Pyramid Comment

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Planning Objection: Thanet District Council

26th April 2012

Planning Application Team
Development Services
Thanet District Council
PO Box 9
Cecil Street

Planning Team,

This objection to the proposed out-of-town Sainsbury's development between Westgate-on-Sea and Birchington-on-Sea is both dispassionate and pragmatic. I have no interests in any trading concerns and consider myself impartial, but use the local roads around Thanet. I am concerned by some of the implications raised by the application.

I note that the only relevant factors that can be taken into account include:

  • The economic benefits of the proposal
  • Highway safety issues
  • Loss of important trees
This list is not, however, exhaustive and it is important to observe that economic benefits by definition have economic deficits and for a balanced argument must be considered, so avoiding any claim of discrimination. It is accepted that Sainsbury's is a commercial concern interested only in profit and growth for itself and its shareholders. It is also a national concern so clearly any profit will almost certainly be removed from the area. I presume that the business rate for a single large concern far exceeds that raised through Council Tax from 14 properties and this could be a reason why housing developments have been denied when the Sainsbury store appears to be favoured. Any issue regarding cars joining the busy dual carriageway (40mph) is specious since store traffic movements would be expected to be considerably greater.
Regarding any economic deficit, I believe it is fair to state that the alleged 10% trading loss from Westgate and 5% from Birchington may be considered relatively minor, but when a single large concern swallows this up, the effect on many smaller businesses would be catastrophic. The current business rate combined yield from Westgate and Birchington would inevitably decline. The growth of the one means the potential demise of the many.
Of considerable concern are the serious issues raised by the increased traffic movements. The presence of two neighbouring schools, one either side of the store and on an already busy arterial road, is a recipe for disaster. There is scant detail about any proposed road alterations though the entire area will doubtless be a more hazardous one. Especially when modifications/alterations are undertaken and before completion. Crossing the road to reach the bus-stop for buses heading east into Margate is a dangerous exercise. Traffic from a store joining this road and moving to the west towards Birchington makes a safe-crossing impossible. It is assumed that turning right towards Margate will be prohibited.
  • It must be pointed out that travelling towards Ramsgate after the roundabout at Margate/Ramsgate Roads at Westwood Cross, turning right into the car park at Westwood Cross is prohibited. As is turning right when exiting this car park. It does not prevent it happening. Prohibition signs are ignored and a serious accident will happen. Minimally, traffic control is necessary similar to exiting buses from Westwood Cross. Another set of lights.
Parking on a dual carriageway is quite legal though this creates a unique hazard by the Ursuline College at Westgate. The cars are generally parked in a dip beyond a pelican-crossing. Traffic lights/pelican-crossing lights are proposed further towards Birchington increasing the unsighted hazards. The entire section between King Ethelbert School and the Minster Road traffic lights can be difficult especially when those exiting Birchington town at more than 30mph before the speed change then proceed in excess of 40mph to suddenly put on the brakes just before a speed camera. This is the behaviour of some (not all). It is also more likely to occur at around 8.30am - 9.00am, at the same times that schools open. An additional hazard here is buses picking up just inside the 40mph section. The dual carriageway can unexpectedly become a single carriageway. This same scenario occurs at the Minster Road traffic lights. In both directions.
  • The anticipated problems caused by Sainsbury delivery lorries cannot be overlooked. There is no turning place for eastbound lorries (size unknown) until at the 'roundabout' by Margate railway station. Apparently, there is no provision for turning in the delivery area at this store. This suggests reversing out into a main road. This is illegal, so some kind of system to manage the conditions can only be assumed.
  • For traffic negotiating Birchington town centre: this is difficult. The small hump roundabout is near a pelican-crossing and a small side road entering the narrow main highway.
I regard the location of the Tesco Express store in Westbrook at the foot of the railway bridge where Westbrook Avenue joins the main Canterbury road as precedent. It was (and is) totally ill-advised. There is no safe pedestrian crossing at this dangerous intersection. The traffic has increased in recent months as drivers use the Royal Esplanade to avoid the Canterbury road. It is a fact that vehicles commonly use this road, as they do Westbrook Avenue, to circumvent speed restrictions (30mph) or any vehicle moving at or under the speed limit and a speed camera, but nevertheless speed in a 30mph limit. There are no cameras along Westbrook Avenue or the Royal Esplanade. Westbrook Avenue in particular has a major problem with speeding traffic. This happens and cannot be refuted. It remains a serious problem.
The parking provision for the Westbrook Tesco store is not present, so this suggests that Tesco is possibly operating as a business before planning conditions have been fully met. This raises the obvious spectre of traffic handling at the proposed Hundred's Farm development. It is all well and good to assume the honesty of good intentions, but 'big' business like Sainsbury or Tesco can only be trusted to operate with maximising profits. This can potentially mean disregarding planning approval conditions until challenged. Maybe in the courts.
The issue of important trees cannot be evaluated here other than point out the destruction of many trees to clear the area. And wildlife habitats. The stable and area at Hundred's Farm has high bat roost potential with 11 trees and 1 group of trees having high bat roost potential and 17 trees and 1 group of trees with low bat roost potential. Should any bat presence be revealed at any point, work should cease and a qualified ecologist contacted. Certainly, any review must be undertaken after the expiration of the current evaluation (WYG Group,
One final point of conflict is the possible approval given to a project that entails a large footprint of concrete. Planning permission is already necessary for turning domestic gardens into hard parking areas. This is as a consequence of the reduction of water draining into the ground. And an overload of the storm drainage system.
On the fair balance of argument, I feel I must object to the proposed application.
  • Acknowledgement from TDC by letter: 02.05.2012