Towards the end of January we sent an email to all councillors on behalf of the members of SPP summarising our concerns about the financial viability calculations. Our comments were based on the Betteridge & Milsom calculations published in the summer of 2018 shortly before the determination of the planning application. We were aware that there is an updated version of this but as it is not in the public domain we were not able to refer to it.
A number of the councillors acknowledged receipt of the email. Today we received a response from Dr Priest (who was not copied in on the email) rebutting our comments.
In the interests of openness we are posting that response here. Dr Priest’s responses refers to a more detailed critique of the financial viability calculations which was submitted to officers by Dr Burrell.
Response to SPP email 7.2.19
BM Response to GB Critique Feb 19
Savills response to GB Critique Feb 19
The council still seem to missing the point that certain costs have been costs have been omitted because they have fallen down the gap between the B&M calculation and the Savill’s valuation. The details of the Savill’s valuation are not in the public domain so it is difficult to take this any further at this stage.
Worryingly, in response to our point 6 about the inclusion of the Imperial Green off site affordable housing s106 monies as income of the scheme the council say “It should be remembered that the basis for this proposal is that it is an enabling scheme.” (They mean to financially enable the new leisure centre). In other words, despite all the promises that this project will provide affordable housing, it is unlikely to provide as much as it should ie that due from Imperial Green plus the 30% from the PP project itself.
The council do concede that the financial viability of the scheme could alter as the project progresses and this is the main reason that we are so concerned that one the recommendations for next Wednesday’s council meeting is to delegate delivery of the project to the officers . This will mean next to no democratic or public oversight for a project whose costs are still very much just at the indicative stage.
The council have completely ignored the section of Dr Burrell’s report where he discusses costs that he believes have been underestimated or omitted from the financial viability calculations.
Paragraph 1.3 of the officer’s report that will be presented to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet next week states that the National Planning casework Unit have been notified of the current position in order that the Secretary of State can consider whether or not to call in the application.
The planning officer has just confirmed by email that this is not the case. Folkestone and Hythe District Council have not informed the National Planning Casework Unit that they are ready to issue the decision.
The agenda for next week’s cabinet meeting has now been published. It is pretty much the same as for the Overview & Scrutiny meeting on the previous day.
The public will be excluded from part of both meetings but we do need a good turnout in the public gallery so please join us.
Tues 12th Feb 7pm and Wed 13th Feb at 5pm
Civic Centre, Castle Hill Avenue,
Folkestone, Kent CT20 2QY
We are working on an email on behalf of our members to the councillors based on the limited information that we have been allowed to see.
The agenda for the Overview & Scrutiny Committee meeting has been published and despite our representations the public are to be excluded from some of the meeting. But not all of it so can we please have a good turnout so that the public gallery is full. 7pm Tues 12 Feb.
Reading the officer’s report the council seem to think that they are now in a position to issue the planning consent. We are still hopeful that the Secretary of State might call in the application but if not we will have no option but to consider a judicial review. So if you have already pledged money towards our legal costs we will be in touch to collect it shortly. If you haven’t yet done so please get in touch.
We asked our solicitor to write to Dr Priest setting out the legal case why the council would be wrong to exclude the public from the Overview & Scrutiny Meeting on 12th Feb and the Cabinet meeting on 13th Feb.
This is the reply he got:
“Many thanks for your letter. Your points have been noted, and your representation will be put before Members of both the Cabinet and the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, prior to their consideration as to whether to consider the business case in private session or not. I must stress that the decision is ultimately one which will be made by Members at the meeting.”
We believe that this is a matter of law not a political decision for the councillors to make so we will continue to object to the proposed exclusion of the public.
Whatever the outcome we will be attending both meetings just in case the councillors vote to allow us to stay and we would urge as many of you as possible to be there to support us.
Thanks to all those of you who have helped us raise the funds that have allowed us to employ the solicitor.
In response to a question on Facebook we have pulled off this diagram from the planning application to show where the play area near the leisure centre is supposed to be plan showing play area
As this diagram from the recent Herrington’s report shows, the pond that is being proposed as part of the surface water drainage system into the canal would take up a significant part of the open space.
The cabinet meeting at which the Princes Parade business case was to be discussed has been postponed.
Here is the email from the council: “As you are aware, the report relating to the business case for Princes Parade was due to be discussed by Overview and Scrutiny on 29 January and Cabinet on 30 January but given the level of interest the item had generated, the Leader of the Council has suggested a separate meeting be held specifically to consider the report.
Therefore, the Business Case for Princes Parade will now be considered at a Special meeting of Folkestone & Hythe District Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday 13 February 2019. The report will also be considered by the Overview and Scrutiny committee on Tuesday 12 February 2019.
The representations you have previously submitted regarding the consideration of the report in private will automatically be added to the agenda for these meetings, for both Committees to consider. Apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
Please put both dates in your diaries. Overview & Scrutiny will be at 7pm and cabinet at 5pm.
We are continuing to argue to the council that we should be allowed to attend the whole meeting and have access to all the agenda papers at least 5 working days ahead of the meeting.
The EA’s letter dated 15.1.19 in which they reluctantly accept that the surface water from the proposed development can be drained into the canal has been taken down from the council’s website and replaced by this letter Ea Letter 17.1.19 which more clearly states that they are withdrawing their objection.
The council has given notice that it intends to exclude the public (and therefore preventing us from seeing the agenda papers) from at least part the cabinet meeting where the Princes Parade business plan will be discussed.
We sent our objections to Dr Priest and here is her response :
“Thank you for your emails dated 18th December and 5th January.
I have now had the opportunity of considering the contents of your emails and I have also discussed this matter with the Monitoring Officer.
The Council does not agree with your interpretation of para 9 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972. The Council is of the opinion that the exemption can still apply. This is because the restriction on exemptions at paragraph 9 of Schedule 12A relates to information concerning the planning process, rather than the Business Case.
As you are aware, the Cabinet meeting on 30 January will be considering the Business Case and will not be considering planning issues. Officers consider the details of the Business Case to be commercially sensitive. It should also be noted that the information being considered during the Cabinet meeting will not be part of the consideration as to whether planning permission should be granted.”
It is, of course, for the members of the Cabinet to decide whether or not to exclude the public from the meeting. Objections to the exclusion will be placed before Councillors so they can take them into account. The public interest will also be considered prior to any decision on whether or not to consider the matter in private.