Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thinking Ahead

Jobs and encouraging growth in the local economy, whether it be the port, the airport, China Gateway or even Thanet Earth, they remain at the top of a list of local priorities.

Two million people living in this country of ours have never held a job while three million more have been out of work since before Labour came to power. In what the Conservatives describe as "The Steady growth in welfare ghettos", six million people now claim job seekers allowance or sickness benefit.

Government's failure to reform the welfare state during the good times has resulted in huge economic and social costs and the consequences can be seen around us, indeed, only this month, with the ASBOs handed down to the gang of feckless, violent thugs who terrorised the Newington estate.

Everyone living here in Thanet wants to see a virtuous circle, a healthy local economy that enjoys a productive balance with our environment but to encourage the former, new business has to be attracted to the island and new jobs created. I'm not entirely sure that both objectives can be obtained without compromise a recognition that the world has changed and that our place in it has to be shaped to accommodate the best opportunities possible for local people.

We share the same concern for the future and recognise our well-documented local problems and the challenges of our geography but when I see so much criticism on the local ‘Blogs’ levelled at efforts to encourage new business and stimulate opportunity I do wonder what alternatives are on offer, beyond our fast growing welfare dependency, at a time when Government, with the largest public finance deficit in modern history, can no longer match even the minimum funding we now require to stand still in the face of the recession?

Thanet is one small economically-pressed community, one among many other similar struggling seaside stories across the United Kingdom. In reality and of late, there has been a great deal of good news and progress which offers us advantages over our neighbours and are measurable success stories in their own right. The seemingly more controversial decisions, such as The Turner Contemporary, China Gateway and the airport are shaping tomorrow's opportunities and while such plans and ambitions should be subject to proper debate and public scrutiny I believe it’s quite wrong to challenge the strategy when no truly constructive alternative model for change is offered in return.

“Joined-up” is an over-worked expression but it describes the thinking that has to surround our future here in Thanet. The island, along with its pockets of deprivation, tourism attractions and business opportunities has to be seen as a complex challenge requiring flexible solutions on a shoe-string budget. I’m optimistic that we are going in the right direction but understand why people are worried by the prospect of change.

Seaside economies are facing their own Darwinian struggle with the forces of natural selection but fortune, I’m told, favours the bold and this is the direction I believe we should be exploring for the benefit of all.

Plenty to think about and even comment on here but what interests me most whether readers would have a strategy for the future of Thanet that is in any way different to the one which already exists.

4 comments:

Peter Checksfield said...

Nice post. Those anti-airport protesters in particular seem unable to come up with a reasonable alternative, though if they did then perhaps they'd gain my support more...

Stop Manston Expansion Group said...

Simon,

I'm unsure if there is a strategy at TDC sometimes. The 'greatest' example of this is Royal Sands and Manston Airport.

Royal Sands, if/when built, will be unique in the South East. Situated right on the beach, actually in the water on some occasions, will be a hotel, quality residential and retail development. Millions will have been spent, wasted on it over at least a dozen years before its occupied. You might say getting it completed has been a monumental struggle for all involved.

Now TDC will have to lease the hotel. Which hotelier is going to spend millions again setting up a hotel that will be directly overflown every few minutes all day within a few years according to the council and Manston owners Infratil? If the airport owners get their way with the ability to schedule night flights, that will continue to wake their guests up at 2am, 3am, 4am etc as 747's pass overhead at 1,000 feet. This has not even been thought of, no feedback from potential bidders has been sought. TDC could end up with white elephant costing millions. If you speak to local hoteliers – Ramsgate, Broadstairs and Margate based – they will confirm that any regular event that wakes their guests up is bad for business.

If Ramsgate is to be a sailing destination, leisure resort, nice restaurants, good quality housing, it can't fit with 747's overhead 24/7.

TDC have not embraced the potential the railway brings to Thanet. High speed rail will be as revolutionary as the original steam trains were 150 years ago. How many more careers have been brought nearer by the new trains? What opportunities are there for Thanets unemployed?

TDC had a great opportunity to fit all future developments - westwood, thanet earth, eurokent, china gateway - in one brownfield site. Manston Airport. You've said before that the site would have been used for a 10,000 house sink estate. How many other sink estates have been built in the south east in the past 10 years? Chafford Hundred? Ingress Park? Kings Hill?

I think only the limited vision of our council are holding the area back.

Ideas for replacing Manston and bringing sustainable prosperity to Thanet;

Extending Thanet Earth
Quality Housing
Leisure – new swimming pool, Centre Parcs
Large campus site to attract multinational company
Green Technology wing for Canterbury University
Green technology industrial park

I've published these before for those who actually care about Thanets future.

Anonymous said...

I want to be supportive of the airport and indeed I once was when there were passenger flights to useful destinations but EUjet proved that could not be made to work. What Infratil are effectively doing is sneaking in a 24/7 cargo airport by the back door which is a completely different kettle of fish and one which I would object to strongly. It will create few jobs and be detrimental to our beautiful built and natural environment which is the best card we have in my opinion.

Why sleepwalk into becoming a sub-Luton, Hounslow or Crawley when with a bit of vision we could do so much better? Why hang onto the airport for misplaced feelings of nostalgia or because the few people who work there might have to be redeployed?

Of course as you are a pilot and live nowhere near the flightpath there is probably not much point putting these arguments to you.

By the way why do you always dangle the ogre of a sink estate as an alternative to the airport. The cynic in me thinks it might be a deliberate attempt to scare the natives.

My alternatives for the site would be:

- More Thanet Earth style development
- Extended China Gateway or alternative to the current proposed site
- Ecology park
- Ecology campus for Christchurch or Kent Uni
- Heliport
- Theme park
- Race track or drag strip

There are hundreds of profitable and job-creating things it could be without having to destroy Ramsgate and Herne Bay with cargo 747s flying over all night.

Anonymous said...

I think Birchington Parish Council is doing far more for Thanet than the TDC. At least they listen, and have a healthy High Street.
Newington has always been a problem, and the poor people who spend their hard earnt money on the new housing right next door to it (Newington) will not be very happy once they find out who (or what) their neighbours are.