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…