Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Explosive Mix

There was a stabbing incident at Westgate station at around 4:40 yesterday afternoon, as the local schools were congregating to catch the trains home. I haven't any more details other than the 19-year-old victim is at QEQM, the police have recovered the weapon, which was handed in to a local shop and CCTV footage of the incident is being examined.

It's quite likely that there were a number of witnesses to what took place and I would ask parents who may have heard anything about the incident from their children to contact the local police if they have anything to offer.

This is, of course, the second stabbing incident in 48 hours, the first being a fatality outside the Kabuki night-club in Margate and I'm sure that all residents share my grave concern that what is largely recognised as an inner-city problem, has quite suddenly reared its head in Thanet. I might hazard a guess that the temperature may be a contributing factor, as this, mixed with alcohol, is an explosive mixture on our streets.

Last night, I was walking my dog after sunset along the promenade at St Mildred's Bay and I encountered a  group of teenagers smoking cannabis, drinking lager and stripped down ready to jump off the sea wall for a swim at high tide. I do worry that this will lead to another serious accident/incident one day but I'm sure this is true of the entire Thanet coast and well-known hotspots along it's length.

If you have any details of the Westgate incident, please Call British Transport Police on Freefone 0800 40 50 40 quoting reference 470 of 27/06/11 or call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

It's Not Cricket

Saturday was somewhat disappointing, in that the planned protest flight to the Bristol cricket match was weathered-off, leaving the thousands of Tamil demonstrators outside the ground without their aircraft banner. Instead, I was left with a ferry flight of a freshly-serviced  twin-engine Gulfstream GA7 back from Andrewsfield (Stansted) and another flying marriage proposal on the end of Southend Pier, which were rather less stressful and didn't involve any liaison with the local police.

Yesterday, my all seeing, all knowing 'postie', asked me if I knew about the cannabis farm discovered hidden in plain sight, in Westgate. The answer is is that I didn't but before I share my complete surprise and tell anyone  I  had better confirm the story. The second photograph is of my dog waiting to ambush the postman; the high point of her day!

This morning, amid all the fuss about computer hacking groups in the last week, I see I've a comment in The Observer newspaper.

I'm arguing that the internet is facilitating a "post-modern, crowd-sourced equivalent of The War of the Flea – Robert Taber's influential text on guerrilla warfare. "What the Red Brigades was to the 70s, LulzSec may be to the early 21st century."

There's a little irony attached to this because the Chinese Premier has arrived for trade talks and next month I've been asked to give a talk on what the Chinese are allegedly up to in cyberspace. So on the one hand we are all polite smiles and on the other some commentators would remark we are sitting in the middle of an undeclared conflict between the older and new superpowers that no diplomat wishes to admit.

I see the Chinese Premier has an interest in William Shakespeare and is visiting the Bard's house in Stratford today. I wonder what his favourite play is? The Tempest perhaps? Suggestions from the Shakespearean experts among my readers, with quotes, are welcome!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ramsgate Animal Exports - A Personal View

I was stopped in the street in Westgate this week and asked for my opinion on a topic of local concern. Quite understandably, there's been a great deal of heated debate on the subject of the animal export traffic presently going through the port of Ramsgate.

Writing on a directly personal and moral basis I'm absolutely opposed to this awful trade which leads to such appalling suffering. The same is true of every town, county and district councillor I've spoken to of all political parties in Thanet.

It's a matter of real concern which has been discussed and explored at length and with the benefit of all the legal and professional advice available and as you may have read from the council press releases, it's a sordid trade over which  the council has no control. The welfare aspect lies under the control of DEFRA and the trade is governed by national and European legislation, which determines access to our ports and the free movement of trade between member states.

Previous court cases, against the Port of Dover and Portsmouth International Port, ruled that there was no legal basis for refusing the export of live animals and that it was a lawful trade. As a result, I'm told, that Thanet council is in much the same position as Dover and does not have the legal right to refuse this trade at the port.

Without going into great detail, here's some background history for those readers whose concerns I share.

The Labour party, when in opposition, promised to ban the export of live animals. (A promise made by Dr Gavin Strang MP as Shadow Agriculture Minister in about 1998.) They knew then that to do so would be in breach of EU trade law and for thirteen years while Labour were in office, they took no action to prevent the trade.

KALE (Kent Against Live Exports) led the campaign against the Dover trade but were equally unable to stop the business - again because of EU law.

Conservative Animal Welfare policy has always been, and remains, that meat should be transported "on the hook" not on the hoof and that animals should be slaughtered as close to the point of production as possible. Unfortunately our EU "partners" do not share this more enlightened view and so we have had to concentrate our effort in seeking to ensure as humane transport as possible but of course the reality is that once animals have left our shores we have no control over their fate.

People have an absolute right to protest this trade but to imply in public or suggest, as I've read elsewhere, that  local Labour has an answer, when their last Government failed so miserably to deal with animal welfare or that Thanet council can take action to prevent what is taking place, is disingenuous and misleading. There's an opportunistic political agenda in play here, when in fact the we should be asking ourselves why a European Union that ostensibly regards animals as "sentient" is so easily prepared to ignore such suffering in the interests of  cross-border free trade.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Random Thoughts

Cabinet this evening and on the agenda are topics as varied as Margate Football Club, St John's Cemetery and the Coach House in Northdown Park. I'm finding that the 'Environment' portfolio is not without its surprises and I'm increasingly sensitive to the sight of litter and despair when I see black bags being tossed-out on the street overnight in familiar spots and without any thought given to the consequences after several hours of hungry seagull attention.

With the very successful Airfix airshow now behind us, - please take a moment to complete the council's survey for next year - I've to give some thought to another banner job for this coming Saturday, which seems bound to attract some interest over a big sporting event. I've now cleared it with the CAA, Police and the local helicopter support unit to avoid any chance of being prosecuted but it's likely to be up there - forgive the pun - with 'Avram Grant Millwall Hero' if the weather permits. The marriage proposal over Southend Pier on the same afternoon is likely to be a little less controversial, although how the client plans to get his rented limousine out to the end of the pier is another question entirely.

I see the BBC's Nick Robinson was over at the Turner Contemporary at lunchtime filming. Hopefully he will 'wax lyrical' on Margate's renaissance and the very positive plans for the town's direction over the next five years. Not without its many challenges but the last six weeks has clearly demonstrated that Margate is heading firmly in the right direction, even though this may not be as rapid as many of us would wish, given the present tough economic climate.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Westbrook Nature Reserve Opens

I'm just back from the Westbrook undercliff where the sign, showing the presence of the new nature reserve, was officially dedicated by ward councillor Mick Tomlinson in the company of  the Mayor of Margate Iris Johnston, with the Chair of Thanet Council, Doug Clark, supported by local campaigner, Tony Sykes and other local volunteers and councillors.

In the nick of time as well as it started to pour with rain and I'm soaked from walking home again!

The success of this community project, as I'm sure residents and campaigners will agree, illustrates that simply engaging in conversation with a request and a plan can be far more productive than turning a project or an asset into a political football.

Well done everyone involved for such commitment and hard work in achieving this excellent result.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Super Sunday at Margate's Big Event

What a fabulous display by the Red Arrows this afternoon that entertained thousands of people between the Margate Harbour Arm and the beach at Westgate, with the 'Arrows' skimming along the clifftop at low level between the two as they carried out a lengthy and highly skilled display.

It took some persuasion to re-locate the Big Event from Palm Bay to Margate under our new Cabinet and if all those people watching the fun at Westgate and Westbrook think it's the best place for it in future years, then do please leave a comment, letting me know what you thought of the show and what you think could be improved upon if finances and opportunities allow for 2012.

Those of you at the event this afternoon may have noticed than I finally managed to get the Airfix Airshow banner airborne during a gap in the weather and before the Memorial Flight came in. It got back just in time as the heavens opened and so I call that as a good and rather lucky result. I did notice that some of The Tigers freefall parachute team ended up having a dip in Margate harbour but they gave the crowds some wonderful entertainment in the process.

Does anyone recognise the lost dog, now renamed "Airfix" that made it's home in the Airfix tent?

Well done everyone who helped make this weekend such a great event for Margate and Thanet.

A Great Day Out in Thanet

From the large crowds packing the seafront from Westbrook to Margate yesterday, clearly the decision to move the 'Big Event' to the heart of the town was a good idea, approved by most if not all the visitors.

It's unfortunate the weather was more than a little unpredictable. It stopped 'The Tigers' parachute display team from jumping and it stopped me too, when just as I departed with the Airfix Airshow banner, a heavy squall forced me back to land and I consequently lost my display slot before the Memorial Flight.

I will be making another attempt to fly this afternoon but the wind, still at 20 kts and weather, without the heavy showers of yesterday, still look a bit iffy for 2pm. However, I now have approval to come in behind the Red Arrows at 17:40 if the wind doesn't drop sufficiently before my slot time after the raft race and as I type this, it's looking increasingly likely that this will be the only option left to me after a very blustery weekend; the last throw of the dice for the end of the day!

All the main Thanet towns have had big tourist events this weekend and Michael Child has put up some photos for the Love Music - Hate Racism, concert in Ramsgate. There's very little doubt that it's put the island on the map and I would like to thank everyone involved in all these events for making so successful. In particular, I would like thank the street cleaning teams who were out late across the island last night doing a fantastic job of clearing up in advance of today's entertainment.

For those of you who missed it first time around, here's the most amount of fun you can possibly have strapped into a cockpit and of course the French know how to do it with style!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Margate's Big Event - The Airfix Airshow

With less than forty-eight hours to go until Margate's Big Event , Saturday's forecast isn't quite as bad as predicted and there's still room for improvement, if the incoming Atlantic frontal system passes us faster than is presently shown. Weather forecasting, even with the help of  the MetOffice  supercomputer, remains a probability exercise outside of 48 hours but the Sun should be out, even if it's a little wild outside on Margate seafront.

I've seen some Twitter activity that the Harbour Arm is the place to watch the aircraft but I need to warn readers that for obvious safety reasons, the size of the crowd there will be restricted by the lessee  - not TDC - with an entrance fee levied to cover their security costs and so the seafront or even the cliffs at Westbrook for picnicking will present an  ideal spot to view the action and I recommend you visit the council's Big Event information website.

If the weather permits, I'll be in with a sponsor's banner to mark the start on Saturday afternoon, leaving at 13:50 to make way for the memorial flight to roll-in and start the display. My own weather safety tolerances with a large banner in tow, are much less than the larger aircraft and so I'm watching this approaching weather front with more interest than most.

Airfix are giving away two family prize flights as prize in conjuction with KMFM today and tomorrow, Friday, directing people to the Breakfast Show on KMFM and so listen in and you may win a ride!

To leave you, remember Jeremy Clarkson going for a ride in an F15 Eagle and discovering that that it's hard work? Here's the video.

A Close Shave

Returning home from Windsor castle last night I narrowly avoided hitting a deer on the M2, while negotiating a dark stretch of motorway before Faversham. It was after midnight and I was the only car, listening to Radio 3 with cruise control engaged when a large shadow loomed-up in front of me. Tugging the steering wheel hard, I missed the frightened animal by a fraction and could have reached out and touched its nose from my driver side window. I hate to think of what the consequences of hitting it might have been.

I had a wander around St George's Chapel at around 11pm and the photo is taken from Catherine of Aragon's private stall overlooking the altar. It's a rather eerie feeling to think one is occupying exactly the same space as a figure from history in a church late at night.

With Ascot week in full swing, the Royal Family are in residence and as I arrived for dinner, there were carriages returning along the long walk and through the castle gates, once again like a living history cameo.

I had a text last night that the Arlington/Tesco planning application had gone through committee. This will now be referred upward to the Secretary of State for final decision but I look forward to reading all about the meeting in tomorrow's fact and fun-filled,  'soaraway' Thanet Gazette!

I had planned a day-off today but already is 10:25 and no chance of escape.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thanet Joins The Broadband Super Highway

Last month I wrote of my personal appeal at a Westminster meeting for the introduction of 'Super-fast' Broadband in Thanet and by happy coincidence, I received an email from our Thanet North MP, Roger Gale, this morning, where he passes on the news in an email from Mike Hill, the Director of Public Affairs at BT:

"BT today announced that the Westgate exchange in your constituency will benefit from the next phase of BT’s super-fast fibre broadband deployment. Over 4,000 premises served by Westgate exchange should be able to access super-fast broadband speeds of up to 40Mb/s during 2012.

BT is investing £2.5 billion to deliver fibre broadband to up to two thirds of UK homes and businesses, subject to an acceptable environment for investment. It’s the largest single commercial investment in fibre-based broadband ever undertaken in the UK, and is currently one of the biggest civil engineering projects running in Europe."

Thanet, desperately needs fast Broadband as a business enabler for its future and I can't be more delighted that we are going to have this in advance of so many other deserving  locations around the country, starting with the BT exchange here in my own ward, Westgate-on Sea. Thank you BT for listening and I will be inviting my friends at Google to set up the company's first office outside of London here in the village at the very first opportunity! Now wouldn't that be a nice thought!

Tonight, the council planning committee meets to hear the application for the Tesco store at the Arlington tower site in Margate. This should be a well attended meeting and at Monday's WWRA, I heard a presentation on the subject from the Arlington residents' spokesman, Ron Green.

I won't be there this evening because I have a prior dinner engagement at Windsor Castle but I'm sure the planning committee will be listening carefully to the arguments from all sides as they debate this very important application with its many associated  implications for the further regeneration of Margate seafront.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What a Fuss About Nothing

Overnight I see that two of our better known local weblogs or should I say 'surviving' bloggers, are making a fuss because the council has changed it's mechanism for distributing information. Press releases will only go to the accredited media, while everyone else, me included, will be able to collect these from the Thanet District Council RSS feed, which I have attached to my own sidebar.

This has of course encouraged Thanet Online to  announce " A war on prominent Blogs" and Big News Margate to howl 'conspiracy' from the rooftops, with his dramatic headline 'Thanet council discriminates against free press."

It's all a bit pathetic really! I lost track of the number of weblogs in Thanet a long time ago but at least two of the more popular, apparently believe that they should receive special treatment and be regarded on the same basis as the Thanet Gazette or even the BBC, with a self-appointed right to pester the council press team for information but without having to abide by the same news protocols and code of conduct that governs the press.

So it's all a storm in a teacup. The news isn't censored or hidden or denied to anyone. The technology of Twitter and RSS feeds see to that. However, I for one don't consider myself to be operating at the same level as the mainstream media because this blog is a hobby and a diary combined. Others perhaps take themselves far too seriously and some might argue even obsessively, in stressing their own  credentials and influence as local blogging pundits.

For me however, it's just a blog and if you want to read the council news, it's on the sidebar and like this entry, I'll add any comments of my own here!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Where's That Whippet

Following the fine example of the now politically-deceased Labour councillor from Northwood, I was down in my local micro-pub a little earlier this evening, sheltering from the rain, with a pint of Real Ale in my hand and wearing a well-worn cloth cap with a rented whippet in tow...

Well that's not quite true, the rain that is or come to that the pint, as half a cider is quite strong enough. I might be stretching the truth about the whippet too but I did have a pack of the Quex, Oyster-flavoured crisps, as I'm quite determined to taste an oyster in there somewhere among the salt and vinegar if it's the last thing I do!

Anyway, I was asked if the Vulcan was really turning-up for next week's Margate airshow and all I could honestly answer is that I've heard nothing to the contrary and that the event is steadily shaping-up into a great-looking entertainment weekend along the seafront.

I'm off to the Isle of Wight Festival tomorrow and I'm told there are some 300 microlights descending into Sandown airfield at about the same time that I'm dropping into Bembridge next door. This is the aviation equivalent of finding 300 mobility 'scooters' rattling between the Thanet Way and Westgate, on both sides of the carriageway but in three dimensions. So I will need to keep my eyes wide-open as I start a long descent to the island from Goodwood, as from long experience, many of the microlight jockeys skudding around at low-level, won't!

I've replaced the earlier video with one of a recent UFO sighting which has gathered over 68,000 hits. It wasn't a UFO but a private aerobatics display for Adidas by my friends on the Swift team over London and testing out the new pyrotechnics!

Now where did I leave that Whippet?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Shuffling Around

The changes to Thanet's cabinet portfolio have now been announced and readers may have noticed that I've picked-up some of the 'Heavy lift' projects under the heading of 'Environmental Services', which includes waste and recycling, street cleaning, public toilets, environmental health, coastal protection, parks, allotments, building control, general estate management, crematorium and cemeteries, asset management, planning applications, planning enforcement and conservation.

As we have such a small cabinet, it represents quite a broad portfolio, when you consider that planning is in there too, so to add to my previous interest in buildings, old, new and under development, I'm now condemned to wander the streets of Thanet looking for anti-social seagulls and broken rubbish bags.

On a more serious note and after replying to an email I've just had from one resident, people may remember, that they very often have more than one or two councillors in their wards. If you are unhappy about something, and the TDC Customer Services number on 01843 577000 hasn't resolved the problem to your satisfaction, then your ward councillor rather than your MP or cabinet member should really be the next port of call. That's what ward councillors are there for, to 'go to bat' on residents behalf when something isn't working and to escalate an issue up to the cabinet member responsible for a particular service if a solution can't be found. This is invariably the shortest and quickest route to success.

Margate's Big Event' is now only a week away and it will be very interesting indeed to see how moving it to the town's seafront will change the overall dynamic over the two days. Airfix are sponsoring the event as the 'Airfix Airshow' and I'm waiting for a big company logo banner to arrive from the States, to fly for them on both days before the show starts. Let's all hope it's great weather on the 18th and 19th June and we are of course looking for political volunteers to try out the concept in the video shown below.

Friday, June 03, 2011

A Margate Mystery Solved

It’s not a common sight, two Thanet council cabinet members wading around in the thick clay and mud at the low tide mark on Margate’s main sands but tonight was different.

I was made curious by a report on Town councillor, blogger and coastal warden, Tony Ovenden’s Thanet Coast weblog, of a mysterious circular hole adjacent to the remains of an unknown wreck. This is directly in line with ‘Godden’s Gap’ and the old Tivoli brook, so I ventured out this evening for a look and found Tony busily excavating for buried treasure!

The mystery hole, you will see from the photo, is almost perfectly circular and sits in the thick grey clay which indicates the presence of a fresh water spring. Fifty feet to the east are the remains of an unknown sailing vessel and the area is littered with the remains of oyster shells and ancient bottle and china fragments.

With no real idea of what I was looking at, I called my cabinet colleague and celebrity ‘Rock Doc’ Alasdair Bruce, to come and give us an opinion. Was this the missing entrance to Margate caves, a freshwater spring or something the Time Team's Tony Robinson should be investigating?

Cllr Bruce appeared some thirty minutes later in ‘wellies’, professionally supported by Kim, his geologist partner. ‘”Ahh”, he exclaimed knowledgeably, “ I've seen one of the before, it’s a bomb crater” and after fishing around up to his arms in the mud for a while he started producing pieces of shrapnel. “Probably a German bomber after the railway station”, he pronounced sagely, before turning his attention to the remains of the unknown wreck that Tony Ovenden has described on his weblog last week.

By now, our little group had attracted some attention and Margate’s Harbour Arm owner, Fiona Sherriff, had spotted the two wandering cabinet members through a telescope from her home and had wandered out to see what we were all up to.

Can any readers recall a WW II bombing raid which missed the town and hit the beach instead? It would be a good use of the internet to find out.

My thanks to Tony Ovenden for bringing this and other little historical gems to the public’s attention. He was the lucky winner this evening finding an 1851 penny in rather good condition!

Michael Child has very kindly uploaded a map of bomb craters on the Margate seafront, here.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Movie Clips

I chanced across an interesting new web service this evening called MovieClips.com.

So for all those movie enthusiasts looking for a library of clips from their favourite films, there's now a legal and high resolution alternative to all those clips YouTube which is completely searchable.

In this clip, you see a councillor and cabinet member of the not too distant future attempting to negotiate with an artificially intelligent but somewhat obstructive local government computer system, for entry into the council building, having mislaid his digital pass key.