Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Open Top Bus

An evening's ride to Reculver, in what looks suspiciously like summer and I see that a pop video is being made on the promenade and beach between Birchington and Minnis Bay.

Not to be outdone and inspired by the romantic sunset, a couple were having sexual intercourse in full public view, on the clifftop oppisite the golf course at Westgate. As I was on a bicycle, I avoided the embarrasment of having to stare, as I whizzed past them.

In the photograph, an outing from a bygone age in Ramsgate. Possibly more people squeezed into that small bus than occupy the open-top tour bus at any one time as it drives around Thanet every day.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Train Not Arriving on Platform One

It all happens in Thanet it seems!

While I was busy admiring the wreck of the container ship, Napoli, opposite Exmouth this morning, Thanet's railways were in a state of chaos, with services being disrupted across a wide area of the county.

Reportedly, a bicycle was thrown onto the railway tracks near Ramsgate at about 5am, short-circuiting the 700-volt electricity running through the third rail.

No trains were able to run until 6.40am and services were delayed by up to 25 minutes.

The incident was serious enough for Southeastern to prepare their Service Disruption Plan, although the buses put on standby were not used in the end.

Police are investigating the incident which follows an attack of vandalism and theft at Ramsgate railway station on Saturday night.

Bus stops outside the building were among the items damaged in the attack late in the evening, and the suspected culprits came to light after they boarded a train home to Ashford without tickets.

Meanwhile, in Broadstairs, 43-year-old man has been cautioned following his arrest on suspicion of indecent exposure in Dumpton Park Drive, last Friday night.

During his interview, the Broadstairs man denied indecent exposure, but admitted outraging public decency, stating he had been drinking and that he was intending to defecate in the street.

Ed: Normal run-of-the-mill stuff in Thanet I suppose! They haven't tried throwing a bicycle on the line at Westgate station yet but from the look of the line, they've tried branches, lengths of wire, bricks and much more. We should be thankful that the science of electricity is not a strong subject among local vandals.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Flash Flood 73

Thanks to Tony Ovenden for quickly sending in these photos from 21st September 1973 of the flash flooding that took place in Westgate, causing a tragic drowning death as a consequence.

In fact I remember the day reasonably well, as I had to get to school in Broadstairs and the water at the foot of Coffin Hill near opposite the Margate cricket club ground and Hartsdown park, was deeper than the height of any car that might foolishly try and get through it!

This all rather serves as an unpleasant reminder that one day, the weather may catch us by surprise, whether we live on a flood plain or not.

The photographs are of Victoria avenue and the Walmer Castle pub in Westgate.

Flood Plain

Just to remind ourselves that flash flooding can hit Kent too. The photo is of Yalding near Maidstone in 2001. Since then, a great many more houses have been built on the adjacent flood plain with even more planned.

Memories can be short.

Meanwhile, in a depressing little drama production from the BBC, we are all doomed here in the South-east by a huge storm followedby a tidal surge, greater than that of 1953. Better go and buy those sandbags now I suppose!

Just so you can prepare for it all, here's an excellent weather site to look at.

Your Local Newspaper

With so many weblogs now in Thanet, it looks very much as if KOS media - publishers of Kent on Sunday - have spotted a local opportunity and will launching their own, online "YourThanetPaper".

The best of luck to them and I'll have to fall back on the fishing forecast for St Mildred's Bay I suppose!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Explosives Preferred

On the way to work this morning, I heard this recording of 8-year-old Dublin girl, Becky, calling a demolition company and asking if they could knock down her school. because they give here too much homework. It was one of the funniest things I've heard in a long time, so enjoy!

Specialist Treatment for Assault Victim

A Man suffered a fractured eye socket, a broken jaw and cuts to the head after being attacked outside Bar 26 in Margate.

The 27-year-old victim was punched and kicked after stepping in to help his girlfriend, who was being assaulted by a group of women in an alleyway behind the club.

He was taken to the QEQM Hospital in the town, but later transferred to Ashford's William Harvey Hospital for a specialist scan.

A 29-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of wounding with intent. He has been bailed to return to Margate police station on Wednesday.

Anyone with information about the incident, which took place shortly after 3am on Sunday, is asked to contact police on 01843 222194.

Minster Road Recreation Puzzle

Catching-up with the local news in The Isle of Thanet Gazette, I'm struck by another story which suggests that Westgate has only one councillor, rather than three.

It concerns the recreation ground in Minster road and revolves around a novelconspiracy theory, that the council has secret plans to dispose of it for development.

As the story suggests, this first came-up at the last full council meeting, when Westgate independent and residents association chairman, Cllr King, asked council leader, Sandy Ezekiel for an assurance it would not be built upon. As the latter hadn't known in advance of the question, all he was able to do was refer Cllr King to the local plan.

Minster road is an important recreation facility for local residents and the children of Chartfield School - pictured - opposite. As a recreation ground, I understand, from my own enquiries and conversations with council officers and the council leader, that it can't be built upon as the local plan recognises it as an open space. The end of the story as far as I was aware.

I'm not sure however that whipping the matter up into an alarmist conspiracy story involving a 97-year-old local resident, a retired member of the company that donated the land to Westgate, is helpful.

One may quite correctly ask for information of this kind, either as a councillor or an ordinary citizen, however, when details of this kind need to be checked, responses don't come as quickly as one might like. I'm still waiting for a freedom of information request from Kent Police as an example.

While Westgate has three councillors, the whole is invariably greater than the sum of its parts, so it might be wiser for the Gazette, in an example like this, to ask more than one of the ward councillors or simply post a question on this website and wait for a reply, which, as readers will know, is very often faster than the due process route.

The Puzzles of Our Time

An interesting editorial in today's Times Newspaper on human rights legislation and terrorism.

In the light of an increasing number of attempts by a fanatical minority, to blow up innocent British citizens, the paper writes:

"One of the puzzles of our time is why Britain scrupulously adheres to the Human Rights Act, when our allies and partners systematically flout the European Convention on Human Rights. Talk of human rights abuses invariably focuses on the US, with sneering TV documentaries about Guantanamo or CIA “extraordinary rendition”. But on much of the Continent they don’t allow civil liberty lawyers to turn terrorism into a risk-free activity."

Is The Times correct in its assessment? What do you think?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Criminal Justice Bill - MP backs Graffiti Amendments

North Thanet`s MP, Roger Gale, is one of the sponsors of a Bill designed to compel those who create graffiti to, in addition to other penalties, take responsibility for cleaning it up.

The Criminal Justice (Graffiti) Bill presented by Southend MP James Duddridge with cross-party support would make provision for restorative justice by making someone convicted of the criminal damage act of graffiti both clean up the site and meet personally with the victim of the damage and owner of the property.

"Graffiti is a multi-million pound problem" says Roger Gale." What some try to glorify as `pop art` is generally no more than the mindless defacing of other people`s property.It`s a constant reminder of anti-social behaviour that has an effect on the life of the whole community and it is often seen as the start of a decline in an area.

We are seeking to legislate to impose a practical and effective solution that will help to change the attitudes and behaviour of offenders for the benefit of society as a whole.".

While the Bill in its present form may not make progress due to a lack of parliamentary time for private members` legislation there is a very real chance that the measures proposed may find favour as amendments to the Criminal justice Bill.

"These are ideas that warrant Government support" says Roger Gale. "They have the backing of the British Transport Police, the restorative Justice Consortium and ENCAMS ( The "Keep Britain Tidy" campaign) and we hope very much that by one route or another they may reach the statute book".

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Reduced Expectancy

Kent News reports a huge gap in life expectancy between people in a part of Thanet and in Dartford has been revealed at a county council meeting.

The council heard how there is a difference of more than 16 years between life expectancy for children in Castle ward in Dartford, where they can expect to live to be 89, and Cliftonville West in Margate, where on average they will reach only 72.4.

The figures were revealed during a debate on Kent’s public health strategy, drawn up by KCC, West Kent NHS Primary Care Trust, and Eastern and Coastal Kent NHS Primary Care Trust in liaison with the district and borough councils.

The Great Birchington Cash-point Takeaway

Kent Online reports that four men have admitted ram-raiding two banks in Birchington.

They admitted driving a digger into the front of the HSBC and Barclays banks in Station Road, Birchington, and made off with two cash points containing £135,000.

Canterbury Magistrates Court heard the raids took place at 3.30am on July 14 and caused "untold damage" to the fronts of the buildings.

A police car was rammed as the raiders tried to make their escape and the digger was left in a wall of the HSBC. The keys were found in possession of one of the men when they were arrested in a van close to the scene.

They withheld their pleas on their first appearance at court. But each man has now entered guilty pleas to two burglaries.

Magistrates adjourned the case and remanded the men in custody. They will be sentenced at the Crown Court later in the year.

Right to Reply

It appears that I was wrong about Thanet South MP, Stephen Ladyman, seeking a safe seat in the north before the next General Election. He's been re-selected in South Thanet - my congratulations - so he must be confident that the marginal Labour seat will stay that way or perhaps the writing is on the wall and there are no safe seats left, which haven't been allocated to close friends of the inner-sanctum of the governing party. That's not cynicism, it's simply politics.

Ladyman, in his Thanet Extra interview, implies that the Conservative Laura Sandys is a 'carpetbagger' which is a little unkind.

After all, says Laura, who wasn't give an opportunity to respond, "I have lived in Ramsgate ever since I was selected and live here full time too!"

Laura adds: "Every day I try and achieve something for ThanetI have campaigned hard for South Thanet in particular with regard to the no 56 bus route, I'm a governor of Ellington Girls School and I am working very closely with the Thanet Skills Centre."

"And where has Steve Ladyman been?"

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Safe Harbour

Michael Child sent in this photo to remind us that strong foundations aren't always what they appear to be when the sea is involved.

Does anyone know the date of the collapse?

Guild of Ransom

I've been on the far side of Norfolk all day today, Walsingham in fact, visiting the Roman Catholic Shrine, that my great Grandfather helped resurrect and re-build in the last century.

Henry VIII did a wonderful job of destroying the original, which was up there with Canterbury, and the shrine of Thomas Beckett, as one of Europe's most popular medieval pilgrimage centres. You can see what's left of the original grand Abbey in the photo.

There was a power cut in that part of Norfolk for most of the afternoon and that included mobile phone signals, It was like being back in the 1970s. No email and only the payphones worked!

Marks for the Marlowe

I stumbled across a story in a publication called "EDP24" on the Marlowe Academy in Ramsgate today, so here it is

"Marlowe Academy in Ramsgate does not look like a school.

With its bright yellow outer wall and space-age design, it could be a continental college campus or a scientific research HQ.

Inside, it is even more disconcert-ing. High schools tend to have an austere, slightly intimidating feel to them. But Marlowe is light, bright, airy and even inspiring.

With a cavernous central atrium and futuristic raised metallic walkways, it crushes school design convention.

But so it should. After all, much to the fury of critics, academies benefit from the sugar-daddy support of the government....."

Read on:

Margate Harbour Arm to be Developed

In a landmark development project in Margate’s regeneration, the Council has agreed provisional plans with developers, Pineapple Properties, to make over Margate’s harbour arm.

The development will transform the existing sheds in a diverse complex of two restaurant/bars, a café, and artist’s studios, adding vibrant life to one of the area’s most historic harbours.

The development will now go forward to the stage of formal planning applications, but it is hoped work can start late this year.

Development plans were put out to competitive tender before the Pineapple proposals were accepted.

Leader of the Council, Sandy Ezekiel said "This is great news for Margate. The development should increase footfall down the crucial area of the High Street. It will also link directly with the Turner Centre, which will be directly opposite. The visual aspect of the harbour arm should also be dramatically improved. We know Margate needs to look better and work better for people visiting."

He added: "There’s no golden bullet with re-generation. This is part of a plan that stretches five years, and ten years into the future. This is just the first phase, but it’s a major step forward. Without the Turner project, developers would not be looking to take on projects like this. It’s a positive message."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sheilas' Wheels

A couple more photos from the Pride weekend, courtesy of Valerie Cameron. I recognise the two lovely ladies but the name of the chap in the middle, caught having a quick pint with some visitors, escapes me.

Council Leader, Sandy Ezekiel, commented:

"It was a great afternoon, and a great atmosphere. The Council promotes and celebrates diversity, and supporting Pride is a demonstration of this"

"Attendance was good, despite the terrible weather over much of the country last week. I met people who travelled from as far away as Birmingham to visit us. Traders I spoke to tell me they did well, and this is the kind of event we need to promote Margate's regeneration"

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Red Baron at the Manston Museum

From the Manston Museum, a new addition, Manfred Von Richtofen's Fokker DR1 Triplane, once Hollywood had finished with it, complete with bullet holes.

There's a Nieuport fighter being restord and the remains of a German Gotha bomber in there too.

For only £1.00 entry, the museum is excellent value and a wonderful local history resource too!

Malvern Spring

It just occurred to me, looking at this afternoon's blue skies, that property pressures and prices here in north Kent, may well rise, as a consequence of the flooding elsewhere in the country. Why? Because we don't have any big rivers running between here and Dover.

Hand's up anyone who wants to buy a new property in the bowl of the Ashford flood plain?

Other than being a total disaster in parts of Gloucestershire and Oxford, it's a tragedy for homeowners, whoses houses have, almost overnight, become valueless.

Who, after all, is likely to want to buy a charming cottage or terraced house anywhere near a flood plain anymore with global warming flexing its muscles?

The estimate for the insurance damage so far is £4billion and that may well prove optimistic. The worry is that the floods will repeat the "Great Storm" effect of the 80's, when the strain on the insurance sector, was a contributing factor to the recession that followed. I hope not but yesterday, the BBC reported that 20 million people now have unsecured loans and with the debt mountain at an all time high and interest rates looking to rise again, the prognosis is bound to give Gordon Brown a few more grey hairs before the end of the month.

Equally ironic is the absence of troops - we don't have any to spare - to help in the disaster and the poor, beaten-up Sea King helicopters now rescuing people, (nicknamed 'Cannibals') because they have to consume each other to stay flying.

You may have heard the wonderful comment from a spokesman for Severn Water, when having told us that fresh water may soon run out for some 40,000 people around Gloucestershire and Tewkesbury, he said they have contingency planning to put fresh water bowsers on to the streets of the towns and villages. How? The roads are impassable and much of the county still remains underwater with more rain yet to come this week.

What are they going to do if the floods return rather than retreat I wonder? Throw bottles of Malvern Spring out of the Sky News helicopter?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Margate Pride 2007

Looking down, the 'Pride' event at Margate didn't appear as busy as I expected it to be but perhaps that was the fault of the weather and the revellers wouldn't have seen the heavy rain squall that just missed us, almost parallel to the coast.

I had expected to hear some coverage on the local radio but must have missed it and the traffic coming into Thanet this afternoon appeared relatively thin. I'm sure that people who were there on the ground will have had a different view, so I'll look forward to receiving any reports or photos that anyone might care to offer.

Was it a success? What was your impression?

Photos Valerie Cameron ARPS

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Twenty Minuters

A couple of the aircraft from the WWI Hollywood movie, 'Flyboys' have found their way to the Manston Aircraft Museum.

Never ones to worry too much over accuracy, as history goes, Flyboys reaches new heights as the most dramatic Hollywood aviation history rubbish seen since anything really. 'Blackadder Goes Forth' does rather better as a comedy.

Judge for yourself and you can see the aircraft at Manston without being shot at either. Here's a YouTube clip of Flyboys, followed by Lord Flasheart on Blackadder for comparison:

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Face of Shame

This is the face of the teenager who mugged a 70-year-old woman in Margate in February this year. He's now been sent to prison for three years in an unexpected victory for justice.

The pensioner suffered a broken shoulder when she was pushed over and her handbag was snatched from her.

Oliver Beadell, 18, of no fixed home, admitted robbery in St John's Road in Margate on February 28 this year when he appeared at Canterbury Crown Court.

Beadell asked for two other offences, the attempted theft of a vehicle and a shoplifting offence, to be taken into consideration.

Det Sgt Mark Dennis said: “Beadell has received a substantial prison sentence for his crime and I am happy with the result. The sentence cannot take away the stress and pain felt by the victim.

“This should be a warning to others who consider committing similar offences against old and vulnerable members of our community in the future.”

Conservation Concerns

At last night's council planning committee meeting I challenged the plans to demolish the bungalow at 43 Ethlebert Square in Westgate and replace it with a new block of flats in the "Victorian" style.

All the Westgate ward councillors are worried by this application (refused once in 2005), as is the Residents Association and I was quite surprised at the level of support from residents, two of whom spoke against the planned development.

The planning committee have now agreed to a site visit before the make any final decision on the fate of the bungalow and the general impression was that the new building would compliment rather than detract from the Westgate Conservation Area.

What concerns me and my fellow ward councillors is the danger of a precedent being set with the possible demolition of a building in the Conservation Area. There are of course strict government guidelines that guide the decisions of the planning committee but there is a local sense of Westgate coming under attack from the developers.

In my own three minute speech, I said:

"I have counted over 100 planning applications involving Westgate over the past twelve months and in places dolls-house like building are being squeezed into impossibly tiny spaces and are making a mockery of the “conservation area” principle. This application represents one more step in the wrong direction and local people are, quite rightly concerned, over density of building effort which now affects every corner of Westgate, both inside and outside the conservation area.

There can be no half measures or half truths. We either have a conservation area and protect it from avaricious and unsightly development or we concede defeat in the face of planning and building pressures. Ethelbert Square is not a suitable position for more flats and it does not, in my opinion, satisfy:

1. Policy QL6 that advises that primary planning policy towards conservation area is to preserve and enhance their special character or appearance.

2. Policy TP19 on “Maximum” standards on respective parking policies

3. Policy TR16 on parking provision which is detrimental to the character."

Policies are of course open to interpretation and the planning committee receive the best possible advice on what they can and cannot approve under the straight-jacket of regulations that were imposed on us, here in the south by John Prescott's office. Regardless of their final decision, which will, I'm sure be absolutely correct in the circumstances, I'm keen to see the principle of a Conservation Area defended in a town, under pressure, like Westgate.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Big Squeeze

A couple of things caught my attention at a community services meeting last night. While we appear to be seeing a reduction in children’s homes in Thanet (although 292 children were places in Cliftonville alone last year) there appears to be a new emphasis, I’m told from outside, on replacing the surplus of children’s homes with adult social care homes instead, as the council attempts to limit and further reduce the negative impact that a high density of the former has had on specific areas of the island.

Cliftonville West, as readers will know, has a remarkable high level of single-flat occupancy, some 60% as opposed to the regional average of 8%. The council’s corporate plan seeks to address this imbalance, although I’m personally a little worried by signs of displacement elsewhere, with single bedroom applications now popping-up regularly in places like Westgate where density is increasing visibly. Note the application to squeeze even more ‘dolls houses’ behind Somerfield in the town.

One thought that occurred to me last night was linked to the rise in interest rates, soon perhaps to be 7%. Historically, rates have been low and so many private landlords in areas like Cliftonville, linked-in to the local welfare economy, which have squeezed tenants into large buildings, will have viewed a gross 4% or even 6% return on investment as being acceptable, even, if this has meant, in a number of notable cases, that leveraging the buildings and the tenants (in terms of multiple occupancy) has led to unacceptable slum-like conditions.

But with the yield on property now below the yield on cash and with interest rates steadily raising some landlords will, one might think, be searching for better market returns on the properties they own and this can’t easily occur in an area like Cliftonville without cutting corners or raising rents. So the potential exists, I believe, for a property collapse, like the early 1990’s as landlords are tempted to get out of rental and liquidate all or part of their property portfolio of which there are a huge number in Thanet.

An issue of relevance here, is the fact that very shortly, local authorities will have to pay rents under the benefits scheme, directly to the tenant rather than the landlord and this will, without doubt, lead to an increased number of evictions for non-payment of rent and an increased burden on hard-pressed local authorities like Thanet.

I’m not an economist but rising interest rates are bad news for the poorest and most vulnerable in the rented sector our society, aside from prevailing issues such as debt and mortgages.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Non Fumare

A van driver in Broadstairs has received a caution after he was caught smoking inside his vehicle.

Thanet District Council officers warned next time he would face a £50 fine.

The driver was also cautioned for not displaying a “no smoking” sign in his van.

It is the first ‘smokefree warning’ issued by the council since the new law came into force on July 1st banning smoking in virtually all enclosed public places and workplaces.

Cllr Jo Gideon said: “It is important for drivers of work vehicles to remember they are responsible for ensuring there is no smoking in any smokefree lorry, van or car they drive.

“If a vehicle is used for work by more than one person, whether they are in the vehicle at the same time or not, it has to be smokefree at all times.

“That way, we can ensure everyone who used the vehicle is protected from harmful second-hand smoke."

Ed: In the interests of political correctness, I'll leave the comments to everyone else on this story!

Compensation Culture

It's reported this morning that a pupil who injured himself after breaking into a school was paid £5,700 compensation.

The money was part of an estimated £2 million worth of taxpayers' money paid out to children who were injured on school property last year. Critics say it is indicative of the compensation culture sweeping the country.

The results from 97 of the 150 English Local Education Authorities revealed that £1.3 million had been paid out in damages from 247 claims. If the other 53 LEAs had similar results it would mean that the total bill came to £2 million from 381 claims.

Ed: What can I say? Most schools will no longer risk allowing pupils to do any activity which hasn't been the subject of a Health & Safety risk assessment, even burglary!? I even noticed in the physiotherapy department of QEQM, a leaflet, on display from one of the 'ambulance chasing' legal companies:

I remember as a thirteen year-year-old on a winter's day at Westgate, that tipper lorries were dumping snow on to the beach from the promenade at the St Mildred's Bay car park. It formed a mountain-like slope from the top of the promenade to the beach. Irresistible to a schoolboy who liked to climb.

Three quarters of the way up, another council truck suddenly reversed, stop and immediately tipped its load of ice and snow in my direction. I jumped sideways and broke my arm in the fall to the beach below. I suppose I missed-out on a small fortune but I wonder if compensation is retrospective? I must ask!

"Have you had an accident? Remember you too could receive compensation." Lots of specialist solicitors to choose from here in Thanet.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Tivoli Travellers

A group of travellers that arrived and set-up camp at Margate's Tivoli park, have been told to leave by police and Thanet council.

They arrived with their caravans last Wednesday night and have been staying by the Hartsdown Road part of the municipal park.

The police have served a Section 6 notice instructing the travellers to leave by Tuesday.

Ed: It being the peak of the holiday season, they may have been disappointed to find that Dreamland is no longer open either!

The Ursuline Phone Mast - It's Back

It appears that Hutchinson 3G (UK) Ltd, so badly want to have a 15 metre telephone mast outside the Ursuline College on the Canterbury road in Westgate, that they've gone to appeal with the Planning Inspectorate.

Now we had all breathed a sigh of relief when the original application was thrown-out by Thanet Council after a little lobbying on the subject. After all, I'm led to believe that it's against industry recommended guidelines to position masts adjacent to or in school grounds.

Now we have a fight on our hands as the Planning Inspectorate can overule TDC on appeal and government guidlelines are to approve such installations unless a strong and valid objection is made.

The Planning Inspectorate reference is APP/Z2260/A/07/2047850/NWF and representations need to be made in writing (three copies required) by 02/08/2007

I have reinforced my earlier objection but I am dismayed that a valid and democratic local decision on a subject of local concern can potentially be over-ruled by an independent body in Bristol.

The End of the Pier Show

While I was out yesterday, the BBC Politics show was broadcasting a programme examining the the decline of seaside towns, Margate included, with Council Leader, Sandy Ezekiel, MP, Stephen Ladyman and local author, Jane Wenham Jones offering us her personal account of the town.

The filming starts at Ramsgate Royal Harbour, at the Royal Temple Yacht Club select "latest programme" from the BBC Politics sidebar to watch the programme.

Tony Flaig has a review, on his weblog, Bignews Margate and he doesn't appear too impressed with the overall result.

A good job I thought from Sandy Ezekiel in explaining the scale of the local problems and from Jane in detailing some of the more obvious local concerns. Certainly the one to watch and judge the result for yourself, whether Dr Ladyman is correct, when he tells us that Thanet is receiving all the necessary financial support from central government.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tolpuddle 2007

A delightful summer's evening finish to a day I thought wouldn't happen.

While the storm was rolling over Thanet at 7am, I was wondering if I was going to get any work done at all today but with the rain still falling, I managed to get down to Compton Abbas in time to fly a detail over Weymouth and more importantly, the annual Tolpuddle Martyrs rally in Dorset, the third year we've done this.

The rally commemorates the beginnings of the Trade Union movement but it's evolving into a major folk festival. This afternoon, sadly, it was raining and the clouds were descending, fast enough for me to cut short the flight to make sure we could get back into Compton Abbas airfield, which sits some 700 feet above the ground, surrounded by magnificent scenery.

Here's a quick video of what it looks like, the co-pilots view, filmed by Suzie.B of the banner being dropped to the side of the runway and a tight circuit back into land.

Sea Sunday

Reader, Jason emails to with a report on Sea Sunday:

"Broadstairs Sea Sunday was a little bit over overcast for the Service and there was a few spots of rain but the Sun soon came out again afterwards.

The beach was not as packed as previous times, even though its mid July. More people were lining the cliff top and surrounding fun-fare on the green above the beach.

When the Poppies were dropped from the coast guard plane, unfortunately on the first run the prevailing wind was blowing inland and subsequently there will be a fair few of the Poppies in peoples gardens."

See more of Jason's photos here

Walk on the Wild Side

A magazine, called 'Bizarre' which focuses on weird and wonderful events and lifestyles has discovered Margate in all it's glory.

Featured in Kent on Sunday today, Bizarre discovered that among other attractions, Margate has the largest junk sex shop it's ever seen!

I'm not planning to run out and buy a copy of "We're all going on a rubber holiday" just yet but I'm sure it will do wonders for the slow tourist trade this summer with the Gay Pride weekend almost upon us!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Birchington Ram Raids Arrests

The BBC reports that a series of arrests have been made, following the ram-raids in Birchington early this morning.

Station Road was cordoned off for forensic investigations after a cash machine was stolen from the HSBC bank in Station Road. It was later found intact on farmland.

Ram-raiders also unsuccessfully targeted the Barclays Bank branch in Station Road, where a mechanical digger was abandoned at the scene.

The stolen cash machine and flat-bed truck used to drive it from the scene were later found on a farm near Reculver.

Police said the JCB digger used in the ram-raids was stolen from the Ramsgate area in the route to Birchington

Kent Show Weekend

Don't forget the Kent Show this weekend, I've got to go and sit over the top of it for Goodwins in Westbrook, this lunchtime, promoting their stand 350. If the opportunity arises, I'll take some photos but it's such a small area, one gets a little dizzy going around in a tight circle for an hour!

Not everyone loves the show and the showground neighbours have a problem with it. I had to do a photo run yesterday evening to show how close it now is to the houses running along the north-western side. Apparently, the noise, traffic and smell of burgers causes a weekend of intense misery to the people living there but I'm not convinced that the residents are going to have much impact against the success of the county showground.

Better get going I suppose!

Ed: A little later in the day, you can the photo of the show and here's a video of my young assistant, James, wrestling the aircraft back into Rochester afer dropping the banner and finding the 'bump' on landing!

The Rocking Rockpools of Thanet

Thanks to 'Dr Doom' for spotting the feature on Britain's "Best Beaches" in today's 'Independent' newspaper.

"No mention of Broadstairs there," says Dr Doom, "but West Bay and Westgate-On-Sea are rightly singled out for praise."

He's quite right. The paper comments:

"West Bay and Westgate-on-Sea are connecting sandy beaches with plenty of surrounding rocks for crabbing and discovering what the tide has left behind. The rockpools provide safe family fun for kids as well as the not-so-young-at-heart. Hours of delight are to be had mucking about exploring the crevices and natural inlets. There are also plenty of excellent coastal walks on the nearby cliffs and for those in need of refreshment, there is a café at the end of the beach with superb sea views."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Westgate - The New Broadstairs

Broadstairs has been named as one of the top resorts in the country; runner-up to St Ives in Cornwall in a poll carried out by the Guardian newspaper.

Apparently, the judges were impressed with the town’s "four delightful beaches, old-fashioned sensibilities, exquisite ice-cream shop (Morelli’s Parlour) and eccentric Punch and Judy.

On BBC Radio Kent, this morning the accolade was almost snatched-away. "Westgate is the new Broadstairs" we were told; one reason being that visitors don't have to fight their way throuh the Westwood Cross traffic to get there.

Both towns have their own real charms and I am, after all a little biased!

On that note, for interested residents, their will be a public speaking opportunity at the council planning meeting on 18th July when the subject of 43 Ethelbert Sq Westgate-On-Sea, appears on the agenda. You may recall that this application involves replacing the bungalow with a block of flats. I have put my name forward as a ward councillor, to speak on the application.

The photo is an enhanced view from Microsoft Live maps.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Round and Round

Good news for Lymington road in Westgate and Boundary road in Ramsgate at tonight's full council meeting. They've both been awarded lottery funding for their play area development projects and I'm sure local people in both towns will be delighted.

I hear that I missed an AWACS aircraft doing circuits out of Manston today; I was taking part in a debate on the "Big Brother Society" at Westminster. However, I did come home to some statistics from Manston airport, that I had requested in response to Cllr David Green's notice of motion, in regard to the S106 agreement and his concerns involving flight paths, night flights and training flights from Kent International, which will be debated at a future Cabinet meeting.

Cllr Latchford has told me that that compliance with the S106 agreement is monitored and that in April, May and June of this year, there was a total of of 908 movements of 'Heavy' aircraft on Manston's Runway 28 and 867 on Runway 10.

During the period of between January 1st 2006 and 30th May 2007, fines totalling £15,000 were levied against S106 non-compliant night flights.

In June, there were 100 Heavy training circuits in total, spread over five separate days.

For contrast, there were 86,000 movements at the three main London airports, Kent International had a total of 516.

Oasis, which operates the red and white Boeing 747, were able to move their last training run on to a Tuesday and they will continue to do so, when possible, subject to slot availability.

I hope that's a help to everyone?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Revolution Revival

Good to hear from a Kent News report that Revolution Skatepark, at St Peter’s in Broadstairs, has revamped its outdoor area, creating a new, multi-faceted ramp area.

Park owner Dan Chapman said he and staff had been “grafting” for the last month to build the new facility.

He said: “It’s for all those keen skaters and BMX riders that have a lack of facilities throughout the summer months and school holiday periods.

“The park has been open for two weeks now and has really made a difference, giving kids from all over Kent an exciting summer activity.”

The new area was officially opened with a demonstration by skaters from the Vans team. After the demo, Vans ran a competition for local skaters to win new skate gear.

Revolution is regarded as one of the finest skateparks in Great Britain.

The Big Bounce

Back from a "Bounce" of the Big Brother house again, this time arranged by the Channel 4's production company.

According the the last newswire release on the web:

'An aeroplane complete with trailing banner has flown over the Big Brother house in the latest “fake week” stunt.

Housemates on the Channel 4 reality show were sent into the garden this afternoon under the pretence the house needed “essential maintenance”. Once the 11 contestants were outside, a plane flew overhead trailing a banner reading, “There is another house”.

Big Brother swiftly ordered the housemates into the caravan'.

In fact, I only watched about five minutes of the programme yesterday evening to try and work out what it might be about but the content of the programme lost me completely.

Not knowing, until afterwards, that it was arranged as part of the programming and learning from the earlier Jade and Shilpa experience, I was careful to blindside approach the building and then 'pop-up' at the very last moment, to catch the contestants before the shutters could be dropped. To be honest, I was very surprised to see them all in the garden at once.

Looking down, I could see them jumping up and down and waving, so I obligingly waggled the aircraft wings a few times. I suppose I may get a better look at it all from the ground in the programme's highlights.

The video reflects what I suspect a great many people would like to see as a striking practical alternative to an aircraft banner, where the 'Big Brother' house is concerned!

One final irony, is that I'm taking part in a Westminster Forum debate on, well, "Big Brother Britain' this week. No aircraft allowed though!

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing - Gale's View

The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has made a constitutional statement. Unfortunately, that statement does not address the matter of English votes for English MPs for English issues, it does not address the matter of a referendum on a European Constitution and it does not discuss the matter of the erosion of our liberties. So it's a pretty poor piece of work!

Far from recognising the right of English MPs to have an exclusive right to vote on matters affecting solely England the Prime Minister has said that he does not accept English votes for English laws because to do so "would create a two-tier parliament".

But we do, of course, already have a two-tier parliament! Our Scottish Prime Minister is allowed to vote in the House of Commons upon matters relating to the school-children of Kent but he is not allowed to vote on matters relating to the schools in his own, Scottish, constituency because those powers belong to the Scottish Parliament!

This is a nonsense. It is all very well and flattering for Mr. Brown to borrow from the Conservative Party proposals for the restoration of powers to parliament, the removal of the Royal Prerogative in matters relating to, for example, the declaration of war and the recall and dissolution of parliament, but what about the issues that matter to real people?

The "European Treaty" is a constitutional wolf in sheep's clothing but this Prime Minister, who wants to give power back to the people, will not allow the people the right to vote on it in a referendum. Why? Why will the Irish vote but the English be denied that right? (Answer: because the Prime Minister knows that he would lose!)

And then there is the small matter of personal liberties.

It may have escaped your notice but this has been "British Pubs Week". In the course of parliamentary duty, therefore, I visited an excellent constituency hostelry in which mine host tells me that post the July 1st smoking ban his trade has been hard hit. His pub is a real pub. Not a plastic- coated ghetto-blasted emporium designed for children drinking out of bottles but a traditional boozer selling traditional beer and hitherto attracting significant numbers of smokers.

His clientele are adults. They know that smoking is bad for their health but they choose to do it and the landlord would like to choose to permit it inside as well as in his smoking yard. Only the law now says that he cannot do so.

When the Nation's Nanny sought to promote the ban I advocated, as a non-smoker myself, a simple solution. Pubs and restaurants are already licensed to sell alcohol. Why should they not, also, be licensed to be either smoking or non-smoking so that customers and staff have the right of choice?

Choice! Not under this Prime Minister, not under this Government and not under the proposed constitution. Under the guise of change we shall, before long, have about as many freedoms as a Saxon serf unless we say, at the earliest opportunity, that we will not elect or re-elect any government that seeks to inhibit our right to choose. Mr. Brown's current constitutional proposals have more to do with political manipulation than they do with democracy. Not a promising start.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lost in MySpace

It's reported in today's Guardian, that social networking site, MySpace has cracked the 10 million user mark in the UK, meaning more people have put a profile up than drink bitter, according to the social networking website.

According to MySpace UK's own internal user log, London, Manchester and Birmingham are the cities with the most MySpace users, with 1.8 million, 721,000 and 589,000 user profiles respectively.

At the other end of the scale, Lowther in Cumbria, Attleborough in Norfolk and Thanet in Kent are the "least friendly" places in the UK with each town boasting just one MySpace user.

What's even more worrying, is The Guardian thinking Thanet is a "town" and measuring a location's appeal on its social-networking 'Friendliness'!

It wouldn't surprise me though, if Thanet averaged more weblogs per square mile than any other similar spot in the country.

Minster Housing Estate Refused

eGovMonitor reports that the planning application to build 100 new homes in Minster, along with a new public open space, has been refused by Thanet District Council.

The proposal relates to land at Molineux Road, Thorne Road and Monkton Road and is an area of land that was identified for housing in the Local Plan, which sets out planning policy for Thanet and was submitted in May.

However, the application has been rejected by planning officers, because the proposed layout was considered unacceptable and the applicant has failed to provide enough information or justification for the details of the proposed scheme. In particular, the applicant failed to demonstrate that the development would encourage the use of other means of transport outside of the car and they also failed to demonstrate that there was an adequate water supply or sewage capacity for the development.

A meeting with Minster Parish Council was held and more than 300 objections to the proposal had also been received, citing concerns about a range of issues.

Cllr. Roger Latchford, Cabinet Member for Economy and Culture, said: “Our planning officers look very carefully at every application that the Council receives before making a decision. As this shows, if they do not feel that adequate information has been provided by the applicant, then they will refuse it. The problem here was not the proposed use of the site, as it has already been designated for housing in the Local Plan, but the layout proposed and the lack of information and justification provided with this application.”

He added: “We still want to work with the developers and residents to find a way forward for this site, as this application was for one of the biggest developments in Minster for many years. It’s been very encouraging to see the interest that the local community have taken in this application and their comments have been exceptionally useful to our planning team.”

Monday, July 09, 2007

Allo Allo Westgate!

Both a local ward meeting and the Westgate Residents Association to attend tonight, with a quick dash between the two.

The residents are quite rightly concerned over the cliff erosion along Sea road in Westgate, a problem that needs further attention. When I raised it at the ward meeting, one of the members told us that he vaguely recalled the reason why there was a gap in the sea wall and that it was something to do with environmental conservation of the French, "Left-handed snail".

Not being particularly well informed about snails, French, left-handed or otherwise, I'm a little in the dark on this one but if the cliff is in danger of crumbling away, I suspect that our visiting escargot may have to find somewhere else to take up residence. Does anyone know any more about this?

I did a little more digging on the subject of green waste collections tonight and understand it's still a trial exercise while the council determines the volumes involved. So I get green waste collection in my road but the street opposite doesn't. This seems a little unfair and so, I'll try and discover more.

Before I forget, I'm trying to have the station repainted. The train company tells me that it's on their schedule of works but aren't quite sure when. I pointed out that the last time it was painted, I was still in short trousers, so they have promised to let me know. Apparently the head of PR for the railway is spending two weeks in Westgate on holiday in August, so he's said he'll find out before then

Closed circuit TV costs for Westgate, four cameras, covering Station road and St Mildred's road, look set to cost £6,000. I assume there are incremental costs along the way but I sense that the shops and the residents would welcome their introduction and so Cllr Goodwin - who is leading the project - and I will press on with it.

Finally, you can see in the photo how quickly 'Sea Tower" was replaced by two smart modern blocks of flats. I'm putting in an objection tomorrow to the plans for a new block on the space now occupied by the bungalow in Ethelbert Square. I don't really think it fits in neatly with the conservation area among other objections, do you?

If there's anything else that you think I can help with, then let me know!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A Little Private Enterprise in Victoria Avenue

'K' of Westgate writes:

"Just a thought, perhaps you would like to cover this on your web site. Last year two young lads knocked on my door and asked if they could wash my car. I was so 'struck' by their enterprising spirit that I suggested they wash both our cars and I would pay them £10.00 for the two. They were thrilled, but halfway through the job their bucket sprang a leak. I gave them a new bucket and their £10.00 which I felt they had earned.

This Saturday, the same boys knocked on my door, I noticed they were still using the bucket I gave them, and asked if they could wash my car. I told them not this time as we had only just had it cleaned. They came back half hour later and asked my husband if they could wash the car. My husband told them the same thing. They then called him a `F*****g old tosser and walked away!

Ten minutes later they came back and - as if they hadn't already asked - knocked the door again. This time I told them we did not want the car washed. I was then subjected to a tirade of abuse. Not being one to rise to the bait I closed the door.

For a fourth time these two kids came back, with another boy this time, and banged - and I mean banged on the door. The question was the same. They eventually left after retrieving their dirty cleaning cloth from my doorstep where it had been thrown, f***ing and blinding at the top of their voices. It took some time for them to move away from the house completely and I had to go out and tell them to get off my car.

The last I saw of them they were hanging around at the road junction shouting at drivers who were stopping when they declined their offer of cleaning the cars.
Now, if I had been elderly, would I have felt intimidated? I suspect so. I called the police to make them aware of this unpleasant group of kids and they were most pleased to discover I had a photograph of the kids in action, however, so far no-one has been near or contacted us further.

All sympathy for youngsters has gone as far as I am concerned. I expect we will be subject to no end of 'knock down ginger' vandalism and pranks now.

This is not an isolated incident I suspect."

Ed: If you have a photo, I suggest you hand it to Tony Bailey, the community warden or send it to me and I will. If anyone else has had problems with these lads, please let me know.

A Little Lower

I've added more photographs to the library if you wants to see views of Canterbury waiting for the Tour de France to arrive, Ramsgate, with the powerboat racing and the coastal views of Margate and Westgate.

With no circuit traffic to speak of at Manston, I was able to drop much lower over the sea at Ramsgate and then follow the coast back to Reculver. Canterbury was, as you might expect, packed with people waiting for the cycles to whiz by in thirty seconds and it looks as if the city is gearing up for one very large party tonight.

Regarding Noise and Other Pollution

I was reading the content of the petition against Manston airport, on the No10 website with some interest.

Placed their by an anonymous character, which I suspect may possibly invalidate it, the petition states:

"Kent International Airport's runway is about 1km to the west of Ramsgate in East Kent, a town of some 40,000 people.

Although Thanet District Council has placed development of the airport, a former RAF base, as one of the key planks of its corporate plan, it has consistently failed to enter into any kind of agreement with Infratil regarding noise and other pollution from the airport. Consequently 747 training flights overfly Ramsgate at a height of a few hundred feet every ten minutes or so most weekends.

We believe that this situation is unacceptable to the people of Ramsgate and detrimental to the regeneration of this seaside town which contains many listed buildings and the country's only royal harbour."

Ed: The matter of the existing agreement between Infratil and the council on flights, looks to be raised by Cllr Green at next week's full council meeting but I would like to know what "a few hundred feet" is unless the last mile of the final approach is described? The published procedure for the airport is measured in miles and thousands of feet with noise abatement included. The airport was of course, much busier in the past than it was today, with even Concorde using it for practise.

It's important, if you are going to petition against an issue of local concern on the No10 site and have that petition treated with the seriousness it deserves, that any objections are described accurately, factually and not in very loose terms.

Fight Club

A month ago, during the community safety partnership briefing, the police expressed concern that social networking sites and in particular, bebo.com, were being used to organise and orchestrate violence between "crews" in Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate.

The BBC reported last month, that potential fight involving up to 80 schoolchildren, some as young as 11, was averted by police in Devon. In Macclesfield, in June, teenagers were posting menacing messages on bebo, arranging fights and boasting about violent attacks on innocent members of the public.

Today, Kent on Sunday, comments on the same problem.

When I heard about this, I also made some more enquiries about the impact in Kent, because it dovetails with my own ecrime remit and I discovered that the problem now presents a worrying challenge to local policing. I passed the information on at Westminster meeting and I can see, from the correspondence I'm receiving, that it's being investigated as part of a 'Lords' enquiry on the internet.

Of course, that doesn't help us a great deal here in Thanet but while social networking sites, such as bebo, Facebook and MySpace are a remarkable phenomenon and valued at billions of dollars, I would urge parents to try and monitor their children's presence on such sites, even if the teenage sub-culture language appears impenetratable at times.

The trouble is that the parents who need most to monitor their children's online presence, are most likely to be the ones that don't bother and are, in addition, most likely to have a computer riddled with viruses and crimeware too.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Visit Ramsgate for a Weekend of Fun

Ramsgate looking quite busy with the powerboats racing this afternoon. You would almost think it was summer!

With the beaches looking more like late May than early July, I'm keeping my fingers firmly crossed for good weather tomorrow for the finish of the Tour de France.

Coming back with the banner today, I was surprised to catch the Memorial Flight Lancaster bomber doing circuits of Reculver towers. I wasn't aware of any ceremony taking place today in memory of the "Dambusters" but there must have been none-the-less. The Lancaster was last seen disappearing off towards Canterbury at low-level.

More photos from this weekend can be found in the photo library. I'll try and take some more tomorrow. I was a little busy today as we had to keep working in and out of the jet traffic on the final approach for Manston's runway 28, which is right over the harbour at Ramsgate.

Michael Child sent in this action shot from earlier today.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Bit of a Blow

Looking at the present windspeeds, I'm guessing that all the riders in this weekend's Tour de France, will pass any single point along the route in under thirty seconds, as they race to the finish at Canterbury at speeds approaching 45mph.

The whole route is looking rather busy as you can see from the attached airspace restrictions. To cap it all, 'Area B' is forcing Rochester airport to shut temporarily and the weekend is a bit of a headache with two aircraft out concurrently and having to skirt around the restrictions.

There's a distinct possibility that the high winds, we are seeing today, could hang around over the weekend, which may present a problem for both the powerboat racing and any attempts at flying banners. I hope not!

Ursuline Sports Hall Opens

Just back from the official opening of the new "Olympic-size" sports hall at the Ursuline College in Westgate and very grand it is too. It was opened by the Rt Rev Bishop John Hine, the Auxillary Bishop of Southwark and Headmistress, Sister Alice Montgomery, tells us that the sports hall is already down in the official list of potential warm-up match venues for the 2012 Olympics.

I was delighted to meet my old 'boss' from thirty-years ago, headmaster, Father Benedict from St Augustines and Abbey School in Westgate. Now of course, the school is part of the Ursuline College and its original site, a conference centre in the Canterbury road but it did rather leave me wondering where the last three decades went.

It's good to see that we now have a really first class facility for the young people in Westgate to use. I will try and take some aerial photos of the finished sports hall to add to the library, while passing it over the weekend.

More photos of the Ursuline sports hall in the photo library - (see link on the sidebar)

Suspect Hunted in Sexual Assault

Police have released a computer-generated image of a man wanted in connection with a serious sexual assault on a girl of 14.

The attack happened on waste ground off Dane Valley Road, Broadstairs, in April this year.

The schoolgirl, who lives in the seaside town, has helped police put together the image.

Det Sgt Ron Beck, of Margate Police, said: “I want anyone who thinks they recognise this man to come forward.”

The attacker is aged around 20, 5ft 7ins tall, thin, with short black hair and a tattoo containing words on at least one of his inner forearms. He also had a diamond-style stud in one of his ears.

He was wearing dark tracksuit bottoms with stripes down the sides, a blue hooded top with writing across the chest, dark blue baseball cap and white trainers.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact DS Beck at Margate police station on 01843 222093 or Kent Crimestoppers anonymously on freephone 0800 555 111.

A Matter of Some Interest

As many as a quarter of the flooded homes in the north of the country have no insurance, the BBC reports today; a catastrophe for thousands of homeowners in a country already drowning in a sea of consumer debt.

Another report this morning adds fuel to the concerns triggered by yesterday's interest rate rise. The Times is worried and a leader in the The Telegraph writes:

"The outlook is darkening. While some economists believe British rates have peaked, London's financial markets are pricing money two years hence at 6.3 per cent. That is the rate expected by the forces of supply and demand, which, I'm afraid to say, have a habit of being right far more often than City pundits.

Such an outcome would devastate many over-stretched home owners. According to Experian, the research company, were interest rates to hit 6.25 per cent by the end of the year and stay there, house repossessions would top 55,000 in 2009, "well on the way to the bad years of the early 1990s".

Apparently, more women than men have debt problems: 54 per cent of callers to National Debtline are female. A survey by uSwitch, an online financial adviser, identified 750,000 British women as "shopaholics" who need a weekly fix, irrespective of their finances. The typical female shopaholic has £11,000 of unsecured debt, more than double the average."

It will be interesting to see whether the rise in interest rates has any impact on profits at Westwood Cross. Remember that the average annual wage in Thanet is £1,000 lower than elsewhere in the south-east and 25% of the population float on income support. When the economy starts to bite the real pain is likely to be felt here more than elsewhere.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Deep Breaths Please

Looking at the dramatic Daily Mail story of passengers on an Easyjet flight to Malaga, fearing that they would die, as it, "Plummeted" 20,000 feet, here's why the Oxygen masks in the aircraft, releasing in the passenger cabin, shouldn't provoke immediate panic.

The masks will appear automatically if the cabin pressure drops below a certain level. Without that necessary pressure, which is normally maintained at around 8,000 feet, your body won't be able to use the Oxygen in the air to stay conscious, which is why high-flying passenger aircraft are equipped with Oxygen masks, to deliver a higher proportion of the vital Oxygen your body requires for the period of time that the pilot will need to take the aircraft down to 12,000 feet, where you won't be struggling to breathe.

So, if there's a sudden pressurisation problem, the pilot will try and take the aircraft to a safe level as rapidly as possible in a safe but very rapid descent, which is uncomfortable and worrying for the passengers but is not dangerous.

This is a very rare occurence, given the millions of passenger flights that take place but if it ever should happen to you, now you know.

Keep it Under the Bed

If you had any doubts that the UK was fast becoming or had become a police state under this government, then read today's story from The Times.

"The taxman is seeking the power to plunder the bank accounts of both individuals and companies to recover unpaid taxes. The proposal would allow HM Revenue & Customs to freeze taxpayers’ bank accounts or deduct directly from salaries without first obtaining a court order.

Under the existing system, HMRC must ask a magistrate or county court to order that money can be taken from a bank account or salary. The taxpayer is given the opportunity to appear in court to defend their case.

Tax experts yesterday said that the proposal was a significant extension of the Government’s powers. Mike Warburton, of Grant Thornton, the accountants, said that the proposal was a further move away from the “presumption of innocence” historically given to taxpayers. “This shifts the balance of power away from the taxpayer and in favour of the Government,”

Ed: Outside any discussions in regard to the rights and wrongs of tax recovery, many, if not all of us reading this comment, will have experienced the consistent incompetence of HMRC, whether this may lie in simple tax coding errors, to the fiasco of an entire tax-credits system, where errors have proved a source of great hardship to families in Thanet.

If the same HMRC which sends me three different tax codes or threatens legal recovery action, because it has failed to process six separate copies of a company's P11d returns, is given the arbitrary rights it seeks to sieze a home and rifle personal and business accounts, then it's a bleak day for all of us in Britain.

"Neil Tipping, an accountant at CCH, the fee protection service, said that the proposal amounted to a move by HMRC to gain “preferential creditor” status, which it does not have. He said: “Businesses may have other creditors, such as small suppliers, who need to be paid. This move could send thousands of small businesses to the wall."

Good old Gordon. And now he's Prime Minister too!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tour de Ramsgate

Nice to see that there's an individual effort being made to promote Ramsgate ahead of the world's largest single sporting event, the Tour de France on Sunday.

Terry Painter has asked if I would sit over Canterbury for a while on Sunday afternoon, before heading off the Ramsgate and the Powerboat racing with a banner with the message "GO 2 RAMSGATE 2 DAY."

It's estimated that a billion people watch the Tour on television, so while I'm not betting on the cameras turning skywards, I'm sure the main sponsors will be a little irked by the sight of one of the Airads aircraft suddenly appearing over the cathedral,with a cheeky message just before all the cycling fun starts in Canterbury city centre as the race arrives at the finish line.

Well done Terry!

Due South Soon

Congratulations to Thanet South MP,Dr. Stephen Ladyman has been appointed vice chair of the Labour Party.

The appointment comes after Gordon Brown’s reshuffle which saw Dr Ladyman lose his job as transport minister.

He will be second in command to Harriet Harman, who was made chair of the party after winning the contest to be deputy leader.

"The South East", said the MP, "is the engine room of UK economic success and yet we have areas of very high deprivation like Thanet.

“We have an overheating housing market that threatens to price our kids off the housing ladder and yet we have councils putting up barriers to house building or failing to address the need for affordable and social housing.

"These are among the key challenges we face and I will be leading efforts in the Labour Party to identify them and tackle them.

“I look forward to working closely with Harriet Harman the Party Chair on these issues in the days ahead."

How the government plans to address Thanet's problems - described in part in my earlier post as 51 degrees of separation - I would dearly like to know but I'm prepared to bet real money on Dr Ladyman being moved to a 'safer' constituency seat before the next General Election, now he has a role in Gordon's Brown's new regime. It all depends though on how quickly Gordon decides to call the election. If it's too early, then there will be Labour casualties, collateral damage to many of the party faithful in the headlong rush to confirm GB as PM.

More Views from the Edge

Architect David Chipperfield is interviewed in today's Telegraph newspaper on his plans for the Turner Contemporary in Margate.

Entitled "Thrilling Views from the Edge" the paper writes: "Margate is a place that could do with a bit of help. Its harbour front and stone pier feel neglected and disconnected from the rest of the town, while the rest of the seafront is dominated by amusement arcades and unloved blocks of flats with optimistic names such as The Arcadian."

"Margate", the report continues, "and its local politicians are pinning hopes on the building not just as a cultural landmark but as a catalyst for regeneration."

Chipperfield comments: "You need people in these places saying that while there might be a hundred reasons not to do these things and 10 reasons to go ahead, the 10 outweigh the rest. You need strong people like that."

Read on...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Under the Counter

I walked around Westgate today to have a word with different shopkeepers about the re-introduction of CCTV in the village. The impression I received, was that they would like to see it back and a willingness exists to chip-in, if necessary, if the costs exceed the available budget for its re-introduction. One good idea, I thought, from one young lady, was to have a box in each shop, that local people could contribute to as well but I suspect that procedurally, this would offer a problem but I will explore the matter further.

One concern revealed today, involved the secondary sale of alcohol from off-licenses. This is prevalent everywhere in Thanet but the shop owners recognise the problem and would dearly love to see some pro-active policing to prevent the onward sale of booze to under-age drinkers outside the door. A single number to call to report this crime was suggested as one good idea, as I found zero confidence in calling the police at Maidstone with no real hope of the offenders being prosecuted either. The other side of the coin here, is that if there's no confidence in our overworked and thinly-streteched police turning-up, there's very little reason to report the problem. Ipso facto, the problem doesn't exist!

There's very little point in prosecuting smokers when we have children drinking themselves into oblivion on our streets. Tomorrow then, I'm going to write to the Chief Constable of Kent and ask him, under the Freedom of Information Act, how many people have been prosecuted in Kent - or better still Thanet - for supplying alcohol to minors on the street. If the answer is greater than zero, I'll be surprised but on a collective basis, I know my colleagues share with me the recognition that we need to take positive action in trying to stop this rot in our community, so let's start with a letter to Michael Fuller.

Give us English Votes for English MPs - Gale's View

North Thanet`s MP, Roger Gale, has hit out at the Prime Minister`s refusal to allow English Members of Parliament exclusive right to vote upon matters relating to England alone within the United Kingdom.

In his Constitutional Statement Prime Minister Brown said that he did "not accept English votes for English laws" because to do so would create a two-tier parliament.

"We already have a two-tier parliament of course" says Roger Gale. "Gordon Brown, even as Prime Minister, cannot vote upon matters affecting his Scottish constituency because that power has been devolved to the Scottish Parliament of which he is not a member! This Scottish Prime Minister can, though, vote upon matters relating to schools in Kent even though he has no constituency interest in them and his vote will not affect the schools in Scotland. This has got to be, quite simply, wrong.

This Prime Minister has made a song and dance of his proposals to "restore power to parliament" by abolishing the Royal Prerogative in matters such as the declaration of war and the right to recall parliament, which I welcome, but he has revealed his true colours over the "west lothian Question".

The fact of the matter is that Brown, like Blair, knows that his majority lies in the hands of Scottish MPs and he is not prepared to relinquish his right to control England. This has everything to do with political manipulation and nothing whatsoever to do with Constitutional Reform or democracy".

Fifty-one Degrees of Separation

It’s not unusual for people to challenge their local council for not achieving more or spending money on issues that are immediate concern to them. I did frequently, when I started this weblog. However it’s always an idea to ask where the money and the resources are to achieve the little things as opposed to the big picture items that concern us all as a community.

Yesterday evening, I was in a meeting where we were looking at many of the more worrying statistics for Thanet. We have a population where 25% are on benefit, with half a dozen wards among the most income-deprived in England. Thanet has some of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the country and early death rates and mortality from cancer are among the highest in the land. We also have 22% of the population with a long-term limiting illness, a very high proportion of the population suffering from mental illness and the overall qualifications of the workforce are well below the national average.

The statistics of despair are rather longer than I would care to list but they are necessary to add contrast to the criticism directed at local government. Thanet might be mistaken for a hospital triage exercise; it has so many unique problems. In particular, what I describe as fifty-one degrees of separation, in that on the map Thanet is 51 degrees north and only has little more than a restricted 51 degree view of the rest of the country. This means that 309 degrees of opportunity in terms of potential workforce opportunity and economic investment are lost in the sea around us and yet more and more of the nation’s deprived and disadvantaged are being squeezed into our overcrowded embrace.

There are lots of things I would like to see done in my own ward in Westgate and with other ward councillors, I’m lobbying for them. I also recognise that the funding priorities may lie elsewhere and that the council workforce is sometimes stretched. It’s easy to read criticism elsewhere, particularly when it comes to the primitive party political squabbles that interfere with efforts towards any real progress. However, I would ask readers to consider how they might make a substantive difference, working within a tightly-defined local government system and with the limited money and materials at hand.

Everyone and everything is important when it comes to making Thanet a better place for all and I clearly see a strong culture of commitment within the council and its officers. But with every working day a struggle to resolve a host of social challenges on a very limited budget, I’m sure you’ll understand that real progress is often measured inches rather than yards.

With the popular television series, "Rome" now in full swing, I'll finish with an apposite quote for the future from Marcus Tullius Cicero: "While there's life, there's hope."

Monday, July 02, 2007

Police Seek Bag Snatcher

Police have released a computer-generated image of a man who attempted to steal a handbag from a disabled woman in the street.

The 81-year-old woman was in her disabled buggy, waiting to cross Victoria Road, Margate, at about 11am on Thursday, May 31, when a man ran past her and grabbed her handbag from the front basket of the vehicle.

The woman held on to it and, after a struggle, the offender let go and ran off towards Charlotte Square.

The victim, who lives in Margate, was unhurt and she did not lose any of her belongings.

The man police want to trace is described as having a middle Eastern appearance, aged between 30 and 35, around 6ft with an average build and short, black hair.

He was clean shaven and was wearing a navy blue top, black trousers and black footwear.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact DC Katrina Whitehead at Margate police station on 01843 222076 or contact Crimestoppers, free and in confidence, on 0800 555 111. You may be eligible for a reward.

Malicious Communications

I thought that "Malicious Communications" was simply another description for several of our local weblogs but Kent Online reports that a 49-year-old Cliftonville woman has been arrested and charged by police following an "anthrax scare".

June Pratt, of St Paul’s Road,is accused under the Malicious Communications Act after the scare at Elm Day Nursery School, Ramsgate, in March.

Police cordoned off the area, isolated the package and moved the children and staff to a safe haven within the premises.

A specialist police team attended and tested the powder, determining it was safe. The school was reopened after two and a half hours for parents to collect their children.

Pratt has been bailed and will appear at Margate Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, July 10.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

An Express View of Margate

This morning's Sunday Express says it all but I never knew that Charlie Chaplin once stayed at the Nayland Rock Hotel in Margate. If you look hard enough at the photograph I posted last week, of the hotel in its heyday, you might just spot him in a deckchair.

I did rather like the quote:

"Julie Larner of the charity Migrant Helpline, which manages the Nayland Rock, said the hotel would be a last stop before removal so families placed there would not stay long.

"There wouldn't be an incentive for families to abscond because they have clear instructions to leave," she said."

That's OK then, they won't abscond because they have been told not to! You can follow the link so that I don't spoil the rest of the story for you!

It's not much of a start to July. I watched the lifeboat towing a motor launch back into towards Herne Bay as I struggled into land at lunchtime. Not really a time to be out at sea or come to that, in the air either.

"No Smoking" signs have suddenly appeared everywhere, like a red rash and in some areas of Britain, local councils are taking extraordinary measures to detect and prosecute nicotine addicts. We are a little more sanguine over interpreting the legislation in Thanet but ironically, it represents one of the worst hotspots for smoking-related deaths in the country. There's no surprise there as social deprivation and cigarettes are normally found hand in hand.

Can we really stop the kids from smoking and becoming addicted at an early age, I can't say but perhaps this ban will have the desired effect? How the small cafes in Thanet will cope I don't know, in places like Beanos, smoking seemed almost mandatory and now what will the customers do, interrupt their sausage and chips for a quick fag outside on the street? We'll see!