Thursday, April 04, 2013

Occupy Tesco

Plenty of Parking Available
This Friday morning, just after 9:00 am, residents of Westgate on Sea who are opposed to the development of a Tesco Express store in the town's Station Road, will be gathering to express their silent opposition, to the members of the council's Planning Committee, who will be arriving for a site visit at 09:30.

While I know that a great many people who would like to come, are away on their Easter holidays, there appears to be an equal number or more, who would like to make a visible statement of opposition and I will be be there with my camera to support the campaign and record it, along, I assume, with members of the press.

No Traffic in Station Road
I have spoken with BBC's Southeast Today and BBC Radio Kent (previous stories here) about covering the story and they may be there. I would ask everyone who plans to come to please make this a quiet demonstration, otherwise the visit will simply be abandoned and we will be no further forward.

Any intimidation of the members of the planning committee, who have an important job to do is quiet pointless and indeed self-defeating and let's remember that we would like them to reach a decision on Wednesday April 17th, based on a calm assessment of the facts, that we believe support Westgate's case for a refusal, built on a solid and convincing argument.

From the photographs opposite, you can see that I take issue with Kent Highway's assessment of Station Road. If you accept their report, then there's ample parking available on the double yellow lines, at all times of the day and no traffic congestion whatsoever. I will be interested to see if the members of the planning committee find it easy to park, even at 09:30 on a school holiday morning, which the objectors believe is a time, totally unrepresentative of the rest of the year.

As you might imagine, with the benefits changes now coming in, any councillor's own case load is bound to increase. While I realise the Council is also under real pressure, as a resident and a ward councillor, I find it quite unacceptable to experience periods when the phones simply are not answered, following the example of agencies such as the inland revenue. As the former Cabinet member responsible in the last administration, I made it my business to keep an eye on the Council's call centre performance but I worry that this may be slipping at a critical time, as the occasionally bizarre priorities of the current cabinet members don't follow my own. So perhaps the Council can devote a little more attention on what really matters in helping the most vulnerable members of our community and rather less attention on its finer socialist-directed pet projects, such as diversity management, which, I suggest, very few people in Thanet really give a damn about.

Lastly, I read yesterday, that the Borough of Lambeth, is unable to cope with its own housing pressures and is casting its eyes on Margate as a potential relief destination for its homeless families. Ironically, there's almost a sigh of relief that its Lambeth and not Croydon, as the latter has more serious problems to deal with and is closer. That said, any attempt by a London authority, to further depress our own local economy by repeating the exercise that placed us in today's position, where Council figures report, only 17% of the population of our most depressed, crime and poverty-stricken wards were born locally, needs to be avoided at any cost.

Sir Roger Gale is away this week but Thanet South MP, Laura Sandys, issued the following statement this morning:

"I am extremely concerned by reports that Lambeth Borough Council is proposing to relocate homeless families to Margate. We already have many families in Thanet who desperately need homes so this will only exacerbate our housing shortage. It will also put additional pressure on our public services; something that is simply not fair on local residents.

“I have taken immediate action by requesting an urgent meeting with the Chief Executive of Lambeth Borough. I have also made Freedom of Information requests to every London Authority on the issue of re-homing families in Thanet and will be calling for an adjournment debate on this particularly pressing matter.”

While some kind of reaction from our Labour Council Leader, Clive Hart, might be equally welcome, without my having to push him into action, I suspect that most readers would agree with both Laura and me on this subject. I would expect to hear expressions of outrage at my concerns, from a vocal pink-spectacled minority, who constantly refuse to recognise the policing, health, education and welfare costs associated with our frequently disproportionate genorosity as a cash-strapped and struggling seaside destination.