Agenda item

Land at Shottendane Road


Bob Porter, Director of Place introduced the report and made the following comments:


  • The purpose of the proposals was to enable the delivery of affordable homes in Thanet;
  • This would contribute towards the delivery of 548 homes that Cabinet agreed to deliver each year for the next four years;
  • Land for potential delivery of homes was put forward in the Local Plan;
  • The Local Plan process would need to be concluded that would include any identified land for new housing developments;
  • Gypsy and Traveller Communities: TDC study identified five transit and seven permanent sites to be established;
  • The Council had legal obligations to provide the traveller communities with facilities;
  • Government directed that these facilities be included in the Local Plan;
  • No decision about the specific sites had been made;
  • Four sites might be forwarded to the Planning Committee for decision;
  • These applications should not have detrimental impact on the local surroundings;
  • The sites should have access to health and education facilities;
  • Any applications submitted outside the Local Plan process would be to be assessed using the four criteria;
  • The proposals in the officer report were recommendation a public consultation on any proposals and the consultation would include traveller representatives;
  • A road network was being proposed to support new housing development. Cabinet would be asked to approve the disposal of a piece of land to Kent County Council for road network construction.


Councillor Whitehead, Deputy Leader of Council and Cabinet Member for Housing only spoke on the part of this item that referred to the consultation relating to Shottendane. She made comments as follows:


  • It is exceptionally important that we consider this evening what we are discussing, and what we are not discussing;
  • It is recommended that the Overview and Scrutiny Panel consider the contents of this committee report and make any recommendations that it would like Cabinet to take into account when considering the matter at its meeting on 25 January 2024; 


  • The proposed recommendations to the Cabinet are: 


  1. To conduct public consultation with the Gypsy and Traveller community and neighbouring residents about the proposal to establish a number of Gypsy and Traveller pitches on land off of Shottendane Road (area shown in annex 6 to the report).


2.  Subject to the outcome of the consultation, submit an application for outline planning permission for the provision of Gypsy and Traveller Pitches on the land marked 1aii in annex 5 to the report.


  • This was a proposal to recommend to Cabinet that a consultation be undertaken with residents and Travelling community to consider the potential of a managed site on land we own at Shottendane;
  • This was not a new idea, but choosing to consult on it and asking for input from local resident input and the Travelling community was new;
  • The discussion was about the legal requirement to plan for sites for the Gypsy and Traveller community. This task was not optional. It was a legal requirement, as well as a moral requirement;
  • The Council had a legal duty to plan for appropriate sites for members of the Gypsy and Traveller community. In spite of this lack of provision being a longstanding issue, and an important one, there were currently no sites identified in the district;
  • The Portfolio Holder for Housing was determined to address this need and the need to bring communities together in understanding, respect and discussion;
  • Cabinet was determined to identify and provide sites that work, in size and design, to ensure that accommodation needs were met and simultaneously supporting the local community through comprehensive consultation. The proposed engagement will be key to this and we actively welcome involvement at all stages of this process;


  • What was being considered at this Panel meeting was the consideration of a suggestion of a consultation on providing a site. That was the only issue before Members. If Members and residents wanted to discuss issues surrounding site provision or concerns, that was exactly what a consultation was for; there would be no point to providing it otherwise.
  • What was not up for discussion at this meeting and will never be discussed in this Chamber, is whether or not Travellers have a right to live in Thanet because they do. They have a right to be part of the local communities, to have access to schools, services, healthcare, to be part of our lives, be considered, accepted and respected and not be demonised, caricatured, abused and stereotyped
  • The discussion about the proposal for a consultation with residents and with the Travelling community was in fact specifically a discussion about the right of all residents to be heard.


Mr Fisher, Mr Thomas and Mr Rawf spoke under Public Speaking and made the following comments:


  • The public only came to know about these proposals through a leaflet;
  • Residents were not happy as they had not been consulted;
  • The presence of such a site would cause a drop in property prices for the houses in that neighbourhood;
  • The Council could consider Dane Park, where there is an acre of land that was owned by the Council which could be allocated for such a site;
  • Members could also consider Hoverport site and not the piece of land in Garlinge;
  • It was important for the Council to identify a site for Travellers and wherever such a site was located there were bound to be complaints;
  • Currently the Council was having to use more resources to move travellers away from illegal sites.


Bob Porter and Councillor Whitehead responded as follows:


  • The report before the Panel was not about a planning application, but the proposals to have a public consultation before sending out information to residents about the consultation and conducting the actuarial consultation exercise;
  • Officer would consider all available sites;
  • The Council would consider all alternative sites around the district and they would be reviewed against some set criteria;
  • If the Local Plan identified sites, then those would be sites to be considered;
  • The Council called for sites during the Local Plan process. However, no sites were put forward by land owners.


Members then asked questions and made comments as follows:


  • One Member said that previous experience of other local Councils who tried to set up similar site ended up experiencing friction between residents and the traveller community;
  • It was important for the Council to listen to views from both the local residents and the travellers’ community;
  • Another Member said that there was a need to identify a site, but not the one that had been identified in the committee report;
  • They further said that this piece of land had been farmed by the family for generations and it was not cited in the Local Plan as suitable for setting up the travellers site;
  • One Member advised the meeting that debate on any issues should never end up with personal attacks and apologised to Councillor Whitehead for the personal attacks she had experienced;
  • They further said that this was agricultural land and there was no funding that had been identified to develop the site;
  • The Member asked what the Cabinet plans were for the sites and they further said that the Garlinge site would most likely be expanded as the Council would struggle to find new sites;
  • The Member asked why the traveller community’s needs had not been included in the Local Plan in the first place;
  • Another Member said that it was not useful to talk about what happened to other Councils in London many years ago and it was not good leadership to whip up emotions on this subject. Members were reminded to adhere to the Nolan Principles of Public Life;
  • Another Member asked what would constitute a successful scheme;
  • One Member said that they were pleased that the Council was now finally addressing the issue of traveller sites in the district. The Council had been neglecting its statutory duty;
  • Incursions being experienced in Thanet were caused by the absence of statutory sites for travellers;
  • Another Member asked what the acreage for traveller sites should be if one was to conduct a ten year forecast;
  • It was also important to preserve arable land;
  • One Member said that there was a travellers’ community that had been living in Central Harbour Ward in Ramsgate for the last three years and had integrated well with the local communities. They had a long history in Kent;
  • Another Member asked what the process would be for communicating with the public to reassure them about the process for identifying traveller sites. They further asked if there were any other sites under consideration like the Hoverport;
  • One Member advised the meeting that the Council was about to start the Local Plan review process. Any updated Local Plan would not pass without the traveller sites identified in it;
  • It was therefore important to identify a number potential sites;
  • Had the Council been in discussion with the travellers?
  • Would the traveller community be paying tax once they get settled at the sites?
  • How many families of the traveller community had been identified?
  • At what point would the Council identify funding for the development of sites once a decision on those sites was made?


Bob Porter and Councillor Whitehead responded to Member comments and questions as follows:


  • The Council would consider all viable sites and these would be considered against set criteria;
  • Garlinge site was not in the Local Plan. However, the decision for sites was still some way off;
  • The Council had written to government regarding the issue of agricultural land as only government could give direction on such matters;
  • Smaller sized sites would be managed more successfully and success was measured by how well integrated the sites would be with existing communities and the natural environment;
  • The sites would also need to be financially viable;
  • Officers had held discussions with the traveller community;
  • There was national guidance on forecasting demand for traveller sites in a given area. This information could be shared with Members of the Panel after the meeting;
  • Previously during the development of the current Local Plan, a public call for sites did not yield any success as no sites were put forward by land owners;
  • The council looked at its own land and realised that the options were limited;
  • The consultation process had not yet been designed. This process had to be open and transparent;
  • There was still a decision to be made on the size of the sites. Currently the Council was in discussion with the travellers;
  • Government preferred that Council identified sites first before consideration of funding;
  • Residential caravans paid tax or business rates. More detail on this would be sourced and shared with Members;
  • Currently the land that had been identified was Council land. Planning applications would be submitted for the sites, once the process reached that stage.


The Panel agreed that the following officer recommendations be forwarded to Cabinet:


  1. To conduct public consultation with the Gypsy and Traveller community and neighbouring residents about the proposal to establish a number of Gypsy and Traveller pitches on land off of Shottendane Road (area shown in annex 6).


2.  To dispose of part of the land at Shottendane Road (areas marked as 1b and 2b on annex 5) to KCC for the proposed Major Road Network (Inner Circuit) improvements and a linked sustainable drainage scheme.


The Panel also noted that proposals for the provision of housing on the wider Shottendane Road site could only be considered, following the assessment of all land submitted to the council as part of the ‘Call for Sites’ and the completion of the current review of the Thanet Local Plan.


The Panel rejected the officer recommendation that “Subject to the outcome of the consultation, submit an application for outline planning permission for the provision of Gypsy and Traveller Pitches on the land marked 1aii in annex 5.”


Councillor Green proposed, Councillor Fellows seconded and Members agreed that the Council hold-off consultation until the Council had looked at all its holdings to identify more suitable sites and that would then be followed by a full and transparent public consultation.

Supporting documents: