Thursday, 23 June 2011

Going deaf?

The TDC Cabinet meeting tonight was short but sweet. Only one question for me remains. Did Cllr Clive Hart support TDC in passing the Article 4 Direction on HMOs? He spent so long making the point that this was necessary only because the Government changed the rules on this that I couldnt make out whether he actually supported it or not...

On another point, I've been to 6 meetings at TDC this current political year and in at least half of them there have been problems with the microphone system in the Council Chamber and the system's been abandoned in two of them. At first you could just laugh it off as gremlins but its a serious problem now and it stopped being funny a while back. It is very hard to hear Members sat near the Chairs bench from the public gallery. The reason for the problem is well known so why is it taking so long to sort it out?

Friday, 17 June 2011

Arlington Tesco's approved...sort of

The Planning Committee approved the outline application to build a Tesco's, a car park and associated shops at Arlington on Wednesday evening. Although it didnt. It took a few attempts to explain to Members that TDC cannot decide on granting planning consent by itself because the Tescos is too large for them to call it. Instead it has to be referred to the Secretary of State, but that TDC gives its recommendation. All delightfully complicated.

The three speakers against the application were very good and stuck to planning issues in their speeches. Far too often I see speakers talking about non planning issues which basically cant be considered by the committee. If you are to speak against an application, your chances are vastly increased by speaking on planning grounds.

An amendment was proposed to refuse night time deliveries. It was explained that such an amendment could not be accepted even if a majority of Members agreed because it was considered unacceptable to the applicant. It did sound absurd but clearly its a red line for the applicant.

It was always going to be close and when a Conservative Member spoke against the application it seemed the application could be refused. When it came down to the vote though, it was a 7-7 split which makes me wonder if that Member voted with their speech (I was in the spillover room so couldnt see). The tiebreaker is the Chairs vote which is by convention to vote with the officer's recommendation. It now comes before the Secretary of State.

Comment was made during the debate that "You're not helping yourselves" and a dismissive wave made towards the public gallery when they booed a comment made by a Member. I don't blame the residents for being upset at the plans and for booing. Its a monster of an application which will lead to huge disruption to their homes and they are worried that promises made to them will either be bodged or simply forgotten. One resident walked out of the meeting in frustration after making some choice comments about the officers which I couldn't possibly repeat here.

My feeling is that if we weren't in such a dire economic situation, the residents scheme would be more attractive. But you have to deal with what you have, not with what you want. As with Iris Johnston and others, I hope it comes before Full Council for detailed consideration and that continued public consultation takes place as there are still a lot of questions to answer.

Arlington Square is the sorriest sight in Thanet and the residents support its redevelopment - but change needs to work with the residents, not against them.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Labour move on night flights

The Overview and Scrutiny Panel on 31st May discussed night flights and the recommendations arising from the Airport Working Party [AWP]. The minutes from the AWPs last meeting was not immediately available at the start of the meeting. The issue appeared of there being a number of new members and whether it would be right to debate the report from the AWP with those new members not having had the time to consider it. After a split vote, the Chair, Cllr King decided after some time not to proceed with it that night and to bring it back at the next meeting.

Labour was not happy at all because they wanted the AWPs recommendations brought up with Cabinet, something they had said just before the meeting started. Shouts of "Disgrace" were made by more than one Labour member. Now a resolution has been tabled for the next Council meeting by Cllrs Clive Hart and Alan Poole with the recommendations of the AWP the proposed motion.

Scrutiny needs to be done properly on this issue and that includes due process as to scrutiny. The Chair had decided to consider the AWPs recommendations at the next meeting and that for some members of Overview and Scrutiny isnt good enough, so theyve gone round it straight to Full Council. I dont agree with that tactic and suspect that was the plan all along.

The Scrutiny process should be followed through to allow the Cabinet to make an informed decision on a Night Flight Policy and thus conduct a proper public consultation. Labour want to pre-empt this process by stonewalling night flights.

Tescos for Arlington?

This coming Wednesday evening sees the Planning Committee considering an application from Tescos to build a new store at the foot of Arlington House with a car park and works to the local roads to boot. The plans can be found at UK Planning here. The report prepared for the Planning Committee is here.

So how do you feel about the plans?

Sunday, 5 June 2011


Big News Margate reported earlier this week on the recent Kent Cabinet Scrutiny meeting and the debate over the Ofsted inspections last year. The webcast makes it clear that the pledged 'post mortem' report isnt going to be provided.

Its also clear that the Peter Connelly tragedy and the ripple effect of increased demands on social services was a major factor in the negative reports from Ofsted and no one holds that against the Council. Two years ago on this blog Cllr Chris Wells commented on the impact it would have. Kent hasnt suffered alone either with authorities across the country hit by increasing demand.

The key issue here is that while its valid to say that its best to just move on and get on with the job in hand, those who have a job to scrutinise need to do so as a matter of public interest. Its not about being party political or wanting to apportion blame. Its about accountability. By spending time considering the causes of the current problems will help to avoid them in the future.

A visit to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee brought up a similar issue over Manston. Yes, its easy to just say it'll be alright and to trust those making the decisions but public confidence can only be maintained if proper scrutiny is able to take place. Local residents still may not be happy simply because the flights will cause disruption to them, and I understand that, but at least no one will say that the proposals hadnt been looked at in detail prior to the decisions being made.