Thursday, 20 October 2011

Arlington House application referred to Full Council

by Councillor Rick Everitt


Wednesday, October 19th, was a good day for democracy in Thanet.

It ended with the Tesco application for Arlington House and Square referred to full council for decision on grounds of “transparency and accountability”.

Members of the planning committee had been asked to consider whether the recently upgraded listing of the neighbouring scenic railway from Grade II to Grade II* would have changed their decision “to grant permission for redevelopment of the site, subject to a legal agreement and safeguarding conditions”, back in June.

But members had not granted permission. As the minutes showed, they had simply referred the matter to the secretary of state – as they were required to do by legislation – with a recommendation for approval.

Even that had only been decided on the casting vote of the independent chair, Cllr Jack Cohen.

The June minutes were completely silent on what happened if, as was the case, the secretary of state sent the application back to TDC for determination. It was my view that meant it could and should come back to members and not be finalised by officers under delegated powers.

The attempt to deal with the scenic railway issue in isolation threatened to create the farcical scenario of Tory members attending the committee as substitutes deciding whether their absent colleagues would have reached a different decision without ever themselves hearing the application in full.

Labour members, who had all voted against the recommendation in the first place, were being invited to reconsider their decision on the basis of the upgraded listing, when they had already been in a minority and a change in their vote could only reaffirm the position the committee had already taken.

No wonder that officers gathered in an extended huddle when I moved that given the confusion the entire application should be referred to full council for decision instead.

Eventually, the proposition was deemed acceptable for debate and was passed 8-6, with all Labour members in support.

The application has proven controversial from the beginning, after Labour deputy leader Cllr Alan Poole was not allowed by the chair to move a restriction on night-time deliveries on the basis that Tesco had said they couldn’t operate like that.

Concerns have been raised about traffic and parking issues, and the effect on the traditional Margate shopping area, as well as the impact on residents of the existing development and on Dreamland. It’s a big decision and one the council has to get right.

Everyone wants to see this site regenerated and recognises that the money to do it has to come from somewhere. Now, hopefully, the issues will be fully aired and debated by the whole council and residents affected may have a little more confidence in the democratic process in Thanet.

That’s an outcome we should all celebrate.

1 comment:

  1. So who voted with the Labour Group?

    ReplyDelete