At the Extraordinary Thanet District Council meeting this evening, after a heated and passionate debate from all sides, the Local Plan, including Option 2 for Manston, was voted through by 31 votes to 21.
Option 2 once, and if, adopted will see the airport reserved for aviation use only for two years to allow for a DCO or CPO to be progressed to a definitive conclusion.
Option 2 will not however, continue the existing Policy EC4 which protects the aviation only use of the airport.
Option 2 diverts the housing allocation of 2,500 previously earmarked for Manston to Birchington, Westgate, Westwood, Hartsdown and Minster.
If after two years there is still no aviation solution, the Local Plan will be revised and the airport will likely be allocated as mixed use.
Tonight’s decision voted to approve the following recommendations from Cabinet:
In relation to the first Recommendation, Cabinet resolved to recommend that Council agree to proceed with the draft Local Plan on the basis of Option (2) set out in the report; that is, the draft Local Plan as recommended to Council on 18 January 2018, with the revised distribution of sites and other amendments set out in the report and in the Addendum at Annex 2.
Option (1) which was the option recommended by officers, was not accepted.
Cabinet also recommended:
(2) That Council agree for inclusion in the draft Local Plan the main changes in Annex 4 of the Council report of 18 January 2018, as modified by any decision on Recommendation (1) above (set out in Annex 1);
(3) That Council agree for inclusion in the draft Local Plan the other changes set out in this report regarding the identification of additional Local Green Spaces, and a proposed new policy relating to foster homes in the district (also set out in the Addendum at Annex 2);
(4) That, subject to the other recommendations above, Council delegate authority to officers to make such minor technical and factual amendments to the draft Plan as are necessary for clarity and consistency;
(5) That Council agree that the draft Local Plan (as amended), together with the associated evidence base, including the Sustainability Appraisal/Habitat Regulations Assessment, and the draft Transport Strategy, be published for comment (under Reg 19) for a period of six weeks, and then subsequently be submitted for Examination (under Reg 22); and
(6)That the Council request the Examination Inspector, under Section 20(7) of the Planning & Compulsory Purchase Act 2004) to recommend any modifications to the draft Local Plan, which they consider are required in order to resolve problems that would otherwise make the Plan unsound or not legally compliant.
You can read the meeting documents and the background Local Plan document here: https://democracy.thanet.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=141&MId=5072
What happens next
There will shortly follow a six-week public consultation period, starting on or around 23rd August, where everyone can have their say about the airport and the housing numbers, before the Plan is submitted to the Inspector for examination.
TDC Officers have, however, outlined the heavy risks associated with voting through option 2 and did not recommend this course of action. The most prominent risk is that the Minister of Houses, Communities and Local Government, who is currently monitoring Thanet District Council, will intervene if the Local Plan is not deemed sound.
The following risks were identified by TDC for Option 2:
This approach is not fully aligned with the Council’s own evidence base in respect of the viability of the Airport, and carries a higher risk of being found not sound. Whilst recognition of the DCO process is a relevant consideration, previous advice from MHCLG has been that the Local Plan should not be delayed for the DCO process.
Secondly, there is a risk that, if the DCO/CPO process does not proceed, the site may be available for housing in addition to the sites identified under this Option. To some extent, that risk may be mitigated by phasing some of the housing beyond the Plan period, but there remains a risk that Thanet could experience higher housing development during the Plan period than was previously anticipated.
Thirdly, there is a risk that having no policy to protect the airport (which the Council could not justify on the basis of evidence) means that there is a risk that a planning application/Appeal for development at the Airport could have a greater chance of success. However, that risk already exists (see above), so this is to recognise that this may represent an increased degree of risk.
If no decision is made by the Council in relation to the draft Local Plan, there is a significant risk of direct intervention by the Minister, a resulting loss of local control over the Local Plan and additional costs for the authority.
We will publish links to the public consultation documents as soon as they become available.