Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Thanet Planning Website Public Relations Disaster

On May 22nd I noticed that the Thanet planning website had gone interactive and that you could post comments and objections on it for all to see. It thought this was a great step forward in open government and involving the public in the planning process. It says on the website quite clearly that comments will be available for others to see and I posted by objection to the China Gateway application, however objection didn’t appear so I emailed UK planning who run the site for TDC below is their answer.

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 RegardsRyan Shearer UKPlanning Operations Supervisor


  1. Hey Michael,

    That really is a pretty poor show isn't it. I'm assuming, based on my interpretation of the response you received, that UK Planning offer comments/objections site-wide but offer each local authority (e.g. TDC) the ability to, effectively, disable these comments. It might be worth following up with TDC to find out exactly why they choose to hide these comments: I'd certainly be interesting in hearing their reasons. It might also be worth feeding back to UK Planning to let them know that a simple change to the comments form might be in order, i.e. 'TDC have chosen to hide these comments so they won't appear on the website'.

    As always, keep up all the great work.

  2. Chris I find this business paying for local government, with presumably the idea that among other things they should protect the local area form unsuitable or unsafe developments, only to have them do their best to conceal as much information as they can from us, such strange behaviour. I can only see one effect, which is to make the area worse, why on earth should they wish to behave in this way?

  3. Agreed.

    Were you going to follow it up with TDC? If not then I'll be happy to do it. One of the things I'm passionate about is open data, particularly where government is concerned.

  4. Chris please do, I would probably have got round to it in the end, I haven’t got round to asking for the tourist information enquiry office figures for 2006 2007 or Margate library book loan figures for the last 3 years either yet. The trouble is that they don’t just give you them, one has to go through all the palaver of a freedom of information request or complaint followed by the LGO, which is how I managed to the environment agency Pleasurama response.

    I have also got to get around to getting the structural survey for the Marina Esplanade incline arches, I have already asked Jacobs who have told me to ask the council who have told me to ask Jacobs and so it goes on.

    As a local businessman asking for important and relevant information from a Conservative administration, one almost made to feel like a Marxist rebel trying to extract information from a fascist junta.

  5. You would have been fascinated to witness Chair of Planning on Friday stifle comment; shout at his own members; avoid mentioning any conflict with TDC Planning Policies and not point out the boundary of the site; heights of buildings etc. It was an exercise in managed dis-information. Why?

  6. So what we are saying is that what it says it does and what it does are unrelated in this instance. I wonder if the website accessibility laws make that illegal?


Comments, since I started writing this blog in 2007 the way the internet works has changed a lot, comments and dialogue here were once viable in an open and anonymous sense. Now if you comment here I will only allow the comment if it seems to make sense and be related to what the post is about. I link the majority of my posts to the main local Facebook groups and to my Facebook account, “Michael Child” I guess the main Ramsgate Facebook group is We Love Ramsgate. For the most part the comments and dialogue related to the posts here goes on there. As for the rest of it, well this blog handles images better than Facebook, which is why I don’t post directly to my Facebook account, although if I take a lot of photos I am so lazy that I paste them directly from my camera card to my bookshop website and put a link on this blog.