The main subject at last night’s Extraordinary Overview & Scrutiny Panel meeting (21st November 2016) at Thanet District Council, attended by members of SuMA, was the draft Local Plan. After the intermission for the majority of public to leave, the meeting went on to Budget Strategy, Fees and Charges and the Council Tax Support Scheme.
The original recommendation was that Overview & Scrutiny (O&S) recommend to Cabinet amendments be agreed and the draft Local Plan could be put out to public consultation of 6 weeks.
David Stevens from SMAa spoke as part of the current trial of public speaking during O&S meetings. He suggested that the Avia report hasn’t been peer reviewed and wasn’t accurate and incomplete. He also suggested that the report, due to the various caveats in it, can only be considered as opinion rather than evidence that the Local Plan requires. He commented that Edi Truell clearly believes Manston has an aviation future. He went on to suggest the Local Plan should follow two alternatives for the Manston site, one with aviation and one with mixed use and aviation.
The large proportion of discussions of the panel were in connection with Manston Airport. The leader of TDC, Cllr Chris Wells outlined the Council’s position in regards legal advice that was sought led to the need for a legally binding viability study in order to retain Manston for aviation use. He went on to discuss that, to date, no other evidence has come forward that could be construed as proof of viability from either RiverOak or other parties that would be sufficient to retain the site as such.
Therefore the Airport site is being considered in the Local Plan as a site for housing and mixed use. The DCO by RiverOak is mentioned, but that does not affect the current classification in the draft Plan, but if completed it would take precedent over Local Plan classifications.
Cllr Wells also stated that the draft Infrastructure Plan will also be included in the consultation process. Further he stated that if there isn’t going to be housing at Manston, a further 180 acres of greenfield site would be required.
He was concerned at the number of job opportunities that might be possible with freight operations at a re-opened airport, but suggested that there were many more possible with a passenger operation. Obviously in addition to airside job prospects we hope that both existing and new aviation related businesses would also benefit, as well as associated businesses in the supply train – e.g. Taxis, catering, and many others.
After input by Cllr Jonathan Curran, Cllr Wells discussed about the Falcon report being taken off the table at the request of RiverOak. He then asked the Chairman, Cllr David Saunders if he wanted to invite representatives from Avia who attended the meeting to say anything at that stage, to which Cllr Saunders replied “No, I don’t think so at this point.” Avia were not involved later in the meeting.
Much discussion took place about the amount of paperwork – around 1,200 pages – that the Councillors had been expected to read through before the meeting, although at least one Councillor had managed to do that. That seems to be a failing in this case of the timetable system from issuing documents in time for meetings, where obviously that level of material required a longer lead time in this instance.
At the same meeting, the Chief Executive, Madeline Homer ran through a verbal response to RiverOak’s recent public assertion that they had not received responses from the Council. She also looked forward to RiverOak contacting her with their consultation plans and any supporting evidence as soon as it is available and for TDC to be consulted by RO as part of the DCO process which they are obliged to do.
Cllr Bob Bayford suggested at length that he thought the draft Plan should be sent back to Cabinet without comment, except to suggest that there had not been sufficient time to properly scrutinise the material. Although that went to a vote, the proposal fell. Some of the issue with that proposal was although it was possible to understand what Cllr Bayford was trying to suggest, the fact of passing the Plan back to Cabinet without any real objections or comments, save the issue of time to read the report, could easily give the suggestion that O&S were in fact not minded to object.
Cllr Edward Jaye-Jones proposed to send the Plan back to cabinet with a couple of recommendations. Firstly that part of the proposed mixed use scheme for Manston retains the potential for aviation use. Secondly that evidence that may come to light during the consultation and before the Plan examination can still be considered. Those recommendations were accepted by vote to be submitted back to Cabinet with the acceptance the draft Plan can go out to consultation with the proposed amendments.
Cllr George Rusiecki requested that it was considered as a formal complaint where RiverOak have recently stated their correspondence is not being responded to by the Council. Madeline Homer replied that if it was to be considered formally, she would need the request in writing to be able to instigate. He also proposed further review of rejected sites for housing to minimise use of greenfield sites which was carried as a recommendation.
The O&S Panel will have further opportunities to review parts of the Local Plan, and obviously the public will be able to review and comment during the consultation period. They are able to recall the plan for further scrutiny at any time and request change for any part of it.
As a group dedicated to the restoration and long term support of an airport at Manston, we will be ensuring that supporters are fully aware and can be engaged in the Local Plan consultation process so that we can make our voices heard.
To watch the full details of that part the meeting, please watch the video on YouTube: