In May 2013 EKO applied to Thanet Council for permission to build 550 houses on land adjacent to the New Haine Road at Westwood Cross. Although Hart’s colleague Labour councillors strongly opposed the planning application saying that “We simply cannot understand how council officers were ever directed to make proposals which go so blatantly against TDC's own established policies” and complaining that “in a time of austerity and cut-backs, officers have been allowed to carry out a substantial and extremely costly amount of work (preparing a planning application) that may well not meet the requirements of the full council”, Hart nevertheless threw his weight behind preparing and submitting a massively expensive application which had little chance of success.In October 2013 Thanet Council’s Planning Committee unanimously rejected EKOs application with several Labour Councillors making devastating attacks on the plans. Within days of the rejection, the EKO board held a telephone conference at which Hart and McGonigal agreed to seek expensive advice from a Queens Counsel about how to appeal against the decision of a Council of which one was the political leader and the other the head of paid service. If ever there was a conflict interest this was it. But neither of them chose to declare their conflicts. Even though Thanet Council’s Constitution requires the Leader to “promote the highest standards of probity” and the Chief Executive to “follow every lawful expressed policy of the Authority”.
Ten days later the EKO Board, including Hart and McGonigal, met in Maidstone to consider the advice from their QC. The minutes of the meeting, which I managed to obtain via a Freedom of Information request say that the board “resolved unanimously to:- Progress an appeal following the refusal by the LPA to grant planning permission”. Once again although Hart and McGongigal were in effect agreeing to appeal against their own Council they failed to declare or act on their blatant conflcts of interest.
The preparation of the appeal took many weeks work and comprises of several large cardboard boxes full of documents. I understand that planning consultants and the QC were paid to put together the appeal and that it cost a fortune. I received a copy of the official notification of appeal from the Planning Inspectorate 2 weeks ago. The appeal will take the form of a public enquiry held over a week and the enquiry will report its findings to the Secretary of State Eric Pickles who will make a decision about whether permission to bulid the 550 houses is granted or not.The total cost of the planning appeal, including the costs of Thanet Council’s defence of its position, will, by my estimation, be close to £100,000. The major source of TDCs and EKOs income is council tax. So that means you will be forced to pay the costs of a company owned by Thanet Council, to go to war with Thanet Council. And who decided that it was sensible for Thanet Council to fight Thanet Council at massive public expense? Why of course the Leader and Chief Executive of Thanet Council Clive Hart and Sue McGonigal. Are they sorry. I don’t think so. Are they angry? Massively. It has been reported to me that a Labour Party worker, who may have connections with Thanet, was allegedly spreading malicious, totally unfounded, rumours about me in the tea rooms of the EU Strasborg Parliament building. A Council officer has been instructed, at public expense, to contact the Green Party to complain about me. I am reliably informed that the Chief Executive may have held a meeting at which she allegedly sought advice about how legal action can be taken against me to prevent me from commenting on the jaw-dropping incompetence and maladministration which all too often features in the activities of Thanet Council and its political and officer leadership – no doubt this advice will be secured at public expense.
Co-incidentally I attended a meeting yesterday to talk about the legalisation of cannabis and opening a cannabis café in Thanet. Well no matter how much cannabis you might choose to smoke, it would be impossible to alter your mind to such a degree that you could make this nonsense up. It really is time for a change. Roll on 2015.
FOOTNOTE. In the course of looking into the EKO fiasco I uncovered what I believe might be extremely serious abuses of the planning process. I have formally reported these abuses to the Council's Monitoring Officer and the Police. I will not comment on these issues until any investigations are completed.