Friday, August 21, 2015

The Lovely Botany Bay in Broadstairs Viewed by Drone

A short video shot in 1080p of Botany Bay and the iconic cliff structure in Broadstairs this morning, shot by a DJI Phantom 3.

It was warm enough for the Mediterranean but disappointing for many tourists perhaps, that works on top of the cliff have effectively removed the car-park. I walked, rather enjoyably, along the scenic cliff path from Palm Bay.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Coast to Coast

A short video of a 'Coastal Run' flight I did this last weekend, taking in the Eurotunnel at Folkestone, Dover harbour and of course the runway at Manston.

I was using a little 'Muscle' biplane; a lot of fun too!

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Margate Main Sands by Drone

I was filming the main sands at Margate at sunset last night. Didn't quite catch the 'Turner Effect' but the results were generally quite pleasing as a means of illustrating the ambience of the resort.

The platform was a Phantom 3 Professional with a 4k camera and an ND filter. I'm still learning and have a long way to go in mastering the complexities of this advanced aerial platform.

Monday, April 27, 2015

UKIP Playing Politics with Manston?

Manston Airport – A Statement – From Sir Roger Gale

“I have received, in today`s post, a letter sent by UKIP`s “Transport Spokesman”, Ms. Seymour, headed “Important information about the future of Manston Airport”.

This communication asserts that “UKIP is unshakeable in its support for Manston” and that “David Cameron gave his support to the Gloag, Cartner, Musgrave Group who bought the site for just £1.”

As one who has been right at the centre of the proposed closure of Manston I am better placed than most to say that UKIP`s statement is a blatant lie.  Assuming that this document has been approved by “Bandwagon Farage” it is also, coming from someone who aspires to `leadership`, a disgrace.

First, Messrs. Cartner and Musgrave were not involved in the purchase, by the SNP supporting Ms. Gloag, of Manston for £1.  Only a party totally ill-informed about Manston Airport could have made such an elementary mistake.

Second, neither Farage nor any of his team have played any constructive part  in the Save Manston campaign – a fact that is well known to the campaign`s real and determined supporters.

From the time that I first raised the issue at Prime Minister`s Question Time months ago to date the Prime Minister has been, personally and through his Cabinet Ministers, nothing but wholly supportive of the efforts of myself, Laura Sandys and more recently Craig Mackinlay, to get Manston re-opened as an airport.  Indeed, it was the Prime Minister who, in an effort to unblock the Thanet District Council logjam, authorised the commissioning, by the Department of Transport, of the Price Waterhouse Inquiry.

The stumbling block has been the passing of a binding resolution, by Thanet Council`s Labour Group in October 2014, not to pursue a Compulsory Purchase Order funded by RiverOak.  The Conservative Group,  seeking election to Thanet Council, are pledged to instigate the CPO immediately upon taking control of TDC  - which gives the lie, also, to Ms. Seymour`s claim that “The only party committed to a compulsory purchase order is UKIP”.

I have tried, stoically, to keep party-politics out of the Manston issue but I cannot ignore such a blatantly dishonest campaign gimmick that could, ultimately, damage a cause in which I passionately believe.

I call upon Farage, therefore, to publicly disown and withdraw the assertions that he and his party have made in this letter and, recently, in a paid-for advertisement in the local press.  I repeat, it is my informed view  that he has to date contributed nothing to the Save Manston campaign whatsoever.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

1812 All Over Again?

Tim Marshall, who many readers will recall as Sky News Foreign Editor, asked me to write a guest piece for his weblog, The What and the Why, this week and for interest, I'm sharing it here, because it has an indirect bearing on the future of Thanet, as much as anywhere else.

Black leather jackets and jeans. A noisy army of young men on the streets of Istanbul, hawking and hustling on street corners, outside cafes and in between the traffic. It might have been Tunis or Beirut but the impression it left on me was very much the same.

I was in Istanbul to speak at A Harvard Business Review conference on the future and The Internet of Things; a hot topic these days, attracting billions of dollars of investment from big industry names like IBM, Google, Intel and GE.

After the talk, I remarked to the FT’s Jonathan Margolis, that I felt the older industrial economies of the West were sleep-walking into ‘An 1812 Moment’ of potential socio-industrial turmoil and he suggested I share the argument.

In Britain, at the beginning of the 19th century, there was a dramatic movement of the population; focusing the new industrial workforce from the land, into the new cities as the means of production for the cotton industry, was rapidly centralised in the new factories; ‘The Dark Satanic Mills’ described by the poet William Blake, with consequences that could still be felt in the Britain of the 1930s and described by George Orwell in ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’.

1812 was a pivotal moment marking a contemporary, anti-technology revolt, the Luddite movement, when workers, upset with a reduction in wages and the use of un-apprenticed workmen, attacked factories and machines.

But the move towards the first and second industrial revolutions which gave us Karl Marx, Thomas Edison, Keynes, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates was unstoppable and delivered the great but fading industrial economies of today.

However, what few economists and fewer politicians appear to have noticed, is that 2008 not only delivered a global recession but marked the end of the second industrial revolution and the start of the third. Cloud computing has placed practically infinite computing power and storage and a host of sophisticated tools and applications at everyone’s disposal, on a pay as you go basis for those lucky enough to live in the developed world and new characters such as Sergey Brin, Jeff Bezos, Thomas Piketty and Mark Zuckerberg have appeared with new ideas.

Equally, new ways of doing business arrived in quick succession, like Uber, AirBnB and Etsy, which are predicated on a distributed App-economy eliminating the need for business centralisation and the 200 year-old traditional model of the value chain.

And at the beginning of this decade a series of technologies started to emerge and converge, in such a rapid and disruptive fashion, that the inward-looking and centralised flow of the workforce in cities like London and Istanbul, may soon be thrown into reverse gear, as the employment proposition evolves in a radical direction and even disappears for large parts of the population.

Economies around Europe and surrounding the Mediterranean that are authoritarian, centralised or hierarchical in their business models face swift disruption and disintermediation and we've witnessed the first social convulsions with both the Arab Spring and politically desperate attempts to control and censor social media channels, such as Twitter and Facebook.

When’ Lights-out’ factories and distribution centres can be cost-effectively automated, cheap 3D printers connected to the Internet and the Cloud can make new ‘cottage’ industries both practical and profitable, where do all the thousands of unskilled and barely educated young men and young women too, go to find work in the urban sprawl of five years’ time?

In the larger northern European and EU economies the debate surrounds the delivery of skills and education to stimulate new service and technical jobs around entirely new industries, in much the same way that the arrival of the motor-car in the early 1900's and the Internet in the 1990’s created a thriving surrounding infrastructure.

However, the problem remains much the same, whether you are exploring it from London, Athens or Istanbul. Most of the business productivity gains of the last twenty years have been achieved by replacing people with technology and post-2008, some leading economists, noted to their alarm, that this process accelerated on both sides of the Atlantic.

In poorer economies with a young, broadly unskilled and rapidly growing population, this should be a cause for alarm and only this week, Sky News reported 10,000, mostly young men and economic migrants, successfully crossing the Mediterranean from Africa to Italy.

China, which is adding a mega city the size of  London every two years, has witnessed a dramatic migration to its new cities, has already seen business lay-off some eleven million factory workers, as machines can make most products now, faster, cheaper, more reliably and with greater profitability than human workers. By 2030, eighteen cities will have more than twenty million inhabitants and London will be among them

With over 90% of that urban growth will occur in developing countries, the statistics beg the question of how these large societies will be able to cope when their 2nd industrial revolution methods of production, management and employment are swept aside and disintermediated, in much the same manner as Amazon is devastating the retail business and Uber is disrupting the conventional taxi business globally.

Asked how he went bankrupt, the novelist Ernest Hemingway, thought for a moment and then replied, ‘Slowly and then suddenly.’

As a technologist and a ‘Strategic Futurist’ I find myself gazing at a very large and complex jigsaw puzzle which is not quite complete; just missing a handful of small pieces and which from a technical perspective surround industry standards, access and security.

Once that final, complex jigsaw piece of technology convergence is put in place, an uncomfortable period of disruption is likely to happen quite rapidly in societies, that much like the quote from Ernest Hemingway, are broadly unprepared for the impact of sudden political, technological and economic change. I’m reminded of a warning I wrote in the opening paragraph of a story for The Observer Newspaper fifteen years ago as we approached the moment between the second and third industrial revolutions:

‘Welcome to the aftermath of the old economy. In the race between Europe's new 'just-in-time, 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week' super-states, we are in danger of losing our ability to manage the expectations of an increasingly wired society. Technology can help fulfill our ambitions, but it doesn't do much for people who can't afford ambition.’

How, I added: ‘Facing the prospect of a lost generation, how do governments plan to re-engineer the workforce to meet the demands of a global networked economy?’

Fifteen years further on the solution for many politicians still remains to ignore the lessons of history and hope for the best.?

First published on: Tim Marshall's The What and the Why weblog. April 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

Manston Airport – Search and Rescue Can Come Home

The way is clear for Search and rescue to return to a re-opened Manston Airport.  That is the real significance of the announcement made yesterday by the minister of state for Aviation, John Hayes, during his visit to Thanet yesterday, says North Thanet`s Roger Gale.

“It is a pity that the real issue was buried under a synthetic and media-generated political “row” says Gale.

“The Minister responsible for the Coastguard Service has approved a one-year contract for Bristows to operate from Lydd while discussions relating to the future of Manston continue. He has made it plain that during that time there will be no capital investment in new SAR facilities, paving the way for a swift return to the preferred operating base, Manston, as soon as the airport is once again operational.  That speaks volumes. It demonstrates the faith that a significant and reputable company, Bristows, has in Manston and it states very clearly the importance that the Prime Minister and the Transport Department have placed upon Manston as a strategic national asset – because this move has the full backing of Number 10. This is part of a process that those of us who really support Manston have been engaged in for months and it has nothing to do with the General or council Elections at all. “

Commenting on the status of the RiverOak indemnity package Roger Gale has added:

“The Minister made it plain that, based upon the indications that he has received and the contents of a letter sent to him by the Chief Executive of RiverOak, Steve DeNardo, yesterday, he is confident in saying, with the full weight of Ministerial Office, that he is satisfied that there will be no risk to the Thanet Council taxpayers in proceeding to a Compulsory Purchase Order.

I have a copy of that letter in front of me and in it Mr. DeNardo says:

“We instructed our solicitors, Wragge, Lawrence Graham, to draft an indemnity agreement between Thanet District Council and RiverOak to cover all the Council`s risks. This was because we recognised that for both financial and political reasons it would be impossible for Thanet to carry any risk, however small and however remote. I can confirm that the indemnity agreement as drafted does meet those requirements.

RiverOak is a US registered company but prior to the signing of the indemnity agreement we will create a UK based and registered company, to be known as RiverOak Aviation, to go through the CPO process and take ownership of the airport if awarded. The same company will also hold all the appropriate CAA licenses.

In support of the CPO process RiverOak accept total responsibility for making the business case for the airport to the CPO inspector. In doing so we recognise that if we are unable to satisfy the Inspector as to the viability of our business plan we will lose the CPO and a significant amount of our own capital but it will have been done at no cost to Thanet.

To this end we are prepared to deposit up to £2,000,000 into a designated escrow account in the UK simultaneous upon the mutual signing of an indemnity agreement between RiverOak and Thanet District Council”

That is the basis upon which the Minister of State has felt it possible to say that there will be no risk to Thanet . I do not believe that the situation could now be clearer.

I have made it plain to the Leader of Thanet District Council that if she and her administration now proceed to instigate the CPO procedure then they will do so with the full and non-partisan backing that I have offered to date and to that end I am prepared to put my own political reputation on the line.

Further, the Leader of the Conservative Group on Thanet District Council, Bob Bayford, has indicated that on an equally non-partisan basis the Conservative Group will back the controlling Group and will share equal political responsibility for the decision.  I do not think that we can offer more and I hope and expect that reservations will be set to one side and that, on the basis of the Minister of State`s assurances, the process will now be allowed to immediately commence”.

Sir Roger Gale.

See earlier Bristow SAR story for background reading.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Election Time Again

There's a General Election a matter of weeks away and Thanet will have an opportunity to find a new political direction or new political leadership, if it wishes.

The very real danger though, is that the island will once again be left with a weak and riven political administration, pre-occupied with points-scoring, antipathy and issues, wholly-unrelated to what is really important for every one of us that lives here.

So, while exercising the protest vote may seem attractive, be very careful what you wish for, as the consequences and some of the people, may be far worse than anything we have ever seen before.

I'm of course stepping down from an active role local politics - loud cheers - but I have good reason to worry over the fact that while there are some every good candidates for public office out there, there are others who really should not be given any form of responsibility whatsoever but are quite likely to be returned, simply because enough people like the colour of their rosette.

Good luck everyone!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

One View or Two?

Not long in from Frankfurt and I've published Sir Roger Gale's 'View' of the Thanet Draft Local Plan, below.

Reading the Westgate Development Concerns Facebook page, I'm struck both there and by my conversations on the street, at how little people understand the process of local democracy and how it works; or not as the case may be.

A London View of Docklands
Far too many people appear to believe we are governed by an odd version of the American constitution; that councillors are well-paid and work for them, full time and that simply by signing a petition in one part of a local authority, policy for the entire area can be revised or rejected. I worry equally, that in Westgate, a handful of well-meaning and active residents are not and have not been entirely straight with people on what is or has actually taken place and how we might resist the danger of a 1,000 new houses or at least find a compromise of sorts, which I believe will prove to be the inevitable result over time. Sir Roger Gale gives a more considered view of his own role and the dangers we face as a community, further down.

Westminster Middle Left
Residents vote for councillors like me, who are not full time; unless perhaps they are retired or unemployed and are entitled to just under £5,000 in allowances each year. The Councillors can add their vote to an issue if it is bought before a full Council meeting and not decided directly by the Cabinet of the existing administration which in turn, directs the Council and it's civil servants, the officers.

In Westgate, we have three councillors but only three among over fifty across Thanet, who also don't want hundreds of homes across their wards. We can't unilaterally decide to reject a policy, even a draft proposal, like this one, here in Westgate. The final decision on where and when new homes are built by 2031, will be one take by the Council as a whole and we hope that with the strength of feeling expressed across Thanet and not just Westgate, the ruling administration will listen.

Another great 'View' coming back into Heathrow earlier, with the splendid London panorama laid-out below m Docklands, Dome and the Millennium Eye clearly visible.

One Thousand Houses for Westgate? - Sir Roger Gale's View on the Thanet Draft Local Plan

The publication of Thanet`s Draft Local Plan has, understandably, generated more than a little adverse response in certain quarters.  We need, though, to remember that this is a draft plan and that it is open to public consultation.  It is important, therefore, that those many who wish to raise objections do so, I would suggest before the end of February, in writing and individually.  Round-robins and petitions carry much less weight than personal; observations based upon sound local knowledge and whether the concerns that a commentator wishes to raise relate to housing in Westgate and Garlinge, for example, or to the “flexible” re-designation of Manston Airport as a “opportunity” site, those concerns need to be spelled out for TDC very clearly indeed.

Although I am not directly involved in a local plan that is, of course, the ultimate responsibility of Thanet Council, I am taking, on behalf of those that I represent, a very keen interest in the matter. I was, for the record, unable  attend a public meeting in Westgate about the arrangements and date of which I was not consulted but of which I was simply  informed, I had representatives present at the gathering, however,  and I have been fully briefed as to what was said and by whom. In due course I shall make a written submission myself based, in the case of housing requirement, upon the obvious concerns that have been identified relating not just to the loss of farmland and open space but also upon the defects in road infrastructure, school, healthcare employment opportunities an  and other vital considerations.


It clearly is not good enough for the County`s housing requirements to be dumped upon East Kent with little thought as to what the predicted thousands of people who will occupy new homes might do to earn an income to support those families. At the same time we need to recognise that there is already, and without attracting incomers from London or beyond, a significant housing need locally that must be met. Laura Sandys and I have already sought to challenge the concept that it is somehow in order for Inner-London Boroughs to seek to acquire, not directly but via the back-door of private landlords, properties in which to locate some of their problem families. We shall continue to challenge that practice insofar as we are legally able to do so and most certainly expose it as and when it takes place. Thanet needs housing for Thanet`s own.  I note that our County Councillors have been studiously silent on the subjects of both the Local Plan and this related issue and it is, perhaps, time that they raised their heads above the parapet and let us know that they still exist.

There is also a danger in all of this: you do not need to be a rocket-scientist or a brain-surgeon to work out that a backstop provision might be to dump one hideous great housing estate on that wonderful brownfield site otherwise known as Manston Airport. The paradpox is, of course, that Manston as a working airport is the one real opportunity that offers the prospect of considerable employment in the short to medium term.  Unless, therefore, you buy into the “housing and industrial estate” pipe-dream promoted by those who wish to see the prospect of aviation destroyed, it is essential that those commenting upon the local plan state very clearly their objections not only to massive housing estates but also to any re-designation of Manston for uses other than for aviation.

I believe that with imagination and good use of derelict and under-used sites it should be possible to meet much of our real short and medium-term housing needs without destroying either our environment or the future of our airport.  If, and only if, all other options have been exhausted should we even begin to consider how careful use of some greenfield sites might be landscaped into use.  That, though, will require not just very careful thought and sensitive planning but massive investment in supporting infrastructure.

Once the consultation has closed Thanet Council will have to consider the representations that have been made.  The Draft Plan will then need to be revised and confirmed. I would hope and expect that at that point it will not just be rubber-stamped by the Council Cabinet but debated and voted upon before being submitted to an Inspector for consideration and final approval by a Secretary of State.  That will all take time but in the interim there is a council election and it is vital that we see elected council candidates of real quality with the calibre and intellect to deliver a Local Plan with the sense of vision that will take Thanet forward  in the interests not just of current residents but of future generations. If we fail them they will rightly not forgive us. - Sir Roger Gale MP.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Going Underground

We remain a United Kingdom but I'm not entirely convinced it feels that way anymore.

What I find somewhat bizarre is people of visibly non-Scottish antecedence, promoting independence, which rather begs the question of what Scotland or being Scottish actually is in a modern world? After all, I'm part Scots, English, Belgian and Norwegian and I'm sure that genetically, most of my readers also share an interesting mix, as well as in the case of a great many English people having a 10% Italian marker gene, inherited from the Roman legions. It all seems rather irrelevant in a global economy; to me at least. I enjoyed Braveheart like anyone else but that's where my imagination stopped.

St Regis Abu Dhabi
I thought I would share the picture opposite. It's the private tunnel leading from my hotel in Abu Dhabi, across and under the big main road.

This rather reminded me of the stories of Nero's Golden Palace in Rome. Here you have a subway decorated in the finest marble and polished like a mirror, with no expense spared. At a time when here we worry over the minimum wage and austerity, it's a reminder of what wealth and conspicuous consumption can look like elsewhere, where money is no object and street litter simply doesn't exist.

I had a call last week from the BBC. Apparently they have a political reporter moving down to Thanet to live in advance of next May's General Election and of course it's South Thanet which is the focus of their interest.

The 'Beeb' had been trawling this weblog and I pointed then at several local characters whom I 'm sure would also be happy to offer an opinion on the local political scene.

What is without doubt however, is that the lives, familiies and personal histories of all the political candidates; not just Nigel Farage, are going to be under intense scrutiny between now and next May. If there's even a hint of any skeleton in the cupboard or even a minor indiscretion at secondary school, the BBC or quite possibly The Sun and the Daily Mail are going to be looking for it with chequebooks poised. Quite why anyone would be prepared to put themselves through what is yet to come, for a poorly remunerated role on a Westminster back-bench, defies understanding.

Manston airport is firmly back on the agenda again with last week's visit from Cabinet Minister, Grant Shapps.  With Scotland and the powerful SNP influence of Mrs Gloag, now firmly behind us, I really do think there's a chance for the airport but if and only if the Council rallies behind a CPO and a suitable partner to achieve it. That said, I fear that Labour, with an eye to picking-up any and every possible vote in Ramsgate for Will Scobie, next May, may prevaricate as long as possible and Manston may yet become a political victim of Nigel Farage's ambition in the town.

I would like to be proved wrong.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Whistle-stop Tour

Independence Square in Kiev
Back from my recent travels, after an epic five hour journey, by train, from Heathrow to Westgate, yesterday afternoon. Thanks to South-Eastern trains, racing for a timetabled train that did not exist and then discovering engineering works between Gillingham and Faversham, with a replacement bus service, which stank of cannabis, with several of my fellow travellers, straight out of a Monty Python movie.

A Mother's Vigil
Anyway, having landed at Heathrow at 2:20 PM, I finally arrived home at 7:50 PM, a little faster than the equally dramatic and fun-filled eleven hour journey, last month, between Wolverhampton and home after I delivered an aircraft to RAF Cosford.

I thought I might share a few of my photos from the last week, so here they are.

Two of these may be of passing interest. The first, in monochrome, is, I'm told, of a mother, who sits on the same spot every day, where here son was shot dead by the President's snipers in Kiev's Independence Square last winter. Very sad.

Air Strike?
The second, was taken passing Irbil in Kurdistan. I knew, from the news that there was a fight to recover the strategic dam, inside Iraq, this last month, from ISIL and so when I saw where we were on the moving map, I took a look over towards the Iraq border and was surprised to see three artillery or air-strikes taking place, one after the other.. Here's one in the photo.

The last photo is of the opulent foyer of the five star St Regis hotel in Abu Dhabi, where the evening temperature was 41 degrees Celsius when I landed.

You don't check in to a hotel like this in the conventional sense. Instead, relax in a magnificent ante-room, while the staff check you in and attend to any baggage or special guest requests you might make and if you wish to have your own 'Butler' assigned then it's an option; rather like the BBC's programme on the famous Taj hotel in Mumbai.

It was rather nice, momentarily imagining life was really like this, for three pampered days, before I sped off to Istanbul and then to Kiev to do another job and from there, into the almost predictable  hands of South-eastern trains for the long journey home.

St Regis Hotel Abu Dhabi