Friday, June 30, 2006

Save Cecelia

Reader Ann Finch writes:

"There is to be a site meeting next monday 3rd july at 11.15am at St Cecelia's Childrens Home, Sea Road.

St Cecelia's is situated on the corner of Domneva and Sea Road. It has a lovely green facing the sea and they have applied for planning permission to errect flats on the green.

It seems they had been refused permission in 2005 but they have lodged an appeal.

Perhaps readers would like to attend the site meeting, as it seems on every little piece of green someone applies for planning perission, and of course it is always flats."

Wave for the Camera

Lots of children waving for the flypast at Newington junior school in Ramsgate today to celebrate the mini-World Cup competition. I've lots more photos and some interesting shots of the seafront that you can find by following this link.

You'll have to go to the last page of the photoset as they are in date order.








Thanet is looking exceptionally tidy from the air without a doubt but Margate beach strikes me as little more crowded than Westgate or Westbrook!

With the weather so good today, there are some really clear photos of the beaches and bays that you can download and share. I see the circus is back in town on the Haine road as well.

New Ways to Keep the Beaches Clean

Thanet Council has come up with a new method of waste disposal on Thanet’s beaches this summer.

During the summer season, Thanet Council will be trialling the use of small and large sized bins for rubbish disposal at the main beaches of Broadstairs, Ramsgate and Margate together with Minnis Bay. If successful the method could be rolled out to other bays.

Since the service has been taken in house by Thanet Council, improvements in beach cleaning has included the purchase of a surf rake, imported from America, which when pulled by a tractor can dig out litter or seaweed from the sand to a depth of six inches. The rake, on a rotation basis, cleans the areas beaches starting at 4am. The service’s beach cleaning staff also work until 8pm emptying bins and collecting litter. Over particularly busy times the staff work until 10pm.

Cllr. Roger Latchford, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Commercial Services, said: “Thanet is beautiful and we want to keep it that way, which is why we are constantly looking at ways to improve our beach cleaning service. We are going to be introducing a combination of both small and large sized bins into our most popular bays over the next few weeks. The small bins will be located across the main beach areas, while the larger bins will be placed at the entrance points to the beaches to encourage any rubbish accumulated from picnics or beach hut users, to be adequately stored until it is collected.”

“We have found that once a bin becomes full, seagulls attack the rubbish that is placed next to the full bin. We are hopeful that by increasing the size of bins on our beaches, the amount of times our beaches are cleaned, together with the help of people visiting our beaches, they will stay tidy and can be enjoyed by all.

“The vast majority of our beach visitors are using the bins provided, but there is still a minority of people leaving their litter, including dangerous items on the beach. I would like to remind everybody that glass and barbecues are not permitted on any of our beaches and that if you have any rubbish you should put it in the bins provided or take it home with you. Of course, we want you to come and enjoy our beautiful beaches but please make sure you leave them as you find them.”

Local Rag

I see the Gazette can't resist another swipe at me this morning. Once again the brilliantly talentless "smudger", quite unable to find a real job in journalism or a local topic of interest to write on, chooses to make an effort to justify his non-story of last Friday.

Without a doubt, the quality of journalism (and spelling) in the Thanet Gazette, is synonymous with the expression, "Local Rag but I'd be worried too in their shoes, because by the time they get to press each week much of what's happening in Thanet will have appeared here or in someone else's Weblog.

I would add that it's really very kind of them to mention me so frequently,for no apparent reason and drive so much traffic to this website. Thank you very much!

Monkton Nature Reserve

I've just come across the Monkton Nature Reserve website and have added a link to the sidebar for future reference.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Fantasy Island

Contrary to the allegations to be found elsewhere, I haven’t kicked-out anyone else’s weblogs from this site. In fact, rather than list the growing number of Thanet ‘bloggers’, I’ve simply put a link into the Thanet bloglist which is doing a much better job than me in keeping track of them all. So no, DrM isn’t having “a hissy fit” he’s merely tidied up the sidebar as you can see if you scroll down the page a little.

Some people seem to spend far too much time trying to interpret the most mundane actions on this weblog.

A Game of Two Halves

Apparently, there’s a mini World Cup football tournament taking place at Newington Primary School in Ramsgate on Friday. I’ve been asked by Kent County Council to fly over with a banner with “YIP – World Cup 2006” written on it and simultaneously take photographs of hundreds of children who will be carefully positioned to wave at the aircraft from the soccer pitch.

I hadn’t quite realised how close the school is to the approach for Manston’s runway 28 and so the first call of Friday morning will be to ATC with a polite request for their operational approval to run up and down on the edge of the airport. I hope nothing large is scheduled to arrive at 11:50am while I’m sitting in the way.

I’ll post any photos here later on Friday.

Sick Sniper Stalks Ramsgate Pets

Thanet Extra reports that perverted “sniper” with an air rifle is targeting animals In Ramsgate. He has been described as "sick" by pet owner Joyce Sewell.

Her three cats, named Boy, Sparkles and Splinter, were shot at by a hidden gunman and hit by airgun pellets near their home in Manston Road, Ramsgate.

Mrs. Sewell said: "The cats survived but they were lucky. Whoever did this is the lowest of the low. Animals are easy targets and it is appalling that someone would prey on defenceless creatures."

The family discovered their pets had been hurt after returning from a weekend away.

Mrs Sewell added: "I urge any pet owners in our area to be on their guard and to report any incidents to the RSPCA. I hope the snipe doesn’t strike again."

The RSPCA says it would prosecute anybody in connection with the shootings

Teenager in Court

Kent Online reports that a Thanet teenager is one of the two men and a teenage girl who denied murdering Kent father Scott Upton when they appeared at Maidstone Crown Court.

Neil Smitheman, 25, Kieran Morris, 25, and the 17-year-old girl are alleged to have killed the 34-year-old labourer on October 13 last year.

The teenager, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, also denied perverting the course of justice by assisting offenders in the disposal or concealment of evidence in order that they avoid capture for murder.

Ian Haben, 44, pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice by driving offenders to a destination in order that they avoid capture for murder.

Mr Upton, from Gillingham, died from multiple stab wounds. His body was discovered at the back of the White Horse pub on the corner of Station Road and Rainham High Street.

Smitheman, of Station Road, Rainham, and Morris, of Speedwell Close, Gillingham, were remanded in custody.

Haben, of Cavell Way, Sittingbourne, and the teenager, from Gillingham but currently living in Thanet, are on conditional bail.

The trial, expected to last three to four weeks, will start on July 17.

Powerboat Week

The Ramsgate Powerboat Grand Prix returns to Ramsgate this weekend.

The programme of racing over the two days will include the powerful V24 boats, which can reach 80 miles an hour in the water, the RIB's (rigid inflatable boats) and F2's, all of which will be competing for points in the British National Offshore Powerboat Championship.

There'll also be hovercraft and junior racing in three different classes in this year's event organised by Thanet Council, Ramsgate Town Partnership and the All Hallows Yacht Club, Ramsgate Royal Harbour.

Fitness for All

Thanet Extra reports that Sportswear company JJB is to open the first combined superstore and fitness club of its kind in the south east at Westwood Cross in October.

The announcement of the ambitious 45,000sq ft project at the Westwood Cross retail centre in the heart of Thanet ends weeks of speculation about a proposed major new addition planned for the complex.

The fitness club will be home to an outstanding array of facilities including a 20m swimming pool, a high-tech gym and free-weights area plus two aerobic studios with extensive timetables. There will even be a member’s lounge, luxury changing rooms and an aromatic steam room.

It will open from 6.30am until 10pm on weekdays and from 8am until 8pm at weekends.

The JJB Superstore will offer a range of sports clothing and footwear for men, women and children as well as impressive bike and golfing departments.

Will Starkey, national sales manager for JJB Sports and Leisure, said: "We are delighted to be opening in Thanet in the autumn and believe JJB will bring something new and special to Westwood Cross.

"The great environment, accessibility and retail offer that already exists at the centre made it a perfect location for our first development of this kind in the south east."

David Plumb, Westwood Cross centre manager, added: "Their decision to choose Westwood Cross to home facilities of this magnitude is testament to the positive impact the centre has had."

People who are keen to know more about the development and membership details can visit www.jjbfitness.co.uk where they can enter their details and enjoy a sneak preview prior to the opening.

Ed: By coincidence I cancelled my membership of Hartsdown gym but I'm not sure I'm prepared to fight the traffic to get to Westwood Cross instead.

Play Sardines for A Price

How do beat overcrowding on trains? Double the number of trains? Of course not. You double the fares instead to keep people off the trains!

"The Government struck a secret deal with Britain’s biggest train company to double fares on some routes as the cheapest way of reducing overcrowding. "

It's from today's Times newspaper, so read on.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Brief Note

A short editorial note to the effect that in regard to judging comments to be in poor taste or not, I remain the ultimate arbiter. So if an individual chooses to sail 'close to the wind', I can quite easily remove not just one but all his or her present and past comments as a sanction, removing that person from the record.

This has absolutely nothing to do with the exercise of free speech. Just think of this weblog as being a bit like a pub from now on. The landlord reserves the right to toss out the troublemakers and will do but welcomes everyone who is civil and sober at any time!

Finally, after a flurry of unpleasant material this evening, I'm forced to turn-off anonymous comments. A step I haven't taken lightly. Sadly several twisted individuals have joined the 100,000+ visitors to ThanetLife and are hiding behind the anonymity that exists as a convenience to all. From now on, you'll have to be a registered user, a feature common to most chatrooms and forums. It means I can 'switch-off' the troublemakers more easily and our regular visitors sign their posts anyway.

If you have a comment which you feel is important enough to demand anonymity, then simply email to me and if it's appropriate, I'll post it for you, respecting your need to remain incognito.

The Great School Robbery

Cllr Clive Hart is concerned that money has been snatched from Thanet Schools. He writes:

"Kent County Council has postponed projects and schemes to rebuild refurbish and enhance school facilities at four of Thanet’s Special schools.

The projects were part of a multi-million pound investment programme promised to some of Thanet’s most vulnerable children and included at least one new school build in Cliftonville.

Clive adds: ‘once more Thanet residents are being treated badly. We are promised great things time and time again but then at the last minute the plug is pulled. Hours, weeks and months of staff time have been wasted, the very valuable time of some of our most dedicated and committed local teachers.'

Many thousands of pounds have also been thrown away by KCC on architects and consultants. It’s Turner Contemporary all over again but this time the victims are children.

The schools affected serve some of the most vulnerable children in one of the most deprived areas in the county, yet some buildings are completely unfit for purpose and the children are being denied an effective education. I want to know who made the decision that other special schools across Kent should get their build first?"

Cllr. Hart claimes to be appalled at the way this matter has been handled and has tabled a question for the next meeting of KCC asking why, after all the promises he says have been made, the four Thanet Special Schools have been singled out to have their new build funding postponed?

A View from Westminster

For anyone who might be interested in a different view of London from above, here's a link to my photoset from yesterday's job.

I can just imagine the quips, "Those are right-wing photos, more compelling evidence that the photographer is unfairly biased against good left-wing photography...." I could go on but I'm sure someone else will oblige in a predictable manner.

The Lost Boys

Not quite "Peter Pan", this interview from the Childrennow website:

"Thanet has the highest level of looked-after children anywhere in the country, because other authorities place children there," Bill Anderson, the director of children's social services at Kent County Council points out. "And Maidstone has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in England. We're also a gateway authority for asylum seekers, and we have hundreds of young unaccompanied minors coming through Dover."

Read on...

Cemetery Stabbing

Kent Online reports that a man who went to help his friend who was being beaten up in Margate cemetery was stabbed in the side.

The 18-year-old victim was with his friends at St John’s parish church at Churchfields, Margate, between 10.30pm and 11.30pm on Friday when the attack happened.Police say he was also cut on the face and leg, and was treated at the Queen Mother hospital, Margate, for his injuries. He is from Sittingbourne.

The two men that attacked him wore a red hoody and a dark-coloured hoody.Anyone with information is asked to contact Det Sgt Mark Dennis at Margate police station, 01843 222194.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Closing Down

Ann Finch reveals that five shops have now closed down or are in the process of closing down in Westgate. What's happening there? Is it coincidence, the WestWood Cross effect or a local recession. Does anyone know?

A Little Variety

A quick glance at some of the posts while I've been away, shows me that some of the nasty people have been working overtime. At this rate, I'm tempted to restrict the site to registered users only to limit the malice that drips from some of our visitors, 99.99% who have never met me.

Some people appear to have a problem with the varied nature of my work. Because it's unusual and I'm lucky enough to go places that most people can't, I try and share the experiences and the photographs. Today, as an example, from 08:00 to 10:00 I was two hours flying a twin-engined aircraft with a banner for the MOD over central London to celebrate 'Veterans Day." And "Yes", we had clearance from both NATS and the Metropolitan Police for the flights.

In the afternoon, I was over at Imperial College in Kensington giving a speech at the "Computational Finance Conference." After this, I flew myself back to Kent from Denham airfield and I'm worn out.



Please, if you have problems with what I am, do or even write, go somewhere else. I'm trying to create an environment on this weblog where local people can discuss issues, both important and trivial, in a civilised and polite manner and the constant personal sniping is becoming tedious. If you want to criticise me directly, then send me an email but please have the courage not to hide behind the anonymity that was designed for a totally different purpose. Thank you.

PS.Two photos and a video clip from today, showingWestminster from above. I'll post the remainder of London panaorama shots for anyone who might be interested, later, if I don't fall asleep first!

Pastures Green

Cllr Green asked me to post this answer to a question directed to him, so here we go. There have been far too many comments for me to read today, so I confess to giving up as have to catch up with my other email tonight. If there's anything which is inappropriate and deserves attention. Please let me know. I've just realised that I've forgotten to file an "Ask Sandy" this week, so if you have a question that's pressing, please be quick.

David writes: "I've had the following question put to me:"

“Cllr Green, a question. I see building of homes all over infill areas in Thanet at the moment as a response to high local property prices.
How many housing units have received planning consent in the past few years and what is the total of extra housing already being built in Thanet?
Surely our Council knows/ Could we have some real facts here?”

The figures relate to the actual number of homes built in recent years rather than planning permissions granted. This is probably a better reflection of the situation as many applications are submitted either in duplicate, as alternatives or simply for valuation purposes.

Completions for the last ten years:-

95/96 234
96/97 244
97/98 366
98/99 268
99/00 286
00/01 297
01/02 367
02/03 334
03/04 416
04/05 441

This reflects a recent fairly buoyant national market. Thanet is often the first to feel the effects when the market dips as margins are tighter here than in West Kent for example.

Over the ten year period 2001- 2011 the Local Plan makes provision for 4,200 new homes. These numbers, reflect government guidance and policy, acknowledging changes in the structure of the population with the growth in single person and smaller households. Our supply also reflects our anticipated economic growth through the airport and business parks.

The South East Plan was submitted to Government recently and proposes 28,900 new homes per annum across the South east to 2026. This is currently apportioned at 325 per annum to Thanet (So our current build rate is well above that currently required by Government). If these figures don't change we don't see any need for additional greenfield land release beyond what is in the new Local Plan until at least 2016. (mainly Westwood plus one or two smaller sites.)

This (28,900) may not satisfy Government who have expressed concerns that this is not sufficient. Indeed they commissioned a consultants report which has just come back with three alternatives scenarios of 33,000, 37,000 and 46,000 per annum. They say the latter number is needed to match the forecast economic growth for the South East. This would require some 60% of the total to be built on greenfield land.
Some areas, Maidstone for example are already indicating a willingness to accept mor housing. The Examination in Public begins at the end of the year.

Here in Thanet we should never lose sight of the now 4500 family units on our housing waiting lists and the stress and strain that this causes, particularly on children. WE estimate also that we have a similar number of empty homes.

Monday, June 26, 2006

A Swing to the Right

Thanet receives a mention in The Guardian and The Times, this morning, with a report that: "Boundary changes will make it much more difficult for Labour to win an overall majority in the next General election."

The report concludes: "Based on ward-by-ward analysis of voting patterns in 2005, seats which are likely to switch from Labour to Conservative because of the changes also include Finchley and Golders Green, Medway, Thanet South and Wirral West."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Only a Weblog

Having just noticed the hit counter at the bottom of the page, I'm wondering what the "critical mass" for Web readership in Thanet is.

At the present rate of increase we should see 200,000 passed before the Autumn, hardly comparable with the number of visits to the most popular World Cup site, a billion or so per week but reasonably respectable for a community as small as ours.

When I first started this, I had hoped that others would volunteer as 'editors' and columnists, a bit like Wikipedia but this never quite happened, 'volunteers' being rather thin on the ground.

I need to manage expectations though. This Weblog has no overt political purpose, regardless of what some readers might think or write, I drop in spontaneous content, like now, when I can and to keep it running, as a result, the quality varies but I have a day job or jobs too and finding the time to Blog and work can be a real challenge if like me you're spending six hours per day flying.

I've just ordered a 'Blackberry', so I can keep up with everyone's emails and insults on the road; sometimes in the air too. Mind you, a trend that disturbs me of late is the spiteful negativity that has reared its ugly head in the personal comments that occasionally appear on this weblog. But if we manage to make even small differences in the issues that concern local people, politics, planning, crime and more, isn't that better than the vacuum that existed before this weblog started?

It's just a weblog after all, please remember that.

Dead or Alive

If in doubt return to Dreamland or even Turner and there's a BBC news story up on their website today about the grand new plans for the amusement park.

The BBC writes: "The site has opened again this summer, with fairground rides replacing the more permanent attractions that have mostly been stripped out and sold."

However, I flew over it at about 3pm and it looked empty to me, or certainly not busy enough for me to remark on how busy it might be on a late June afternoon.

Apparently, "Philip Miller, who reinvented the Adventure Island site in Southend, said Margate needed to be "livened up".

I couldn't agree more but I wonder what "Livened" means in real terms.

Fresh Ideas

"Your attitude seems to support the suggestion, made twice in this strand today by different people (as your checks will show), that you chose "gay child abuse" because you thought it might whip up some extreme, hostile and homphobic comment and reaction. You must indeed be very disappointed. You'll have to try immigration again, won't you?"


Ed: In answer to the comment above, we seem to be fresh out of hostile and homphobic comment today, so does anyone have any topics to offer on a quiet Sunday afternoon. Perhaps not immigration though. How about football?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Wind Up Time

"What was that all about then?" asked a friend at a BBQ today.

More rubbish from Smudger in this week's 'Thanet Gazumph'. I wonder if he writes this trash just to wind me up?

I'm supposed to have "told off" a young lady on the same Hercules flight with the RAF Falcons for "Blowing her nose, telling her she should have swallowed it instead."

Let's be accurate here. The young lady in question was experiencing visible discomfort as the Hercules, having dropped the RAF Falcons, made its sudden, steep unpressurised descent from 12,000 feet to 300 feet for a flyby past the airshow. If you aren't used to this kind of drop, then you can find your eardrums close to rupturing if you can't equalise the pressure in time. In this case, she was clearly experiencing pain and I suggested that she swallow repeatedly and blow her nose gently to release the pressure trapped in her ears. It worked but a corrupted version of the truth in the Gazumph is all the thanks I get.

As for going through someone else's airshow programme, all the Falcons kindly signed one of these for my daughter but when we landed I couldn't find it on my seat and so I asked the person next to me if I might look at hers in case she had picked mine up by mistake. She hadn't but I found it later.

Smudger really needs to find something or someone more interesting to write about than me I think.

Suggestions Box

After yesterday's chaos on the local roads, I've taken reader Barrie Smith's suggestion and added a link to the BBC local traffic report website on the sidebar, so you can find it quickly if you need it in future.

If you have any other links suggestions, please add them to the comments thread.

A Question of Rights

I hadn't planned to give it any space here but the story involving two gay men who were jailed this week for sexually abusing the foster children in their care has appeared as a topic of conversation in several comments, so I thought I would give the story it's own thread here.

Just to recap:

A gay foster couple were jailed yesterday for sexually abusing boys in their care.
Ian Wathey, 41, was sentenced to five years and Craig Faunch, 32, to six years at Leeds Crown Court. They have been in a civil partnership for five weeks. The couple, from West Yorkshire, had denied the allegations at an earlier trial and the charges involved filming and sex with boys aged 8 to 14.

The question then is whether a local authority should have the right to place young boys with gay couples? This is a controversial subject but given that the natural state of a family unit is heterosexual, (or at least it used to be) should public servants be permitted to risk any potential for sexual abuse in the interests of political correctness. Where do the rights of the children stand in relation of the rights of a couple of a different sexual orientation to foster care?

Friday, June 23, 2006

You're Copped Mate

The BBC reports that a 31-year-old man has been arrested and bailed after a lorry carrying copper cable was hijacked on the Thanet Way on Thursday.

The Volvo flatbed lorry was driven away by two men and its cargo was unloaded before the vehicle was dumped. The driver was left stranded on the road.

Police are warning other drivers they could be the target of copper thieves.

Officers are keen to hear from anyone who saw the drum of copper cable being unloaded from the X-registration lorry in the parking area off the St Nicholas at Wade roundabout, between the A299 from London and the A28 to Margate junctions.

They believe heavy lifting equipment would have been needed to move it onto another vehicle because of its size.

Monkton Madness

A quick traffic update on the Monkton chemical spill which has seen the school and houses near the roundabout evacuated.

"A 500m exclusion zone is in place around a Kent village after a tanker carrying a potentially-explosive gas turned on its side on Friday morning." - BBC News

I just gave up trying to get to Herne Bay throughBirchington and ended-up reversing back down Birchington High Street to turn-off the road. It's complete traffic chaos trying to get in and out of Birchington with all the A299 traffic sent through the village and guess what...smack into the Canterbury Road roadworks at Westgate.

While sitting in the traffic I just happened to win a KMFM radio competition, answer is "Christopher Marlowe", so I get two tickets to see Flight 93 at the Odeon Canterbury. I didn't actually know what the prize was when I rang in with the answer, so dreams of a new Bentley or £5,000 cash went swiftly out of the window!

Anyone Seen a Tonne of Copper?

Police are seeking witnesses to the theft of a lorry carrying a large drum of copper cable on the A299 Thanet Way.

The white Volvo flatbed lorry had just passed the Roman Galley restaurant near Herne Bay between 11am and midday on Thursday when two men in a white car flagged down the driver.

One of the men from the car then stole the driver’s X-registration lorry and its cargo, leaving the driver stranded by the side of the road.

Police officers found the lorry abandoned, without its load, at about 12.40pm in the parking area off the St Nicholas at Wade Roundabout, between the A299 from London and the A28 to Margate junctions.

Officers believe the drum of copper cable was removed from the back of the lorry onto another vehicle in the parking area and that it would have required heavy lifting equipment due to its size and weight.

Police are keen to hear from anyone that witnessed the theft or the lorry being unloaded of the 4.5m diameter drum in the parking area.

Anyone with information is asked to contact DS Mark Dennis at Margate police station on 01843 222194, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Meanwhile, detectives are advising companies to take extra precautions with copper cabling due to its current high value and its attractiveness to thieves.

Trapped in Thanet

To add to this morning’s traffic nightmare, a lorry carrying chemical gas overturned on the Monkton roundabout on the A299 early today bringing gridlock to Thanet.

Because of the nature of the gas, all roads leading to the site were closed. The Thanet Way is shut at the St Nicholas at Wade junction and the A253 is closed at the Prospect Inn junction with traffic being diverted via Acol.

Kent Online reports that gridlock is still the ongoing situation on the Isle, with the roads into Margate via Birchington jammed solid and the roads around Minster and Monkton slow moving. The roads through the villages at the centre of the Isle are also jammed with drivers trying to get round the chaos.

At 9.30am the queue stretched back up the Thanet Way beyond the Roman Galley - a distance of some two miles - and the situation remained chronic with drivers being warned to avoid the area altogether until this afternoon at the earliest.

Meanwhile, Canterbury road in Westgate is another nightmare. I couldn’t actually take my daughter to school by car this morning as the Minster road is blocked of with road laying equipment and the detour will take you around Garlinge in one direction. To add to the joy, there are single alternate traffic lights opposite the Nayland Rock Hotel and of course, along Westgate Bay Avenue in Westgate. My advice, stay at home, find a bicycle or simply walk.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Anti-social Behaviour - Ask Sandy

In this week's "Ask Sandy", a reader challenges the council's new policy on tackling anti-social behaviour. How tough will it be and will it be inclusive in its execution?

Q: Can Sandy explain the measures now being taken by the council to tackle and prosecute anti-social behaviour and re-assure residents that council officers charged with enforcement, won't simply be focusing on "soft-targets." Will the council be able to provide the level of personal security that its enforcement personnel will need in dealing with the more unpleasant and aggressive members of our community?

A: "Let’s be clear here – the new enforcement policy that the Council has agreed is not about hitting so called “soft targets”. Everyone will be treated in an appropriate way. We know that we need to concentrate on those who continually litter our streets, as that’s what we intend to do.

But before we get there, the first thing we want to do is make people aware that there are new, increased penalties for dropping litter. We’ve done this, because that’s what people told us they wanted. They thought the highest possible fines should be imposed, but they made the point that it’s important that people know about these fines and the action that could be taken against them.

That’s the stage we’re at right now – making sure that people know that the Council will be soon be getting tough on this issue. Dropping litter is unacceptable. Residents have told us that they want clean streets – that’s their top priority. That’s why we brought the street cleaning and waste and recycling collection back in house at the beginning of April, so we could provide an improved service, but everyone needs to play their part by not littering the streets to begin with.

As far as providing personal security for our enforcement officers goes, the safety of all our staff is our foremost concern and we will not tolerate any attacks, be they physical or verbal, on any member of Council staff. The last thing we want is to put any of our officers into dangerous situations. That’s why we’ll be carrying out risk assessments before this enforcement action starts and we’ll be training all the officers who’ll be handing out Fixed Penalty Notices, so that they understand how to deal with unpleasant and aggressive situations."

Salmestone Matters

James Maskell writes:

"Here's an article for ThanetLife about last nights Planning Committee meeting and more specifically a planning application in Salmestone ward.

I went to Planning Committee last night and watched the disused railway planning application (19 sheltered homes) appear. There were 66 letters of objection to this application and there were a number of Salmestone residents in the public gallery watching the proceedings, including representatives of the Railway Embankment Preservation Society.

The Committee unanimously refused the application, much to the delight of those in the public gallery and Im sure local residents will be delighted too by this result. The only controversy was by Cllr Charles Young who had called in the application for a range of reasons and yet spoke in favour of the application last night!

Ive been long worried about the lack of representation at TDC level for Salmestone residents. With the elections over 10 months away, residents still need representation at TDC level. Where is it? If the Salmestone Councillors currently sitting do not wish to represent local residents and air their concerns, then why are they there?"

A Land Fit for Concrete

A damning indictment of the plan to build 'double' the number of predicted new homes in the South-east in today's Daily Telegraph:

"It's begun, as we knew it would. They've predicted, so now they are going to provide. Government forecasters said five million new households would be formed in England over the next 20 years, 1.5 million of them because of record immigration. And now we are seeing the drip, drip of announcements that will provide those notional households with real homes, the majority of them in the South-East."

Read on:

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Sex Assault Claims False

Big news today is that a claim by an 18-year-old man that three men had sexually assaulted him in a Broadstairs alleyway was false and he has been cautioned for wasting pollce time.

The teenager had told police he was walking through an alley that runs alongside the railway tracks between Ramsgate Road, Ramsgate, and Rosemary Avenue on June 15 when three men assaulted him.

Det Chief Insp Rob Vinson said today: "We take all allegations of sexual assault extremely seriously and dedicate a lot of time and resources to thoroughly investigating them and bringing offenders to justice, as we did with this case.

“But false and malicious allegations won’t be tolerated and will be uncovered by my officers, and then the person responsible for the false allegations will face prosecution.”

Ed: In my humble opinion he should get rather more than a caution for making-up a story as serious as this one. We don’t have enough police in Thanet as it is without them tearing around looking for three imaginary violent pederasts in Broadstairs.

Barking Mad

I’m going to have to work out a way of bi-locating myself or perhaps even borrow one of the ‘transporters’ from Start Trek. To give you an idea, next week, I’m scheduled to tow a Veterans Day banner for the MOD over the Imperial War Museum, Westminster and the South Bank and at the same time I’ve been asked to pop-in to a meeting in room A5 E3, at the European Parliament in Brussels. Meanwhile, Uncle Sam wants to know if I can do a job for him in "Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan most probably"; absolutely nothing to do with aircraft either.

And no, my poor overworked aircraft isn’t quick enough to do both either although for London, we have to use a twin-engined job, just in case there’s a problem over such a heavily built-up area. In case you’re wondering, there’s lots of paperwork involved and a mystery too. The National Air Traffic Service (NATS) doesn’t appear to have a fax machine, which makes shuttling the documents back and forth for approval a little bit of a challenge I’m told.

Latest rumour is that the Big Wheel in ‘Godden’s Gap’ hasn’t simply gone but was stolen in the early hours of the morning and was last seen floating out to sea by the Coastguard. This week’s competition asks readers to suggest what might next appear in the ‘Gap’ now the area’s principal amusement park attraction has gone AWOL. Any suggestions?

It just occurred to me with the powerboat races almost upon us, that with Jet skis now so popular, we could probably put on a national Jet Ski race competition in Thanet, with a race course off Margate. I’m sure it would attract hundreds of entrants and would be another reason for putting Thanet on the summer events map. Good idea or completely barking mad? What do you think?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Daft Ideas

Shock horror. I’ve come home and there’s no cold beer in the fridge to keep company with the World Cup game. Very soon, the streets will be deserted until darkness has fallen and the drunken shouts of happy or disappointed fans are heard as they weave their way home towards Margate.

The big event of the coming weekend appears to be the Margate “Raft Race” on Sunday. I know it happens every year but have never watched it. This year however, I have been asked to tow an advertising banner over it, so perhaps I’ll manage some photos of the ‘action.’

Coming back from the airfield this afternoon on my motorbike, I tried to avoid the road works in Westgate by using the coastal road from Birchington. The roads department were however cleverer than me and made sure that there was no way home, by strategically placing a set of temporary traffic lights in my path where Sea Road meets Westgate Bay Avenue. I’m tempted to drive along the promenade instead. After all, if the mini motorcycles and scooters manage to do this with impunity, then why not a big motorbike? I can just imagine everyone following from the entrance to the promenade at Westbay to the exit opposite Pav’s café in St Mildred’s Bay. All the Canterbury Road rush-hour traffic spontaneously giving an ancient hand salute to the road works and finding an unorthodox detour instead. There’s always the kayak I suppose and it’s a greener solution to the traffic problem too!

The photo is of Roxburgh Road in Westgate before the first car made its appearance.

On Four Wheels

Have you been offered a dodgy Quad bike?  Police investigating a burglary want to hear from you if you have.

Thieves used cheques from a stolen chequebook, which was taken from a house on Holbrook Drive, Ramsgate, to buy two of the vehicles from a Margate shop.

Only one of the bikes was collected from the shop and detectives would like to hear from anyone who has been offered the bike or who has bought it.

This image of the same model of bike that was fraudulently bought has been released, however the one that officers are making enquiries about is green.

Anyone with information is asked to contact DC Ray Butterwick on 01843 222035.

Sandy Times Ahead

Interesting story to be read at Kent Online today:

“Available water, per head of population in Kent, is now said to be less than many regions of southern Europe and the Middle East. It is about the same as the Gulf state of Oman or half of Rwanda. If this situation continues, according to the Environment Agency, stand pipes could become a reality in Kent.”

This news is followed by more: “The Government is likely to use a major public inquiry to push for three quarter of a million homes to be built in Kent and the south east over the next two decades, the county’s most senior planner has warned. A figure of 37,000 a year would mean 740,000 houses in the south east, rather than the 578,000 the plan sets out. For Kent, it would increase significantly the 122,000 homes expected to be built in the next two decades.”

I wonder where we’ll park our camels in future.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Heatwave

Police are hunting for two boys who may be connected with a fire that destroyed a wood furniture store in Ramsgate.

The arsonists struck at the All-Woods store in Park Road just before 2am on Sunday.

The fire quickly took hold and burned out the interior of the building.

The boys were seen running down Belmont Road towards Ramsgate town centre.

They were wearing blue tracksuit bottoms and short-sleeved T-shirts and both had dark hair.

Anyone who knows anything about the fire is asked to call DS Claire Munday on 01843 222140.

Police Seek Skinny Sex Attacker

Thanet police  are seeking witnesses to the alleged sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman in an alleyway.

The woman was searching for some lost property in Tippledore Lane, Broadstairs, near the Dane Court School end, when a man stopped to help her look.

He then suddenly held her against a wall and indecently assaulted her.

After the attack the man ran out of Tippledore Lane but it is not known if he went towards Dane Court School or the St Peter’s High Street.

The incident happened between 11pm and 11.45pm on Friday, June 16. The man is described as white, aged between 18 to 20 and about 5ft 10in tall. He is of skinny build with very short cropped hair. He was wearing a dark round-necked t-shirt, dark trousers and black men’s loafer style shoes.

Anyone who witnessed the assault, heard anything, or saw the man in the area about the time of the incident is asked to contact PC Shona Ross at Margate police station on 01843 222060.

Fancy a Flutter?

Local people are being encouraged to give their views on how betting offices, casinos, bingo halls, fruit machines and amusement arcades should be licensed in the future.

Under the Gambling Act 2005, the responsibility for licensing these premises will transfer from the Magistrates Courts to Thanet Council in 2007. Before this can happen, Thanet Council needs to prepare a policy document, setting out how the Council will make decisions under the new Act. The document will also explain how the Council will promote the three objectives of the Act, which are to prevent crime and disorder, ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way and protecting children and vulnerable people from harm.

Thanet Council has drawn up its draft policy document and is now asking local people and businesses who may be affected to give their views.

Cllr. John Kirby, Cabinet Member for Development Services, said: “This document will set out how Thanet Council will licence places like casinos, bingo halls, fruit machines and amusement arcades in the future, so it’s important to get local residents’ and businesses’ views on this. Thanet is certainly unique in Kent, in that we have already had casinos here for the past 30 years. Therefore, whereas the debate in many other parts of the country is around the introduction of casinos, here we can focus on the issues that the Gambling Act sets out to address, such as ensuring that there is adequate protection in place for children and vulnerable people.”

The public consultation runs until 31 August 2006 and the document can be found on the Council’s website at www.thanet.gov.uk/licensing

Two Weeks of Chaos Expected

Westgate is in chaos. Not only is the Canterbury Road being dug-up from the Library traffic lights, almost as far as the Safeway garage but the roads department have now decided to dig-up Westgate Bay Avenue and put in temporary traffic lights opposite Sea Road. When the school rush starts tomorrow morning it will be a scene of absolute carnage as traffic tries to get in and out of Thanet and finds that it can’t.

I suspect that this is all part of a plan to have me walk my daughter to school as it appears to be the only option available; other than hiring a chopper from Helicharter, whose link you can find on the sidebar. Which bright spark decided that the main road in and out of Margate, Canterbury Road and the relief road, Westgate Bay Avenue, should be dug up simultaneously?

Stay in Shape

You may be interested or wish to comment on the latest report on the authority’s progress over the last few months, given to council cabinet members in a meeting last week.

In a report presented to them last Thursday, called “Shaping Thanet Together”, they heard that Thanet is progressing faster than the other two Councils in Kent, who were rated as ‘weak’ in the 2004 Comprehensive Performance Assessment by the Audit Commission. The report also sets out the Council’s priorities for the next year, following on from the residents’ survey carried out in late 2005. These include:
  • Improving satisfaction levels with the street cleaning, waste and recycling services by taking them back in house.

  • Addressing the lack of facilities for young people.

  • Developing plans to improve the area’s leisure facilities.

  • Reducing anti-social behaviour by using the Council’s enforcement powers.

Cllr. Martin Wise, Cabinet Member for Improvement and Performance, said: “This report shows that the Council has achieved a great deal since the last CPA inspection in 2004, but while we are making steady progress, we still have areas to improve on. In particular, we know that there are still some areas where we must improve the services that we are providing to our customers. That’s why we’re focusing on a number of key areas that matter to our residents.” These, said Cllr Wise, “include improving the cleanliness of our streets and the waste collection and recycling services, which residents have told us is a top priority. We also want to provide the best possible service for those submitting planning applications or applying for benefits. If we can improve in these areas, then it will make a real difference to the people who use those services. The Council has already been praised in our CPA progress report for having a better focus on our customers. Now we need to deliver the best possible service we can to those customers in everything we do.”

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Like Magic

There is such a thing as magic or so one of our readers tells us in this anonymous comment:

“I can confirm that the eyesore property at 18 Harold Rd has been visited by TDC oficers and Sandy Ezekiel himself in the last week.

It looks like something positive is happening at last, why did it take so long?

A few mentions on this site and suddenly things start happening, truly amazing when three years of phone calls, letters and photos to TDC had little effect.

I am impressed.”

Ed: My thanks to the councillors involved for taking an interest in this story and for taking action as a consequence.

Arrows Coming My Way

It wasn’t quite by design but I found myself as the first aircraft into the Kent Airshow today, towing a banner advertising “TerencePainter.co.uk – New Homes.”


Thanet Airshow 2006_day 2-10

Having checked the details with Manston air traffic, I was under the impression that I had until 13:00 to get in and out of Palm Bay and it wasn’t until we were airborne that I heard the Red Arrows were due to run through at 11:55; just giving enough time for us to run in and out of Palm Bay before we were run over.

After that, I drove back to the show on my motorcycle and it struck me that it was much busier today. Those of you who have been pasting comments about it on this website will be pleased to know that the councillors have been reading what you have to say and hopefully, from what I was told an hour or so ago, passing on the suggestions for action where appropriate.

I’ve just uploaded some more photos and if you have contributions that you would like to share as well, please pass them along and I’ll add them to the library.

With the Race for Life taking place at Quex Park and the Airshow in Cliftonville, the roads were under strain at lunchtime today. From the air, the island looked pretty packed, as you might expect on a sunny June weekend but the huge gap which was once a busy Dreamland amusement park looked desolate and empty and I have to suspect that we are missing thousands of would be tourists who might have chosen Margate for a day out to Dreamland. Whether this is a good or bad thing I’ll let you decide.

One thing I have noticed this weekend at Palm Bay is how many Polish guests we appear to have living with us know. Not only the cars but the conversations I could hear as I walked through the airshow. Do we have any idea, I wonder, what the numbers are and where indeed, they are all working? Builders, electricians, agricultural workers I’m curious as to what attracts them to Cliftonville with its streets paved with gold?

A little “ding dong” I’m keeping an eye on here involves one of our elected representatives making an allegation of corruption in regard to the council and in return, being asked to substantiate his remarks. I would urge everyone to exercise restraint and common sense when inflammatory statement are concerned. I really don’t want to have to take down interesting conversation threads because they fall dangerously close to the wrong side of the libel legislation.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Air Show Update

Lots going on at the Air Show today and without a doubt, it's busier than last year.

I have to sort through at least two hundred photos, the best of which I'll make available here but for starters, a view of Thanet from 12,000 feet and the view over the tailgate of the C130 Hercules as the RAF Falcons dropped-in or out in this case, to open the show.

All my photos can be found here.

Air Show News

Latest news on this weekend’s Air Show at Palm Bay can be found here. It’s not just aircraft of course but a big funfair as well and the weather looks to be just right for a great day out for the family.

On the left you can see an international entry landing at show with a solution to rising fuel prices.

The funfair will be running all day if you want to keep the kids happy, together with numerous exhibition stands selling a whole variety of interesting products including toys, garden furniture, beauty therapy, jewellery, photography, sunglasses and perfume. Other activities include a climbing wall, bouncy castles, helicopter rides and much more. In addition, this year there will be 7 local bands playing over the weekend, acts include Electric River, a young rock band based in Ashford, the popular pop/rock trio from Thanet; Shibby and Sizen who have just completed their debut album which was recorded in Swansea with legendary producer Jo Gibb. Other bands include Carbon 13, Fatalist, Film Club and Chaos Days

Friday, June 16, 2006

Beware of Falling Bloggers

Kent Air Show tomorrow and I’m supposed to be taking a ride with the RAF Falcons parachute team. If you’re lucky they’ll push me out the back of the Hercules with them but without the parachute but I’ll take my camera and try and get some good shots if I get airborne. The last time I went skydiving, Port Lympne was still an airfield rather than a nature reserve complete with Lions.

Dancing in the Moonlight

An evening of free music returns to Ramsgate later this month (Saturday 24th June) with “Dancing in the Moonlight 2”. Following on from the great success of last year's 'Dancing in the Moonlight', the Wellington Crescent Bandstand will be welcoming vocalist Aurora Dawn, famed for her energetic displays and rapport with the crowd, and local professional Duncan Mackay on trumpet. In addition, singer/songwriter Henry Johnson will entertain with an original acoustic line up and Rich Rhythms African Drummers will be there to get the toes tapping and the hands clapping!

Being held at the Ramsgate Bandstand in Wellington Crescent, the event is being organised by the Eastcliff Residents Association and Techniques Light & Sound CIC, an organisation working with young designers and entertainment technicians, and the event is also supported by Thanet District Council and ArtMonkeys. This event heralds the beginning of Phase One of the building works which includes the restoration of the bandstand itself and the installation of a state of the art, environmentally friendly sound and light system.  The works should start the following week.

The evening starts at 6.00 p.m. with free children's workshops and games, with live music from 8.00 p.m. onwards.

Techniques Light & Sound CIC are looking for trainees who are interested in working on this event and others, with the opportunity to shadow leading industry professionals and have hands on experience of warehouse management and technical maintenance to design and produce live shows and events.

To find out more about Dancing in the Moonlight 2, call 01843 592 639.

Serious Sexual Assault in Broadstairs

Kent Online report that an 18-year-old man was the victim of a serious sexual assault when he was attacked in an alleyway in Broadstairs

Police have taped off the scene of the attack in the alleyway alongside the railway line between Rosemary Avenue and Ramsgate Road, Broadstairs, and forensic teams are combing the site.

The attack happened at about 4.30pm on Thursday when the 18-year-old victim was surrounded by three men.

They sexually assaulted him before running off in the direction of Ramsgate Road.

Officers are appealing for witnesses who may have seen or heard the attack, or spotted three men, at this stage believed to have been white, fleeing the area.

Anyone who can help is asked to call DS Tristan Kluibenschadl on 01843 222195.

Fixed Penalty Fines for Litter Louts

Tough new penalties are to be introduced by Thanet Council on those who dump rubbish, drop litter or fail to clear up after their dogs, following a major public consultation.

The Council’s Cabinet last night (Thursday 15th June) agreed a new Enforcement Policy, which increases the level of Fixed Penalty Fines for certain offences.

The changes were made after local residents on the Council’s new Community Matters panel were asked how environmental health issues, such as littering, dog fouling, noisy neighbours, dumped rubbish and graffiti, should be enforced by the Council. Residents’ panels were held in Ramsgate and Margate and a Members’ forum was also held.

The majority of people wanted the Council to crack down on these issues and impose the highest possible fines, but they felt it was important that residents should know about the new fines and that action could be taken against them.

Cllr. Ingrid Spencer, Cabinet Member for Community Services, said: “We have listened to what local people have told us – their priorities are issues that affect them, such as dumped rubbish, dog fouling and litter dropped in the street, and these are the issues that we will be taking tough action on. We know that clean streets are a priority for residents and that’s why we brought the street cleaning service back in house in April, but that’s only part of the answer. We’ve got to encourage people to keep Thanet beautiful. Dropping litter, dumped rubbish and dog fouling is not acceptable here and the increased levels of fines should reinforce that message. We are not prepared to put up with this type of behaviour any longer – and neither is the community. The Council will be starting to crack down on those who make our area dirty over the next couple of months.”

Do We Have Enough Water? - Ask Sandy

In this week’s “Ask Sandy”, a reader asks if Westgate is about to be paved over for an intergalactic bypass and whether there’s enough water to support the thousands of new homes planned for the island.

Q: Can you ask Sandy if it's correct that the council has plans to allow development of the site of the Lymington road allotments in Westgate and other areas of farmland loosely defined in the area between the Minster road and Shottendane road at the rear of the town? Also, does Thanet have a sufficiently resilient water supply to support the expansion of housing envisaged for the island?


A: At the moment, the Council’s carrying out an open space audit, which will look at every piece of open space in Thanet, including parks, promenades, allotments and outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis courts, football pitches and playing fields. This work will show whether we have the right amount of land for allotments and other open spaces and we will be guided by this work. The Council will only consider releasing allotment land anywhere in the District if the open space audit shows that we don’t need it. As far the farmland goes, this is not the Council’s land and is not identified for development in the Local Plan. Therefore, it would not be considered for development at the moment.

As far as water supplies go, our water supplier, Southern Water are reinforcing their strategic main to improve the area’s water supply and this work will be completed by the middle of next year. This will cope with the major proposed housing expansion. Thanet Council also consults Southern Water on all major development proposals to ensure that they’re happy that there is adequate water supply and foul sewerage disposal.

Keep it Clean

A series of banners highlighting Margate's natural beauty have been put up along the town's seafront this week (week commencing Monday 12 June).

The banners, which show four images of Margate Main Sands, will be displayed on 32 lamp-posts, which line the town's promenade and have been used to display colourful banners over the last three years.

Supported by the Margate Charter Trustees, the banners also ask residents and visitors to play their part in keeping Thanet beautiful by not dropping litters. They are being put up ahead of one of the main events in the area this year, the Kent Air Show Margate, which takes place over this coming weekend, Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th June. The image being used on this year's banners has been supplied free of charge by Turner Contemporary.

Cllr. Roger Latchford, Cabinet Member for Commercial Services, said:

"Margate is a beautiful resort and it's time we took pride in that and promoted its beauty to both our residents and visitors to the area. Margate Main Sands, which are shown to their full beauty in the banners, have rightly won the European Blue Flag and this year, Thanet has become the only District or Borough Council in England to be awarded seven Blue Flags. These additions to Margate seafront signal the start of our Thanet is Beautiful campaign, which we will be launching later this summer to encourage everyone to work with us to help keep our area beautiful."

Thursday, June 15, 2006

It's a Game

Some good news tonight beyond the England match result. The BBC reports a teenager has been arrested over the assault on a German student in Dane Park ten days ago.

Christian Hattensperger, 16, suffered a cut to his head when he was attacked while playing football in the park on 7th June.

An 18-year-old man, from Margate, was arrested on Wednesday night on suspicion of assault.

Kent Police said the teenager had been released on bail pending further inquiries.

What are the odds that the suspect -if the police press charges - has “issues” and that if found guilty, will walk away from the court with a grin on his face? Would anyone care to bet on a stiff deterrent sentence? Possibly not.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Westgate Conservation Area Under Discussion

A meeting is being held next month (July) to discuss plans to extend the Westgate Conservation Area.

The present Westgate Conservation Area was designated in March 1998, after concerns were raised about the demolition of some of the area's original buildings, especially along the seafront, which were then replaced by inferior modern structures. The area designated then was between the sea and the railway line and included places such as Adrian Square and Station Road, which contributed to the unique character of the town.

Cllr. John Kirby, Cabinet Member for Development Services, said:

"Thanet is fortunate to have a rich heritage and we already have Kent's largest conservation area in Ramsgate, which was recently extended by the Council to include the Royal Esplanade area. Westgate is a unique town, which originally evolved from a former private estate town in the country and much of its history can still be seen in the buildings that exist today.

"That's why the Council is considering the idea of extending its Conservation Area, but before we do that, it's vital we hear what local people have to say about these plans. The community has a big part to play in protecting our heritage, with individual property owners able to help protect our Conservation Areas by carrying out sympathetic repairs and maintenance work."

The meeting to discuss the plans will be held on Wednesday 12 July between 7.30 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. at Westgate library.

The Big Valley Cleanup

A site in Dane Valley that’s been used to abandon vehicles and dump rubbish has been cleared up by Thanet Council.

Nearby residents had complained about people driving up to the land, off Dane Valley Road, while the police and Kent Fire and Rescue Service had also raised concerns about stolen vehicles being dumped and burnt out on the land. The clean up was run in conjunction with the Thanet Community Safety Partnership and was part funded by the Kent Fire and Rescue Service.

Cllr. Ingrid Spencer, Cabinet Member for Community Services, said: “We know that local people want the area to be safer and cleaner and that’s exactly what initiatives like this are aiming to achieve. Abandoned vehicles are a fire risk and the sad fact is that they’re often used by criminals or for joyriding, before they’re abandoned, which is why Operation Cubit is regularly run in Thanet by the Community Safety Partnership. We’re determined to tackle problem hot spots like this and stamp out the scourge of abandoned vehicles and dumped rubbish.”

Time Off From Politics

Special football exemption discovered in Bromley.

Give Soldiers the Right to Vote Too

North Thanet’s MP, Roger Gale, has described as "modest progress" measures passed by the House of Commons last night to extend the rights and voting facilities for those serving, particularly overseas, in the armed forces.

Gale, who found the issue raised with him by Naval and Royal Marine commando personnel when he recently visited HMS Bulwark in the Middle East, said following the debate:

"We know that during the last general election and during the recent local government elections very many of the men and women of the armed forces currently serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, in other overseas locations and on prolonged deployments (HMS Bulwark will have been deployed at sea for seven months by the time that she returns home) on warships were effectively denied their voting rights.

That they are required to pay council tax while away is a sore point: that they were unable to vote for their local councils makes matters worse!

The government has now accepted a house of Lords amendment that gives ministers the right to extend the electoral registration from twelve months to up to five years and that should help to maintain the voting rights for people who may be abroad during annual re-registration times."

Speaking during the debate Roger Gale supported amendments (defeated by the government) to make the Ministry of Defence take responsibility for registering and facilitating the voting rights of service personnel.

"The Minister says that one of the reasons for rejecting these amendments is `resource implications` " said Gale. "I suggest that there are very considerable `resource implications` for the men and women who are prepared to put their lives on the line for this country. Frankly, if we cannot provide those boys and girls - for that is what many of them are - with the resources to enable them to take part in the democratic process then we bring shame upon ourselves and do no justice to them.

We have not sought to undermine the government’s position but to strengthen that of our armed forces and to send out a very clear message to those men and women who serve in extremely difficult and dangerous places overseas: "We respect you, We admire you, we understand your needs. We recognise your democratic rights" and in this House of Commons we are prepared to vote for them".

On the Menu

It may not be in Thanet but I found myself having a meal last night at the Prince of Wales pub in Hoath village and very good it was too. One of those little gems of an English country pub which are dotted around between here and Canterbury and which serve excellent food at a reasonable price. If you haven’t given the menu at the Prince of Wales a try yet, I highly recommend it.

Looking out of the window this morning and it seems that summer has left us or was that as much as we are going to get? I’ve a marriage proposal to fly over the Grand Hotel Brighton at 5’ O’clock sharp today and between then and now I’ve got to go to Rochester to fill-up with fuel. Both flights are looking a little iffy.

If you wondered what all the noise was yesterday with a big yellow WWII Harvard trainer buzzing around the island, then it was the Kent Air Show press event at Manston, with several journalists including weather girl, Kaddy Lee-Preston going up for a ride.

Come Friday, the set-up day for the air show there will be a lot happening at Palm Bay and if you look out from time to you will also be able to see some of the aircraft arriving in time for Saturday, with a Hawk at 13:45 a Catalina at 14:00, the Navy Black Cats at 15:00 and the RAF Falcons C-130 aircraft.

Let’s all hope that summer returns in time for Saturday, making the event as successful as it was for Thanet last year. Amid the many moans and groans, it’s nice to have a really big event which puts us on the map on a regular basis.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Westgate Church Robbed During Sunday Service

How low can criminals sink here in Thanet? Thieves have stolen £200 of collection money from the sacristy at the rear of St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Westgate while a service was in progress.

Police are seeking witnesses to the theft, which took place between 10.50am and 11.10am on Sunday.

Detectives wish to trace a man and a woman seen hanging around at the back of the church just before the discovery of the theft.

The man is white, in his late teens, 5ft 9in, of slim build with fair hair. He was wearing a fawn shirt and fawn trousers.

The woman is white, about 5ft 7in, with fair hair and was wearing a light-coloured blouse and jeans.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact police on 01843 222178.

Puff Puff

Guess what? A third cannabis farm has been found by police in Ramsgate; this time Princess Margaret Avenue where police found around 500 cannabis plants.

Kim Trong Do, a 27-year-old man of no fixed address, was arrested at the scene and later charged with producing cannabis and abstracting electricity.

He has been remanded in custody to appear before Margate magistrates on Friday.

Last Wednesday, police found a cannabis farm capable of growing between 500 and 600 cannabis plants when they searched a house in Grange Road. No arrests have yet been made.

The latest two finds follow the discovery of a farm at a Whitehall Road warehouse, which police say had the potential to produce millions of pounds worth of drugs, on May 8th.

Ramsgate may indeed be the new millionaire’s playground and keeping-up with the demand is obviously creating a thriving herbal cigarette industry. I wonder how many undiscovered plantations there are around the island.

Answers on a postcard or in the comments section please.

It's for You

The noise designed to drive ‘hoodies’ out of shopping centres has been re-engineered as a ringtone which parents and teachers cannot hear.

A Welsh security company markets Mosquito - a loudspeaker which emits an irritating high-pitched sound designed to drive kids away. Because the ability to hear high-pitched sounds declines with age, the noise cannot be heard by older people.

A BBC test confirmed this - only the youngest can hear anything at all. Listen to the sound here.

Techno-savvy school kids were quick to sample the sound and turn it into a ringtone to be used in class - they can hear it, but teachers can't. How will education fight back I wonder!?

Factor Eight

Clearly visible over the last few days of the heatwave was an inversion layer of dirty brown smog that stretched from the Thames Estuary as least as far as Newbury, with it’s centre running along the line of London as I flew up and down between Thanet and the West country.

The Independent newspaper reports that soaring temperatures have prompted a rash of medical alerts, amid fears that smog will choke British cities this summer.

As the country recorded its hottest 12 June for more than 80 years, people were warned by both the Met Office and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) - the government department responsible for monitoring air quality - to take "sensible precautions" against smog, such as avoiding outdoor exercise in the afternoon, and cutting unnecessary car journeys. For Britain's thousands of asthma sufferers, the situation is likely to get worse. Climate change predictions suggest that, with global warming, Britain is in line to experience summer episodes of such extreme heat that they may lead directly to deaths.

Not very comforting news for any of us living near a big city but at least here in Thanet, the air quality – if you ignore the square in Birchington – is rather better than elsewhere and the temperatures, thanks to the sea on our doorstep, will be a little more moderate.

What I have noticed since last week, is the number of people walking around looking like cooked lobsters, proving beyond doubt that public information broadcasts and news reports on the dangers of skin cancer continue to be ignored. Exposure to sunshine, as we know is excellent for boosting the immune system but lying on a towel inside a microwave oven doesn’t quite have the same effect but that’s what thousands of us do every weekend, which reminds me, we have a nudist beach up past Minnis Bay towards Reculver. I was briefly surprised yesterday by the sight of a naked man, as I cycled along the sea wall but then remembered that in the search for the perfect all over tan, we have the answer here in Thanet. Eat your heart out Brighton I suppose!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Return of the Powerboats

The thrills and spills of high speed racing return to the waters around Ramsgate in July, as the British National Offshore Powerboat Championship arrives in Kent.

In one of the county’s premier maritime events, organised by Thanet Council, Ramsgate Town Partnership and the All Hallows Yacht Club, Ramsgate Royal Harbour will play host to the Ramsgate Powerboat Grand Prix over the weekend of Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 July.

Amongst those taking part in the racing will be powerful closed canopy V24 boats, which can hit speeds of up to 80 miles an hour, the RIB’s (rigid inflatable boats) and F2’s, all of which will be competing for points in the National Championship. The day’s racing, which runs from 10.30 a.m. – 3.00 p.m. on both days will also include hovercraft and junior racing in three different classes.

Highlights on the land based entertainment programme include a Diana Ross tribute act on the Saturday evening, followed by a stunning fireworks display at 10.00 that night. The line-up of bands has been extended from previous years, with a wider range of music over the course of the weekend, including a Country and Western band on the Sunday afternoon.

Can You Tell the Difference?

Colourful new additions are arriving in Margate today with the introduction of plastic and silk flowers to floral displays in a bid to beat the drought.

Thanet Council is becoming one of only a few authorities in the country to use fake flowers on its hanging basket trees in Cecil Square, which were first introduced last year, attracting much praise. The baskets will include geraniums, surfinias, ivy and nasturtiums.

Plans to introduce additional hanging baskets in Cliftonville, Ramsgate and Broadstairs have been postponed until next year. Drought resistant flowers, such as geraniums and begonias, which need less water, have been appearing in the area’s more prominent flowerbeds over the last couple of weeks, while less prominent flowerbeds will not be planted out this year.

Cllr. Roger Latchford, Cabinet Member for Commercial Services, said: “With the area experiencing the driest spell of weather in the last 80 years, the Council is determined to do its bit to be water wise, but equally we’re proud of our area and want it to look at its best during the summer months for both our residents and our visitors. That’s why we’ve taken this unique approach to using plastic and silk flowers in one of our most prominent displays in the area. We’ve listened to what people said – they told us they enjoyed the floral displays we had last year and we were determined to find a way of continuing that this year, but without wasting water, which has become a valuable resource in recent months. I hope everyone enjoys the displays this summer and let’s hope for a wet winter, so that we’re not facing this issue again next year.”


Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Cup Effect

Proof positive of the "World Cup Effect" I think. Looking at yesterday's log for this website, activity dropped by a startling 50% on the Saturday average. Everybody was, I assume, watching the football or enjoying the sunshine and very sensible too.

One man's view of Dartmouth and the entrance to the River Dart earlier today. Pretty hot and sticky everywhere I went with almost as many aircraft up as there were cars jamming the roads back from the coast this evening

What's Missing?

One of our readers, "Mr C" writes:

"Please find attached a photograph I have just taken of the proposed new Turner/Hotel site. I just wonder where all the day tripper and their cars the Margate traders rely upon will park ? Perhaps the local councillors will tell us, especially when there is a function on at the Winter Gardens, assuming the lack of maintenance on the sea front elevation does not render it unsafe. Will health and safety be an issue here?

Remember the traffic at Westwood "Jam" what planning is going into this, no lifeboat no sailing club dinghy park, but great pictures of sunsets..................."

Boing Boing

Thanet has made The People Newspaper today:

With the story, “Trampolines on the Taxpayer”

“Town Hall chiefs have spent thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money for staff to go trampolining.

They could also try out herbalism, massage therapy, aerobics, t'ai chi and volleyball during office hours.

Angry resident Luke Costello, 25, of Margate, Kent, said: "It's disgraceful. Money should go on making this a good seaside place again, not on trampolining."

But Thanet Council said the courses during Adult Learning Week encouraged staff to tap into skills. “

I’m temporarily lost for words. Any comments?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Football - A Girls Game Too

Girls in Thanet are getting into the World Cup spirit, thanks to a new football coaching session being offered at Hartsdown Park in Margate.

The weekly class, which is organised by Sport 4 NRG, will give 12-17 year olds the chance to develop and practice a range of football skill and techniques. Over 20 girls have signed up to the class, which is led by Sarah Watkiss, Head of the Ramsgate women’s football team.

Players will be put through their paces each Thursday at Hartsdown Park and will get the chance to improve their dribbling and shooting skills, as well as the chance to take part in friendly games. Teams are getting ready for this summer’s five-a-side season and will get the chance to join a local friendly league in Kent.

Girl’s football is just one of the sports provided by the Sport 4 NRG programme, which provides constructive activities for young people aged between 12 and 17, including those who may be at risk of offending.

Cllr Ingrid Spencer, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Housing and Community, said: “I am delighted with the interest in this new coaching session and I am pleased girl’s football has taken off in Thanet, especially with all the excitement currently surrounding the World Cup. The Sport 4 NRG Programme has proved to be a real success over the last three years and we are looking forward to seeing another action packed year of activities in 2006.”

James Gregory, Sport 4 NRG officer, said: “I am really proud of all the youngsters who have taken up this programme. Regular exercise is important at any age and sport is a great way to learn new skills, keep fit and make new friends.”

Tourism - What's That?

Floating around the Devon, “Riviera” at low level this morning, between Torquay and Dartmouth, gave me a chance to ponder on the differences between one side of England and another. To be honest, if I hadn’t known I was over Torbay, I could just have easily thought I was somewhere between Marseilles and Nice on a perfect Mediterranean day.

In contrast, Thanet on the way back this afternoon looked very flat but had a charm of its own, when seen from a distance. However, the two of us in the cockpit agreed that it lacks the “wow” factor of Devon or even Weymouth, once you get a little closer to the ground. This is probably because the coastline is delightful but the urban sprawl that backs on to it has very little character, isolated beauty spots surrounded by lots of houses competing for less and less space. In other words, our narrow coastline looks chronically overcrowded from the air.

It could be worse of course. Take Weston Supermare and even Littlesea, caravan city. Thousands of the things from the most modest “tow your own” to luxury living boxes fronting the seafront in huge parks as far as the eye can see. It’s one reason I’m very wary over caravan park growth in Thanet, as I’m only too well aware of how the scar some of Britain’s beauty spots under a dense covering of white PVC and concrete.

If you asked the people of Torquay what kind of tourists they wanted to attract to their town, they could probably tell you. It is after all, the home of Fawlty Towers; “no riff raff” as the great Basil once wrote. From the air, the busy hotels and seafront area are a testament to a tourist industry that knows what it wants. But what do we want here in Thanet, who do we want to attract to our towns and how do we want them to spend their money when they are here? This is I guess what the regeneration exercise for the island is all about and with it, big events like the air show and the power boat race but in between, how can the island raise its game I wonder and what picture pops into a visitors head when one says “Margate” ,”Broadstairs” or ”Ramsgate?”

Is it Dreamland, Bleak House, the Marina or is it a six-pack of Carlsberg XXX and a jet ski? What do you think?

Friday, June 09, 2006

World Cup Fever

Over Bury St Edmunds and much of Suffok today for the police, publicising their 'Operation Crackdown" and I thought we might join in with the manic World Cup spirit by flying two St George's flags from the aircraft. Unfortunately, the flags, designed for cars, weren't up to the job of dealing with an aircraft slipstream at 120mph and shredded themselves in-flight.

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time!

The News of the World decided not to position us over the Big Brother House tomorrow evening. originally, they had wanted a message with "England Won" on it but then they considered that England might not win, which would be waste of money, so another bright idea went out of the window.

World Title Recognition

Next Thursday, Thanet Council's Chairman, Cllr. Jeff Kirkpatrick, will be making a presentation to Takaloo in recognition of his World Title boxing win.

Originally from Iran but now a native of Margate, Merhud Takeloo took the WBU welterweight title at Belfast's King's Hall last month, beating Eamonn Magee.

The Guardian reports: “Magee demanded a rematch, claiming his opponent had not wanted a proper fight, but the counterpunching Irishman had few answers when it became apparent that Takaloo had no intention of playing into his hands with all-out aggression.”

“Takaloo said: "I was a WBU light-middleweight champion and when I lost my title there were plenty who thought that I was finished. I just wish that I had fought as a welterweight years ago. I feel as though I can move on from here to win a major world title."

Fishy Story

A delegation from the Korean Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries has visited Ramsgate's Royal Harbour to learn more about its fishing fleet.

The group was on a Europe wide fact finding mission on sea fishing and wanted to find out more about the history of fishing on the Kent coast.

During their visit to Ramsgate, they were able to talk to the Chairman of the local Fishermen's Association and see examples of the fishing fleet.

Ramsgate's Royal Harbour, which has been a major fishing harbour for more than 300 years, is now home to the biggest fishing fleet in the south east. Despite a general decline in the industry due to the reduction in fishing stocks and European fishing quotas, the number of boats operating from Ramsgate has increased in recent years, with a number of new fast inshore fishing vessels joining the fleet since 2000.

Ed: All the way from Korea to see Ramsgate! Given the decimation of the UK’s fishing industry thanks to Europe, I’m surprised that they came here rather than Bilbao or perhaps they decided to visit both, as Bilbao also has the Guggenheim museum.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Safe for Students - Maybe Not

Problems with the Web server today, means this story is up late.

All over the BBC news this evening, a seventeen year old German student seriously assaulted in Dane Park by our local yobs. Why, because he was German and its World Cup Week.

The poor boy reportedly spent a night in Margate hospital after being hit over the head with an iron bar and his English language teacher, interviewed on the news, says this kind of xenophobic attack is becoming increasingly common, with dozens of incidents of a similar nature over the last year that I have also catalogued on this weblog.

The police deny that they are not doing enough to prevent this kind of incident but let’s accept that it’s getting worse, doubling last year, if I remember correctly from the previous year. We have a problem and it’s going to cost our local economy money as sensible parents of foreign students choose to send their children to be educated somewhere safer. Would you send your child to study English in Margate? Possibly not and a great many of our hooded local teenagers have a standard of English which is below that of our foreign visitors anyway!

Incidentally, I note that the youth who was responsible for the violent assault on a man in Minnis Bay earlier in the year, and which left the victim in a critical condition – I’m sure you remember the story – has “walked.” Reportedly, he had “issues”, coming from a violent and abusive family background but he’s very sorry and “filled with remorse” over the incident. The fact that he and his gang were wandering Birchington, looking for another gang to fight with that evening did not appear to carry much weight with the court. The verdict: “You’re a very naughty boy and I hope you’ve learned your lesson. Don’t do it again”

Is it time that the police, the courts and our local authority woke up to the undeniable fact that we have in our midst, a serious problem of racism and street violence with a worryingly large minority of our young people in Thanet; creating an atmosphere which leads people to fear the potential for random and unprovoked assaults across the island.

Don't Inhale

Thanet Extra reports yet another cannabis farm has been uncovered in Ramsgate. Police made the discovery at a house in Grange Road following a tip-off.

A police spokesman said: "Officers searched the house on Wednesday and found a cannabis farm capable of growing between 500 and 600 cannabis plants.

"However the farm has been harvested and there are no plants in the house.

"Crime scene investigators are currently at the property searching for forensic evidence. Nobody has been arrested in connection with this farm."

Police say the latest find is not believed to be connected to the cannabis farm found in a warehouse at Whitehall Road at Ramsgate last month.

Thanet appears to be "The Place" to grow cannabis and of course cabbages too. But there's not much money in cabbages so some of our more enterprising residents are looking to develop their horticultural interests elsewhere. When the police let us know where and when they are going to burn it all, I'll let you know!

Dalby Square? - Ask Sandy

Another reader’s question answered this week by council leader Sandy Ezekiel. Please bear in mind that “Asking Sandy” doesn’t imply any political bias on my part but simply gives you an opportunity to direct questions to the very top of our local council. I’m grateful that Sandy is prepared to answer these regardless of whether we are happy or not with his replies.

Q. “Can you ask Sandy if it's true that after all the work the local residents have done to improve the environment in Dalby Square, does TDC still intend to sell it for development? Also is it true that TDC has a proposal for a housing development in Dane Park?”

A. “The answer to both these questions is essentially the same. The Council is currently putting together a strategy which looks at all the property and land owned by the Council. You may think that this isn’t a big job, but when you consider that the Council owns more than 400 properties, including places like industrial units, car parks, cafés, kiosks, sports and leisure facilities and fountains, you can see how it adds up.

The important thing is to ensure that the properties and land that the Council owns provide the maximum possible benefit to all of our residents. If we have places that are not being used to their full potential at the moment, then we have a duty to our taxpayers to think about how they should be used in the future and whether they should be sold, with the money we get in being used to provide better services and improved facilities. That’s in line with advice from the government.

Let’s just clear two things up. The site being talked about at Dane Park is the former nursery site, which has been used commercially for many years as a depot and is a brownfield site. Any proposals would relate to that site and not one inch of the park has been designated for any other use. The land in Dalby Square was identified for housing in 2002 by the previous administration in the emerging Local Plan.

As part of the strategy we are developing, both of these sites will be reviewed, along with all our other property and land. If sites are identified for possible sale, then rest assured, we will be consulting with people and taking their views into account. But let’s also remember, with increasing financial constraints on local authorities, we need to think carefully about the future of the Council’s assets and ensure that they are all being used to provide the maximum benefit to our whole community.”

Sealed

I’ve just come in from taking my kayak out for its first outing of the summer and I was both surprised and privileged to encounter a seal between St Mildred’s Bay and West Bay busily looking for his lunch during the high tide.

Inquisitive and friendly he kept swimming around my kayak, making it very difficult for me to catch a photo of him with the camera built in to my phone. Here’s my best shot and it’s a shame I couldn’t get a photo of him as he popped-up right behind me.

Every time I’d paddle to his new position he or she would wait a little and then duck dive away from me and pop up somewhere else, a game of tag it seemed to be enjoying.

This is wonderful news for our local marine life, that seals are now able to find food, I hope, so close to the bays and potentially the locals and tourists. I fear for them though with the growing jet-ski traffic during the summer months.

I did offer the seal an interview 'exclusive' on ThanetLife, an opportunity for it to present its views on tourism and the local marine environment but it declined and will be starting its own weblog in the not too distant future!