When Leader of Thanet Council, Hart, along with Council Chief Executive Sue McGonigal, was a management board member of the highly secretive East Kent Opportunities(EKO). EKO is a limited liability partnership organisation jointly owned by KCC and Thanet Council. As board members Hart and McGonigal supported a planning application to Thanet Council to build 550 houses on greenfield land owned by EKO at New Haine Road, Westwood Cross. The application was very expensive (somewhere in the region of £50,000 but EKO refuses to tell me). The only source of EKO income is Council Tax so you had to the foot the bill for the planning application.EKO was advised on several occasions that their application was contrary to Thanet Council planning policy and had little chance of success. When the application was discussed by Thanet Council’s Planning Committee in November 2013 it was rejected. Soon afterwards the EKO Board, including Hart and McGonigal, met and voted to appeal against the decision of Thanet Council’s Planning Committee. The appeal will take place later this year and is scheduled to last about week. It will cost close to £100,000 and once again as Council Tax payers you will be forced to pick up EKOs and Thanet Council’s bill for this appeal.
So what does this tell us? That Clive Hart the new Vice Chair of Thanet Council’s Planning Committee actively supported a planning application for an housing estate on greenfield land which was clearly against the policy of the Council he was leading at the time. That he also voted to support a massively expensive planning appeal against the decision of Planning Committee he is now vice-chairman of. In short Hart now occupies a senior post on a Planning Committee which he recently shafted! As vice-chairman of that committee, can he fulfil the constitutional requirement to “act in the interests of Thanet Council”? With a track record like this I don’t think so.Finally the Local Government Association publication “Probity in Planning” asks “how a reasonable member of the public, with full knowledge of all the relevant facts, would view the matter (in this case Hart’s appointment as Vice Chairman of the Planning Committee) when considering whether the councillor’s involvement would be appropriate”. In my opinion most reasonable people, when made aware of Hart’s EKO shenanigans would view his appointment to this very influential position as an extremely poor choice. What do you think?