Saturday, April 23, 2011

Referee's Decision

Goodwood and Wooton Bassett this weekend. A little earlier we had to interrupt a detail over the latter as RAF Lynham had a flight of incoming Hercules aircraft, from Afghanistan I assume. We were quite lucky they let us work quite close into their runway.

I have to run over to Goodwood tomorrow with a job that involves three hours flying between Portsmouth and Brighton and so if if the weather is as good as it is today, the view around the south downs will be stunning. A little earlier, I cycled up to Margate after lunch to see how the Bank Holiday is progressing and you can see one of the more interesting occupants of the Harbour Arm in the photo. Yesterday I pedalled in the opposite direction to Reculver. Margate is heaving with tourists and business everywhere, galleries and beach-front bars alike appears to be booming. People will of course ask whether this is the influence of Turner, the sunshine or both but whatever the cause, the consequence is a vibrant holiday resort and a great deal of positive feeling about Thanet from anywhere one cares to look.



I see from the comments on the earlier post and football bulletin boards, that real confusion remains in regard to Margate Football Club and its application to vary an existing planning permission to build a Travelodge Hotel at the Hartsdown Park ground. I've tried to explain the boundary that exists between politics and process and that I believe all political parties in Thanet are supportive of a strong future for the club, while at the same time remaining equally bound by legislation that determines the proper outcome of such matters, when passed through the test of the planning process; the referee's decision if you prefer football analogies.

I would hope that in a modern and transparent democracy, readers wouldn't have it any other way!

25 comments:

DonW said...

Dear Dr Moore's

I'm not sure that there is really much confusion here. The application to vary the development at Hartsdown Park has been rejected by the Council's planning department. It has been rejected because it has been deemed that the variation is excessive. That decision is a matter of judgement by individual human beings. There do not appear to be a set of hard and fast rules as to what is minor or major or at least if there are then these have not been shared.

Many of us who are not council planners or council members, fail to understand how a reduction in the size of the hotel can be considered in this way. Your last reply that it is bacause the sports club is not included leads me to believe that the inclusion of the sports club is considered to be of higher value than the reduced environmental impact of a 2 storey versus 3 storey development. Personally, that surprises me but I recognise that there are differences of opinion here. Has that come out of the consultation with local residents?

Your analogy to referee's decision does not fill me with confidence. The video replay may well show that the ball did actually cross the line and the goal should have stood. Then again we are talking here about step 3 of the non-league football pyramid where the quality of referreeing decisions is far worse!

DrM. said...

Don

As I may have mentioned earlier, a great deal of professional legal and officer time has been spent on this matter on both sides.

There has not been any consultation with residents because this is not a matter relating to the lease(s) but purely one of planning regulations and their interpretation.

There is of course rather more to this than meets the eye, which is why, in a democratic society, one has councillors and council officers dealing with such matters.

Councillors, like me, are obliged to note the advice of professional planners and the council solicitor While I'm sure that differences of opinion may dog most planning decisions, perhaps and on a balance of probabilities, you may accept that there is a wider picture and that I have spent a great time on the details. I hope that the public recognises that I am the type of councillor who is inclined to follow the correct process to the letter, particularly when it involves the future of a public asset rather than a development on private land.

Anonymous said...

Hi Margate football fans, the 3 Labour candidates standing in the Dane Valley Ward will do everything possible to assist Margate updating their ground. They cannot commit any more than that because if elected they may sit on the planning committee. Please look at your programme, one candidate family has sponsored two players this year.
Has attended Margate matches since 1960. You refer to the last election were 3 conservatives won, one lived in Panama, one was prosecuted by the RSPSA and disappeared We have had a by-election since then and a labour councillor was elected. Margate fans can have a big say in who is elected by voting Labour.

Disenchanted said...

See we have the usual smear and promise tactics from Labour. Smear previous Tory councillors as though no Labour politician ever fell from perfection. Strange that because are not three former Labour MPs languishing behind bars for fiddling their expenses whilst another was disqualified from holding office for lying about his opponent. Then, of course, there is the strange and still hushed up matter of Mark Nottingham's deselection and suspension. What did he do so wrong that we are not allowed to know about.

Then on to promises that they will have no way of knowing if they can fulfill until they are elected and have to act on the same advice as the existing Conservative administration.

It is like saying they will solve the problem of dog poo. How exactly - perhaps they will ban dogs.

DrM. said...

All rather worrying I feel, "Vote for us and we'll do what you ask" and conveniently ignoring that this is an apolitical matter involving a planning issue.

DonW said...

DrM,

Thank-you for your reply. I really do appreciate the time you take to read and respond. Whilst at times I can agree with some of the things that you say I now find myself confused by your final comment about politicising the Hartsdown Park development issue.

How can you say it is an apolitical matter when the Conservative manifesto states:

- Promise not approve new plans for Margate Football Club at the Hartsdown site or give a long-term lease without public consultation.

Is this not similarly a promise to those demanding that the development does not go ahead? If the redevelopment is indeed apolitical how can such a promise be made?

Am I missing something here or are the phrases used being so carefully worded so as to hide the true meaning or at least create ambiguity?

DrM. said...

Don

There's an ambivalence creeping in which is not intentional and looks at the broader picture.

The manifesto says:

"Whilst acknowledging the importance of giving sports opportunities in every form to the young and other people of Thanet, your Conservative Council will not approve any new plans for the Margate Football Club ground at the Hartsdown site, or give a long lease to the football club, without full public consultation first.

We consider that proper consultation on important issues affecting the local community is a major consideration for every significant development such as that proposed by the football club."

The discussions taking place at the moment involve a variation on an existing plan, which already carries approval from 2006. Council officers have advised that this is sufficiently different in the material sense from that which was given approval to seek a new planning application.

Hartsdown Park is public land and the focus of strong local emotions. The Football club is a lessee. The Conservative group (and this is the political element) believes that it would be entirely appropriate to consult with and seek the support of all the interested parties before taking any steps to grant and further long leases, which are part of the asset disposal process or further changing both access to or the appearance of the park.

Does that make sense?

DonW said...

Thank-you Simon,

Yes that does make sense and to my mind at least is somewhat different to the "headline" manifesto.

Enjoy the continuing good weather - I'm off to Bromley to watch Margate take on Cray Wanderers. This season is petering out but we look forward to better things in 2011/12!

Anonymous said...

"Enjoy the continuing good weather - I'm off to Bromley to watch Margate take on Cray Wanderers. This season is petering out but we look forward to better things in 2011/12!"


If there still is a football club next season following the last 10 years of public consultation that has been going on about the ground development

Anonymous said...

Mr Moores,can you tell us exactly what your councillors,who are judging this so called materialistic change, have come up with because in the words of the actual architect who designed this there are no changes whatsoever except,obviously,the two storeys coming of the top.
Im sure you wont comment but I thought I'd ask anyway as it seems very very strange that the architect says one thing(which I would be inclined to believe moreso)& your councillors saying another thing.
Where exactly have those councillors got their information from that this has changed in any way whatsoever.
The fact is that there isn't even a minimalistic change so what are the real reasons for halting the process.
Oh yes lets think Local elections coming up first arent they?.
Lets get back into office first then maybe we'll we'll look at things again.
May I point out to you that the two petitions handed into council show a significant plus for this to go ahead. Where is your "democracy" here Mr.Moores.
Be aware that refusing this application in the way that you have will save you votes Im sure with those against this going ahead (in green space that has over the past years gradually declined & is NOT being used as they once were with the putting course etc now been taken away,but the vast majority want this & its their votes you should be concerned with losing.
Those 5,300 signatures(or 4,800 if you want to be precise) are just a tip of the iceberg so to speak & its these people that will be ditching any vote that you may have had from them in the past because of your actions & decisions.
You may yet live to regret your decision.It's doubtful but it would be so nice for once
to see an honest councillor make an honest & fair decision based on the facts as they are and not on the twisted facts that you in council are using.
Finally dont keep harping on about procedure because in this instance procedure has been followed to the letter,the amended plans are not sufficiently altered that a full planning application need going through again. This is not fair in the least to deny the club,(who after all have been here for a very very long time already)the right to progress.
Might I suggest you get those councillors who have mistakenly misjudged their facts to look again very closely at the revised plans because they ARE wrong. How can you substantiate truthfully & factually that this new reduced plan has sufficiently altered enough to have it go through a full planing application again.
In truth have they even looked into this or is this just,as everyone can see,yet another stalling tactic on the councils part,you included.(Do you not advise the planning department on these things?)
You are wrong to deny this going through on this occasion 100% wrong.

DrM. said...

Like previous threads, I could go on ad infinitum answering questions on this subject but I'll resist the urge as much, if not all of it has been said or written at length before and if it's not clear by now, then I really can't do anymore to help.

However, to answer your question as briefly and accurately as possible, while once again going over the same ground:

1) Councillors are not judging this but are receiving the advice of council officers and solicitors under the legislation as it is framed. while you and others may disagree, unless you are properly qualified and familiar with the argument in its entirety, then all you can really do is repeat opinion which may be uninformed.

2)The local elections have really nothing to do with the matter. Once again this is not a political decision it is part of a formal planning process and no different in broad principle to adding an extension to your home but wishing to vary the consent. Councillors wouldn't get involved there either unless the applicant was concerned over process and requested their involvement as a matter of scrutiny.

3) A petition is a useful instrument in expressing opinion but if 100,000 people wanted development 'X' and the planning legislation said that development 'X' was not permissible for some reason or another, having a petition changes nothing. It's the legislation and its interpretation that counts. That's why we have laws!

4) This takes us back to my answer 1) again. Councillors haven't mistakenly judged anything. Councillors are informed by specialist and qualified council officers who form independent opinions and offer independent advice based on local government and planning legislation. If a third party disagrees with such decisions then proper channels exist to challenge such decisions.

5) I don't advise the planning department on anything. the planning department advises me when contentious or public interest issues arise. I am then given benefit of professional planning and legal advice in my oversight capacity to ensure that when officers do reach a decision which may be subject to challenge, that it can be clearly demonstrated that the council has acted properly, diligently and legally in arriving at its conclusions.

Finally, I suspect that the final measure of what is right or wrong may lie in exploring any subsequent appeals process should the football club wish to argue that the proper process has not been correctly applied.

I really can't say much more than that and perhaps you might be kind enough to share this with your fellow supporters as they appear under the illusion that I am the one giving a decision on this rather than being the councillor who simply ensures that correct process is followed.

Anonymous said...

Council officers then(splitting hairs aren't you?).
As for you part in this don't you think you are failing miserably with point 5 above? I certainly do.

DrM. said...

You may think that but it's clear from what you have written so far that you have very little understanding of how local government works and where councillors fit into the picture.

I wonder whether the people of Thanet would prefer your solution, which appears to be that councillors interfere in some way in the planning process to directly favour the personal agenda of any individual, group or developer. This is in contrast to my position, which is that the regulations be discharged impartially and to the letter of the regulations.

I'm reminded of the words of Sir Thomas More:

"And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? "

Anonymous said...

So any decisions are made by unelected council officials and not by the elected representatives of the people???

DrM. said...

If you like then "Yes."

How do you think government works?

Councillors are part time politicians that assume a responsibility for the direction of local policy decisions and at a cabinet level oversee the local budget and cost-effective and efficient delivery of some 600 or so public services.

Council officers discharge their duties under local government regulations on a daily basis and frequently exercise delegated powers. I have three portfolios, Planning, Regulatory Affairs and Customer Services and my role is one of oversight and following through on policy. There is no reason for me to be involved in individual decisions unless, as a matter of public interest or concern, it is necessary to observe and question the process to ensure that procedures have been correctly applied.

1 o'clock Rob said...

Obviously Simon some people don't understand that although "Government" is one party or another or a collective of two combined the civil servants are "unelected officials" also.

Maybe it should be mandatory at school for people to take a politics course so they actually understand how things work before they spout off from their ill-informed soap boxes?

DrM. said...

A quick glance at the 'Fans Forum' shows that I'm being 'selectively' quoted from what I have replied here, in what appears to be a rather cynical attempt to whip-up bad feeling and protest.

It would be be far more productive if they could read the full text of what I have actually said rather than selected parts of to support someone else's argument.

Anonymous said...

The Tories shall reap what they sow. Manifesto wasn't too clever now was it?

DrM. said...

What part of the manifesto do you have a problem with? The bit about consultation perhaps?

Anonymous said...

I would suggest it had rather more substance, 7:56, than promises to tackle dog poo and reduce the number of councillors, the latter being outside the remit of the council. That is half the trouble with Labour for, like many of their supporters, they have no idea what they can actually do when in office.

Mind you, since they also think the public purse is bottomless, their failure to grasp realities should come as no surprise.

DrM. said...

Returning for a moment to the football club issue we need to remind ourselves here that Hartsdown park is public land, a part of which is leased to the football club, which also happens to be a business wishing to develop its facilities further through the building of a hotel.

As a result, the picture is a complex one and in no way a political issue as you may notice from the profound silence of an opposition which is also bound by the same rules that govern planning applications.

DrM. said...

I particularly like the comment below on the fans forum today. It appears, I'm a 'bit murky...'

In fact, what the comment below doesn't reveal is that I managed to help lobby the Minister on the data sharing review. It was a complex argument involving the access and availability of the electoral register and I'm pleased that the new Government chose not to follow through on the policy of the previous Government which I believe would have acted against the broader public interest.

The football fan writes:

"Have been looking into Dr Moores a bit - he seems a central figure here, and one to give rise to strong feelings.

It seems that lobbying and providing access to politicians - presumeably for personal business gain - is ok by him, and it might be I suppose. Anyway, one of his clients - Keith Marsden - Managing Director i-CD & 192.Com has said, "Simon helped us in a recent lobbying campaign. The objective was to influence and meet politicians and goverment officials in order to set out our point of view on a critical policy issue. The biggest challenge was of course getting their attention. This is where Simon came in, he is extremely well networked and very well respected. He was able to introduce us to people that we would otherwise have had great difficulty getting to.”

I know it goes on and is legal, but it also feels a bit murky......but are we surprised? "

11:35 AM

Anonymous said...

Now now simon, do as your being threatened, (sorry) Told to do, or else you will lose those all too valuable votes from all these poor disenchanted football supporters.

What an utterly disgraceful point made earlier, either do as we say or we will all vote against you, is it any wonder the club is in such a state when it has this type of mentality at it's core.
Public land is exactly that, PUBLIC and that means everyone not just the privilige of a small minority who will in fact never use the facilities as they will be far outside the financial reach of anyone in Margate to be able to afford to use them.
The current 5a side pitches remain empty 90% of a week, yet the park always has football players using the FREE grass pitches as these cost nothing to use.
Ask yourself the question, if given the choice would i rather pay to use a pitch or have it for free???? think we all know the answer and this is why this proposal for an enourmous part of the park to be lost is too ridiculous to comprehend.
The park belongs to everyone in Margate in it's glorious entirity, please leave it that way.

DrM. said...

I'm quite happy to answer their questions where I can but I'm afraid a number have made up their minds about the so-called facts surrounding the council's decision.

It's all quite simple. The council, rather than a councilor or councillors have arrived at a decision based on the present planning regulations. Should anyone wish to challenge this decision then nobody is preventing such a step and I would observe any such outcome with proper objective interest.

DrM. said...

Reading through the Margate FC Forum this morning at
http://www.nonleague.co.uk/topic/163170-power-to-the-people/

I see that several of the regular contributors still insist on presenting personal opinion as fact. Both the football club and Thanet Council are well aware of both the problems and potential planning objections and I have personally attended 3 one and a half hour meetings, where these have been discussed in great detail between planning officers and the club's management in the search for a positive way forward, which is, after all, what everyone is searching for.

I rather wonder then why certain characters insist on trying to whip-up tension with ill-informed or imaginary 'facts', which is not, I would have thought, of great benefit to the club or its fans!