Saturday, February 26, 2011

Who Moved the Goalposts?

A huge spike in 'Blog' traffic over the last couple of days and I see that some of the comments have become more reasonable, although I have had to remove several from 'the usual suspect' and those that involve personal abuse.

Looking across several online forums I have trouble recognising the same topic as its reported here and rather less charitably elsewhere. One bone of contention is that I only answer questions that suit me. Let me reply to this by saying, that I do reply to most questions when I can but surprisingly enough, I do have other things to keep me busy beyond being interrogated on planning details by fans. I'm not a planning officer and it's not my place to comment or pass opinion on some things for very obvious reasons. I'm happy for people to debate politely among themselves but I only 'dip-in'  to the comments section when I feel like it or have something to contribute, so please don't expect otherwise.

Some people close to the club are becoming very confused, if only because they believe what others, who are equally confused, tell them is true. Apparently, I have "been shown up somewhat with his lack of knowledge and assumptions, will want to save face in some way and will dig his heels in."

The matter of the lease in regard to both public consultation and length is a good example  of such confusion. For asset disposals by the council, this is now 25 years or more but for any development in Hartsdown Park, it is for 'Any' lease over any period of time, which is a hugely important detail that is being consistently ignored by those who suggest I'm making all this up as I go along! Also, why others might comment that the building of the Turner Contemporary Gallery, funded entirely by KCC, the Arts Council and more, establishes some kind of  precedent for Thanet Council  to reject new rules on public consultation in favour of a Travelodge on public land in the park quite escapes me.

For the first time in local politics, I'm sharing a personal view and extending the level of transparency and debate on an important subject through my weblog and not just a public meeting or an agreement behind closed doors. This debate is defined by strong feelings on both sides as you can see from the many partisan comments it attracts.

My own role, once again is that of mediator and procedural oversight and I have no decision making powers because that is for others as part of the democratic process.

Planning rules may have changed in some important aspects over the last five years. Some people welcome these changes as giving more control,consultation and democratic accountability and others may take a contrary view. I can't change that. In a high profile matter which attracts such strong opinions, it is absolutely vital that proper legal process and interpretation is followed to the letter and with no exceptions. I'm sure readers would not have it any other way. If the rules are not followed then the result can lead to a long and drawn- out court process as one side or the other lodges objections.

So contrary to what I read, I'm not for or against anything beyond offering transparency and impartiality in exploring a solution to a problem which involves two strongly opposing views. Whether I happen to 'speak posh' or I'm a 'Stuck-up b***d'  or even both together, is irrelevant to the task in hand, which involves finding a sensible way forward that follows the rules and might meet everyone's approval.

To quote Abraham Lincoln, who with a civil war to fight of his own, was perhaps fortunate enough not to become involved in Thanet football politics: "You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.


1 o'clock Rob said...

Good luck dear Doctor, it seems a small minority haven't got a clue about the job you are supposed to do with regards planning applications.

It is refreshing to see local politico's interacting with us voters though.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm! This is local businessman Keith Piper we are talking about and not some kind of charity?

Why should a football club expect council help and not other sports clubs strapped for cash?

What about Ramsgate FC then or Thanet Wanderers rugby club?

Read what the fans say and they think they should be treated differently to anyone else



Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Maybe because both Thanet Wanderes & Ramsgate F C haven't applied to improve their facilities. If they decide to in the future I'm sure they will expect to be treated accordingly too.
At the moment MFC are the only ones out of the three you mention who are trying to go forward with the help of certain developers who are willing to put their money in to do this.
Any such venture should be welcomed & encouraged no matter WHO is trying to do it.
Margate town has been run down by each & every council up to this point & they sure do need to rectify things.
A little help on their parts rather hindrance would be welcomed.

DrM. said...

To be fair, the council doesn't 'run-down' anything, that's a consequence of the economy. Thanet and in particular areas of Margate are among the most deprived and benefit dependent in the country and a council exists to provide public services paid for from grants, in part from council tax and any commercial fees it can collect.

What you mean by 'Help' I don't know. The council is supportive of any business that brings benefits to the local economy but each and every business has to be treated equally, fairly and properly.

Anonymous said...

More co-operative!

Anonymous said...

Maybee a few of you should take a look at Thanet Wanderes rugby club! becareful you dont slip on the permently muddy PUBLIC footpath,and watch for the litter left around the fairley new club house. The new floodlights should help you though. When you have some spare time take a look at the plans for the new veranda/balcony im sure it was stated as a wooden structure not as it turned out, built in steel! but having a local business man with a vested interest in the building its ok. Oh wait a miniute only if your in your local councils good books it would seem. Thanet smacks of hypocricy and you would be hard pressed to find a LOCAL who thinks otherwise. Before anyone retorts i am not a Margate fan and would like to see all local teams do well even Thanet Wanderes when they respect the people who use the park.


DrM. said...

Simply stated, if you believe that anyone is in breach of a planning consent then call 577000 and ask for a planning enforcement officer.

I can't comment on your allegation and you need rather more certain of your facts before you start broadcasting what appears to be a suspicion only.

This comment smacks of malice but for now, I will let it stand in the interest of transparency because you are suggesting that the council or it's officers are in some way acting or have acted improperly and I can't accept that.

I'm sure that lots of people breach their planning consent but I don't have a secret police force roaming the streets looking for evidence of such. It's for members of the public to report their concerns so that council officers can take appropriate remedial steps.

Anonymous said...

Very well put, I think we all agree with the notion that everyone should be treated the same.
There does "appear" to be some differing treatment of Margate to Broadstairs and also that of Ramsgate.
The present construction in Ramsgate is an absolute farce and should be being enforced by council.
That said, I am reassured that Cllr Moores will do his level best to ensure that a level playing field is achieved, The council is a huge organisation with it's head firmly stuck in the 1980's when planning was arranged via brown envelopes and a nod/wink.
If nothing else, the recent arguments over Hartsdown do show one thing, the tide is turning and a level of democracy and transparency is begining to happen at Cecil Sq.
Now it just remains for the disenchanted local electorate to raise their interest levels above the "empty" mark and try and elect only those can can and will do a genuinely decent job for Thanet.

Anonymous said...

Hey Simon,
Any chance you could take charge of arranging the air show this year, perhaps Manston could be used again as a suitable location?

Lets face it, last years show was a wash out in more ways than one, the entry fee was a joke, locals merely stood the other side of the fence and watched the show for free !
In the right hands this years air show could be like the good old days at Manston and be a talking point for the rest of the year.....
Go on you know you want to !!!

DrM. said...

Not my portfolio I'm afraid and if it was, can you imagine the allegations that might be thrown in my direction as a pilot and now a member of an Airshow display team?

That said even with somewhat reduced funds we working on an event that I hope will make it's mark.

Remember though that there's an election between now and then and I very much doubt that Clive Hart and his colleagues share my enthusiasm for aviation!

Anonymous said...

Don't it's a horrible thought whichever way you look at it!

It's a bloody shame though, Manston IS the best location in all respects,generates fantastic boost of revenue to the Spitfire museum as well.
Oh well it was worth asking, what a shame.

DrM. said...

Just to remind ourselves, Manston isn't an RAF base anymore and it's operated b Infratil who have a business to run

I can recall visiting the airport wih my father to look at the ME 109s and Heinkel III parked up for the Battle of Britain and not so long ago, sharing the circuit with Concorde

Best place for the Airshow is really the seafront for a number of good reasons, local economy being one I might argue

1 o'clock Rob said...

The sea-front really is the best location for the air-show, pilots are able to display their aircraft along the cliftop knowing that they are not a danger to the public, to do similar displays at Manston would require the public pitching up on the grass just beside the runway, and Infratil is never going to allow that.

The fee last year was a farce, and I believe that even the Council has agreed that this year it would be a free event again (Simon can you confirm?). I would like to see more aircraft displaying but understand that each aircraft/team have fees that need to be paid and that money can only be raised by sponership, donations and a dwindling pot of Council funds.

I trust that Simon will do his best to ensure that his and other voices are heard on the run up to the event to ensure it is successful.

DrM. said...

Once again its not my portfolio and all I can really say is that even in these challenging times, the council is working on a number of free public events which I hope will make Thanet more attractive to tourists and enjoyable for residents through the summer months.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Simon has his poker face on regards this issue, fingers crossed the air show is a success this year.

Michael Child said...

Simon a couple of thoughts here, first the events and I know it isn’t your bag but can’t see the councillor responsible entering into a dialogue on the internet in a public forum, so here is probably best bet.

What we need and in Ramsgate and Margate towns and need desperately is some events during the summer school holidays, that run for a reasonable amount of time and include the parts of the town centres that are in decline.

Something to give the remaining shops, many of which are on the edge an extra boost, obviously the fairs and markets associated with these events are most beneficial to the people from out of area that run them but is they are held amongst the local traders there should be some benefit.

On the planning and lease, way that the council controls development on council owned sites, the only development that I have any real understanding of is the Pleasurama one and with this another failed deadline comes tomorrow.

Once again the developer will be outside of the terms of their agreement with the council, of course I will make the appropriate complaint, having put a lot of effort into doing this in a way that is less expensive for the council, with no response, the official route is the only way open to me.

But it does occur to me that while the Hartsdown application is being handled properly and openly, there really isn’t an easy route for dealing with large applications that effect a lot of people, that haven’t followed the proper rules.

I mean where the permission mysteriously never expires, where the lease renewals never go to asset disposal, where the agreements with the council are never enforced and so on.

Andrew said...

Oh Michael you're going to get your wrist slapped and sent to bed with no supper for daring to mention Pleasurama on this blog. And you won't get an answer because there isn't one.

DrM. said...


Michael has sent in exhaustive and persistent information requests to council officers and quite possibly received - from my looking at some of the correspondence, appropriate replies.

He is clearly not satisfied with the answers he has had and that's really all there is to say. If he wishes to continue with his interest, then he is welcome to carry-on elsewhere.

Michael Child said...

Simon I think you may have the wrong end of the stick here, I am not dissatisfied with the answers I have received from the council and it is because of the results of one of my foi requests that I am making a fuss now.

I have only made two successful foi requests to the council for documents relating to Pleasurama, one for the development agreement and it was about a year before this turned up.

The other was for the cliff surveys this was dealt with promptly and I only sent it after I reported failures to the repairs that the council partly acted on and partly didn’t.

I made a further request last week because the conditions of the development agreement haven’t been complied with.

This was to see if there has been a new agreement, goal posts moved, dates changed, whatever you like to call it.

This development agreement isn’t just a planning issue it’s a lease issue too, at the end of 2009 the council issued a 200 year lease to the developer with several conditions.

One being that the pile driving work should have properly and materially commenced by 31st Jan 2010 and finished by 31 August 2010, well this hasn’t happened, not a single pile has been put in.

The next being that the structural frame for the hotel part of the development should have started by 1st March 2011, well in the past couple of weeks the developer has put up three concrete posts at the other end of the site about 200 metres from where the hotel is going to be, this is the only construction work that has ever happened on the site during the past seven years I have been pursuing this issue.

What it means is uncertain, perhaps the developer has put up these posts as part of an attempt to get out of his agreement with the council, I just don’t know.

What is certain is that the years of broken promises and broken agreements resulting in the main seafront development immediately in front of the part of the town that I am trying to trade in being derelict for all these years is damaging to this part of Ramsgate.

All I am asking is that the same rules that are being applied to the Football Club in Margate are applied to a much larger and more significant development in Ramsgate. As the cabinet member for planning I am not seeking your support, not asking for you to apply any special rules here, just to give us a level playing field, pardon the pun.

DrM. said...

Michael I have asked you before to take your Pleasurama interests elsewhere. You have had your answers and the council is working to resolve the site's present and future prospects but without sharing commercial detail with you beyond the information you are properly entitled to under FOI.

I'm certainly not going to discuss this any further here as it is quite off thread and you have your own weblog.

Michael Child said...

I know Simon and please accept my apologies, you are far more patient with me and my various comments than is reasonable.

I will try to lay off the P word here.

Going back on thread as it were you will be pleases to know that more traffic is being directed to my blog from your blog than any other blog, apart from Eastcliff Richard’s blog.

Andrew said...


Anonymous said...

We like Michael, He's cool !

Anonymous said...

I never previously associated cool and boring. Axe grinding is OK up to the point that the blade is sharp but beyond that it just wears thin!

Anonymous said...

We still like Michael Though !!