I gather that the 106 agreement for phase 1 of China Gateway is nearing completion however no surface water disposal plan has been submitted, in fact no detailed drainage plan at all has been submitted yet.
China Gateway phase 1 is proposed for about half of the land that comprises Manston Business Park this land has been designated for employment use, however the land has considerable restriction on how it can be used because it sits on top of the drinking water source protection zone.
There are various other restrictions in terms of noise, air and light pollution but the main restrictions relate to the drinking water supply.
The main difficulty being that the rainwater that falls on the lorry and car parks can’t be disposed of in the normal way, this is parking for hundreds of cars and lorries so very large amounts of water are involved during storms.
Normally as the rainwater that fell on the ground before it was developed soaked into the ground the water runoff goes into interceptors (traps that remove any oil or fuel spillages, and work because oil is lighter than water) and then into soakaway trenches.
This method is not sufficient on the drinking water source protection zones and the existing businesses at Manston Business Park overcome this problem by using a series of balancing ponds.
These balancing ponds have to be big enough to hold the water from wet periods, pollutants in the water in them are removed by sedimentation and biological action.
In the worst case scenario when there is a poison spillage the wildlife in the balancing ponds is killed alerting us to the problem.
Obviously all of this has to be gravity fed, pumping the water uphill wouldn’t work as thunderstorms tend to be accompanied by power cuts.
The initial drainage plans for the China Gateway development were tested by Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick and Co Ltd, a good firm of international repute. This was for an ordinary system of soakaway trenches and included provision for the occupants of the development to process their own sewage and pump the results into soakaways. Scott Wilson concluded that the outflow was too low and the design unsatisfactory.
Now what is really bizarre is that all through this planning and consultation stage both Scott Wilson and Thanet District Council’s planning team must have known that none of these methods of drainage would be acceptable on this site.
Looking at the plans for the development and the various consultees documents balancing ponds don’t seem to feasible within the site, there doesn’t seem to be room for them on land that is lower than much of the parking and the airport operators don’t want them situated on the site because of problems with waterfowl being drawn into aircraft engines.
So we have a situation where it would appear that the council have approved plans that they must have known from the outset were impossible to implement.
All of the above information has been in the public domain for some considerable time and no one has come up with any suggestions as to how the surface water is to be disposed of.
The company behind the development Commercial Group Properties have seen a considerable fall in the value of their shares while the drainage problems associated with the site have unfolded.
At the end of 2007 their shares stood at £2.20 they now stand at 9.5p this means that if you had invested £1,000 in their shares it would now be worth about £45, which is not so good.
Now I have always been against the development on the grounds that any dense industrial development on top of the most sensitve part of our drinking water aquifer is just too dangerous, the Thor and Sericol pollution incidents show that these things can and do happen.
I do however consider that when a company comes to this area offering considerable investment and employment both TDC and KCC have a responsibility to help them.
So if the councils genuinely want this development to work, they need to make some of their land available away from the middle of the source protection zone, so the development can be moved to a safer location and find some land at a lower level than the site, away from the flight path for balancing ponds.