Stone Hill Park Presentation was a PR Disaster – by Ruth Bailey

Ruth Bailey had the following letter on Cartner and Musgrave’s presentations on Stone Hill Park published in the Isle of Thanet Gazette this week. 

“I attended both of the Roadshow events last week where the plans for the insensitively renamed Stone Hill Park were unveiled.”

“Messrs Musgrave and Cartner were noticeable by their absence although their spokesman, Ray Mallon, was in attendance as was Paul Barber of Discovery Park. The remainder of the team was made up of young planning consultants, environmental officers etc. Notably, every single one of the representatives were either from the North or from outside of Thanet.”

“In my opinion it was a serious error of judgment not having any representatives from Thanet. There was very little local knowledge particularly regarding the aquifer and the history of the airport land. There was certainly no understanding of the feelings of the vast majority of local people who want to retain the airport. It was pointed out by several people how utterly disrespectful and insensitive it was to rename the Battle of Britain airfield where many had fought, and died, for their country.”

Stone Hill Park Presentation was a PR Disaster
Ruth Bailey, Supporters of Manston Airport Chairman

“I spent 1½ -2 hours speaking with the extremely polite and pleasant consultants both days. The total number of attendees could not have amounted to many more than 200 over the two days with the majority of those I saw being Manston Supporters.”

“A further example of lack of local knowledge was the necessity for a ‘surf’ pool in light of the fact that we have one of the best, natural, local beaches for surfing in Joss Bay.”

“Their feedback form was quite ambiguous and, apart from two questions, it could be answered in exactly the same way for either the Supporters of Manston Airport or supporters of Stone Hill Park which more or less rendered it useless.”

“I asked a young planning consultant whether the 2500 proposed houses were inclusive or exclusive of the 12000 designated in TDC’s emerging Local Plan. He told me they were exclusive. I then asked another representative the same question and he said they were inclusive. This was typical. The consultants either found questions difficult to answer or they contradicted one another.”

“I then asked what the target market was for the 2500 houses. The reply was that these would be ‘aspirational’ houses in the £300-£500K bracket. I asked how much social housing was being provided – the answer was none because they cost more to build than to sell and that would make the project unviable. When I queried this and said that I thought it was a requirement to build a certain percentage of affordable or social housing the reply was that there is no legal obligation to build social housing however, there is an equation which means they would have to give something back to the community. They would, therefore, either build something such as a community centre or give TDC/KCC money to be put into a communal pot for social housing elsewhere. The following day they tried to backtrack a little although I still didn’t get a satisfactory answer.”

“I tried to pin them down on various aspects of their plans but they were quite vague. They said that the plan on display was only representational; that it only portrayed the ratio of the three areas of ‘work, live, play’ as being indicative of what it could be like.”

“The most ironic part of the presentation was the way they promoted the ‘excellent connections’ between SHP and the rest of the country – something that the airport has been criticised for by the naysayers.”

“I would have said that the Stone Hill Park presentation had more style over substance – but I’m afraid it didn’t even have that. In fact it was a PR disaster in that there were no local representatives.”

“I advise Messrs Musgrave and Cartner to go back up North to build their housing estate. We certainly don’t want it here – we just want our Airport back.”