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Councillors reject Manston Airport housing plan

By Paul Francis

Councillors in Thanet have rejected a planning blueprint that would have meant that the former Manston Airport site being developed for houses and businesses.

The vote to reject what is known as the Local Plan has thrown a lifeline to campaigners who want to see the airport reopened.

However, the decision to block the plan in its current format means that the government is now likely to intervene if the council fails to adopt it by the end of March.

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Manston airport
Manston airport

At a special meeting tonight councillors voted decisively against the plan.

The vote could have consequences for the UKIP administration which runs the council and its leader councillor Chris Wells.

There was a split in the UKIP group over the plan and that split could lead to a vote of no confidence in Mr Wells.

He has vowed to continue in the job and took on his critics, saying that the ‘no’ vote meant that Thanet could face possibly thousands more homes being built in the area.

He urged his colleagues to think carefully before rejecting the plan.

"It helps to remember strong feelings do not always reflect fact. Feelings are not fact.

"A local plan must be real and verifiable. Tonight's decision requires calm, adult judgement.

"A local plan so long overdue is better than no plan at all. My advice to councillor's is to hold your heads high and shoulders back and vote to keep control."

The government has warned Thanet that if it fails to adopt the plan, it will assume responsibility for it including setting house building targets.

Housing minister Sajid Javid said last year he could force the council to accept more homes.

Under the current draft plan, the authority has said it requires 17,140 to built on the isle by 2031.

A yearly target set by Thanet council to build 857 dwellings per year could rise to 1063.

The fate of Manston had become the focus of the plan over recent months.

The site had been earmarked for some kind of aviation use originally but was then removed and instead planners said the site should be used for housing development.

That is in line with what the current owners Stone Hill Park have pledged to build, along with businesses.

At tonight's meeting, Conservative group leader Cllr Bayford said:"Housing could go anywhere else, aviation could not.

"It'll create jobs.We will not be supporting the local plan tonight."

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