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.