Friday, March 17, 2006

Democracy - What's That Then?

The Two Chimneys story has, without doubt, turned into the biggest single issue we’ve seen so far on this site.

Last night another reader shared some correspondence with the Council that you will see on the comment thread and a remark by one of our local councillors in correspondence strikes me as representative of how well-served the people of Thanet are by their politicians and public officials at times.

“Your complaint has been recorded and is considered low priority but will receive attention. The work load on our two enforcement officers is burdensome.”

It also occurs to me from reading the letters that the development questions we have raised in the story concerning both Two Chimneys and the field between Birchington and Westgate illustrates a breath-taking level of ineptitude in terms of oversight and the following of both policy and processes in regard to development.

From an observer’s point of view, it appears that development can and does happen regardless of so-called “Thanet Plans” if the developer involved is big enough and can ride “roughshod” over an army of “two” enforcement officers. From the sound of it with the Two Chimneys expansion, the Planning Department of the Council don’t actually know what’s going on until it’s far too late to act, leaving the local community with a “Fait Accompli.”

Such examples reinforce the generally helpless feeling of communities around the country, told that they live in a democracy, when quite clearly what they see as the important local decisions surrounding their lives are controlled by an army of unaccountable, overworked and frequently inept public servants.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

anon again!
I would pass comment, only it would fall on deaf ears, like EVERYTHING else the Local Residents complain about to this SCANDAL ridden TD Council.
Have them ALL arrested for MIS-representation! No, that would be too easy... vote them OFF in the next elections, is the only real answer.
When will they learn that corruption/perverse/and running a Country,(even this little corner of it) DO NOT MIX!
Anyone for a cheap CURRY?

Anonymous said...

This matter has shown how important it is for the public to have a live forum for views, something which has been sadly lacking for years. The Council needs to wake up to the fact that there is a public out here, we're not all totally stupid, and we're fed up with paying for a third rate service.

Cyril Hosier said...

Nonsense! I think the council are doing a splendid job.

MR 'X' said...

The community of Hoath had a similar problem with a local farmers airstrip.
But with 25% of local residents sticking together to protect their rural environment, they managed to get the LPA to uphold the relevant local plan & government guidelines.
So stick together to achieve your democratic right to be heard.

Anonymous said...

The 11am poster posing as Cyril Hosier - makes me laugh - but if it is really Cyril, one of our ex politicians, you haven't got a few of those dodgy US dollars left which you printed up have you mate, I'm off to Florida for a few weeks.
By the way, how long was your sentence, it was a few years ago now and I've forgotten.

DrMoores said...

I'm not sure that the Hoath example is entirely pertinent in this case and have to chuckle. the very existence of the airstrip there protects the rural environment very nicely.. moles, rabbits and hawks everywhere!

Cyril Hosier said...

Er, actually I thought I was dead. But maybe not.

Now where exactly did I leave all that money?

Anonymous said...

Assistance with local issues, or indeed national issues, requires our elected representatives to do two things. One is get their noses out of the trough and realise that there are things to do other than promote themselves. Secondly, it means the realisation that they REPRESENT us, not think for us.... They seem to think that as our elected reps we are now incapable of rational thought, and that they must think for us, and second guess us! WRONG, you are there because for some daft reason, we thought you would be good for us! Or at least better than whatever rotton lot went before. Bring back communism, at least we knew where we stood. Oh, you did! Okay then, I obey!!

Anonymous said...

Sorry Cyril, Bad News, you ARE dead, as you thought.
However one of your contacts Steven Payne is still around, reputed to be making even more money than you did with your printing press, from his office in Hawley Sq Margate he is running St Nicholas childrens homes ( in Westgate by the railway bridge and other places) for money man Mr John Shaddick.
Is this home responsible for some of the feral children in Westgate? Who knows? who cares? He certainly doesn't!

Anonymous said...

If there is a trough available I haven't found it yet. Spend most of the time on issues like this balancing what people want you to do with what the law and the likely coming appeal process will judge as reasonable actions....which may be a little different from public expectation of your power! That is the reason for necessary democratic engagement ie discussion with those who expect action this day..as to why this day is neither practicable nor legal in many cases. Having said that, there are some relatively expensive council officers whose job is to find a way, a day and a resolution of these scenarios.

Chris Wells

Cllr David Green said...

I promised on another thread to try to get the Two Chimney's application into committee so that all could have their say. Here is the reply from Cllr Hayton, TDC Chair of Planning.

"David,

With respect, you must leave other people to consider what the reputation will be in the wards they represent, and I have not received any indication from any of the three councillors representing that ward. I understand that the officers are dealing with the application and are finding no great problems apart from Highways and they talking to one another.

Regards,

Bill."

DrMoores said...

Thank you for your efforts David.

This is a rather depressing reply and wil sum up, in the opinion of many, exactly what is wrong with local government in Thanet.
I very much doubt that many of our councillors can actually use the internet, let alone read Thanet Life.

Martin Wise (Cllr.) said...

Simon - you do a disservice, which is unjust and unfair, to those ward couuncillors who do take up issues on behalf of their constiituents, and who make a lot of effort to achieve results on their behalf.

Foe example, a sustained campaign by ward councillors to halt and reverse the long term decline of Cliftonville is beginning to deliver dramatic results, which may not yet be very evident in bricks and mortar terms, but is certainly hurting developers who have been used to making a quick buck in this area. Their tactic has been to buy up large properties in West Cliftonville, and then do a cheap and cheerful conversion to one bedroom flats or bedsits, for occupation by those who are "not economicaly active" from all over the south of England and probably beyond, at local authority expense. This practice is being made more difficult, thanks to the work of many councillors and will help change the face of Cliftonville in time. Also, in the past 8 months, the Planning Committee have refused applications for the demolition of 2 fine properties of character in East Cliftonville, where the developers wished to replace them with blocks of flats. These results have been achieved by a painstaking process of presenting facts and other argument to win the hearts and minds of officers and members of the Planning Committee over a long period of time, using all the rules and procedures that are there to be used or overcome. One of the most important things in Planning is to understand that developers have rights too - whether we like it or not. Again in Cliftonville East, there is a major issue brewing over development within a conservation area that must be addressed, and the ward councillors are on the case.

I have previously suggested to you, for similar Westgate issues, that you take up the challenge to find a way of achieving the result you want for that Ward. Not only have you apparently chosen not to take up that challenge, for Birchington you have continued to use the only tool you appear to have in your armoury i.e. throw crap at the Council, and encourage others to do the same. I assume that you do not possess any other skills, or you would have used them by now. I have even suggested that if you need advice you should ask those who might be able to help you, but you have never called.

I would have thought that as a management consultant you would understand that the last thing you should do is antagonise the people from whom you are trying to get a result. Whatever your personal feelings, whatever the rights or wrongs of the Planning officer and senior member position (if there are any at this time), there are ways and means to push this forward which will achieve want you want. Simply expecting the whole process of the Council to revolve around the whims of your blog site is more than a little arrogant, and massively naive.

Until I see a little more cunning and intellect used to achieve your goals, I will continue to believe that "Those you can do - those who can't, blog".

Have a nice day!

DrMoores said...

Martin

I'm delighted to hear of the progress being made in Cliftonville for which you have my full support. I would add that I have offered my assistance to the council and people of Thanet on several occasions, even for free, as you well know and have yet to receive the courtesy of a reply. As a result, I carry on with the "day job", occasionally advising national governments and think out loud on the ThanetLife Weblog.

What strikes me though is that regardless of my own opinions and impressions, the people who visit, read and contribute to the discussions on this website have a poor opinion of our local government and local political process, regardless of the valiant efforts of dedicated people like yourself. Why is this? Is it poor communication or does it reflect a deeper malaise, a moribund democratic environment in Thanet which is need of surgery?

What I do know is that close to 100,000 visitors to ThanetLife over the last twelve months have opinions to share with our local government, giving them a hearing that is denied to them by their local media and local political channels. Don't shoot the messenger, it's the bigger problem of a loss of confidence in our democratic process our public servants that needs to be addressed.

Regards and best wishes

Simon Moores

Anonymous said...

If Martin Wise believes that its any better for us ordinary family residents here in West Cliftonville he is mistaken.
We have the constant parking problem with TDC having just sold off a car park, every possible bit of Harold Rd/ Albion Road is being built on, and the mess down there is awful with the Environmental Enforcement Officer (Bernie) being on long term sick leave anyone can get away with anything at the moment and TDc don't (can't) do anything about builders and landlords regularly burning domestic and building waste, heaps of festering rubbish full of rodents giving rise to clouds of flies even in this weather.
And then there are the breakins, only yesterday I saw someone arrested in No 18 Harold Rd ( a noted trouble spot) because he was caught ( luckily) in full daylight in the afternoon removing and stealing 4 gas boilers from no 14 and 16.
Nothing and nobody are safe around here.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work Dr M.
From the petulant, patronising and downright rude comment from Cllr Wise you must really be poking at his inferiority complex. When a person in his position stoops to such vitriol and language we can only assume that tha bars of his cage have been well and truly rattled.
In contrast, Dr M is always polite no matter how rude local government officials are to him which speaks volumes.
If Cllr Wise is so efficient why is he SO upset about one man's blog??
Carefull Cllr Wise you're starting to show your true colours AND WE CAN VOTE!!!!

James Maskell said...

Wow, thats pretty suprizing response from Cllr Wise!

I think it needs noting that there are some great Councillors here, who do work really hard to deliver results for their constituents. However there are some who perhaps arent pulling their weight and thats disappointing.

Only this morning, two local residents highlighted particular concerns they had. Their view was that they would have seen the local Councillors, but they doubted they'd either get a response or their concerns properly dealt with. If the Councillors arent worth talking to then what are the residents to do?

Cllr Wises comments arent what I expected from him. Criticising a means of communication with the people of Thanet isnt a very wise thing to do. His comment about throwing "crap" is not a polite term to use in public, nor is it very justified. The comments by Simon and other commenters here are genuinely held and whether or not he agrees with them, his reaction seems inappropriate.

Anonymous said...

Be fair to Cllr Wise.
He probably wrote his tirade while he was so hysterical that editing didn't occur to him. After all, the first rule in public life is "don't publish the first draft", and surely someone with his vast and extensive intellect could have come up with a better way of expressing himself to the People of Thanet.
Or perhaps not.

Anonymous said...

Blimey, what a Captain Mainwaring (Cllr Wise).

Don't take it to heart, Dr M, you're doing a fine job with this site.

Amy Jones, Treeplanter said...

Dr Moores, the Two Chimneys saga as it has now become because of this site has raised some interesting issues.
A friend of mine initially approached S. Birchington Ward Councillors and the response was immediate and positive from them and they have taken the task on to have this matter dealt with by democratically elected members to resolve.
All of those who have picked the story up on this site, including councillors, must realise that this is not a party political issue for Cllrs Wells or Green to chew at each other or to be relegated to a ward issue.

The TWO CHIMNEYS proposed expansion is on prime agricultural land and is on the Central Chalk Plateau (a TDC designated landscape area). TDC has policies restricting development on this site and YET the Planning Officers did not refer it to members. This is the same Planning Office that gave approval in 2001 for the huge expansion to Park Road with a requirement for a bund and the owners to plant both sides and the top of the bund (Quotes on TDC files were almost£15,000 for planting work). Not a single tree or shrub has been planted on this bund in the past 3 years and OUR Planning Officers have failed to enforce this essential requirement.

Because this has not been done, the site is now an intrusive eyesore on all approach roads to it and we have all seen from Dr Moores pictures how huge this site is.

The remaining Chalk Plateau in this part of Thanet is a vital landscape area for all passing to enjoy and to have an unenforced blot on the landscape that could become bigger is an issue for us all and ALL OUR COUNCILLORS.

So please ring up your councillors and bother them. This site has shown how strong feelings are and to regard opinions here as being just 'sad bloggers sounding off' is arrogant in the extreme. However like my friend, we do need to act and mobilise our Councillors to act. Our Planning Office is not to be trusted on present form to make sensible decisions. They are Council servants employed to carry out Policy and advise our councillors fully.
If another huge expansion of Two Chimneys is allowed to occur it will be a victory of commercial interest over the stated policy of OUR COUNCIL to preserve the area in question for the PEOPLE OF THANET! ACT - bother your councillor.

Martin Wise (Cllr.) said...

Ironic that I am the`one getting panned when I am probably the only councillor who actively promotes Thanet Life at Cabinet and director level, and to officers who should be noting the contents with a view to taking action where appropriate.

I apologise for the "cr.." remark, and for others which may have caused offence. My wider point is that in my view blogging will only ever be useful to the Council, and myself as a part of it, if it is rational and fair. If it is simply used as a mechanism to allow frustrated people to vent, then should you be surprised if the targets of your anger don't log on? Nobody in their right mind will engage using this medium if they get their head lopped off every time it pops up above the parapet.

Thanet Life can achieve much for Thanet if used in a consrtuctive manner. Is this the way blogsites will develop, or is that asking too much?

DrMoores said...

I think that we have to recognise that the channels for public expression have changed dramatically in a very short period of time. As radically, as, say the sight of George Galloway on Big Brother.

The Weblog and what it represents if now a feature of the political landscape, both nationally and locally and as I warned Sandy Ezekiel when I last saw him, "You ignore it at your peril."

Rational and fair are two words that I attempt to encourage here but if you look at the steadily growing comment stream what we have is a rich mixture of opinions which represent a healthy level of public debate unavailable to people elsewhere. I would urge our local politicians to mine this seam of opinion and news and regard it as evidence of the way that local politics will evolve over the decade. After all, in a purely organic fashion, ThanetLife has grown to a point of reaching almost 100,000 impressions in just over a year. At the present rate of growth in household connectivity and recommendation, we could be up to 200,000 by next year's council elections. I would argue that this kind of reach is capable of making a difference in peoples' thinking and would once again encourage everyone working for the benefit of Thanet to recognise the opportunities that such a platform offers.

Anonymous said...

Spot on Dr Moores. Cllr Wise, what is your position as TDC cllr on
( avoiding party bickering and not my ward-not my problem):
a. Two Chimneys development.?
b. Green wedge Westgate-Birchington
c. Houses on kiddies play areas.?

Views expressed on Thanetlife come from ordinary people who are involving themselves in issues of local interest. Want to know what people think around Thanet?- youll find it here even if its not what you might want to here.

Anonymous said...

Cllr Wise says that if people just vent, their targets (like him) won't log on to respond and that all should be rational and fair.
Cllr Wise appears to have missed the point because the comments directed at him were a response to the WAY he commented on the issue by being far from rational and fair. He's entitled to his views like all of us, but I for one expect him to express them in a professional manner as befits his position.
P.S. Take a good look at some of the things going on in Thanet and try to guess why people are frustrated. Personally, I think the people of Thanet are models of restraint online and off.

Friend of treeplanter said...

I cannot speak for other people but since raising a rash of signs with TDC Planning Enforcement around a certain junction, I contacted Birchington Ward councillors who have taken up issues concerning a certain caravan park. It is actually in Cllr Charles Hibberds ward and I have spoken to him at length. All Cllrs have taken the time to take up the issue and have been dealing with it through the appropriate channels. I have confidence that Cllr Hibberd will do what he can.

I hope the question of our elected councillors making such an important decision is resolved and that it will not just be left to Planning Officers.

Local democracy can work if we are prepared to take issues to our Cllrs. For many of you quite clearly worried about a certain caravan site or green belt or Kiddies Play area, express your views and share them on Thanetlife but also contact your own ward councillors.

Cllr Wise has not replied to Anon of 8:00pm yet despite making some critical comments about this forum.
I hope he follows Cllr Greens lead and joins in discussions on local issues, as all our Cllrs should. It is as valid a forum as our local radio and newspapers.

Cllr David Green said...

Despite earlier dismissive comment from Cllr Hayton, I have continued to pursue the Two Chimneys Caravan Site Application
Thought you and your readers might like to know that there has been some movement from TDC Planning officers. They write:

"I refer to an application for an extension to the caravan park which
has recently generated a lot of interest.

The call in period for Committee has long gone and I have not received any representations that would in my view necessitate a special committee call in.

However, having reviewed the case with Simon Thomas we have some concerns with regard to the fact that the site is within an area of landscape quality that requires careful consideration. It is therefore on this basis that we intend to report the application to
Planning Committee."

As I said earlier, this is not my patch, so the matter is now between you, your readers and the local councillors.

Anonymous said...

Your name Cllr Wise is quite ironic. Surely you can see that if you were doing your jobs properly (planning and cllrs) we would have nothing to moan about. The least we can expect is for people to know their jobs. With the TWO CHIMNEYS example this is clearly not the case. How comes some of us bloggers know the laws and regulations better than you do????? You would be annoyed if your dustman didn't pick up your rubbish, your hairdresser dyed your hair blue, your son's/daughter's teacher was teaching the wrong stuff, because they weren't doing their job. That's all we're doing here, venting because people have an inept ability to do their job. You sit there on your nice income, feet in front of the fire, pipe in mouth, champagne in hand. Take your head out of the sand and work for US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friend of treeplanter said...

Cllr David Green, well done and thanks for persevering. I am assuming that Ward Cllrs over Shottendane way will get on to this but you have been open on this site and joined in to make it a real open forum. Stick with it and keep rattling cages. Chris Wells has yet to respond to a reasonable enquiry by 8.00pm Anon above.

Martin Wise (Cllr.) said...

Interesting that bloggers expect instant gratification in response to their queries. Simon - is there a standard you wish to suggest for how frequently I should check the weblog to conform with your bloggers needs? Also, should I be expected to respond to people who are not prepared to give their name?


a. Two Chimneys development - current issues appear to revolve around enforcement of an old application. Beware the wording of any promises made - getting the trees planted is not the same as ensuring the site is used only for the purposes stated in the application.
b. Green wedge Westgate-Birchington. As a councillor representing another part of Margate I would be guided by the local councillors. Their support, or lack of it, for any project affecting the green wedge would be the critical factor in my decision. I would expect them to have consulted with their constituents when making their judgements.
c. Houses on kiddies play areas.? If you refer to Dalby Square, this site is adjacent to an area which is currently being developed to include leisure amenity. Directly opposite is the Eastern Esplanade which provides ample opportunity for children's play. Selling the "play area", the site of which was formerly occupied by flats or somesuch, will provide funds to be used to support the Council's Capital expenditure programme. This supports a wide range of projects including those for regeneration and disabled facilities grants. In the future we will use asset disposals to pay for new leisure facilities. The government does not give us funding for the Capital programme (apart from a few exceptions e.g. the disable facilities grants), so we are expected to make use of our assets to deliver the improvements which residents expect. Disposals do not generally make the Council popular, but they have become necessary because the normal source of Capital income (council house sales) has become scarce due a slow down in the housing market. I am told that the chairman of the local residents group is supportive of development of the site. Perhaps Simon could ask her?

Martin Freeman said...

Thankyou, Cllr Wise for your courtesy in responding to questions on your opinions. As a cllr you choose a public life of service to your community and I have the greatest of respect for those who do so. Possibly the speed of this type of forum leads to over ambitious expectations by users. As for anonymity, I think it enables freer speech but should not be misused as some lapse into abuse.

DrMoores said...

That's the internet for you Martin, "Instant politics" and it's up to you how often you choose to visist. If these were my constituents, it would be "regularly"

I'm inclined to agree with the previous argument 7:36.. anonymity can serve a useful purpose in the open pursuit of free speech.

Anonymous said...

Well done Cllr Wise for taking the time and trouble to respond to comments. At least you actually take an interest unlike so many other Councillors who have been absent from any debate here.
Thank you very much.