Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Visit to Ramsgate Project MotorHouse

I spent a couple of hours in the company of Janet Fielding today. She is an inspirational woman running an inspirational project.  Janet talks about her plans for the former motor museum and the role it could play in regenerating Ramsgate. Having been inside the building for the first time today I was overwhelmed by what I saw. This building literally oozes regeneration potential for Ramsgate and Janet Fielding has the dream and the drive to make it happen. Ramsgate needs more Janet’s. Step forward because I want to interview the women and men who are going to regenerate Ramsgate and create a future for children and grandchildren. You know who you are.

PS the  loud humming noise  is the generator of the ex-King of Norway’s Royal Yacht the Horten which has been moored at the port for the past 4 months. I have been approached by several people about  this constant low pitched noise which is disturbing people’s sleep. I am on the case and will report back soon.

 

Thanet Council Dog S**t More Important Than Disabled People

Thanet Council thinks that  organising a  public consultation on clearing up dog s**t is  more important than organising a public consultation about disabilities facilities grants (DFG)– or so an email to Councillor Ian Driver appears to suggest.

In answer to Driver’s enquiry about why there had been no public consultation on proposed changes to DFGs, a policy which effects an estimated 15,000 disabled people in Thanet,  an officer replied that because there was  no statutory requirement to do so no consultation was planned. On checking  previous  consultations carried out by the Council  Driver identified several which had been undertaken but which were also not  required to be conducted by statute. One of these ‘Keeping your area clean’  requested members of the public in Margate and Westgate to feed back to the Council about  dog excrement.

Said Driver ‘I simply cannot believe that Thanet Council regards a consultation on cleaning up dog s**t as more important than consulting an estimated  15,000 disabled people living in Thanet and their organisations about their  rights  to have their homes adapted so that they can continue to live independent and dignified  lives in the community. This says a lot about the values and morality  of our politicians and some senior officers.’

He went to say ‘this appalling perversion of priorities suggested to me that Thanet Council is institutionally prejudiced against disabled residents. This prejudice  and discrimination is reflected in data which has been provided to me  which shows that the average time taken to assess and approve a DFG application is 40 weeks. This is 15 weeks longer that the statutory requirement of 25 weeks and is totally unacceptable. In most other areas of Council work performance targets are matched or exceeded, but when it comes to a disabilities issue significant under-performance seems to be tolerated over a prolonged period of years. This can only mean that the Council does take the needs of disabled residents seriously’.

Driver’s exposure of the Council’s failure to consult and his persuasive arguments in support of engaging with disabled people and their organisations  was able to win over a majority of councillors at last night’s Overview and Scrutiny  Panel who voted to recommend to the ruling Labour Cabinet that a 6 week consultation on the draft policy be carried. 3 Labour Councillors voted against the consultation, including Michelle Fenner who until her recent sacking from the Cabinet was responsible for Equalities Policies at the Council. Said Driver ‘its shameful that the council’s former equalities boss and 2 of  her Labour colleagues voted against engaging with Thanet’s disabled  community on an issue as important as this. I only hope that the Labour Cabinet and senior council officers will take a more inclusive and enlightened approach towards working with the disabled community and we might then begin to see an ending of what I believe to be  institutional  discrimination’.

Ian Driver’s film of the debate on the disabled facilities grants will shortly be available on his blogiste , his Facebook page and YouTube. This was first recording  of a Thanet Council meeting made  under the new legal rights for the public and councillors to film meetings.

 

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Manston Time To Talk Plan B

Whilst I still support it, the  prospect of securing a Compulsory Purchase Order on Manston Airport appears to be  receding fast. So it seems sensible to begin preparing  for the inevitable  and start  discussing  future uses for the  airport land.  In fact Thanet Council has already begun doing this. As part  of the local planning process  officers are now working to develop policies  which will eventually regulate  what the airport land can be used for. This is going to be a big job and its already been said by the Council that land use policies for the  airport site  and the associated public consultation , will delay the adoption of Thanet’s Local Plan by several months. In the meantime, without a local plan in place developers including airport  owner Ann Gloag, can apply for planning permission to develop almost anything they like.   

I’ve  said all along that its highly likely that the airport land will be used for  housing. There’s  lots of circumstantial evidence to support this . First Gloag’s planning consultants  held exploratory discussions with Thanet Council  earlier this year about building 1,000 houses on airport land. Second, other planning applications for housing in close proximity to the airport are already in the process of being approved.
Next week we have East Kent Opportunities planning appeal hearing for permission to build  550 houses on prime agricultural land at the New Haine Road, which I’m pretty sure will be granted. It also looks as though the massive 1,000 house Permission’s greenfield development behind Marks and Spencer at Westwood Cross,  is gearing up for  its next phase of building . In September/ October the 850 house Manston Green development, again on prime agricultural land at the bottom of the Manston Airport runway,  will come up for approval before Thanet’s Planning Committee.  Again I suspect permission will be granted. So within a square a mile of Manston Airport we already have plans for the building of 2,400 new houses.

I believe that these developments, so close to the airport land, will persuade airport owner Gloag  to submit her own plans for housing on the site. This means that within the next 5 years we are likely to have a ‘Gloagsville’ garden city of 6-8,000 houses developed by stealth  on the open spaces and agricultural land in Thanet’s rural hinterland.

Finally the Government, through its Growth Fund scheme,  recently awarded 10million for the development of a Parkway station near Cliffsend in 2015-16.  Originally seen as life-line for the airport,  Parkway is now being touted by the South East England Local Economic Partnership (which won the Parkway funding and about which I will write more later), not as a link to Manston Airport  but as a transport hub which will  ‘open up access to major new sites for housing and business development’  and which  would make commuting to the Capital feasible – and attract higher earners to our coastal towns’. 
So there you have it an extremely  powerful regeneration focused organisation  which is supported by the Government, Kent County Council and all the Kent District Councils,  is openly backing  what is likely to become a Gloasgsville garden city on and around the Manston airport site which will be served by a  Parkway station.




Apart from a few select politicians chatting over lunch at secret regeneration meetings,  has anyone living in Thanet ever been asked if they would like a massive housing development,  served by a purpose built railway station, to be located  on greenfield agricultural land and former airport open land in Thanet’s beautiful  rural hinterland? I suspect not. Does it make sense? Certainly not.

There are almost 1000  long-term empty residential properties  available for refurbishment and  plenty of previously developed  brownfield land available within Thanet’s urban areas to meet the need  for  all the new homes we might require over the next 5-10 years. There is absolutely no need to concrete over our valuable countryside and destroy farmland.
But we must also ask whether the target of building 12,000 new homes in Thanet over the next 10-15 years is realistic and sustainable.  Will there be enough  jobs,  sufficient infrastructure and support services to manage a rapid growth in Thanet’s population associated with building so many new homes?  How we will manage the growing demand on our already stressed water supply  and aquifers? How we will mange the pressure on our sewers system which is already at breaking point? And how we will cope with the congestions and pollution caused by the massive increase in car ownership?

There is also a much bigger question which few people are talking about – why should Kent and Thanet increasingly have to support the consequences (good and bad)  of London’s   unique and powerful juggernaut economy? Surely Mayor of London, Boris Jonson, should be doing a lot more to ensure that London is a sustainable city which does not need to rely on Kent, Surrey and Essex to manage the conflicts and problems associated with it economic success?

Personally I am opposed to building  new homes on our agricultural land and rural open spaces. But I am not opposed to utilising the airport land for sustainable developments which would create jobs.  For example educational use of the site for East Kent College, the University of Kent or  Canterbury Christ Church University, or perhaps the building of a state of the art  new hospital to replace to QEQM. Such developments would also have the advantage of freeing up additional brownfield sites in our town for use as housing. The site could also be used for leisure developments,  the generation of renewable energy, or growing food.

Although the loss of the airport has had a massive impact on Thanet and its people, its time to begin thinking about the future without it and like the SME campaigners did so brilliantly well – take control of the discussion before it gets into the hands of secretive, unaccountable organisations like the Thanet Regeneration Board, the Kent and Medway Economic Partnership, and the South East Local Economic Partnership which serve the interest of greedy developers, financiers and unscrupulous political bosses instead of the people of Thanet and Kent. 

Monday, 4 August 2014

Thanet's Beaches; Southern Water's Sewage

Last week saw the second major sewage spillage this year onto Thanet's beaches  from Southern Water's Foreness Point Pumping Station. 9 of our beaches were closed for 24 hours because of this. Over the past 3 years there have been 6 major incidents of sewage spillages on to our beaches from the Foreness Point Pumping Station.

Last year Southern Water was fined £200,000 for a beach sewage  spillage in 2011. This year it is highly  likely that Southern Water will face prosecution for a sewage spillage incident in 2012 which led to the closure of all of Thanet's beaches for almost a week. How long will this go on for?  It's beginning to look as though we can expect sewage spillages on a regular basis, which for an area dependent on the visitor economy is not a good thing.

Southern Water claim to have spent £3million upgrading Foreness Point over the past couple of years. Clearly this has not worked and sewage spillage incidents continue. Thanet Council estimates that we need 12,000 more houses over the next 15 years which will place extra pressure on a sewage system which is obviously not working. Climate change means that we will have more and more extreme rainfall incidents in the future: which Southern Water blame for some of the sewage spillage  incidents. So come on Southern Water spend some of your £179million profits on properly upgrading and future proofing Foreness Point and stop dumping on our beaches!!


Sunday, 3 August 2014

Ramsgate Pleasurama Named Shamed & Filmed

I gained access to the Ramsgate Pleasurama site and thought it might be useful to use the opportunity to make a short film  which names and shames those responsible for this appalling blight on Ramsgate's seafront


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Thanet's Greenfields Despolied by Incompetnce and Broken Promises See Secret Document

Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, has warned that greenfield land in Thanet, including rural open spaces and agricultural  land  has been put at risk of being “despoiled, disfigured and destroyed” because of incompetence and broken promises.

His outspoken attack follows a secret meeting of Thanet Council’s Planning Committee on 18th of June at which it was decided not to contest a planning appeal submitted by East Kent Opportunities (EKO) to build 550 houses on greenfield land at the New Haine Road Ramsgate .( A copy of a secret report presented to the Planning Committee is published below)

EKO’s application was rejected by Thanet’s Planning Committee in November 2013 on the grounds that “the site does not constitute previously developed land and as such the proposed residential development would involve the release of greenfield land, where there is no identified need, contrary to policy H1 of the Thanet Local Plan 2006 (2).”

Legal advice, obtained by TDC in preparation for defending EKOs appeal identified clauses in the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework published in March 2012 which require local councils to produce a plan identifying housing need and the supply of available building land in their areas over a five year period (3). This information is then used by planners as a basis for granting or refusing planning permission for house construction.

But, unlike most other council’s in Kent, TDC does not have such a plan. In fact it is unlikely to have a plan in place until 2015 at the earliest. Thanet’s legal adviser warned that without a plan it would be impossible for TDC to demonstrate grounds for refusing permission for EKOs 550 houses on the greenfield site at new Haine Road.

Said Driver,” the need to have an up-to-date housing need analysis and building land register has been a requirement of the planning system for over 2 years. Plenty of advance warning was given by the Government to prepare these documents but senior TDC managers and the ruling Labour Group did not attach a high priority to completing this extremely important task.”

“This serious management failure means that Thanet’s rural open spaces and greenfield land now faces a high risk of being covered in concrete, even though sufficient brownfield land and long term empty residential properties are already available within Thanet’s urban boundaries to meet housing need over the next 5 years”. 

“In the short-term it’s now almost certain that permission will have to be granted for EKO to build 550 houses on agricultural land at the New Haine Road and that plans to build 850 house on 47 hectares of prime agricultural at the bottom of the Manston Airport runway will have to be OK’d (4). it also means that  housing developments on greenfield land within the Manston Airport site, such as the 1,000 houses on the northern grassland  will also have to be agreed.   In the longer-term I suspect planning applications for housing on rural greenfield sites will now begin to flood into the Council as people try to profit from inflated land values until TDC closes this major loophole in its planning policies”.

“I am especially disappointed by the role TDC’s ruling Labour Group in this matter” added Driver. “In their 2011 Council Election Manifesto (5) the Labour Party promised the people of Thanet that they would oppose “encroachment into Thanet’s green spaces and that house building will be focussed on agreed brown field sites and the renovation of existing properties. Building on green field sites will be resisted wherever possible”. By failing, as the Council's ruling political  party, to ensure prompt compliance the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework, they have broken their election promises to the public and left our beautiful countryside open to the risk of being despoiled, disfigured and destroyed”.

"My suspicion is that this delay in producing important planning documents is motivated by the fact that the more houses that out built in Thanet the more money the Council receives from the Government's New Bonus Scheme, which generates for TDC the equivalent of double council tax for each new home built for up to six years. In effect Thanet Council has acceptedGovernment  bribes to allow our  greenfield sites and farmland to be used for  house building.
 
I have published below the secret report which was discussed by at last week's planning committee. I can see no legal or commercial reason why it was kept confidential. Perhaps it was kept secret  to ensure that Thanet residents didn't find out that the incompetence of TDCs Labour Cabinet and senior officers have now  put our green-spaces at risk of being concreted over.  

Ends
For more information contact Councillor Ian Driver on 07866588766
Notes
1.Confidential report to Thanet Planning Committee 18 June 2014 (see below)
2.See Confidential report to Thanet Planning Committee 18 June 2014
3.See para 47 of National Planning Policy Framework 2012
4.See
http://www.manston-green.co.uk/about-us.html
5.See http://www.thanet-labour-group.org.uk/
 

 
 
 

Saturday, 21 June 2014

East Kent Opportunites. Out of Control. KCC Must Investigate Alleged Misconduct.

Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver has called for the closure of  “out-of-control development Quango” East Kent Opportunities LLP (EKO) and an immediate investigation into allegations of serious misconduct by its Executive Officer, Matt Hyland, and EKO management committee member Theresa Bruton.

 Set up in 2008, EKO is a property management company jointly owned by Kent County Council and Thanet District Council (TDC).

In 2013 EKO submitted a planning application to TDC to build 550 houses on land which it owns at the New Haine Road, Ramsgate. In May 2013  EKO management committee member and Thanet District Council Chief Executive, Sue McGonigal, was advised that the application contravened TDC planning policy and was likely to be rejected.

Shortly afterwards, McGonigal e-mailed EKO Executive Officer, Hyland and management committee member Bruton, (who is also KCCs Head of Regeneration Planning),  requesting that they provide her with  information which “I can use at my meeting with TDC planners this afternoon … to illustrate the argument I want them to use to support the (EKO)  application”.

On discovering this e-mail in March 2014, Driver complained to TDC  that McGonigal appeared to have made an improper attempt to influence TDCs planning officers in breach of planning rules and in contravention of paragraph 13.3 of  EKO Membership Agreement  which stipulates that  members of the Management Committee shall not be involved in considering planning applications at KCC or TDC (and if responsible for those involved in considering planning applications shall ensure that suitable arrangements are in place ensure probity”.

On 3 June 2014 TDC agreed  to launch an independent enquiry into Driver’s  allegations. Shortly afterwards McGonigal was reportedly signed off from work due to ill-health.

On 5th June, Driver  complained to KCC Monitoring Officer, Geoff Wild, about the actions  of Bruton and Hyland who, rather than warning McGonigal that her proposed meeting with TDC planning officers was likely to be contrary to the EKO membership agreement,  instead  “to my utter astonishment" provided McGonigal with a document for her to use as part of her discussions with TDC planning officers. 

 In a further e-mail to Wild dated 7th June, Driver added that he believed Hyland was in attendance at one of McGonigal's meetings with Thanet planners about the EKO planning application (held after  McGonigal had been informed that this application  was against planning policy).

Why would a member of the EKO management committee and  the Executive Officer of EKO want to meet with a senior Thanet Planner when that planner had already made it perfectly clear that the application they had submitted was against Council Policy and likely to be rejected?  Surely such a meeting contravenes paragraph 13.3 of the EKO agreement. Surely for Executive Officer of EKO to be at such a meeting is tantamount to supporting the breach of EKO rules?

Driver also raised with the Wild that fact that Hyland helped to organise and spoke at a meeting of Thanet councillors "at which a presentation of the EKO planning application was made".

This meeting was held less than one week before the meeting of the planning committee at which  the EKO  application was decided. All members of Thanet planning committee were invited to this meeting. In Driver's  opinion, "the holding of this meeting was highly improper and could, because of its proximity to the planning committee meeting, be seen as yet another  effort to influence decision makers".

 
Driver concluded that   “In my opinion both  Ms Bruton and Mr Hyland appear to have aided and abetted Ms McGonigal's efforts to improperly interfere with Thanet Council's planning process in favour of the EKO planning application". Interference with the planning application process is course an extremely serious matter. So is aiding, abetting and supporting someone in doing this. This is why the EKO membership agreement has a rule which is spelt out in paragraph 13.3 which aims to prevent EKO staff and management committee from doing this. However, Driver's allegations appear to suggest that this rule was ignored by McGogingal, Hyland and Bruton. 

Replying to Driver’s complaint  Wild refused to commit KCC to an immediate enquiry into the allegations of misconduct, warning him that any reportage of his complaint could lead to legal action. Said Driver “I’m astounded that instead of taking prompt action to investigate extremely serious allegations KCC are threatening legal action against me".

Driver says "all my allegations have been backed up with documentary evidence and I believe what have said to be true. In my opinion EKOs rules have been broken. the person who broke the rules was aided and supported by Hyland and Bruton. The consequence of these actions is an effort was made to subvert  Thanet Council's planning processes. This is as serious as it gets. EKO is clearly ungovernable and out of control. There are no checks or balances to prevent this public body from doing what it wants, even to the extent of coming close to breaking the law.  It’s time to close down this out-of-control development quango and its time for KCC to  launch an immediate investigation into the alleged actions of one of representatives on the  EKO management committee and the actions of the EKO executive officer"

Extract from KCC Monitoring Officer Geoff Wild e-mail to me  of 7th June
 
I would strongly urge you to refrain from disclosing to the media anything that might lead to the identification of Ms Bruton. This is because she is not a “very senior manager” (as you suggest), the allegations against her are tenuous, unproven and at best peripheral to the main focus of the investigation, and no useful purpose will be served by publishing her name.  Any such publication runs the significant risk of being defamatory and Kent County Council will not hesitate to take appropriate steps in order to protect the reputation of itself and its officers.

My response to Geoff Wild's e-mail

Thank you for your e-mail. I am disappointed by your response. 
The information I provided to you clearly demonstrates that Ms Bruton and Mr Hyland were aware that Ms McGonigal was likely to be acting in breach of the EKO Membership Agreement. Indeed  she  e-mailed them both and told them she was meeting Thanet planners to "illustrate the argument I want them to use in support  of the (EKO) application". This proposed course of action was  in breach of  Part D, Clause 13.3 of the EKO membership agreement. It was therefore the duty of both  Ms Bruton and Ms Hyland as responsible  EKO colleagues to advise Ms McGonigal that her actions were wrong. However instead of doing this  Mr Hyland and Ms Bruton actually provided Ms McGonigal with a document which she used to assist her  to  "illustrate the argument  I want them (the planners)  to use in support  of the (EKO) application".

With respect,  these actions were  not "tenuous, unproven and at best peripheral". The evidence I have provided to you clearly demonstrates that Mr Hyland and Ms Bruton aided and abetted an effort by Ms McGonigal to deliberately breach the EKO membership agreement. Whether or not  Ms McGonigal actually did what she said she was going to do is immaterial. The fact is there  appears to have been collusion with  and support for  someone who was proposing to  break EKO rules .......... This is totally unacceptable and is clearly a separate issue to the DIP investigation into Ms McGonigal's actions. It is therefore beholden upon Kent County Council to launch its own investigation now, instead of waiting for the outcome of the McGonigal DIP investigation which, in view of her reported sickness absence, may never be completed.

Furthermore  I am advised that Ms McGonigal held at least 2 meetings with Thanet planners to discuss the EKO planning application at which Mr Hyland was in attendance. These meetings were held after Ms McGonigal had been advised that the EKO planning application was against Thanet council policy and would not be recommended for approval.  For Ms McGonigal to arrange such meetings was contrary to Part D, Clause 13.3 of the EKO membership agreement. For Mr Hyland to attend and play an active role in such meetings was to condone and collaborate in the breach of Part D, Clause 13.3 of the EKO membership agreement. This is both wrong and highly improper, especially considering that he is the EKO Executive Officer.
 
I understand that a briefing meeting of Thanet councillors was arranged  at which a presentation of the EKO planning application was made.  This meeting was held less than one week before the meeting of the planning committee at which  the EKO  application was decided. All members of Thanet planning committee were invited to this meeting. In my opinion, the holding of this meeting was highly improper and could, because of its proximity to the planning committee, be seen as an effort to influence decision makers.
 
.....  I understand that  Mr Hyland actively assisted in organising this meeting and Mr Hyland spoke at length at the meeting about the EKO planning application along with planning and highway consultants employed by EKO. So once again we have a situation where Mr Hyland appears to  have aided and abetted Ms McGonigal's breach of Part D, Clause 13.3 of the EKO membership agreement. This is both wrong and highly improper.
 
I am glad  that you agree my allegations are extremely serious.  I trust that you will also agree that actions of Ms Bruton and Mr Hyland are totally independent of the investigation into Ms McGonigal and that you will  commence an investigation into without  further  delay. I doubt whether Kent County Council would like to be portrayed  in the media as sitting back and doing nothing when presented with allegations about collusion in rule breaking, covering upon potential misconduct in public office and ignoring  the blatant governance failures of a partnership funded by KCC. 
 
As to your threats of legal action may I remind you that as an elected councillor it is my duty to blow the whistle on examples of misconduct in public office, especially if the statutory officer appears to be reluctant to take my complaints seriously.
 
It's shameful that KCC appears to prefer to use taxpayers money on legal actions aimed at covering  up the potential misbehaviour of it employees and agents  instead  of launching an immediate and thorough investigation into serious allegations of impropriety.


Yours sincerely
Councillor Ian Driver



Thursday, 19 June 2014

Ramsgate Port is There a Future?

Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, has warned that the Port of Ramsgate is “teetering on the verge of financial collapse".

According to figures released to Driver following a Freedom of Information Request, the Port generated £2,301,631 income in the financial year 2012-13. But in the financial year 2013-14 income plummeted to just £570,570. A staggering drop of £1.73 million; 75% less than the  previous year’s earnings!
Said Driver “This extraordinary  drop in income is explained by the 2103 TransEuropa Ferries scandal when, following a secret payment deferral deal approved by  TDCs Labour Cabinet, the company collapsed owing the Council £3.4 million in unpaid bills. But more than year later, and despite having hired a specialist maritime industry consultant, the Council has failed to attract a new ferry operator or significant alternative business for the port”.  
“I would be surprised if the £570,000 income generated by the Port in the last financial year, came anywhere close to covering its day-to-day operating costs. In fact, like Manston Airport, I reckon the port is racking up  astronomic daily  operating losses, which can’t carry on for much longer.  Its time for TDC to learn from the Manston Airport saga and begin to develop a new, imaginative business plan  which will provide a financially robust and sustainable future for the port, before its too late”.
 
TDC’s plans to rejuvenate the port include a £7million investment to modernise facilities and develop an “alongside” quay to attract new ferry operators, cruise liners and container vessels.   Driver, has dismissed these plans as the “unimaginative re-workings of the same old same old ideas ".
“Less than 20 miles away the Port of Dover has begun to invest close to £100 million in massively expanding its capacity to handle  ferries and liners.  Only 75 mile away, the huge,  ultra-modern,  London Gateway freight terminal recently opened for business. There is no way that Ramsgate Port could hope to compete against these maritime colossi”.
“In my opinion Thanet Council should re-think its plans and  invest in transforming  Ramsgate’s Port and Harbour into a state of the art 21st century marina and sea sports centre. A modern marina and sea sports centre would attract hundreds of thousands of new visitors from the UK, Europe and across the world who will spend their  money in the town’s shops, bars, restaurants and hotels. The marina could be linked into a joined up plan to tackle the Pleausurama eyesore and associated seafront decline This would be a major shot in the arm for Ramsgate which will create hundreds of jobs and new business opportunities. I am sure it will be possible to secure EU, KCC and Government funding to pay for a major project such as this”.
“its time to be imaginative and bold rather than re-inventing the past, which has  been proved by recent and bitter experience to no-longer be feasible in Ramsgate. A sharp focus on  modern leisure use is what will put Ramsgate back on the map!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

KCC Leader Paul Carter Wos Ere. Why?

On 14th November 2013  Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, attended a meeting of the East Kent Opportunities (EKO) Management Committee. Why was he there? He's never been to one before.

The meeting was called to discuss Thanet Council’s Planning Committee rejection of  EKOs application to build 550 houses on land owned by EKO at the New Haine Road Ramsgate.  It has been alleged that in order to secure planning permission for this development improper influence may been brought to bear  upon Thanet’s planning processes. This is a very serious allegation which is now subject to an independent investigation.

My estimate is that it cost somewhere in the region of £250,000 - £300,000 to prepare and submit the EKO planning application. Much of this cost has been picked up by council tax payers who fund EKO. EKO knew along that their massively expensive planning application would not succeed. Thanet Council’s planning officers told them so on more than one occasion. But the fools who run EKO pressed on with their futile efforts knowing full well what the result would be.

On 21 October 2013 the inevitable happened. EKOs planning application was rejected to the delight of many Labour  councillors who were aware that their, leader Clive Hart, had been playing a double game and supporting the EKO application whilst his party policy was to oppose it. 
How did EKO respond? Well instead of cutting their (our) losses they held a meeting on 14th  November,  which Paul Carter attended, at which it was decided to appeal against Thanet Council’s rejection of the EKO planning. An appeal has now been submitted and I understand that will take the form of a week long public enquiry in October. This will cost somewhere in the region of £100,000 maybe more, of our money!.

Why  spend approaching £500,000 in public money on a futile planning application and appeal?  Well the answer to this is because Kent County Council spent almost £6 million on building the New Haine Road right through the middle of the EKO land. They can only recover this investment by forcing through a planning application for housing on the land by fair means or, allegedly, foul!

So I think it's probable  that Councillor Paul Carter attended the EKO meeting to reassure himself that all means possible were being used to try to recover KCCs road building money. I am 100% certain that as boss of KCC Cllr Carter wants to ensure that his council's money is properly managed. I am 100% certain that in pursuing this honourable aim Mr Carter would not have countenanced or encouraged  some of the shenanigans and misconduct that are alleged to have surrounded the submission of the EKO planning application, which may or may not have breached the EKO membership agreement.