (1,000 homes)
Tothill Street, Minster (100)
The total housing target is 17,140 new homes up to 2031.
The decision to recommend the Plan comes against the backdrop of potential airport operator RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) having submitted a revised application for a Development Consent Order (DCO), which could force site owner Stone Hill Park Ltd to surrender it if it is classified a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).
As for Stone Hill Park, the company has lodged a planning application for a mixed-use project at Manston that includes 3,700 new homes.
Further, the council’s Local Plan process is ‘in intervention’, with the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government having stepped in to ensure the local authority finally delivers its Local Plan. It is unclear to what extent the ministry drove the latest proposals, or indeed to what degree it will be involved from here.
There were two amendments to the draft, resulting from the earlier meeting of the executive, policy and community safety scrutiny panel:
- The 2,500 homes reallocated from Manton would be phased towards the second half of the Plan period, which ends in 2031.
- The status of the Manston site would be reviewed after a minimum of two years if a DCO or compulsory purchase of the land had not been agreed by that date.
What are we to make of it all?
Geoff Orton, secretary of Thanet CPRE, said: “It’s common sense that you can’t develop a coherent Local Plan for Thanet without the future of Manston having been decided, so we can only wait on that one.
“The county council document Growth without Gridlock puts emphasis on Manston as the economic driver for east Kent, so it is difficult to see how the employment needs of Thanet and beyond will be met without the airport, especially considering the potential arrival of thousands of new households.
“Even if we do get an airport and it produces 10,000 jobs, they are unlikely to offset the job losses predicted to be caused by technological change – a possible 15,000 in Thanet.
“As for the housing, what developer is going to invest in houses that won’t get sold? And who are those houses targeted for anyway?”
The public consultation is due to run from Thursday, August 23, to Thursday, October 4. Any comments must be submitted during that period as earlier submissions will not be considered.
These, together with the (possibly amended) draft Plan will then go to the inspector for the Examination in Public, with public hearings expected to start in February next year.
Friday, July 7, 2018