Summary of Questions and Responses at the Council meeting of 12 October 2023
Questions from Councillors
Question from Cllr Wing to Cllr Albon
How many litres of weed killer containing glyphosate were used by TDC in the last 4-years; (2019, 2020, 2021, 2022) and where was this applied, for example around parks, play grounds, building etc and why are we still using this out in our communities, giving residents no or little indication of its use or indeed, any choice to avoid, if being applied near them, when the International Agency for Research on Cancer classes glyphosate as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’, and an increasing number of countries and councils within the UK have banned its in favour of alternative methods?
Approximately 90 litres of Glyphosate have been used by the Council in each of the last four years.
Legally enforceable conditions of use are imposed on the way products can be applied, to ensure the public are not exposed to levels of pesticides that would harm health or have unacceptable effects on the environment. Application is via spot treatment only, it is never sprayed openly and is not used in playgrounds, along the seafront, around trees, in flower beds or around shrubs and hedges.
I could just say that if you’ve seen anybody spraying or whizzing a spray around as I have; it’s Kent County Council and not Thanet District Council.
Glyphosate remains approved for use in the UK until at least 2025. The Health and Safety Executive notes that the responsible use of pesticides in amenity areas as part of an integrated programme of control can help deliver sustainable benefits for society. These include management of conservation areas, invasive species and flood risks; access to high quality sporting facilities; and safe public spaces (for example, by preventing weed growth on hard surfaces creating trip hazards), industrial sites and transport infrastructure.
What I can also advise you, which you don’t know is that since we have been elected we have been considering the use of Glyphosate and we have suspended the use of Glyphosate.
We have looked previously at alternatives, the alternatives do not do the job, they are not good enough. If we continue and do not use Glyphosate anymore, the issues will be from the residents; we all know that residents will complain more about the state of the weeds. We haven’t got the resources to go and hand pull them up.
Cllr Wing followed up her question by asking:
Had TDC suspended Glyphosate because it’s the dormant season? And if it went back to using Glyphosate, would the Council pledge to inform residents where they’re using it so that those residents can decide where to walk their dogs and avoid the areas where it was used.
Cllr Albon responded by confirming:
That TDC did not use it in the Winter. One of the things that officers were asked to do is to put signs up as to where Glyphosate was sprayed. Should its use continue, TDC would let all Members know put signs up, but alternatives would continue to be sought.
Question from Cllr Worrow to Cllr Everitt
“Will the leader welcome the clarity with which Mr Justice Dove confirmed that Mr Justice Lane was correct in determining in the High Court that Jenny Dawes had no arguable case for judicial review of the Manston Airport DCO, and will the leader tell us what action he is going to take in order to insure that the cargo hub works in the interests of Thanet’s residents?”
I think you’ve slightly misunderstood the legal process, it wasn’t the job of Mr Justice Dove to decide whether Jenny Dawes had an arguable case, it was his job to decide the merits of the case, that’s the decision he actually reached. As for clarity, we’ve been waiting for clarity for a very long time, I don’t think we’re quite there yet.
The delays in the process have been the cause of frustration to the council’s local review process, and a final decision would be welcome. But there is still a further route to appeal and until the legal processes have been completed, there is a level of uncertainty.
Once the legal processes have concluded, and, if the DCO stands at the end of them, the council will work with Riveroak Strategic Partners to consider all of the outstanding planning requirements, within the DCO, that have been reserved for the council to determine.
I just want to say that nine years of inaction at Manston have been a lost opportunity for the whole of Thanet. Whichever side of the debate you’ve been on, because our economy needs growth and growth could have been delivered at Manston by one solution or the other. The fact that we’ve had neither has been no benefit to the community. The uncertainty has been a blight on Ramsgate, because Ramsgate is principally the area affected by the flight path. But it’s North Thanet that suffered most from the decision to protect the airport in the Local Plan and in particular, in July 2018, this Council moved 2,500 homes in the Local Plan from the airport, largely onto agricultural land, 1,600 of those were to the rural areas surrounding Westgate and Birchington. That’s in the Council minutes and anybody can see it. Labour Group at the time was very small, did not support that proposal. Carbon emissions quite obviously respect no boundaries and they are an issue and will continue to be. What I do want to say tonight is this administration will respect the outcome of the legal process and we will put the whole of Thanet first as we would do in every decision that we make. After all, Labour Councillors represent almost every part of it now.
Councillor Worrow followed up his question by asking:
Councillor Everitt, under the leadership of Clive Hart and then Iris Johnson, you and myself stood together in support of Manston Airport and in that same spirit, I ask you tonight, will you once again publicly declare your support for Manston Airport?
Councillor Everitt responded by stating
That he did not stand on a manifesto supporting the airport in 2015. He thought that the whole issue of the electors of Thanet casting their votes for and against the airport had been massively overstated by all sides. He confirmed that he had a view on the airport, but as leader he had a responsibility and intended to discharge that responsibility in a proper way.
Question from Cllr Pugh to Cllr Everitt
With the recent outcome of the Manston Airport Judicial Review announced, will this administration finally support the reopening of the airport?
I could refer Councillor Pugh to the answer to my previous question. I think I’ll add a little bit which is to say that what this decision does is establishes the principle assuming it goes forward and I think it will. It establishes the principle of reopening Manston Airport, what it doesn’t do is prove is viability because that isn’t the job of the Secretary of State or the minister and it wasn’t the job of the judges and actually, if you read the reports and you read all the decisions, there’s a considerable area of doubt about its viability. Some people have an almost religious faith in everything that Riveroak Strategic Partners say. The Conservative leaflets which I’ve referred to before, spoke of a £500 million investment and the potential for 23,000 jobs, which sounds very exciting. The only thing I want to know is where these 23,000 people are going to live, because presumably it’s going to be in the fields of rural Thanet, because there isn’t room for them in the towns.
What we’ve heard from so many people is an act of faith that Riveroak can deliver, if they get the final legal permission, let’s see. It won’t be this Council that stops the airport being viable, but personally I remain agnostic on that.
Cllr Pugh followed up his question by asking the following:
Will the Leader commit to an open and transparent way to have Riveroak in to present their proposals for the airport to all Councillors, whether that be at Full Council or in a Members Briefing so that all Members and Members of the Public as well can ensure that they have the facts and the information as it is. And also, will the Leader confirm particularly in comments I believe he made on ITV News or BBC Southeast, what he meant by certain planning hurdles or issues with planning that still maybe need to be resolved, because I’d like to think the Leader wasn’t referring to any action by Labour Members of the Planning Committee to stop planning permissions being granted for structures and buildings on the airport site. Particularly as the Planning Committee is supposed to be nonpolitical.
Councillor Everitt responded by stating:
That he didn’t talk about the planning process. He stated that there were legal hurdles as they needed approval from the Civil Aviation Authority and they need lots of other technical approvals around the site. He confirmed that it was not up to him what the Planning Committee did, if matters went before the Planning Committee, it was a matter for them and that his members would behave with integrity and in an appropriate way, or they would no longer be members of his group.
He also confirmed that he written to Tony Freudman on September 29th asking him to meet senior officers and himself, so they could discuss the way forward and how they could work together. Mr Freudman agreed to do that and the Leader looked forward to that conversion, as part of that, he would raise about Mr Freudman coming and talking to Members of this Council.
Question from Cllr Dennis to Cllr Everitt
“Will the leader confirm his support for the airport as they seek to restore passenger services as soon as possible?”
The DCO application applied for consent to primarily establish a cargo hub at Manston airport with some provision for passenger services.
Once the legal processes have concluded, and, if the DCO stands, the council will work with RSP (Riveroak Strategic Partners) to consider all of the outstanding planning requirements, within the DCO, that have been reserved for the council to determine. As for whether there’ll be passenger flights and when they’ll be, I think that’s principally a matter for Riveroak Strategic Partners and will depend on the market.
Question from Cllr Bambridge to Cllr Everitt
Walkers Construction recently closed the B2050 at Manston for several weeks during the recent school holidays. The consequences of this were as follows:
The owners of Manston Golf Club and their children’s activity centre Rascal Bay lost 60% of their expected revenue.
Chaos ensued as drivers used Spratling Street, Spratling Lane and Preston Road as uncontrolled rat runs.
Pedestrians were put at risk because no footpath arrangements were made to protect them from the huge increase in vehicular traffic during the road closure.
Stagecoach suspended their bus service through Manston village, leaving many people who depend on public transport totally isolated.
In view of all this, can Cllr Everitt inform me of what arrangements have TDC made to lobby KCC Highways and Highways England to ensure that this chaos is never allowed to happen again?
Kent County Council (KCC) are the Highway Authority and are responsible for coordinating the planning and scheduling of all work on the publicly maintainable highway. KCC operate a permit scheme with the following objectives:
- To carrying out roadworks more effectively, limiting disruption
- To improve the consideration of people who live near, or travel through roadworks
- To promote safer roadworks
The council receives advanced notification of street works and road closures for information. This ensures that impacts on services such as household waste collections can be mitigated.
I understand that the works on the A256, Haine Road centred around the Viking roundabout are an improvement scheme undertaken in accordance with a S278 agreement between a developer and the highway authority.
I am sure that all of us have at some point been frustrated by road works which can increase journey times and congestion. However such works are essential for the long term improvement and capacity of our road network. The safety of temporary traffic management is a core consideration of the contractor and the highway authority when works are planned and any concerns in this regard should be raised directly with KCC at the time they are observed. Disruption to residents and businesses is another important factor when planning works but where business representatives consider that they have been negatively impacted by temporary works or road closures they may choose to raise their concerns with the Highway Authority and/or the contractor, this is not however a matter for the district council.
Councillor Bambridge followed up her question by asking:
Would the Council monitor and manage all future requests?
The Leader responded by stating that the Joint Transportation Board had not been proceeding in a positive manner for some time now. The council would continue to lobby Kent County Council on these issues.
Question from Cllr Braidwood to Cllr Everitt
The inclusion of greenfield in the current Local Plan is negatively impacting local tenant farmers and farmer/landowners alike. Their livelihoods rely on being able to continuously farm year on year. Parcelling off sections for development reduces viability of the remaining farmland, forcing them to consider other ways of maintaining their income, including turning farmland into solar installations. This decision is a direct result of the Local Plan including land for development on our grades 1, 2 and 3 agricultural land.
Question: Does this administration accept this and what steps are being taken to ensure no further farmland is included in the Local Plan review even though it may be offered up in the latest call for sites?
The Council, as local planning authority, is required to meet the housing needs for the district, as identified through the Government’s housing “standard method”.
In the 2006 Local Plan, the Council had to meet a lower housing target and was able to allocate on largely brownfield sites. In the five years following the adoption of the Plan, over 95% of completions were on brownfield land. Partly as a result of the successful “brownfield first” approach taken in that Plan, the district does not now have a significant stock of available brownfield sites, and the 2020 Plan had to accommodate a much higher housing requirement.
As part of the Local Plan process, the Council carried out an extensive brownfield land search. In the absence of sufficient alternative sites to meet the housing requirements, the Council had to consider the use of farmland.
The Council only allocates sites that have been submitted to it through the “call for sites” process, by landowners and their land/planning agents, who sometimes already have options agreements with developers/development agents.
The scale of housing that needs to be met, and the extent to which agricultural land can be protected from development, are largely determined by Government guidance in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and Planning Practice Guidance (PPG).
In March 2023, the Council made comments in response to the Government’s consultation on the Levelling-Up & Regeneration Bill and proposed revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework. That response has been published on the Councils’ web-site.
In that response, the Council argued that the current housing “standard method” used by the Government to determine housing targets requires urgent review, and questioned the evidence for the Government’s annual housing target of 300,000 dwellings.
The Council also argued that proper protection should be provided in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for all best and most versatile farmland, pointing out that in Thanet, Grade 1 agricultural land comprises some 40% of the district area.
Unfortunately, both the NPPF amendments and the review of inputs to the housing “standard method” have been delayed until 2024. The extent to which local planning authorities can protect farmland in future will be determined by whatever changes the Government makes to the current guidance.
Question from Cllr Bayford to Cllr Whitehead
”As we do not currently have a communal residence for people registered as homeless, I’d like to know when the Edgar Road site is likely to be ready for occupation by RISE.’
Rough sleeping and homelessness provision is of great importance to me; principally because one of my main reasons for first considering becoming a Councillor was my time spent volunteering at the Thanet Winter Shelter, and my belief that we needed to have year round, 24/7 and multi agency provision.
I have always believed that it is our duty as a Council to provide long term, one site provision. Our first communal residence came about the last time I was Cabinet member for Housing, during the pandemic, and unfortunately ended due to the fact that we didn’t own the building and were only leasing it until it was brought back into its usual usage.
Across this period our communal accommodation typically housed between 20-25 people per night in individual rooms, with access to common areas and multi agency support.
When this lease ended in February 2023 6 residents still required support into individual accommodation. From those six, four went into Temporary Accommodation and 2 went into RISE Supported accommodation.
The benefits of this one site model are clear, especially for those with complex needs; through having this communal base and outreach we were the first Council in Kent to successfully offer and administer COVID vaccinations to those rough sleeping or known to RISE, as well as offering medical and dental services on site. The next step to take was to ensure that these services had a Council owned home, not subject to external lease or instability of provision linked to that.
These services are provided via our RISE service that provides support for people that are at risk of rough sleeping in the district. Rough sleeping is a complex and highly individual matter; and the premise of our RISE team functions so well precisely because it recognises the importance of combined services, multi agency approaches, and genuine connection and understanding; these processes are often not short term, and building trust and belief in the ability of services to help, and individuals ability to empower themselves within their own tenancies is vital. This includes outreach services to provide support for people sleeping rough as well as help with finding and managing a home and with preventing eviction.
We have completed the acquisition of a large site in Edgar Road Margate, with the long term intention of converting it into self-contained homes for affordable rent. We are currently using it as our first ever council owned home for RISE, providing not only accommodation but also essential on site services and multi agency support for residents, to provide homes whilst building confidence and ability to maintain long term individual tenancies. This is a huge step forward for us, and an important and necessary investment in the health and wellbeing of our residents and community. It will increase the supply of available accommodation for homeless people. The Edgar Road site will provide sixteen units of independent accommodation within a communal building; providing access to support, as well as more independence and privacy than a shelter model.
We are currently completing essential health and safety works in the building and as soon as these are completed the service will be able to use the building. We anticipate residencies will begin from the 4th of November.
Unfortunately, as we have discussed many times in this Chamber, funding allocations are not continuous, which makes long term rough sleeping and homelessness planning challenging for all Councils. The RISE service currently has government funding until March 2025 and will be able to use the building in Edgar Road throughout this period; housing and homelessness is an absolute priority for this administration, as demonstrated by our commitment to increase our provision of social housing and in house temporary accommodation for local residents, and we will continue to bid and do our absolute best to secure funding for residents in need of this service.
As soon as Edgar Road is available, which should be by the 4th of November, we will have sufficient accommodation to accommodate every known rough sleeper in Thanet. All those currently accepting support from RISE will be able to access our first ever Council owned, multi agency rough sleeping provision, which is an exceptional achievement, and I thank RISE and Housing Officers for all their work on this project.
Councillor Bayford followed up her question asking whether the RISE team were able to provide their full services to homeless people in their current format, by meeting homeless people in multiple different locations?
Councillor Whitehead responded that the RISE team worked in many different ways, and outreach work was a huge part of this. The communal model was argued as providing the best possible outcome, however this should diminish outreach support, or ongoing work after people leave the centre.
Question from Cllr Kup to Cllr Everitt
“When the Local Plan, which is a legal document, states that developers have to supply at least 30% affordable homes and land for schools and doctors surgeries, how can developers not deliver this due to it not being “viable”. In the interest of local communities and our residents, how can we allow developers to contradict our Local Plan?”
The Council did not.
The Local Plan states, in Policy SP23 that the requirement on housing developments of more than 10 dwellings to provide 30% as affordable housing will only be reduced if meeting them would demonstrably make the proposed development unviable.
If demonstrated and independently verified, it is not contradictory to allow a reduction.
There are no cases where land required through planning policy for “schools and doctor surgeries” has not been provided.
Councillor Kup followed up his question by asking if developers did not fulfil their promises to deliver vital amenities for residents the carbon footprint would rise, what safeguards and conditions was the council willing to implement on any future planning application which comes forward?
The Leader responded that it was possible to force these contributions, however the workforce was not always there. For example when discussing the need for doctors surgeries and schools.
Question from Cllr Manners to Cllr Albon
We cannot afford to see more of our heritage allowed to fall into disrepair – Walpole Bay Pool comes to mind. When was the last structural survey made of the chalk reef foundation and pointing of the concrete blocks – are these investigations part of the bi-annual inspection process and if so can members please see the most recent survey report?
The Walpole Bay Tidal Pool is inspected twice a year by the Technical Services Team as part of a programme of routine coastal inspections. The Autumn 2023 coast inspection is being carried out this week and the observations from this report can be shared for information upon request.
Defects identified through routine coastal inspections are categorised on a priority basis for repair. Most repair work is funded via revenue budgets. However a capital coast protection scheme is planned for 2024 at Walpole Bay which will include works to the tidal pool. The schedule of works will include toe protection from undermining through erosion of the chalk reef, pointing works and concrete repair. This scheme will be funded via a mixture of Environment Agency grant and local levy funding.
Councillor Manners followed up his question by stating that it would be positive if there was a proper structural survey implemented.
Question from Cllr Austin to Cllr Everitt
George Osborne’s two-child benefit cap, introduced in 2015, has been described by a leading academic as ‘the worst social security policy ever’. Far from increasing employment, it’s left families poorer, with families of as many as 1 in 4 children in our poorest constituencies at least £3,000 worse off.
What information do we have about the impact of this cap on families in Thanet? What measures can we take within our own District Council remit to reduce its negative effects at a time when so many families are struggling with cost of living increases?’
There are a number of recent reports, from welfare agencies or research and policy units, that have analysed the two child limit and concluded it has a negative impact on families.
Of note is the fact that the policy has been examined up to Supreme Court level, and found to not be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
It’s important to note that even if the two child limit were to be abolished (highly unlikely given the extensive testing in court that it has been put through above), that would not (of itself) simply ‘hand back’ lost benefit to those families caught by it. The overall national benefit cap could come into play for some of those families, if their income from all benefits (per annum) were to reach £22,020 (for families outside of London).
In terms of understanding the impact of this policy locally, we only have limited knowledge. In our Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support (CTS) caseload, we know how many children are in each family (approximately 830 families have more than two children). What we cannot know is how many families receive no welfare support because of the limit (i.e where they would have an entitlement to state welfare support, after taking into account their income, if there was no limit on the number of children). For Housing Benefit, we cannot amend the rules locally – the regulations apply nationally, so the 2 child limit has applied since 2017. Some customers who have been in receipt of Housing Benefit since before 2017 may not be impacted by the 2 child limit rule.
Council Tax Support, the council can set its own rules – The scheme in place at Thanet is based on the traditional Council Tax Benefit rules, which are inherently linked to Housing Benefit rules. As a result, the local CTS scheme also contains a 2 child limit in the majority of cases. However, where a customer is in receipt of CTS, the council could choose to increase the generosity of the CTS scheme, and allow payment for more than two children – but that would come at a cost. Every additional £1 of CTS awarded is £1 less council tax collected. It would result in decreased revenue for council tax preceptors, such as Kent County Council. Any changes to the CTS scheme would require public consultation. And a scheme can only be amended from 1 April each year – schemes cannot be amended ‘in year’.
Thanet District Council does have funding to help local people on low incomes – the Household Support Fund is used to assist people. For 2023, Thanet’s budget is £521,000.
The Household Support Fund Tranche 4 is currently being allocated to agencies across Thanet to allow families who are struggling with the cost of living to apply for support. This includes support for household items, food, increased energy costs and rent arrears which are as a result of the cost of living increases.
In addition, Discretionary Housing Payments can provide additional interim support for housing-related costs, particularly where households have experienced an income shock.
The council also provides support to its own tenants, through our dedicated Financial Wellbeing team. This support includes:
- identifying financially struggling households (There are currently 455 children living in tenant’s families affected by the two-child limit and 143 households affected by the benefit cap),
- providing benefits and money advice to help manage finances and maximise entitlements, and
- making referrals are made to other specialist support services
Finally we have committed to the delivery of at least 400 affordable rented homes over 4 years. The programme will deliver a range of sizes of rented homes, including larger homes for families with more than 2 children.
Councillor Austin followed up her question by asking whether the Leader would write to the opposition party asking to lift the cap?
The Leader responded that the council would continue to lobby colleagues in the Labour Party. The real changes would be present within the benefit system whilst regarding lifting the cap.
Question from Cllr Munns to Cllr Albon (via written response)
In April 2021 the Thanet Beaches and Coast – Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) came into force, it remains in force until March 2024.
This was put into place to reduce antisocial behaviour, littering , camping and many other unreasonable activities within our bays.
June this year a small event was held on Botany Bay where loud music and camping the beach was evident. It was akin to a mini glastonbury. However the police took no action. These events are becoming more commonplace across the many beautiful bays within the Kingsgate ward. We see extreme littering, public defecation and urination, bonfires and bbqs that leave hot coals and sharp metal discards.I would like to know how many fines and prosecutions were issued within thanet this year. Where they were issued and what the offences were. Also will the PSPO be extended after March 2024. Without effective enforcement the PSPO is worthless.
“Since April 2021 the PSPO has been administered by trained officers, this was particularly challenging at the tail end of the pandemic. In September 2022 we employed a full-time Beach and Coast Manager. Following this, five new permanent Coastal Enforcement Officer posts were created in the budget setting process for the 2023/24 financial year. These posts were filled early in the summer season this year. The posts are dedicated to administering the PSPO and reducing breaches and ASB along with other important duties which assist in protecting our coastline and beach users.
Following recruitment and induction this year the team have been on duty 7 days per week over the duration of the summer season and have engaged with beach users, concessions and stakeholders. The service does not operate on a 24 hour per day basis however, every report of a breach outside of working hours including bonfires, camping and parties were followed up by a member of the team.
During the season a weekly multi-task force meeting is held to discuss scenarios such as the party at Botany Bay in June. Police support is made available subject to priorities within the district and at times arrests were made this summer with the support of the Coastal officers. Our new officers this year have completed training and are now fully qualified to issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) if required, however there is a strong emphasis on engagement and education and no FPNs have been issued to date this year by the new team. A record is made of each interaction between our coastal enforcement officers and beach users. These records indicate that over 500 breaches were prevented due to educational interventions. This approach will help prevent future breaches and promote responsible use of our beaches. Where necessary formal action is taken, as was the case in August when a Community Protection Warning was issued by the team to a jet-ski user for persistent anti-social use. Our Coastal Enforcement Team has engaged with thousands of beach users this season and feedback suggests that the new officers have made our beaches and coastline feel both safe and welcoming. The team are continuing to work all year round combating ASB, littering and breaches of PSPO where relevant alongside assisting with environmental projects. The PSPO will be renewed in March 2024 and will be enforced by our dedicated team of Coastal officers.”
Question from Cllr Rattigan to Cllr Keen (via written response)
With the ongoing parking problems across Thanet can you reassure me as part of the parking review that you will make sure that it address issues such as the lack of enforcement staff and explore ways to increase staffing? Additionally, can you confirm that you will consider implementing resident parking schemes to alleviate the pressure on local residents and generate more revenue from visitors by enforcing pay-and-display regulations in residential areas and car parks?
Updates on the forthcoming parking strategy consultation have been widely shared, most recently in a routine email update from the Chief Executive to all elected members on 15 September. The specification document for the procurement exercise to secure a consultant was also shared in full as part of that update.
The parking strategy will not consider the recruitment to vacant parking enforcement posts, this is an operational requirement of the department and a separate issue. Recruitment to many posts this year has been challenging but particularly so for the Civil Enforcement Officer post and attempts to fill all vacancies are continuing. It is established that it is a challenging role and we have added a market supplement and have invested in further advertising on multiple sites.
On the matter of resident parking schemes, officers already enforce all parking restrictions within the district whether this be on or off street and we have a high focus area app which directs the officers to complaint areas.
Bringing forward new residential parking schemes is not reliant on the development of a new parking strategy. New schemes can already be considered anywhere in Thanet but such proposals need to be resident led, this is because the restrictions on parking will impact upon all residents that live in the proposed area.
It is worth bearing in mind that there are currently no resident-only parking areas where only residents that live in that particular road or small area are permitted to park. If we were to bring in such a restriction it would prevent residents from other areas of the district parking there as well as anyone visiting Thanet. This issue and wider options for resident parking schemes can be raised and will be considered as part of the parking strategy work
Question from Cllr Smith to Cllr Everitt (via written response)
Minster Marshes is one of Thanet’s most precious habitats — even more so now that birds and wildlife are being forced out of nearby areas by rampant housing development.
In this beautiful, tranquil space, National Grid plans to build a 100ft high, 15-acre converter station.
The Grid claims the facility poses no threat to the surrounding environment, but they would say that, wouldn’t they? It beggars belief that such a large construction, emitting a constant hum, can have no impact on its environment.
As a Green I support renewable energy, and am proud of the graceful wind turbines that line our offshore horizons. But I’m not convinced that we must sacrifice the Marshes to make them worthwhile.
Do you share my concern that this plan could threaten the irreplaceable Marshes, what action will you consider to protect them, and how will you respond to the public consultation ahead?
The plan referred to is the Sealink project, which is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project and will be subject to public consultation later this month with a public examination expected next year by the Planning Inspectorate. As part of that process the Council will be reviewing the Environmental Impact Assessment submitted with any application to assess the impact on designated sites and ecology, as well as considering all relevant planning matters. It is important to understand that this council is not the decision maker for this process and that public views would be most effectively directed to the formal consultation process rather than the council.
Question from Cllr Rogers to Cllr Keen (via written response)
My question is about the lack of parking enforcement. I believe an advert dating back to at least May failed to find a single candidate. It appears this failure wasn’t scrutinised. Why wasn’t this process looked at and alternative solutions found. It was only in September that it was re advertised and more flexible terms offered. In a commercial setting, a failure to recruit would take a matter of days to weeks to appraise and resolve, this has been unaddressed for four months. Would you agree that had this been addressed sooner this would have eased the parking problems that Thanet has experienced over the summer months? Can you confirm that this problem will be more fully scrutinised in the future?
Recruitment and retention of Civil Enforcement Officers has been challenging since 2020, so this is not a new problem. It is also shared with many of our neighbouring councils. There are currently live adverts for CEOs in Medway Folkestone and Sittingbourne and our remuneration package is the highest. We have employed 10 CEOs since 2020, but 14 have left during this time.We continuously advertise in order to attract candidates to the role and we have introduced more flexible terms and a shift allowance. Since 2022 we have also increased pay via a market supplement. However, attracting candidates remains a challenge. We undertake an exit survey when staff leave and a common theme in feedback provided is the frequency of negative interactions with members of the public. We are fully aware of this issue and do all we can to support our staff.
The recruitment opportunity has been advertised through the standard process as well as with our framework agency staff provider. This has led to job offers being made and candidates joining the council. The recruitment advert from July 2023 resulted in an appointment and that officer has now completed mandatory training and is undertaking the full duties of the post. We are always reviewing the advert and currently advertise on multiple external sites.
We will be undertaking a new round of recruitment next week for the role.
Question from Cllr Scott to Cllr Everitt (via written response)
There are many posts on social media about problems new residents to Thanet, who live in large developments of newly built houses are experiencing due to the shoddy build and finish of their homes. Some local contractors have decided not to take on work on ‘new builds’ because of all the problems and issues with them.
Are there any measures TDC can introduce into the planning process to improve the standard of the housing stock at these large-scale developments and ensure the quality and sustainability of the new homes in the district?.
The Local Plan can, and does, address issues of design (external appearance, etc) and sustainability (in terms of energy efficiency; water efficiency; internal space standards; etc). However, it cannot control matters of structural soundness or poor build quality. New homes are required to be constructed in accordance with Building Regulations, set out by central government. The council does provide a building control service that checks compliance with building regulations. However housebuilders do not have to use this service and are able to use private ‘Approved Inspectors’ to certify that new homes are compliant with building regulations. More robust arrangements to tackle issues of poor workmanship would require new national regulations to be introduced.
Question from Cllr Davis to Cllr Everitt (via written response)
Would Councillor Everitt please confirm the current status of, and what progress has been made to date, regarding the establishment of the new Partnership Board under the Regeneration Simplification Pathfinder Pilot scheme, and how the members who are not automatically appointed by their statutory roles are to be identified, selected, and appointed?
We are waiting to hear back from central government following the submission of the Investment Plan for the Simplification Pathfinder Pilot to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Skills. This will provide us with a timeline for the changes to take place for the programme. There are four positions on the Partnership that will be filled by others that are not automatically identified, two business and two community representatives. Proposals for these will come to me for approval and we expect to arrange the first meeting in the new year.
Questions from Members of the Public
Question from Mr Lucy to Cllr Duckworth (via written response)
Margate is becoming increasingly popular, and the first thing that greets visitors on their walk into town is the derelict Arlington Arcade. What is the council doing to maintain and redevelop the arcade area of Arlington House?
Thanet District Council has a freehold interest in the land where the Arlington Arcade was situated. Arlington Arcade occupies part of the land that is leased to the owners of Arlington House, Bernard Sunley Investments, on a very long lease. Arlington House, the arcade and associated car park are owned and managed by the leaseholder. Thanet District Council’s involvement in the site is on a ground rent basis only. There is a policy in the Local Plan (Policy SP10, part 5) that identifies the site as an opportunity site, where the policy supports mixed use town centre developments to support regeneration. We would welcome the owners to come forward with proposed master planning for the area. The council has received a valid planning application for the replacement of the windows in Arlington House and has been made aware of plans to complete external repairs to the building.
Question from Ms Bailey to Cllr Albon
Environment Agency Pollution Risk alerts were issued at Viking Bay over several days at the height of the season. TDC put up warning notices, the RNLI flew red flags and ordered people out of the sea over a tannoy causing alarm. These widely reported alerts had a seriously detrimental effect on local businesses and the wider reputation of Broadstairs. According to the EA website, Pollution Risk Forecasts are made daily based on measurements of Rain, Tide, Time, Sunlight & Wind, however the seawater is only tested weekly. Do we know the accuracy of these ‘forecasts’, are they ever confirmed by retrospective testing? Is this arrangement between TDC and the Environment Agency optional? If yes, what is the rationale for signing up, how long is the agreement and can it be reviewed? If not, is there anything we can do to mitigate the adverse effects on tourism and businesses?
The objective of the Pollution Risk Forecast (PRF) system is to alert beach users to the potential for temporarily increased bacteria levels in bathing waters. The Council displays notices to advise that a PRF is in place and this enables bathers to avoid times or locations where the risk of pollution is higher than normal and where health risks from bathing may be higher than the annual classification suggests.
It is important to note that this is advice against bathing, this season the RNLI chose to fly a red flag at Viking Bay in response to pollution risk forecasts but they did not order members of the public out of the sea.
PRF’s are not directly linked to storm discharge notifications and are not informed by a water quality test; the forecast is generated by a model which considers weather, rainfall and tidal conditions in order to make a prediction. High rainfall is known to affect water quality on a temporary basis, mainly as a result of surface water runoff.
There is no sampling undertaken to verify Pollution Risk Forecasts. However, routine compliance samples that indicate elevated bacteria levels taken during short term pollution may be excluded (disregarded) from the annual classification, provided that the signs have been correctly displayed to alert potential bathers of the PRF in place. In some circumstances the PRF scheme can therefore help to maintain the annual bathing water classification. The bathing water classification is an important qualifying criteria for Blue Flag and Seaside awards.
There were more PRF’s issued during July and August this year than in previous years this was directly linked with the unseasonal weather at the time. We understand the concerns of local businesses who may be impacted by poor weather during the summer season and the issuing of PRFs.
Officers have therefore committed to engaging with the Environment Agency over the winter months to seek a review of how the PRF system is applied at Viking Bay and consider the council’s participation in the scheme. This may also include working with the RNLI to review the use of a red flag during a PRF and consider other ways of communicating the warning to beach users.
Question from Mrs Brown to Cllr Everitt
‘If developers are asked to fund the full cost of the North Thanet link road and they say it is unviable to provide the agreed affordable housing on developments as set out in the Local Plan, there will be no benefit to the residents of Thanet. Gaining affordable and social housing for the district was the only advantage of allowing these developments. The mass development on some of the very best agricultural land in the country will be for the good of other local authorities, people wishing to move to the area and private investors. Local people will end up in a worse situation with all the infrastructure problems that entails.
The current Local Plan is written in a way that allows this to happen, does TDC propose to address this in the Local Plan review to ensure this is not the outcome?’
KCC are progressing a bid under the Department for Transport (DfT) Main Road Network (MRN) Fund to support the delivery of the North Thanet Link, a key part of the Inner Circuit proposed through the Local Plan. The bid is now one of only two priority schemes in Kent supported by Transport for the South East (TfSE), and KCC have received funding from DfT to develop the scheme to the next stage.
If the Bid is successful, it would reduce those costs for the relevant developers, and enable more contributions to a range of other planning obligations, including affordable housing. However, if the bid is not successful, then the site developers will have to fund the provision of the scheme.
Either way, the Council, as the local planning authority, is required to meet the housing needs for the district, as identified through the Government’s housing “standard method”. This is based on population change in the district over the Plan period, and is designed to meet a range of existing and future housing needs, and this is the primary benefit of new housing.
This includes people already living in the district, including new households forming (for example, young people leaving the family home to set up their own home). It also includes people who move into the district. Planning for housing for people moving into the area is not only required by Government guidance, it is also important for local people, because it prevents them (particularly younger people on lower incomes) from being squeezed out of the local housing market.
Government guidance supports the provision of affordable housing and key infrastructure through development contributions (whether by contribution or in kind/on-site). However, the guidance is also clear that, in setting requirements for development contributions, local planning authorities cannot impose a level of costs which effectively renders development sites unviable, and prevents housing from being delivered.
Thus the Local Plan was itself subject to a high-level viability appraisal, and planning applications may also be accompanied by viability assessments that are independently assessed and verified. Where viability can be demonstrated to be an issue, then a decision has to be made about the priority and balance of s106 contributions to be provided.
The clause in Local Plan Policy SP23 (that the requirement on housing developments for 30% affordable housing may be reduced if meeting them would demonstrably make the proposed development unviable) is in line with Government guidance, as was confirmed by the Local Plan Examination Inspectors