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.

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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
NEWS RELEASE
ARLINGTON UPDATE
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?


Thanet District Council finally issue a statement on Arlington – albeit a confusing one

Thanet District Council have issued a first press release since they were put under legal notice that to make a decision on the current planning application without re-consulting would be unlawful. Their statement is somewhat ambiguous. It makes no mention of whether the material change affecting the site will be also put to consultation.

“The upgraded listing of the Scenic Railway will be taken into account in the decision making process on the application for Arlington House in Margate, that’s the promise from Thanet District Council.

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.

The council’s position on this is set out in writing by the council’s Corporate and Regulatory Services Manager, Harvey Patterson. He confirms that the council will not be issuing a decision notice on the Arlington application, until the issue of the re-listing of the Scenic Railway is taken into account. However, the council has yet to decide whether a report will be made to the Planning Committee.

The plans to build a new retail superstore next to Arlington House were passed back to Thanet District Council by the government in July. The application had been supported by the council’s Planning Committee in June and it is now being looked at by officers, who are putting in place a Section 106 agreement.

The application proposes a 7,565 square metre superstore being built on the existing car park, with 409 new parking spaces at ground floor, with the store above. It also proposes improvements to Arlington House, with outline proposals for the demolition of the existing retail units in Arlington Square. These would be replaced with a two, three and four storey building, accommodating shops, offices, cafes, restaurants or bars, with a 60 room hotel above, overlooking the seafront.”

Publication date: 07 September, 2011
ENDS