Monday, April 30, 2007

The Big Week

It’s the beginning of “The big week” and I’m out today doing some last minute canvassing. Although, these are local elections, they come at a time of impending change, a new Prime Minister, the spectre of Scottish independence and the real possibility of a snap General Election in the near future.

The next government will inherit a mortgaged future, a bankrupt treasury, a sclerotic economy and an electorate that no longer trusts politicians or government. This week, at least, people have an opportunity to express their support or opposition to the record of local government and a central government process which is now so centralised and authoritarian, that local democracy has become very limited in what it can achieve within the straightjacket in which it is tightly wrapped.

How the week ends will prove interesting for all of us. I can’t remember a time when local elections and national political interests coincided or indeed, collided with such force. Over the last decade, we’ve seen our country become badly broken, the victim of a grand and well-meaning socialist experiment that has failed. On a local basis, here in Thanet, we’ve accepted more than our fair share of collateral damage, which has in turn, shaped the face of the island. With luck, the results of this week’s local election will deliver the people and the direction we need to make Thanet a better place; small steps at least, until a General Election gives us the opportunity to choose between a Soviet-like state control of our lives or one which recognises the importance of “localism” and can offer greater autonomy and respect to the local democratic process.

Here’s to the ballot box a new life under Gordon Brown - a PM that nobody voted for - and the grinding inevitability of new taxation and state controls that are bound to follow.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Little Magic

And today's popular conspiracy theory is that I have used my 'influence' to have the motorcycle or scooter rally moved away from Westbrook. Next week I'm using this magic power to have the troops withdrawn from Iraq and Dreamland turned-back into a thriving funfair, both in time for the weekend!

Reader Dick Osborne points out that there may be two, two wheel rallies happening between now and Bank Holiday, so wires may have been crossed. Here's the advertisment for one of them anyway.

Meanwhile, I'm toying with the idea of delivering a personal aerial message to Tony Blair on the day he resigns. With 32 characters - including spaces - available because of drag limitations, what should it be I wonder? Perhaps I should put it up as a one-time offer on eBay?

Only Nine Million

Having looked through all the Sunday papers this morning I have decided to retreat into a darkened room and not re-appear again until my beard touches the floor.

Seriously though, the news is depressing at he best of times but with earthquakes in Folkestone, a family threatened with eviction after they put up razor wire to stop vandals breaking into their property and a suggestion that Gordon Brown plans to tax our gardens when he is made PM - probably next week - Australia is looking increasingly attractive as a potential retirement destination. We can forget Spain for the moment, as there's more gloom and doom over the predicted Spanish property price collapse and some 15,000 UK citizens threatened with having their homes bulldozed because they don't have the right kind of planning permission, granted by "dodgy" Spanish local councils.

We can all take heart with the news that supermodel, Kate Moss, is reportedly worth £45 million as one of Britain's wealthiest and that Cherie Blair, who once preferred her maiden name of "Ms Cherie Booth", now has a new website, which re-positions her neatly as a "Mrs Blair" again, just in time to take advantage of the lucrative American lecture circuit when Tony steps down. That reminds me, it was in the States that I once met Harold Wilson, pipe and all, when he gave a lecture at my university there.

There's a great deal of open political water between Harold and Tony but history has shown that the United States can be very kind to retired British Prime Ministers.

I will leave you with one story, which isn't really a revelation, as government have known about it for ages and it represents a significant objection to the introduction of ID cards.

"Millions of national insurance numbers have been "lost", the Government has admitted, raising fears that they are being misused by fraudsters and illegal immigrants.

"Adesola Adelana, Stephen Ayankoya and Adetutu Olowe stole 37 numbers in total and used them to help open 11 bank accounts, obtain eight forged driving licences and access nine credit cards. They were sentenced to between 30 months and four years"

The nine million numbers were issued by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and are registered on its database, but officials do not know if they are held legitimately."

Herein lies the problem. The government either through gross error or through the corrupt action of a small number of civil servants, has issued not 10,000 - as in passports or even driving licenses - but "9 million" false NI numbers. It's such an enormous figure that it's hard to countenance and it presents an awful dilemma in that that revealing in any part, who the nine million fraudsters are, would bring the system to collapse in attempting to prosecute and deal with the related fraud and entitlement issues.

The result, is that you and I, through our taxes are subsidising up to nine million "ghosts" to the tune of at least £20 billion each year, (£330 for every person in the country according to reorted figures).

Anybody else fancy a new life in Australia then?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Earth Trembled

Having missed this morning's earthquake excitement, on account that I was on the way to Swindon to fly a banner to celebrate the opening of a new B&Q (pictured) there, I caught up with the local KMFM news driving back into Thanet from the airfield.

While I was listening to the radio, I happened to catch an advert for another B&Q opening in Folkestone. That's interesting I thought, as I just happen to have a banner in the back of the car that B&Q Swindon have paid for, so why not call the Folkestone store and ask?

The result was a rather bizarre conversation, which went something like this:

"Would you be interested in flying the "B&Q Now Open" message over Folkestone tomorrow that I've just been flying over Swindon today?"

"We've had an earthquake you know, you won't be allowed!"

"Well perhaps not today but I doubt you'll have another earthquake on Sunday and some people are bound to need building materials in a hurry, so given that another store has already paid for the banner, why not use it for the cost of a local flight only?"

"We've had an earthquake but I'll ask."

The answer, came back as polite "no thank you", no reason given but I'm still not quite sure what an earthquake has to do with the airspace over B&Q in Folkestone on Sunday. Does anyone know?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Millionaires Welcome

It came as a shock to me too but the latest "Property hotspot prediction" for a seaside town, is, well, Margate, predicted to be one of the newest property hotspots in the UK this summer and a top destination for tourists.

"Estate agents in London say while the town has some of the cheapest accommodation in the South East – the average price per house is £176,000 – it is rapidly increasing in value.

Its seaside location is attractive to people looking to relocate to larger homes – and those wanting weekend second properties which can also be rented out to holidaymakers.

In the travel business predictions are for an increase in visitors as more people are attracted to a traditional British holiday."

The travel agent waxes lyrical about Margate's many attractions:

"Margate’s beach is one of the most beautiful in the South East and will soon be within easy reach of London."

“Even now travel times are not too bad", he says, "Then there is the Turner Centre."

“Once in operation it will attract many visitors and they will want to see the landscapes that influenced one of Britain’s most famous artists.”

Quite obviously Ramsgate is now either overpriced or not up to the job of being the new Monaco of the South-east and Margate will now be invaded by BBC and Channel 4 property programmers with an eye for a smart and upcoming seaside town.

Either that or.. well I'll leave the comments to you!

Too Many Small Flats

With much of Thanet under attack from developers attempting to squeeze one-bedroom flats out of large houses, news of an appeal that shows that the developers don't always win.

The appeal against a new policy, restricting the type of housing that can be provided in the Cliftonville West Renewal Area, has been thrown out by a planning inspector.

New planning guidance was developed by Thanet District Council in response to concerns from people in the Renewal Area about the increasing amount of small flats and the lack of family homes there.

This guidance was designed to help the Council to refuse planning permission for any further applications to provide one bedroom flats and bedsits in the Renewal Area and received significant public support. It was adopted by the Council in December 2006.

An appeal was made over the Council's failure to determine an application within a given period to convert a property at 19 Godwin Road into three one bedroom flats. The Inspector dismissed the appeal and refused to grant planning permission for the conversion. His report stated that "The Council has provided substantial and detailed evidence as to the social, economic and physical character of the Cliftonville West Renewal Area* it is clear that the area does not form a stable, inclusive and mixed community, which is one of the strategic national objectives for housing policy." He goes on to say that "I accept that the high proportion of small units of rented accommodation in this area is inextricably linked to the area's serious and diverse problems."

Head of Development Services, Brian White, said: "This is excellent news and shows firm support for Thanet District Council's new planning guidance in the Renewal Area to help restrict the number of small flats, bedsits and non-self contained accommodation there. We are determined to improve the quality of life for people living there and residents have told us that the key to that is developing a more balanced and vibrant community. That's why this policy was developed and we hope that it will have a major impact in helping the Council's work to improve life for people living in the Cliftonville West Renewal Area over the next few years."

Rally Update

I have been asked to pass on that this weekends two wheel rally in Westgate, is a motor scooter celebration with around 200 people expected and to allay any concerns from Westbrook residents, these are being accomodated at King Ethelberts school in Westgate.

Men Behaving Badly

A Story from The Times today that you might like to comment on:

"Blogs typically do not add to the available stock of commentary: they are purely parasitic on the stories and opinions that traditional media provide.”

'In The Guardian, Jonathan Freedland pointed out that the abusive, vitriolic nature of many blogs had turned the blogosphere into a “claustrophobic environment, appealing chiefly to a certain kind of aggressive, point-scoring male — and utterly off-putting to everyone else”. Freedland’s crucial point is that the anonymity made possible by web protocols is at fault. People find it easy to behave badly if nobody knows who they are.'

Ed: So is Freedland right? Do people find it easy to behave badly if nobody knows who they are?

Now its Time to Say Goodbye

With the papers speculating that Tony Blair may step down on Tuesday, to avoid any direct blame for the predicted 'melt-down' of the Labour vote in next week's local elections, there is also news that robbery levels have soared to a four-year high after the government on street crime ran out of cash.

Overall crime levels were up two per cent - the fourth consecutive rise - according to crime figures released by the Home Office.

The public is also now less confident about the ability of the police and courts to deal with street crime.

Reflecting recent concern in Thanet, public worries over drunken yobs and anti-social behaviour are rising and there has been 11 per cent yearon-year rise in vandalism, revealed by the statistics.

The number of robberies recorded by police in the last three months of 2006 was eight per cent higher than in the same period the previous year. The figure of 26,600 marked the first time the quarterly total had risen above 26,000 since early 2003. Around half of all robberies now involve mobile phone thefts.

Whether the Prime Minister, falling on his sword before the local elections will go any way towards making Gordon Brown more acceptable to the general public is open to question. For some, it may simply appear that he might not wish to be seen to be taking the blame for any poor election results and instead can describe the poll as a mandate for Gordon, rather than the public's judgement of the years since the invasion of Iraq.

What do you think?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Minnis Memories - The Car Park

An interesting shot of Minnis Bay in the late 1940s I think. It's changed a little since then as you can tell from the view along the road to the hotel in the background.

Well Done Wanderers

icKent reports that a day of celebrations is planned as Thanet Wanderers Rugby Club mark the 10th anniversary of winning the national Intermediate Cup at Twickenham.

Saturday, May 5th will see a match between the current 1st XV and the victorious Twickenham Cup side, kicking off at 3pm.

Ed: As a former 'Wanderer', well done to the team. I think I might even have a vintage 1970s Thanet Wanderers rugby shirt in the attic too!

Guns Blazing

Another day in Dodge City, Birchington when armed police officers arrested a suspect in with guns drawn.

The incident happened on Wednesday afternoon in Station Road, when unmarked police cars stopped a silver Citroen Saxo.

Armed officers in plainclothes reportedly pulled a man out of the car and forced him to the path. He was held on the ground with guns including a rifle pointing at him. He was bundled into a car and taken away. He was dressed quite respectably."

The arrest was made by Kent Police's armed division on behalf of Sussex Police.

Ed: Was this the KFC chicken dippers bandit or someone more dangerous I wonder

Don't Look Up

I couldn't let Dr John Reid get away with yesterday's comments without writing a comment column:

"It is easy to appreciate the devastation of a physical attack and what it can bring but we must not underestimate the potentially devastating consequences of an electronic attack."

These were the words of Home Secretary, John Reid, yesterday at a conference organised by the Royal United Services Institute and it echoed the “Facing the possibility of an electronic Pearl Harbor” speech given to the US Congress by Secretary of Defense John Hamre in 1997, who added: "There is going to be an electronic attack on this country some time in the future."

This particular alarmist theme has been enthusiastically peddled by several security companies, since the Twin-towers collapsed; the possibility of a "cyber-terrorist" attack on what is known as our "critical information infrastructure" and while the evidence for Al Qaeda or its supporters having the necessary technical skills to commit significant online disruption, is at best shaky, that hasn’t prevented the Home Office recognising a good headline, with Dr Reid worrying aloud, that “Terrorists could attempt to cause economic chaos or plane crashes in an electronic attack on the UK's computer networks.”

Most recently we heard that the police had, last year, prevented a well advanced plot to infiltrate and attack Telehouse in Docklands, the biggest Internet hub in Europe and the principal routing point for the majority of UK internet traffic. This operation followed the success of a second enquiry, when, MI5, found evidence to suggest that Islamic terror groups were targeting the Bacton gas terminal complex in Norfolk .

Since 9-11, I’ve had several conversations with well-placed individuals who have considered the likely possibility and success of “cyber-terrorism” and while identifying targets of opportunity, they have, in each and every case, dismissed the idea as being unlikely to succeed or meet the expectations of any terrorist group because of the complexity of the operation and the organisational demands that would be made upon the group attempting to carry it out.

Like the Ricin poison plot and others, such attacks when foiled, appear to exist mostly in the imagination of the potential terrorists, who, as we have seen in the media, aren’t skilled to the levels of a James Bond movie mastermind but are broadly into tinkering with the crude and violent results of home chemistry experiments.

What worries government, particularly in the public sector, is that a career in IT is a popular choice for many better-educated and disaffected young men from the same risk group that gave us 7-7. This can be broadly illustrated in the sophisticated domestic use of the internet for communications, production and exchange of extremist material. A fundamental challenge for law-enforcement and the security services, isn’t so much the risk of an attack on electronic infrastructure from outside the organisation but one from within, following the pattern we regularly see with organised crime groups.

While Dr Reid would rather keep us on our toes and believing that his vigilance will protect us from internet meltdown or the disruption of Heathrow’s air traffic control by a terrorist group, the real risks are likely to be rather more mundane and perhaps involve data loss, data theft or disruption on a more localised basis from an individual using his privileges to compromise the organisation in which he works.

Alternatively, you can subscribe to the apocalyptic type of plot that you might expect from novelist “Tom Clancy”, where the New York Exchange is shut down by rogue code in a software upgrade.

Historically, since the first hijacked airliners were blown-up in Jordan thirty years ago, terrorists have preferred grand explosive statements of contempt for our society. The evidence suggests that it will remain that way and given the sad and expensive record of public-sector failure in large IT projects, perhaps, we’ll discover in fifty years that the results were down to action from Al Qaeda and not the management consultants after all.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On Two Wheels

Westbrook will apparently be the focus of a motorcycle rally this coming weekend, with 200 - 400 bikers expected. I'm not entirely sure whether its bikes or scooters as the person who told me wasn't sure of the difference, both having two wheels but the gathering should take place at the car park on the seafront. I'm sure you'll hear it first.

The photograph is from Westbrook in the 1930s

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Great KFC Stick-up

I guess you couldn't make it up but...

The a member of staff from Broadstairs KFC has reportedly been held-up by two armed robbers as he left the premises.

The victim had just locked up at the Broadstairs KFC when the two raiders forced him back inside. They pushed him to the floor and tied him up before stealing cash from the safe.

Detectives say that during the incident one of the men showed the staff member a black handgun tucked into his belt.

The incident happened just after 1am on Monday. One of the raiders was white and the other black. They were both wearing hooded tops.

Det Insp Lee Whitehead said: "There may have been people in the area at the time, perhaps returning from a night shift or after working late, and we are keen to hear from anyone who witnessed two men leaving the area."

Ed: What's next I wonder?

The RSM Returns

I will catch-up eventually. I've been away at Coventry airport on a course for two days and haven't been in long. In the hour and fifteen minutes between Coventry, Luton airport and here this afternoon, the change in weather has been remarkable. The Midlands under low cloud with standing puddles and from Canvey Island, the North Kent coast under bright sunshine.

A couple of personal comments have now been deleted from one of the comment threads. Sorry but you know my rules, no personal abuse please, however tempting it might seem at times.

Here another photograph for you all, apparently it's a source of local military nostalgia, a character, RSM Brittain. Can anyone tell me more?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Days to Remember

With summer upon us early this year, here's a photo of Dreamland in all its glory.

I can still recall the smell of the hot dogs and onions and the excitement of the rides and attractions, when as a small boy, I was allowed my annual outing to the amusement park when it was the heart of Margate's summer tourism industry.

Here also is a photo that I took more recently. Do you notice any small differences?

Thanet's Most Wanted

Just sent in by a reader, news of of a new website, "Thanet's Most Wanted", for news on missing people, property and pets.

It has now been added to the local inks sidebar.

Ed: I lost my pet Newt some forty years ago. Has anyone found it yet?

Whisper Jet

If Ramsgate residents find the Oasis 747 doing training circuits around Manston noisy, then try living on the Caribbean island of St Maarten. They have to keep their heads down when they are walking their dogs along the beach.

Reason Number 226

If you want to see all 226 reason why the new army of council tax inspectors can enter your home, you can find it avalable for download, here.

Although Ministers insist that the planned council tax revaluation is on hold until after the next General Election, Government inspectors are quietly continuing to build up a database on every home in England and Wales.

This will include detailed information about the condition of the property and its internal and external area. It will also take into account location and proximity to golf courses (and beaches?).

This means that when Labour in the shape of Prime Minister Brown, announces its expected overhaul of local taxation, much of the data needed to draw up new council tax bands will already be stored on Government computers.

Ed: Oh, and in case you missed it in the detail, each one of us now will face a routine tax inspection every seven years on average. Something to look forward to I'm sure. A new life in Australia looks more attractive with every day that passes!

Cancer Cluster Around Phone Masts

In light of today's story in the papers (below), I'm delighted that, with a little action, we managed to have plans for a phone mast outside the Ursuline College in Westgate, "refused."

"Seven clusters of cancer and other serious illnesses have been discovered around mobile phone masts, raising concerns over the technology’s potential impact on health.

Studies of the sites show high incidences of cancer, brain haemorrhages and high blood pressure within a radius of 400 yards of mobile phone masts.

One of the studies, in Warwickshire, showed a cluster of 31 cancers around a single street. A quarter of the 30 staff at a special school within sight of the 90ft high mast have developed tumours since 2000, while another quarter have suffered significant health problems."

While the jury is still largely out in regard to proven health effects, the evidence is, I believe, sufficient for society to think twice, before placing these masts anywhere near schools and young children.

Seeing Ghosts

Just adding to the earlier story on the risk of electoral fraud on May 3rd, The Sunday Times reports:

"More than 1m “ghost” voters have been uncovered who threaten to undermine the result of next month’s local council elections.

An analysis by Britain’s electoral watchdog has estimated that there are at least 1m and possibly up to 3.5m people whose names appear on the electoral roll even though they are ineligible to vote.

The disclosure will fuel concerns over the extent of electoral fraud, which critics claim the government has down-played in order to extend postal voting, which benefits Labour candidates.

The names include illegal immigrants, bogus voters, foreign residents and those who are registered at more than one address. Officials fear that in marginal areas, election results could be affected by abuse of “ghost” votes."

Ed: Anyone seen any ghosts around here recently?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Shooting Stars

The good weather a month ago gave us an uninterupted look at the lunar eclipse but tomorrow, Sunday, mark your diaries for some shooting stars as the annual Lyrid meteor shower is back.

The Lyrids are one of the oldest known meteor showers, with records going back to 687BC, thanks to ancient Chinese astronomers.

The number of meteors in any shower has diminished over the years, but it could still be worth staying up late for. There is no suggestion that this will happen this year, but in 1982 everyone got a bit of a shock when the display reached peak rates of around 200 shooting stars per hour.

The show should be at its best on Sunday night through into Monday morning, with a peak rate of around 10-20 meteors per hour. The light from the waxing moon will be less of a distraction after midnight.

Ed. By the way, the comment thread om immigration, further below, is one of the best debates I've seen here in a long time. Feel free to join in with your own views.

Dane Valley Vandalism Update

The vandalism in Dane Valley appears unprecedented and is reported in this week's Thanet Gazette. Sue, who is in the thick of it and saw her husband's new allotement shed burned-down a week ago writes:

"Here we are again. five allotment gates kicked in and shed broken into last night (Friday). One padlock removed with key. You can't expect people to put up with this indefinitely. Or can you?"

I have to agree with her, protecting allotments may not be a core priority of Thanet's finest, but zero-tolerance to the vandalism that is occurring there should be. After a lad might start with burning-down a garden shed or two and work up to.. well, someone's house?

I know the council are trying hard from both sides of the political spectrum to do something about this but as I mentioned to one councillor this week, short of laying land mines and providing guard dogs roaming along the perimeter fence, I'm not sure how we can keep the vandals out?

Any ideas readers?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Pay-Up or....?

Reportedly, half the people given on-the-spot fines by police in Kent are not paying up. I wonder if anyone knows what the ratio for Thanet is?

Police can issue a fine of either £50 or £80 for anti-social behaviour offences and offenders have 21 days in which to pay, after which the matter is referred to magistrates' court.

However Kent Police figures show that of 7,537 fines or Penalty Notices for Disorder (PNDs) issued in 2006, only 3,769 were paid within the 21-day period. During 2005, police issued 5,150 PNDs, of which 2,690 were paid.

Ed: This statistic doesn't sound very impressive to me and with the courts overworked, it's possibly another example of a group within society not being pursued, because it's too much trouble and cost to enforce the law. I would love to know, for example, how many people have been fined by our local dog wardens and paid-up?

Postal Vote Problems

Plans for the local elections in two weeks have been thrown into chaos and the results could be delayed for days because of widespread problems with new postal voting software.

Up to 100 councils are experiencing difficulties with software to scan millions of postal votes after new anti-fraud legislation. In some areas the systems have not even arrived.

The problems could lead to votes being discarded in error or false votes counted because the scanning equipment failed to work properly.

Most town halls are sending out postal ballot forms today. Electoral staff said they were crossing their fingers that they could read them electronically when the results start coming in after the ballot on May 3.

Ed: Recalling the 'alleged' postal vote fraud that happened last time in a number of inner city Labour consituencies it would be nice if the technology worked this time.

Will the Last Person Leaving

The Times reports that five hundred Britons are leaving the UK every day to live in the sun or find work abroad, according to the Office of National Statistics. A record 380,000 people left the country in 2005. More than half were British citizens leaving for more than a year. The top destinations are Australia, Spain, France and New Zealand.

Meanwhile 565,000 people arrived, (immigration has pushed up the British population by nearly one and half million in a decade) slightly down on the previous year, so the overall population rose by 185,000. Most came to work or study. According to the ONS, it is estimated that more than 100,000 new homes each year will be needed for the newcomers. Similar pressures are building on the Health Service, social services, transport and policing.

One in five Britons moving abroad headed for Australia. Large numbers also emigrated to Spain, where there is an established expatriate retirement community. Canada and South Africa are also very popular.

A point made in an earlier report was that we are now seeing an acceleration of the old "brain drain" effect, in that those emigrating are several times more likely to be more highly educated and skilled than those arriving to find work. As an example, very little Research & Development is now done by large international companies in the UK and so if your'e in this field, you are probably reading this on the West coast of the United States or the Pacific Rim. An old friend of mine now working for a US technology company, tells me that he's only staying in the UK because he doesn't want to take his children out of school and I've heard the same story from several people of my age.

Emigration on this level is now a source of real concern for the future of the UK economy, which has focused on attracting "cheap" labour, rather than skilling the workforce to compete in the 21st century. More interestingly perhaps, it also shows that the middle classes are fed-up with the mess they see around them and many are starting to vote with their feet.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Tall Ships

Michael's Bookshop has some great photos of the Tall Ships arriving in Ramsgate today. You can find them here.

The Curtain Falls

High drama at the last full council meeting before the end of term and next month’s elections.

The Theatre Royal argument continues with the delivery of a petition with 4,416 signatures by Jacqueline Quigley. I’ll invite some debate about the finer details here but from where I was sitting, there appeared to be confusion over the role played by the Theatre trustees and Thanet District Council in clearing its considerable debts and changing its ownership. Many of these questions were, I think, addressed in the Q&A I have in a story link from earlier in the month but this doesn’t appear to be putting an end to a good conspiracy theory that lay in the minds of many of the observers in the public gallery.

There was a suggestion made in the meeting that Roger Gale, our MP, had refused to accept the petition but when I saw him the other day, I was given to understand that procedurally, he couldn’t accept a petition that had already been submitted elsewhere, which appeared to make sense to me at least.

So if you were at tonight's council meeting, did the answers finally reveal why the Theatre Royal is where it is today. Several Labour councillors were struggling with the detail, I concede, given by Chief Executive, Richard Samuel.

Another petition tonight was submitted by John Farley on behalf of a 1,000 Ramsgate residents, worried by the potential development plans for Montefiore Avenue in Ramsgate.

An energetic case was made for the defense of the green spaces; putting green, park and tennis courts and concern over the gradual loss of open, public green spaces on the island. I suspect that 99% of Thanet residents share the same concern as more and more new properties are squeezed into ever smaller spaces to meet the insatiable demand for more housing.

I even met Tony Flaig from the Big News Margate weblog this evening and the strangest thing, there seemed to be very little that we disagreed upon in regard to making Thanet into a better place for all.

Virginia's Westgate Connection

The daughter of Cllr Ingrid Spencer, a former student of the Ursuline College in Westgate, was on the Virginia Tech University campus this week when 32 people were murdered by a crazed gumen, Choe Seung-Hui.

Elinor Spencer, a research chemist was in the science and engineering department when America's worst firearms outrage took place.

I am sure that everyone here in Thanet, will join with me in wishing Elinor our best wishes following her ordeal.

Man Found Dead Near Cliffs

A Father-of-three found has been dead near cliffs in Broadstairs.

David Elliott worked for Regal Estates, which has offices in the town.

Police patrols and detectives were called to the scene between Viking Bay and Stone Bay on Tuesday.

They are not treating the death of the father-of-three as suspicious.

QEQM Shuts Ward

Kent Online reports that a ward at the QEQM hospital in Margate has been shut because of an outbreak of the Norovirus.

East Kent NHS Trust said a "deep clean" operation would be taking place on the affected Birchington Ward today.

Matthew Kershaw of East Kent NHS Trust said: "We have Birchington Ward currently closed, isolated for the Norovirus.

"The outbreak started on Sunday night. There are currently three patients on the ward, all in side rooms, who have contracted the virus.

He added: "There have been no incidents since Monday. All being well, we will be concluding this incident tomorrow and there will be a deep clean of the in-patient area."

The Norovirus bug can last for two or three days. People can be infectious for 48 hours before any symptoms - vomiting - appear.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Right B'stard

Remaining with the subject of politics, I've found a clip from the 'new' New Statesman in which our favourite politician of the 1980's - no not Norman Tebbit - Alan B'stard, played by actor Rik Mayall, crosses the floor of the House and joins the New Labour hierarchy.

Strangely enough, I found myself sharing the same train with Mayall's "Young Ones" co-star, Nigel Planer the other week. Nigel appears to live in or around Herne Bay these days and perhaps it shows my age that I seemed to be the only person in the carriage to instantly recognise him.

What's It All About?

One of our younger readers wonders what the point of local democracy is for someone like him? He writes:

"I am writing to tell you that I am 21 and have not a clue about how the local elections in May would affect me individually; due to the fact I have no idea about the local policies or action plans of any of the parties (other than the universal agenda to cut crime, improve education and save the environment... which doesn't help when trying to choose one party over another). I have heard nothing in terms of any clear marketing as to any policy that would help me better understand what is going on and the website of the Lib Dems seems to have last been updated in 2005.

I find it a no surprise that voting from younger people is so low, and thought it necessary to highlight the difficulties I am having in finding any information!"

Would any of our sitting Councillors care to offer any advice?

A Wobble to the Left

With the local elections just around the corner, the parties are now looking for air support but it won't be here in Thanet. I've been tasked with organising two days on May 2nd and 3rd with Airads sitting over Southampton and Portsmouth for six hours , each day, with a banner to encourage the voters.

Now if you try flying in circles for six hours at a time, you'll find that on landing, there's a distinct tendency to wobble to the left, rather than vote to the right!

Here's a photograph from the last General Election, when the election team from the Labour Party and Home Secretary, Dr John Reid, joined Airads as we flew around the country. - It's the old aircraft.

Two Men Charged with Fifth Ave Murder

Kent Online reports that two men charged with the murder of a 44-year-old Alan Parker in Cliftonville, last month have been remanded in custody until June 18.

Duncan Shelbourne,44, of Dalby Square, Cliftonville and Kyle Lesley Eames, 21, of no fixed address, appeared before Maidstone Crown Court on Monday. Alan Parker died from multiple head injuries after being found in public toilets at Fifth Avenue,on March 29th.

Lollipop Lollipop

Salmestone Grange primary school featured on this morning's BBC local news or more accurately, the surrounding road, which is now considered to be too dangerous for "Lollipop" ladies.

According to the report, there have been a number of near misses with cars that refuse to stop to allow the children to cross the road and there are concerns that a serious accident could occur on this, one of the busiest and most congested roads in Thanet.

Winner of the caption competition, my favourite at least, was from Michael Child, with:"Gomez discovering why the castration of such a valuable animal had been entrusted to a migrant farm worker."

Well done to all the runners up as it was hard to choose from the funniest quips!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

White Funnel - Blackadder

I see that we have picked-up 1001 new readers over the last seven days, so welcome and please feel free to contribute to the conversations threads. My only request is that everyone remembers the "polite society" policy in place on this weblog which gives everyone a comfortable environment to participate in if they wish to.

A little nostalgia in the image, to remind us of the time when Margate and Ramsgate were enough of a holiday destination to warrant day trips to France.

Mind you, Margate had a pier at the time too!

With news that David Miliband - the younger - has decided not to take on Gordon Brown for the Presidency and a local election around the corner, I'm reminded of the Blackadder election sketch. Any resemblance to real characters seeking election is purely coincidental.

Pedal Days

Back to St Mildred's Bay again and this time a view of the pedaloes on the big slipway, taken, I suspect in the early sixties.

I worked a summer season on these after I left school; big heavy wooden lumps that they were, where the floats often filled with water by the end of the day.

We used to need a Land Rover to haul them, one by one to the low tide mark and every other week, we would work late, waiting for the sea to float a line of a dozen boats back into the slipway for recovery in the evening as the Sun set.

It was surprising how cold the wind would be during the summer, when the tide was out and of course, there would be more business when it was in, as people generally didn't want a long distance walk to find a pedaloe.

I recall one miserable summer's day when, as usual, come rain or shine, from the early morning, we had the boats anchored in a line off the beach at high tide, while the two of us sheltered, playing chess, in a small hut next to Pav's cafe. After some time had passed I looked out of the door to check on the pedaloes and to my surprise I couldn't see them. They had pulled the anchors in the swell and were now drifting around the point towards Westbrook.

In the days before Health & Safety at work and worried we would be fired, we dived into the sea and swam out after the boats and with a great deal of difficulty and against the current, managed to pedal and push all twelve back into St Mildred's, without the boss knowing that we had almost lost them.

There was another time, I remember, when two teenagers abandoned one at sea without us knowing and it started drifting upside down, again at high tide, towards Birchington. In those days, we had an Air Sea Rescue helicopter at Manston and the first I knew of the problem was spotting a missing boat through binoculars. This time, I managed to catch-up with it by running along to Westbay and going into the sea from there. Next thing I know, is a large yellow helicopter over my head and the winchman asking if I need rescuing as passers by on the shore had assumed that I had fallen out of the boat.

Happy days. You could swim freely between the bays without the danger of being run over by a jetski.

The Machine that Goes "Ping"

For over three years now, I've been banging-on, with many like-minded others, such as the BMA, that the National Programme for IT, the Health Service computerisation project, is an expensive disaster, flawed in both planning and execution.

Now, a Parliamentary committee has concluded that "Millions of patients" are "unlikely" to see any "significant clinical benefits" from the National Health Service's £12.4 billion national computer system by the time all of the money has been spent in 2014, MPs warn.

The committee chairman, Edward Leigh, commented that 'urgent remedial action is needed' to protect patients and taxpayers.

The Commons public accounts committee found that pilot projects on the National Programme for IT were already two years late and there were fears that the project would cost £20 billion - more than three times the original contract cost.

Government has attempted to resist the obvious for ages but the reality is that Ministers should be wary of the promises of consultants selling technology. - £70 billion has been spent on consulting by this government and all the large flagship projects I can think of, have failed on a grand scale - More of that later today.

Just to remind you of the technology that we are all paying up to £20 billion for:

Monday, April 16, 2007

18 Doughty Street

Jeremy Jacobs very kindly gave "The sizzle in the sausage" story below ,a mention on the internet political programme, 18 Doughty Street.

Thank you Jeremy and should anyone wish to listen to the programme, which today, looked at the topical problem of weblogs, anonymity, etiquette and censorship, then you should be able to stream it from here.

It seems that I'm not alone in thinking that "KCC TV" is a little "off the wall" as a serious idea.

Minnis Past

Just to remind readers what Birchington and Minnis Bay looked like from the air before the planners moved in.

There are several more like this, moving east towards Birchington which you can now find in the photo library on the sidebar links.

Margate's Big Event - 16th & 17th June

Plans for Kent’s leading air and land festival have been announced, with the Red Arrows, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, live bands, including Abba Magic, and street entertainers just some of the highlights.

Margate’s Big Event will take place on the clifftops at Palm Bay over Father’s Day weekend, with non stop live entertainment planned on the ground between 10am and 10pm on Saturday 16 June and 10.30am and 6pm on Sunday 17 June. The event will be free of charge and is being organised by Thanet District Council.

Each day will have an hour and a half of flying displays, with the RAF Falcons and Tigers parachute teams dropping into the main arena, with appearances from a Hawk, the historic Stearman aircraft and the Tucano and Tutor planes, both of which are used for training by the RAF. The Aerostars and a SUKHOI flown by Will Curtis, one of the leading solo aerobatic pilots on the circuit, complete the aerial line up.

On the ground, arena acts will range from Jason Smyth, the only quad bike stunt rider in the UK, to the Solent Eagles Motorcycle Display Team and from John Evans, international strong man, and Chinese Acrobats, to Cyril the Squirrel and his racing terriers and a vulture and eagle show by Eagle Heights.

Both days will have live music, with appearances by Hulaballo, Rubber Biscuit, Ronnie Scott Rejects, Pulse and Umbrella Men. Saturday’s entertainment will finish with an Abba tribute concert, followed by a spectacular fireworks finale.

Other acts entertaining the crowds over the two days include trapeze artists, clowns, puppeteers, stilt walkers, acrobats, magicians and even a pair of resident robots, many of which are appearing in Thanet for the first time.

Corporate Director John Bunnett said: “Margate’s Big Event will have something for the whole family, with two days packed full of free entertainment, both on the ground and in the air. This will be Kent’s leading air and land festival and an unmissable day out. It’s the only place in Kent that people will be able to enjoy such a huge variety of entertainment in one place. Where else can you find the Red Arrows, parachute display teams, some of the best live bands in the area, along with trapeze and stilt artists and quad bike stunt riders and acrobats?”

Entry to Margate’s Big Event will be free of charge, with on site parking costing £3 for each day. The Thanet Loop bus service runs to the Old Charles Pub on Northdown Road, just 10 minutes walk from the site and a free open top shuttle bus will be running every 30 minutes between Margate station and the site.

The Day the War Broke Out

Minnis Bay, reportedly on the day the Second World War started, or at least very close, in the heatwave of the "phony war" after Germany invaded Poland in 1939.

Back in Thanet however, the great Easter heatwave of 2007 continues and this weblog is overheating too with 1,240 impressions which indicative of an unusual level of activity. The stats software appears to be behind at the moment so I can't immediately tell why Thanet Life is so busy, however, the web address is on the local election material being distributed today, so that may part explain any increase in traffic.

Incidentally, was anyone around the day that the church spire in Westgate was shot-off by a passing German later in the War? It was probably the same aircraft likely from from JG26 at Abbeville, that strafed the length of Westgate Bay Ave.

A Thanet Chalk Stack

One of our readers, Sue, asked if I had any photograph of the ancient chalk stacks along the coastline. I didn't but Tony Ovenden obliged by sending this photo in from his collection.

The Sizzle in the Digital Sausage

Kent Online reports that plans by Kent County Council to establish its own internet-based TV station are to cost at least £1.2million.

County councillors are expected to back a two-year pilot scheme. But it has emerged the full costs - some of which KCC says it will recoup through advertising and sponsorship - for running the service will be £1.2million over the two years.

A further £200,000 is to be spent by KCC setting up the station, which will be available to broadband subscribers.

A spokesman confirmed KCC would be underwriting the full costs of Kent TV but stressed the council had already had "significant interest" in sponsorship and that whoever ran the service would be expected to generate income.

Ed: You know my views on this, having been a Director of one of the first London digital TV projects, DKTV. I predict it will be more expensive than anticipated and that viewing figures will be below expectation. We already have Direct.Gov and one of the problems faced by any online government service is attracting visitors or as one of my previous colleagues at the Cabinet Office said, "without the sizzle in the sausage, people won't come."

Once again, If KCC need an opinion from someone who's actually built such a thing in the past and can offer an independent sanity check, please ask.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Truth is Never Far Behind

Reflecting on this weekends's shennanigans from the south side of the island, here's a photograph that sums it up for me.

It was Winston Churchill who said:

"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."

I'm offering the photo up for a caption competition if anyone cares to play?

"A load of old bull" doesn't count!

The Big Slipway

Celebrating the early return of summer, which has me squinting at my laptop screen in the sunshine of my garden, a photo of St Mildred's Bay at Westgate, in the fifties.

I can still recall the rowing boat with the big wheels on the big slipway, which no longer exists and the wiry, weather-beaten, retired sailor whose name I can't remember, who used to charge sixpence for a row around the bay in the sixties.

If you think about it, no one could possibly leave his boat there overnight in the 21st century and expect to find it in one piece the next morning, the same with the deck chairs.

But that was fifty years ago and Thanet was a very different place, as far away in time as the the First World War (below) nearly half century earlier.

Less Energy More Cash

I love the story doing the rounds in the Sunday papers today, that "Energy" inspectors brought in for the new property sales packs will not be regulated with criminal record checks - sparking fears that homeowners will be at risk from potential burglars.

Instead, the assessors will have to be asked to voluntarily give details of their criminal past under what has been described as a "Burglars' Charter'.

On entering the house, the story goes, the assessor should, "Remove himself from the homeowner to get on with light-bulb counting." I'll leave you to imagine the rest.

Even better, for the inspector, if he or she works really hard counting lightbulbs in our houses, the rewards could add-up to as much as £50,000 a year.

I wonder how one applies for the job? You have to attend a 'familiarisation day,' first though, which cost £149. Good value if there's a well-paid job at the end.

Blue Rinse Propaganda

Is it just my imagination of is the left-wing side of the island becoming increasingly pre-occupied with this website, to the point of making-up stories, involving my name, simply to attract traffic to obscure blogs that would have little or none if the stories didn't exist.

It all rather looks like a rather childish attempt at a smear campaign from where I sit. I had been warned that local party politics in Thanet was a nasty business but never realised, how nasty.

You can be the judge of what has and has not been said here, or on one website, which concludes with: "Simply to ensure that his site remains the cosy blue-rinse propaganda sheet that he has so obviously promised, and delivered, to his Tory masters who have rewarded him with his Council candidacy in Westgate."

Or even on a second: "An occasional antidote to the simpering, Daily Mail hypocrisy of our Greatest Living Thanetian."

Now if life is so good under Labour, the party of government will be given a ringing endorsement of their policies and performance by the voters of Thanet next month. I would point out that politicians of all colours and parties make their contribution here but would urge one party that this kind of rhetoric is hardly likely to win votes on May 3rd. It would be rather more constructive to see, instead of websites devoted to criticising the centre-right content of Thanet Life, more that perhaps presented an intelligent "pink rinse" policy view.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Margate Fire Rescue

The BBC reports that twelve people have been rescued by firefighters called to a blaze at a three-storey block of flats in William Avenue, Margate.(Millmead)

Crews had to use ladders to reach residents trapped inside the building, The residents saved were left homeless and officers from Thanet District Council were on hand with re-housing support.

A fire service spokesperson said: "If it wasn't for the quick response time, this could have been a larger incident with more serious consequences."

Crimean Canon

Another gem from Tony Ovenden, who writes: "A postcard of the original Crimea war trophy cannon on Fort parade. It disappeared just before the outbreak of WW2.

The current one on the site, is a cannon from Chatham Dockyard from the 1860's and stood around hodges falstaff, the hodges cannons were buried during the second world war so german bombers would not mistake them as a battery and bomb the area including the hotels. Obviously the official explanation for burying them is different."

Trees for Thanet

Chaz writes:

"Whilst browsing through the idiocy on certain other thanet blogs, I happened across a new entry on the Thanet blog list, "Trees for Thanet".

It appears that this is the same bunch of youngsters and their adult helpers who have been working on the Manston Road earlier this year.

Their blog appears to be developing as a diary, of their ten years of planting, and is quite an interesting read, as well as an incredible achievement! It also shows the development of the huge amount of hedgerows that they have planted.

As a follow up to youngsters doing something useful for once, any chance that you could give them a plug on Thanetlife?"

Ed: Certainly, here it is

56 Bus Route Saved

Thanet's 56 Bus service route will be reintroduced. The news follows a meeting between Thanet's top Tories, Laura Sandys and Roger Gale, the Leader of Kent County Council, Paul Carter and the County's transport supremo, KCC cabinet member Keith Ferrin.

This meeting yesterday followed a gathering that Laura Sandys organised on the 56 bus route on 29th March with Cllr Bill Hayton and David Lawson, and she wants to thank all those who came along, and those who sent letters to Roger Gale and her in support of the route.

Following the meeting yesterday Laura Sandys said:

“The public’s concerns have been heard and KCC responded with speed and action to ensure that the 56 service will be resumed as soon as is possible. "

Ed: A good result then from Laura, whether you happen to be Blue, Red, Green or Grey! I wonder what else we can save around Thanet. Suggestions please?

Waiting Armageddon

The Times reports that Labour has already thrown in the towel in four out of ten town hall seats to be fought in the local government elections on May 3.

"Amid fears that it is facing one of its worst electoral drubbings, the party will contest only 60 per cent of the seats up for grabs, the lowest figure since Tony Blair came to power. In some areas it has been unable to find a candidate."

In Thanet, a quick run through the register shows an almost 50/50 split but overall, The Times reports that Labour is contesting only 6,360 seats, down nearly 5 per cent since similar elections four years ago. The Conservatives are contesting 88 per cent (9,264), higher than 2003, while the Liberal Democrats are fielding candidates in 64 per cent (6,667).

Conservative figures show that the BNP is running 717 candidates (one in Margate)while UKIP is fielding 805, though the party says it is contesting more than 1,000 seats.

Rob Hayward, a local government analyst, said the proportion of seats contested by Labour was the lowest of any set of elections while Tony Blair has been in power. “It is the lowest percentage since Tony Blair took power and probably in the last 20 years. It reflects the current state of politics and the relative weakness of the Labour Party.”

Lord Bruce-Lockhart, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “It shows a worrying lack of belief in local democracy.”

Ed: I'm seeing some of this on the doorstep with people feeling disempowered by politics rather than the opposite.

Meanwhile, if government couldn't be less popular, news that thousands of families face the prospect of being hit by a new tax blow following a landmark ruling.

Up to 500,000 families have entered into arrangements to protect them against inheritance tax. The scheme involved splitting the value of a property between a husband and wife, aimed at lessening the tax burden. The Inland Revenue have now closed this avenue of escape.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Fifty Years Past

Another nice photo from Tony Ovenden's collection, showing Westbay in Westgate in the 1950's.

I'm loading these up into the photo archive if you would like to see more.

Two Halves

I see the conspiracy theorists are in full swing this afternoon over something that I didn't write on someone else's weblog.

It's all a bit pathetic and occurs to me that the only way that some people can drag traffic along to their own weblogs, is to write a story involving Thanet Life. In some ways it's similar to having Victoria Beckham or Princess Diana on the cover of women's magazines as a sure fire way of boosting circulation.

There was I having a quiet day posting stories about seals and all of a sudden, bang! "Moores ate my Hamster."

Mind you, I have to admit that some of the comments I read - quite obviously from a TL supporter - were quite amusing and it makes a change to see someone else getting some harsh 'stick' from anonymous readers, complaining about their anonymity!

See the Seals

Trips out to see the seals off the Thanet coastline are being extended this year, with the first tours taking place later this month (April).

In previous years, seal trips have run from Minnis Bay in Birchington during the school summer holidays, but this year for the first time, the Thanet Coast Project has arranged a series of additional seal trips during April, May and June. The wildlife sailing excursions are led by Mike Turner and will last for four hours and as well as seeing seals, include a visit to a sandbank.

The first trip takes place on Saturday 21 April at 7.15am, with the next on Sunday 22 April at 8.15am. In May, the trips depart at 6.30am on Saturday 19 May and at 7.15am on Sunday 20 May, while the June trips take place at 9.30am on Thursday 21 June and 10.15am on Friday 22 June.

Thanet Coast Project Manager Tony Child said: “Every year, the seal trips are one of the most popular coastal activities we run and understandably so, as this is a great opportunity to see these beautiful creatures close up in their natural environment and to learn more about them. We’ve listened to comments from people, who’ve suggested that we should run more of this and that’s why we’re extending the season into the spring, as well as the school summer holidays. We hope this will make the seal trips more accessible to everyone, but be sure to book early, as these excursions are exceptionally popular and tend to fill up very quickly.”

Tickets cost £20 per person. Bookings for the April seal trips can be made by cash or cheque by calling into the Margate Visitor Information Centre at 12-13 The Parade. Bookings and payments will be available online from May for future trips at Further information can be found online or by call the Thanet Coast Project on 577672.

Going in Circles

I see that the local paper is warning about the danger from jetskis this summer and you may remember, I have done the same, several times on Thanet Life and even took the matter up with the foreshore warden last year.

I was out jogging along the promenade at St Mildred's Bay at high tide yesterday. I watched three of these craft run in from Margate along the shore line at high speed, pausing briefly as one rider fell of after driving in tight circles within a few feet of the beach at West Bay and then roaring off towards Birchington.

The council's view is that self regulation works and I'm sure it does in the majority of cases but it takes only one idiot to hit a bather or lose control in the summer months and each year, I see the behaviour becoming more reckless and dangerous.

This summer, if local people choose to elect me as a councillor, I'm going to look into the matter more closely. Lifeguards have told me that they are concerned and nobody listens and so I believe we need to be far more proactive and conscious over a growing problem and risk to bathers before a tragedy occurs.

No Frills Please

Michael O'Leary, the chief executive of Ryanair, said yesterday he was planning to bring his no-frills approach to transatlantic flights, offering one-way tickets from less than £7.

With Heathrow and Gatwick working to capacity and expensive for operators and Stanstead and Luton becoming even busier, one might have thought that an opportunity exists somewhere on the horizon for a sound commercial 'hub' deal with Manston, using one of the 'No frills' operators?

Can we learn from EUjet and Cosmos and actually make a business case for Manston or is its future simply one of cargo and engineering?

What do you think?

Cliftonville 1875

An unusual and very early photograph sent in of Cliftonville in 1875, the 'Minstrels' giving a performance outside Brittania House.
Whether this is the same group that survived up until the 1970s on the BBC, I can't be sure but after that date of course, a very different public view was taken of this form of light entertainment.

Which reminds me, is the Punch & Judy show still banned in Broadstairs? Does anyone know?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Evening News

The RSPCA were commenting today on the dramatic rise in animal cruelty cases over the half-term period. It looks as if allotments aren't safe either.

Reader Sue writes:

"My husband has an allotment in Dane valley near Drapers Mill and someone has burnt his shed to the ground and trashed his allotment and his neighbour's. This happened this afternoon between 1 and 6. The shed was brand new. Only been up there a month and cost £400. Easter Holidays? I'm speechless!"

Ed: Sorry to hear it Sue. Perhaps the only solution is a heavily armed scarecrow?

On a separate note, Tony Ovenden writes:

"Margate museum has a archive of election literature, in the past it has been difficult to obtain conservative literature from the local elections, which is a shame as it makes the archive incomplete. Any chance you could have a word in the right ear so the museum can have at least one item of literature from each candidate."

Ed: I'll try and hopefully posting your request here will mean that some councillors and candidates will send you some literature. I'll make sure you get a copy of my own to throw darts at, when it arrives!

A Long Walk

Why not book a walk with experienced leaders for the Thanet Walking Festival which is taking place from 6th - 12th May?

This year there is a fantastic choice so you can select either long or shorter walks each day. For the country walker there is a gentle terrain and splendid views and by using the public footpath network you get to enjoy the fresh air and the varied environment at firsthand. Look forward to a day of relaxing walking and socialising with lunch stops in villages along the way.

The Thanet Walking Festival is now in its fifth year and brings together in one week the most popular Thanet walks from the White Cliffs Ramblers Association regular walking programme, 'Walk & Talk' health walks and the special interest town walks provided by local civic and historical societies.

Thanet is 'on the move' ! Come and join us.

Details of all the walks on offer and booking information can be found at

Too Many - Gales' View

There are now many - too many - Members of Parliament who have lost young constituents in Iraq and Afghanistan" says the MP "and their families and those of us who represent them know that they will never be able to tell their stories to their wives, their mothers, their fathers or their children, never mind to the media.

Following the deaths of two of my own constituents on active service in Iraq, I have personally been battling to hold the Prime Minister to his undertaking to make adequate facilities available so that bereaved families may be professionally and legally represented at the inquests into the deaths of fallen servicemen and women. To date the Government has declined to honour that promise and yet is apparently willing to allow those who have returned from captivity in Iran to capitalise on their experiences while still serving in the armed forces: I find that offensive to the memory of those who have given everything in the service of their country.

The Second Sea Lord has told the Nation that the Navy felt that it was appropriate to allow men and a woman still in the service to sell their stories to press and television because they felt that it was right that the public should be made aware of the personal details of this ordeal. If that is so – and I do not doubt that those held captive suffered a great deal emotionally, of not physically – then there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why the interviews should not have been made available without payment. As it is we are now left with the highly undignified prospect of future “I’m a commando, get me out of there” revelations unless the regulations are swiftly and robustly changed.

The overwhelming majority of serving men and women in Iraq, Afghanistan and other precarious locations overseas are brave, highly professional, self effacing and determined and the events of recent days does no credit either to them or to those comrades they have lost in battle.

I would like to think that, belatedly, those – newspapers, television and those who have sold their stories - will now think long and hard and donate all of the money to service charities to help to ensure that those who have lost their loved ones in conflict do not have to pay for their own legal representation at inquests. That would at least go some small way towards righting what is at present a huge wrong.

Theatre Royal - Your Questions Answered

"Since Thanet District Council announced plans to buy the Theatre Royal in Margate and details were revealed of a rescue package for the theatre, a number of different stories have been in circulation...."

This is roughly how a Q&A on the TDC website begins, which aims to set the record straight and answer reader's questions on the future of the Theatre Royal.

Here's the link so you can judge for yourself and comment here on what you find.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Full of Holes

Interesting story in The Telegraph today as complaints about noise and noisy neighbours have reached unprecedented levels as Britain becomes an overcrowded and fractious nation, according to an official report published today.

"In urban areas homes are increasingly smaller and built at higher density
So many people are having to live cheek by jowl, especially in large cities, that noise pollution is a blight on many lives, it says.

"Today's report, a major study of social trends by the Office for National Statistics, says complaints about building sites and roadworks - up from 31,800 in 1994 to 66,780 in 2004-05 - are hardly surprising given the level of construction work in major cities, particularly London.

There is also an unprecedented number of roadworks, and the proliferation of cable television firms has aggravated a perennial problem with 500,000 holes dug by utility companies in London alone.

Which reminds me, what on earth is going on out towards the St Nicholas roundabout with the main road into Thanet effectively "Cut-off" from London by the roadworks. I don't doubt it's a KCC issue but I'm trying to find out how long the road crew will be digging small holes in a big dual carriageway and inconveniencing thousands of Thanet residents trying to get home.

A Different Kind of Respect Agenda

Schools should not “over discipline” persistently unruly pupils for fear of alienating them and should instead hand out praise five times more often than punishments, the Government has said.

"New guidance on school discipline, reported in The Times, cautions teachers against repeatedly praising only “the same good pupils”, suggesting that rewards also be given to persistent miscreants who show an improvement in behaviour, however small."

"Teachers should understand the importance of showing respect to children from racial or religious backgrounds for whom public humiliation is seen as particularly shameful. In these cases, staff should not use language that might humiliate youngsters in front of their friends. "

Ed: There's a fascinating story on truanting on our local patch on Kent Online but given the knife, gang, gun, bullying culture that is increasingly prevalent in inner city schools, can government really believe that the solution lies in praise? "Put the knife down Wayne, there's a good boy."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Traffic Dilemma

I see that concerns are now being expressed over last week's Westwood Cross planning decision. According to Kent Online

"Labour group leader Cllr Richard Nicholson said the project could become a nightmare.

He said: "Traffic cannot get through Westwood Cross now. More than a thousand extra houses must generate around a thousand or more cars using the area. And if the school that is relocated to the site is Bromstone from Broadstairs as suggested, then parents will drive their children across that busy interchange at peak times - and that will cause even greater traffic chaos."

I had a good long look at the area from above on Sunday night and have to conclude that it won't look pretty when its finished, in terms of the urban sprawl across a landscape under constant pressure from the developers. However, I really don't see what the alternatives would be, given that local government can't easily refuse such projects without very expensive consequences for the local taxpayer.

Just by way of observation, I fractured a tooth the other day on an object in a Tesco "premium" meat pie. Tesco told me that I had to take the remains of the meal back to Westwood Cross and complete a form if I wanted compensation. My answer was "you must be kidding, you obviously don't know what the traffic is like here."

Anything Goes?

It appears that I'm not alone in worrying about the language that can appear on weblogs, including my own

The BBC reports that "Readers should be warned when they are reading blogs that may contain "crude language", a draft blogging code of conduct has suggested."

"The draft says people should not be allowed to leave anonymous comments.

Blogs which are open and uncensored should post an "anything goes" logo to the site to warn readers, the code suggests.

Readers of these blogs would be warned: "We are not responsible for the comments of any poster, and when discussions get heated, crude language, insults and other "off colour" comments may be encountered. Participate in this site at your own risk."

At the heart of the issue is the degree of freedom afforded to people who want to comment on blog posts."

Many readers, I know, disagree with my efforts to maintain a "polite society" here but then I'm encouraged by the silent majority who still value intelligent restraint. At least one benefit of not running an anonymous 'Blog' is that three people approached me on the beach this morning, walking my dog, for a chat, with ideas for Westgate and I certainly believe that allowing an "anything goes" policy here would be destructive.

You may have noticed by the way that comment moderation was turned-off again over the Easter weekend. I'm hoping it can stay that way and once again, I welcome all comments as long as the house rules on bad language and personal comments involving real people and not anonymous characters, aren't broken.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Middle Classes Unite!

An report from the MOD, summarised by The Guardian newspaper, paints a bleak view of the collective future.

Among the predictions:

"The middle classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged for the proletariat by Marx," says the report. The thesis is based on a growing gap between the middle classes and the super-rich on one hand and an urban under-class threatening social order: "The world's middle classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest". Marxism could also be revived, it says, because of global inequality. An increased trend towards moral relativism and pragmatic values will encourage people to seek the "sanctuary provided by more rigid belief systems, including religious orthodoxy and doctrinaire political ideologies, such as popularism and Marxism".

The report even mentions Blog's "what it calls "declining news quality" with the rise of "internet-enabled, citizen-journalists" and pressure to release stories "at the expense of facts".

I can't think of any weblogs that might suit that description, can you?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Summer's Early

One might be forgiven for thinking it was summer today.

I've spent over six hours in the air and two of these above the beach at Weymouth, where the beach resembled an afternoon in June, packed with people and the water too, with boats, kayaks, pedaloes and even people swimming.

I'm sure it must have been a similar tale in Thanet although I didn't get over Ramsgate for a "Happy 85th" until after six O'clock.

Here's another slide show for you. This time, some views of Westgate.

Oh.. the Dog is or was Gus, the mascot at Beccles airfield, now honourably interred at the runway threshold.

Sale of Stories "Offensive" - Roger Gale

North Thanet`s MP Roger Gale, a former journalist and TV producer, has condemned as "offensive to the memory of those servicemen and women who have died" the sale, by some military personnel taken hostage by Iran, of their stories to the press.

"There are now many - too many - Members of Parliament who have lost young constituents in Iraq and Afghanistan" says the MP "and their families and those of us who represent them know that they will never be able to tell their stories to their wives, their mothers, their fathers or their children, never mind to the media.

I have personally been battling to hold the Prime Minister to his undertaking to make adequate facilities available so that bereaved families may be professionally and legally represented at the inquests into the deaths of fallen servicemen and women. To date the Government has declined to honour that promise and yet is apparently willing to allow those who have returned from captivity in Iran to capitalise on their experiences while still serving in the armed forces: I find that offensive to the memory of those who have given everything in the service of their country.

I would like to think that those - newspapers and those who have sold stories - will now think long and hard and donate the money to a service charity to help to ensure that those who have lost their loved ones in conflict do not have to pay for their own legal representation at inquests. That would at least go to right what is a huge wrong"

Saturday, April 07, 2007

New Ideas Please

I'm watching Bremner, Bird & Fortune on Channel 4, as I type and I see that the latter pair are running through a sketch, which puts David Milliband in to replace Tony Blair, because Milliband has the "right killer instinct", having already had 194,000 Bernard Mathews turkeys done away with!

Traffic across the website has jumped quite remarkably over the last three days, with double the number of new visitors. So "Hello", "Welcome" and I assume that you have found this weblog via the Thanet Gazette?

I'm really very interested in what our readers think the direction of local government in Thanet should be after May 3rd? What's been done well, what's been a disaster - other than some of the more obvious favourites - and how and where can things be done better?

The good thing is that local politicians of all sides dip in and contribute regularly. Some under their real names and some, I know, anonymously, so whether you like my own politics or not, you have a better chance of raising an issue and having it noticed here, than many other places.

So if there's an issue that should be "an issue" as May 3rd approaches, raise it for discussion here and if it's salient, it may be given its own thread.

Finally and on another subject entirely, for those of you who didn't know it was there, here's a slide show collection of old photos of Thanet that I have collated for readers to enjoy.

Near Miss

Remember the story a few months ago about an Eagle or equivalent size Vulture loose over Thanet?

Well it's true, because I almost hit it - whatever it is - and even mentioned it to Manston ATC, who quipped that it "wasn't talking to them at the time."

Very droll but it's large and brown/red-coloured and roaming somewhere over Whistable!

A Wish List for Westgate?

The local election materials should be printed today - at last - which give a quick "blurb" on what prospective and sitting councillors would like to do for their wards.

From what I've been reading, there's a danger of it all sounding like the wait for a grand general election manifesto, when instead, it involves a more modest but rewarding role in working to improve conditions for everyone in the local community at often the most basic level, such as wheelie bins.

The strict rules of an election, I understand, prevent me form writing anything like a manifesto online, so I'm compiling a "wish list" for Westgate, regardless of who wins in the local elections. Here's as good a place as any for Westgate residents to note down or discuss, what they would like to see in improvements with help from their elected representatives after May.

Money is of course a fundamental challenge in funding any new initiatives in Thanet but if you don't make a bid for what might be available, then you won't see much in the way of change.

Here are some of my own ideas for improvement but I'm happy to be directed by others:

* St Mildred's Bay toilets need to re-painted. At present they are an eyesore to any visitors.

* We need a pedestrian crossing on Westgate Bay Ave, preferably near the surgery to allow the elderly to cross safely and also school children as the road is increasingly a busy "rat run" in the morning for traffic avoiding the Canterbury road.

* Zero tolerance to beach litter in the summer months. The council made some great improvements last summer but we need more rubbish bins available and collected during the hot weekends.

* Security and anti-social behaviour in the village. What can be achieved on top of what is being done now to make less prone to vandalism in the evenings?

* The Community centre, can money be found for improvements?

* Wheelie bins and rubbish collections. It's a hot topic and will become hotter still as the temperature warms.

I could go on and I'm bound to miss issues that concern others, so please add any you can think of.

One to Watch

Tony Blair took the battle for votes further into cyberspace yesterday, as he launched the Labour Party's "channel" on the video-sharing website YouTube.

The move is reported in the Sunday Papers as a sign of how important the internet has become to political parties. Conservative leader David Cameron has been making his pitch to cybervoters for a while at

In an attempt to catch up, Mr Blair promised a new, unvarnished way of learning about Labour on the Labourvision "channel" and along with ECR TV and ThanetLife it may yet present a challenge to conventional political broadcasting!

It's Nice to Park

A parking space, any parking space within walking distance of one's home in London is increasingly a fraught issue, with news yesterday that a pregnant woman was shot dead in her hallway yesterday over a parking row between neighbours.

It rather brings us back to the planning dilemma all over again. Where we lived before had a private drive for the residents - an off street cul de sac - and although it was crowded, one could normally park one's car in the space allocated for each house with the number on it. Occasionally, cars would come off the street and park in these but it wasn't normally a problem.

Just before coming back to Thanet, a new housing complex was built over the top of what used to be the retirement home across the road. Under regulations, it had it's own parking but if one visits the area now, one can see the result.

One car per unit or even 1.5 cars per unit doesn't work. I see the residents of my old area have taken to putting a chain across the entrance and cars are now back to back all down the road. Better 2.5 cars per unit when you take visitors into account as well.

In London today, a private parking space adds signifcantly to the price of a house and a walk along some of the narrower streets in Thanet quickly demonstrates that the same pressures are starting to be seen here now.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Best of a Bad Job?

I spent two hours this afternoon flying a friend, who takes photos for different Kent council planning departments, all around the county. We were photographing, new developments and greenfield sites further developments and there were a great many of them.

It's hard to find anyone who is in favour of greenfield development in the county but from what I understand, local councils have very little choice in the matter and Westwood is a fine example.

In simple terms or at least as I understand it, we could either accept the housing plan for Westwood on 'Favourable' terms; i.e. squeezing concessions like roads and amenities from the developers and KCC or TDC could object. If that happened, then the appeal could cost the local taxpayer anything up to £750,000, would tie-up the planning department for a year and given central government guidelines on housing development, would, in all probability, lose.

Westwood would get the bare minimum in the contract, the houses would still be built, the amenities would be less and Thanet would be a bigger loser.

At least on the positive side, there will be more housing for the people who need it, more jobs and the maximum benefit from a development that I, like many others, am instinctively opposed to.

What was the alternative, can anyone tell me?