Thursday, 13 October 2016

Ramsgate Port, Brett Aggregates & Revolving Door.

I’m extremely worried about Brett Aggregates plans to massively expand their operation at Ramsgate Port. I have some serious environmental concerns about their proposals, not least of which is the impact that a large aggregate washing facility might have upon the protected marine conservation area adjacent to the port. I’m also concerned that the growing industrialisation of what is essentially a failed port, will adversely affect Ramsgate’s  growing visitor economy and work against  any discussion of alternative, leisure based uses for the port such as modern 21st century marina. The continuing use of the port for low investment, low job creation businesses such as aggregates, car-importation and live animal exports threatens to blight Ramsgate’s seafront and is not the best answer for the regeneration of the town.

I'll be writing about these issues in more detail over the next couple of weeks and am now doing some background research into Brett’s and their plans. But  within 10 minutes of me kicking off my research and Googling information about  the company blow me down if I didn’t spot something very interesting.  According to a press release on Brett’s website the company has appointed a new Director of Lands and Planning. I assume that this Director will be responsible for acquiring, disposing of and managing all the sites and properties operated by Brett’s and ensuring that they all have the required planning permissions and licenses. I also assume that this Director will by the nature of the job title, be leading the negotiations and discussions with TDC and Kent County Council about the expansion of his employers operations at Ramsgate Port.  But what caught my attention  most was not the duties of the job, but the person who had been appointed to do it – Mr John Bunnett.

John Bunnett was until 2009 Deputy Chief Executive of Thanet District Council. If my recollections are correct Mr Bunnett  was responsible for managing TDCs regeneration and planning operations . I also believe that he may have managed TDC’s current Chief Executive. Mr Bunnett left TDC in 2009 to become the Chief Executive of Ashford Borough Council where he remained until moving to Bretts this year.
I’m not suggesting any impropriety by Mr Bunnett or anyone else, but I have always felt  uncomfortable about the so called “revolving door”  whereby senior public servants move into the private sector and then use their public sector knowledge, expertise and contacts to benefit their new employer. Indeed there was an identical situation 18 months ago when TDCs former Director of Planning and his deputy - Brian White and Doug Brown - were employed by O’Regans to unsuccessfully push through a planning application for a concrete block manufacturing operation at the port. I wrote about this in early 2015 and the posts are still on this blogsite if you are interested.

Although “revolving door” employment  is perfectly legal it doesn’t feel right to me. I believe that  there is something fundamentally unethical and undemocratic  about private companies head hunting senior public servants to capitalise upon their knowledge, experience, contacts and influence in order to secure a unfair business advantage over their competitors. And its not just me who has these concerns. The House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee and the Committee for Standards in Public Life have both said that the “revolving door”  carries with it major risks of unfair influence and advantage which work against competitiveness and value for taxpayers money and can often lead to unfair and improper decision making. The highly regarded anti-corruption charity Transparency International  recently published a report which argued that the revolving door can sometimes give rise to corruption, preferential treatment and unfair advantage.
So as a starting point in considering Brett Aggregates plans for its Ramsgate Port operation,  I think it would fair to ask Thanet Council and Kent County Council   to provide the following information  

·        The number of meetings (formal or informal) which have been held in 2016  between TDC/KCC  (officers and councillors) and Brett’s to discuss their plans for the expanding their  operation at Ramsgate Port including the introduction of aggregate washing and the dates of these meetings.

·        The number of telephone calls  (formal or informal) which have taken place  in 2016  between TDC/KCC (officers and councillors) and Brett’s to discuss their plans for the expanding their  operation at Ramsgate Port including the introduction of aggregate washing and the dates of these meetings

·        The number of e-mails  (formal or informal) which have been exchanges   in 2016  between TDC/KCC (officers and councillors) and Brett’s to discuss their plans for the expanding their  operation at Ramsgate Port including the introduction of aggregate washing and the dates of these meetings

·        Whether any of these meetings, telephone calls and e-mail exchanges involved Mr John Bunnett of Brett's and if so please specify which.


  1. Ian these plans have been made to KCC not TDC. I doubt TDC can do anything about it and that is likely known by Bretts who seem to have used the powers already given by KCC under a "permitted development"

    1. Hi Barry, Yes its a KCC planning issue but I'm certain that Bretts would have been in close contact with TDC about their plans including meetings, e-mails and document exchanges because TDC is their landlord and would need to be kept in the picture. I would imagine that Bretts also have a contractual requirement under the lease agreement with TDC to seek permission for any changes they wish to introduce. In fact TDC has issued a press release just this morning about this

    2. From what I read the land they use has already been extended to allow for any changes. The certificate of legal use has to be agreed by the 25/11/2016 but from what has been said this will be nodded through. What are the 8 KCC councillors from Thanet doing about it? Lead by Ezekiel's sidekick Roger Latchford.
      I also note that rosette bashing is going on within certain FB pages. I thought this was a united front

    3. 08:44 how can this be opposed, it all seems very rushed?

    4. RTC councilors will need to approve anything as well as TDC and KCC councillors

    5. It's a common affliction in Thanet!

  2. The much missed Edwina Crowley late of TDC set up the revolving door a month before she started her job as the senior officer in charge managing the Council's property asset portfolio.

    With her husband she had set up a new company called Proprisk giving her joint directorship of this property and estate management company - almost the day after her acceptance at TDC! It is assumed that this is why she stayed in the revolving door and was ejected by TDC some months later.

    1. Abigail Raymond her replacement is cut form the same cloth claiming the Manston Parkway is vital for Thanet's economy....! Are we really paying her £90k for such stupidity?

    2. What does Rob Kenyon at TDC do - he's on £90k too? We seem to be paying tax for failure then asked to pay more to fix it, then being used as volunteers?

    3. That's awful and deeply depressing. OMG...I see what you mean, talk about conflict of interest - the council is being privatised before our very eyes!
      So she is being paid as a consultant - but on a £90k salary? She's a hacker and a flogger too. Why don't councils stick to the basics. This capitalism mallarkey is happening on the back of statutory payment of taxes for services. They all seem to be helping themselves.


      Interim Manager - Planning, Development and Regeneration
      Abigail Raymond Consultancy Ltd
      October 2016 – Present (1 month)

      Managing multi-disciplinary teams including: Planning, Development, Building Control and Economic Development
      Head of Service
      Service and Business Planning
      Corporate strategy
      Performance management.
      Head of Planning and Regeneration
      Thanet District Council
      July 2016 – 2016 (less than a year)

      Planing Policy
      Development Management
      Building Control
      Economic Development
      Responsible for 45 staff via 4 managers/teams
      Kent County Council
      Spatial Planning Manager
      Kent County Council
      October 2012 – March 2015 (2 years 6 months)

      Strategic Sites and Infrastructure Planning
      Area Manager Kent
      Homes and Communities
      January 2009 – March 2012 (3 years 3 months)

      Disposing of government land assets, managing regeneration projects, over-seeing infrastructure investments, delivery of Affordable Homes Programme
      Interim Chief Executive
      Ashford's Future
      May 2007 – March 2008 (11 months)

      Developing and managing a programme of £30m investment to unlock development sites
      Regeneration Manager
      Kent County Council
      January 2002 – January 2007 (5 years 1 month)

      Development contributions, Kent Design, Town Centre Management and Strategic Policy, Sustainability Appraisals

    4. Rob Kenyon on the SOLACE local government trade body as digital lead:

      Is that a 2nd job? Are we paying for Solace's fees and his work for it?

    5. SOLACE is funded by taxpayers through fees to councils - it looks to be a council trade union calling for more funds for councils. Same as Local Government association? Why fund two?

  3. Bunnett is a slippery character - who did nothing at TDC on Manston - with no experience of ports - except TDC's and Ashford council. Sounds as if you[re right Ian a quick way to grease through expansion plans at TDC etc.

    The TDC Local Plan has no details for the port either...certianly not the massive industrialisation you rightly cite

  4. KCC/Brett raised an application for Berth 4 yesterday with RTC - what's that about? There's also the other slipway near the Pavilion with demolition work before?