UKIP council faces intervention threat after voting to reject local plan

Thanet District Council in Kent faces the prospect of government intervention after councillors yesterday voted to refuse approval of its draft local plan.

Manston Airport: trigger for local plan rejection. Pic: James Steward, Wikipedia
Manston Airport: trigger for local plan rejection. Pic: James Steward, Wikipedia

The UKIP-run council is one of 15 authorities that in November were threatened with intervention by communities secretary Sajid Javid if they did not by 31 January provide good reasons for failing to produce their local plan.

However, according to local media reports, Thanet’s Conservative group, supported by rebel UKIP councillors, objected to the draft plan over its allocation of the Manston Airport site for housing and employment.

Officers had recommended that the draft plan be approved for submission to the Planning Inspectorate for examination.

According to the officers' report, there is insufficient evidence to support the continuing designation of the Manston site as an airport. Instead it proposed 2,500 homes and 85,000 square metres of business space at the site.

Last night’s vote saw 35 councillors vote against the plan and only 20 in favour.

In a statement, the council said: "The council will now liaise directly with the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, as this decision means the council will not comply with the local development scheme timetable."

According to the report, another consequence could be that the council will now have to use the government’s new standard method for calculating housing need, which is scheduled to come into force on 31 March. It said applying the methodology over the local plan period 2016-31 "would mean a total increase of just over 3,000 dwellings … taking the total requirement to just over 20,000 dwellings".

The report also said that delaying submission of the local plan could result in an increase in appeals on unallocated development sites and create additional costs for the council.

The airport site, which closed in May 2014, is the subject of rival plans for its future use. Owner Stone Hill Park has submitted an outline application for up to 2,500 homes, while US firm River Oak is planning to submit a development consent order to revive the site as an airfreight hub.

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