Sunday, April 08, 2012

FIDO Walks

On a lighter note for this Easter Sunday, I was in Cliftonville's Northdown Road yesterday and couldn't help notice some anti-social parking outside the office of one of our political parties. As I had to park-up properly in a bay and walk a couple of hundred yards back again, I wasn't quick enough to capture the enormous Mercedes outside the front-door, with the equally larger than life character driving it and so you only have one of the two cars photographed.

Why did I bother? People are bound to jump to conclusions and you may vaguely recall the self-righteous political uproar that reached the local paper, when a Conservative councillor was photographed parked on double-yellow lines outside the Association in Birchington, one Christmas, delivering some boxes.'What goes around, comes around.'

I did approve of the bin outside the front door but this went quite unnoticed by the young man in the brown tweed 'hoodie' with his cheerful 'Staffie' on a morning stroll.

Neither one of the two had any political affiliation that I could detect but the dog paused briefly and left a large deposit in the middle of the pavement and the pair, the owner unconcerned and the dog quite pleased with itself, continued on towards the empty remains of Woolworth's as if nothing had happened.

The council, I'm told, is now making tackling dog-fouling a much greater priority, which I'm very pleased about but how we reach-out effectively to the pair I saw yesterday I really don't know. So, you fine the owner £1,000. He then either disappears (34% of Cliftonville West and Margate Central residents are transient) or he simply doesn't bother to turn-up in court and pay the fine. For those living on benefits at the fringes of our society, as the London riots demonstrated last year, legal sanctions really have no deterrent value worth discussing.

I was told however, that the FIDO pavement cleaning machine has been seen out and about in the Westbrook and Westgate and if you happen to spot it in your area, do let me know. I'm afraid that retrospectively adding a mini-gun to the chassis as a proactive deterrent to some unhelpful dog owners was my idea! You wait, someone, somewhere will be offended by this!

My thoughts now turn briefly to planning, always a contentious issue in Thanet and I have attached a letter to the local paper from Ewen Cameron, whose diligence and persistence resulted in a giant phone mast planned for the front of Westgate library, to be rejected.

Ewen Writes:

"I was delighted to learn that this hideous planning application has been withdrawn. A rare dose of common sense. It was aimed at erecting a mobile telecoms tower on Westgate crossroads. An eyesore. Bang outside the treasured library. In a designated preservation area. 5 Meters taller than the already very tall street lights on the A28. Complete with four metal sheds for power and tools."


The underlying applicants were T-Mobile, Orange, and "3" (Hutchison Telecom).Giants, with unlimited money.

I was probably the first, as an "adjacent householder", to learn of this application. The tight timelines meant detailed research compressed to just ten days. Needed. It involved a telecoms engineer, and a chartered surveyor. Both unpaid volunteers (thank you both). Finding out about transceiver sharing, and so forth, Hard work in vile weather. The result was a detailed, ten page letter of objection to TDC. Despite ice, canvassed the households nearby. Despite just four days to respond. Over 4 out of 10 lodged objections. Several wanted, and got, copies of my letter of objection. A higher rate than Westgate's "other" major planning application.

TDC Planning pulled a U-Turn of major proportions. Having warned at least one of the District Councilors that there was "no reason to refuse", they read the facts, and indicated they were minded to refuse. Well done. It's dead.

Thanks are due to Councilors Tom King and Simon Moores. Both of whom are Westgate residents. Very supportive. Tom was quick off his toes, beating Simon narrowly to call this horror in for a full hearing by the Planning Committee. Everything about this application was wrong. Particularly sneaking it in just before Christmas. Giving the elected representatives just ten working days to respond before the full application went in. Even the Applicant admitted this was to "save money". Disgraceful.

This one's beaten off. To any householder, I would advise keeping a sharp eye out for planning application notices. Often a little A4 notice strapped to a lamp post. Almost all I spoke to were unaware of this application, and its sheer scale. All were alarmed when appraised of what it meant.

Informed objection does work. Exercise your rights.

In this case, the application was technologically and economically unnecessary. It was a "land grab". It also served no public interest. Quite to the contrary. It would have been a major eyesore in a very prominent place. To be avoided.

The Planning Officer concerned was, correctly, careful to warn me that evidence submitted would not be duplicated on any similar repeat application, Understood. All kept carefully. They will need to get by us first."

Well done Ewen! The credit is all yours. We can all learn something from this story of a successful planning challenge. Finally and for any aviation fans, a rather nice little video with a lovely sound-track to match to get you in the Sunday frame of mind. Have a good holiday weekend!


Tim Clark said...

Your dog story just leaves me in despair. I too can think of no effective sanction and this problem extends to graffiti and vandalism as well.
The planning story is also worth broadcasting. In our neighbourhood we had a similar if smaller example with a builder wanting to build houses in a small garden. Some careful research on the local plan by one of the residents, coupled with the energetic help of Cllr Nottingham, enabled us to defeat the original application and the subsequent appeal.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a dog warden confiscating the dog until the fine is paid with a strict time limit before the dog is destroyed, might work.

Regarding repeat planning applications, is it really beyond the capabilities of TDC to reference previous, objections and appeal decisions when a new application is received?

simon moores said...

I sense a human rights complaint coming on. After all if a convicted Yardie drugs dealer can stay in the country because he reportedly owns a cat, confiscating a Staffie may be astep too far!n

Anonymous said...

Yes Simon, but what about the silent majority who don't want to see their town desecrated by a thoughtless uncaring minority. Human rights certainly gone too far again I think.

Anonymous said...

Why not confiscate the human and let the dog stay free. It is probably more intelligent anyway.

Peter Checksfield said...

"The empty remains of Woolworth's" in Northdown Road? When I walked past there a few weeks back it was a carpet shop, or has that now closed?

simon moores said...

Forgetful poetic license Peter!

Perhaps "The richly carpeted wreck of the former Woolworth;s" sounds better?

Anonymous said...

see cllr hart has a new car!!

Tim Clark said...

1227. Capital punishment for carrying out a bodily function. Seems a bit harsh on the dog who, after all, knows no better. And if it had been a Yorkie or Collie, or something with less of a reputation? Or the cat that uses my front garden every night?
It's lazy thinking to advocate punishing the animal. Maybe the long term answer is to make it considerably more difficult to own a dog or cat, along with compulsory microchipping and dna recording. The only deterrent is the 100% certainty of being convicted. Northern Ireland introduced compulsory chipping today so it can be done.

Anonymous said...

Can I recommend we all be a bit careful here before Ian Driver reports us to the RSPCA.