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>>> <MichaelChild@aol.com> 12/06/08 15:30 >>>

Hi Brian
I am writing to you today about a number if issues relating to the
availability of planning documents, I don't know if this problem is happening by
accident or design and I am hoping that it will be possible for you to resolve
them without me raising this issue as a complaint and ultimately to the LGO.
The main issue relates to the way documents fail to appear on the internet
planning portal, making it very difficult for members of the public to make
informed objections and to engage in the ongoing consultation process that
occurs after large developments have had permission granted.  
I will site two examples here although there are many more, one of the most
important documents relating to large planning applications is the
environment agency's report and it is obvious it should be published on the planning
In the case of the Pleasurama development I had to obtain this document via
the LGO and it still hasn't appeared on planning website, nor have any of the
amended plans or documents  submitted since 22nd September 2005. This makes a
nonsense of the public consultation that supposed to be happening, as if the
public doesn't have access to the relevant information it is impossible for
them to engage in  informed consultation.
In the case of the China Gateway development I obtained the EAs report
directly from the EA, this document has been in the public domain for over a month
now, is one of the most important documents relating to the development, yet
it still hasn't appeared on the planning portal.
The ukplanning website has now been improved so that members of the public
can add comments and objections, so  that other members of the public can view
them. It is obvious that the intention is to operate a transparent process,
where the planning folders for each application are kept up to date and
members of the public can properly take part in the planning process.
The other local authorities that use it seem to be operating in this
transparent way and using the site in the way it was intended, however when I left
an objection on the site it didn't appear for public viewing in the way the
site said it would.
When I contacted ukplanning I was told that TDC had had this facility
disabled, so that while other local  authorities are making their planning process
more transparent Thanet appears to be doing the reverse.
Can you please tell me if you intend to take any action to resolve the
issues that I have highlighted?  
I should like to emphasise that the crux of my complaint will be that TDC
has chosen to limit public access on the ukplanning website.
Below the message that appears when you comment on the site and my
coresponence with ukplanning.
Best regards Michael  
Please note: Your comments, including your name and address will be
viewable on this web site. Your telephone number and e-mail address will not be
viewable  on this website, however they will be made available to the
applicant/agent and the local authority concerned.
RE:  TH/08/0400  
02/06/2008 08:26:17 GMT Standard Time  
_ukp-queries@idoxplc.com_ (mailto:ukp-queries@idoxplc.com)  
Reply To:

_MichaelChild@aol.com_ (mailto:MichaelChild@aol.com)  
Sent on:
Sent  from the Internet _(Details)_ (aolmsg://01ad0668/inethdr/1)   
Dear Michael,
The reason your comment is not showing on the UKPlanning website is due to
Thanet`s public access choices. Thanet District Council choose to restrict
access to these comments at this case status on the public facing website.
Kind Regards
Ryan Shearer
UKPlanning Operations Supervisor

His reply  

Please find enclosed (below) a response to your email. A hard copy is in the post.

Brian White
Head of Development Services
Thanet District Council
Direct Dial: 01843 577007
Fax: 01843 298610

Mr Michael Child
72 King Street
Kent  CT11 8NY

Date:          20 June 2008
Our Ref:          BJW.PD
Your Ref:     
Ask For:          Mr B White
Direct Dial:     (01843) 577007
E-mail:          brian.white@thanet.gov.uk

Dear Mr. Child


Thank you for your email message of 12 June, 2008.

I have been away from the office over the past ten days, and I believe this was explained to you.  Now that I have read your email I can reply as follows.  Currently, the Council processes planning applications on paper.  Applications and ultimately Decision Notices, are scanned and put on the Thanet Website (via the UK_Planning portal).  This is in the process of change.  As part of its corporate drive towards electronic service delivery the Council will by the end of this year be ensuring that comprehensive documentation is available on the website.  Obviously this will include objection letters.

As part of the change process, notice will soon be given to UK_Planning and scanning will be undertaken by Thanet District Council.  In the meantime the comprehensive record for any planning application will remain in the paper file.  As you know, files are public domain documents and available for public inspection.  This does mean visiting the Council's office, and interested members of the public do quite frequently arrange to view files.  I fully agree with you this is not convenient, nor in the best interests of public consultation.  That is why at the end of this year we are changing.

Turning to your particular point regarding the “Pleasurama” development, the Environment Agency document you referred to is obviously in the public domain.  When it was received by me, I copied it to the Ombudsman in full knowledge that you had a complaint pending with his office.  It was therefore appropriate to let the Ombudsman forward the document to you, but it is not really fair to say that it was withheld by Thanet.  In fact, pretty soon after I received the document it was reported fully by our local media.  
- 2 -
Finally, with reference to the China Gateway planning application, I note the points you make.  However, I trust you now understand that at this particular time, and before we move to electronic work in processing planning applications, the comprehensive reference is the paper file.

In conclusion then, I hope you understand that the Council has not chosen to limit public access to the UK Planning portal, rather it is terminating its contract with UK Planning in order that a much more comprehensive, and therefore transparent, service will be provided.

Yours sincerely

B J White
Head of Development Services

Copy to:          Rosemary Donnelly, Chief Executive's office
               Doug Brown, Planning (Strategic Sites) Manager

               (Silent copy) Leader

My response

Dear Mr White.

With respect to TH/08/0400, China Gateway, as my comments and the environment agency's letter haven't appeared on the UK planning website plus presumably other documents that I don't know about, I will raise this issue as a complaint.

I should point out that when I left my objection on the UKPlanning website, it said on the site that my objection would be viewable by the public, as objections and all of the documents in the planning folder are on applications, on the site made to the other councils that use it.

I quote from the email I received from Ryan Shearer UKPlanning Operations Supervisor. “The reason your comment is not showing on the UKPlanning website is due to Thanet's public access choices. Thanet District Council choose to restrict
access to these comments at this case status on the public facing website.”

The only inference I can draw from Thanet District Council restricting access to comments on, and hastily moving from the now much more transparent UKPlanning website, is so that they can continue to restrict and control access to planning documents.

I am very concerned that although TDC was able to publish the amended plans online in 2 days the environment agency's conditions and recommendations still have not appeared online, nor have any other comments objections from other sources.

I believe it is neither right not proper that only documents submitted by the developer should be viewable on, what after all is a publicly funded site, from my perspective this appears as impartiality working in favour of the developer and against fair planning decisions.

With a complex planning application like this one, where it takes several days to read all the documentation, so that it is impossible for most people do so at Thanet Gateway Plus, it is very important that all of the documentation is available online.

With respect to the Pleasurama development I had assumed that the environment agency's document I referred to appeared in the press because I sent it to them, I will of course confirm with them that you sent it to them too, to encourage transparency relating to this issue.

Could you please tell me if the developer has responded to the Environment Agency's comments, especially their strong recommendation for a flood risk assessment?

Could you also please tell me if there are any documents that relate to this development that are in the public domain, but do not appear on the UKPlanning website?

Yours sincerely Michael Child