Breaking News: High Court Legal Challenge to Secretary of State’s decision to approve Margate seafront ‘Tesco Superstore’

 

Today, June 18th, It has been decided to issue legal proceedings to the High Court to challenge the Secretary of State’s decision of June 13th 2013 to approve the ‘Tesco Superstore’ development at the Arlington site in Margate.

The order sought is that the Secretary of State’s decision notice and the Inspector’s report are quashed.

The claim has been requested to be joined/consolidated with the associated judicial review of the Secretary of State’s Environmental Impact Assessment that was granted permission on March 27th 2013 on an expedited basis.

The Developer has been asked not to commence any works on site, including any demolition until the lawfulness of the Secretary of State’s decision is determined by the Court. This is because there is a risk of ending up with a demolition site on the seafront at the gateway to Margate.  If the Developer does not agree to do so, then an interim injunction will be sought to prevent this. It is hoped that this will not be necessary.

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The Arlington battle is not yet lost…WE NEED YOUR HELP!

The Arlington battle is not yet lost. Thanet District Council is the freeholder and has to grant Landlord’s Consent for any alterations to take place on the site. This is totally separate from Planning Permission.

There was a Corporation Car Park here from the 1930’s. Continued use as a public car park is a condition of the current lease between Thanet District Council and Freshwater, a lease which has been in place since 1965.  Any changes to that lease have to be approved by a Thanet District Council Cabinet meeting.

In view of the success of Turner Contemporary, the re-opening of Dreamland next year and the regeneration of Margate as a whole, adequate and appropriately located visitor parking is an essential ingredient for continued success.

If you feel strongly that the Arlington car park should be re-opened and retained, then please lobby the Cabinet Members with your views.

The Cabinet Members are Councillors Hart, Poole, Everitt,  Fenner, Green and Johnston.

Four of them voted against the planning application. Additionally, one of them spoke against the application at both the planning meeting and the Public Inquiry. Two of them also submitted written comments to the Inspector in opposition to the application.

They all need to know your views.

The Cabinet Members are not bound collectively or individually by the Secretary of State’s decision to grant planning permission. The matter of Landlord’s Consent is an entirely separate issue and therefore the Council’s hands are not tied by the recent decision given by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State.

Please  email the message below along with anything else you wish to say to Council Cabinet Members and our local MP’s:

Sir Roger Gale MP: galerj@parliament.uk
Laura Sandys MP: laura.sandys.mp@parliament.uk
cllr-richard.everitt@thanet.gov.uk
cllr-michelle.fenner@thanet.gov.uk
cllr-david.green@thanet.gov.uk
cllr-clive.hart@thanet.gov.uk
cllr-iris.johnston@thanet.gov.uk
cllr-alan.poole@thanet.gov.uk

Dear Councillors,

I feel strongly that the Arlington public car park should be re-opened and retained.

In view of the success of Turner Contemporary, the re-opening of Dreamland next year and the regeneration of Margate as a whole, adequate and appropriately located visitor parking is an essential ingredient for continued success.

The Cabinet, either collectively or individually, are not bound by the Secretary of State’s decision to grant planning permission. The matter of Landlord’s Consent is an entirely separate issue and therefore it does not follow that the Council’s hands are tied because of the recent decision by the Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State.”

WILL YOU TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION TO ENSURE that the existing public coach and car parking facilities at Arlington Square are opened asap to the public, according to the lease that exists between TDC as Freeholder and Metropolitan Property Realizations Ltd as lessee?

Yours sincerely,


Cabinet Posts:

  • Cabinet Member for Business, Corporate and Regulatory Services – Cllr Michelle Fenner cllr-michelle.fenner@thanet.gov.uk
  • Cabinet Member for Community Services – Cllr Iris Johnston  cllr-iris.johnston@thanet.gov.uk
  • Cabinet Member for Financial Services – Cllr Richard Everitt  cllr-Richard.Everitt@thanet.gov.uk
  • Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning Services – Cllr David Green  cllr-david.green@thanet.gov.uk
  • Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Operational Services – Cllr Alan Poole  cllr-alan.poole@thanet.gov.uk
  • Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Strategic Economic Development Services – Cllr Clive Hart  cllr-clive.hart@thanet.gov.uk

Background notes as to why this issue is so important:

The Arlington Head Lease dated 19th May 1965  between the Borough of Margate/ TDC, the   Freeholder/Lessor and Metropolitan Property Realizations Ltd /aka Freshwate, the Lessee.  Lease term is 199 years from October 1st 1961 at a rent of £7,500 per year for 199 years.

The Arlington site has some 550+ coach and car parking facilities and public lavatories  which cannot be demolished by Metropolitan Property Realizations Ltd/Freshwater without the “Landlords  Consent” being granted by Thanet District Council, following a vote passed in a full cabinet meeting of TDC. This is a separate matter from any planning application. The parking facilities and public spaces and access to the beach are specified in the head lease as for the use of the public for as long as they are needed and that use should not cease unless it can be demonstrated by Metropolitan Property Realizations Ltd that the public parking is no longer needed.

Thanet District Council has already conducted a parking review and Turner Contemporary has had 800K  visitors of whom at least 60%, by their own reckoning, come by car and the Dreamland Compulsory Purchase Order has been successful, where will Thanet District Council  find additional parking if they allow 550+ spaces at Arlington to be re-zoned to Retail A1 use and thus lost to Margate forever?

Relevant clauses from the lease:

(XX)  “Public Access”  during the whole of the term hereby granted to keep open and make available for use by the public upon reasonable terms the coach and car parking facilities and public lavatories now existing upon the premises. provided  nethertheless  should at any time during the term hereby granted the said coach and car park facilities and/or public lavatories become unnecessary or are no longer required through any change of circumstances so that a change of user  is deemed necessary or advantageous then and in such case this Clause may be varied by mutual agreement upon written  notice given by the Lessee to the Lessor.”

  • When was the written request made to Thanet District Council to close the public car parking?
  • What reasons were given by Metropolitan Property Realizations Ltd to close the public parking at Arlington?
  • When was permission given by Thanet District Council to allow the closing off of the public parking?

Thanet District Council’s Legal Department has said it has no record of any request.

Freshwater is in default of its lease. 

(viii) “Public to have use of roads and pathways” to permit members of the public to use the roads pathways and ramps on the premises for the purpose of visiting the shops and other buildings thereon open to the public as well as for the purpose of access to any coach or car parking area provided either generally for the public or for patrons of the shops or other buildings and facilities on the premises.”

The Council has never given Freshwater permission to shut down the  Arlington Public Car Park,  it is still a public car park and the public should be able to access and use it, along with the pathways and Arcade which give direct and safe access to the seafront via Arlington Square.

Lastly, Cliftonville businesses will suffer – it has already been admitted that there will be a loss of trade, since the proposed Tesco aims to be a “one stop” shop with small concessions, so that there will be no need to shop anywhere else in the area.

Secretary of State grants permission for 82,000 sq ft Margate seafront Tesco

The news is finally in. We’re disappointed that Secretary State, Eric Pickles has decided to approve the application for an 82,000 sq ft superstore on Margate seafront. This is after waiting 7 months following the public inquiry in November and a matter of weeks before a Judicial Review goes ahead challenging  the screening decision not to make the development subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment.

We’ll get to digesting the report and come back with our views later.

Here is the decision report

What is the future for Margate Seafront? Tesco expansion plans halted across Kent

Jacobs seafront visual 1-1
Not heard about the plans for a more pedestrian friendly Margate seafront?

It could be because the authorities don’t talk about it anymore.
It was referred to by KCC’s Highways Officer in the Arlington Tesco Planning Report from June 2012 as the ‘approved scheme’. The scheme is referred to as  ‘The Jacobs’ Report’. You might have trouble finding it on KCC or TDC’s website. So we have a handy copy here on the documents section of our website to download here.

The Jacobs’ Report was the culmination of over a year’s public consultation in Margate. Many of us attended workshops for hours. It was the vision for what Margate seafront could and should be after Turner Contemporary opened. Here are some pictures from the report.

Now the plans for the mega Tesco look in doubt, it’s time to start looking at a sustainable alternative.

jacobs seafront visual 2 Jacobs seafront visual 1

In other news, it’s been reported that Tesco are halting their expansion plans across the entire county:

Tesco expansion plans halted across Kent By Nick Ames, Monday, April 29, 2013 http://www.kentnews.co.uk/news/tesco_expansion_plans_halted_across_kent_1_2166314

“Plans for large-scale developments across the county by supermarket giant Tesco are in disarray. A combination of public opinion that “enough is enough” when it comes to the superstore along with poor results from the company itself have halted projects in Thanet and Swale. And other developments are facing widespread opposition from residents who say they will drive small stores out of business, leaving “empty shops like broken teeth along the high street”. Further objectors say the superstores ruin the look of an area and create huge increases in traffic. Public opinion forced out Tesco plans for a new Express store in Westgate-on-Sea, with 12 members of Thanet District Council voting no – and none in favour. Cllr Peter Campbell put forward the motion to refuse the planning application as it “is not in keeping and is harmful to the Westgate conservation area and location.” He said: “The store would have been on a very narrow strip of land and it would have made the area seem very claustrophobic. It was in the wrong place, in the wrong style and had the wrong design. There was a lot of vocal public opinion against the proposal which did not fit in with Victorian Westgate.” A second 82,000 sq ft 24-hour store has also been proposed for Margate seafront but following opposition is now the subject of a review by local government minister Eric Pickles. Louise Oldfield of campaign group Friends of Arlington Margate said: “The size of the store would badly hit existing local businesses and the amount of traffic – 18,000 extra vehicles on a Friday and Saturday – would halt plans for a part-pedestrianised seafront introduced to promote a café culture and attract tourists.” Independent Thanet councillor Ian Driver said: “Tesco has more than enough of a presence here. There are shops at Westwood Cross, in Ramsgate, Broadstairs and Cliftonville. People I have been speaking to feel Tesco should not be hoovering up properties and driving local businesses to the wall. Enough is enough” Tesco has a part stake – believed to be around 40 per cent – in the coffee chain Harris + Hoole which want to open an outlet in the former Clinton’s card store in Whitstable. Planning permission for a change of signage has been granted, but no further applications are necessary as the site is already designated for retail. Objection has come from Save Whitstable Shops which says the chain is “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” because of the superstore’s stake. Campaigner Brian Hitcham said: “This town has built its reputation on independent stores and people will be fooled into thinking they are going into a small, independently run, coffee shop when in fact that is not the case at all.” Campaigners have called for a boycott of the shop when it does open. Tesco itself shelved plans for a £110 million store at Milton Creek, Sittingbourne, and extension of the Forum Shopping Centre, which it owns. Poor nationwide sales and problems with getting planning approval after the Highways Agency raised concerns over traffic congestion were cited as the reasons behind the decision. Now Swale Borough Council says it wants to hear what Tesco – as landowners – are proposing instead. Director of regeneration Pete Raine said: “We are aware of Tesco’s decision not to proceed with their plans, which does not surprise us given the profound changes in market conditions over the past few years. “It will be up to Tesco as landowners to bring forward alternative proposals for the site in due course, and we look forward to working with them to ensure we maximise the contribution of this strategic site to the regeneration of Sittingbourne town centre. We are relieved that the uncertainty surrounding this proposal has now ended, and that we can in future look at the site with a fresh pair of eyes. “Meantime, we will continue to progress our plans for development south of the railway line with our partners Spirit of Sittingbourne, and we are confident the Tesco decision will not throw those off course. In this context, we welcome Tesco’s continued commitment to their store in the Forum.” The Swale project is one of more than 100 such schemes across the UK abandoned by Tesco in the wake of its worst ever fall in profits and a disastrous attempt to break into the US convenience store market. Uncertainty also surrounds its activities in the west of the county. Tesco has also bought the leaseholds of small businesses on a parade of shops in Paddock Wood and has indicated plans for a new store, while another development project has been earmarked for Edenbridge. However both schemes are still in the planning stage and a number of objections have been voiced by people concerned about their impact on small businesses. In a statement Tesco said: “We are very proud to serve thousands of customers every day through our Kent stores, providing a vital service for the many local people who choose to shop with us. “We continue to offer our customers the best of Tesco products and the best possible service. We know our stores bring shoppers to local areas and are pleased other local businesses can take advantage of the customers we attract.” But Steve Dawe of the Kent Green Party said: “The constant expansion of supermarket giants is killing smaller shops. Research shows that after five years of operation a superstore achieves a net loss within a five mile radius of 250 jobs by eliminating small businesses, such as butchers, grocers and coffee shops – all the things that give variety to a town. “What is left is empty shops like broken teeth along the high street.””

Arlington Clean Up – Who is cleaning up for the benefit of the Planning Inspector?

How convenient. Cleaning crews were out at today at the Arlington Margate site on a Saturday morning cleaning up the weeds and rubbish that has been a shame to our town for over ten years. And to top it off,  a Thanet District Councillor was on site supervising.

We’ve been complaining for years about the dreadful state of Arlington, but is it really appropriate for TDC to be in attendance cleaning up of the locked off areas of the Arlington site, just before the Public Inquiry is due to start and there will be a site visit from the presiding Planning Inspector?

Of course, leaseholders, Freshwater, should have done this clean up years ago. We trust the public purse hasn’t paid for today’s activity.

Here is how the place looked before:

During the clean up:

After the clean up. All spick and span: