Half truths as always

TDC’s Public Document Pack for tomorrow’s Planning Committee meeting  (Weds 19th of October, at 7pm) contains the independent report commissioned from Dr Chris Miele of Montagu Evans.

However, the Council is presenting to Committee Members with a summary of the report (Agenda Item 5)  which only outlines two out of the four reasons why English Heritage upgraded the Scenic Railway in June from Grade II to Grade II*. And unsurprisingly, the two reasons outlined: ‘rarity’ and ‘design’, are the two probably not affected by the proposed development. The two reasons that would be effected by the development: ‘historic interest’ and ‘group value’ are left out of the summary. The selective exclusion of these two reasons from the report to Members is misleading.

English Heritage Reasons for the Upgrade of the Scenic Railway in full:

1. Rarity: It is the oldest surviving rollercoaster in Britain and is of international significance as the second oldest in Europe and amongst the five oldest in the world of this prominent C20 entertainment structure.
2. Design: Scenic railways are amongst the earlier types of rollercoaster design and it is an internationally important surviving example of this first generation of moving amusement technology.
3. Historic Interest: As an important and evocative aspect of the seaside heritage of Margate, one of the earliest and foremost English seaside resorts and Dreamland, its principal amusement park.
4. Group value: It groups with Dreamlands other listed buildings the Grade II* cinema and Grade II menagerie.

Read the full English Heritage Upgrade Report for the Scenic Railway 29th June 2011.

TDC’s public document pack for Planning Committee on Wednesday 19th October:

Sadly and disappointingly, Thanet District Council’s Conservation Department response to the Miele report also only covers these same two reasons for the upgrade.

If you probe further into the reasons for upgrading, it becomes clear that the proposals would harm them:

“Historic Interest: as an important and evocative aspect of the seaside heritage of Margate, one of the earliest and foremost English seaside resorts, and Dreamland, its principal amusement park”

Will riding the Scenic still be “evocative” with a blank shed wall towering?

“Group value: it groups with Dreamland’s other listed buildings the Grade II* cinema and Grade II menagerie.”
The Discussion part of the document says that it “groups strongly”. By definition, group value is about relationships, and the relationship between the structures is definitely impacted upon by the proposals.

We believe that Planning Committee Members are being mislead by the content of Agenda Item 5 and they should reject it outright.

It is also worth noting that English Heritage are quoted in the Council Agenda item as confirming: “that the upgrading of the Scenic Railway from Grade II to Grade II* will have no significant effect on the process [our emphasis] of assessment of the impact of the development on the setting of the heritage asset.” English Heritage refer to ‘process’, yet the Council translate this to having no effect on the outcome. Process is not the same as outcome. We are awaiting confirmation from English Heritage on whether they were aware that section drawings submitted for consultation between the Arlington site and Dreamland have a 4m error.
Dreamland Trust’s response to the Miele report

We will be gathering on the steps of the Council Offices tomorrow from 6pm -7pm as a silent protest.

The Developers, Freshwater, paid for Thanet District Council’s ‘Independent’ Heritage Report

Thanet District Council confirmed today that Freshwater the leaseholders of the Arlington site funded the independent expert report looking at the upgraded listing of the Scenic Railway.

As we reported earlier this week,  the report was written by the firm Montagu Evans, who list Tesco Stores amongst their main clients. The independence of this report and the author is now questionable.

Is it a credible document to be presented to Planning Committee on October 19th?

I’m sure we will receive clarification on the independence of the report from the freeholder – Thanet District Council, the leaseholder Freshwater and the prospective corporate tenant – Tesco Stores. And further that Dr Chris Miele has a duty of care to Thanet District Council who commissioned the report and not Montagu Evans’ other clients, Tesco Stores.

30 September 2011 10:34
Arlington Statement
Thanet District Council commissioned the report, so that the professional duty of care was owed to the council for the advice received. The council paid for the report and were reimbursed by the developers. The report will be assessed independently by English Heritage and the council’s planning and conservation teams and this will be reported to the Planning Committee.

TDC commissioned Heritage Report from firm with Tesco as a main client

Thanet District Council have today released an ‘expert report looking at the upgraded listing of the Scenic Railway’. The report (available here to download) ‘states it was commissioned by Thanet District Council. The Report’s author is Dr Chris Miele who is a partner in the legal firm, Montagu Evans. Montague Evans list Tesco Stores amongst their main clients.

On their website, Montagu Evans publicise how they have achieved planning permission for their client Tesco to build a superstore ‘in a conservation area and in an area of archaeological potential’ in Suffolk. If you run a search for Montagu Evans and Tesco on Google you’ll find they are a firm that specialise in looking after Tesco. And Dr Chris Miele specialises in getting Supermarkets into sensitive locations like Arlington:

“Chris Miele is a Town Planner and one of the ten partners of Montagu Evans’ Planning and Development Department. He joined Montagu Evans in 2006 from RPS where, as a Senior Director, he was in charge of their historic building advice. He leads on projects requiring heritage expertise and experience of tall buildings and large developments in sensitive locations. In this respect he draws on skills gained previously when working at a senior level at English Heritage as well as his other roles including his time on the CABE Design Review Panel. Chris manages a group of other specialist planners who concentrate on listed building and conservation area proposals as well as more general planning matters.”

Thanet District Council also published a press release regarding this report. Download a copy of the press release here. Here is the text:

28th September 2011
An expert report, looking at the upgraded listing of the Scenic Railway, has concluded that it would not be harmed by the proposed Arlington development.

The Scenic Railway’s listed status was upgraded in July from Grade II to Grade II*, putting it into the top 6% most important listed buildings in the country. This came after the Planning Committee originally supported the Arlington application at their meeting in June.

Following this, the council confirmed that no decision note on the Arlington application would be issued until the question of the re-listing of the Scenic Railway had been taken into account. The council commissioned an independent report, looking at this issue, which has now been submitted.

The report says that, even though the listing was upgraded after the Planning Committee made its original decision, there was “a very sound understanding” of the importance of the Scenic Railway when the decision was first taken.

It states that English Heritage had considered the effect on the Scenic Railway throughout the consultation “irrespective of grade of listing”. The report then goes on to say that the proposed development “clearly does not diminish the rarity value of the asset” because much of the value is down to its history.

It concludes that the “particular significance which lead to the upgrading of this monument… is not harmed by the proposed development.” “

A copy of the report has now been sent to English Heritage for their comments. The Planning Committee will be updated with details of the report at their October meeting, which is due to take place on Wednesday 19 October.

What is being proposed for Arlington?
The plans would see a 7,565 square metre superstore being built on the existing car park, with improvements to Arlington House. Outline proposals would see the demolition of the existing retail unites in Arlington Square, to be replaced with shops, offices, cafes, restaurants or bars, with a 60 room hotel above, overlooking the seafront.

These plans were submitted to the government, because of the size of the development and because it is outside the existing town centre of Margate, but it was passed back to Thanet District Council. The application was supported by the council’s Planning Committee in June. Since then, officers have been working to put a Section 106 planning agreement in place for it.”

We are tonight a little confused about what will happen at the Planning Committee on October 19th.

Will a decision be made?

Do TDC think they have made a decision already that is valid?

How much did this report cost and who took the decision to commission a consultant on the pay role of Tescos?