Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Air to Air

Wondering what the BBC's One Show will include or leave on the cutting-room floor this evening, as I've been told, that the project which took almost a year in planning and preparation will be screened at 7pm and here's a link to the programme on BBC iPlayer.

Can't tell you what happens before that but here's a little behind the scenes filming.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bank Holiday Best

A great day of sunshine to finish-off the August Bank Holiday following three very poor days for those of us who have to work with light aircraft.

I was up at Seething airfield near Norwich at lunchtime, running a flying marriage proposal that had been postponed from 'Thunderstorm Saturday.'

One of the advantages of the Bank Holiday, is that the huge MOD ranges between us and Clacton are closed, which allows for a straight line flight path at around 5,000 feet, in contrast with the regular detour around Southend, when the ranges are open and the airspace closed. Forty-five minutes to Norwich with a spectacular view of Norfolk is something to be enjoyed.

I hear, that around Thanet, it's been a very successful holiday weekend to bring a remarkable summer to its conclusion. I really can't say that after such a spectacular evening along Westgate's seafront, I'm much looking forward to the days drawing-in, as Autumn makes its appearance.

As a footnote, I've just had an email from the production company, that the project that I filmed with the BBC's One Show, will be screened on Wednesday evening at 7pm. Lord knows how it will turn out?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tesco Won't Take No for an Answer in Westgate

The heavy thunderstorm warnings for this afternoon have me firmly grounded today and I feel sorry for all those people making the trip to Dunsfold aerodrome, where I was yesterday, hoping to see the line-up of air-displays scheduled for this afternoon. The cloud base is somewhat reminiscent of Manston's event earlier this summer but without the strong wind.

In my post this morning, notification that Tesco are appealing Thanet District Council's Planning Committee's refusal of an application to build a store in Westgate's Station Road.

Most readers will be intimately familiar with the local campaign, earlier in the year, which mobilised so much public support against the company but clearly, Tesco are not taking "No" from our community for an answer and are appealing to the Planning Inspectorate. The case reference is APP/Z2260/A/13/2201906.

So what to do next?

I was only notified this morning and already have been in contact with my local conservation colleagues. We have until 23rd September to make representations to the Planning Inspectorate on the reasons why we firmly believe the decision of Thanet Council's Planning Committee should be upheld; local democratic opinion through petition aside.

What can you do to help should you wish to lend your weight towards challenging Tesco's efforts to resurrect a two storey retail unit, (A1) next-door to the footbridge in Station Road. (Former Goods Yard).

You can write to the Planning Inspectorate at 3/10a, Eagle Wing, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol BS1 6PN.

In your letter ( three copies required) you may wish to include some or all of the the following points but remember that it being a Tesco is irrelevant. The appeals office only see a retail unit for planning purposes.

"As a resident of Westgate-on Sea, I wish to object to the application for a retail unit,APP/Z2260/A/13/2201906 in Station Road, previously refused by Thanet District Council.

My reasons for an objection are that the unit markedly affects the Westgate Conservation Area. This was a planned design of Victorian shopping area and this design, as properly refused by the Planning Committee, would both dominate and change our unique heritage street scene forever.

Original approval was given for four individual units. They complied with Thanet's planning policies and general intentions which are for 'local stores' to be encouraged. This existing proposal as rejected by members of the Planning Committee, is completely different. One large retail unit. Calling itself "TESCO Local" does not make it a 'local store'!

The traffic management plan is unreasonably optimistic and presents a hazard to pedestrians. It relies on the loading bay always being empty at 0700, delivery lorries parking within inches of the kerb, and (in practice) unenforceable restriction on non-articulated delivery vehicles only.

The application does not, as identified by the Planning Committee of Thanet District Council, comply with Thanet's full policies TC1 (main town centres) or TC8 (district/local centres). The development would have a detrimental impact on our fragile local economy and surrounding local stores and the applicant has failed to prove a 'Need' for such a store required in our local policies TC1 and TC8.

Please support the weight of local public opinon which generated over two thousand signatures on a petition and the decision of our Council Planning Committee and reject this appeal from Tesco.

Please note everyone that should you wish to write to the Planning Inspectorate, this should be in your own words. You can reference the objections I have raised here but identical letters will likely be rejected.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pizza Times

Dominos - We Deliver!
Could not resist this photo I snapped at Dunsfold this afternoon with aircraft coming in for the Wings and Wheels airshow as I prepared a banner for Samsung.

Pizza available!

Getting busy over there as I left for home and a much needed cold beer but no pizza, having indulged Tuesday's "Buy one get one free" offer already this week

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Home and Away

A break between flights
On another important exam results day for teenagers, I was amazed to read a Government report that some schools have been consistently trying to 'fiddle' their position in the national academic league tables by entering the same candidate for the same GCSE subject multiple times.

Government claims that such abuse of multiple entries is one of the reasons why its reforms of GCSEs are so badly needed. Schools, it argues, should not be entering children for exams early, and then for re-sits, or other exams in the same subject and sounds like a sensible argument to me.

The left-wing leaning media frequently does as much to damage our country as any foreign power. The detention of David Miranda, the partner of a Guardian journalist and a Brazilian national, at Heathrow, is, for me, an example of the liberal agenda going a step too far.

Whatever you may think of Edward Snowden, releasing US and UK intelligence secrets into the ether, we still need to consider the national security implications for our country. If Mr Miranda was indeed, acting as a courier for encrypted information, passing through Heathrow, to Brazil, from Germany, in an effort to circumvent US and UK efforts to prevent the publishing of classified data, which might prove useful to a foreign power, such as China or Russia, then personally I don't have a problem with his detention for interview at Heathrow. I suspect many readers may share that opinion.

We are presently in the middle of a fast-moving Jason Bourne movie, an undeclared cyber war. GCHQ has now put 160 of our leading companies into a kind of 'Special Measures' in order to extend their security umbrella to better protect them from attacks.

Principally, the source is China but also with organised criminal elements from the former Soviet Union, who may or may not be acting as a proxy for state intelligence services. I'm in Ukraine next month, talking about this very subject and I've already had a chat with the British Embassy over what may or may not be appropriate topics for discussion in such a very sensitive subject area.

Meanwhile, the August Bank Holiday weekend is almost upon us and once again, I'm rushed off my feet with 'The flying job,' starting tomorrow with a banner for Samsung. Unusually for a British August, the weekend looks very promising and let's hope our beaches are packed.

Here in Westgate, I've been having the seaweed cleared from the beach this morning. This year, at least, it's been late in arriving and we haven't had to put-up with the awful smell of it rotting slowly on our seafront.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Brief Nap

August, I find is rarely an inspiring month to write weblog entries and particularly when we are enjoying the best and possibly the most unexpected summer in years.

To be honest, while the Sun's been out, the temptation to have a nap, much like the lady I once photographed in Athens, opposite, has been irresistible but good weather brings business with it and this season has been the best since 2008.

As a pilot, you have to start flying somewhere and I recall my first experience was in the same month that the movie, 'Top Gun ' was released. Tom Cruise did of course have better looks, a larger budget, an engine and the support of the United States Navy but for me, a Thanet lad, briefly abandoned on Hawaii's island of Oahu, it wasn't all so bad.

The news today on the unrest in Egypt is very worrying, if only for the implication for a very fragile region of the world. It's now not really safe or sensible to travel in a huge swathe of the Middle-east and for an 'Arabist' like me, this is very depressing. I used to travel to Egypt more times than I can remember and I have a strong personal affinity with the country and its people. To see it unraveling with growing sectarian violence between groups that have co-existed peacefully for centuries, simply illustrates the last gasps of the fevered regional politics that followed the end of the First World War.

Politics here in Thanet isn't quite up to Middle-eastern standards but with the continued antics of Cllr Ian Driver and Cllr John Worrow, you can be sure there's never a dull moment, as we totter from one rhetorical crisis to the next. You have to wonder what comes next; surely not another 'fracking' crisis you might ask but you never know!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Warming-up for the World Cup

World Cup Stadium
Worries over the summer temperature in the tiny Arab state of Qatar, caught my eye on the news this morning.

Of course, we all know that by a stroke of remarkable good fortune and generosity by FIFA, Qatar was awarded the role of host for the next football World Cup. At the same time, most of us know that it does get rather hot there; often as high as 50 degrees Celsius in mid-summer.

I've been to Qatar several times on business and in the summer too. Like the FA and Greg Dyke, I share the concern, that regardless of the multi-billion dollar preparations to keep the new football stadia down to a baking 30C, fans might actually expire from heat-stroke simply trying to get from their hotels to the matches.

The last time I tried to walk to one of the big shopping malls a few hundred yards from the hotel, I was carrying a litre of water but still gave-up and retreated back to the air conditioning inside a few hundred yards. If you can imagine standing in front of a three bar electric heater, then that's the image that came into my mind as I left my hotel and I've a history of competing in insane temperatures up to 40C; across the Sahara desert, and running-up the snake path to the Dead Sea summit of Herod's Masada fortress in Israel, among them.

It takes at least ten days for the body to adapt to the kinds of temperatures expected at the next World Cup and while I'm sure the players will be training at some luxury desert resort, fans will step off the aircraft into the jaws of a blast furnace. That in fact was my first impression of going to work in Saudi Arabia over thirty years ago. Anyone overweight and with a heart condition will be at risk. Only last month, we witnessed the tragedy of what happened to three soldiers competing for SAS selection when they were overtaken, unacclimatised, by the sudden heat wave in this country.

All said though, I doubt Greg Dyke's worries will make any difference to the dates of the World Cup at all. Given the huge amounts of money at stake, the possible fate of a few, over-heated heated fans is of little concern to FIFA or the the football authorities.

Bring a hat, a portable air-conditioning unit and several bottles of factor 150 sun cream if you are thinking of going.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Circus Time

As your soar-away, 80p Thanet Gazette couldn't be asked to turn -up to tonight's 'Extraordinary' Meeting of the Council, called by Cllrs Driver, King and UKIP members, I thought I should add a few words before bed.

It was all about the TransEuropa debt or at least it should have been but let's be frank and admit it was all about Cllr Ian Driver having another shout. We've had animal rights, we've had institutional homophobia and tonight it was the turn of some vague conspiracy, not quite up to Dan Brown's fictional thriller standards, but an entertaining monologue, none the less.

Having dragged Members back to the Chamber in August at significant expense to the local taxpayer, two motions, bought by Councillor's Driver and King were on offer.

The first, 'That any debt to Thanet District Council or its subsidiaries, which exceeds £250,000, must be reported to a meeting of the Full Council along with a debt recovery plan at the earliest opportunity..."

The second, 'That all the documents, background papers and email related to TransEuropa's debt to Thanet District Council be made available for inspection by Councillors, within 10 working days of this decision being agreed by Council.'

Let's deal #2 first. This has already been the subject of lengthy correspondence between Cllr Driver and the Council's Legal Officer, Harvey Patterson. This is taking on a life of its own as Cllr Driver continues to insist that there is a conspiracy of silence on the details of the agreement. In contrast, everyone else, having debated the matter to death at the last Council meeting, appears to have moved on.

Here is the email on this subject from Mr Patterson to all Councillors: "The Account and Audit regulations give all Members (and the public) the right to inspect and copy prime documents that are used in the formulation of the statement of accounts, and I am writing to remind you that the inspection period runs until 9 August 2013. If you would like to make an appointment to view any of the books of accounts, deeds, contract bills, vouchers and receipts relevant to the 2012/13 accounts please contact Sarah Martin for an appointment."

In regard to motion #1 on reporting any debt in excess of £250,00, Cllrs Driver, Wiltshire and King, appear not to have read their most recent Cabinet papers, quickly pointed out by Cllr iris Johnston, as Thanet Council has already reduced the debt reporting threshold even lower, to £150,000 rather than £250,000.

Councillors were then faced with the farcical situation of UKIP and the supporting independents, trying to vote the threshold back up to £250,000; clearly without realising what they were asking for. Remarkably, both Labour and the Conservatives joined together, for the first time perhaps in recent local political history to defeat the motion, although Council Leader, Clive Hart, quipped that perhaps we should have supported the independents; if only to see the looks on their faces when it was explained what they had voted for.

So there we have it it. More shouting from Cllr Driver, who was asked by the chair not to shout, as we have a new chamber microphone system. No crude descriptions of orifices and organs tonight, which is, I suppose a result and the meeting over and done with by 8pm, with absolutely nothing achieved for the people of Thanet. For fellow students of history, the parallels with the politics of the early Roman Republic are only too visible.

As for the Thanet Gazette, reporter Thomas Brown 'tweeted' that 'People were tired of talk on this' and that makes at least two of us tonight I suspect

Monday, August 05, 2013

Clear Blue Skies

Seething Airfield Museum
Earlier today, I was sitting over the controversial fracking exploration site at the village of Balcombe, just South of Gatwick airport. Certainly a busy site and you should be able to see the photos on the Mail Online and the Daily Mail tomorrow.

Two Thames Barges Near Faversham
Yesterday, I was working out of Seething Airfield in Norfolk, the former home of the USAF 448th Bomb Group during WWII. It's a charming and tremendously hospitable place and if you ever get up there, the museum is an absolute must, with some fascinating memorabilia and exhibits.

One old chap was telling me that when he was 12-years-old, he watched 2,000 bombers fly overhead to bomb the Germans as the weather finally cleared at the Battle of the Bulge at Christmas 1944.

The atmosphere has been very clear over the last few days and it's been a good time to take aerial photos as I fly to and from different jobs across the country.

As you can see, the Shard building in London is visible for many miles, almost as far as Gatwick and so maybe, I will leave you with the photos and think of something else to write later in the week.

London View

Friday, August 02, 2013

Field of Dreams

"Quick.. he needs more makeup!"
If the thunderstorms crashing around the east of the country have gone by 6:30 pm this evening, then I've a marriage proposal to fly along the July Course at Newmarket this evening and some lucky girl is going to be very surprised indeed. That's unless there's a horse with the same name running. That would be a coincidence!

It's all been carefully choreographed with the help of the jockey club to make sure it's in a ten minute break between races as I don't want to scare any of the very expensive horses or impact their 'form' before the next race.

The Dreamland CPO vote was passed without a hitch at last night's Cabinet meeting of Thanet District Council. So now, we have the opportunity to start building the new Heritage Amusement Park, while the Council waits for the inevitable appeal from the now former owners.

Very soon perhaps, visitors will be treated to the sight of an open and thriving amusement park with ample parking available. For many of us, that sounds like a regeneration vision which is almost too good to be true but it's taken a very long time to reach this pivotal point in the history of the Dreamland site and at last, there's room for optimism with strong input from Wayne Hemingway.

I suppose I had better go and find my aircraft. More over the weekend if time allows.