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Lost in cyberspace?
Hi I sent the email below to Richard Samuel expressly because I hadn't received a reply to two emails I sent to John Bunnett and have had neither conformation of receipt, which asked both of them for or any reply.
As you see I don't really know if they have received the emails or just chosen not to even confirm their receipt.
I am sure you and they would prefer me not to raise this issue to the level of an official complaint so could you please firstly confirm that you have received the email as soon as you get it and then try and find out where the problem lies.
I have paste all the relevant emails below.
Best regards Michael
Hi Richard this is a bit of an embarrassing one, I sent two emails to John Bunnett this week the second I asked him to confirm he had received as I hadn't had any response to the first, I gather he is a good and conscientious officer but I haven't received a confirmation of receipt from him.
So it looks as though TDCIT has got its member stuck in the portal again, could you kindly look into it for me, the second email was cc'd to you, did it reach you?
There is a rumour going round that the bankers have pulled the funding for the new Pleasurama development, can you confirm of deny this as the speculation in the town is not beneficial to anyone least of all TDC and SFP?
It would also be highly beneficial to the town and the councils credibility here if the site was used for a leisure purpose or even a car park until work begins, as the developer appears to have engaged in none of the promised consultation here in Ramsgate, we are all unaware of what the timescale is likely to be, have you any ideas on this one?
I believe there may be financial stability problems with CGP yesterday their shares started the day at 110p and finished at 95p; a 13.64% drop.
Going back to the IT problems why don't you use Simon Moores assistance to resolve some of the he is an internationally acclaimed expert and would probably save the council a lot of money and embarrassment.
There was a rumour going round that his doctorate in IT was bogus that you may have heard, and I suppose this could be putting you off. I checked this one out and his doctorate is legitimate, his thesis on Lotus was published by Pearson Education Limited a reputable publisher, there are 2,176 of their books listed on amazon.co.uk what happened was, he did the work his thesis was published and well received by the academic community and then year later his university was discredited, very unlucky for him.
Best regards Michael
Thanks for your letter firstly let me assure you that I don't like going down this route of escalating the complaint but I can see no option.
If it is possible could you respond to me by email? I endeavour to run as paper free office as possible for environmental reasons, so paper correspondence to me only gets fed into the computer and sent of for pulping.
As I received no reply to the last email I sent you could you confirm that you received it and this one? I have good reason to lack confidence in TDCIT and can never understand why when you have Simon Moores as councillor who is an IT advisor of international reputation you don't get him to look at it; perhaps you do.
Can I also point out that my complaint is that: Thanet District Council has chosen to restrict access to comments on the UKPlanning website, that is on the public facing part of the website only. This shouldn't be very difficult to answer or rectify.
Oddly enough quite a few documents submitted by the developer have appeared more than once with different dates on them, on the planning website so the whole application is very messy and muddled, detailed in my email to Doug at the bottom perhaps you could take a look at it and see if it can be sorted out. It looks like a deliberate attempt to confuse which I am certain it isn't, so I haven't mentioned this in my official response.
With Pleasurama the approved plans on the website are quite different to the approved plans in the paper folder, perhaps it was though unsuitable to publish plans where the architects unsatisfactory attempts to lower the height of the building, have left people shown with their heads embedded in the ceiling.
I should add in case you haven't noticed that it is the same architects PRC that have prepared the China Gateway plans, that say it's quite ok for the Chinese to process their own sewage and tip the results in our drinking water reservoir.
Below my official response.
Dear Mr Bunnett
Thanks for your letter undated but postmarked 8.7.8 complaint ref 1342 that: I am complaining that Thanet District Council has chosen to restrict access to comments on the UKPlanning website, that is on the public facing part of the website only.
I have numbered the paragraphs of your letter below to make my reply easier to comprehend and will number my responses accordingly, thank you also for reading the supporting correspondence and replying to some of the matters raised in it.
1 Thank you for formally entering my complaint.
2 I appreciate the council planning department bases its planning files on paper and then publishes selected documents on UKPlanning, it is this selection that is a major issue to me.
3 I appreciate that the UKPlanning site is expensive and difficult to use both for the planning department and the public and I hope your new site will be an improvement, however I fail to understand why only the documents from the paper file sent for scanning are those submitted by the developer. Can you please tell me why those submitted by everyone else are omitted?
4 Yes thank you, I have found Doug Brown to be a helpful and competent officer.
5 Could you then explain to me why UKPlanning say: “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”?
6 I appreciate that that complex planning applications are not a new subject, perhaps had Westwood Cross Town Centre planning application been available electronically its highway infrastructure would have been better.
7 I am not asking for all files to be published in the interim period, just the complete folders for the very large applications that effect a large number of the population. I find it quite acceptable that small folders that can be read in an hour or so are only available at the council offices.
8 You have to appreciate that this file runs to hundreds of pages and is being added to all the time. I have a business to run and four children to look after so it is hardly practical for me to visit the planning department every few days to keep up to date. To read through the entire file, cross referencing the things that appear incongruous, like the disparity between the conditions for surface runoff between this application and previous conditions for applications on the site takes a very long time indeed.
9 Yes please escalate the complaint to stage 3 for me. Could you tell me at which point I am able to escalate this to the LGO as I am concerned that delaying the issue is putting people wishing to object at a disadvantage.
The only inference that I can draw from publishing only the documents submitted by the developer, is that an attempt is being made to influence objectors in favour of the development, could you perhaps suggest an alternative reason?
I should further point out that I have received the comments from three statutory consultees electronically and were you to enable public access to all of the documents on the planning website, you wouldn't even need to send them for scanning but could just post them onto the site.
Finally you will appreciate that, as I don't know which documents I am being denied access to on the UKPlanning website I am unable to officially complain that you haven't published them there, I will of course raise an official complaint that they are missing once I can see which documents are not there.
Yours sincerely Michael Child
Mr M Child
72 King Street
Dear Mr Child
COMPLAINT REFERENCE NUMBER 1342
1 Thank you for your e-mail message of 21 June 2008. In accordance with your wish, your complaint has been formally entered on the Council's system - hence the reference at the head of this letter. I am responsible for the Stage 2 reply because Brian White is one of my staff and you are not satisfied with his reply.
2 Referring to your earlier correspondence with Mr White, and in particular his letter of 20 June, the important point for you to note is that the Council, like many other Planning Authorities, is still processing planning applications on paper.
3 The Council agrees with everything you say about applications and objections being available, in total, on the Council's website, and this is what we are working towards by the end of this year. The current arrangement, using the contractor UK Planning, has been a helpful interim step, but sending paper documents to be scanned some days later by UK Planning and then put onto the website is not a satisfactory way forward. Our intention, and the project has already started, is for all incoming information on planning applications not received electronically to be scanned when received. It will then go directly to the Council's website.
4 In the meantime the important source document for individuals like yourself, interested in any planning application, remains the planning file, and the planning file for application TH/08/0400 (China Gateway) is, like all others, held on paper. You know the Officer dealing with the application, Mr Doug Brown, and you are already in contact with him, as are many other interested stakeholders.
5 I do not accept your criticism that the Council is in any way restricting access to information; the truth is quite the opposite. Mr Brown, Mr White, myself and others are putting strenuous effort into making sure that the public consultation process is as open as possible.
6 Please remember that complex planning applications are not a new subject. When the Council considered the Westwood Cross Town Centre planning application, which represented a departure from policy, the planning application file was paper and not electronic. Public participation was absolutely central to the process and, indeed, may well have influenced the final decision in the manner in which particular attention was given to scheduling of investment in new highway infrastructure.
7 In conclusion then, whilst I do understand your wish to see all files processed and then publicly available on the website, this is not yet the position at Thanet - nor, for that matter, at most other Planning Authorities - but it will be when our project moving into electronic delivery of the Planning Service is complete.
8 For the time being, as an interested party in planning applications like China Gateway and Pleasurama, please make arrangements with the appropriate Case Officer (in both instances Doug Brown) to visit the office and read through the entire file.
9 This letter completes Stage 2 of the Complaints Procedure. If you are still not satisfied with my response, you may require that the complaint escalates to Stage 3. This will necessitate a review of my investigation and conclusions by Mr R Samuel, Chief Executive.
Deputy Chief Executive
Hi John any progress with my complaint that TDC has set their part of the UKPlanning website so that comments are restricted from public view and only those documents submitted by the developer are viewable by the public.
I would have thought that the least that could be done was to turn off the restriction and put up the submissions of the statutory consultees.
Best regards Michael
72 King Street
Telephone (01843) 589500
Hi I tried to submit an online complaint on several occasions and got the following error message:
Sorry! You've managed to find an error - it has been emailed to the developer for analysis. Please click your back button and try again. If this happens again, please try later.
The Error that occurred was: A potentially dangerous Request.Form value was detected from the client (ctl00$FormContent$txtComplaintComment="...nce: >>>
Could you please submit it online for me using the online complaint form and confirm that you have done so.
I am complaining that Thanet District Council has chosen to restrict access to comments on the UKPlanning website, that is on the public facing part of the website only.
>>> <MichaelChild@aol.com> 12/06/08 15:30 >>>
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.
02/06/2008 08:26:17 GMT Standard Time
Sent from the Internet _(Details)_ (aolmsg://01ad0668/inethdr/1)
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.
UKPlanning Operations Supervisor
Please find enclosed (below) a response to your email. A hard copy is in the post.
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
Ask For: Mr B White
Direct Dial: (01843) 577007
Dear Mr. Child
THANET DISTRICT COUNCIL PLANNING SERVICE - ACCESS TO PLANNING APPLICATION DOCUMENTS
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.
B J White
Head of Development Services
Copy to: Rosemary Donnelly, Chief Executive's office
Doug Brown, Planning (Strategic Sites) Manager
(Silent copy) Leader
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
Best regards Michael