The Triennial is almost upon us, and the emerging artworks under this year’s theme of “The Plot” have again split opinions, earning praise from some whilst others wonder whether somebody has lost “The Plot”. Locals are now accustomed to the construction workers installing Triennial pieces, so probably wouldn’t bat an eyelid at a new development, perhaps believing it to be “art”. The excitement of hunting out all of the artworks and increased visitor numbers could easily provide a distraction from ongoing planning matters in the surrounding seafront area.
Some residents have received a letter announcing a “digital consultation” about reserved matters for phase two of the seafront development running for two weeks from next week, including webinars on 21 and 28 July and a public exhibition on 23-24 July at Folkestone Harbour Station. This conveniently falls on the first weekend of the Triennial, when the area will be bustling with art lovers, including those coming from afar who might be tempted to move to the coast and likely don’t share the concerns of locals. This is your opportunity to see what is planned in the way of public amenities on the ground floor and voice any concerns you may have, but strangely, the Folkestone & Seafront Development Co. don’t appear to have advertised it on their website or Facebook page – they’re leaving it rather late to publicise.
Is this a public consultation, or is it a shrewd move to sell flats to those attracted by beer at London prices on a seaside pier during an art exhibition?
There have been whispers about Sir Roger de Haan’s company wanting to ‘extend’ the Harbour Arm offering onto The Stade. Planning application 21/1492/FH has just been submitted by Ben Boyce, an engineer who works with Buro Happold – the “only constant presence throughout” the seafront development project – involved with masterplanning, structural design, economics and flood defence. It confirms the rumours – they want to erect 6 mobile food vendor pitches with electric supply. It is curious that someone involved with flood defences at the harbour has pointed out that the site lies within Flood Zone 2 thus requires a Flood Risk Assessment, yet the provided assessment merely points out that:
“Table 2 of the Planning Practice Guidance for the NPPF classifies shops, restaurants, cafes, assembly and leisure areas as “less vulnerable”.
The uses of the mobile food pitches are considered to fall within this vulnerability classification.
Therefore the proposal are suitable for the level of flood risk. Also given the units are mobile there use would be during times of clement weather and would not be on site during possible times of flood risk. We note as of today 16/07/21 three units are in situ; and two were open for business, yet no planning permission has been granted.
Per Government guidance on carrying out a Flood Risk Assessment, Table 2 is used to assess whether you need an exception text. You may also need a sequential test in Flood Zones 2 and 3 if one hasn’t been done for your intended usage before. According to the guidance, a Flood Risk Assessment needs to:
· Assess the flood risk
· Assess surface water runoff
· Detail flood risk management
Each of those sections has several requirements, such as stating the tidal flood level, estimating the duration of a flood and the consequences for people living on or using the site. Is it sufficient to say they won’t put the mobile units out if there’s a flood risk? We believe not – even a mobile business is impacted if they have to shut shop because of flooding.
Bizarrely, the Flood Risk Assessment section of the document combined with the Design & Access Statement has more information on relevant planning policies. Or so it would seem on the surface. They state that Policy E1 applies to The State regarding new employment allocations, which is true. It goes on to say that
“The Harbour has been identified as an area protected for business uses under use classes B1 (business), B2 (general industrial) and B8 (storage and distribution), unless otherwise stated.”
This is not true, as the introduction to the policy says:
“The sites identified below are protected for business uses under use classes B1 (business), B2 (general industrial) and B8 (storage and distribution), unless otherwise stated.”
It then goes on to state that the permitted uses in Folkestone Harbour are B1a. B1a was offices, although now replaced with E(g)(i) offices to carry out any operational or administrative functions.
Whilst Policy E1 allows up to 25% of non-business class use, it has to be justified within the wider employment site and shown that the use will add to the to the attractiveness and function of the employment site.
Folkestone & Hythe District Council’s interactive policies map shows that policies SS1, SS3, SS4 and SS6 of the Core Strategy also apply to that area of The Stade, yet have not been mentioned. The applicant needs to go back to the drawing board and produce a Flood Risk Assessment and Design & Access Statement to a much better standard.
Once again, the team are jumping the gun, as stalls are already in place on The Stade and are already trading, despite having no planning permission. This also happened with the Signal Box and Goods Yard, both having retrospective applications, and the seafront development was built up without satisfying conditions imposed. Once is a mistake, twice is a pattern but three times is a habit – and it certainly appears to be the case when it comes to developments relating to Sir Roger de Haan’s companies following the rules we must all abide by.
If you wish to bring this matter to the attention of the planning department you can contact the Chief Planning Officer – Llywelyn.firstname.lastname@example.org – 01303 853456
The Shepway Vox Team
The Velvet Voices of Dissent