At tonight’s Cabinet meeting, attended by SuMA, Deputy Leader Cllr Lin Fairbrass presented agenda item 7 regarding the Thanet Local Plan Consultation.
She began by emphasising that the Local Plan must be evidence based. That the Local Plan was driven by Government housing numbers which are higher than any economic job opportunities can match.
Cllr Fairbrass warned that the Local Plan was already six years out of date and that, without being clearly evidence based, would be legally challenged. The Council would then be at risk to planning application decisions, losing appeals and High Court challenges and having significant costs awarded against the Council.
Cllr Fairbrass proposed that the public consultation period should be extended from 6 to 8 weeks. She also said that the draft Local Plan document is already available giving further time for it to be considered.
She said that draft policy SP05 permits a limited amount of aviation use as part of a mixed development BUT this does not preclude an application for a fully operational airport licence.
Responding to this presentation both Conservative and UKIP Councillors spoke up in favour of Manston Airport. A memorable quote, came from Cllr Stuart Piper, who whilst urging a delay in the Local Plan until new evidence came forward said, “Why the haste, why the waste?”
Summing up, the Leader Cllr Wells stated that the Council has been transparent in twin tracking the two options for Manston Airport for at least the past year.
He said that the only evidence standing at the moment is the Avia Report and that if people were uncomfortable with that evidence they must go to the people who would operate an airport and get them to provide evidence.
The Leader said that they will pursue all potential uses for the airport ‘as an airport’ up until the consultation as avidly as they have tried to do before.
He said that if any new evidence came forward showing clear viability of the airport before the pre-submission stage in June 2017 that twin track can be easily changed.
Until then they have to produce the evidence they have as it stands and according to the Government’s rules.
Cllr Wells said that we can all be really enthusiastic about the airport but that without evidence the council have to take a neutral view and serve the residents of all of Thanet.
He added that if the 2500 houses weren’t accommodated on the airport then green field land would need to be found most likely in the Westwood, Westgate and Birchington areas.
The proposal to move the draft Local Plan forward for an 8 week public consultation period beginning in January was passed unanimously by Cabinet.
Please watch the video for the full discussion.