Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Thanet Local Plan Consultation and some thoughts on how to respond to it.

Thanet District Council have opened their online consultation for the new local plan.

What the council has done is come up with a draft plan for Thanet covering the next fifteen years and is asking people to comment on it.

The main snag seems to be the way the closure of Manston airport has impacted on the draft plan inasmuch as a great deal of the plan has been written around the assumption that thanet will have a functioning passenger and freight airport.

I would say we really are back to the problem of no plan B for how Thanet ought to function with a mixed use non aviation development at Manston. As there is the probability that Manston will never be an airport again then it seems pretty obvious that the local plan for Thanet during the next fifteen years should in some way address this eventuality.

A very big issue here is that the Manston site is a brownfield site so it doesn't have the protection from development that farmland has. A secondary issue here is its planning status as it didn’t ever manage to get planning consent as an airport, so some sort of plan B in the local plan would be about the only protection that this large open area could get.

A similar issue with Port Ramsgate, the council don’t seem to accept the fact that it is highly unlikely to get anything other than commercial operations that other places don't want, and that the likelihood of a viable ferry operator at Port Ramsgate is pretty much zero.

The draft local plan seems to open the way for any sort of undesirable industrial activity there, without taking into account how close the port is to residential accommodation or that the prevailing wind direction means that dust and pollution is blown across the marina and the main sands.

There are many examples of the draft local plan looking fairly positive, but actually opening the way for some extremely harmful activity, an example of this is the part about Ramsgate Town Centre, it looks OK if you don’t ever go shopping in Ramsgate. In practice though it ignores the only town centre car park that most shoppers are comfortable with using and marks it as a potential development site. Then you have the business of the parts of the shopping centre they have mapped out for letting go back to residential, they call this secondary frontage and it’s a measure of how out of touch with Ramsgate they are that it includes Iceland and Morrisons supermarkets. This opens the way for turning the shops near the main shopping car park into residential and probably eventually building social housing on the car park.     

I have had a chat with the council about filling in the questionnaire and it seems that the online facility is much more flexible than it looks.

Once you have either logged on or joined up you can change or add to what you have put in the various fields right up to the date the consultation finishes, this is particularly useful with areas like the airport and port where the situation is changing and may be different in six weeks time.

There were two areas where I made recommendations to the council which I will send to them in writing, one is that I thought it could be very helpful if they were to make a video presentation along the lines of what they would say to people at drop in sessions and put it on YouTube so that we could all become familiar with aspects of the local plan when we had time, the other was that responses to the local plan should be weighted towards those submitted by local residents and organisations.

You can download the whole plan as a pdf and the questionnaire as a pdf or Word document, this is a bit clumsy as you have to use both documents at the same time. Alternatively you can use “respond online” facility which is a combination of the two, i.e. the bit you comment about is with the bit where you put the comments. and as you can go back into this and change anything right up to finishing deadline on 6th of March, I think this is the best way to deal with the consultation.                  

Here is the link to the consultation website

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