Guidance on asking for a Public Inquiry

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 But that the statement has been superseded by subsequent Secs of State.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 npcu@gowm.gsi.gov.uk
and copy also to  Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities
and Local Government at eric.pickles@communities.gsi.gov.uk

Quoting  application ref F/TH/10/1061  and giving your name and address.

 

Things you might not have realized about the proposed Arlington development (Tesco Superstore).


  •  Who owns the Arlington Site?

The freehold of the land is held by Thanet District Council. The company Freshwater have a long lease of 199 years granted in 1961. Thanet District Council as has the right under the terms of the lease to regularly inspect the site and ensure that Freshwater is maintaining and repairing the buildings. This has not been done.

  • Have Tesco promised to renovate Arlington House?

No!

The planning application is from Freshwater, not Tesco. It is filed by Metropolitan Realizations Ltd. A company that is part of the Freshwater group of companies.

Many people are under the impression that Tesco will pay for the refurbishment and redevelopment of Arlington House. Actually, Tesco has promised nothing.

Actually, Tesco has promised nothing and has no obligation to pay fir anything since Freshwater owns the long term lease. Freshwater will probably be earning at least £1m a year in rental income from Tesco. 

  • Who  are Freshwater?

Freshwater is a family business. The Freshwater family was listed as one of the top 400 richest in the recent Sunday Times list of the 2000 richest people in the UK. They are one of the UK’s largest independent property investment companies. They own large amounts of property worldwide, and in the UK, including Freshwater House, in a prime location on Shaftsbury Avenue.

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-924128-who-really-owns-london.do

Since Freshwater took over Arlington House in 1970/71, they have not only failed to maintain the building, but have actively evicted businesses and made changes to make the shops unviable. They are incredibly rich, and yet they have brought our town into disrepute by the continued neglect of the Arlington Square site, which is on a prime corner of the seafront.

So can we rely on Freshwater to improve things for residents or our town?

Probably not!

The interior of Arlington House hasn’t been painted in over 20 years and we all know how long the existing stores have been boarded up with Freshwater doing nothing about their mess. Following a fire in 2001, Freshwater were legally required to make fire prevention repairs and install alarms, but these mandatory Section 72 repairs were not completed. In 2008/9 TDC finally had to take over completion of the works and use TDC contractors to finish the job and the cost was charged to residents and Thanet taxpayers.

  • Won’t it be good to have a supermarket at Arlington?

It could be good to have a small supermarket where local people could shop. Many people are under the false impression that what is proposed is small Tesco Metro sized store. But in fact it is a megastore as big as 2 football pitches when parking is included. This is the first proposed seafront superstore that has been approved in the UK.  This will bring thousands of extra cars, vans and lorries on the seafront every day and will bring a loss in trade to local shops. The council’s own report predicts almost 17,000 extra vehicle movements on a Friday and Saturday. The traffic report the applicant conducted was carried out in October out of season, before The Turner Contemporary opened. Turner was not accounted for, neither was a future Dreamland or a regenerated Margate.

  • Will the seafront look better?

No. Tesco is not offering to redevelop the seafront part of the site. Only outline planning has been submitted for a potential hotel at the front. With no commitment from an investor the shops at the front will be demolished to avoid business rates. Margate seafront will have a derelict boarded up site for decades. It is very unusual that the Council would agree to outline planning for such a prominent seafront location, especially since there are practically no strings attached.

Is this any better than we have now? It could look even worse!

  • The application is merely for outline permission in respect of the shops and hotel

    Freshwater have already indicated that there is currently no interest in the proposed units and that development is unlikely to commence until 2014 at the earliest. That being the case, we will be looking at boarded up shops for the next three years.  The developer will not be proposing substantial landscaping on a short term basis.
  • So will Margate get a contribution?

When big projects are granted, developers are usually asked to put something back into the area in return. This is called a Section 106 agreement.

Usually, for a store this size, Tesco would be asked to contribute millions.

In this case, all that is being offered is “improvements” to the roundabout at Station Green, two pedestrian walkways and extra traffic lights – which means S106 taxpayers money will pay for the changes they need to make in order to get lorries into All Saints Avenue.   Not exactly a generous gift to the community! And it has been suggested that S106 funds be used to pay Freshwater’s expenses in painting the outside of Arlington tower.

  • Arlington House looks a mess. Won’t it be improved if Tesco pay for it?

Tesco has not offered to pay for any improvements to Arlington house. Tesco is only a tenant and has no obligation to pay for anything on the site since Freshwater is the landlord. Several “improvements” promised by Freshwater will be paid for by Arlington House residents. And even then, they might not be able to deliver.  Freshwater cannot make residents change their windows. It will be a patchwork of new black plastic windows with dark glass and the old windows. The building will actually look worse than it does now.

  • Will Tesco bring prosperity and jobs to Margate?

Freshwater have said that the Superstore will bring 300 jobs over a 3-5 year period. And what about the smaller local shops that go out of business in that period? Sheppey found that there was a net jobs loss over a 5 year period when Tesco opened there. The planning application states that this Tesco Megastore will take 20% of its trade from Westwood Cross 10% from the centre of Margate). Our local shops are already struggling, with Margate at the top of the chart with 37.4% shops lying vacant.  Shall we say it again? Superstores cause more loss of jobs and wealth in an area than they create. See this report for details of community impacts:

http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/good_neighbours_community.pdf

  • Does a superstore bring money to the area?

No, it will take money out of the area. Profits from Superstores go to shareholders worldwide. Local shops spend their profits back into the local economy. See report from FoE above.

  • If Freshwater doesn’t get permission will the site remain an eyesore?

Not necessarily. There are alternatives.

For example, TDC could serve Freshwater with a repairs notice, obliging them to un-board and renovate the retail units, carry out repairs etc.

If Freshwater had to spend money on the site, they would think of a profitable scheme.

A smaller supermarket could bring shoppers to the arcade. The carpark could be used for people going to the beach, the  Turner Contemporary and to Dreamland. If the gates were removed between arcade and parking, there would be lots of footfall.

And how about this for inspiration for an alternative use for Arlington?
The Sands Development in Scarborough, built without public money during the recession, is an award winning seafront development offering high quality tourist accommodation and long term lets. It has brought valuable investment to Scarborough, which has a history very similar to Margate. Locals didn’t think it would work, but now the flats sell at £200k-£250k and have brought valuable investment and money to the town. Here’s info on the development.

And also this alternative vision from Sam Causer Architect:

http://margatecaag.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/a-plan-for-arlington/

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 npcu@gowm.gsi.gov.uk and copy also to  Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government at eric.pickles@communities.gsi.gov.uk

Quoting  application ref F/TH/10/1061  and giving your name and address.

Suggested reasons could be:

– The site is in a prominent seafront location, immediately next to Grade II and Grade II* listed buildings on the national register.

– The effect the development will have on traffic in town. Transport is a material planning consideration.

– The impact the development will have on local businesses.

– The scale of the proposed store is disproportionate for this prominent seafront location.

– This is the first seafront superstore to be proposed in the UK.

 

Who to contact to ask for this stupid application to be called in?

We’ve just had clarification of where to contact to ask for this application to be called in. It is not going initially to Eric Pickles desk! It is going to The National Planning Casework Unit in Birmingham.

So send your request for application F/TH/10/1061 to be called in to npcu@gowm.gsi.gov.uk

Tel 0121 352 5544

We’ll be posting bullet pointed suggestions on criteria to request it be called in this afternoon.