Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Over the Top

It’s looking quite dark along the estuary, back towards London. Maybe a storm is coming our way tonight. Certainly, from two thousand feet above Canvey Island, Thanet appeared to be the last place on earth sitting in sunlight.

It’s useful having a friend with an aircraft if you break down in your own. I had a call from Thurrock this afternoon, where two friends had stopped with an engine problem. Could I come and pick them up?

It would take you forever to get the Thurrock from here and even longer this afternoon with the queue of cars trying to leave Thanet through Birchington. In fact Thurrock and the north bank of the Thames is only twenty minutes away if you’re lucky enough to fly over the top so the round trip with a stop was less than an hour.

It rather led me to wonder if there’s any mileage in trying to link Essex and Kent, with a catamaran link perhaps. Of course, we’d need to make Margate, as a potential destination, rather more attractive than Clacton or Southend but on the opposite side of the coin, there are wonderful places in Essex and Norfolk to visit if you could just get across the Thames Estuary in your car without having to fight your way through the congested  hell of the  Dartford crossing.

If we can put a windmill farm bang in the middle of the Estuary, perhaps one day we’ll find an easier way of linking the two counties it separates.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Please Vote in Our Turner Survey

In case you missed it, please can you complete my quick poll, which I have put up on the web to support my next column reflecting some of your views, for the Thanet Gazette – That’s if it’s accepted unedited –

It’s a simple statement for you to either agree or disagree with and I’ll publish the results here once they reach a level of statistical significance.

“The Turner Contemporary is a sensible project to drive regeneration in Thanet and is worth the £25 million investment.”

Do you agree or disagree? Cast your vote here.

It Will End in Tears

With today’s newspapers predicting that the Government’s 24-hour licensing acts will add millions to the cost of local community charges, Thanet North MP, Roger Gale comments:

This Government's Licensing Act, which has received such wide publicity, is due for imminent implementation.

The Act has transferred licensing powers from the magistrates who had previously done the necessary job well and added the burden of responsibility to already hard-pressed local authorities. As a classic example of mending things that are not broken the transfer of duties has led to more costly bureaucracy to no perceptible advantage.

The Act has placed a further burden of cost upon, particularly, small sports and other clubs and associations that have relied upon post-match bar takings to subsidise the costs of organisation, pitch fees and the like.

And then there is the anticipated rise in the instances of "binge drinking" and associated health and social problems.

As one of the two independent and impartial members of the Speaker's panel of Chairmen who piloted this piece of legislation through its Commons Committee stage as a Bill I have respected the proper convention and have neither spoken publicly nor voted on the issue after second reading.

With the Bill now an Act, however, I feel relieved of the constraints and able to say that the Licensing Act is, arguably, one of the dumbest and most friendless of pieces of legislation that I have presided over.

This was a Bill for which there was no public clamour.  I doubt whether many, if any, MPs received a single letter calling for a change in a law that was, by and large, working well and that had only been updated as recently as the 1980s. There was no mass lobby of brewers or publicans suggesting that the current restrictions upon drinking alcohol were seriously damaging trade and employment and the authorities - most particularly the police - opposed the measures.  The machine, though, blundered on!

Back in the late 70s and early 80s Kent's seaside towns like Margate and Herne Bay, in common with all others, were plagued with the aggressive and anti-social results of "beano parties" thrown out of pubs simultaneously in early afternoon to give a whole new meaning to "fighting on the beaches". At the same time a largely responsible public, grown accustomed to continental café culture, failed to understand why it was unlawful to buy a pint of beer in a licensed public house on a hot summer's afternoon.  The change to permit afternoon drinking was made, with the backing of police and local authorities, with good reason and to good effect.

What is now imminent is very different. ""24-hour" drinking is likely to exacerbate the difficulties experienced by those responsible for law enforcement and already arising from late-night alcohol abuse.

My constabulary boss, The Chief Constable of the British Transport Police (and a former senior Kent copper) has already indicated concern at likely problems and violence on late and overnight trains. He can sadly only be proved right.  The greatest weapon in the policeman's armoury is not the baton, the cuffs or CS spray but sweet reason. Drunks do not, by their nature, respond to reason and we will almost certainly see a considerable increase in an already rising violent crime figure.

This Government Act is likely to end in tears:  governments are never good at admitting mistakes but if the worst predictions are realised then I only hope that we will be swiftly given the chance, however difficult, to re-impose the controls that many if not most have regarded as sensible.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Another One Bites the Dust

A stunning start to Bank Holiday Monday, marred a little by what looks like the the death of another park bench. A small event in the great scheme of things but at the present rate of attrition, there won't be many, if any left around here soon I suspect.

Chatting with our local pub landlord, what seems to be happening, is that thanks to 24-hour alcohol sales, the kids are buying booze, beer and vodka from the town - you can tell from the cans and broken glass on the promenade below the cliffs - and are partying in the evenings at the "round top" above the St Mildred's Bay car park. Looks as if they tried to chuck a bench onto the promenade as well but missed!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

No Shortage of Good Ideas

Please complete and ask others to complete our quick Turner Contemporary Poll.

NB please only answer the question once. It saves me having to strip out multiple attempts from single IP addressess. I'll publish the results for you at the end of the week.

It will soon be time for me to write my second Thanet Gazette column and having had a number of comments back from readers on more imaginative, if not realistic ways of spending the £25 million set aside for the Turner Contemporary, I thought I might explore some of these suggestions a little further.

If there’s a single benefit to having a website over a newspaper or even radio, it’s the ability to comment, criticise and suggest and from what I can see, there’s no shortage of good ideas out there.

It strikes me that for reasons I haven’t got to grips with yet, Thanet appears to be in the hands of the developers, as in building new housing and grand shops. We may need both in moderation but we also need attractions that will encourage people and preferably families, to jump in a car, a train or an airplane and spend their money here.

For this to happen successfully, then we have to play a real world equivalent of the popular PC game SimCity and build an infrastructure and investment economy that really supports tourism, up to and including having our tourist offices open during the summer.

Easy to say of course and many people are working hard to achieve the same goal but not that easy to deliver on in an area of high deprivation and only moderate infrastructure.

So, if you want to add your own suggestions to the pot, then add them as a comment. I’ll distil these and build them into to my next column, giving the impression, at least, that we live in a healthy local democracy.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Detling Military Odyssey - 2005

I sometimes wonder if school history projects are set to test the knowledge of the student or the initiative of the parents?

Military History Show - Aug2005 - 21

Anyway, with a Second World War history project to complete in the next week, I took my daughter Charlotte, along to the 2005 Military Odyssey at Detling today and all her photos can be found here. It's pretty good value if you happen to be interested in history or simply fancy buying an army surplus tank or an SS officer's uniform to surprise your wife with when you get back home.

Mind you, with the A299 closed both ways this afternoon at Hoath/Reculver, you might need one. Absolute chaos ensued as our young Kent policemen, lost for any sign of initiative, directed the traffic off towards the villages between here and Canterbury, on roads which weren't large enough to accommodate two way traffic, caravans and trucks. Another big smash happened in Hoath as a result and I had to work my way very slowly towards Sturry and home. At least I had a vague idea of where I was going. God help everyone else jammed up in the country lanes between here and Herne Bay they may still be there now.

Bank Holiday Welcome

The best we can do at Westgate at 10am this morning. The bins are overflowing and rubbish is all over the place. What a welcome for visitors to the seafront car park!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Ice Breaker

When I was a boy at the Charles Dickens School, the pool was wide open to the elements and that meant the ordeal of swimming in PE lessons twice a week during the summer term, regardless, of weather, an aversion to cold water or simply not being able to swim. In those days and without Playstations and the Disney Channel, we weren't as clever as kids today and it was possible to fail ''O' and A Levels'. It's true, I did and we used to have PE or games on the timetable everyday without the risk of violating our human rights.

Charles Dickens School

Being in a pool was an improvement from being made to swim in the sea in April at my Westgate junior school, where if they happened to lose the occasional struggling ten year old in the surf, it was just unfortunate and the rest of us would divide up the contents of his pencil case back in the classroom.

I used to think back to this with a smile during an equally wet Commando training course at Lympstone, which also involves large amounts of cold water mixed liberally with mud and lots of climbing and running thrown in for good measure.

Meanwhile, the old school appears to be expanding at the same rate as Westwood Cross and at the present rate, Dane Court, Charles Dickens and Upton Primary will merge into a single building in a decade or at least it looks that way from the air!

Seven Pillars of Wisdom

"All men dream: but not equally, Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible."

T.E Lawrence of course, who leading the Arab revolt, finally reached Damascus in 1917. It may take me a little longer, pictured this morning with the Syrian Ambassador, Dr Khiyami in London.

Of course, the Ambassador isn't familiar with Margate but now we have plans for a Turner Contemporary, I'm sure that will change!

I just had a word with Rebecca, the Thanet Gazette's editor and asked, in view of the useful reader feedback on my first column, whether I can retreat to my more informal and irreverent weblog style than the "Sermon on the Mount" in today's Gazette.

Sami Khiyami - Simon Moores - 1

"Try it", she said, "I can only say no. But it's got to be about business, " she quickly added.

London this morning appeared almost deserted in contrast with the other 364 days of the year. I reached the Syrian Embassy in Belgravia on my motorcycle in just over 90 minutes. Sticking rigidly to the speed limit all the way of course!

Negotiating my way through Tower Hamlets, I was reminded of an accident I witnessed a couple of years ago. The police asked what happened and received the reply that the young man who caused it had been "Driving in a wild and ethnic manner." This prompted a funny look and then a grin. "I know exactly what you mean said the young police officer!

A final thought. If you've never read Seven Pillars of Wisdom then perhaps in the present middle-eastern political climate, it's worth reading to understand how the unholy mess all started. See Seven Pillars.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Manston Back in Action – Purchased by Infratil

I had been told that the news of a new Manston owner was “imminent” but couldn’t come out with it earlier in the week.

The BBC is reporting that Manston, Kent International airport, has been bought for £17m by Infratil, an existing airport operator, with completion due tomorrow.

The purchase is believed to fit in with Infratil's existing European airport business with at Glasgow Prestwick, and would be managed by the company's European team.

The BBC report has the company's Europe chief executive Steven Fitzgerald, saying that the first services to be reinstated would be freight operations while passenger operations would take longer.

Infratil chairman, David Newman said:

"Infratil is pleased to have bought Kent International Airport. While the Airport has, for a short period, been in administration following the failure of Planestation PLC, we believe that it has strong prospects as a freight airport servicing the south of England. It is also well situated to provide regional airline passenger services to Kent and the eastern side of the London conurbation, with 1.9 million people within a 60 minute drive."

Commenting on the news, Thanet South MP (LAB) Steven Ladyman said:

“Infratil are serious airport operators with serious plans. They could be the best news that Kent International has had for many years.”

“I’m stressing to them they must move to restore public confidence in the Airport, protect the jobs of the people who work there and re-engage with the local community in open discussion about issues like night flying and pollution. If they do that then I’m sure they’ll have overwhelming support for their plans.”

North Thanet MP (Cons) Roger Gale added:

"Clearly there will be a great deal of hard work required to re-build the cargo and then the passenger services from Manston. A huge effort will need to be made to re-establish confidence in the airport as a going concern. The new owners - I am seeking an early meeting with the new Chief Executive - already operate Lubeck, Glasgow Prestwick and Wellington, New Zealand and have considerable experience in infrastructure and utility businesses. That has to be a very good starting point.

Naturally the hope must be that as the business grows again many of those who lost jobs with the crash of Planestation will be able to seek fresh employment with the new company."

You can read the full Infratil press release here.
An Interview with Victoria Pomery

Turner Contemporary director, Victoria Pomery, shares her view of the gallery's future as work starts on the project.

Victoria Pomery with Andy Hayward of civil engineers, Nuttall Ltd

MP3 File

Turner Contemporary Update

A Question of Regeneration and Relevance

I’ve been at a press breakfast in Margate this morning, to hear the latest on the progress of the Turner Contemporary. With us this morning was Victoria Pomery, the gallery’s director and Andy Hayward and Peter Bishop from Nuttall Ltd, the civil engineering company that will be starting work on building the project this month.

I’ve attached an audio interview with Victoria, asking her some questions that readers might also ask, given the opportunity."Will Turner prove more popular than Tattoos?" “Will it fall into the sea?” “What kind of art do you get for £25 million and how many people do you expect will visit Margate to see it?”

The interview in Droit House is a little tinny in quality, the building echoes but Victoria is firm in her belief that the Turner Contemporary will put Margate on the map for all the right reasons.

On my side, I’m a little concerned that we won’t have the right kind of infrastructure in place in time to coincide with the gallery’s visitor expectations, i.e, hotels, trains etc but I’m assured these important changes will happen over time if not in time.
French Frigate

Seen anchored off St Mildred's Bay this morning, a Frenchman no less and sight enough to have young Horatio Hornblower racing into action two hundred years ago.

Does anyone know what ship this is?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Road to Damascus

It’s not August, well not as I remember it. Perhaps it’s something to do with the melting Alaskan glaciers and the heat-wave in southern Europe. Anyway, this summer can’t have been a good one for tourism in Thanet, either for those living here, like my friend Dave, who with his family, was marooned in the south of France by the collapse of EUjet or for the tourists I saw huddled on the beach this morning with their raincoats on, while their children splashed around in the sand. An August seaside holiday to remember without doubt!

For me it’s an unusual finish to the week ahead. Tomorrow, I’ve been asked along to a breakfast briefing at The Turner Contemporary, to hear of the latest construction plans and pass the news on. Friday, I’ve got to trek up to town for a meeting with the Syrian Ambassador and I think there’s my first attempt at a column appearing in the Thanet Gazette. I’ll be interested in receiving any feedback. The editor has asked for a serious business stance on Thanet, where I would actually prefer a “Tongue-in-cheek” style of writing, so I’ll give you a chance to vote on the result.

So what’s the connection between Thanet and Damascus? I’m straining to come up with one. Margate now has a mosque but that’s about as far as the similarity goes beyond the shared presence of a Lebanese restaurant and Iraqi refugees on our doorstep. I’m sure I’ll think of something!
Near Miss

Insurance. You can’t fly without it and if you happen to be a successful flying-club perched on the edge of an international airport, which just happens to go into overnight administration, you’ve got a huge problem.

This is of course exactly what happened in July to TG Aviation and the Thanet Flying Club, which lives at the eastern end of the grandly named “Kent International Airport” at Manston. When PlaneStation, the airport owners and operators of budget airline EUjet were refused an extension of their overdraft and a further £20 million loan by the bank, airport operations ceased in the space of a single day, stranding thousands of passengers across Europe.

While the media were focusing on the human tragedy of lost jobs and marooned passengers, they small matter of the airport insurance passed them by.

Mark Girdler

Mark Girdler, TG’s Managing Director comments: “The administrators were appointed the afternoon of the same day and came to see me, to tell me that they had a little problem with the insurance and that none of our aircraft could land! Within about twenty minutes, they managed to sort it and the insurance was still in place but the premiums hadn’t been paid and the administrators could not offer the bank any reason why it should pay the insurance, which was about £340,000. The flying insurance would only remain in place until the end of the week but the airfield buildings insurance had also lapsed. To cut a long story short, we had to cease flying immediately and didn’t fly again for two weeks.”

TG finally managed to get the aviation arm of the insurer to talk to the buildings division and to find cover but only if it paid a year’s premium in advance for its own airfield operators insurance, which was not inconsiderable.

Girdler is hoping that any new airport owner will merge in TG’s insurance with their own but with twenty-seven aircraft based at the flying club and no movements permitted for two weeks; it was a very “frustrating” time. “One of the most amazing things “says Girdler “is the amount of understanding and support we had from everybody. Many of the private owners had their annuals bought forward and strangely enough, because of all the publicity we received, we’re a lot busier now as a consequence and have diversified, with maintenance becoming an important part of the business.

Manston still has a future in Girdler’s opinion. EUjet, he believes, attempted to lay on too many routes too quickly, “placing all of its eggs in one basket”, and then suffered from the unusually bad winter conditions that settled over Kent in January. With the right infrastructure and investment, the airport could be a success if it has “Lots of different income streams, because the business proposition for commercial flights, to popular destinations like Spain and Edinburgh, still exists.”

For TG Aviation, it’s now business as usual, with its bright red Stearman biplane, noisily confirming that Manston is flying, with a limited service now available from Air Traffic Control. What may be unusual about TG’s experience is that at a place where there’s frequently vocal and organised opposition to the presence of an airport, it was the support of the local community that helped the business pull through, which might hold a lesson for other embattled airfields across the UK.

Thanet Life
More Photos

More old photos of Thanet waiting for me this morning. This time thanks to Paul Nettleingham of The Sleep Centre Bed Superstore who has sent in some photos of the Townley Castle in Ramsgate.

These are now in the collection at:

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Travelling Man

Apparently, we now have "Travellers" gathering at the Westbrook car park, so local residents please be aware of the potential implications. The council and police are acting as quickly as their powers allow in the circumstances.

Thanet Life

Old Photos - Generous Reader


Responding generously to my earlier request for old photos of Thanet that readers might wish to share with others - so they aren't lost forever - Mike, from Fast Micros in Westbrook, has given me a CD with his collection of early local photographs. These I have now uploaded to the photo library where you can see them, watch a slideshow and share them at:

Thanks again Mike, a nice gesture and much appreciated!

Times Have Changed

Broadstairs harbour in 1938 - Spot the difference?

A Local Erection

Westgate resident, Ann Finch writes:

"Did you know that a mobile phone mast is to-day being erected at the corner of Westbury Road and St Mildreds Road?. Despite being an eyesore, it is so near St Saviours school, child nurseries at Station Road, Cuthbert Road, Christchurch Hall, and almost outside the door of a family social club (10 yards from their door).

Hundreds of school-children pass twice a day to local schools. And of course it is being erected in school holiday time to keep it low profile. "

"How much in fees, I wonder, is being paid to the Council, the average I am informed being £8,000. Many people did not know of this erection until to-day, I understand the council only notified a few people in the immediate area. What an eyesore right in the village, on the bridge."

What do you think?
The Invisible Man

I bumped into our Thanet South MP, Dr Steve Ladyman on Sunday in Broadstairs and immediately button-holed him, suggesting that he make an occasional contribution to the website from time to time.

For the residents of Ramsgate and Thanet South, I can confirm that he exists and is not a figment of your political imagination or mine.

Thanet Life

Monday, August 22, 2005

Those Were the Days

I bought this photo at the Thanet Lions Fete yesterday but there were many more I couldn't afford to buy to share with you all.

Margate seafront in the early 1900s

This one and others like it, are in the old photo library. You'll find a link on the sidebar and you can download them for free. A number I have "touched-up" and so they are in better condition than they were found in. If you have old photos and postcards of Thanet that you would like to share with others, then please send them along to me.

More Photos Up Today

Hartsdown School 22805 - 1
Originally uploaded by

As promised, latest photos of Margate's new football ground and other well-known sights. Hartsdown School in the photo here and Margate QEQM hospital among them. Download them free at

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Big Fire Burning

There's a big fire burning towards Broadstairs this evening, with a huge pall of smoke up to five thousand feet, that now occupies half the Thanet horizon, from a line through the edge of Margate to the south-east. Does anyone know what this is? I haven't seen the like since the Endcliffe Hotel went up in flames earlier in the year.
August in Thanet

A glorious sunny finish to a dismally grey day in Thanet but a great success for the Thanet Lions Club summer fete on the seafront at Broadstairs today, which raised a significant amount for charity. A fantastic effort made by everyone involved, having started work at 7am this morning setting up all the stalls. Well done.

The photo, taken with my digital camera shows the Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Broadstairs opening the fete.

Meanwhile, over at Hartsdown Park, there was a "Commit to get Fit" afternoon, also with sideshows and displays and below, you can see a photo of members of the Thanet Iaido club, who gave an impressive display of genuine Japanese swordsmanship, with razor-sharp blades, that would have shamed Tom Cruise!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A Cramped Existence

An interesting statistic for you:

In the twenty years between 1982 and 2002 the population of Thanet grew by 4.4 per cent, compared with an increase of 10.5 per cent for South East region as a whole. Population density of Thanet averaged 1,236 people per square kilometre, compared with an average of 421, for the region and 380 people per square kilometre for England overall.

So let's go and build thousands of new houses, says the South East Regional Authority, in an area already defined as being overcrowded!

Thanet Life
Water Restored After Pump Failure

The BBC Reports that water supplies have been restored to three Kent towns affected by a pump failure on Saturday morning.

Broadstairs, Margate and Ramsgate were all affected and Southern Water was originally unsure if anyone had water or if only some homes were hit.

The water company said a pump stopped working at a booster station in Broadstairs and an engineer managed to restore supplies within two hours.

It said the water problems coincided with a power cut in the area.

Thanet Life

Friday, August 19, 2005

Margate Footie Reminder

Reader James Maskell writes:

"Hope you could please mention that Margate FC are playing their first proper home match in three years at Hartsdown Park tomorrow at 3pm against Maldon Town.

Before the new pitch was laid at Hartsdown

Its been confirmed that Cllr Ezekiel will be there along with the ward Councillors and the Mayor. This should be a great occasion. Ill definitely be there cheering on the Gate and I hope the readers will also.

The stadium is looking great, just ironing out the final preparations. The fans are really looking forward to this game."

Ed: If the weather improves I might try and come over the top of the game and take some photos.

Thanet Life

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Thanet Lions Summer Fete

Victoria Lawns Broadstairs Sunday 21st August 2005

A fun day full of attractions for all the family.

- Side shows and Games
- Childrens Train Rides
- Bouncy Castles.
- Childrens fun races at 11.30 and 1.30
- Baby show at 2.15
- Cakes, BBQ & Refreshments
- Candy Floss and sweets
- Many other stalls

The Summer Fete is being opened by the Mayor of Broadstairs, with ribbon cutting at 10am.

Come along and join in the fun. I'll be there to help so say "Hello" if you see me!

Postcode Searches Can Lead to "Virtual Segregation"

The proliferation of websites providing house buyers with information on good and bad neighbourhoods could widen the divide between the richest and poorest places in the UK, according to new research.

The report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation warns that internet-based neighbourhood information systems (Ibnis) could lead to "online marginalisation" and "virtual segregation" of deprived areas of the country - See Silicon.Com

Type in the postcode of Thanet Council's offices in Margate into the government's own neighbourhood statistics database and the result is pretty depressing in terms of the comparative deprivation index

In the employment category, "In Thanet 24.16 per cent of unemployed people were aged 50 or over, 8.27 per cent had never worked and 38.27 per cent were long-term unemployed."

Type in your own postcode here and see if the results are any better?

For other UK IBNIS services see:

Upmystreet - Gives useful local crime statistics too.
Scorecard - Offers useful environmental information.
Homecheck - Everything from flood risk to crime.
CheckmyFile - Lots of useful information on your postcode

Thanet Life

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Regular reader Tom writes:

"Amazingly, in the middle of the urban dereliction a lovely grapevine is thriving in Dalby Square Cliftonville. And yes, there are many small grapes on it!

The Hotel which is under it also flies the Union Flag - but it seems to be flying upside down, maybe a signal of the distress the area is in at the moment?"

Lest We Forget

Nobody appears to have told the Manchester taxi drivers that EUjet is no more. Lots of them, like the example snapped here with my camera phone are still sporting the EUjet colours.

I'm afraid the only way to fly directly to Kent from Manchester is with me these days. I wonder if they expect to be paid for the advertising?
Water Gala - Even Water Park Perhaps?

While everyone else may have been making the most of the sudden good weather to visit the Broadstairs Water Gala, I found myself on the beach at Le Touquet instead.

Le Touquet Beach

Given the many hundreds of adults and children at the Aqualud water park, I wonder why we can't build something similar in Thanet, on the Dreamland site perhaps? I'm sure it would be a huge success and attract visitors from miles around if someone were to invest in the idea.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


How a wet and windy August day in Thanet, connects an airline tragedy outside Athens is a stretch of the imagination but some readers may have caught me covering the disaster on Sky News today.

We filmed the report from here as I wasn't prepared to drive up to Sky Centre and so they obligingly sent a satellite broadcast truck out to Thanet, with a little help from the GPS. "Where's Thanet", said Fiona on the Foreign desk at Sky.

"Well, "I replied, "it's not quite as far away from London as Athens but at times, given the regularity and reliability of our trains, it feels that way."

Tomorrow, I'm flying-up to Manchester for a security event I'm speaking at on Tuesday morning, so I've put up enough on the site to keep visitors busy until I'm back."

Perhaps you can do me a favour to help build our traffic even further, as I receive regular emails from people telling me how useful the site is but they only found it by accident or by referral. Can you tell three friends, that it exists. The more traffic that comes this way, the more some of the stories and local issues get noticed by the right people and every little helps. And if you have told your friends already, then many thanks!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Dog of the Day

Westgate Labrador, Henry, attempts to work out how to recover his tennis ball from an inflatable garden swimming pool.

His solution is to lean on the side of the pool, so that the water escapes and the ball flows his way. Not completely silly then but then he's barking mad most of the time.
Margate Fiesta

Lots happening today along the seafront at Margate, as it closed to traffic for its August, "Fiesta". I had forgotten about it until I saw the parachutists "dropping-in" this morning.

Among the attractions are a funfair along Marine Parade, BMX "Xtreme" biking a high-diving exhibition - not for the faint-hearted, music, food, drinks and all-round family fun by the look of it. Well organised with a strong policing and warden presence to make sure that it really is a good day out for all.

Along the beach, so many coaches have arrived from south London today that you might be forgiven for thinking that the sands were in some distant African or West Indian playground.
Harold Road Problems in Photos
More Bins Needed Please TDC

One of our readers, "thanetvoter" writes:

"Whilst waiting in Dalby Square this morning I took a couple of pix - one a lady who did not speak English but was dumping her black sack of rubbish in the park area in the middle of the Square.

Karl, our friendly street cleaner, is under pressure to get round as fast as he can to clean up his round.

He cleans up Dalby Square every day, its a never ending task and one he says he could do without as he has plenty of other cleaning up to do and not enough time in a working day to do it all.

While I was there Karl made a big difference to the square, removing loads of illegally dumped rubbish and sweeping up afterwards as well.

What we need there is one or two of those big Paladin bins - emptied frequently it should save money as the rubbish would be contained and would not need sweeping up. This square is unsuitable for individual wheelie bins as some of the properties don't have storage space for them.

There's plenty of room in Dalby Square for these big bins, come on TDC - give us some bins!"

Another topic - Disabled parking bay in Harold Road - not only do non-qualifying cars regularly fill the space seemilngly without any parking tickets but for the last few months there have been the same bulkbags of sand in the bay as well.
TG Aviation Flying Again
Private aircraft up again from Manston

Good news today is that Thanet Flying Club and TG Aviation at Manston airport have the insurance they need to fly, since being grounded by the EUjet collapse.

TG Aviation Managing Director, Mark Girdler comments:

"I'm delighted that we're back flying again, as are all our staff and members of the Thanet Flying Club. It's been a difficult couple of weeks but we are back and hope that the airport will also be back on its feet soon."

Manston tower ATC is also back on frequency, for local traffic only on 119.925.
Broadstairs Churches

St Peter's church in Broadstairs looks almost lost beside the edge of the road in this photo from last week.

Below, this is, I believe, the Catholic church of Our Lady, opposite Upton school.

Higher resolution versions are available for download free at

Friday, August 12, 2005

Surprise Encounter

A bit of a shock as I cycled along the path from Minnis Bay to Reculver this evening.

I caught a disturbance in the water and looked, to be surprised by the large grey seal in the photo below. Now I've never seen one so close to the shore before. I've seen them sunning themselves on the sandbars offshore from my aircraft but catching one fishing for his dinner was a rare privilege and as I watched, he came up with a large red crab, which he proceeded to munch in front of me before disappearing once again below the surface.

Save Our Hedges
Large Number Attend Meeting in Westgate.

Paul Verral and Cllr Cohen

A recording of the meeting of local residents at Sea Road in Westgate this afternoon to discuss the plan to cut down the hedging along the seafront with council parks manager, Paul Verral.

I guessed that just under a hundred local residents were present but if you listen to the recording, you'll be able to establish what's true and what's not and put the rumours back in the box where they belong!

I've edited the recording to keep to the point of the meeting and have removed the many interruptions.

MP3 File
Sex Offenders in Thanet

I’ve just had my reply back from Kent Police under the Freedom of Information Act and under sections 31, 38 and 40 of the act, they are unprepared to reveal anything more than the information that there are “780 Registered Sex Offenders in the Kent Police Area”, “We will not disclose where they reside or their particular proximity to your address.”

The officer concerned with my enquiry adds:

“Having weighed-up the argument, I feel the balance lies in withholding this information as it is my belief that public disorder would ensue if the information were released. This outweighs the balance of public awareness.”

Let’s read between the lines then. We know that there is the better part of a thousand Registered Sex Offenders in Kent and we understand, that there is a tacit policy, by social services of moving them to areas like Thanet and other seaside locations, frequently placing them alongside childrens' homes. The officer is implying that if I were to even know how many lived in close “proximity” to my address, even without supplying their details, then "public disorder might be the consequence."

Ipso facto, I would suggest that every parent in Thanet has something to be gravely concerned about as there may well be rather more sex offenders living in our community than we might have reasonably suspected or indeed are prepared to tolerate in an area with a rapidly growing juvenile population.

Thanet Life

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Vox Pop

I've been over in France today, hence this is a short and rather late entry. The Thanet Gazette has asked if I would like to write a column, which is nice but then you get rather too much of what I write already I suspect!

I notice that visits to this site have suddenly soared this week and I'm wondering whether its to do with an interest in the new licensing regulations or the hedges protest in Westgate?

Margate High Street entrance from above

My own sources tell me that regardless of local democratic protests, licenses under the new regime will be granted to pubs, because this is what the government wants. It's up to the publicans to "Keep their house in order" because if they don't, the new regulations make it much easier to strip them of their license if they become a source of nuisance. My advice then to anyone with a noisy pub as a neighbour is to log and complain to the council environmental health and or police any time that anti-social behaviour occurs. This will force them to keep a record of incidents and after 27th November it could be enough to strip any pub or licensed premises of their license. As a result, the landlords will be highly motivated to maintain order if they have any commercial sense.

Hedges are a different matter. As reader Tony Carpenter writes:

"Also where will the birds nest, the hedgehogs too?

It's too easy to uproot and it's not very difficult to maintain.

There are benches to sit on aplenty for a sea view - but the hedges offer protection against the wind - one can find a cosy spot which I think was part of the original plan.

The amenity should be enhanced by caring - it always used to be done."

Tony's right and if the emails sent to me are any measure of public opinion, then pulling-up the hedges along Sea Road in Westgate is a very bad and unpopular idea.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Don't Cut our Hedges

There is to be a gathering, led by the Westgate Residents Association, at 12:30pm on Friday afternoon at the Westgate War Memorial Sea Road to protest against the removal of the green hedging which the council feels it is no longer able to maintain.

St Mildred's Bay - Westgate 1918

The hedges have been a part of the landscape for a hundred years and many residents feel they should remain undisturbed for another century. Do you? If so, it's time to take action.

Thanet Life
To Boldly Go - Galactic Ideas for Manston Airport

On Meridian News tonight, a 'serious' plan to turn Manston into a UK version of space camp and perhaps, it's suggested, use the runway for Richard Branson's 'Virgin Galactica' venture, flights into space one day in the not too distant future.

Businessman Alan Cornwell, is discussing his idea at a preliminary meeting with Thanet council's economic development unit. Mr Cornwell said building a space centre at Manston could cost about £20m.

Not on my community charge you're not. A few more down to earth ideas might be a little more welcome.
Very Silly Indeed

Apparently how we look here in Thanet, after the BBC and ITV both did stories on Mr Punch being forbidden to slap Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein in his Broadstairs beachfront show.

Apparently Al Qaeda objected to the puppet act as a violation of the characters human rights and the comedy police then descended on Broadstairs beach to put an end to the fun.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Nobody Home

Manston airport terminal building looking sad and deserted with no EUjet and nothing moving on the ground or in the air either.

Lots More Photos of Thanet

09-08-2005 14-23-04_0018

As promised, lots more photos of Thanet from the air. With Manston still not flying, I had the chance to take photos of places which are normally quite difficult to access. Today I've added more shots of Birchington, Broadstairs, Westwood and Margate, as well as the Marlowe Academy "donut", the Charles Dickens School and other construction work around Thanet. In addition, there are now photos of Westgate and Birchington high streets.

All available for download free at

Time Gentlemen Please!

“Democracy”, said the ancient Greek general, Alcibiades, “is acknowledged folly” but then he never attended a pub license appeal hearing as far as I know.

Today, I attended such an appeal, under the new licensing regulations. The Nottingham Castle pub in Westgate had applied for a 7am to 3am license and local residents were united in their resolve, given its history, to object to such a license for a number of reasons involving anti-social behaviour, general nuisance and noise.

Fifty-eight letters of objection has been sent to the council and a dozen or more residents were present at the meeting. Also present were Thanet police to object and a proxy for environmental health to also file an objection against the pub’s application.

Arguments were presented to the councillors by all sides and the principal objections raised by residents and the police surrounded concerns involving anti-social behaviour, noise, public disorder and vandalism.

The pub argued that it had made a considerable investment in improving the premises and making it into a family pub and that it made every effort to ensure that its clients left the premises quietly.

The residents however insisted that anti-social behaviour remained, as far back as last weekend, with a reported fight in Beach road and the police requested that doormen be present at the pub if the license were to be granted. The police, when questioned, did not deny that 999 calls might not be given immediate attention, given their available resources and commitments elsewhere in Thanet.

The councillors dismissed the people present and deliberated for just under one hour, a record apparently, before giving their verdict. Without going into each item, i.e. outside music to be limited to 9pm, the license was granted between 7am and 2am, knocking an hour off the original application.

The result came as a surprise to all the residents, given the number of objections presented, the support of the police and what those present believed to be the principles of democratic practise and accountability, particularly given the Prime Minister’s recent stand on drinking and anti-social behaviour in the community.

Read The Times report on Judges opposition to extended licensing.

Thanet Life

You'll see the BBC side bar story: "Police step up mini bike campaign"

Police now have the power to seize and destroy mini bikes and owners have been told by police they are no longer taking a lenient approach to those who are caught breaking the law.

I've just had a word with Kent police, pointing out where the mini-bike and scooter racing takes place on the promenade between St Mildred's and Westbay in the evenings and the fact it's been mentioned, with photos, two weeks back. "Have a look", I suggested, "it may save you some effort."

Thanet Life
It All Costs Money

I've been reading some of last week's comments about local services and some are pretty scathing. I've been doing some digging of my own recently and have met with the council Chief Executive and several local councillors over the last fortnight. I've even been allowed to read some of the plans and financial documents in confidence.

Now if you believe that I'm objective and hope you do, then I can tell you that a great many people are working very hard to make our lives better in Thanet without having to raise the community charge and within the financial resources available.

This demands some creative juggling or different priorities with the money that's at hand but perhaps more importantly, an understanding that customer service has to be at the very front of the relationship between local government and its citizens.

I could write for hours about this because good government or advising governments on developing good governance is what I do and inviting me in for a chat to the management team on what I think are our local problems is a positive step. In the background however, much of the work has already started and if I'm honest with my readers, I'd say that councillors and council senior executives know very well where the improvements and changes have to be made but have to educate or convince, as expressed by Richard Samuel in my earlier interview, the people who actually deliver your services to do this in a joined-up and cost-efficient manner; with a huge lump of initiative thrown in as well.

I'm not writing as an apologist for local government, rather I'm saying that a good start has been made in identifying priorities and tackling them, rubbish and making Thanet look nice being one example. The people who read this weblog invariably value the changes I'm describing but there are many thousands in Thanet who don't share these values and may never appreciate clean streets and parks and neat flower beds. My view then, for what it's worth is that collectively across local government, a real effort is being made and that the results should start to become more visible by April of next year, because of the changes being made to service contracts. Then would be a good time to judge what's been achieved while keeping up the pressure to represent your views and ideas to local councillors and even this website.

Thanet Life

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Woodchurch Wings 2005

I'm just in from the Woodchurch Airshow - photos here - and on the way home I'm reminded, that with Manston closed, there's one huge photo opportunity across the area which was very tricky to get into when the airport was working, so expect some new photos of sites like the new Marlowe Academy, Manston, Ramsgate and so on very soon!

Thanet Life

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Wish I Was There

Akin Ojumu writes of his Margate experience in the eighties and compares it with the Thanet of Today in the Observer newspaper.

"I left with mixed feelings. In many ways it was wonderful to come back, almost like revisiting my home town, although seeing Margate in the flesh was an antidote to my nostalgia. I longed to have the same response to the place that I once had, but as I walked along the clifftop back towards the train station, thinking about old friends and memorable moments, I realised that had perhaps been away too long."

Read the full story.
Coming to St Mildred's Bay
Object now to more high-rise concrete in a conservation area

I has an email this evening from a local resident of Westgate who asked:

"Do you know of the planning permission applied for on Seatower, at the bottom of Sussex Gardens it is a lovely old historic building facing the sea, and permission has been applied for demolition and flats to be errected, I understood from the previous owner it was uniquely built (under the now rendering) it has most unusual formation of being built in herring bone shaped brickwork And was built by a famous sailor, I do not know the full facts, but it seems such shame to demolish the building."

Curious, I walked along the seafront to have a look, you see, I used to play there as a child and went to school with the little girl who once lived there.

Right next-door to an English Heritage-listed folly, Seatower has a very large garden and is right on the beach front, as you can see in the picture. I had a word with some of the neighbours and asked if the planning permission worries them. The answer is a resounding "Yes" and as one chap pointed-out, "This is supposed to be a conservation area but you wouldn't think so, as efforts are made to build high-rise flats on every available piece of space, look at the five story monstrosity that was built right behind the beach." (The site of the old "Millies" disco, another Thanet "Swan Vestas" job if I recall)

Let's be frank, local residents are unlikely to want another block of flats on the seafront at St Mildred's Bay. We have enough of them already and so will any interested local councillors reading this entry, please explore the matter further.

If you wish to object to any planning permission, then please use the link on the sidebar to locate and email your local councillor and perhaps add a few comments of yor own against the story.
Good Citizen

Some comments coming-in, not surprisingly on the subject of citizenship and what it means to a society and what it should mean in our own country.

Until recently, it held the legacy of the Roman Empire, "Civis Romanus Sum" and the flavour of gunboat diplomacy, when a British Prime Minister would send a gunboat or the entire navy in support of a threatened British citizen. But that was the 19th century and not the 21st.

I notice from the site log, that both the Sun and the Mirror newspapers have been reading the earlier article on Mr Punch at Broadstairs beach, so please let me know if anything appears in print. Obviously, some media nerve has been touched with the story.

There is however a hard reality that the Prime Minister can't escape, first revealed, I think, by a Guardian or Observer feature in 2001 on the changing face of Britain. Like it or not we will be a predominantly Muslim nation, by 2060 if I remember correctly, as will much of Europe, with some countries, like France showing a 10% per annum population growth in that one group. This is a demographic and pressing social issue that politicians across Europe are quite unable to come to grips with, the inevitability of change driven by mass immigration and loyalties that often sit uncomfortably with the opinions and beliefs of European secular society.

Lawrence Walker of the New Yorker Magazine writes:

"Muslim immigration is transforming all of Europe. Nearly twenty million people in the European Union identify themselves as Muslim. This population is disproportionately young, male, and unemployed. The societies these men have left are typically poor, religious, conservative, and dictatorial; the ones they enter are rich, secular, liberal, and free. For many, the exchange is invigorating, but for others Europe becomes a prison of alienation. A Muslim’s experience of immigration can be explained in part by how he views his adopted homeland. Islamic thought broadly divides civilization into dar al-Islam, the land of the believers, and dar al-Kufr, the land of impiety. France, for instance, is a secular country, largely Catholic, but it is now home to five million Muslims. Should it therefore be considered part of the Islamic world? This question is central to the debate about whether Muslims in Europe can integrate into their new communities or must stand apart from them. If France can be considered part of dar al-Islam, then Muslims can form alliances and participate in politics, they should have the right to institute Islamic law, and they can send their children to French schools. If it is a part of dar al-Kufr, then strict Muslims must not only keep their distance; they must fight against their adopted country."

Thanet Life

Friday, August 05, 2005

Well Done on the Flowers

The council has very obviously put some effort into making the clifftop flower gardens between St Mildred's Bay and Westbay, look as neat and colourful as they used to look in the old postcards of the area from the seventies. Well done.. was it spontaneous attention to making Thanet look nice or something we said?! I must go and have a look at the Sunken Gardens in Westbrook and see if anything has changed there as well.

One small problem, as seen in the photo below, is that some elements of the population are quite happy to trample, litter and destroy the efforts of others to make this a nicer environment to live in. It's very sad.

Ed: I met up with Cllr Martin Wise this morning for breakfast and he explained, in some detail the work and investment that the environmental action programme is putting into improving the area as much as possible with the budget at their disposal. If you see things that can be improved, please let him and the council know.