Sunday, January 30, 2005

Minster Road Westgate

An aerial shot of Minster road in Westgate on Sea. Chartfield School is visible opposite the park at centre-right of the photo which looks towards the Canterbury road traffic lights.

Bronze Age Burial Site in Ramsgate

First photos of the secret Bronze Age burial site in Ramsgate. Not as good as I would like, because the light was very poor and it's perched just south of the Manston runway, so I couldn't come below 1,500 feet to take the photo on the only pass I was able to make.

The developers are due to move back in imminently to bury more of Thanet under concrete and so I wonder if the new residents will know that they are sitting on top of an ancient cemetery?
In the News

I see that my story on urban development and one of the photos, was included in the "Kent on Sunday" newspaper today, so a good result, helping to draw attention to the danger posed by reckless housing plans for the county.

Herne Bay Pier - Airads Photo

I spent an hour with our local MP, Roger Gale yesterday and we discussed the infrastructure problems that would accompany a leap in housing development in Thanet. The necessary infrastructure to support thousands more islanders, is visibly not present in any acceptable form, whether this be in the shape of schools or even roads and sewage and so perhaps, when the election comes along, there is, among several simple choices, which says a vote for Mr Blair means more concrete for us here in the shape of a minimum number of 25,000 homes of which a swathe will cut through Thanet in the areas I have already identified by air.

Of course we need more affordable housing but dropping such a plan on an already overstretched local council, which has no money to provide even some of the more basic community services, is not what we need in Thanet. The developers become richer and the quality of life for everyone else will fall.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Pfizer Axes Jobs in Kent

News that Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company are to cut four hundred jobs in Sandwich, comes as a shock for many local people, as a significant chunk of the local economy "floats" on the drugs giant's influence.

The historic Cinque Ports town of Sandwich is now buried in the middle of the enormous Pfizer complex and the road from Dover has just been widened to accomodate traffic. If Pfizer gives up on Thanet and relocates to where it can find cheaper manufacturing, not only will there be a dramatic cost to the area, with thousands of direct and ancillary jobs lost but it will leave a huge industrial eysore in sitting in the Kent countryside. After all, who wants to buy a giant drugs manufacturing club on the cheap if the worst happens? Posted by Hello

As soon as the weather clears, I might jump in the aircraft and take a few photos of the site and the "Top secret" Bronze Age archeological dig at Cliff's End in Ramsgate.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The View from Above

My little aerial photo tour of Thanet has attracted a little attention from the local papers. I also bumped-in to our Thanet North MP, Roger Gale, at Westminster last night and he's passed my concerns and pictures to our local Councillor.

Maybe people are worried that Thanet will be concreted-over to fill the pockets of the developers and in ten years time, we'll be left with a sprawling, grid-locked mess which stretches, without interruption, from Birchington to Ramsgate. How long before we lose the remaining playing fields and open spaces between Birchington and Margate I wonder?

Look at the St Augustine's photo below. I wonder how much longer the allotment to the right of it or the playing field behind it, can resist the cement mixers?

Friday, January 21, 2005

On The Manston Flight Path

Aviation Cats and Pigeons

Having read the Thanet Gazette earlier this afternoon, I quickly telephoned their news desk to point out that their nice map on page twenty-four of the flight path for Manston was a little over imaginative and potentially inflammatory, where local opinion is concerned.

I’ve attached one of the real plates in the illustration. It’s for smaller A Class aircraft but larger aircraft follow much the same route except that they extend further out, either towards France or The Isle of Sheppey before turning back to intercept the final approach for one of the Manston runways, 28 or 10.

Chart showing procedure for Manston runway 28 which loops out to sea for ten miles before turning back in on course for the runway

The Gazette’s map shows an approach over Canterbury which is not the case unless someone has changed all the charts without telling me or any of the other pilots. The idea is of course to keep jet traffic as far away as possible from built-up areas and of course, Ramsgate, the point of most contention, is an unavoidable fact of life following the localiser down onto runway 28.

If however you imagine a large bow-tie roughly centred on the middle of the Manston runway (the MTN Beacon) which extends ten miles East and West you’ll be pretty close to the procedure, which goes out to sea at three thousand feet and then loops back in again on three degree glide slope. This means that at ten miles, the aircraft is at three thousand feet, nine miles, two thousand seven hundred feet, eight miles, two thousand four hundred feet and so on down to one mile from the runway at three hundred feet. This places incoming aircraft at roughly twelve hundred feet over Ramsgate harbour on the descent.

So, an aircraft joins overhead Manston and then loops out to sea left or right at three thousand feet, depending on the runway being used at the time. At no time does this flight path go over Canterbury and if it did, I’d be the first to worry as my own aircraft is at Maypole, just outside the city.
Thanet. A Housing Hotspot?

It very much looks as if local traffic is going to become worse, much worse, very soon. You can see from the map that the area between Canterbury and Ramsgate, that's us, figures in the government's plans to build thousands more houses, without regard to local infrastructure, such as sewage, roads, schools and above all jobs.

If you drive or indeed fly around the island, as I do, the amount of building is now noticeable. You can see the devastation now taking place in Westgate at what used to be St Augustine's, The Abbey School, where I once taught many years ago. The gardens which once saw monks tending their vegetables and bee hives, is now an acre of bare soil, as these and the playing fields have now been ripped-up to the edge of the building to prepare the way for a new estate. Posted by Hello

St Augustines, Westgate.

In Birchington and Westgate, car parking is now increasingly a problem and in Broadstairs, that I visited on monday night, it's beyond a joke. We simply don't have the space in Thanet for more urban sprawl and yet we are going to have it, whether we like it or not. Posted by Hello

The Charles Dickens School, Broadstairs.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Eighteen - No Way!

I didn’t know whether I should laugh or not.

The three houses with their bright yellow protest banners outside had all made the same change,

It’s in the village of Hoath and they’ve protesting about the application to increase the number of flights from the Farmstrip at Maypole. Originally the application was for 25 movements a day, up from the present 12 but this caused such a ruckus that the application was recently changed to 18, which some might think is reasonable. Others may not.

So the three protestors have dutifully papered over “25” and replaced it with the number “18” in a quick cut-and-paste job.

I’m obviously biased, after all I’ve been flying this morning before the predicted hurricane hits and very bumpy it is out there too. Only one other soul dared the weather and I doubt there have been 12 aircraft movements in the last ten days in total.

The protestors appear to believe that an application for 18 flights a day means just that, when instead it’s aimed at those long summer days when it’s possible, that with visitors, we’ll break the present 12 movement restriction. Ah well… there’s no compromising with some when a position is so firmly entrenched.

Meanwhile, outside the wind is increasing once again and there are banks of fog rolling in from Dover, one of which I found myself in when I turned over the harbour before escaping quickly towards Ramsgate and around the coast back home again.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Gale Force

The gales across the country have been pretty devastating overnight and the town of Carlisle looks to be partially underwater after nine inches of rain. Apparently winds reached 128mph in the North of Scotland.

The rain missed us in the South, as the small hurricane continued out to sea to batter Denmark. There are fourteen ships sheltering from the gale in the bay in front of my window this morning. I'm guessing the windspeed must be at least sixty mph and if it gets much stronger, we may see some structural damage to buildings.

The small coaster in this first photo is so close to the shore that I was wondering if he had engine problems but he seems to be maintaining his position against the force of the wind and the outgoing tide on a very wild North Kent coast this morning.

In the second photograph you can see some of the larger vessels hiding towards Margate. In this wind, it's quite likely that my small aircraft is quite literally hovering above the ground over at Maypole. The only thing preventing it from being blown away are the tie-downs connected to a wire cable embedded in the grass.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Speed Trap

Just back from London this evening and I passed two rather bored-looking policemen trying to speed trap drivers. Lacking real local knowledge, they managed to set it up at the one place one drops to less than 30 mph because of the danger from elderly drivers appearing from the side roads. Without a doubt and as a motorcyclist, Thanet is one of the most deadly places to drive outside of the Middle East.

I'm convinced that after thirty years of motorcycling and even road-testing "Super-bikes" for several motorcycle magazines, that Thanet is where I'll come to grief. The ban on using mobile phones while driving is almostly completely ignored here and a high proportion of our local drivers would most likely fail an eyesight test and even a driving test.

I'm tempted to take my digital camera out tomorrow to take litter photographs along the sea front. It looks as if the council has given-up again and it was only after I nagged them during the summer that they made an effort to clear rubbish and cut the grass and hedges within dog-walking range of where I live. If you read this and live locally, lend a hand and keep on top of them, they need a little encouragement at times.