At a shambolic meeting of the Planning Committee of Dover District Council last night ( 25th January 2018), a packed agenda gave both officers and councillors an unrivalled opportunity to demonstrate why many electors in the district have no respect for this important council department.

After spending an hour discussing the importance of adhering to the British Horse Society’s guidance for grazing acreage per horse (1.6 acres for those of you who are interested), the committee refused an application to site two caravans, hard standing and grazing for horses on unoccupied land in the leafy hamlet of Marshborough.   Councillors felt that such a development (an identical application having been granted permission previously on the site) would detract from the as yet undefined yet special character of the immediate vicinity. An objector in the public gallery helpfully contributed to the debate by volunteering the comment that “our houses are listed you know!”.

In contrast to the careful concern of committee members for the district’s equine residents, the committee swiftly cheerfully approve an application in Dover which will provide 7 badly designed flats including two units which do not meet national minimum sizes and are too small for internal doors to be fitted. Future occupants will need to be trimmer than the average Dovorian as the hallways are only a metre wide and bags of rubbish will need to be hauled up and down stairways and along the narrow corridors to be placed behind the artfully designed bin collection are taking up half of what was the shop-front on Biggin Street. The councillors certainly paid attention to conserving the non-compliant modern shop-front despite the planned rebranding of our High Street as the “quaint” Old Town.

During the meeting it emerged that the Planning A-team at DDC had failed to produce a Gypsy and Travellers’ Site Policy despite promises to the Planning Inspectorate to do so two years ago. In a further astonishing revelation it was then revealed that DDC has been relying on Flat Conversion Guidelines since 2006 in deciding applications but which were never officially adopted. This potentially opens up a challenge from any applicant refused permission for flat conversions on the basis of size of units. Perhaps we should get the British Horse Society to take over Planning Policy at DDC.