Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tesco Time Out

For those readers who haven't been watching my Twitter feed, the news is that Tesco's application, was stalled in the Council's Planning Committee meeting and now there will be a site meeting on Friday 5th April at 09:30am.

This will give the councillors involved an opportunity to see the location for themselves, hopefully ask some more searching questions and then make a final decision on the application at a future date, yet to be decided.

This evening, I was pleasantly surprised at the sheer number of people that packed the council chamber beyond its capacity and who had come to express their opposition to the Tesco Express; perhaps as many two hundred if you count all those who could not get in for fire safety reasons.

We had one speech in favour of the application and an excellent second speech against from the Conservation Heritage Action Group. When my turn arrived, I should add that I was shocked by the discourtesy shown by Planning Committee Chairman, Jack Cohen, who interrupted my speech and refused to let me finish my final sentence at the end of my three minutes. Normal polite convention is a "Finish please Councillor" but when you read my criticism of this founder TIG party member on ThanetLife, it's really not surprising and it did not stop me from delivering the greater part of my speech.

What surprised me next was with such an important debate with huge public interest, Cllr Peter Campbell quickly moving procedurally, to accept the application and put it to the vote. Fortunately, the detail conscious Cllr Binks moved in and directed several uncomfortably searching questions at Council officers, who appeared more unprepared as the evening passed.

In my speech I refer to a "demonstration of need" (Policies TC1/TC8 of the Local Plan) but the officers and indeed the Councillors present, failed to question this at all, focusing instead on highways issues, which I regarded as the weaker part of our objection argument.

As the evening progressed, it became more evident that the officers were falling well short of expectations in providing the information required to support the application. I was also surprised that having provided an aerial photograph of the site to aid the debate, no reference was made to it all and its absence caused several members, including Cllr Fenner some problems in trying to place the site and the street scene in context.

After a while longer, it became clear that the wheels were coming-off the officers arguments and then one planning committee member after another decided that in order to recognise the views of the considerable audience and better understand the application at a street level, a planning committee visit was the best course of action. This is particularly important should the councilors be minded to either approve or refuse the application at the next meeting, because it provides a kind of legal box-ticking exercise to show that the facts have been properly examined at every opportunity.

So there you have it. Deferred for a site visit and then a final decision. Thank you everyone for the magnificent show of support this evening and now we really need to focus the councillors minds on the visible weaknesses in Tesco's application, all those points the council officers dodged and weaved around, worrying over the potential costs of a legal fight with the supermarket giant if the development is refused.

The fight continues in Westgate but I was told last night that another application for Tesco may soon be in the system for Birchington, adjacent to the roundabout.!

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

ALL planning applications should include site visits imo.

Anonymous said...

Simon,

Can you tell us what did Cllr Hibbert had to say on the subject?

1 o'clock Rob said...

Thanks for keeping us informed via Twitter Simon, it is great to actually have someone in TDC who understands the benefits of social media with regards to engaging with the electorate!

It is unfortunate that the Chair felt free to interrupt your allocated 3 minutes of time, when given such a limited opportunity to put forward the views of almost 2000 signatures of a petition it is poor form! Maybe Cllr Jack Cohan was drunk.... on the power he wields!

Well hopefully on the 5th when they all come across to Westgate they can see why so many people have concerns with this application.

Anonymous said...

Great to see councillors at last standing up to Tesco and similar corporations trying to ride roughshod over local consensus, the only concern would be whether it will succeed or end up like the Arlington debacle and outsiders such as Eric Pickles having the final say.

Simon Moores said...

I have no idea where Cllr Hibbert was or indeed, whether she actually knew about this.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Cllr Hibbert is like most other cllrs and just quitely gets on the with the job, rather than writing half a dozen blog posts everytime they do what they were voted to do!

Simon Moores said...

Perhaps she does but then again perhaps she's totally invisible and utterly irrelevant in Westgate. Best ask some of the hundreds of people outside and inside the Council chamber last night what they think instead?

Anonymous said...

If your account of events is accurate, and I have no reason to doubt you, let me say that if I had turned up for a meeting as ill prepared as the planning officers seem to have, then I would be looking seriously to my future in the job, assuming I still had one. This is surely tax payers money being wasted? In the real world companies are dealing with their own money, when it comes to the tax payers' money councils seem to show little evidence of prudence.

Allan Mallinson said...

Perhaps Cllr Hibbert was looking after her kids or tending to the needs of the young mayor to whom she is mayoress. Whatever, difficult to see what can be achieved by saying and doing nothing.

Anonymous said...

I hope the electorate of Westgate remember the vital role Cllr Hibbert played in representing them on this one in two years time.

Anonymous said...

As most people will no doubt be shopping at Tesco if / when it opens (just like others "opposed" to Tesco such as Louise Oldfield and Tony Flaig), I'm sure it won't lose her too many votes!

BILL FURNESS said...

What a shamble of a planning meeting,not the fault of the Chairman but the officers and the KCC, why have a site meeting after the debate, crass stupidity.
I shop in Westgate and Birchington.these are both villages
TESCOs planned supermarket is too big and entirely in the wrong place.Tesco would kill the small shops and the unique character of Westgate.
Sorry to hear Simons objection cut short but the 3 minute ruling was for Tesco as well.
KEEP THE OBJECTIONS GOING.

Anonymous said...

Hi

It is Planning Policy Guidance 5 which governs permitted development in Conservation Areas. It is being superseded by NPPF at the end of this month.

See http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/professional/advice/government-planning-policy/national-planning-policy-framework/.

Have a look at the Comparison PPS 5 Policies to NPPF Part 1 (118.28 KB) pdf,

I am a relative novice in this area and my views should be assessed as such, however, we took advice from a planning officer and – based on that - I believe the application and planning department have failed to address HE3 (especially HE3.1 and HE3.4), HE 6.1, HE7.4, HE7.7, HE9.1 and HE9.2.

This should provide effective protection for Station Road but the conservation area concerns and obligations under PPG5 were roundly ignored by all but the Councillor for Ramsgate. This should provide a firm basis for rejecting this development, however, planning is advised by the Conservation officer.

In Thanet that means Louise Dandy . Living in Warwick and working part time in Thanet 2 days a week.

Sadly I think objections based on traffic issues are almost always over ruled by Expert (KCC) advice. It is possible that some councillors were cynically focusing on this in the knowledge that this is a blind alley that will enable them to give the appearance of fair consultation.

Anonymous said...

What really gets up y nose is that every time I go into a certain newsagents in Westgate I get told to sign a petition. Well all it has done is for me to take my custom elsewhere.

katie wolf said...

anonymous...2:44pm...its unfortunate you feel you get 'told' to sign the petition...when in fact you get asked...would you like to sign our petition...all of the 12 individuals that apparently say yes to tescos havent had a problem saying they would not like to sign...we are carrying more than 2000 signatures to that 12! so if one is implying they all got 'told' to sign....thats a big number of people... i dont think its possible to 'tell' that many people to sign a petition...do you?katie wolf.