The planning application for 550 houses at New Haine Road Ramsgate was submitted by East Kent Opportunities LLP (EKO), a property development partnership jointly owned by Kent County Council and TDC. TDC’s Planning Committee rejected the application in October 2013. EKO then launched an appeal which will be heard later this year.
Three weeks ago Driver submitted a complaint to TDC alleging that the Council’s Chief Executive, Sue McGonigal, may have tried to improperly influence the planning process in relation to the EKO application. An external assessor has now been appointed to review Driver’s allegations and decide if there is a case for the Chief Executive to answer.
In the meantime, TDC Leader Hart and his Labour Cabinet colleagues, Councillors Michelle Fenner, Allan Poole and Rick Everitt put forward proposals which would have resulted in the departure of the Council’s Monitoring Officer, who is managing the investigation into Driver’s allegations, and his replacement with someone, who Driver claims “ might be more pliable than the incumbent, making easier for this extremely serious investigation to be nobbled and any alleged misconduct covered up”. However, Hart’s plans were defeated when Independent, Conservative and UKIP councillors voted to block his proposals at a meeting of TDCs General Purposes Committee earlier this week.
Said Driver “Thanet’s Labour leadership are desperate to kill off this investigation because they are key players in the unsavoury EKO story. It was TDC Leader Hart, along with Chief Executive McGonigal, who supported EKO’s plan to build 550 houses at the New Haine Road, even though they knew it was against Thanet Council’s Planning Policy. It was TDC Leader Hart, along with Chief Executive McGonigal , who supported EKOs decision to appeal against the rejection of their plans, even though they knew that the appeal is likely to cost Thanet taxpayers up to £100,000.
I congratulate those councillors from across the political divide who were brave enough to stand up against the Labour Leadership’s crude efforts to manipulate, influence and kill off a very serious investigation into alleged misconduct in public office. I am a firm believer in open and transparent government and if there has been any wrong doing by politicians or officers there should be a fair and proper investigation which is not nobbled or fixed for reputational or party political purposes. I trust that Councillor Hart and his colleagues will now act in public interest and let due process take its course without further interference.”