Monday, 26 December 2011

Dear Readers...

There has been heated debate regarding Cllr John Worrow in the past handful of days here on Ville Views. As Ive reported and as was updated by him, the threat of legal action hangs over this blog with regard to the “Mucho Worrow” blog entry and the comments after. I published a housekeeping post to make it clear what I would and would not allow and I am thankful to those who have supported my stance.

I have tried, away from the blog, to discuss with him the situation in an effort to avoid the threat and to improve relations. I have been reasonable with him and tried to find common ground. I thought this had been found until I asked him to withdraw his threat of legal action against me. He responded with an implied claim of harassment against him.

I must make it absolutely clear to everyone reading this that there is no basis to this claim as I have made no threats towards him or acted in any way which would be seen as harassing him.

It’s possible that legal action will be taken, though I don’t believe it to be the case. I defend my right to hold politicians to account, whether it be comfortable for them or not. I have stayed within the law while doing so and I have not done anything which could reasonably be seen as improper.

I still believe that despite this the tension can be resolved and better relations can be built. The housekeeping rules remain as they are and I ask those commenting to be respectful of others whatever their argument. Calling people “bigots”, while not offensive, is something I’d like to see less of. Prove it through the argument itself not the name calling, please.

Friday, 23 December 2011


I enjoy writing this blog and I hope you all enjoy reading it. I have one of the loosest editorial controls on the blog deliberately because I want this blog to be open to everyone to contribute as they wish, whether they agree with what I say or not.

Once readers get upset about comments, it can easily escalate as we’ve seen and I’m not interested in that sort of attention. I have other things I want to be blogging about, like the street cleaning issue in Margate Central or following the latest twists and turns in the Margate Seafront Saga. As we know the budget is coming soon and I’m definitely going to be putting aside blogging time for that one. Another thing I want to explore in my blogs is the reform of local government which affects all of us, linking to the Big Society idea.

Mulling over what’s been posted here in the past day, I again make it clear I will not amend my post and will not delete the comments. One comment made reference to the taking of legal advice and offsite there’s been talk of further action. I understand why it might be considered but it’s wholly unnecessary. Such talk should stop.­ I hope upon proper reflection that the author of that comment will come to the same conclusion.

I will not tolerate offensive posts and will delete them if I feel they’ve overstepped the mark. I have no patience for discrimination on this blog whatever the type. However I will not be pushed into deleting things without very good reasons. I won’t be neutered. 

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Mucho Worrow

The blogsphere has been pretty active with a lot of talk and back and forth action therefore this blog is quite a bit longer than originally planned.

While it’s understandable that the ousted Conservative Group will feel annoyed at what’s happened, the fact is that it is now the Opposition and the sooner they adjust to this new situation the better. The talk on other blogs started off as banter but as the debate post the car parking press release showed, it’s now spilling over into the sort of thing which I’ve complained about in the Council Chamber. This baiting of people is childish and needs to end. It does no one any good apart from Labour who can sit back and enjoy the spectacle. The Conservative press release was fairly light on detail and looking at the resultant debate more facts are needed, so we should really wait to see how Labour’s plans lie alongside its updated budget plans due soon.

Did Cllr Worrow ask for a Cabinet position? Does it really matter? The tone of the denouncing has been OTT and the critics should save their energies for the real battles ahead. Cllr Worrow has rolled his dice and done what he feels is in his best interests. I don’t know him that well but I think it was a big mistake, short term gain for long term mistrust.

Despite what I have said above about saving energies, he posted an entry on his blog accusing the North Thanet Conservative Association of supporting a homophobic Councillor. This entry has since been deleted but the allegation was made nonetheless. Now, I’ve met my fair share of Thanet Cllrs and spoken to most of North Thanet’s Tories. I know Cllr Worrow will come across this blog. I want to know which Cllr he is talking about and which people in the Association supported him. If Cllr Worrow is unable or unwilling to name these people, then he should withdraw his accusations. Given he has now set up a Facebook GroupThanet Campaign Against Homophobia In Politics!" which originally included racism in its title, clearly he has not dropped his allegation, therefore I want to see him come clean about who he is talking about. If what he was talking about is right, he should have no fear in naming these people.

The news emerging today of Flybe’s decision to stop flights from Manston will definitely require some attention from Councillors. With less operators using the airport, more doubts are placed on the requirement of night flights. As Labour has already stated that it will implement its manifesto commitments from earlier this year, this news is surely another nail in the coffin of night flights. Some serious thought is now needed as to the airports future.

There are genuine debates to be had about the change of administration that have nothing to do with Cllr Worrow (really!!). I didn’t report it in the Hart’s Changes post but Cllr Jo Gideon made a very strong point about the fact that the funding streams are being directed to encourage growth rather than to simply spend on deprivation. This debate saw the biggest difference in thinking between Labour and the Conservatives and is something that is worth mulling over. Another similar debate will spring up relating to the reform of the Business Rates regime to allow some local adjustment. These are debates which actually do matter to locals and I hope more attention is paid to these issues rather than the actions of one Councillor.

Earlier today Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet members made their way to Hartsdown Park as part of consideration of leases for the Margate FC plans. I really don’t understand what the problem is. A Council would have to be mad to refuse a lease, so the debate is over the length of it. Again the length matters little because no council would grant a lease for say 25 years but not renew it once that period ends. To the fans this sounds like another barrier being put in front of them and on a base level it’s strange. The Council granted planning consent for development without a sniff of trouble but might refuse a lease? Really??

Friday, 16 December 2011

Keeping Margate Central Clean IV

As readers will know, back in August I emailed the Council about a number of concerns I had regarding street cleaning, particularly in the south of Margate Central. Eventually most of them were dealt with and I praised the Council for their work. One of the ones not dealt with by the Council when I was blogging about them at the time is the following, outside Central Studios on Park Place (photo taken in August).

Well, the great news is that its been cleared, by who I don’t know, but all the junks been got rid of and the weeds at the end cleared away completely. A really good job done.

As an update to a couple of those Ive had a big issue with in the Milton/Byron Avenues area, here are a couple of photos taken yesterday. I hope Cllr Alan Poole as new Cabinet Member for Environmental Services will take appropriate action to ensure a lid is kept on it since they are such hotspots. As I said with Cllr Moores, I completely understand there are constraints on the ability of the Council to act and the budget is of course stretched. However there is a duty for the Council to act. Seeing as fancy new “footpath” signs have appeared, this point is underlined.

I'll defnitely be blogging about this again.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Twilight Zone

A curious Planning Meeting last night. To get the headline out of the way, the Planning Committee decided that their mind was not changed by the upgraded listing of the Scenic Railway and that they would have accepted the change to the scheduled timing of the works. But that only tells part of the story...

First up we’ve had some changes in the Committee Membership with Cllrs Hart and Poole replaced by Cllrs Nicholson and David Green, though both attended the meeting. Certainly no dumbing down on the Labour side then. 

There was criticism of the two mock-ups of the proposed store showing one, the height of the development in scale to the Scenic Railway, including the 4m height difference between the two (arguing that Arlington should have been in the image) and second, the image of the store without the hotel section (arguing that the positioning of the store being behind Dreamland Cinema was wrong). While I normally agree with that Councillor and have great respect for him, I must disagree with both criticisms. Arlington is off to the right in the first image so doesn’t really count and as the plans show, the store would creep behind the left side of the Dreamland building.

Harvey Patterson spent his time discussing a letter of objection from Richard Buxton Solicitors, though the word dismissing might be more appropriate. Normally I’d defend his advice giving because he’s usually right on the money but seemed to be off his game last night and a little more agitated than normal. He criticised the publication of the letter online. I read the letter online pretty much as soon as it was published and I have no issue with it appearing online. There’s definitely a public interest and the Members of the Committee should be aware of it.

To reiterate what I said in the preview, this Public Inquiry came only because of the referral to Full Council which was in itself necessary given the legal complications that were appearing. I hear from elsewhere that in fact this Public Inquiry was merely a threat to push the Committee into accepting the application and to ease its process, and that once that approval was given the Public Inquiry would be dropped. We shall see if that is the case in due course.

A Councillor made a comment that the letter to Cllr Poole from June (see “Pooleing Around”) was inaccurate in its description of that meeting’s vote as being decided on the Chair’s casting vote and that instead it was a normal vote. Sorry but that’s not true, it was a 7-7 tie and the Chair’s casting vote decided it. The letter was right.

Im not really one for attacking my own side but I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t name Conservative Cllr Binks who spoke against the development back in June (words along the lines of “I cannot support this application”) but voted in favour, much to the surprise of those watching the meeting who had done the maths and expected the motion to be defeated. Her mind had not changed last night and neither had her vote in favour of the development.

As readers will know, I support the Arlington development and want to see it do well, but that I believe the Arlington House works must be done prior to the store construction since the resident’s needs should come first, especially when residents are highly concerned about Freshwater’s willingness to adhere to its obligations towards its tenants. I don’t agree with the second vote taken last night. As the reports and the advice given last night made abundantly clear, Freshwater didn’t really have a particularly good reason other than “minimising disturbance”, in itself not very convincing. In fact during the debate it was made clear that they would be satisfied with the current schedule, so Im unsure as to why a change should be necessary...

Discussion of Ramsgate Sport Centre's proposed extension seemed to focus on the possible increase of confrontations that might be caused between pedestrians and cyclists by shortening the footpath following behind Paradise Avenue from a width of 3 metres to 2 to allow for more shrubbery. I kid you not... An amendment was made to avoid that and it passed.

Cllr Nicholson’s comment of “a step into the Twilight Zone” pretty much summed the meeting up, indeed the last meeting of the year. 

Monday, 12 December 2011

Here It Comes Again

This coming Wednesday sees the Arlington Tesco’s issue come before Planning Committee as part of the Public Inquiry process. The application has come to Public Inquiry because the application took too long to go through the system and therefore the applicant is claiming non-determination. This meeting is to decide on how the Planning Committee stands in relation to two aspects, firstly the upgrading of the Scenic Railway’s listed status and second, the timing of the works themselves. The report for this can be found here.

The last time this application came before Planning those were the two aspects being decided on, but was referred to Full Council on grounds of “transparency and accountability”. I agree with the decision the Committee came to. As the report makes clear, the relevant Manager was not authorised to take into account, under delegated powers, the upgraded listed status of the Scenic Railway, therefore this had to come before the Planning Committee, even if it didn’t change anything in the Committee’s mind.  As for the second problem, of the timing of the works, the proposal was at Freshwaters insistence not the Councils. Add to that the talk of the possible listing of the site and referral to Full Council seemed a good decision. Even with the current political set-up and considering the possibility that the application could eventually have been voted down, I still back that vote. In any case that vote is basically void and it’s up to the Planning Inspectorate now.

As for the application as a whole, I’ve not really published a settled argument, basically because I’ve struggled to come to one. On balance, I support the application and see it to be the best opportunity for redevelopment of the site. I know there was an alternative scheme proposed but given the current economic situation, I’m not convinced on it, and that’s a shame. Yes, there’s going to be an impact on businesses nearby and there will be parking issues, but given that anything built on this site would attract high numbers of traffic and given the awkward location, it’s going to be the case pretty much whatever is put there. There’s doubt at whether Freshwater will act honestly with the residents of Arlington House, but that’s more to do with the associated legal agreements than the main plans and can be dealt with by the Council Officers.

I know other bloggers have commented that they would have preferred to see a smaller proposed store and I agree. The reality is it’s not on the cards. We must consider the application as a whole and be careful not to lose this chance of fully redeveloping the site.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Pooleing Around

As readers will know Ive blogged a couple of times about “negativing conditions” in planning applications, firstly in relation to Arlington where Cllr Poole (now Deputy Council Leader) proposed an amendment to a condition which would have meant deliveries would be banned between 11pm and 7am, and secondly in relation to the China Gateway application, where he proposed a condition banning the use of HGVs on the site between 11pm and 7am. Both times, the motions were refused as they were deemed to be negativing ones, that they would be unreasonable to the applicant. Both times he made it clear he disagreed with the legal advice and felt that they were legitimate conditions to make.

I commented after the China Gateway meeting, held on the 16th November that Councillors should have been aware of the rules on this after the first time it came up or found out for themselves how things stood. Cllr Everitt, newly appointed Cabinet Member for Performance, made a point during debate of the China Gateway application that the advice should be sent out to Committee Members so that they know in advance how the rules apply. Strange, because they were sent the advice in June!

The Arlington application was deferred to the Secretary of State on the 15th June 2011 after Cllr Poole’s motion was declined. He objected to it strongly enough to write a letter of complaint about it the next day. The day after that (17th June) Cllr Poole received a letter from Harvey Patterson, Corporate & Regulatory Services Manager, which provided in some detail the reasons behind the decision not to proceed with the motion. Reading the letter, I recognise the reference to Circular 11/95, as I commented on that document when I blogged about the China Gateway application. On the bottom it shows the letter was cc’d to the Chair and Members of the Planning Committee, which would have included both Cllrs Everitt and Poole and indeed the new Council Leader Clive Hart.

The letter can be found here

Now, why did they make such a fuss at the 16th November Planning meeting when they had already been made aware of the legal basis for the refusal to proceed with negativing motions way back in June?

Hart's Changes

So, we have a Labour administration in TDC, something new for me, since I came to politics proper just after the 2003 elections. Congratulations to the new Council Leader Cllr Clive Hart and Deputy Leader Cllr Alan Poole. A revealing meeting, showing a snapshot of what the next 3 1/2 years has in store. Change has definitely come to Thanet, that’s for sure. Whether it’s what is in Thanet’s best interests or not,  well, that’s another matter entirely, but we shall see in due course. Strange sat with bloggers extraordinaire Luke Edwards and Tony Flaig. Even stranger for a Tory Councillor to point us out during the meeting. You’re welcome, I guess!

A lot of shouting across the Chamber again, with multiple interventions by the same Members who have points of information, clarification, or obfuscation...pretty much whatever puts off real debate. I’ve seen it in the past and complained about it before with relation to Scrutiny and nothing has changed. From the sounds of things the audio system is ready to roll and we might expect recordings of the meetings to be placed online. I completely support this. I hope readers will look out for these recordings to listen out for how their elected Councillors speak. Is this the sort of thing YOU want to see? PM Questions on Wednesday afternoons is understandable but this is our local Council.

In the past I’ve avoided naming and shaming but this sort of thing needs to stop. It makes the Council look awful and if their residents saw this they wouldn’t approve. It’s childish and wholly inappropriate. I’m talking both about Conservatives and Labour here.  Labour Councillor Peter Campbell of Central Harbour Ward shouting at a Council Officer that the decision not to debate the motion on night flights during the July Full Council meeting was “corruption” was way out of line. He had no right to make that claim and no evidence at all.

What sort of change can we expect? Well, a motion were passed to set up a Members Working Group to work out how bad the issue of runaways is. This is an issue I personally care about, so when I see duplication of roles or functions, I don’t like it much. I want to see clarity, where the system is streamlined enough for there to be efficient and quality input.  I will definitely be blogging about this in the future.

John Worrow got his wish with his proposed free half hour car parking scheme. I don’t agree with this idea given how every High Street will want their version of this and the budget is stretched enough. At least it brought some light relief to Members who had been having an ideological battle over the future budget and who was or was not to blame for it. Pretty much everyone had a good laugh at Cllr Worrow, so at least there’s agreement on that issue…

Friday, 18 November 2011

Balancing Boundaries (updated)

Reading through the Gazette I came across a letter by Cllrs Fenner and Poole relating to the Boundary Commission’s review of Parliamentary seats. I could have sworn I’d heard it before and yep, I had. It was published on Thanet Press Release’s website on the 6th November. Todays letter is the same statement, therefore Im assuming that their view has not changed and they are sticking to what they said before. Their proposal is:

the inclusion of the Margate Wards of Westbrook and Garlinge and keeping Salmestone in the proposed new constituency of Margate & Ramsgate

OK. Lets look at the proposed boundaries for Herne Bay and Margate & Ramsgate. What doesn’t ring true with the quote? Yep, Salmestone is ALREADY part of the proposed Margate & Ramsgate seat.

The letter makes mention of the “whole Margate community” and that it "must" be included in the Margate/Ramsgate seat. Given the old Margate boundaries included Westgate as well this proposal falls because the seat would be too large to meet the Boundary Commission's criteria, even if Sandwich was moved to the Herne Bay seat. Labour makes criticisms that Margate "must not be split" and yet Labour knows that they have to accept the splitting of Margate. One Labour Councillor in Margate has publicly accepted this as being the case.

Of course if Labour is serious about the “whole Margate community” being part of Margate/Ramsgate, would they please suggest which Ramsgate ward they would drop, so that the residents can make their own feelings known.

The reason why they made this press release? They were attacking Laura Sandys for making public her view that she would prefer to keep Little Stour and Ashstone in the Margate/Ramsgate seat at maybe the expense of Salmestone. Odd, since this is a public consultation. Just because she has said this does not mean the proposed seats are automatically changed. It’s based on ALL the information that gets sent to the Review not just the resident MP’s. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, whether the Labour leadership agrees with it or not.  

The Maths (update 18:20):

The proposed Herne Bay seat contains 78,999 voters compared to Margate/Ramsgate with 74,173. According to last years District elections the key wards have the following electorates:

Westbrook          3059
Garlinge              3453
Sandwich            5600
Westgate On Sea 5079

If Westbrook and Garlinge are exchanged for Sandwich, Herne Bay will have 78,087 voters and Margate/Ramsgate will have 75,085 voters. If Westgate moves from Herne Bay to Margate/Ramsgate, Herne Bay will have 73,008 voters compared to Margate/Ramsgate's 80,164.

Looking at the "rules", a constituency needs to have between 72,810 and 80,473 voters (5% either side of 76,641-the electoral quota). While the final figures fit with this, there are two reasons why I wouldn't advocate the Westgate switch. Firstly each constituency needs to have similar numbers of electors and with such a large difference in voters it defeats the purpose of the review. Secondly Cllr Will Scobie posted analysis on the apparent loss of 1,400 voters from Margate Central and Cliftonville West wards in the last four years therefore there should be a reluctance to push towards the upper limit. With this being the case its best that Westgate stay with Herne Bay seat, even if that means splitting Margate.

I hope the above might shed some light onto the maths involved. While I would be delighted to fit Westgate in the proposed Margate/Ramsgate seat, the above doesn't justify the move.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Reasonably Unreasonable

Firstly, a big thanks to everyone who reads this blog. While my total blog views may be half what other blogs get each month, I’m grateful to all of you who spend a little of your time reading whatever I churn out. Now onto the business…
Planning Committee meetings sometimes throw up controversial moments where the advice given disagrees with what the Members feel. A recent example of this is the debate over “negative conditions”. Earlier this year we had the Arlington Tesco’s application before the Committee and a proposed amendment was made that deliveries couldn’t happen late at night. While it wasn’t suprising that we were told that Tesco’s couldn’t accept such an amendment, it was suprising that the amendment couldn’t even be voted on. Some Members were clearly not happy with the lack of information about this and it was noted in the minutes for that meeting that Cllr Poole did not agree with this.

Well, it happened again last night during consideration of the China Gateway application, and the Member proposing the amendment, Cllr Poole! The proposal was that HGVs would not be allowed on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Again, we were told that it was a negativing amendment and therefore couldn’t be accepted. This time round the Officers quoted from the legal guidance which commented on this very issue.

Looking at the guidance, the issue here isn’t that the Committee is making a condition. It can argue quite rightly that a condition like that is legal for them to make. However, the developer couldn’t accept it because it would be seen as unreasonable.  In this case its described as “unduly restrictive” and would make the Committee ultra vires. To quote the full passage (Circular 11/95):

“A condition may be unreasonable because it is unduly restrictive. Although a condition may in principle impose a continuing restriction on the use of land (provided that there are good planning reasons for that restriction), such a condition should not be imposed if the restriction effectively nullifies the benefit of the permission. For example, it would normally be reasonable to restrict the hours during which an industrial use may be carried on if the use of the premises outside these hours would affect the amenities of the neighbourhood, but it would be unreasonable to do so to such an extent as to make it impossible for the occupier to run the business properly. If it appears that a permission could be given only subject to conditions that would be likely to be held unreasonable by the courts then it will be necessary to refuse permission altogether.”

Cllr Everitt made a comment that this legal advice should have been made available to Members before. I would say in reply that given this happened before with Arlington that Members should have had the sense to Google it months ago if only for their own information were this to appear again...

Ultimately the amendment went no further and the discussion continued. An amendment was made allowing the Committee to oversee aspects of the Legal Agreement.

I should tag onto the end here that the Localism Act received Royal Assent earlier this week. That means that hopefully soon we can say goodbye to the predetermination rules which have caused the Labour Group so many issues over Manston Night Flights. The DCLG says we should know by next month(ish) when the major steps come into force.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Sensitive Much?

"The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them."  G.K. Chesterton
The world of politics is a strange one, ever-changing. It makes people do funny things, which in the clear light of day shouldn’t happen. Perhaps it’s the excitement of it that gets to their heads. Some of the behaviour in the Council Chamber is definitely down to that.

As everyone and his/her dog knows, Cllrs Hart, Aldred and Clark brought up what was to them a rising problem of crime and their fears of vigilantism with the press and written a letter to the Police. OK, it’s not a new problem (I moved out of the area about 2 ½ years ago after being assaulted at my last home in Warwick Road) but they mean well and it is a genuine issue. They want the credit and it’s understandable they want the hat-tip for bringing it up, especially as Cllr Simon Moores has been discussing the problems in Westgate on his own blog recently. In the Gazette it’s made clear that there’s a planned increase in police provision in the area.

Thanet South MP Laura Sandys posts an article about going out with the local police and made comment on said problem which is a little firmer than it should have been. It’s an unfortunate error but not critical. Now if the Group of Councillors were new to the world of politics they would be really hurt and immediately write a further statement making it clear that the comment was wrong. They would make sure they got as much attention by demanding a retraction of the comment and an apology. Throwing in comments about their own high standing and how this has been brought up by a local resident who has suggested vigilantism as a possible action would bolster this statement.

Of course as we know, they are not new to the world of politics. Cllr Hart is the Leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Clark is Chairman of the Council and Cllr Aldred is now into her third term as Ward Councillor. In the grand scheme of things, this is not a slur on their reputations which are firmly established and a short statement making it clear that the comment wasn’t correct would be enough. To demand a retraction and an apology is absurd and desperate.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Matthew Munson: A Name to Note

For those in Thanet who enjoy a bit of reading, especially science fiction, Broadstairs resident and all-round good guy Matthew Munson has just published his debut novel, Fall From Grace, which can be ordered on Amazon in either Paperback or Kindle

"A debut novel by Matthew Munson, 'Fall From Grace' follows the lives of three friends who find themselves somehow caught in middle of the wars in Heaven which started over two thousand years ago. Paul, an ex-priest, feels his life is passing him by since he left his calling, and the increasing frequency of his dreams doesn’t help. He can’t even shake the feeling after talks with Joseph, his best friend and sceptic extraordinaire. Joseph’s sister Lauren is happy with her new post as a psychologist at the local university, but just wishes her long-suffered mental absences would stop. As their true identities are revealed, Paul, Joseph and Lauren must venture to the Heavenly Ruling Chamber to come face to face with not only the Almighty himself, but with those who started the rebellion over two millennia ago."

Matthew runs the blog Life From The Front - Dispatches From Viking Bay which talks not only about his writing but also about Deaf and Dyspraxia awareness. 

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Keeping Margate Central Clean III (updated)

Over the past week Ive commented on problem areas for waste and street cleaning needing Council action. By and large they've all been solved. Grosvenor Place looks much better now. Addington Road's rubbish has been collected, though I notice its returned through some fixtures. The one for me which has not been solved yet is the broken glass down the alleyway between Byron Avenue and Dane Park brought up here. The Council to its credit cleared away the weeds away Wednesday and this much waste was left at Dane Park opposite the alleyway and for that I thank the Council:

While Im genuinely grateful to the Council for clearing it away, the glass remains. The complaint has been on FixMyStreet since 16th June. 

That is why, tomorrow morning, I will be in that alleyway clearing that glass away. Anyone who wants to help out is more than welcome to join in.

Update 12/08/11:

After 4 hours work, most of the glass has been removed along with a lot of other general dirt. It needs a check by the local street cleaner to get the rest and the dog dirt, and the Council will need to collect the sacks of debris, but the alleyway is looking the best it has done for a while and I know from the comments of passers-by that they agree. 

The area including Byron Avenue, Milton Avenue, Poet's Corner and Cowper Road needs careful watching. Residents say they've complained to the Council directly but they are dissatisfied with the result. There is a serious communication issue here. That alleyway along with the alleyway bisecting it running along the back of Byron Avenue shouldn't have gotten that bad before action was needed. 

After checking the rest of the ward, its definitely this area along with Grosvenor Place, Princes Crescent (junction by Spread Eagle pub) along with the bit of Addington Road mentioned in previous posts which are most of concern. The closer you get to the seafront, the lesser the problem generally becomes. Understandable though since obviously the seafront will get precedence.

I commented in the past about the increased use of seagull-proof bags and I know they are being used in a property in Hawley Square. I ask that the Council look to provide all residents at Hawley Square with seagull-proof bags as soon as can be afforded along with other similar properties. They are proving successful and Hawley Square has a bit of a problem with waste being targeted by the local wildlife and the use of wheelie bins is inappropriate.

Once the issues I've raised about dog fouling and the bits of glass still remaining in the alleyway are dealt with, the FMS complaint will be fixed. In future, any problems I come across will go through the FMS website, not through this blog, though residents are of course welcome to comment here about any issues they have, if they prefer. As we now know, the relevant TDC Cabinet Member is aware of the website and I know he will ensure the information from it is fed into the cleaning schedule. I don't want to be posting articles critical of the Council but if I have to, I will.

With any luck, this is the end of it and a more positive tone will appear soon...

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Keeping Margate Central Clean II

To update from last weeks blog, the rubbish from the house I photo'd at Addington Road has been cleared, but the rubbish from the house immediately to the left is still there. 

The following are pictures taken this evening.

A hotspot at Shakespeare Road,first brought up on FixMyStreet on 2nd October 2008, then 1st March 2009, 12th April 2009 and 15 April 2009. I have no doubt the problems continued but residents gave up on the website.

The following is Poet's Corner highlighted on FixMyStreet recently by a resident and on my last blog.

Given the collection was Monday, a sight like this was a suprise. 

Cowper Road, just round the corner from Shakespeare Road.

Before moving on from this part of Margate, I had a good chat with a resident about the way street cleaning and rubbish collection was handled. They felt that while it was good to see a street cleaner on their road, the first in a while, they didnt finish the road and left a little pile of dirt where they stopped... They think the scheduling of the street cleaner could be better for the area. There are little bits of broken glass strewn along Milton Avenue, where kids were playing. They weren't impressed with the way the alleyways were cleaned. This is a complaint that has been brought up before on FixMyStreet. 

Grosvenor Place. Im pleased to see the other end was cleared up where the wind sucks the rubbish down the road though I wonder whether it'll last.

There are still problems to deal with. As a half time status, only a minority of the items on my list sent to the Council have been dealt with. Hopefully the pictures above will encourage action...

Friday, 5 August 2011

Keeping Margate Central Clean?

One of the most visible ways in which this Council acts is through rubbish collection and street cleaning. This May saw more wheelie bins and seagull-proof bags hitting Thanet streets.

FixMyStreet highlights problems like dumped rubbish, broken glass, abandoned vehicles and other problems which make an area look awful. It doesnt seen to be regularly updated though as to whether these complaints are being acted upon, so I had a look at the areas brought up to see how bad it was. Its clear the website isnt up to date and these complaints haven't been followed up.

Locals will of course recognise this alleyway, leading from Byron Avenue to Dane Park. Broken glass dumped rubbish is typical for this alley along with heavily broken up pavement as well. Once you come out, you see a couple of black sacks sat across the road.

Rubbish bags picked up but clearly a street cleaner hasnt been down Poet's Corner. A complaint has been on FixMyStreet for over 2 weeks.

This bit of Addington Road has a frequent problem with rubbish like this.

A check on the TDC website shows that collection for a lot of this wont be until Monday and in the worst case such as the Addington Road photo, Thursday.

Where are the Ward Councillors who should be showing leadership of their community in demanding action? These problems have been there for some time now and the complaints are there on the FMS website, yet so many of them remain unanswered. Local residents say they contact the Council and yet it persists. How can they have confidence in a Council which to them, isnt performing one of its key jobs?

Refuse collection and street cleaning may not be pretty, but it matters...

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Rambling through Ramsgate

A frequent complaint by those in Ramsgate that it's overlooked in favour of Margate, particularly when it comes to major projects such as the Turner Contemporary. I paid a visit toRamsgate this morning to see if that was the case. The simple answer is Ramsgate does perfectly well without it and can do better...

A Harbour which any town would want and which puts Margate's to shame. A Promenade kept tidy and with wonderful views going South. The redevelopment at the Main Sands will complete the regeneration of that area after the sad demise of the Pleasurama. If good use can be made of the former Casino, that would be the cherry on the top. A good High Street which is much busier than Margate's. A raft of good restaurants to choose from. Ellington Park looked gorgeous. Ramsgate should take great pride in what it has to offer.

Ramsgate has to stop comparing itself to Margate. Such a negative approach does the town no favours. Instead it should embrace change and look positively to channel it in the manner best suited for itself. The people best placed to improve Ramsgate are already there. The Councillors - Town, District and County - are elected for a purpose, to improve their wards for the residents. Its up to them first and foremost to lead this change.

The people though have a role to play, demanding more from their Councillors. They should be pushing Councillors to be positive and instead of saying "We dont like this" or "This isnt appropriate" should be coming up with alternatives. This is where community groups come to the fore, supporting Councillors and offering their own ideas and contributions.

Ramsgate must find the confidence to embrace change rather than seeing it as a threat. Change can be difficult and certainly its not always smooth, but it works in the end.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Margate FC and Sainsburys

Two big items of business at tomorrow’s Planning Committee meeting. First is the redevelopment of Hartsdown Park. Approval should be routine seeing as the proposal is an improvement to the previous one which received Full Council's unanimous support back in 2006. There has been controversy round this for a few reasons such as the refusal to grant a Section 73 amendment, which coupled with subsequent discussions on the blogs and the Conservative manifesto pledge that any new applications or leases would require fresh public consultation led to fans questioning TDC’s support of the club. Personally I think the manifesto pledge was unnecessary. Public consultation goes without saying but the pledge sounded like barrier building. I hope this meeting will help to draw a line under all that so that the fans can focus on the action on the pitch rather than off it.

Second big item of business is an application by Sainsburys to create a scheme of development with its current site, and land behind it, including Group Antolin up to the Saga roundabout. Its enormous and in all honesty Ive not had the time to read the report fully but Im sure the local blogsphere will keep an eye on the application.

Friday, 15 July 2011

TDC Full Council (updated)

Another Council meeting last night with negativity clouding most speeches.

First up, there was unanimity over live animal exports. Despite the motion being proposed by Cllr Fenner, it was Cllr Driver who has been the driving force (pun not intended) behind this after setting up the public meeting in Ramsgate and summing up well what the Chamber felt.

Night flights was rather different. The proposed motion (the recommendations of the last Airport Working Party) was seen as invalid because it was deemed to be ‘pre-determination’. The incoming Localism Bill will scrap this rule, but as the moment the rule still stands. Labour’s motion is pre-determination, especially when considered alongside Labour’s manifesto pledges on Manston. Last night Cllrs Hart and Fenner both referred to the importance of the Labour manifesto, something Cllr David Green has also done on his own blog. The manifesto pledge is very clear. Labour doesn’t want night flights and would rule them out. Labour's already decided how they would act were a night flight proposal to appear. It is what it is.

During this debate very heated comments were made by Members, the vast majority coming from Labour. One Member made extremely serious allegations. They know who they are and they know what they said. They should either withdraw those comments or go through the proper process. It should not be aired in the Council Chamber.

This will continue while Labour Leader Cllr Clive Hart fails to keep control of his group. By calling last nights behaviour “robust debate” he only justifies it. Its not good enough to just dismiss it. Ive been to enough meetings to know how normal last night is, but it doesn’t change the fact that its unacceptable.

Thanet is changing. Things dont have to be the way they are, nor should they be. We must strive to change Thanet, transforming its prospects and boosting its profile. Last nights behaviour undermines this by showing Thanet at its worst.

Change must come to the Council Chamber.

Update (17:50):

Cllr Hart has made a statement on Margate Architecture's blog detailing his outrage at the night flights debate last night. Ive already mentioned the rule of 'pre-determination' above which fully explains the reason why the motion was denied. The meeting was adjourned for 10 minutes to allow Members time to read the legal advice and they asked questions afterwards for over 10 minutes on top of a 15 minute adjournment from the previous agenda item on live exports. Cllr Hart's comment that the motion is in keeping with the manifesto pledge only further undermines his case.

Cllr David Green has said on his blog that the motion from last night was not because Overview and Scrutiny deferred consideration of the Airport Working Party's recommendations until the next meeting. Cllr Hart states that actually it is the reason. So who's right, Cllr Hart or Cllr Green? Labour's entire policy on Manston is untenable..

Cllr Hart now calls the debate "intense" rather than "robust". Will he go the whole hog and just admit that his Members behaved appallingly and that one of them made a serious allegation and will withdraw it at the soonest opportunity?

Friday, 8 July 2011

A Tale of Two Towns

If ever there was a town with two sides, Margate is it. The Old Town, now the New Town, reinvigorated by the opening of the Turner Contemporary and a number of other businesses around the Harbour now sees countless tourists coming to Margate, something which years ago would have been unthinkable. The Margate Museum is opening with the fantastic support of local volunteers. Congratulations to the Friends of Margate Museum on their success.

The Old Town is what was Dreamland and Arlington Square. Back in the day, they were bustling with huge crowds. The Pride of Margate, mere relics. Faced with proposals of redevelopment, it's opposed by local residents because of a lack of trust in those proposing it, possible heavy traffic and noise and because the main store is going to be a Tesco's.

Looking back at the New Town, those reasons are exactly the ones raised with the Turner Contemporary and look what happened. It’s a complete turnaround and even those who had doubts about it now preach of what a great success its become. Locals working there speak of the enormous change and what benefits it will bring to Margate. Margate Football Club is looking to build a new stadium which will contribute to a vibrant Margate seafront and community spirit, not to mention helping to bring tourism to the town.

The proposals for the rebuilding of Arlington Square are well known and the arguments are as well versed. I don't doubt their sincerity or the strength of opinion in the Labour ranks through their two Ward Councillors that the plans need to be carefully scrutinised but we must not put the cart before the horse. Central Government has approved (Ed-not approved but allowed to be taken locally) the plans and now we can look forward to it coming back to Council to make it a reality.

Change is fuelling the regeneration of a town which has for too long been looked upon with derision. But the town mustn't be complacent. Instead we must strive to improve it further so that Arlington Square and Dreamland is once again the Pride of Margate and earning Margate the envy of Thanet.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Going deaf?

The TDC Cabinet meeting tonight was short but sweet. Only one question for me remains. Did Cllr Clive Hart support TDC in passing the Article 4 Direction on HMOs? He spent so long making the point that this was necessary only because the Government changed the rules on this that I couldnt make out whether he actually supported it or not...

On another point, I've been to 6 meetings at TDC this current political year and in at least half of them there have been problems with the microphone system in the Council Chamber and the system's been abandoned in two of them. At first you could just laugh it off as gremlins but its a serious problem now and it stopped being funny a while back. It is very hard to hear Members sat near the Chairs bench from the public gallery. The reason for the problem is well known so why is it taking so long to sort it out?

Friday, 17 June 2011

Arlington Tesco's approved...sort of

The Planning Committee approved the outline application to build a Tesco's, a car park and associated shops at Arlington on Wednesday evening. Although it didnt. It took a few attempts to explain to Members that TDC cannot decide on granting planning consent by itself because the Tescos is too large for them to call it. Instead it has to be referred to the Secretary of State, but that TDC gives its recommendation. All delightfully complicated.

The three speakers against the application were very good and stuck to planning issues in their speeches. Far too often I see speakers talking about non planning issues which basically cant be considered by the committee. If you are to speak against an application, your chances are vastly increased by speaking on planning grounds.

An amendment was proposed to refuse night time deliveries. It was explained that such an amendment could not be accepted even if a majority of Members agreed because it was considered unacceptable to the applicant. It did sound absurd but clearly its a red line for the applicant.

It was always going to be close and when a Conservative Member spoke against the application it seemed the application could be refused. When it came down to the vote though, it was a 7-7 split which makes me wonder if that Member voted with their speech (I was in the spillover room so couldnt see). The tiebreaker is the Chairs vote which is by convention to vote with the officer's recommendation. It now comes before the Secretary of State.

Comment was made during the debate that "You're not helping yourselves" and a dismissive wave made towards the public gallery when they booed a comment made by a Member. I don't blame the residents for being upset at the plans and for booing. Its a monster of an application which will lead to huge disruption to their homes and they are worried that promises made to them will either be bodged or simply forgotten. One resident walked out of the meeting in frustration after making some choice comments about the officers which I couldn't possibly repeat here.

My feeling is that if we weren't in such a dire economic situation, the residents scheme would be more attractive. But you have to deal with what you have, not with what you want. As with Iris Johnston and others, I hope it comes before Full Council for detailed consideration and that continued public consultation takes place as there are still a lot of questions to answer.

Arlington Square is the sorriest sight in Thanet and the residents support its redevelopment - but change needs to work with the residents, not against them.