Green Party Councillor and Parliamentary Candidate for South Thanet, Ian Driver, has accused Ramsgate’s ‘political establishment’ of “betraying the people they were elected to represent”. His comments follow revelations that Ramsgate Town Council (RTC) and the town’s County Councillors failed to respond to a consultation about KCC’s Minerals and Waste Local Plan (MWLP) last summer. The MWLP regulates the aggregate industry in Kent, and lists Ramsgate Port as an aggregate processing site. This designation means that the O’Regan Group’s controversial proposal to locate a concrete block manufacturing plant at the port, which was opposed at a packed meeting of over 300 townspeople earlier this year, is in fact likely to be approved.
Opportunities missed KCC invited Ramsgate Town Council (RTC) to comment on the revised MWLP last summer. This would have provided RTC with an opportunity to raise issues about the sensitive environmental sites close to the port and the port’s proximity to tourist and residential areas, allowing planners more discretion to reject unsuitable applications such as the O’Regan proposal. However, minutes of RTC meetings reveal that the issue was never discussed by the Labour-controlled body, and KCC records show that it did not make a consultation submission.
KCC’s consultation took place between July and September 2014. This is the period in which the O’Regan Group held its first 3 meetings with Thanet Council about its proposals for the port. It is believed that Ramsgate Town Councillor Mike Harrison who, in his second job as a Thanet District Councillor, is responsible for overseeing the management of the Port, knew about the KCC consultation and the talks with O’Regan.
Councillors ‘failed in their duties’
It’s also believed by some that Ramsgate Town Councillors David Green and Rick Everitt, who are also Thanet District Councillors with responsibility for Planning and Finance, would also have known about the O’Regan talks and the KCC consultation. If this assumption is correct, why didn’t Harrison, Green, and Everitt insist on RTC participating in the consultation and put forward suggestions which would have made it much easier for planners to reject unsuitable developments at the port?
But it wasn’t just the failure of RTC and its politicians which let residents down. UKIP’s County Councillors Trevor Shonk and Martyn Heale, and Labour’s Parliamentary hopeful for Ramsgate and current County Councillor, Will Scobie, appear to have failed in their duties as public servants too. Heale, Shonk and Scobie attended a meeting at Maidstone’s County Hall where KCC’s Minerals and Waste Local Plan was discussed and the consultation timetable approved.
If they had read the reports, they would have realised how important the MWLP was in relation to planning policy for the Port of Ramsgate. They would have recognised that the consultation process offered them a chance to put forward suggestions to try to balance industrial use of the port with the environmental, residential and tourist issues in the surrounding area. Records show that Heale, Shonk and Scobie, unlike other County Councillors, did not do this.
Said Driver: “The O’Regan controversy sadly demonstrates that Ramsgate’s politicians are shambolic failures who are not fit for public office. Instead of engaging in processes which could have protected the town from a development nobody wants, they sat on their backsides and did nothing. Instead of trying to fight for the interests of the people who elected them, they have stabbed them in the back. These so-called politicians have brought themselves into disrepute - and in 8 weeks’ time you can replace them with Green councillors who will be pro-active, carry out their duties with care and diligence, and put the interests of the community first!”