At the TDC Planning Meeting last night, 14th December, the Planning Committee passed a motion to withdraw their objections to the change of use of four buildings on Manston Airport, subject to the imposition of appropriate safeguarding conditions.
Following Barrister advice, UKIP and Labour accepted the Officers recommendation in a recorded vote and removed the long standing objection to the change of use.
The item on the agenda had been subject to much criticism before the meeting because Barristers had advised that the matter be heard behind closed doors. However, during the meeting Monitoring Officer Tim Howes gave three options.
1. To hear the whole item behind closed doors.
2. To allow the public and press to listen to the debate and the vote but exclude them during the Barrister’s advice
3. To hear the whole item in full session.
Mr Howes recommended Option 2.
Opposition Leader Bob Bayford agreed with the second option, as did Cllr Ash Ashbee.
Cllr Gregory and Partington argued that they could not see why any of the discussion should be behind closed doors.
Members then voted in favour of Option 2.
The Public were then able to hear the Planning Officers recommendation and witness the subsequent recorded vote but they were not allowed to be present to hear the Barrister’s advice.
The motion was subsequently carried.
We asked Councillors for their comments.
Deputy Leader Lin Fairbrass told us,
“The UKIP committee members voted to follow officer and barrister advice, as to vote in any other way would have been considered an unreasonable decision which would in all likelihood have resulted in reputational and financial damage to the Council. Also the credibility of the planning committee could have been brought into question.
“UKIP councillors remain hopeful that required evidence will still come forward in support of an operational airport with evidence to satisfy a planning inspector.”
Another Councillor present at last night’s meeting told us, “We have no choice but to follow the Officers advice.”
Another said, “The planning committee voted in favour of mixed use however, this cannot impede aviation, if viable.”
As we understand it, a clause in the motion ensures that if, when, a sound business plan comes in for the airport it will supercede all previous decisions, including those on the four buildings.
The Deputy Leader said, “A CPO or DCO would automatically, if granted, reverse that decision in favour of aviation use.”
The important thing to hold on to is that, although TDC have reversed their decision, the change of use of these buildings will not be permitted to impede on any future aviation use and can be superceded by any investor obtaining the site. Without this clause, SHP could have done all they could to prevent aviation at Manston. This decision will not affect the plans of any prospective investors but it throws the onus back on them to declare their hand and provide a sound business plan without delay.