‘Shocking’: CPRE Kent director responds to decision to grant Manston airport DCO

Manston: flying again in 2023… maybe

A developer has been granted consent to reopen Manston airport as a freight hub – a move described as shocking by the director of CPRE Kent.
After two postponements of the decision, in January and May, the Department for Transport finally announced today (Thursday, July 9) that the RiverOak Strategic Partners scheme to reopen the airport six years after it closed was being granted a Development Consent Order.
RSP says it will be investing £300 million in the scheme, which it claims will create up to 6,000 jobs at Manston. The developer predicts the reopened airport will be operational from 2023 and able to handle at least 10,000 freight movements a year.
The decision effectively dismisses the conclusions of the four-man Planning Inspectorate’s Examining Authority, which had been clear that the DCO should not be granted.
Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, said: “It is shocking that four inspectors spent some nine months preparing a report and concluded very strongly that the DCO should be refused.
“The developer was not able to demonstrate need, there were adverse impacts on traffic and transport and there were concerns over noise pollution.
“Most importantly, though, the Examining Authority recommended the Secretary of State refuse the DCO due to conservation of habitats and species regulations.
“In short, the inspectors’ conclusions were ignored.
“This decision flies in the face of the Heathrow third-runway judgement where the Court of Appeal ruled that proposals had failed to consider this country’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions.”
Although by law the Manston decision had to be made in the name of Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, the DfT said Mr Shapps had “not personally been involved in this decision because of a conflict of interest, following previous statements of support made prior to his appointment as the Secretary of State for Transport” and the decision had “in practice been allocated to and taken by the Minister of State for Transport, Andrew Stephenson”.
Sir Roger Gale, MP for Thanet North, told the BBC’s South East Today: “The new airport, when it opens, will be the most environmentally-friendly airport in the world – it will beat Helsinki by a country mile. It’s going to be net-zero carbon – we’re going to be proud of it.”
The same programme reported that RSP had said there would be five flights an hour – but no night flights.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

No brownfield survey, no idea where the jobs will come from, no protection for farmland… is there anything good about Thanet’s draft Local Plan?

Light at the end of the Thanet tunnel? Not really…

Thanet CPRE has given a damning response to the news that the district’s draft Local Plan has an ‘appropriate basis’ to be adopted.
Two government inspectors included a list of modifications, and a requirement that the Plan be reviewed within six months of adoption, but indicated that Thanet had a Plan that could finally be taken forward.
One of its most contentious features was the provision for at least 17,140 new homes up to 2031.
Geoff Orton, Thanet CPRE secretary, said: “We remain concerned that there has been no survey of the potential for utilising brownfield opportunities, especially now that the current crisis has underlined the ‘online march’ even more emphatically to the detriment of retail premises, including car parks.
“Thanet District Council did tell the inspector that ‘invading the green’ was a last resort.
“We remain unconvinced that there will be sufficient employment to justify the housing figures and remain concerned that the Plan is oblivious to the real needs of the population for affordable social renting.
“And of course we are surprised that the highest accord is not given to the preservation of first-class agricultural land as a national food security resource.
“The Local Plan is hardly local and completely out of date, and will only compound traffic congestion if it ever gets implemented.”

  • For more on this story, see here

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Thanet loses an environmental champion as Eileen Randall passes away

Eileen and Oggle the goose, Christmas 1980

Eileen Randall, one of Pegwell’s greatest environmental champions, has died at the age of 90.
Eileen was one of the founder members of the Pegwell & District Association, set up in 1987 in response to plans for a railway line running through the bay and West Cliff foreshore to Ramsgate harbour.
That scheme was defeated, as was a proposal for a road that would effectively have destroyed the bay’s fragile environment. If it had not been for Eileen and her friends in the association, Pegwell would be a very different place to what it is today and we have so much for which to thank her.
Her cliff-top home, Driftwood, which she shared with husband Derek until he passed away in 2015, served as both centre of operations for the association – a CPRE member – and venue for parties and summer fairs as its flourishing social scene developed.
Eileen’s health prevented her being involved with the association in later years, but her love of Pegwell never waned.
She passed on Monday, April 27, and leaves behind sons Christopher and Julian.

  • For a deeper appreciation of Eileen and her efforts to protect Pegwell, see here

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Thanet finally sees a Local Plan on the horizon… and an awful lot more housing

Manston airport is to be safeguarded for aviation-related uses

Thanet might be close to having a Local Plan.
A seemingly interminable saga (see here, herehere, herehere and here) appears to be nearing a conclusion, with the two inspectors examining the draft Local Plan informing Thanet District Council on March 23 that the document has an ‘appropriate basis’ to be adopted as long as a list of modifications is included.
There is also a requirement that the Plan be reviewed within six months of adoption.
The inspectors’ report has now to be considered by full council, with adoption anticipated by summer, depending in part on the Covid-19 lockdown.
The Plan, which covers the period to 2031, was submitted for examination on October 30, 2018, with public hearings held between April 2 and July 18 last year.
The Report and the recommended Main Modifications to make the Plan ‘sound’ can be viewed on the council’s website. Social-distancing restrictions mean no paper copies of the document are available for inspection at Thanet Gateway, but it can be viewed online.
One of the most contentious features of the draft Plan has been housing numbers and this makes provision for at least 17,140 new homes up to 2031.
Manston airport is to be safeguarded for airport-related uses, with future use and development at the site to be determined through early review of the Plan.
The recommended main modifications all concern matters discussed at the examination hearings.
After the hearings, the council prepared a schedule of the proposed main modifications and where necessary carried out a sustainability appraisal of them. The main modifications were subject to public consultation from December 11 last year to January 27, 2020.
After considering the representations made on the proposed main modifications, the inspectors have recommended that these be included.

In summary they are:

  • Introduce new Policy SP01a, which supports the principle of development in the urban area and designated villages
  • Introduce new Policy SP01b, which requires the council to complete a review of the Plan within six months of adoption
  • Modify the stepped housing requirement in Policy SP11
  • Clarify which sites are allocated for residential development in the urban Area (Policy HO1) and the rural settlements (Policy HO11)
  • Modify the development principles for strategic housing sites and include land at Shottendane Road as a strategic housing allocation (Policy SP18A)
  • Amend Policies SP19 and SP20 to provide clarity regarding the type and size of dwellings and the thresholds for the provision of affordable housing
  • Include a requirement in Policy HO22 to identify and allocate sites for gypsy and travelling communities as part of an update to the Plan
  • Introduce a new policy (Policy SP05) concerning development at Manston airport
  • Modify Policies SP02, SP03 and E01 to support new economic development within settlement boundaries, clarify how much land is allocated for employment uses and provide criteria to assess proposals for the reuse of employment land and buildings
  • Modify Policy SP21 to support economic growth in rural areas
  • Delete unjustified and undeliverable transport routes from Policy SP47
  • Modify Policies SP22, SP25 and SP26 to provide effective criteria for development in Green Wedges, and for proposals likely to lead to increased recreational pressure on the Thanet Coast and Sandwich Bay SPA and Ramsar Site
  • Modify the town-centre policies (SP06-SP10 and E04-E06) for clarity and effectiveness
  • Support the extension of the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital through Policy SP37
  • Clarify how new medical facilities will be provided at Westwood and where new primary and secondary schools will be located through changes to Policies SP38 and SP40
  • Provide effective criteria to consider proposals for foster homes and childcare facilities, and the retention of family homes in Policies HO24 and HO26
  • Delete Policy CM04 relating to the expansion of Minster cemetery
  • Update Appendix B to reflect the latest position concerning site delivery

Other main modifications are also recommended to ensure that the Plan is justified, effective and consistent with national planning policy.
A striking feature is the proposed housing trajectory. The inspectors’ modification MM27 Table to Policy SP11 provides for the following average annual housing numbers:
2011/2012 – 2015/2016: 311
2016/2017 – 2020/2021: 600
2021/2022 – 2025/2026: 1,200
2026/2027 – 2030/2031: 1,317

The figure for 2011/2012 – 2015/2016 is based on actual completions averaged over the five-year period.
The modification requires a doubling of completions for the next-five year period 2016/2027 – 2020/2021. This has not been achieved in the first three years. 
For the years 2016/2017 – 2018/2019 only 993 dwellings were built. That averages just 331 per annum. Little more than that was achieved in the first five-year period.
So to average 600 dwellings per annum over the five-year period in the next two years, 2,007 dwellings will need to be built.
That is an annual average of 1,004 and three times that which has been achieved in the previous three years. Given the Covid-19 lockdown and the predicted slowdown in the global economy, it is highly unlikely that these levels will be achieved this year or next year. 
This means that in the last two periods more homes will need to be completed than required by the trajectory, suggesting an increase in housebuilding not seen here before and only in recent years experienced in growth areas such as Dartford.

  • Read the 63-page inspectors’ report here
  • See the recommended main modifications (to make the Plan sound) here

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Love Thanet’s remaining countryside? Please join us at Eco Expo in Margate if you do

The development onslaught on Thanet has surely never been greater. Its natural environment already trashed and degraded to a scarcely credible degree, you might be tempted to simply throw your hands in the air and give up as the diggers move on to yet another site.
However, please don’t! You are not alone – other people do care about the isle and are trying to do help salvage something good from the wreckage.
Some of those people will be at an event called Eco Expo being held in Margate this month – and CPRE Kent will be among them, hosting a stall at which you can learn more about what we do.
The “ecological afternoon” includes Karen Jones from the University of Kent speaking on The Urban Green Idea, Dr Clive Nuttman addressing Biodiversity – Global to Local and Dr Hannah Scott talking on Verges – Nothing to be Wasted.
It promises to be an uplifting event – please join us.

  • Eco Expo is being held at the Margate School (old Woolworth building), 33 High Street, Margate CT9 1EA, on Saturday, March 28, from 2pm

Manston sale: what’s the way ahead now?

Manston: new owner awaits verdict on its DCO application

Manston airport: the very name raises more than the odd eyebrow and elicits any number of sighs, but this month’s twist in a seemingly never-ending story caught out just about everyone.
Just as the Planning Inspectorate’s examination into its application for a Development Consent Order was nearing its end, RiverOak Strategic Partners agreed to buy the airport site for £16.5 million from Stone Hill Park Ltd, which had its own plans to build some 4,000 homes, business units and sporting facilities there.
Three representatives from CPRE Kent (director Hilary Newport, Thanet chairman David Morrish and environment committee member Chris Lowe) had been present at various stages of the inquiry, which was led by a four-strong Examining Authority.
The Planning Inspectorate gave public notice that it had completed its examination on Tuesday, July 9, confirming that its findings, conclusions and recommendations would be sent to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, no later than Wednesday, October 9.
Mr Shapps will then decide whether the airport scheme should be regarded as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project and a Development Consent Order approved; it is unlikely that the recommendations of the Examining Authority will be made public until after that decision is made.
Contracts were exchanged between RSP and SHP on Wednesday, July 3, but the deal could only be completed a week later (July 10) once permission had been given by then-Secretary of State Chris Grayling.
That permission was necessary due to a Special Development Order designating Manston’s use as a lorry park to cope with potential post-Brexit congestion at Dover – the contract for that runs until December 31, 2020.
SHP has withdrawn its objection to the DCO and will no longer take part in the Local Plan inquiry. However, it keeps its DfT contract (and payments) in relation to the Brexit lorry-park plan, while it will be responsible for providing equipment should HGVs need to use the site.
The deal leaves RSP subsidiary RiverOak MSE owning more than 95 per cent of the site required for its airport plans; the compulsory-purchase provisions of the DCO are now not essential for the reopening of the airport.
SHP reportedly owned 742 acres of the 770-acre site, with some plots belonging to other parties.
Mr Morrish, of Thanet CPRE, said: “These events have emphasised the need for Manston to be resolved before the draft Local Plan can be properly considered – a view that we at CPRE have consistently put forward.
“Manston airport has been the elephant in the room throughout the Local Plan inquiry and there is still no real point in the Local Plan deliberations continuing until the Secretary of State for Transport has made a binding decision on the DCO.”
It is understood that RSP will only be able to progress its airport plans if the Transport Secretary approves the DCO application, a Planning Inspectorate spokesman telling KentOnline: “In order to construct and operate a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, development consent is required in the form of a Development Consent Order.”

Monday, July 29, 2019

Thanet, child poverty and staggering hikes in house prices… what a mess!

Margate has seen house prices soar by 55 per cent over the past 10 years

We are indebted to the local media for two stories highlighting some of the many issues affecting Thanet.
The district is usually at the wrong end of socio-economic statistics, so it comes as no surprise to learn it has the highest proportion of children living in poverty in the county, even taking into account a 4 per cent fall on the previous year (2017-18).
The figure of 35 per cent equates to a staggering one child in three (some 11,500) living below the breadline in Thanet, the Kent Messenger Group reports.
This compares with a Kent average of 28 per cent and figures from the ‘right’ end of the table: Tunbridge Wells (22 per cent) and Sevenoaks (23 per cent).
Now consider the issue of rising property prices in Thanet – indeed the entire Kent coast, where it costs an average of £150,000 more to buy a home than it did 10 years ago.
House prices across Thanet rose by an average of 48 per cent over the past decade; in apparently trendy Margate, the hike was 55 per cent, from £151,520 to £235,012.
The spiralling increase is, of course, fired largely by London and puts the prospect of local people buying their first home ever-further out of reach.
It is against such a backdrop that the government’s much-criticised housing methodology is anticipated to produce an Objectively Assessed Need (OAN) of 17,140 new homes in Thanet between 2016 and 2031.
It is a number that is highly unlikely to be fulfilled; in the region of 8,500 homes were built in the past 20 years, so the rate would need to more than double for the OAN to be achieved.
And when such a shortfall occurs, a local authority is unable to demonstrate a five-year housing supply, leaving the door wide open for speculative developers to try their luck at just about anything, no matter how inappropriate or undesirable.
There is a growing belief among some commentators that the ludicrous housing targets being imposed on some (but by no means all) local authorities are designed to do just that: effectively put planning powers in the hands of developers. Or is that a conspiracy theory too far?
CPRE Kent has long advocated the building of social housing for local people, highlighting the fact that developers’ keenness to put up four- and five-bedroom houses at prices beyond the wildest dreams of many is going to do precious little to ease the much-reported ‘housing crisis’.
Thanet residents concerned at the manner in which property prices are being skewed are often told of the ‘trickle-down effect’: the notion that an influx of cash-rich newcomers shares the posterity far and wide.
The idea would in truth seem to hold little truth, at least if those child poverty figures are anything to go by.

  • The saga of Thanet planning rarely makes uplifting reading, but for more see here, here, here, here and here

Monday, June 10, 2019

Thanet goes big in its approval of greenfield development

Plans for Westwood Village were approved in February (pic Greenacre (Thanet))

Some of our Thanet readers might already be delighted by the decision to approve plans for the 900-home Westwood Village. After all, the substantial loss of farmland combined with potential traffic gridlock should be enough to gladden the stoniest of hearts.
Such joy can surely only be heightened by the news that the scheme is one of the largest to have been approved across the entire country this year.
Planning magazine has listed the largest planning consents to be granted during the first six months of 2019 – and Westwood Village, which lies essentially at the joining point of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs – comes in at an impressive sixth place.
The plans, from Greenacre (Thanet) Ltd, were approved, with conditions, by Thanet District Council’s planning committee on Tuesday, February 26. The final agreement, incorporating legal provisions, will be concluded by officers.
As well as the 900 homes (of which 30 per cent are scheduled to be ‘affordable’), Westwood Village will include a 4,900 square-metre commercial centre, a local centre and a primary school.
As for what all those new households are going to do for work, answers on a postcard, please…
PS: The largest application to be approved in the Planning survey?
The intriguingly named Margarine Works development in Southall, west London, incorporating more than 2,000 homes, up to 10,076 sq m of flexible office/community space and 2,688 sq m of flexible retail space.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Government chooses not to take over Thanet Local Plan: was this the ‘easy way out’?

Thanet… what next?

Heard the one about Thanet District Council’s Local Plan?
Of course you have.
Well, there’s more…
This comitragic tale has been well covered (see herehere, herehere and here), so it will suffice for now to say that it is back in the news.
Eventually approved in July last year, the draft Plan is now in the phase leading up to the Examination in Public, scheduled to begin in April.
Despite this, the council has been slated by James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, over its lack of progress and failure to deliver new housing. Mr Brokenshire has, however, stopped short of direct intervention, saying only that the situation would be “closely monitored”.
Mr Brokenshire’s predecessor, Sajid Javid, had threatened to take over production of the isle’s Local Plan, along with those of Castle Point in Essex and Wirral in north-west England.
Writing to Bob Bayford, leader of the council, he said: “Thanet have consistently failed to bring forward a Local Plan in accordance with its Local Development Scheme as legally required.
“Based on Thanet’s revised Local Development Scheme, it is unlikely that Local Plan production would be accelerated by my department taking over.
“In my judgement, given the authority’s track record of persistent failure in plan-making, the intervention I have decided upon will provide more certainty and is the best way of ensuring that a Local Plan will be produced.
“I am also, for the avoidance of doubt, now putting on public record my concerns about the low level of housing supply and delivery in Thanet.
“I expect planning decision-takers to have regard to these concerns as a material consideration when deciding local planning applications.”
Critically, at least as far as the local authority is concerned, Mr Brokenshire concludes: “I have decided not to prepare the Thanet Local Plan. However, I will continue to closely monitor your Local Plan progress.
“I appreciate the constructive way Thanet District Council have engaged in this process so far and I trust that you and your officers will continue to engage positively.”
Commenting on a situation in which no one seems very happy, David Morrish, chairman of Thanet CPRE, said: “The government’s Housing Delivery Test 2018 shows that from the years 2016-18 Thanet had a new-homes delivery rate of just 44% of target.
“The only thing the table demonstrates is that the calculation of housing for Thanet is completely ridiculous and that a housing projection of around 8,000 – back where we started in 2014 – is what the Thanet requirement should be. Such a target could be accomplished without using valuable Grade 1A agricultural land.
“When will Mr Brokenshire realise that a flawed model is being applied that is of no help to anyone whatsoever?
“The government targets are derived using an algorithm to develop targets for each council based on government policies but take no account of the deprivation and lack of jobs and employment prospects in an area.
“The houses that have been built in Thanet are in large part attributable to development at Westwood Cross. It is rumoured persistently that this is being earmarked for social-housing tenants moving in from London, yet Thanet people find it next to impossible to find social housing themselves.
“If nothing else, Thanet council needs to clarify the situation to help calm local disquiet.
“Also, Thanet has the highest proportion of empty homes in Kent but makes no attempt to bring some of them into use to house its homeless.
“I think it is probable that Mr Brokenshire’s Chief Planner realised, after taking a close look at the shambles of Thanet’s poorly-thought-out planning regime that has placed all the power in developers’ hands, that it is not something  anyone with any sense would want to take direct responsibility for sorting out.
“Instead, he has taken the easy way out by letting the two Local Plan inspectors carry on with their invidious task of inspecting in detail the existing mess of the draft Local Plan, neatly wrapped up in 4,000 pages of planning speak on the Thanet council website.
“This inspection begins in Ramsgate in April, with public hearings in May, while  another, separate, quartet of inspectors based in Margate are already grappling with 5,000-plus pages of evidence relating to Manston airport, with public hearings in March and a conclusion in July.
“Never, as far as we are aware, will the two sets of inspectors meet formally, and by the middle of this year two different ministers – Mr Brokenshire and Chris Ayling, Secretary of State for Transport, will be given the two different reports upon which to make their own individual decisions.
“It would test the patience of a saint and the genius of an Einstein to unravel this muddle.
“What is certain about this farrago is that the only winners will be the developers, who will continue to receive licences to build wherever they want in Thanet at the current leisurely speed, further increasing pressure on strained public services and with the community having as much certainty of the public costs being paid for by developers – as happens elsewhere in Kent – as a philosophy student at McDonald’s has of paying off their student loan.”

Monday, February 25, 2019

How demand for second homes in Thanet highlights flawed housing policy

The much-heralded revival of Margate has helped increase demand for second homes in Thanet

The ridiculous housebuilding targets imposed by Whitehall on our local authorities have been well charted, but few places highlight some of the inherent issues as much as Thanet.
Always something of a law unto itself, the district suffers a low-income, low-skills economy, with socio-economic stats that compare to the worst in the country, let alone the South East.
Alongside this, however, are property prices that, while still low in a regional context, are in truth eye-wateringly high. Many local people are not able to even consider buying a home.
This, of course, is presented by the government as a central tenet of its increased housing targets; it is saying house prices are too high for local people so we must build more.
It’s a simplistic argument that might be better suited to a school playground than the national political arena: houses are not tins of baked beans and simply putting up more of them is not going to bring a fall in prices.
A range of variable factors determines house prices.
Of course, in Kent one of those is proximity to London (another law unto itself, indeed almost another country in some regards).
Much of this county (widely regarded as the poor sister of the South East) has similar issues to Thanet, if to a lesser degree, in that local wages are never going to compete with those of London.
Even allowing for workers who commute to the capital for employment, too many Kent residents are priced out of housing by incoming Londoners. Building more houses isn’t going to affect prices if they’re simply going to be bought by people from the capital.
In Thanet, the situation is exacerbated by the number of properties bought as second homes.
Staggeringly, HM Revenues and Customs figures reveal that in 2017-18 more than a quarter (28 per cent) of residential properties bought in Thanet were procured as second homes.
The second-highest figure came from Canterbury, at 24 per cent, followed by Dover and Folkestone & Hythe (each 22 per cent). The least-affected district was Tonbridge & Malling at 15 per cent.
Increased stamp duty was expected to reduce the demand for second homes, but instead Kent saw a rise of 16 per cent in their purchase from 1916-17.
Most South East local authorities will struggle to meet their housebuilding targets, which in itself will herald a tranche of other issues, but it is clear that housing policy and its attendant methodology are missing the target when it comes to providing local homes for local people.
Second-home purchase is just one factor in that mismatch.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Thousands respond to Manston airport inquiry

Manston… so many questions

A four-strong Examining Authority will be considering more than 2,000 representations made in response to the bid to reopen the Manston airport site as a freight hub.
Following the Planning Inspectorate’s decision to consider RiverOak Strategic Partners’ case for reopening the airport through a Development Consent Order, the latest stage in one of the most contentious – and long-running – planning issues in Kent has drawn a predictably strong response.
If the panel determines that Manston should be regarded as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, the Secretary of State for Transport can grant seizure of the site.
One of the respondents is site owner Stone Hill Park Ltd, which has contrasting plans to build some 4,000 homes, business units and sporting facilities there.
Those who have registered with the Planning Inspectorate are known as Interested Parties and will be asked to a meeting, run and chaired by the Examining Authority.
This part of the process is expected to last about 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.
Meanwhile, a question to the leader of Thanet District Council about whether the local authority had produced either a Statement of Common Ground, detailing agreements and disagreements pertinent to the case, or a local impact report drew a non-committal answer.
The leader said only that the council “was engaging” with RiverOak Strategic Partners.
Thanet CPRE has chosen not to give a view on the airport as feelings on the subject are so mixed.

  • For more on Manston, see here, here and here
  • For CPRE Kent’s response to RSP’s Manston Consultation last year, see here

Monday, December 24, 2018

Don’t forget, now is the time to comment on the Thanet Local Plan

What future for the Isle of Thanet?

We have covered the tortuous tale of Thanet District Council’s draft Local Plan with some intensity over recent months, so we’ll keep this reminder brief…
You have some five weeks to view and comment on the draft Plan, which was approved by the council in July and is intended to provide the isle’s planning blueprint until 2031.
This ‘pre-submission stage’ began on Thursday, August 23, and ends at 5pm on Thursday, October 4, with comments received going straight to the planning inspector; respondents might be then invited to speak at the Plan’s Examination in Public.
To view the Local Plan and make comments, visit here

It is also available at The Gateway in Margate, Pierremont Hall in Broadstairs, Custom House in Ramsgate and in any public library in the district.

For (a lot of) background on the Thanet Local Plan, visit herehere, herehere and here

Friday, August 31, 2018

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 Secretary of State for Transport to grant seizure of the site.
Sarah Richards, Planning Inspectorate chief executive, said. “After careful consideration we have decided on behalf of the Secretary of State that the application submitted by RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd met the required tests set out in the legislation to be accepted for examination”.
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