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Consultation news

Ahead of Tuesday’s (30th August) Overview & Scrutiny meeting at TDC’s Cecil Street HQ, those diligent public servants have released the lawyers’ letter that quashed discussion of night flights in Council in mid-July. This three-pager from solicitors firm Bevan Brittan (full text available here) sheds some welcome light on the consultation process, and explains why they think the motion crossed the fine line between predisposition and predetermination.

This is creeping into angels-on-pinheads territory, and the best thing to be said for the absurd and revolting predetermination rule is that it is about to be swept away and binned as an abject failure and an afront to democracy. However, until that happy day arrives, it’s still the law of the land and the majority party on the Council happily took the lawyers’ advice.

More interestingly, in the middle of this letter is a brief description of the consultation process. I must admit, I’m rather peeved that the most we’ve been told about the crucial consultation process regarding a decision that will affect the lives of tens of thousands of people has come by a circuitous route from a bunch of lawyers based in London, Birmingham and Bristol. When will TDC have the sense and decency to speak to us directly? It says:

“I also understand that a lengthy further consultation is planned around this which will include the issue of night flying and which consultation will go outside the boundaries of Thanet District Council to ensure that those who may be affected outside the District Council’s boundaries have an opportunity to give their views, and that this consultation process has been partly funded by contributions from other Authorities in the area and from Kent County Council.”

The two eye-catching bits of news in that are:

  1. “other Authorities” is plural, and
  2. the inclusion of KCC.

Click it to big itAs you will see from the map, there are many District Councils (“Authorities”) in KCC’s area, but the two most directly affected by Manston’s plans are Thanet and Canterbury. So who, other than Canterbury, has chipped in for the consultation process? Concievably Dover (as they are represented on the airport Consultative Committee), but I don’t think any of the others can lay claim to a legitimiate interest.

Kent County Council’s involvement is entirely consistent with its eagerness to bulldoze ahead with any and all developments at Manston, as part of its over-arching strategy of making south Thanet into Kent’s industrial park.


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No comments

  1. I accept your points totally but read the lawyers letter slightly differently in that had the motion gone ahead, been approved and then successfully challenged there would be a significant risk that the Council would have been left in a weakened position.

  2. Hmmm… fair point. Re-reading it (I do wish lawyers would cut to the chase and say what they mean in a couple of sentences) Bevan Brittan do seem to be suggesting to TDC that the motion might be legally challengeable, thereby bringing it into conflict with the constitution that obliges them to pass "lawful" motions. I'm not convinced that legally challengeable = not "lawful". Anyway, I'm happy to go along with your take on it. What I'm unsure about though (drifting into the hypothetical for a moment) is where TDC would have been left if the motion had been voted on, passed, and then found to have been predetermined… How would they ever be able to debate the subject in future?

  3. Wellington Clams mate

    Ahh the good old Wednesbury principle which cuts both ways here on Planet Thanet."In the result, this appeal must be dismissed. I do not wish to repeat myself but I will summarize once again the principle applicable. The court is entitled to investigate the action of the local authority with a view to seeing whether they have taken into account matters which they ought not to take into account, or, conversely, have refused to take into account or neglected to take into account matters which they ought to take into account. Once that question is answered in favour of the local authority, it may be still possible to say that, although the local authority have kept within the four corners of the matters which they ought to consider, they have nevertheless come to a conclusion so unreasonable that no reasonable authority could ever have come to it. In such a case, again, I think the court can interfere. The power of the court to interfere in each case is not as an appellate authority to override a decision of the local authority, but as a judicial authority which is concerned, and concerned only, to see whether the local authority have contravened the law by acting in excess of the powers which Parliament has confided in them. The appeal must be dismissed with costs."Now my money is on the class action winning…any takers?

  4. Pre-determination spotter

    Maybe we should have a look at which councillors have spoken up consistently for night flights? If TDC wants to play the pre-determination game as a way of reducing the numbers of those councillors who might vote against, I'm guessing we need to take Bayford and Ezekiel out of the voting chamber too? Who else?

  5. I think there are a number of councillors guilty of this, both labour and conservative

  6. P-D Spotter and A.non: you're absolutely right. The danger for Thanet's majority party in using pre-determination as a weapon for removing opposition councillors from the vote is that it's a double-edged sword. If used over-enthusiastically, we could find ourselves with only the predisposed, the don't knows, and the don't cares left in the chamber to vote.

  7. What does TDC think will happen to potential buyers for the new seafront appartments below Wellington Cres. when they discover that their quiet holiday homes fronting the beach are under a flight path? Perhaps the few low paid airport workers will be able to buy a couple each?Steve

  8. This applies to a considerable part of the historic areas of Ramsgate where people have improved properties that were previously multi -occupancy set up community related projects, worked hard to improve the enviroment and the town in general. Who will want to live in these areas of Ramsgate or do anything to sustain the improvements when the local conservative party seems determined to destroy the town.