My summer revolves around islands: Sicily and the Isle of Thanet. Admittedly, Thanet joined the mainland when the Wantsum Channel silted up in the 18th century, but similarities exist. They’ve been about the same temperature, I’m told, over the past week (I was in Sicily) and the evidence of one’s eyes suggests that they have the same attitude to planning. And not just one’s eyes. The man who led Thanet District Council from 2003 to 2010 ended his period of office with a prison sentence of 18 months, for using inside information to buy property. Recently, I learnt the handy Italian expression Fatta la legge, trovato l’inganno (‘you make the law, you find the scam’). That’s apt to be the way in Thanet.
This matters because a big planning challenge is heading Thanet’s way with the collapse of the ambitiously named Kent International Airport—RAF Manston as was. Despite the demand for runway capacity in England, the last owner, New Zealand-based Infratil, couldn’t make it pay. Nine months ago, it was sold to Ann Gloag of the Stagecoach Group, who probably thinks of it as a brownfield site. It covers a vast area. A new town would be the obvious use, but please, oh please, may it be better than the sprawling Thanet shopping centre of Westwood Cross.
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