Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Green and Wet

When I left Thanet just after 9am this morning, it was in the middle of a howling wind and driving rain. If it had snowed, like it did in ‘75’, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

The rain and solid muddy skies didn’t stop until we popped-up above the clouds at over five thousand feet with a thin layer of ice on the leading edges of my wings. “It’s the day before June” I thought, “and outside it’s five degree below zero.”

It wasn’t much better until just before Southampton, when the cloud started to break but I’m pleased to see that for the coming weekend, temperatures of 18 Celsius are promised. It’s not a heat wave but it can’t get much worse.

And as for the drought, I can assure you that England, as far as Weston Super Mare, is looking very green, very lush and very wet indeed!

Man Rescued but Dog Dies in Fire

Kent Fire and Rescue were called to Chandos Square in Broadstairs at around 10.30pm on Tuesday by concerned members of the public who told them they thought someone was still in the building.

On arrival, two firemen from the town’s Blue Watch went into the blazing property wearing breathing apparatus and found a man overwhelmed by smoke who may have been trying to rescue his dog, which was dead. He was taken to hospital for treatment.

Four engines from Thanet and Ramsgate Fire Stations attended. Residents in neighbouring properties were evacuated. The blaze was put out by midnight.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mystery Death at Residential Home

Thanet Extra reports that police are investigating the death of a 22-year-old woman at a residential unit in Kent on Sunday evening.

She was found unconscious in a bath at Thanet Lodge in Victoria Road, Margate, at about 7.30pm.

She was taking part in the Community Adult Learning Programme run through the Westgate College for Deaf People.

The woman was taken to Queen Mother Hospital at Margate by ambulance but all attempts to revive the woman failed.

Police are treating the death as unexplained and a post mortem is to be held.

Eighty-Three Year Old Woman Mugged

Here we go again! Another appalling attack and subsequent robbery of an elderly person in Thanet, possibly by a drug addict looking for money for his next fix, given its violence and stupidity but only my guess. Perhaps he has issues?

An eighty-three-year-old woman has been left with serious injuries after being mugged while delivering leaflets for her local church.

The elderly lady was attacked as she walked through Tomson’s Passage, off Chapel Place, Ramsgate, soon after 10am last Tuesday.

The man who assaulted her stole her black canvas bag and then pushed her to the ground, causing her head to strike against a flint wall, causing a head injury and a fractured elbow.

The mugger then ran off toward Chapel Place with her bag, which contained a red purse containing about £30 cash, bankcards and her asthma medication.

She was taken to QEQM hospital in Margate after being found by a passer-by.

Detectives will be conducting a forensic examination of the woman's jacket, which the man grabbed during the robbery.

We wish her a speedy recovery and hope the police catch the mugger before his next victim.

Anyone with information please contact PC Mark Thornby on 01843 222085.

A Little Pedestrian

Clive Hart has sent in a release on pedestrian improvements to Cliftonville. He also appears to have re-discovered Thanet South MP and Transport Minister, Dr.Steve Ladyman who was believed to have been missing in action at Westminster in recent weeks.

“Cliftonville is one of many areas in Kent due to benefit thanks to the Government’s Local Transport Plan funding agreed last December. Approval was then given for a loan well in excess of £9million towards the Transportation and Safety Package Programme in Kent.

Among other important projects this funding will be focused on measures to reduce road casualty figures, programmes focusing on local areas to help reduce traffic congestion, improving facilities for pedestrians and cyclists and encouraging greater use of buses. It will also be used to improve footways and road crossings on Kent’s public rights of way network and for improvements to kerbs - is that kebabs? - at pedestrian crossings to ensure compliance with the Disability Discrimination Acts.

One such project will be enhanced pedestrian access for Northdown Road in Cliftonville.

Margate & Cliftonville County Councillor Clive Hart said ‘There have been a number of pedestrians injured crossing Northdown Road and we need new crossing points to provide safer movement for residents and visitors. The work is scheduled to start on May 29th and will take around eight weeks. I would ask motorists to please take extra care whilst this essential work is taking place’.

Ed: Keep up the good work Clive and let's see more 'Kebab improvements' for Cliftonville, now that Margate's are looking distinctly singed!

Old Ramsgate

An interesting new Weblog just popped-up, “Old Ramsgate.” It carries photographs of the town in the past and today and so is worth a visit if you happen to live in the millionaires’ paradise of the south coast.

In fact Thanet Weblogs now appear to be appearing like a rash.  Some good, some not so good and some occupying an ambiguous middle-space while the find their feet in the ‘blogosphere’. We won’t be needing newspapers soon!

Question Time

This week, being a short one, we’ll give council leader Sandy Ezekiel a rest and time for reflection, so can I have some questions to choose from please for next week’s “Ask Sandy.” I’m sure there’s no shortage.

The Great Escape

The BBC reports that two Broadstairs men aiming to cross the English Channel today in a kayak have postponed the attempt – very sensibly too in view of the weather.

Mike Humber and Travis Spencer now hope to set off on Tuesday.

The crossing from St Margaret's Bay to Cape Gris Nez was expected to take five to seven hours, Mr Humber said.

He said they would be accompanied by a safety boat, but would be attempting a non-stop crossing. The bid is to raise money for two charities.

Funds raised will go to Cancer Research UK and the Arthritis Research Campaign.

Ed: As a keen kayaker myself, I think it’s a big deal if I get as far as Minnis bay on a nice day, so good luck to them both. Only a couple of days until June and my own Kayak hasn’t been on the sea yet, which says a great deal about the weather we aren’t having this summer.

The Promised Land

Here’s an interesting item from reader David C. who writes:

“Not entirely sure if this has been covered, though think the subject has been touched on.”

“Walking past the end of the Margate High Street at the weekend waiting for my wife to come out of one of the shops still functioning there where she works, I saw piles of pamphlets in a shop window, something a bout an ‘Xtraordinary’ event. Scratching my head and thinking this is a bit of a turn up, I stood there peering at the pamphlet. A lady came out of the shop and thrust one into my hand. Here then as a result is the website link. If they film Dreamland as one of the locations for the film I hope there is something to point the camera at!”

See the Margate Exodus.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Long Voyage Home

Ericsson Boat Ocean Challenge Portsmouth 2006_09

For any sailing enthusiasts among you, here are some photos taken from above the Volvo Ocean Challenge today at Portsmouth. "Flying the flag" for Sony Ericsson, as the boats came in over the finish line on their race home from South America and Rio, with swarms of motor launches and small yachts going out to meet them as they arrived in the dock in front of the Spinnaker centre. Didn't have my proper camera with me though!

See BBC News report.

Regeneration or Reject

More photos, this time, Margate High Street in all its glory this Bank Holiday weekend, taken by Amy J.

I think we have a rather long way to go before the cafe society reaches as far as the Old Marks & Spencer building don't you?

Would anyone like to send in some Ramsgate photos as a comparison?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Where Have all the Flowers Gone

Our roving reporter, Amy J. writes:

“I couldn’t resist taking this photo from the roundabout at Margate station. This is what visitors by car or by train see as they arrive in Margate.

The boarded up ‘arsoned’ kebab shop on the right has two other boarded up premises along side!

If first impressions count, then what does this view communicate to people who then wander into Dreamland and then visit the High St.? We resemble downtown Baghdad! I spent half an hour in the station area looking for any visitors going back up to the station and despite stopping and asking over a hundred people, not one was a visitor to Margate, this bank Holiday. Not surprising perhaps.

Your discerning eye may pick out the fact that the flowerbeds have been emptied this past week and that the footprints in the soil are rather poignant. In the wettest May for 20 years, TDC has clearly instructed its Park's Team to empty the flower beds of their lovely displays ( and they were splendid). I first noticed something odd on Tuesday on Canterbury Road at King George V Park area where bare earth was all that remained of lovely displays of flowers the previous day. I thought some enterprising thief was selling the bedding plants at a Boot Fair! I suppose we can look forward to plastic ones being put in. I think TDC got it wrong yet again and they might like to explain why it was necessary with so much free water in the past 4 weeks and what the cost was and is? A caption competition comes to mind. A thought is "Where Have all the Flowers Gone, long time passing, "

Let the Train Take the Strain

I suspect that others may have noticed that letting the train take the strain is no longer what it used to be following the news yesterday of a stabbing on a holiday train to Devon. This in from one of our readers:

“Just got back from a very pleasant day at Chelsea Flower Show. That was of course until we had to endure the journey from Victoria to Broadstairs by train, accompanied by three drunken louts who were f'ing and blinding every other word and screaming racial obscenities in front of women and children. The ticket collector seemed powerless to intervene, and I don't blame him. He probably didn't want to risk being knifed. I would like to know, what percentage of our population can be attributed to these types of thugs, and why the majority of us have to put up with this type of appalling, anti-social behaviour. I shall be returning my family rail card, as I have no intention of putting my family through that ordeal again. Oh, and guess where they got off the train?”

Ed: The true picture of rising levels of violent crime in England and Wales and historically low conviction rates is revealed today by The Observer.

An investigation shows that conviction rates for many of the most violent crimes have been in freefall since Labour came to power in 1997 and are now well below 10 per cent. The chronically low figures for convictions come at the same time as reports that violent crime is increasing.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Out and About

Reader Amy J. has been busy today. She writes:

“I went out and about late afternoon on this Bank Holiday Saturday to see if the spin in Friday's Isle of Thanet Gazette matched reality and to expose the lie that is Dreamland 2006. Thanet Gazette (Page 2) had article "Dreamland opens for summer season". I quote " Family rides and white knuckle thrills will all be on offer as Margate's fun park Dreamland opens for the summer season today (Friday). Showman Mr. Webb said ".....we want to make sure everyone can come here and have fun". "Mr. Webb will be operating the site for the next three years."

“The first picture show huge empty unused area behind security fencing and the carpark view of the Scenic Railway. The other pictures show the attractions Mr Webb has arranged behind the back of the eye-catching Big Wheel. Quite frankly, this set up would shame a small village fete. I visited a better traveling funfair on Westgate's Lymington Park two years ago.”

“I now understand why Save Dreamland Campaign urged that Philip Miller from Southend should be allowed to develop the site with real intent. Is this Waterbridge's idea of a major attraction or are they biding their time as TDC sits back with obscure 'viability' tests? If there was ever a case for compulsory purchase this was it, but TDC removed that option with its acceptance of Option C for 'mixed' development in the Thanet Plan. I wonder what Sandy Ezekiel and our Conservative TDC Councillors think about the present reality or is this what they wanted?”

Flying Cat

Your chance to win a flight in a Catalina flying boat to celebrate this year's Kent Air Show. Somehow though I doubt it will risk landing in the sea opposite Palm Bay.

Send your name, address, phone and email to: Air Show Competition, Kent On Sunday, Apple Barn, Smeeth, Ashford, TN25 6SR. - Competition closes June 9th.

Homeless Jack

According to a headline in a newspaper today, Jack Straw is homeless, having lost his grace and favour accomodation along with his job as Foreign Secretary, to Margaret Beckett.

It hasn't yet been confirmed whether "Homeless Jack", who is said to have opposed the Prime Minister's plan for Iraq, will soon be on a train to Margate but should you happen to see him on the Northdown road begging for the price of a cup of tea and a copy of the New Statesman, be generous!

Identity Costs

If you want to stay out of the government's identity card database for the next 10 years you might want to renew your passport now.

Throughout May anti-ID card group No2ID has been running a campaign encouraging people to renew their passports, which the group said will keep people out of the National Identity Register (NIR) - the database behind the system - until 2016.

The group warned: "If you wait until autumn, you risk giving up personal data to be used for the government identity database. Pay £51 for a 10-year passport while you can. The charge for ID registration and a record for life will be at least £93."

Next Year We'll be Millionaires

Thanet may not be at the centre of the digital economy but  I’ve noticed, that it’s right at the very heart of the cash-society, so be warned; the Inland Revenue has unleashed a £250,000 "web robot" to track down VAT-dodging high-volume eBay traders who have absent-mindedly forgotten to register for Value-Added cash extraction. An estimated 70,000 people make a quarter of their income by trading on eBay and if there were a new series of “Only Fools & Horses” then Dell and Rodney might be making a handsome living from car boot sales and eBay.

According to, the "robot" in question is an advanced search engine which pinpoints said rogue traders. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) estimates it will net £1m a year in extra VAT and "force an extra twenty businesses to register for the tax".

Banged Up for a While

Kent on Saturday reports that five drunken youths from Broadstairs, Herne Bay and Ramsgate who attacked two brothers in "An orgy of violence" outside Broadstairs station, in November of last year are behind bars.

But does "Four years youth custody" actually mean that or like the example, this week, of a Thanet woman who encountered her best friend's murderer behind the counter of a shop in Canterbury, does it mean rather less than the tariff imposed by the court.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Ask Sandy - The Future of Margate High Street

Just in time for the Bank Holiday weekend, Council Leader, Sandy Ezekiel answers readers questions on the future of Margate High Street:

Q: It has been said that the purchase of the empty Marks and Spencer building by TDC and the provision of even more retail space on the ground floor, will lead to transformation of the area. Those that remain of the small and medium sized shops in the High Street are deserting it, leaving a huge number of, unattractive, boarded up, almost derelict and ‘un-lettable’ retail floor spaces.

Where does the Council think the 'new' retailers needed to fill the 'new' M&S site, and all of the empty High Street shops, and all of the empty shops in the Old Town Area, are coming from, when the surrounding shops are derelict and boarded up?

Does Cllr Ezekiel accept that there is a price to pay for Westwood Cross. Isn't there too much retail capacity in Thanet, and shouldn't we be finding some other uses, at least for the lower high street?

A: "It’s all too easy to look at Margate High Street and say “it’s finished”.

The easy option would be just to look at getting shops to fill the existing premises and in the short term, that’s what the Council and its regeneration partners will be seeking to do, but we’ve got to be realistic. We’ve all heard the same story from retailers. They keep telling us that they want modern retailing space and that’s the future for Margate. That’s what we’ve got to provide for them to ensure a long term future for our town and that’s what I want and what I’m sure everyone wants to see.

Yes, we have empty units in Margate at the moment. This has arisen out of a combination of leases coming up for renewal at the same time as the uncertainly over the future of Marks and Spencer building, which is one of the anchor premises in the town. That’s why we’ve purchased it. By creating modern retail space in the heart of Margate, there is every prospect that retailers will be attracted back into the town centre.

You’ve only got to look at any modern retail shop to understand what sort of thing they’re looking for. They want relatively open floor space and that’s not what’s on offer in Margate at the moment. That’s what we need to change.

It’s an interesting comment that there’s too much retail capacity in Thanet at the moment. In that case, why would leading high street names like PC World, Argos Extra and Homebase be building modern new premises in the area? They obviously don’t feel that there’s too much retail capacity here and these companies do their homework.

And why are these companies building new premises, rather than moving into existing ones? Because that’s retailers want.

Equally there are many modern retailers who want to be located in town centres. That’s where people are based after all and more and more homes are being built back in town centres, rather than on green field sites, and that’s part of our plan for Margate – to encourage more people to live in the town centre, providing more potential customers for shops, restaurants and cafés.

Let’s not forget that there’s been a lot of good work already done in Margate in the Old Town. There are new businesses opening all the time – three in the last few weeks. It’s becoming home to individual niche market retailers and we want to encourage that all along Margate High Street. The café society we want to encourage is now appearing and growing all the time. It’s such a difference from how the Old Town was a few years ago. There are now reasons to go there and I hope everyone will support our fledging creative quarter. It’s a beautiful area with some wonderful shops and excellent restaurants and should be on everyone’s list to visit. "

Unfit for Purpose

Watching the Trevor Macdonald report tonight, I can’t help thinking that our new Home Office Minister, John Reid, may have unwittingly written this government’s epitaph, “Not fit for purpose.”

Can anyone, I wonder tell me anything that is actually fit for purpose out their in the public sector. No really, just one example of a big government project or department. You know, like the Child Support Agency, The Probation Service, the Immigration Service, and The NHS. Come on… just one.

I had another experience of the Inland Revenue this month. Sitting on the board of creditors for a company in administration for the last four years, we’ve been waiting for the all clear to pay people back a percentage of the money they lost, including the company’s employees. Everything was held-up earlier in the year when the Inland Revenue, as a preferred creditor – isn’t it always - disagreed with the administrator, one of the UK’s largest accountancy companies. To cut a long story short, the administrator calculated that the Revenue were owed £200,000 in unpaid National Insurance and the Revenue the threw their toys out of the pram and insisted that they were owed over £600,000 with a barrage of paperwork that has taken two months to work through, running up more accountants fees, which means that everyone, including the poor former employees would be paid less.

The final forensic accounting examination revealed that the Revenue were in fact owed just over £150,000, not £600,000. How they had arrived at the latter figure is an example of either breathtaking incompetence, the use of a random number generator or perhaps both but at least the employees will receive a little bit extra. Mind you, with a million people apparently charged late penalty fees for their personal tax returns, which arrived on time, are we surprised?

Back in the real world, the Bank Holiday doesn’t look promising. The cloud wasn’t much higher than 500 feet at Sandown on the Isle of Wight this afternoon and I came across the Utterley Butterley wing walking team, trapped there on the way to a display in France. After two hours or so sitting in the restaurant hoping that the weather might lift, they gave up and made a dash for home at very low level towards, lost in seconds against the rolling mist. They’re looking forward to dropping in for the Kent Airshow here next month and the two new girls, both very petite, have rather more courage than I have, standing on top of a biplane’s wing.

Precipitation Update

My dog refused to go outside this morning. She took one look at the rain splashing hard against the pavement outside my back door and retreated back into the warmth of her basket.

This month is on course to be the wettest May on record and when the Government granted drought orders to two more water companies yesterday they both decided not to implement them.

Southern Water and Mid Kent Water’s actions confirmed what may have seemed obvious to anyone who has glanced out of their windows over the past few weeks. It’s raining!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Day at the Seaside

If we think that we have problems in Thanet with kids running amok, spare a thought for the people of Whitstable.

Kent Online reports: “More than 200 youngsters held a bonfire on a Kent beach leaving a trail of smashed alcopop bottles in their wake.

The noisy gathering of eight to 15-year-olds is the latest in more than 120 incidents of criminal damage on the Slopes at Tankerton recorded by beach hut owners. Beach huts have been damaged and owners have found evidence of drug and alcohol abuse, while people living near by say they are too scared to go near the beach after dark.”

Garden Grabbing

A second story from The Times today is particularly relevant to the Thanet experience.

“Up to 20,000 new homes each year that ministers claim are going up on brownfield sites are actually being built in back gardens, figures show.

“Garden grabbing” now accounts for 15 per cent of all new housing as family homes in towns and suburbs are pulled down by developers and replaced with flats.”

Homeowners, especially those with large gardens, are frequently targeted by developers who make extravagant offers with the intention of building flats on the site.

Because the Government has classified homes and gardens as brownfield sites, there is always a presumption that planning applications should be approved at appeal

Although neighbours usually object, - remember Sea Tower in Westgate - local authorities are reluctant to turn down planning applications for flats because time and again they lose on appeal when the developers take the case to the department.

How Low Can We Go?

Amid the shambles we call government in our country today; one headline in The Times came as no surprise, which is ironic.

Yesterday it was disclosed that James Dawute, the chief immigration officer who allegedly offered to speed up a Zimbabwean teenager’s asylum claim in return for sexual favours, was given British citizenship despite being an illegal over-stayer.

So, the illegals are reportedly running parts of the immigration service, which the new Home Secretary told Parliament is “Unfit for purpose.”

What’s next I wonder, a nuclear power station under the management of Al Qaeda?

How low can we go? We know that we haven’t seen the bottom yet, so I’m sure there’s more to come in the way of surprises.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Big Bang

Did anyone hear Wednesday’s ‘Big Bang’?

The World War II mine, mine hauled up by fishermen was blown up off Margate today.

The BBC reports that fishermen found the floating World War II device last Friday, but dropped it back into the water, allowing an exclusion zone to be set up.

Divers from HMS Quorn, which was in the Netherlands but arrived at the site on Tuesday, attached a charge to it causing an explosion when the 250kg (550lb) mine sent up a 30ft plume of water.

A passing seagull was injured and a local kebab shop was destroyed by the blast.

The commanding officer of the mine destroyer., Lt Commander Taylor said:

"For the second time in a week, the Royal Navy has safely disposed of some potentially dangerous explosives remaining from World War II.

"This is just one of the many tasks the Navy undertakes every day around the UK."

Up in Flames

News from ‘arsonville’ is that a fire has destroyed a kebab outlet on Margate seafront. If you have any camera photos, please send them in.

Fortunately, this business did not belong to a prominent local businessman, ‘you know who’ as several of our readers have wittily observed.

Kent Online reports that detectives have now launched an arson investigation. Apparently, the Express Fish Bar at All Saints' Avenue caught fire just after 4am.

A police spokesman said: "Forensic investigators from Kent police and Kent Fire and Rescue Service this morning examined the scene. As a result of the examination it is now believed that the fire was set deliberately."Detectives would like to hear about any suspicious activity in the area between 12.30am and 4am. "The front of the business, opposite Margate railway station, was blown out and glass showered onto the footpath.The Margate fire and rescue service team used hose reel jets, breathing apparatus and foam to tackle the flames that destroyed half of the building.No-one was injured and the fire was under control by 5am.

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to contact Det Sgt Claire Munday at Margate police station on 01843 222192.

Margate Museum Website

The Margate Museum website is open for all those who would like to pay a visit and don’t fancy getting wet going to the Old Town today.

I have placed a link to it on the sidebar as well.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Not Broken Just a Little Cracked

Not only is this weblog groaning under the sudden rush of new visitors from I don’t know where, but someone’s broken the comments section. Either that or it’s collapsed under the sudden weight of interest. I’m trying to fix it.

Worried of Westgate

Feelings are running high in Westgate over the proposal - now looking like a 'fait accompli' - to provide a home for recovering drug addicts in the town. The residents association tell me that they are disgusted and dismayed by the idea and will do everything in their power to challenge the plan.

Although the proposed site for the home has not yet been properly identified, a large house sold for £290,000, my sources tell me that it is most likely one of those on Westgate Bay Avenue and opposite the entrance to Beach road.

The residents association believe that Westgate is already oversubscribed with problems from outside of the area and already has too many children’s homes often, associated with allegations of anti-social behaviour. The association fears that a home for recovering addicts will also attract cases from as far away as London and may increase the potential for drugs-related crime in the town and make it highly unattractive as a home for families and young children as a consequence.

What’s your view, block this project, which the council reportedly decided was unsuitable for Cliftonville, given its already high problem density or welcome the recovering addicts for treatment in Westgate?

Filling Up

Just in case you happen to be interested, the photo is of the Bewl water reservoir this morning.

From the look of it and making a quick comparison with previous weeks, it appears to have rather more water in it than before and more rain to come according to the forecast.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Chasing the Dragon

In a special report on the battle against illegal drugs, the BBC is saying that Cocaine is now cheaper than a pint of beer, which says a great deal about the volume that is being smuggled into the UK by highly organised and ruthless crime gangs.

Of equal interest is the impact that drugs and drug-related crime is having on communities throughout the country and the conclusion is that the situation is a great deal worse than government is prepared to admit, with whole communities living in fear of the dealers and drug-users and suffering the consequences of a growing number of addicts and an expanding drug culture.

How bad do readers think this is in parts of Thanet? I’ll admit to having two discarded heroin needles on the seafront at St Mildred’s and seen another, together with a discarded spoon, silver foil and lighter, on the railway line at Westgate station, Do you also see evidence of illegal drug use near where you live and if so, where are the hotspot, leaving aside some of the more obvious spots in Thanet, which we can probably guess by name.

Sudden Gusts

If you think it’s windy now, then be prepared for even stronger winds mid afternoon, so best tie down any loose dogs and children, just in case.

I counted fourteen ships sheltering in the “Margate Roads” earlier.

Following on from the Cannes release of the "The Da Vinci Code", If you need something to cheer you up, then here's a re-dubbed version of the trailer for the film, "The Ten Commandments", starring Charlton Heston as Moses or was that Ben Hur? I've granted the voice of Samuel L. Jackson a temporary bad language exclusion just this once.

Between Left and Right

A thought-provoking editorial in the right-wing flagship, the Daily Telegraph today. Can the Conservative Party “reclaim its traditional ground on the themes of crime, immigration and tax (which have become even bigger public concerns since the last general election) without giving up its new ethically attractive image?”

With Thanet split on a North South divide between the two parties, several of the questions that this feature asks are as relevant to our own benefits-heavy local challenges as anywhere else in the country.

“Taking the low-paid out of tax - now there's a compassionate policy that is worth talking about. So how about dealing in the truth about the tax and benefits system. What Left-wing governments never seem to accept is that, if you pay people to be poor, you will never run out of poor people.

And if you penalise people who work by taxing them, even when they are earning the minimum wage, they will make the perfectly rational decision to work as little as possible (or not at all) which is not - morally or economically - good for them or for the country.”

Read on.

Wetter Than You Think

Reader Amy J. writes:

“I have just been nosing around in the Montgomery's Glasshouses application and came across an interesting item of information, the average rainfall in Thanet quoted for water projections:

Jan: 46mm; Feb: 33mm; Mar: 41mm; Apr: 42mm and May: 38mm.

The total projected average to end of May is 200mm.

East Kent Weather reports total for the year to date as 206.2mm and we have 10 more days to go until end of May, with a wet week ahead.

So, in the past 5 months on Thanet we have had statistically ‘Above Average’ rainfall and yet we have Southern Water applying for tougher restrictions through drought orders. Is the real game to get us all on meters?”

Sunday, May 21, 2006

New Planning Policy Given 'Thumbs Up'

I’ve just had this Cliftonville West press-release on the new planning policy and have been asked to share it with you:

“The emerging planning policy to stop the further creation of single bedroom flat and bed-sit accommodation in Cliftonville West has been given strong support from the three ward councillors Linda Aldred, Doug Clark and Clive Hart.

The proposed Thanet District Council policy, which all three ward councillors have been lobbying for over the past two years, finally came to the TDC Planning Committee on Wednesday evening (17th May) and it was given a very warm welcome from the Cliftonville West team.

The emerging policy is intended to redress the over supply of bed sit accommodation and houses of multiple occupation that have distorted the local community balance and fuelled serious social problems.  The proposal is to restrict planning applications for one-bedroom flats in the Cliftonville West Renewal Area as families who require more than one bedroom are more likely to stay and become a real part of the local community than single, more transient, individuals.

At the planning meeting Cllr. Linda Aldred said ‘We welcome the proposed policy.  We regularly see the transient nature of Cliftonville West and the problems that it creates through our ward casework and at our councillor surgeries.  Along with the Renewal initiatives in our area this policy could really help bring the ward out of deprivation’.

Following on Cllr. Clive Hart said ‘I agree with Cllr. Aldred.  As ward councillors, We’ve been calling for this action for a long time now and I have spoken to our third colleague Cllr. Clark today who also wants the committee to know he gives this policy his full backing.  Speed is now essential.  Things are happening every day and the implementation can’t come soon enough ’”

Big Bird

If I’m right, we may be seeing a lot of the new 555-seat Airbus A380, the world's biggest passenger jet, in the future.

Suitable runway locations around Europe to train the new pilots in taking-off and landing the giant aircraft are a little thin on the ground and in the UK, well there’s, you guessed it, Manston, I suspect.

It doesn’t seem so long ago that Manston used to be visited by training Concorde crews, so I’m prepared to put money on the A380 – see video – putting in an appearance not long after the first deliveries to the UK-based airline customers.

The A380, if it comes, will however be an order of magnitude quieter than the old DC8s that presently use Manston for freight traffic.

A View from Above

While I sit here getting depressed about the weather outside my window, I’m reminded that the Kent Airshow is only a month away now. Last year was a stunning success, thanks to two days of glorious sunshine and I very much hope for all concerned, that summer will finally have arrived by 17th June.

Strangely enough, with all those thousands of people expected over the weekend, no Kent business wants to book any aerial advertising with an available aircraft quite literally on the doorstep. So, on the Saturday afternoon, I’ll go and tow a banner over a big sporting event in Swansea instead, which strikes me as a little ironic, given the relative distances involved.

Once the weather improves a little, I plan to take some more photos. I owe a house shot for the winners of the Thanet Gazette cancer charity flight. When I took them up the other week, Cliftonville was under an isolated carpet of thick fog but there are now several sites, of local planning/development interest that I’d like to take in on my next photo-sortie. If you know of anywhere that might benefit from a quick “Spy in the Sky” view, in the public interest let me know and like the Victoria Road traffic lights last time around, I will try and get some decent photographs. The enterprising Mr Mohammed’s Cliftonville caravan park being one perhaps?

It occurs to me that instead of taking lots of ‘ad hoc’ shots, the council might want some areas of the island mapped properly, so they only have to ask.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Kingdom Come

Chris, one of our readers has sent in a photo asking if there might be anything suspicious about a visiting Boeing 747 from the 'Magic Kingdom' of Saudi Arabia, being at Manston.

Of course I'd like to speculate wildly, gold or Guantanamo Bay, perhaps even a regular Haj piligrimage flight from Kent international to support our growing local population of 'The Faithful' but I won't, because I'm sure the answer is more innocent.

Either a new 747 or pilots doing the regular circuit training at Manston as mentioned in a story and a Discovery television documentary last month or possibly taking on freight of some undisclosed but I'm sure, quite interesting nature.

African Air does many of the more unusual jobs to that part of the world, Baghdad and Basra being among them I'm told, so don't get them mixed up with the new Kent Escapes service from Kent International to Malaga or you may find yourself arriving on a completely different patch of sand with a less friendly reception from the locals and absolutely no Sangria in sight.

Now if you spot a U2 spyplane a rare member of the rapidly diminishing RAF or something more exotic let me know. It's the Spitfire museum's birthday this month and you should see a visiting Spitfire coming in to celebrate. A photo for the website would be nice.

Kiss Me Quick

A comment on how late the summer is this year is the fact that I haven’t been out in my kayak yet. Normally, I’d be paddling around out to sea at the beginning of May.

From my window this morning I can see ships sheltering against last night’s gale, nine of them from Westgate and Margate and the banner that a local Rotary club asked me to fly this morning to greet their guest from Belgium, isn’t going to happen; it’s too windy for me to collect the aircraft from its annual service near Brighton. More accurately, it’s too ‘iffy’ to try and land it back in Thanet with a predicted 30 mph cross-wind.

Bank Holiday weekend next week and let’s hope that it’s a rather brighter and warmer start to the tourist season than we have had to date. Global warming or simply Mother Nature throwing random bad weather in our direction; who knows? Economically though, the cost of a poor Whitsun bank holiday along the British coastline, must be enormous, simply based on the jobs I have to do over the three days; the launch of a Radio Station in Devon and the Volvo Ocean Challenge finish at Portsmouth to name but two.

So when they arrive in Thanet in their thousands and hopefully blessed by bright sunshine and calm seas, what can visitors to our island expect? Award winning beaches to be sure, although, as one reader points out, it’s best to avoid Grenham Bay because that’s where the tide reportedly washes in the condoms from the Cliftonville outflow when the wind and currents are in the right direction. It’s easily seen from the air, the slick that is.

Doing what I do, I see huge swathes of Britain’s coastline during the summer. Minehead, Perranporth, Torquay, Great Yarmouth, you name the place. Sometimes I have to land and wander around and other times it’s simply a view from the air. And my conclusion, for what it’s worth is that we need to do rather better than we are in making Thanet an attractive tourist destination. Without a doubt it’s neater and cleaner than it was, a huge step forward in attracting families to our beaches but we lost the pier years ago and Dreamland’s sign only recently. And Pleasurama in Ramsgate? That’s another question that still hasn’t been properly answered, one of many on an Everest-like climb towards the goal of local ‘regeneration’ which seem impossibly high and far away at times.

So I’m off to Westwood Cross now. I can’t avoid it and I expect to be some time sitting in the traffic for the privilege of not having to use Margate High Street, which doesn’t have what I need and is less likely to with every day that passes.

I wonder who sells “Kiss me Quick” hats these days?

Serious Stabbing Incident

A 19-year-old man is in hospital with a punctured lung and other injuries after allegedly being stabbed with a screwdriver at a house in Westbrook

A 24-year-old Margate man was arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm after the incident in Canterbury Road on Thursday night.

The victim is described as being "In a serious condition" at the QEQM Hospital.

A young woman was also stabbed in the leg during the incident.

A Local Problem

One of our Cliftonville residents writes an alarming account of his day to day experiences of crime and anti-social behaviour in yesterday’s comments and it reflects the reports of the Audit Commission, report, published last week, which, highlighted vast differences in crime within local areas in England and Wales and warned that national targets on fighting crime diverted attention from local concerns.

Thanet was one of the five areas studied by the report.

The study said national crime figures fail to take account of pockets of low-level disorder or anti-social behaviour despite more than half of people considering it as their top priority when moving to an area.

Measuring crime in areas of joint initiatives between police and local services, or Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRPs), was highlighted as being too broad-brush to accurately reflect localised problems.

Measuring crime across a population of more than 100,000, the average size of a CDRP, could also "conceal huge differences in local neighbourhoods".

The commission's Neighbourhood Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour report also questioned whether crime-cutting schemes make any difference due to a lack of systematic evaluation at national or local level.

Our Cliftonville reader comments:

“Last year we averaged one attempted break-in, or criminal damage a week during the summer months” and continues, I “installed security cameras but first of all they were altered in view, they must have used a long pole to do that, then they were totally smashed off the walls - and they were about 20 feet up.”

So while the police are working hard on an operation to contain burglaries around the island, residents of some areas continue to suffer from an apparently constant background noise of anti-social behaviour and low-level crime, with areas of the island now instantly recognized as “Ghettos of disorder” to the rest of us fortunate enough not to have to live in them.

So on a local level, what are we going to do about this. Will the authorities continue to mouth platitudes and wring their hands in a tacit admission of defeat or is there some small ray of hope that we can reverse the decline in our community?

Where do we begin?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Some Good News Burglaries are Down

Burglaries in Thanet have reportedly dropped since a burglary reduction team took to the streets this month.

Eight constables and a sergeant have been assigned to the task of reducing burglaries on the island, while a team of four detectives and a detective sergeant deal with burglars once they’ve been arrested.

In the ten weeks prior to the team starting, Thanet suffered an average of twenty-three burglaries a week. However, in the first week of operation, the team’s presence stimulated a huge reduction in burglaries, with only thirteen in the first and second weeks – a drop of almost 43 per cent each week.

Thanet has seen steady increase in the number of house burglaries over the past six months and my own guess is that burglary and an increase in violent muggings is linked to the dramatic rise in drugs offenses, normally the pattern we see in the cities.

So I applaud the drop in burglaries through pro-active policing and would ask that we see a “Zero-tolerance” campaign directed at feral underclass gangs of youths who appear to be responsible for many, if not most of the nastier crimes and anti-social incidents that you’ll read about in the Thanet Gazumph each week.

The Little Ships Return

More than 30 Dunkirk Little Ships will be visiting Ramsgate's Royal Harbour next weekend to commemorate the 66th anniversary of Operation Dynamo.

The operation, which took place between 28th May and 4th June 1940, saw a flotilla of 1,200 little ships working alongside a fleet of Naval and Merchant Marine vessels to evacuate 338,000 British and French troops from the beaches around Dunkirk.

Every five years, the Dunkirk Little Ships recreate that voyage and last year, they sailed out of Ramsgate. This year, they will begin arriving on Saturday 27th May and will stay in the town's Royal Harbour over the Bank Holiday weekend.

On Sunday 28th May, there will be a private service of commemoration in the Sailors' Chapel, following by a quayside blessing of the Little Ships, with wreaths afterwards, which can be seen from West Pier. The Little Ships will remain in the Royal Harbour the following day and will be moored in the Outer Harbour in front of the cross-wall.

Cllr. Mike Roberts, Cabinet Member for Maritime Services, said: "We are delighted to welcome the Little Ships back to Ramsgate. They are a very special part of this country's maritime history and they hold a very dear place in many people's hearts. This will be an excellent opportunity for people to come and see the boats in one of the country's most beautiful harbours and to learn about the important role that they played in Operation Dynamo, widely regarded as one of the turning points of World War II."

Low Tide Mark

Marine life that's rarely uncovered by the sea will be the focus of one of the biggest coastal events in Thanet next weekend.  

Low Tide Day on Saturday 27th May will see the Thanet Coast Project, helped by young people from the Millennium Volunteers, hunt for marine life that likes to hide on the lower part of our shores, including velvet swimming crabs, starfish and dog whelks. As well as discovering the sights uncovered by the low tide, there will also be time to play some environmental games.

This national event is held annually on the lowest tide of May and this year will take place between 5.30 - 7.30 p.m.

Naomi Biggs, Thanet Coast Education Officer said: "Low Tide Day last year was the biggest event in our calendar, so I am really looking forward to it again. Hopefully with the tide being so low we will see some unusual species that don't come out of the water very often."

For more information on this and other Thanet Coast Project events call
01843 577672, visit or email

The Future of Ramsgate's Pleasurama

In this week’s ‘Ask Sandy’, Thanet council leader, Sandy Ezekiel, looks to the south of the island and answers a reader’s question on the future of the Pleasurama development in Ramsgate.

Q: “Sandy says the council is close to signing off on the Pleasurama development. How can the development go ahead with the cliff face in such a perilous state? Are the developers going to pay to put it right, or will the council taxpayer have to cough up? Could you ask him if the Council intends to honour his promise to consult about the Pleasurama roof treatment before signing?”

A: “Let’s start with the issue of the cliff face. It’s the Council’s responsibility to maintain the coastline. Here we’re lucky enough to enjoy 26 miles of beautiful coastline and stunning beaches, but with that comes responsibility and this is one of those cases. The problems here were identified as part of our programme coastal defence surveys and we will be carrying out work here in due course.

As far as consultation goes, we have been talking to the Eastcliff Residents Association about this development and some of their concerns, but what we need to be clear about is the difference between signing the agreement and resolving the outstanding planning issues. They’re two different things and the issue of the roof treatment is something that will be resolved as part of the planning process.

For those of you wondering why an agreement is yet to be signed on this site, it’s because work is still underway on a highways agreement. We want to get everything exactly right before we sign the final agreement and that includes and that includes making sure that the site has adequate highways provision.

Rest assured – when we’re ready to start work on site, you’ll be the first to know. This project is a vital one for Ramsgate. It will bring more people in to live in the town centre, meaning more spending money for local shops and we’re working hard to make sure that the scheme happens – and as soon as possible, but before we sign on the dotted, all the various elements must be right before and that’s why we’re taking our time. I firmly believe that this scheme will bring many benefits to Ramsgate and indeed the whole of Thanet and I look forward to the day that works starts on the site.”

Send in your suggestions for next week’s ‘Ask Sandy’ we have a number stored-up but welcome as many as we can get.

'Click' the photo to zoom it up to hi-resolution full screen size. (Airads photos)

Room with a View

The story in today’s ‘Thanet Gazumph’ about landlord, Abrar Mohammed, winching a couple of caravans into his Cliftonville garden, for use as bedsits and reportedly without planning permission, leaves me wondering whether to laugh or cry.

There’s no doubt that Mr. Mohammed has proved unusually enterprising and innovative in his actions but the caravans remain and in the story, the absence or presence of planning permission remains shrouded in mystery.

I wonder what would happen if I did the same and set-up a small caravan park in my garden, without seeking planning permission. Would I get away with it? Probably not, which leaves me asking myself why this might be?

Crack Alley Protest

With a pensioner jailed this week in Kent for refusing to pay his poll tax, another pensioner in Derbyshire is facing jail for protesting against her council's "refusal" to help residents in her once picturesque street which has been overrun by drug dealers and prostitutes.

Her street full of boarded-up windows, flats - many of them squats - crammed with homeless drug addicts and immigrants. An alleyway behind it was dubbed "Crack Alley" after council workers found 900 hypodermic needles in one hour. Sounds familiar? It could be many places in Britain today.

This case raises interesting questions over a council’s duty to enforce the law and provide residents with a decent environment in return for their council tax and indeed, who should be in front of the courts and sent to jail, the drug dealers or the protesting pensioner.

So will she be jailed too? – Read on.

Gale's View - Health Matters

Prime Minister Blair has, we are told, taken personal charge of the Health Service.  Not quite enough charge to personally face the nurses, of course but enough charge to be held responsible for the financial shambles that the "Nation’s Nanny", Patricia Hewitt, has allowed to evolve.

So perhaps Mr. Blair would like to come to East Kent and to visit Fordwich Ward at the QEQM hospital in Margate.  He will find that it is shut.

This has not been the "best year ever" for our Accident and Emergency Services.

I met, recently, with an A&E Registrar from one of the County's major hospitals.  He confirmed my understanding that about 80% of the patients that visit A&E have no need of those services whatsoever and can and should be seen in casualty units, cottage hospitals or, in most cases, by General Practitioners.

Setting aside the after-school "morning after pill" sessions when, apparently, schoolgirls find it convenient to use A&E units as convenient and inconspicuous birth control clinics, many callers are either from overseas and with no culture of the use of General Practice or, more significantly, patients who choose not to wait days for GP appointments or to use the on-call services.

There is, though, a darker side still to A&E known as the "Four-hour breach".

Under Government "targets" A&E patients are required to be seen within four hours and any "breach" of this timescale has to be reported.  Young Senior House Officers, frightened to stand up to the system and relatively inexperienced are prone to make bad decisions in haste.  The more senior Registrars find themselves having to rush or offer inadequate treatment in order to avoid the "breach.

The way round this is, it  seems, is to dispatch patients to wards without appropriate tests having been taken and it is not uncommon for a ward Sister to receive a phone call saying "we are about to breach - will you take this patient within the next 20 minutes".  The half-way measure is to transfer the patient to a CDU unit within the four hours. In this way, technically, they have left A&E even though there is much work still to be done and a logjam further down the line.

All of this information has been given to me by NHS nursing and medical staff who have had enough and are concerned to speak out before patient-care is further compromised.

Is any Minister out there listening?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Dealing with Local Crime

Having experimented with CrimeStoppers (0800 555 111) over the bank holiday weekend, when three mini motorbikes were using the promenade as a proving track, the results hardly filled me with confidence.

At the official launch of the programme yesterday our Chief Constable Mike Fuller says that having a Kent branch of CrimeStoppers "gives us a local identity and enables us to deal with local crime." My experience however of being told to call Kent Police, instead to report anti-social behaviour makes me wonder if it could be improved a little further.

Apparently the free, anonymous hotline was set up 18 years ago so people could give information about crime without anyone knowing who they are. Since then it has led to 71,000 arrests in the UK and provided police with valuable intelligence but how does this impact on local crime beyond being a simple reporting mechanism only.

After all, at times you don’t want to call 999 for non emergency calls, so wouldn’t CrimeStoppers fit “The Bill”, so to speak?

The Isle of the Dead

Was “Thanet” the isle of the dead? Read the BBC story and listen to the programme.

The name "Tenet" was listed in the Domesday book of 1086, whereas in the 18th century classical dictionary of John Lemprise it is states "Tane'tus, a small island of Albion. Ptolemy calls it Tolianis. It is now Thanet."

Robin Gibson takes a ‘Walk Through Time’ to take a closer look at the mystical "Isle of Death"

Read on.

Rural Housing is Significantly Less Affordable

A report from “Property News” today, shows that house prices in rural areas are significantly less affordable than in urban areas, according to the latest Halifax English Rural Housing Index. The average property price in rural areas is 6.7 times average annual earnings compared with a ratio of 5.6 in urban areas.

Pendle (North West) is the rural local authority which has the most housing (17%) classed as unfit for dwelling in. After Pendle, the rural local authorities with the most unfit housing are Shepway (10%), West Dorset (9%) and Thanet (8%).

Read on.

Not a Turner Contemporary but a Statue of Liberty

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

The New Colossus - Emma Lazarus.

Yesterday’s many comments and emails revealed a great deal of interesting information on building and planning in Thanet that we would have been hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

Estimates for the total number of new homes springing-up around the island in the near future, appear to be hovering at around 3,000, alongside the bombshell suggestion that the whole school system may have to be overhauled to cope with the changes. Nobody appears able to come-up with a solution to the inevitable traffic problem that will surround so many new homes, particularly around Westwood Cross and there’s a further question of how many of the new homes, if any, will be set aside for the social housing needs of the London boroughs?

Another piece of news in from a reader last night is that a large house in Westgate is rumoured to have been bought for just under £300,000 by drugs rehabilitation project as a treatment centre for addicts. I’m looking for independent confirmation from anyone please?

One could argue that Westgate is oversubscribed in the provision of homes and services for those occupying the margins of our society and this piece of news, if true, may be one step too far. We should be examining the local density of special homes, special schools and treatment centres and asking ourselves whether the small towns like Westgate, which are attempting to regenerate their local economies and their housing stock, are being, disadvantaged by becoming a focal point for social services problems from elsewhere in London and the South East?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

All Change for Thanet Schools?

Some news just in from one of our readers “The Chalk Face”. Can anyone independently substantiate or confirm the contents of his story; pretty earth-shattering if even partially accurate. The emphasis here is firmly on “discussed” and not “proposed”. He writes:

“You may be interested to hear that a recent meeting was held between the heads of Ellington, Hereson, Chatham House and Clarendon Schools. Some interesting points were apparently discussed including:

* Ellington new school to just be the start of a huge new education centre to be called 'Thanet Campus' which will certainly absorb Hereson and possibly the two grammar schools over the next few years. 2400+ pupils?

* Education consortiums to be created to split the secondary schools into four areas with the following working together.

1. The Thanet Campus as above. Thanet SE

2. Marlow Academy to take in the sixth forms from the two grammar schools. Called Thanet SW.

3. St George's, (photo) Charles Dickens and Dane Court as a consortium called Thanet NE

4. King Ethelberts, Ursuline and Hartsdown as a consortium called Thanet NW

* Ursuline College to lose it's sports college status (to the Thanet Campus?). Sports coaches to be laid off over next twelve months. Sports fields planning turned down, sports hall too expensive. Specialist status of all others to be examined for merger.

* Closure of schools (Ellington, Hereson, Chatham House) and sale of the land to help finance the above (Prime sites, prime prices, prime house building?)

At some stage the staff and governors of these schools may be consulted. As for the parents, well they will just have to put up with Centralised Education!”

Third Cannabis Arrest

Police have arrested a third man in connection with the discovery of a cannabis-growing farm at a warehouse on a Kent industrial site.

A 59-year-old Ramsgate man was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to manufacture drugs at the premises on Whitehall Road in the town.

He is at Margate police station assisting officers with their enquiries.

Unfit Property Update

Regular reader, Mike writes in and says:

“I thought you might be interested in the latest news on TDC much publicised at the time (last year) empty/unfit property grant scheme which offered non repayable grants for unfit housing.

I received a letter from Mr S O'Shea Private Sector Housing manager at TDC this morning regarding my applications for grants for five properties I own which I bought derelict and am looking to improve.

Extract from letter:

"Dear Sir,
Unfit Property Grant Enquiry

Further to my letter to you dated 2005 where I stated your enquiry would not be processed due to the large number of referrals.... I am now writing to confirm that unfortunately the unfit property grants have been discontinued.

The Council have received money from the government for this financial year, the focus for spend however is to be on decent certain vulnerable occupants." etc.

It seems crazy to spend it on decent homes when there are so many derelict properties!

Cheers - Mike

Local Labour

I’m glad to see that the Labour Party have finally discovered ThanetLife, so to avoid any allegations of bias on my part, here are a couple of local opposition stories, passed in my direction by the party, in the shape of Clive Hart, this morning:

“The Labour Group on Thanet District Council kept its word with the residents of Margate and Thanet by again trying to convince the Council to adopt the very reasonable recommendation, made by an independent Planning Inspector for the Local Plan, which strongly came out in favour of Dreamland remaining as an Amusement Park.  The Tory Council agreed in January this year to allow other uses including housing for the site.

Leader of the Labour group, Cllr R Nicholson said, “We warned the Tories in January this meant the end for Dreamland as a place to attract visitors to Margate. The inclusion of housing effectively renders the site as uneconomic for anything else, a view supported by the Planning Inspector. Last night we tried again to persuade the Tories but they all seem scared or unwilling to stand up for Margate. Neither were they willing to pay any attention to local views on this matter, which overwhelmingly supported keeping Dreamland alive.

My colleagues and I now see a slow but unstoppable death for this site with housing and a few leisure connected businesses remaining in the near future. Margate and Thanet was let down badly by the Tories, not for the first time and no doubt if they remain in control then residents will continue to be effectively ignored.”

The Labour Group was also shocked by the Conservative Group attempt to change, at the last minute, the recommendation on the adoption of the Local Plan.  At least three times an additional recommendation was read out and each time it was different.  Council officers had to come to the rescue of the Tories to make any sense of the proceedings.

The Labour Group argued strongly that this was the wrong time and way to change a document that had taken five years to write and although most of the content was in fact set out by Labour members on the council they were unable to support this last minute change and therefore in the public interest did not support the Local Plan.”

Broken Promise

“The Labour group on Thanet District Council were unsuccessful in trying to make the Tory administration keep to promises previously made to Thanet residents and businesses over the type of development permitted at the Westwood area.

When agreement had been initially approved the Council promised to do what it could to protect the interests of small shops in our town centres. One way to do so was to agree the units being built in the Westwood area were of a certain size. Now the Council has given the go ahead for smaller “high street size” units to be developed.

Leader of the TDC Labour Group, Cllr R Nicholson said, “Labour was determined to stick by our word. Whilst we of course fully support development of retail at Westwood we felt we had to try to get the Council to keep promises previously made. Although the action taken last Thursday is initially limited, the Tories have now agreed a precedent and all future requests will be hard to deter, if not impossible to resist now.

However I and my Labour colleagues will, not like the Tories, give up on the town centres and we will continue to work tirelessly with local Town partnerships to enhance our local shops in all areas of Thanet. We need local businesses in local areas for our local residents.”

More Bloggers Required

Looking at the sidebar, there’s evidence of a growing Weblog community now in Thanet and I want to encourage anyone with something to say or even a local diary to join-in and try their hands at being an online writer.

It’s really easy, you can choose to remain anonymous if you prefer and all you have to do is to visit choose a name for your weblog and a suitable template and then start writing.

Once you’ve tried a few entries and when your’e happy with the result, simply send along the link to add to my 'Blog-roll' sidebar with all the other local resources and join the expanding community of local “bloggers”. I reserve the right however, not to link to any site which tolerates bad language or personal attacks.

A Weblog for each town and village in Thanet would be excellent as a means of building a universal picture of what’s happening around the island and what people’s interests and concerns are.

A Night on the Town

Margate Operatic Society is holding a show, "A Night on the Town” from 30th May to 3rd June.

Tickets are £7.50 & £6.50 and the show starts at 7.30 p.m. with a matinee on the Saturday.

If you are able to support MOS, please ring 01843 292795  for tickets.

Gun Arrest in Margate

Kent Online reports that a 53-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of threats to kill during a firearms incident in a Kent town centre on Tuesday afternoon.

Armed officers were called to a flat at Rope Walk House in Margate High Street during an incident involving two men.

Police cordoned off the area and one man walked from the building and voluntarily gave himself up.

He was taken to Margate police headquarters where he will be questioned by detectives.

An air pistol was seized by police.

No one was injured in the incident.

Confessions of a Removal Man

Immigration control was denounced as a mockery yesterday after Whitehall officials disclosed that those overstaying illegally are not pursued "as individuals" and hundreds of thousands of National Insurance numbers are given to foreign nationals without any check on their status. – Read on

Low Mileage

When the council finally re-zoned Westgate Bay Avenue and Westbrook Avenue to prohibit the street trading of cars, like many other residents, I was delighted.

Right outside my own house is an accident black spot which has had five accidents I have seen in three years and my own wall has been knocked down twice in the past.

At the beginning of the month, one of the street traders re-appeared and parked a car right outside my gate, just in the right spot to cause a car to pull into the oncoming traffic at the brow of the hill, which causes these accidents. I quickly reported this to the council, who told me that they would pass it on to the police to deal with. Result. Absolutely nothing.

Meanwhile, total strangers can wander into my garden and explore and when challenged can reply, “I’m interested in that car outside mate.”

On Monday, I repeated the complaint exercise and was “assured” that the matter would be dealt with quickly but the blue Peugot is still there and the police presence will be restricted to breakfast at Beanos café.

If we’ve gone to the trouble to re-zone the area to deal with the problem, the least the authorities can do is enforce it but instead the message being sent is the same as ever, “do what you like because it’s unlikely that the local bylaws will be enforced.”

Street Cleaners Could Help Tackle Crime

Street cleaners and window fitters should be used to help combat localised crime and build a better picture of the problem, a report suggests.

New figures show 60% of people believe crime is rising, despite the statistics falling over the past 11 years.

The Audit Commission said current methods of measuring crime may not be accurately reflecting what occurs in local neighbourhoods.

It said using frontline street workers would not burden them or the police.

But it said only workers who were employed by a council, or working on behalf of it, should be asked to help with crime prevention.

The Audit Commission studied two different wards in Bradford, West Yorkshire; Kerrier in Cornwall; Liverpool; Rhondda Cynon Taff near Cardiff; and Thanet in Kent.

Read on.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sun Shelter

Westgate resident Ann Finch asks: "How do the readers of Thanet Life feel, regarding the plans put forward by West Bay Cafe Westgate, to use part of the shelter beside the cafe, for storage facilities to house their tables and chairs. As it is the only shelter available from the sun and rain at West Bay and is used by many people I think the planning application shall not be popular, and will be opposed by many. "

Remains of the Day - Westbay2
Originally uploaded by DrMoores.

"I have been told half the area of the shelter may be used for the storage, if the planning application is granted, and it has has been called in for the 21st June. Will it leave enough seating area for the elderly and those who wish not to sit in direct sun,........ I wonder?"

Ed: I'm with Ann on this one. The Cafe is an excellent one and has already expanded its building during the winter months and so is now almost twice the size it was. I think expanding any further towards the delightful period shelter seen here, is not in the interests of either residents or tourists, as it is used consistently throughout the season. Councillors please take note.

A Little Lifesaver

This next posting is by way of a public information message I have been asked to pass on. With such a high proportion of elderly people in Thanet the information may help someone, so I decided to give it space here, in the public interest.

"If everyone can remember something this simple, you could save a life. Seriously, please read on:"

"During a BBQ, a friend stumbled and took a little fall - she assured everyone that she was fine (they offered to call an ambulance) and just tripped over a brick because of her new shoes. They got her cleaned up and got her a new plate of food - while she appeared a bit shaken up, Ingrid went about enjoying herself the rest of the evening. Ingrid’s husband called later telling everyone that his wife had been taken to the hospital - (at 6:00pm, Ingrid passed away.) She had suffered a stroke at the BBQ. Had they known how to identify the signs of a stroke, perhaps Ingrid would be with us today. Some don’t die. They end up in a helpless, hopeless condition instead.

It only takes a minute to read this:

A neurologist says that if he can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he can totally reverse the effects of a stroke...totally. He said the trick was getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed, and then getting the patient medically cared for within 3 hours, which is tough.

Thank God for the sense to remember the "3" steps acronym, ‘STR’. Please remember it!

Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer severe brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke.

Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:

* S - Ask the individual to ‘Smile’.

* T - Ask the person to ‘Talk’. to speak a simple coherent sentence, (i.e. . . It is sunny outside)

* R - Ask him or her to ‘Raise both Arms’.

{NOTE: Another 'sign' of a stroke is this: Ask the person to 'stick' out their tongue... if the tongue is ‘crooked’, if it goes to one side or the other that is also an indication of a stroke}.

If he or she has trouble with 'Any' of these tasks, call 999 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

A cardiologist told me that if everyone who gets this e-mail sends it to ten people; you can bet that at least one life will be saved as a result"

Fatal Collision Couple Named

Police have named a Garlinge couple who died when the motorcycle they were riding was in collision with a van last Sunday.

Terry and Patricia Lockett, a married couple from St James' Park Road, Garlinge, were riding a Honda Blackbird along Church Lane, Chislet, near Canterbury, at around 2.30pm on Sunday when the crash took place.

Their vehicle collided with a Transit van.

The couple leave behind four children and four grandchildren.

Terry, a 57-year-old self-employed flat roofer, and 58-year-old Patricia, who worked in Ward and Partners estate agency in Broadstairs, were planning to retire at the end of the year and had intended to spend their free time at the holiday home they owned in France.

A Bit of This and That

With Dreamland looking a little empty and faded and the Pleasurama site offering very little in the way of pleasure, Thanet as an emerging hub in both the thriving European sex-trade and marijuana production industry, may yet present an opportunistic way forward, as a means of boosting tourism. An idea to present to Cllr. Latchford at the next council meeting perhaps?

On a totally different subject, several people have commented that the concreting of gardens to provide houses with car driveways, may be contributing to the drought, as the water can't find it's way down to the water table. I wonder how much of the south-east of the country has been paved over in this way over the last twenty years, making its own little contribution to global warming by reflecting the sunshine too.

Shower Time

Millions of people face queueing for water at standpipes within months as the Environment Agency gave warning yesterday of the worst drought in a century

Reservoirs are mostly full after recent rainfall but groundwater stocks, which form the bulk of household supplies, are even lower in some parts of the South East than they were before the 1976 drought.

You may recall the prediction here, at the beginning of the year, that such measures would be inevitable, given the drop in the local water table and it remains to be seen how hard the drought will hit us here in Thanet.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A Secret Mission in Uncharted Space

Well, I found out who the Hollywood movie people are. Its Ridley Scott films as the production company and Kevin Spacey directing, so as they won’t be coming to Thanet to film, - too far - I guess I have to go to them at Elstree airfield or at least that’s what the fax I have here tells me.

They're asking for an "English Patient" like effect with an old biplane - I had rather hoped for an F15 - but it’s not until next week though, so if I’m allowed, I’ll take as many photos as I can to share with you. I’m still not sure you the really big Hollywood star is, as they won’t tell me but I’m assured it’s not Tom Cruise, which is a relief!

Blue Flag Beaches

Thanet's beaches have gained a record haul of Blue Flags, scooping seven of the prestigious awards, which are only given to the best beaches in Europe.

For the fifth year, Minnis Bay has received the accolade, while Westbrook Bay will retain its Blue Flag for the fourth consecutive year.

West Bay at Westgate is named for the second year in a row, while Margate Main Sands regains the Blue Flag that it last held in 2004. For the first time, St. Mildred's Bay in Westgate, Walpole Bay in Margate and Viking Bay in Broadstairs all receive the award.

The Blue Flag is awarded to beaches which comply with tough water quality guidelines and meet a series of other criteria. Each beach must provide public toilets, access for disabled visitors and first aid facilities and have either lifesaving equipment provided or lifeguards on duty. The area's 26 miles of sandy coastline also boasts ten UK Seaside Awards, which were announced in April.

Cllr. Roger Latchford, Cabinet Member for Commercial and Operational Services, said: "This is a tremendous boost for our tourism trade ahead of the summer season, as it tells the rest of the country that Thanet is home to some of Europe's top beaches. This is a superb result and emphasises the importance that the Council has placed on ensuring that our beaches are clean, the water quality is as high as it can be and that our internationally recognised coastline offers top quality facilities for both residents and visitors."

He added: "Add to this news, the strong line up of events that we have over the next few months, including the Kent Air Show Margate, with the Red Arrows, the return of the Dunkirk Little Ships to Ramsgate and the Broadstairs Folk Week and it's gearing up to be an excellent year for Thanet."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

More Questions Please

Can I have suggestions for this week’s “Ask Sandy” please? Your chance to raise a local issue with our Thanet council leader, Sandy Ezekiel at the very centre of our local government, in the nuclear bunker buried deep beneath Cecil Square.

Spot the Brothel

One reader has already suggested the site of a popular local brothel after reading the earlier post, allegedly, “Opposite 16 Canterbury Road Westbrook” and run by a ‘Miss Satin’. Would anyone else like to offer ‘known’ addresses of the others which are apparently the latest boost to the local economy, offering diverse opportunities to migrant workers.

For the lower-end of the market, there's Miss Corduroy and Miss Sackcloth & Ashes and I'm happy to tell you that ThanetLife has negotiated a 10% entry discount for its readers.

Are these hardworking girls and their enterprising local businesses, threatened by the possibility of a chain of brothels being established at Westwood Cross in the near future? Who holds the franchise rights to them and what does the council and police plan to do about it? More importantly, how much do they charge, do the rooms include wide screen Sky Sports and do they open on Sundays?

I can feel a Thanet Gazumph story on the subject just around the corner can’t you. Over to you Nick Dorman. It's a tough job but someone with trousers has to do it.

Winging It

I see from the Mail on Sunday this morning that a taxi driver showed more “bottle” than me when faced with an almost identical situation in the BBC News studio.

The mystery cabbie man stepped unwittingly into the national spotlight when he was interviewed by mistake on the corporation's News 24 channel. You can watch the video here.

With the seconds ticking down to a studio discussion about a court case involving Apple Computer and The Beatles' record label, a floor manager had run to reception and grabbed the man, thinking he was Guy Kewney, editor of, a specialist internet publication. I know Guy's work and can confirm that he looks nothing like the ‘black cabbie’ who took his place.

The same thing almost happened to me a couple of years ago in the same studio. I forget what I was in there to talk about but the floor manager marched me into the studio, sat me down next to the news reader and then left.

I had a moment or so before going live; and the weather was running in the gap to the top of the hour news and the anchor turned to me and asked “how long have you been doing knees then?” I looked blank. “Knees?” I replied. “Yes as the team physiotherapist” and he mentioned a Premier League club linked to a major news story of an injured player.

At this point, I wondered if I should “wing it” or tell the truth but buckled under the strain and confessed that I was there for the next story. This caused a brief panic and the running order was quickly changed as there was no time to find the real physio. The black cabbie last week did however do a fantastic job by all accounts and nobody knows who he was.

Perhaps the funniest incident I had was on Sky News at the time of the 3G telephony auction, where the government made ‘squillions’ by selling the licenses to the likes of Vodafone at inflated prices the later regretted and which we will pay for over the next ten years. Sky dragged me in to the studio for another technology story and as a ‘regular’ they didn’t bother checking the content with me before sitting me down in the studio, with a good friend, one of their news anchors, giving the interview.

“I haven’t a clue about all this 3G stuff” he said, with twenty seconds to run, “So I’ll ask you a pretty broad question and you fill up two minutes with your answer.”

“What 3G stuff”, I replied, “I though I was doing ‘x’ today?”

The Sky News music started to play, ten seconds left before going on air. “We’ll have to wing it” he said and thankfully, nobody noticed, which says a great deal about modern news gathering and rather less about the experts!

Over a Barrel

The water companies may be having us on. Yes there is a drought but Kent on Sunday reveals that its the customer who may be "Wet behind the ears" when it comes to the water company profits and leaks of hundreds of millions of gallons of water.

Working Girls

The news, printed in a Kent on Sunday report today, that 300 brothels have been targetted in Kent, with a good many in Thanet, may confirm my speculation about the small groups of Eastern European women, I frequently see on the train from Victoria to Ramsgate, the 'millionaires playground', following what looks like a succesful day out at the shops.

I could be wrong but they never look the part of refugees or commuters so we need to fill an obvious commercial gap at Westwood Cross, which may be sending local money out of Thanet to London's Bond Street instead.

Whose Rights First

The seafront is tidy, the litter is being collected but there’s one more thing the people of Thanet would among the long list or priorities that concern us all. That’s law an order and a visibly effective and ‘zero tolerance’ criminal justice system.

Muggings, thuggings and vandalism are on the rise and are encouraged by a more relaxed licensing regime, if you listen to the argument of the Chief Constable of Kent. Local residents would be forgiven for thinking that matters were starting to spiral out of control and confidence in the criminal justice system to protect residents and deal swiftly and effectively with the perpetrators, appears from comments on this website, to be at an all time low.

The Sunday Telegraph also reports today that “Ten thousand crimes are being committed every month by offenders on probation” and goes on to write: “The British public is increasingly worried by judgments whose effect is to rank the "rights" of criminals higher than those of law-abiding citizens. As a result, the whole notion of human rights is becoming discredited. Rather than basic protections against arbitrary power, "human rights" are now seen as legal fictions that prevent the police, the intelligence services and other government agencies from doing what they believe needs to be done in order to safeguard the nation.”

Talk to anyone else and with an aircraft instead of a white van, I get around a bit, you’ll find that the worries of the people of Thanet are no different to those to the people of Newport, where I was yesterday afternoon or anywhere else in the country. As one woman, in Wales yesterday, commented, “we pay more and more tax but are streets are full of thieves.”

A sociologist might argue that the 19th century streets were a great deal more violent than the streets of today but there’s an overriding sense among the community that we’ve lost control of our ability to deter crime at all, with the normally law-abiding first offender fast-tracked through the legal system, while the scum responsible for a constant background hum of low-intensity but socially impactful crime, walk free or are simply untouchable because they are too young or have “issues.”

Tell me I’m wrong.