Arlington consultation based on misleading drawings

When Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State, English Heritage said they had considered carefully the information and the application, were they made aware that the validated drawings showing the relationship between the Arlington site with the proposed superstore structure and the adjacent Dreamland site are not a true representation of the proposal and its context?

Background:
Through a series of communications with TDC Planning Officers, it has been established that important drawings published on www.ukplanning.com/thanet ref F/TH/10/1061 do not show the true representation of the difference in ground levels between the Arlington and the adjacent Dreamland site. The reality is that the Arlington site is between 3 and 4 metres higher than the Dreamland site.

The drawings include:
080417-A-P-Si D112
080417-A-P-Si D112A
080417-A-P-Si D124

This substantial difference in ground levels is fundamental to understanding the relationship between the proposed development and its context which includes the Grade II Listed Sangers Menagerie, the Grade II* listed Scenic Railway and the Grade II Listed Dreamland Cinema.

In effect, seen from Dreamland side, the rear of the proposed Tesco Superstore would be up to 4 meters higher than how is represented in the submitted drawings. This seemed to be an issue and so we asked TDC’s Planning department for confirmation.

They explained:
“The Drawings are of the proposed store building, not the ground level outside the application site.”

In other words, one should look only at the outline of the proposed superstore but not at the surrounding context represented in the drawings. So drawings have been validated and sent out for consultation where not all of the information contained in the drawing is to be viewed as an accurate representation of the site?

We thought this sounded odd, so we checked what we would have to include in section drawings if we too were going to submit an application to build a structure next to listed structures. Officers responded stating that showing the adjacent sites in a scaled drawing is mandatory, especially when Listed structures are involved.

Do we have a point that English Heritage and the Secretary of State have not been shown drawings of the site that are accurate when they issued their opinions?

Let’s have a look at our to scale section including the Scenic. Perhaps you might like to ask the National Planning Casework Unit about this: npcu@gowm.gsi.gov.uk Citing ref: F/TH/10/1061
Or ask Thanet’s Planning Department yourself and see what reply you get. We’d be happy to hear an update. planning.services@thanet.gov.uk


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Will proposed works to Arlington House improve it?

Tucked away in the Planning Committee Agenda document pack for the Planning Committee hearing next Wednesday the 19th of October, there is a Supplementary Agenda item: Timing of Proposed Works to Arlington House. Remember that despite this planning application (F/TH/10/1061) not being yet officially decided on. No final Decision Notice has been issued, the public is not allowed to comment on these documents.
The report states:

“Since the report regarding the timing of development was written the applicant has advised that the works to Arlington House (except the 31 flats where the applicant’s control is unclear) can be completed prior to the trading of the store, rather than the fit out of the store.”
Do you see which bit is relevant here? We have always drawn attention to the legal dispute that Freshwater have with promising TDC a refurbished facade of Arlington House as a trade of for granting permission to build the massive superstore. And here we have it.
The original windows will be replaced in flats that Freshwater control, but this leaves 31 flats in dispute. 31 flats in random positions in the facade, will retain the original windows.
Is this an improvement or inappropriate patchwork?

The original Arlington House windows have light grey, slim aluminium frames, clear glass with horizontal sliding. They have been in place for almost 50 years. Can you say that about any variety of Upvc window available? And how about on a seafront location like Margate?

All glazed panels are the same size with equally spaced mullions. The profile of the opening windows is the same as the fixed panels. This fine and considered detailing results in a constant regular rhythm in the facade.
The proposed replacement windows will be thick framed dark Upvc framed with tinted glass, irregular mullion spacing and thicker framing where opening windows occur.  So uneven spacing in appearance.
Will the window replacement improve the appearance of the building or result in an unsightly patchwork?
The applicant has provided samples on the facade, a computerised visualisation and scaled drawings. The 3 representations show different window configurations. None of the representations is of the windows that are actually being proposed.

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
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?


Arlington site fails the Sequential Test

The Sequential Test is an integral part of Planning Policy. The intention is to promote town centre vitality and viability by focussing developments in town centres. Whether an 82,000 square foot superstore will do that, is another question- Freshwater’s own stats say there will be a 30% loss in trade to existing businesses- but going back to the Sequantial Test, site “1” was proven by the applicant and accepted by the Planning Officers to be the nearest to the town center retail (in red)

Isn’t the derelict site “2” nearer?


Margate businesses should ask for a reduction in business rates

It has been assessed and accepted by Thanet District Council in their report (pdf) that the proposed Superstore of 7677 sq. mtrs will take 30% of trade from existing businesses. 10% of this will come from the existing traders in Margate.

A 10% decrease on the rateable value of commercial property in Margate and Westgate should be requested by businesses if the planning application is approved. Traffic problems will also contribute to a further loss of business as motorists will simply not be able to get into town on Fridays and Saturdays due to their predicted 17,000 extra vehicle movements. And this is from a traffic survey conducted out of season last October, before the opening of Turner Contemporary and without taking into account any traffic that may be generated by Dreamland.

This should therefore also be taken into account when calculating the rateable value of businesses affected by the opening of the Superstore.

Is there a precedent for businesses successfully claiming a reduction in their rates?

Yes. In Holmbush, Sussex over 100 appeals were filed and the district valuer gave a blanket reduction of 20% to all those who appealed.

Here in Margate, the applicant, Freshwater, is promising 3 hours free parking for customers of the Superstore. This is said to enable shoppers sufficient time to visit shops in Margate Old Town and the High Street after they have finished with their shopping in the Arlington Superstore. Even if the applicant maintained this promise, it is hard to imagine shoppers leaving their weeks shopping with refrigerated or frozen goods in the car while they go to get some fruit from the local greengrocer or have a coffee elsewhere in the town.

TRAFFIC ASSESSMENT

The doccuments submitted on behalf of the applicant by Colin Buchanan (Traffic Consultants), a comment attributed to Kent County Council states,“If the developer is unable to provide any other suitable mitigation proposals in addition to the proposed box junction markings at Cecil Square and, assuming satisfactory resolution of the other issues listed below, we are minded to recommend refusal of the application on the grounds of the unacceptable, increased congestion and delays likely to be created by the proposals in relation to the Clock Tower and Cecil Square”.

If the officer’s report is correct, it will result in a trebling of the length of the current queues (not merely a doubling as previously mentioned). The Officer’s report states that traffic queues will be extended by (sic) 27 vehicles and 59 vehicles on Marine Drive and Marine Gardens respectively.

Clarification of this particular point needs to be sought. In any event, Marine Gardens (the length of roadway between Cecil Square and the Clocktower roundabout) is not sufficiently long to contain a queue of even 59 vehicles – because this will include buses. It also calls into question why the bus companies have not been consulted on this application.

Why have we set up the Arlington House blog?

On Wednesday the 14th of June 2011, Thanet District Council’s Planning Committee referred the application to build a Supermarket Superstore of 7500m2 at Arlington House and Arlington Square to the Secretary of State with a recommendation for approval. The Committee were deadlocked with a vote of 7 for approval and 7 for refusal. The Chairman, Independent Councillor Jack Cohen cast the deciding vote to approve the application. The decision depended on 1 vote. The decision now rests with Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Government.

This blog has been set up to publish information on the history or Arlington House and Arlington Square. It is a prominent seafront building in Margate. Our aim is to build an archive of past, present and future of Arlington and its role at the centre of Margate. No matter what technicality the authorities claim that this is a site on the outskirts. Anyone coming in to Margate knows that this is at the heart of the town.

If you have stories, history or anecdotes about Arlington to contribute, please get in touch at arlingtonhousemargate@gmail.com

We ask that the proposals currently on the table be taken to a Public Enquiry. It seems only fair after the decision was made on a single casting vote of the newly appointed Chairman. We’re suggesting people make their views known by contacting Mr Eric Pickles MP and asking for this: eric.pickles@communities.gsi.gov.uk
http://www.ericpickles.com/

If you fancy some initial further reading, you could do worse than download and peruse the ARLINGTON PLANNING BRIEF, which was adopted by Full Council in 2008 and is the basis on how schemes for the Arlington site should be based on. You can then judge for yourself if you think this latest proposal of building of a huge 24 hour superstore fits with this http://www.ukplanning.com/  enter the reference F/TH/10/1061 .