Curiouser and curiouser… why would anyone back this Thanet Parkway plan?

Early impressions of a Thanet Parkway station

The case for a Thanet Parkway railway station near Ramsgate seems ever weaker.
Details have been published of a damning government rejection of Kent County Council’s bid to win funding for the project.
KCC had put in a planning application for a site off Hengist Way, close to the Ramsgate-Ashford railway line, with the intention that a new station would open in 2021.
The project had been costed at £11 million, but local media outlets have reported that this figure has almost doubled.
KCC’s application for an £8.7 million grant was rejected last year by the Department for Transport, but a statement secured by Broadstairs man Ian Driver might make some wonder why such a project is even being considered.
“The panel considered that the proposal was not yet developed enough to support at this time as the project was still only at the GRIP [Guide to Rail Investment Process] stage one,” says the DfT statement.
“There were also concerns that the project would require extensive infrastructure work to allow the service to operate as planned, that no funding had been identified to cover the additional cost of this extensive infrastructure work, and that the new station would have a detrimental impact on the existing timetable.”
And the positives?
In truth, none seem immediately apparent, at least as far as the DfT is concerned.
“In particular, the panel was concerned that accommodating an additional stop at Thanet Parkway would add two minutes to the journey on the line between Ashford and Ramsgate,” says the statement.
“This means that Ramsgate and Margate would benefit from net improvements of only one minute, rather than three minutes as planned in the current journey time improvement scheme.
“In addition, the panel noted that building a new station would require Network Rail to redevelop a nearby level crossing, but that there were no proposals in the business case on how to cover the costs of this.”
Despite such a crushing critique of the project, KCC reportedly still plans to push ahead with its parkway plans.
These stretch back some years. In December 2010, the county council unveiled its Growth without Gridlock strategy, leader Paul Carter saying:
“A Thanet Parkway station would support economic growth in Thanet and accelerate development of Kent International Airport at Manston, while improved line speeds between Ashford and Ramsgate would benefit all local rail users.
“With an estimated 1,000 new jobs generated per million new air passengers, these improvements would help create 6,000 jobs by 2033.”
The uncertain status of the airport – the development of which was supported financially by KCC before it changed tack and backed Stone Hill Park Ltd’s plans for 4,000 homes at Manston – together with the fact that, far from improving line speeds between Ashford and Ramsgate, a Thanet Parkway station would in fact increase them makes Cllr Carter’s trumpeting of the project seem puzzling.
And that’s before we even consider those, at best dubious, job figures…
Thanet CPRE chairman David Morrish has already given his opinion on the idea.
“We believe that a decision on the parkway station shouldn’t be made until the situation at the Manston airport site is clarified. It was, after all, initially proposed that a parkway station would serve an expanded airport.
“There are widespread fears that it would result in the closing of nearby Minster station, while the idea of encouraging people to travel across Thanet to a new station rather than using their existing stations of Ramsgate, Broadstairs and Margate – with all the issues of traffic congestion that would entail – is bizarre.
“There needs to be a full study on the impact on local transport, which is likely to suffer as a result of this, while are we sure there is enough capacity on the trains to take extra people to London, as is intended?
“Further, we thought that the protection of our farmland was moving up the agenda in the light of the great changes that lie ahead. This station would of course result in a substantial loss of high-quality farmland.”

For more on this story, see here

Friday, August 31, 2018

Manston… airport DCO will be considered

Will planes be landing at Manston again? (pic Hamza Butt)

The Manston airport site might just have a future in aviation after all.
The latest phase of this long-running saga has seen the Planning Inspectorate agree to consider the case for the airport reopening through a Development Consent Order.
This will determine whether it should be regarded as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, paving the way for the relevant Secretary of State to grant seizure of the site.
RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) proposes to establish the airport as a freight hub, but site owner Stone Hill Park Ltd has its own plans to build some 4,000 homes, business units and sporting facilities there.
RSP had to resubmit its DCO application after an earlier bid was rebuffed by the Planning Inspectorate, which wanted more details on funding.
Now the application has been accepted, there will be an inquiry.
The public and other interested parties can register with the Planning Inspectorate as an Interested Party; to do this, a written ‘relevant representation’ must be made, giving the individual’s or party’s views.
The Interested Parties will then be asked to a meeting, run and chaired by an appointed Examining Authority.
This part of the process would be expected to last some three months, after which the Planning Inspectorate has six months to carry out its examination. Interested Parties will be asked to give further written details of their views during this time, while there might be public hearings.
When all that is concluded, within the next three months the Planning Inspectorate must prepare a report and recommendation for the Secretary of State, who then himself has three months to decide on the application.
Finally, there is a six-month period when that decision can be challenged in the High Court.
Thanet CPRE has chosen not to give a view on the airport as feelings on the subject are so mixed.

For more on the tale of Manston, see here and here

For CPRE Kent’s response to RSP’s Manston Consultation last year, see here

Friday, August 31, 2018

Thanet’s draft Local Plan to go to public consultation

Yes, the question of Manston still dominates…

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)
Birchington (600)
Westwood (500)
Hartsdown (300)
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

For more, visit here, herehere and here

The debacle that is passing for planning in Thanet… the next step

Thanet… a great place to live but for how much longer?

The troubled, if not farcical, saga of the Thanet draft Local Plan is expected to make progress of a kind tonight (Wednesday, July 11, 2017) when it goes before the district council’s executive, policy and community safety scrutiny panel.
This latest stage follows last week’s adoption by the council cabinet of an option that could see the Manston airport site retained for aviation and more than 17,000 homes built on the isle by 2031.
The news came as no great surprise as the other option had been rejected by the council in January, a move that saw the UKIP administration subsequently lose control of the local authority.
That first option had allocated Manston for mixed-use development and 2,500 homes, sparking further conflict between those who wanted to see the return of an airport and those who believed commercial aviation was a not a viable concern there.
Last week’s cabinet decision, made on Monday, July 2, went against the recommendation of officers and means that the 2,500 homes that had been earmarked for the airport site in the original Plan will now be redistributed elsewhere across the isle.
As things stand, the extra homes are likely to be targeted for:
Westgate-on-Sea (1,000)
Birchington (600)
Westwood (500)
Hartsdown (300)
Tothill Street, Minster (100)

The cabinet decision will be welcomed by potential airport operator RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) as it proceeds with its application for a Development Consent Order, which could force the owner of the site, Stone Hill Park Ltd,  to surrender it if it is classified a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).
To confuse matters just a little further, Stone Hill Park has lodged a planning application for a mixed-use project at Manston that now includes 3,700 new homes.
So what happens if the DCO application fails… will the housing allocation return to Manston?
Or – and here’s where it could all get even uglier – will Manston be built upon, in addition to the alternative sites that have been put forward?
And will the final housing target end at 17,000, or will new (and widely derided) government methodology push the figure north of a frankly ridiculous 20,000?
Then, of course, there’s the little matter of central government having threatened the council with losing control over its own Local Plan if it doesn’t get it published… and soon.
Shambles? The word doesn’t come close…

For more on this story, if you can bear it, click herehere and here
Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Thanet: a draft Local Plan could soon be upon us

Manston: at the core of the Thanet debate

So, after all the political game-playing and the sometimes shambolic manner in which Thanet’s planning process has been tackled, it is believed tonight (Monday, July 2) will see the adoption of the district council’s draft Local Plan.
Members of the Thanet District Council cabinet are expected to approve the isle’s planning blueprint for the next 20 years, the most high-profile element seeing the Manston airport site retained for aviation use, which apparently necessitates a further 2,500 homes being built elsewhere on the isle rather than at Manston.
The cabinet’s recommendations will be reviewed by the executive, policy and community safety scrutiny panel before going to full council on Thursday, July 19, for a final verdict.
In January, councillors rejected the draft Local Plan put forward by the UKIP administration, which subsequently lost control of the council. The main bone of contention was a proposed change of status for Manston from aviation-only to ‘mixed use’, including 2,500 homes, while there was also concern over proposed housing numbers.
Following the rejection of that draft, Sajid Javid, then-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government – frustrated with the local authority’s “persistent failure” to produce its Plan – wrote to council leader Bob Bayford, announcing he would be sending Chief Planner Steve Quartermain to intervene.
A fresh call for housing sites was made by the district council. Now ‘in intervention’, it must publish a new Local Plan or face possible further intervention by government.
Council officers have reportedly presented two options for consideration by the cabinet: the draft that was rejected in January and another that keeps an aviation-only policy for Manston and reallocates the 2,500 homes from there elsewhere on the isle.
The local authority says this will allow an application by potential airport operator RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) for a Development Consent Order to proceed.
This was submitted in April but withdrawn the following month because of Planning Inspectorate concerns. RSP says it will be resubmitted in due course.
If the second option is accepted by cabinet, the extra homes – which are in addition to the numbers already proposed for those areas – are expected to be targeted for:
Westgate-on-Sea (1,000)
Birchington (600)
Westwood (500)
Hartsdown (300)
Tothill Street, Minster (100)

The isle already faces a target of 17,140 new homes by 2031, but revised government methodology suggests this figure could rise to 20,200.
It is a monstrous figure that would entail the loss of a vast amount of greenfield land (Thanet is already the second most urbanised district in Kent), while it is anybody’s guess what the incoming thousands will be expected to do for employment.
Perhaps best not think about it…

Monday, July 2, 2018

To read more on this lengthy tale, click here and here

Thanet and its Local Plan… where are we now?

Manston has hogged the Thanet headlines for so long… perhaps too long?

We have reported the machinations of Thanet and its Local Plan before on this website – and the tale is set to develop as district councillors prepare for the latest stage in this lengthy saga.
To remind you of the backdrop, in January Thanet district councillors voted down the draft Local Plan that had been presented to them, the future of Manston airport the most high-profile issue contained within it.
The council’s cabinet had earlier approved the draft Plan, which included an allocation of 2,500 properties at Manston; this appeared to be endorsement of site owner Stone Hill Park Ltd’s plans to build 2,500 homes (a figure that could rise to 4,000), business units and sporting facilities there.
However, January’s vote by the full council saw that draft Plan rejected.
Divisive an issue as Manston is, many saw the voting as politically motivated and indeed the leader of the council, UKIP’s Chris Wells, stepped down from his role the following month, Conservative Bob Bayford subsequently taking over as leader of a minority administration.
No sooner had this unfolded than, in March, Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government – frustrated with the local authority’s “persistent failure” to produce its Plan – wrote to Cllr Bayford, announcing he would be sending Chief Planner Steve Quartermain to the isle to intervene.
It is understood that two government planners have been left effectively in situ to ensure the Plan is finally published. In other words, the government has taken over production of the Thanet Local Plan from the district council.
This month councillors will receive a set of papers briefing them on the forthcoming adoption of the Plan, which will map out the isle’s development until 2031 and is due to be published this summer.
There is uncertainty over how matters will proceed from here and to what degree Thanet councillors will have any say in the Plan’s adoption. Indeed, how much public consultation will there be?
What we do know, in a situation that still seems very from clear, at least to the wider public, is that the council has put together three options for the Manston site in the Plan:

  • Manston is designated for aviation use, with 2,500 homes allocated for other sites in Thanet. It is understood these are Westgate (1,000 extra homes), Birchington (600), Westwood (500), Hartsdown (300) and Minster (100).
  • A  decision on Manston is deferred by the council for two years, allowing RSP, the group behind plans for a cargo hub airport, to push for a Development Consent Order, which would force Stone Hill Park to hand over the site.
  • Manston would be recognised as appropriate for aviation use, but it would not be designated as such for two years.

Quite what’s going on with the third option might not be readily apparent, but, either way, Thanet CPRE hopes to be involved in the Plan’s development:
“We are looking forward to engaging with the Chief Planner,” said chairman David Morrish. “A lack of public consultation was highlighted by the DCLG earlier this year as a failing in the Thanet process, so we hope that doesn’t repeat itself this time round.
“And with crazily high – and unsustainable – figures of some 21,000 new homes being rumoured, it’s important as many people as possible get involved.”
It is also worth recalling the earlier words of Geoff Orton, Thanet CPRE secretary, in relation to Manston airport: “What would be the point of building 21,000 homes without it. If there’s no airport, what economic future does Thanet have?”
As for those ridiculous housebuilding targets, Mr Orton said: “The official figure of 17,000 was already a hike on the previous 12,000 – now we could be looking at a figure north of 20,000. And all this without the airport?
“Further, we’ve lost the deaf school in Margate, along with two care homes – and more rumoured to be going. And with retail becoming more automated, what are Thanet’s young people going to do for work?”

For more on this saga, see here

For more on the Manston airport site, see here

For CPRE Kent’s response to RSP’s Manston Consultation last year, see here

Wednesday, June 13, 2018