Monday, 26 January 2015

Update: Hoser's Corner - Council approved 'foundation trenches' for the development in July 2010

Today, I received a reply from Thanet Council's Head of Planning today on the planning status of Hoser's Corner, the derelict broken corner of weed infested concrete, complete with bits of tiles, from the previous dwelling:

From: Simon Thomas Date: 26 January 2015 at 15:14Subject: RE: Hoser's Corner planning statusTo: Louise Oldfield 

Dear LouiseThank you for your email regarding the site at Hosers Corner.Planning permission was granted in 2007 for the re-development of the site. The permission was granted on the condition that works should be commenced within 3 years of the date of the permission. In July 2010 the Councils Building Control Officer visited the site and has confirmed that the foundation trenches had been dug and concreted. This constitutes commencement of the development under the Planning Act and therefore the 2007 planning permission is extant.I hope this clarifies the position.RegardsSimon

So, 'foundation trenches' were dug and inspected in July 2010.

Where would these foundation trenches be? When I went to the the site yesterday I found no evidence of any works. Perhaps I wasn't looking hard enough.

The answer came later today on Facebook and Twitter from Labour MP candidate, Will Scobie stated he'd been informed the works ie the 'foundation trenches' were in a section of Percy Road side of the development.

This is a detail from their Lower Ground proposed plan of the Percy Road side of the development:

Obviously, as  the vast majority of the site clearly has no evidence of works having been started. The concrete floor surface is old and contains patches of the original floor coverings of the previous dwelling.

The chronology of how these 'foundation trenches' might have happened is:

-  April 4th 2010, the developer, Mr Lam, made a application (F/TH/10/0289) to extend the planning  permission granted in 2007 (F/TH/05/0070). As part of this application Mr Lam stated that no works had commenced on site.

- July 2010 the site was then inspected by a Thanet Council Building Control Officer who signed off that works had started by seeing evidence of foundations in a section of Percy Road. The exact date hasn't yet been confirmed by Thanet Council. The 2007 permission was granted July 25th 2007 and required works to have commenced by 3 years from this date.

- The 2010 application (F/TH/10/0289) to extend planning permission was withdrawn at some point in the summer 2010.

Some further things to consider about this issue:

- A series conditions were applied to the original 2007 permission granted (F/TH/05/0070) stipulating that no works be commenced on site until they were submitted to the Council and agreed.

Were any of these conditions fulfilled by the developer prior to works starting on site for the 'foundation trenches' that were constructed between April and July 2010?

- What constitutes work on site having started? This falls under the The Town & Country Planning Act 1990, Section 56, Para 2:

- What evidence of the 'foundation trenches' for the development was inspected and signed off by Thanet Council's Building Control department?

What we do know is the everyday reality of this derelict site has been an eyesore for over a decade.

Let's see the Building Control Officer's sign off of the works having started.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Hoser's Corner - Where is the evidence of works having started?

Following on from yesterday's Twitter discussion regarding the planning status of Hoser's Corner, I went out to the site today. I couldn't find any visible evidence of building works having started at all.

It will be interesting to see the evidence of what works have supposed to have been carried out and signed off by Thanet Council. This derelict plot is a complete eyesore. The previous owner has left it like this for a decade. Since this planning application was approved, Thanet Council put a stop to any more 1 bed flats being proposed in Cliftonville West.

Planning permission was first sought for 26 flats on this site in 2005 (F/TH/05/0070). Since that time, Thanet Council could have enforced this eyesore problem through the legislation at its disposal (Town and Country Planning Act). It has, in the past,  leveraged these powers at the owners of other problem buildings nearby eg The Arcadian and Fort Road Hotel.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

26 flat development has permission for Hoser's Corner?

Proposal for Hoser's Corner
This morning, I came across the rather startling news that Hoser's Corner, the barren eyesore site at the end of the seafront Ethelbert Crescent in Cliftonville had been sold subject to contract for £700,000. And that it has planning permission for a development of 26 one and two bed flats resembling a mid 1990 business park, complete with underground car parking.

Those local to the area will know that Hoser's Corner, formerly 29 Ethelbert Crescent is quite a small site and on a very busy corner traffic wise with a very sharp bend. Those that aren't local will see clearly from the map!

The proposed development is very different to the historic terrace of Ethelbert Crescent.

The news of the development came as a shock to quite a few people today, especially because according to the Planning Portal, the planning permission granted on July 25th 2007 (F/TH/05/0070) had expired. There was then an application to extend it (F/TH/10/0289) in 2010 but this was withdrawn by the developer.

Later in the day, Will Scobie, Labour parliamentary candidate for Thanet South stated he understood the planning permission was no longer in place.

Estate agent, Cooke and co. tweeted that planning permission was actually in place because works were started on the site and then stopped and further, that they had a letter on file from Thanet District Council confirming the extension of the planning permission.

Taking a look at the files on

March 4th 2005 - Planning Application (F/TH/05/0070) is registered for the creation of 26 flats by Ever Fortune Ltd of Middlesex.

April 21st 2010 - Application (F/TH/10/0289) to extend planning permission (F/TH/05/0070) the applicant, Mr J Lam from Middlesex confirms the site was empty and the development has not commenced.

Application F/TH/10/0289

July 2nd 2010 - Letter from Brian White, then Director of Regeneration Services states that condition 14 for foul and surface water disposal was agreed.

July 25th 2007 - Deed of Agreement between Thanet District Council and Mr Lam, which state the original address of the dwelling on Hoser's Corner as 29 Ethelbert Crescent. The deed is an agreement that there would be an affordable housing contribution of £248,381.40.

The fact that it's been left as a barren slab of concrete for years and that some kind of work has been undertaken to extend the permission is shocking. The price of £700,000 is obviously based on a densely packed in high quantity of units to make the building cost worth it. But these are not going to be great flats to live in on this site. Nor does the design and scale accord with the seafront location and aspirations of a revived Cliftonville seafront appealing for visitors. 

It's claimed work started
If the permission is in place, then it's news to people living in the area and a prospective MP candidate who is also a serving councillor. The site is, like most of the area, sitting on chalk. Quite how an underground car park will be constructed is a mystery.

This proposal really isn't the best for Cliftonville. It obviously doesn't accord with Thanet Council's veto on 1 bed flats in Cliftonville West. Whoever granted this permission, if it indeed stands, should be thoroughly ashamed. In 2007, Margate was in the midst of a clearly defined regeneration programme.

There is a plan in the 2005 application files that shows a single dwelling on the site set back from the road in its own grounds. This is probably the ideal solution for this location, but obviously not one that is worth the apparent £700,000 purchase price of the plot alone. 

Land Registry title plan

We'll have to wait until Monday to hear from Thanet Council's Planning department whether they have failed to upload a letter of confirmation the planning permission has been extended to the Planning Portal on or otherwise.

A record of the day's twitter discussion on Storify.

Edited to add: Hoser's Corner was given a facelift last summer by artists as part of the #summerofcolour project:

Sunday, 21 December 2014

UKIP expel Councillor Rozanne Duncan for 'jaw dropping comments'

Rozanne Duncan

The news has spread like wild fire this afternoon across local and national media that UKIP have expelled Councillor Rozanne Duncan from the party for making what is quoted as 'jaw dropping comments' in a BBC documentary to be aired in January. 

UKIP have so far declined to offer any further clarification on what Ms Duncan, the Deputy Leader of the Thanet UKIP group has actually said. There has also been no statement from Councillor Duncan either. This leaves the residents of the Cliftonville East, the ward that Duncan represents very much in the dark.

Duncan took the seat in last year at a bi-election after Sandy Ezekiel the former Conservative Leader of Thanet District Council, was jailed for misconduct in public office. I also contended this seat as an independent candidate myself.

It leaves open the question whether the so called offending comments, that were strong enough for expulsion from UKIP, a party that in recent weeks has thought it acceptable and defended a candidate's use of 'chinky' as a colloquial term often used by people who come from council houses, were comments acceptable for a serving councillor to make. Describing the comments as 'jaw dropping' and offering no further explanation has lead to rampant speculation as to their content.

So, will Rozanne Duncan, who has previously served as a Conservative Councillor, do the right thing by the residents of Cliftonville East and clarify what all of this is about without delay? The silence so far is telling. Her member information page on Thanet Council's website only has a landline number and postal address and not even a council issued email address.

Shouldn't Thanet District Council be clarifying what this is about? Surely residents need to be assured that their councillor abides by the Code of Conduct. 

Friday, 19 December 2014

Is Thanet's Local Plan a viable plan?

Here's a puzzle for you:

What happens if you plan to build 12,000 new houses in one of the poorest districts in the country (that's had one of the highest council spending cuts of 5.3%) around a shopping centre that is based on people visiting by car.

Then you only plan to create 5,000 jobs. You then designate the shopping centre, full of corporate chains that up sticks when the going gets tough, as the main primary town centre drawing transport and other resources (such as train services from the stations in the towns to the new station in the middle of the fields to serve the new 12,000 houses) away from the three towns of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs.

This puzzle is laid out in Thanet Council's draft Local Plan that will be up for consultation in the new year.

Someone had better invite an economist quick!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Thanet Council plan demolition and social housing plans for historic Fort Road Hotel, Margate

During the Leader's Report on Thursday's Council meetingIris Johnston announced  the Council's intention to seek potential demolition of the historic18th century Fort Road Hotel, directly opposite Turner Contemporary and that the Council were working up plans for social housing flats on the site.

Present day with scaffolding
This news has come as a complete surprise to many of us that were waiting to hear when works would commence on the boutique hotel and restaurant scheme that had been announced in the press last year.

In 2011 the hotel was compulsory purchased by Thanet Council. It was then marketed by Thanet Council as a site suitable for regeneration into a boutique hotel. They advertised the building and even funded the placement of a neon advertisement on the roof proclaiming 'Iconic Site'. 

It was reported that there were 20 expressions of interest and a developer was then selected who then committed to working up plans. The developer was the owner of London's Beach Blanket Babylon. A mixed use hotel and restaurant scheme was drawn up by Guy Holloway Architects (who are also working on Dreamland) with all the associated costs of this process.

In their own report of 2011, Thanet Council described the building as:

"The Fort Road Hotel (previously the Fort Castle Public House) is one of the last surviving buildings in the area today that the artist JMW Turner would recognise. Turner spent fifteen years ‘weekending’ in Margate with Sophia Booth (whose house was opposite) and, as a noted drinker, it seems inconceivable that he did not visit the establishment.
This gives the former hotel hard-to-beat historic and artistic credentials that are likely to be of special interest to visitors to Turner Contemporary. The hotel also benefits from a fantastic position, facing the sea, overlooking (and overlooked by) the gallery. The two buildings share the same privileged view of Margate’s sunsets, that Turner declared “the loveliest in Europe”. These associations with Turner (historically with the artist and now with the gallery) give the Fort Road Hotel potentially iconic status.Furthermore, the building is well situated on the main coastal route in and out of Margate, within close proximity of the harbour area; the Old Town; and Margate High Street."
Thanet Council also posted a video on Youtube, which shows inside the building and includes a very fine Georgian staircase in the interior:

This leaves a number of unanswered questions:

Why is the boutique hotel and restaurant scheme not going ahead?

Why is Thanet Council, as the developer, contemplating demolition and working on plans for the development of flats in this key seafront location when we last heard it was going to be restored as a hotel?

Yes, there is a need for social housing in the Margate area. But the Council itself advertised this site for development into a hotel. 

Were the developers offered the option to demolish and replace with flats? Why take forward the creative marketing scheme of the 'Iconic Site' neon if all that is planned is demolition and flats?

We have, at Thanet Council's last count, over 800 empty properties in Margate and Cliftonville to be brought back into use. The Fort Road Hotel site seems to be a poor choice of location for the development of social housing. Tourism is a valuable, sustainable industry for Margate and key seafront sites like this are limited and should be retained for tourism purposes. Thanet's heritage buildings are a key driver for tourism. Extensive funding has already been allocated towards the marketing of this historic site to attract developers for the purpose of restoring the building as a working hotel. This seems to be yet another example of Thanet Council embarking on a u-turn without any of the public being informed of the process and heading off in a conflicting direction that their own policy stipulates. 

What can you do?
- Please sign the petition and share it with your friends and contacts.
- Give the Save Fort Road Hotel Facebook page a like and a share.
- Use the hashtag: #SaveFortRdHotel on social media.
- Write to the Leader of Thanet District Council, Councillor Iris Johnston with your views.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

As Hornby vacate Thanet why do we need their advice?

An article in today's Guardian features Thanet based business Hornby moving out of its base of 60 years and follows on with the woeful news about the struggling Margate economy.
You might be interested to know that senior executives of Hornby take up places on the boards of both
Thanet Regeneration Board (you have to actually click on Frank Martin's name to reveal he's from Hornby) and the Destination Management Plan Steering Group (Nick Cole representing the Thanet Business Group is Vice Chairman). 
Now we hear Hornby are upping sticks out of Thanet completely [edited to add: the Guardian article states they may keep their visitor centre in Margate], just as Thanet District Council release their
draft Local Plan which earmarks large scale development and expansion of the Westwood Ward. That's Westwood Cross, folks with infill of housing all around it on empty brownfield sites on all sides, and includes land that was once prime agricultural and ended up as EKO
The Financial Times reports that Hornby:
"announced an annual pre-tax loss of £4.6m and renegotiated its debt. Two months earlier, it issued its third profit warning in less than two years following prolonged problems with a Chinese supplier and adverse foreign exchange movements."

Do we need this kind of regeneration advice for Thanet?

There are no small business reps on the Thanet Regeneration Board. Why? I've asked and have never been given an answer.

So, here's to another positive piece in the national media about Margate struggling, when in reality, there are many small businesses collectively expanding.

The times they are a changing.