What a day it has been! You’d think living at the seaside we would have better things to do than sit on the phone talking to Public Officials and Planning Consultants on the grounds that a Secretary of State can ask for a planning application be called in.
This morning we spoke with an officer at the National Planning Casework Unit. They have been set up to take on planning casework activities previously handled by Regional Government Offices. So this is all new. And necessarily an improvement. The message seemed to come across that even though the new Localism Bill is not yet in place, the general mood and direction from Central Government is that it is now much more unlikely that Central Government would go against a decision of a local decision maker like an elected Local Authority.
So there we have it. this huge decision for Margate rested on the shoulders of the new Chair of Planning Cllr Jack Cohen. Who with a single casting vote sent this application up to Central Government to be effectively rubber stamped.
So is this the beginning of the end? Perhaps not.
Further discussions into the afternoon with various consultants and the general gist is that if a decision is to be called in by the Sec. of State (or those acting for him) then it will have to be for issues that are of national concern. In this case, these could be:
– That the site is in the immediate vicinity of Grade II and Grade II* listed buildings that are on the national register.
– Significant concerns regarding the design – related to the above point.
– Traffic and transport was mentioned, but I need to firm up the wording.
The Public Official mentioned the significance of the 1999 so called ‘Carbon Statement’ as a guide that will be used in making a decision. My inital googling seems to pull up that this is linked to the proof of need for edge of town or out of town developments. But that the statement has been superseded by subsequent Secs of State. So this left ,e slightly confused. But the impression I got from speaking to the guy
Isn’t this a shame for Margate that a decision as important as this may get through because of a technicality and swing in Central Govt policy of not taking decisions that
differ from the local policy makers.
What do we do if 50% of the Planning Committee vote according to the party whip and not according to what they believed in? Shame on the Tory Councillors who spoke out against this application and then voted for it. Perhaps we should take forward the notion of localism and move to elect an independent Margate Town Council.
It seems ludicrous to be in the position that the UK’s first proposed seafront megastore will go through on a single vote and our chance to have our say or to question this process is made even harder by something that purports to devolve the power from Central Government to local communities. But what about local communities who have to deal with less than satisfactory local authorities? In this case, Margate will be ruined by the time the next elections come around.
So here again are the contact details where you can send your issues on this application:
If you would like to a better future for Margate we need to make sure
there is a public enquiry of this application. You can do this by
emailing The National Planning Casework Unit at email@example.com
and copy also to Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities
and Local Government at firstname.lastname@example.org
Quoting application ref F/TH/10/1061 and giving your name and address.