Monday, July 31, 2006

New Look for Margate Library

Plans for a major investment to modernise Margate Library and to deliver faster access to Thanet Council services have been approved by Thanet Council’s Cabinet.

The proposals would see a £600,000 investment in the Library, shared between Thanet District Council and Kent County Council, with a range of Thanet Council services transferring into the library building. These would include those currently based on the ground floor of the Council’s Cecil Street offices, including Environmental Services, Benefits and general enquiries and would, in the future, be available at one point of contact, instead of having to go to different desks for different services.

People would be helped by staff to use self-service kiosks and online services and would be able to browse the Library, while waiting to see officers, with private spaces available for private discussions. Under the plans, the refurbished Library and One Stop Shop could be open by the summer of 2007.

Building works are likely to take around four months and, during this time, the Library will relocate to the former Marks and Spencer building. The improvements will include fully accessible customer toilets with baby changing facilities and the creation of four interview rooms, which can be used by Thanet Council and library customers to meet privately with officers. The rooms will also be available for community use.

KCC Cabinet Member for Communities, Mike Hill said: “We have been making significant investment into Kent’s libraries to modernise and develop services for local communities which will meet demand by residents for easily accessible and wide-ranging facilities under one roof. Working with Thanet District Council, Margate Library will see a marked improvement for library services and the local people.”

Summer Slam

Premier League football comes to Margate this week, as Charlton Athletic stage a free event for young people.

The Summer Slam is taking place at Hartsdown Park, in association with Thanet Council, from 10 a.m. onwards on Thursday 3rd August and is part of the Engage programme of events for young people, put together by the Thanet Community Safety Partnership, with hundreds of activities on offer over the next few weeks.

The event is free of charge and includes an inflatable football pitch, five-a-side football, games and a range of giveaways and competitions to win Charlton Athletic tickets for next season.

Room for One More Inside

Today’s story in The Times might lead you to think of Thanet

The paper writes: “A huge rise in immigration from Eastern Europe next year could cause chaos in schools and hospitals and spark a public backlash, according to a leaked government report. It also gives warning that ministers may be forced to abandon their refusal to grant housing and welfare benefits, creating what it describes as an extra “pull factor”, attracting further immigrants.”

Is this alarmist in view of the previous numbers of welfare migrants who have been deposited on our shoreline over the last ten years or so and I include the gentleman I encountered swimming into Margate, fully clothed, a half mile offshore, three years ago.

What do you think? “Room for one more inside”, to use a well-worn expression.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

On the Beach

Six hours “behind the wheel” and having limped home with a dodgy starter from Devon, I can’t find the enthusiasm to write this evening.

Looking at the comments on Jetskis from yesterday, I think it’s high time the council took some kind of action, perhaps copying the Canterbury scheme as suggested. What is noticeable is the consensus that our seafront is not being properly policed in a manner which would anticipate and prevent anti-social behaviour of all kinds.

A question for my next “Ask Sandy” I think, unless you can come up with some more novel suggestions?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Margate Girl Found in Athens

The BBC reports that missing Margate teenager, Nataleigh Cross, has been found safe in Athens,
.
Kent Police made a public appeal after the 14-year-old vanished on 5 July, and was thought to be with Peter Willcox.

The pair became friends several years ago and Mr Willcox, a labourer, recently moved from Kent to a rented property in Cuenca, central Spain.

Police added the teenager will be flown home later and a 48-year-old man is in custody while inquiries continue.

Smokeless Fuel

A field was fiercely ablaze just short of Leeds castle in Kent this evening, with no sign of anyone in attendance we gave the police a call from the air and hopefully they'll tackle it before it runs out of control.



Back home and there's an email from one of our local readers I have every sympathy with. It concerns one of my favourite topics, Jetskis.

She writes:

"Do you know anything about the bye-laws concerning speed boats/jet skis?

I was under the impression that they could only be launched from Westbrook Bay. This afternoon there were four in St Mildred's Bay - two of which were launched from under the bridge at the end of Old Boundary Road. Although they were just outside the yellow bouys it really was only just and of course there were swimmers way out. They obviously drive at great speed and if one lost control there would be a major accident. One was towing two rubber dinghies with children in.

I was not the only person concerned - a mother was also querying this with the Lifeguard (a young lad who was not much help)."

Ironically, I was with a retired police officer today, who was one of the first on the scene of the last speedboat fatality, in St Mildred's Bay, when a teenager was hit by a boat that ran in among the bathers. He agrees with me and I suspect many others, that jetskis are now becoming a menace to bathers around our beaches and it's only a matter of time before someone is badly injured or worse by the same kind of reckless behaviour that we see on our roads being transferred to our inshore waters.

What, if anything, does our local council plan to do about this and in particular, prevent Jetskis launching from St Mildreds? Do something please before it's too late. It's no longer safe to swim outside the buoys.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Compulsory Purchase Action

Plans to take compulsory purchase action on an empty property in Cliftonville have been agreed by Thanet Council’s Cabinet.

The group of buildings at 12-15 Cliff Terrace, opposite the Lido, has former shop units on the ground floor with accommodation above them. They have been owned by the same person since the late 1940’s and have been empty for more than a decade. Cabinet Members were last night (Thursday 27 July) told that a feasibility study of the work needed was funded by Thanet Council in 1998 and the owner was given the opportunity to take advantage of substantial grant aid towards the required work, but he did not take up this option.

Since then, numerous meetings have been held with the owner and developers have expressed an interest in purchasing the properties, but no progress has been made.

In November 2005, the “No Use Empty” campaign was launched, building on Thanet Council’s Empty Property Strategy, which was adopted in 2003. The new campaign brings together Thanet, Dover, Shepway and Swale District Councils with Kent County Council and is funded by £5 million from central government to help bring forward compulsory purchase action.

Cllr. Ingrid Spencer, Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Services, said: “It’s thanks to the Council’s participation in the “No Use Empty” campaign that we are finally able to take action over this eyesore building that has blighted the area for so many years. This money allows Thanet, along with the other coastal areas, to tackle long term problems like 12 – 15 Cliff Terrace, where negotiations have produced no results. When we joined the campaign a few months ago, we asked our officers to find prime candidates for action and they put forward this property as their top priority for action and rightly so. For too long now, this building has been blighting the area. By taking this action, we should eventually be able to have a property to be proud of.”
The owner of the property is still able to carry out the required work or sell the building to a developer with an agreed programme of works, before the property is compulsorily purchased. Should the Compulsory Purchase Order go ahead, the Council would enter into a partnership agreement with a Registered Social Landlord, who would purchase and develop the property from the Council upon the completion of the Order. They would then return the property back into residential use.

Welcome to Thanet

I wondered what was going on at the layby on the St Nicholas roundabout when I passed-by this morning.

At around 9:40 a woman from Herne Bay gave birth to a baby girl on the way to the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother hospital.

It’s reported that her partner, who was driving, pulled over to the nearside lane at the St Nicholas at Wade roundabout on the Thanet Way and hailed a passing police patrol car.

The officers got the driver to pull off the road into the nearby truckstop and by the time the car had come to a halt, the baby had entered the world.

A police spokesman said: "The PC stayed on the radio and relayed advice to the mother while they waited for the ambulance to arrive."

Thursday, July 27, 2006

New Council Aggregation Web Site

Poor Thanet Council has attracted a critical news aggregation website – no not ‘aggravation’ - that you can use if you wish to avoid flicking through the many different Thanet Weblogs. I’ll add a link on the sidebar as well for you but it’s encouraging to see a portal that brings everything together, even if it bylined:

"Mission Statement: bring attention to bear on Thanet Council and to provide indipendant information on, and critical anaysis of, a council widely held to be the worst in the country in the hope of spuring some improvement. "

Not my spelling by the way!

Hooray Hooray It's a Turner Contemporary Day!

Hooray!

An “internationally recognised”, firm of architects has been appointed to develop the design for the landmark Turner Contemporary in Margate.

David Chipperfield Architects, from London, has been given the go-ahead to commence work on the new project.  – or white elephant, depending on your opinion -.

The new building is planned to be completed in 2009.

Thanet council leader Sandy Ezekiel said: “To see this project moving forward so quickly is excellent news for the regeneration of Margate. Turner Contemporary is key to our plans for the town and we are delighted that it remains on track for a delivery date of 2009.”

David Chipperfield Architects was established in 1984 and the practice currently has 130 staff at its offices in London and Berlin, with representative offices in Milan and Shanghai.

It has won over 20 national and international competitions and many international awards and citations for design excellence, including RIBA, RFAC and AIA awards, as well as the Andrea Palladio Prize.

Margate is the icing on the cake of a long and distinguished history!

Gale's View - The Navy is Here

Kent may no longer boast a working Royal Naval dockyard but the salt traditions still runs deep through the veins of the County. There will be many, including the families and friends of my own constituents serving on HMS Bulwark, who will have watched with the mixed emotions of sadness and pride the television reports of the evacuation of the British from Lebanon.

Sadness because their boys and girls had already been at sea for more than half a year and were on their way home when the call came and they were turned back on their errand of mercy. Pride, because those same boys and girls were doing what they were trained to do so well in the interests of our country and in the service of its citizens.

For most, our sailors and Royal Marines are visible on Navy Days and during goodwill visits to the seaside towns and ports with which they have formed associations. For the rest, the Senior Service is out at sea, out of sight and out of mind. To see the terrorised and traumatised families, refugees and innocent victims from a vicious and unnecessary war, enjoying the relative comfort and certain safety of the wardroom, and to know that sleepless sailors had turned over their cabins and their bunks to those in greater need, once again underscored the point that, when needed, our navy is still there. Just.

I flew, in May, to join HMS Bulwark off the coast of Oman. Following months on patrol in the Gulf in support of our troops in Iraq she was engaged in the interdiction of small craft plying between the coast of Pakistan and East Africa and carrying contraband fuel, drugs and, more sinisterly, likely "AQ" terrorists.

From Muscat she entered the Red Sea before travelling through Suez and into the Mediterranean on her way home. She was due to cross the Straits of Gibraltar when she was ordered back to Lebanon for the evacuation.

HMS Bulwark is one of our newest capital ships, launched in November 2001. An LPD (Landing Platform Dock), she has a crew of about 300 and an additional complement of 83 Royal Marine Commandos. She also carries a further 300 Marines together with Landing Craft, Tanks and helicopters. The men and women on board are amongst the most highly-trained and professional that it has been my privilege to meet and the ship punches way above her "general capability" fighting weight.

There is a dark side, also. HMS Bulwark was conceived during cold war days and designed for operations in Arctic waters. For the past many months her engineers have been battling to keep her cool and working in an intense heat with which her systems were never intended to cope. That they have done so successfully is I tribute to their skill rather than that of military planners.

Additionally., the treasury bean-counters stripped £10 million, and a complete deck, out of her construction costs. That deck happened to include full military hospital facilities (that might have been much-needed in Lebanon), accommodation and training facilities for the fighting men of the marines and, unbelievably, hangar space for the helicopters. (One, only, helo can be accommodated in a blow-up "bouncy castle" that has to be stowed every time an aircraft needs to take off!)

HMS Bulwark will, shortly, return to her home port and, I trust, a heroes welcome. Her crew will take a much needed break and the ship will go into re-fit. It would be good to think that a grateful nation will now make sure that she will, belatedly, be given the additional capabilities that she, and those who serve in her, need and so richly deserve.

Her Captain, Clive Johnstone, said to me this week, "You can be very proud of your ship". I am, and I want better for her.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Best Avoided

I drove over to Westwood Cross to buy some bits and pieces from Comet and Staples today and frustrated by the lunchtime traffic on an ordinary weekday, I have to say that plans to build one thousand more homes around Westwood strike me as absolutely insane.

Not that I’m alone in this opinion but will anyone who thinks it’s a good idea please tell us why it is and how the traffic problem will be solved. It’s going to be a congestion disaster for Thanet and common sense tells me that nothing less than teleportation is going to make travelling from Birchington to Ramsgate any easier than the notorious Wandsworth one-way system over the next ten years.

Two Men in Court on Rape Charges

More on the alleged sex-assault in Westbrook today. I had heard some of the details but without independent confirmation was unwilling to publish any more information, living as we do in a politically correct society.

Anyway, two men have now appeared in court accused of raping a 20-year-old local woman.

Osman Eltomme, 18, and Ahmed Ibrahim Mohamed, 30, were remanded in custody until Monday, August 7, by magistrates at Margate. Both live in the Canterbury Road.

Detectives are continuing to appeal for any information about the alleged incident.

They are particularly keen to speak to anyone who was approached by a group of men outside Escape nightclub on Margate seafront during the evening of Saturday, July 22, or early on Sunday, July 23.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Det Sgt Matt Banks at Margate police station on 01843 222195.

Missing Margate Girl Could be in Spain

The BBC reports that a missing 14-year-old girl from Margate is thought to be with a 48-year-old man, either in the UK or in Spain.

Nataleigh Cross, of Caroline Square, has been missing since 5 July.

Kent Police said it was now established that she had become friends with Peter Willcox, of Northdown Road, Margate, and also that her passport was missing.

A police spokesman said Mr Willcox, who has Spanish connections, could not be traced: "It is possible that they may be together abroad, possibly in Spain."

He said the force was liaising with Interpol and the Spanish Police.

Det Insp Dean Edwards said: "We would urge Nataleigh to get in contact with us as soon as possible.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Border Patrols Needed Says Roger

“The Country”, writes Thanet North MP, Roger Gale, needs "more than dockyard traffic wardens" if it is to get to grips with the problems of "porous borders.”

Challenging the Home Secretary following a ministerial statement on asylum and immigration the MP said:

"Those of us representing Kent coastal constituencies regard ourselves as in the front line of the effect of "porous borders". If the Home Secretary is going to convince not just the public but the professionals that he is going to create something rather more substantial that a team of dockyard traffic wardens then he is going to have to ensure that it is properly co-ordinated.  The British Transport police has the capability. Has he discussed with the Transport Secretary the possibility that the BTP will co-ordinate the policing of our frontiers and if not who is going to do it"?

"We are not just concerned about illegal immigration "said the MP after the statement "but about contraband, drugs, slave trading and people trafficking and the obvious threat from terrorism.  We don't just wasn’t a few new uniforms issued to a few people: this is a job that must be done immediately and it must be done properly by fully trained Frontier Police Officers with the right and adequate resources”

Arsonville South

Normally, Margate has the unfortunate “Arsonville” nickname but on Monday evening, a parked car was set alight in Chichester Road, Ramsgate.

Residents used an extinguisher to put out most of the fire inside the Fiat Punto and Ramsgate fire and rescue service made sure the car was safe.

A fire service spokesman said: "The seat of the fire was in the rear of the car and a window had been smashed. The fire is being treated as arson."

I’m just waiting for another big field blaze to happen. Do you remember the massive fire last summer towards Ramsgate?

Ambulanceman Attacked

Another ghastly indictment of local thuggery on Friday when an ambulanceman was attacked in the back of his own vehicle after being assaulted while on a 999 call.

Thanet Extra reports the victim and his colleague went to a house in Athelstan Road, Margate, in response to a call about a man needing medical assistance.

On arrival he was punched and kicked, causing bruising and a large cut inside his mouth. He was taken to the QEQM hospital at Margate.

An Ambulance Service Union spokesman said: “We are getting a lot of these instances at the moment. In London, the crews wear stab vests. Drugs and drink are the problem. At weekends, 80 per cent of our work is drink-related.”

Police have arrested a 43-year-old Margate man on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Arrests Over Canterbury Road Sex Assault

From Kent Online today, news that detectives investigating a serious sexual assault on a young woman have arrested four men.

Police officers were called at around 3.20am on Sunday to an address in the Canterbury Road, between Margate and Westgate, after a 20-year-old woman reported she had been attacked.

Inquiries have led to the arrest of four men aged 18, 22, 30 and 36. They are now in custody and are being questioned.

The woman who reported the assault is being supported by specially trained police officers and is assisting detectives with the investigation.

Det Chief Insp Lee Russell said: "Enquiries are continuing locally. We have additional police in the area where the attack took place supporting the neighbourhood officer and police community support officers.

"They are talking to people and are there to help anyone who has any concerns about what has happened."

Anyone who has any information about the assault is asked to contact officers Kent Police on 01843 222195. Alternatively contact Kent CrimeStoppers on 0800 555111.

Ed: I'll be interested to hear more about this story. Is it my imagination or are we seeing a steady rise in some of the nastier crimes taking place around Thanet?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Lord of the Flies

The mid-summer stench from Epple Bay is drifting on the wind as far as Westbrook as are the flies that accompany the annual rotting of the seaweed deposited by the current each year. How the residents put up with it I don’t know and perhaps they simply become used to the smell.


Birchington 2


I see the graffiti artists have been active all the way to Minnis Bay from Westbrook over the last week or so since my last ride along to Reculver. For them, “Keep Thanet Beautiful”, is something that concerns other people but certainly not one car load of visitors who I watched throw a bag with the remains of their lunch out on to the cliff-top road past the golf course at Westgate.

Evasive action was required on the narrow sea wall path that leads to Reculver. Twice in fact, as two kids on Mini-motorcycles hammered past me, touching at least 50mph I guessed, scattering the families on their afternoon walk as well. I watched one chap unload two quad bikes from his van in the car park behind the Minnis café, furtively scanning left and right before, his small son, in full body armour, was deposited in the cockpit of one, ready to launch himself with dad along the cliff top or the promenade and s**w anyone who might get in their way.

Call me cynical, but there’s a whole micro-culture out there who don’t give a damn about regulations concerning mini-motorbikes, quad-bikes or even jetskis once summer is in full swing. They’ll do what they like and you know what, they know that they can carry on with impunity because the chances of being stopped or even caught are virtually nil along our coast. Sure, these are not big crimes in the scheme of things but in the States, I recall that when I lived and worked there years ago, the small seaside towns had a zero tolerance approach to low-level anti-social behaviour because they knew that by coming down hard on small offences, they could invariably discourage anything more ambitious.

Anyway, some positive news is that Roger Gale, our Thanet North MP, has passed-on my concerns over the growing evidence of drug-taking at Westgate station to South Eastern Train and their Head of Security has written back and promised to step-up patrolling Westgate and other Thanet stations. One request to the public though, if you hear or see anything suspicious, please call British Transport Police at 0800 40 50 40 as “The more calls they receive, the more resources they will be able to allocate to the problem.”

Otherwise, it’s been another scorching weekend and looks as if it’s going to carry on for another week at least. Leaving aside the nuisance factor of a small minority, Thanet, while it might not be the Cote D’Azur, isn’t far off it in temperature and appearance and it certainly has more beach BBQ’s going at this time I’m sure!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Mega Schools for Thanet?

The question of even larger Thanet schools rumbles on. One of our regular readers writes in to add to the story and ask councillors what they make of it all:

“Just to keep you up to date and ahead of the Gazette, here is the latest from my mole at KCC. I would love to know what the councillors have to say about this!

The huge swathe of land in Pysons Road is all owned by KCC. The plan, to be complete by 2012, is that there will be four schools on the one giant site, with a joint usage central area.

Ellington and Clarendon will be built as twin (federated) schools (Girls), and Hereson and Chatham House will also have two new schools built as twin (federated) schools, (boys).

They will then have new facilities that all four campuses can share.

One must presume that the finance for this will come from the sale of the lucrative town school sites.”

Way to Go

I’m busy with work and a bit behind at the moment and so if you have any questions that you would like to contribute to the next, “Ask Sandy”, please add them here.

Looking at the drought from the air, I’m wondering how we can cope with the 1,000 new homes for Westwood Cross and the 1,000 or so more that are springing-up in people’s back gardens across Thanet. It’s a good time to be in the building trade without a doubt.

Earlier today, I took a retiring teacher from Reculver Primary School for a surprise ride with over the school. All the children and teachers were neatly arranged outside waving to him from the playing field and very touching it was too.

Bon Voyage!

Now You See Them - Now You Don't

Two caravans that were being used for anti-social behaviour on the Newington estate have been removed in a joint police and Council operation.

The action was taken under the new Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act, which allows the removal of abandoned, nuisance vehicles without notice, provided it can be proved that the vehicles don't have owners.

The caravans, which were unroadworthy, were being used by local teenagers to live in, with other youths gathering around the vehicles, drinking, harassing people and causing noise and disturbance until the early hours of the morning. Following the operation yesterday (Thursday 20 July), the caravans have now been sent away to be crushed.

Ward Councillors for Newington, Cllr. Richard Nicholson and Cllr. Mike Harrison, said: "The Council's Community Safety department have acted very quickly and promptly and have got rid of this terrible eyesore, which was blighting the whole area. Well done to all concerned."

The Westwood Thousand - Coming Soon!

Members of Thanet Council's Planning Committee are to visit the proposed site of 1,000 new homes at Westwood.

They were informed this week, of the early progress of a planning application that has been submitted for a 30 hectare site, along with supporting documents, which look at transport, environmental and design issues. As well as proposing 1,000 new homes, the application also includes plans for community facilities and a new link road, along with improvements to the existing road network.

Members were given details of the responses so far from both members of the public and organisations to the application, which include concerns about the road network, pollution, parking and whether the homes are needed.

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

"Over the last year or so, when we've had major planning applications like this come in, we've taken the opportunity to update Members of our Planning Committee at the earliest opportunity. This ensures that they are fully aware of exactly what is being proposed and what stage the Planning department is up to with the application. Having site visits before the Committee formally considers the applications also allows members to fully appreciate any comments that may be made by members of the public or Ward Councillors during the public speaking at the meeting."

It is envisaged that the application will be formally considered by the Planning Committee in August.

New Shop Window on Thanet

At last the 1990’s website has gone and Thanet Council has launched a more up-to-date and user friendly shop window.

The new site has an improved search function, an A - Z of Services and also offers comprehensive accessibility options, making it easier for everyone, including people with disabilities, to use. For the first time, users can visit http://www.thanet.gov.uk and search for events that are taking place in Thanet.

Links to different parts of the site are now listed on the front page of the website and by clicking on individual sections, you can see all the information included under each heading. These sections, say TDC, cover areas such as benefits, Council Tax and what to do in an emergency, issues that affect you and your life in the community, leisure and culture and information about the housing services on offer.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

It's Elvis

Elvis it appears is alive and well and somewhere over Farnborough.

I’m not joking. All this week on the way into the Farnborough air show, we keep hearing: “Farnborough this is Elvis” and it sounds just like the legendary crooner, with a deep- throated southern American accent. I try not to laugh and wisecrack back at air traffic control but they seem to be used to the presence of a phantom pop star over Surrey.

Actually, Elvis appears to be ‘parked’ above the air show from 12:00 on and I wonder if he’s in some kind of security or surveillance aircraft or helicopter. I listened in earlier today as a royal flight lifted out of Kensington Palace and shot across our nose en-route to the show, so it’s pretty busy over there. Watching the F18 do its aerobatics display from the air is something else.

Rochester has grown another elaborate crop circle opposite the M2 and I spotted three more brush fires today and an expensive-looking motor launch that had run aground in the channel mud flats between Sheppey and Faversham. I expect that he’s floated off by now.

Back in Thanet, we appear to have a hard core of vandals bent on defacing Broadstairs with graffiti. It’s hardly surprising when even a popular Sony Playstation games glorify this ugly scrawl as some kind of adolescent revolutionary art form – the subject of an earlier post on the subject a couple of months ago – It’s like violent Rap Music I suppose, I doubt that the wealthy producers of this and Playstation games that encourage anti-social behaviour, live anywhere near the neighbourhoods that suffer from their cynical exploitation of the young in the name of art or self expression.

Graffiti Plague Strikes Broadstairs

A one night graffiti spree in Broadstairs and St. Peter’s has left Council taxpayers with a bill of more than £1,200, less than 24 hours after Thanet Council’s graffiti hit squad cleaned both areas.

The spate included 14 sites in St. Peter’s, the seafront shelter opposite the lift on Broadstairs promenade, the Clocktower opposite Chandos Square and steps on the promenade. All were attacked between the early hours of Saturday morning and Sunday morning, after a hit squad was sent in on Friday to clear up graffiti from the previous weekend.

Some sites have now had graffiti sprayed on them three times in as many weeks and the estimated cost of graffiti removal since the start of the financial year is around £15,000.

Cllr. Roger Latchford, Cabinet Member for Commercial Services, said: “These vandals are costing us all a fortune. Leaving the graffiti is just not an option – it’s making the area look appalling and we are determined to restore pride in Thanet and make sure everyone remembers just how beautiful our area is. We can’t do that, while our buildings and surfaces are being attacked every week and covered in graffiti. We are doing everything that we can to catch these people, but we need the public’s help. If you see any graffiti being sprayed, then please call the police. It’s costing us all a fortune every year and we need to stop it.”

We Have Low Crime rates - Well Sort Of

The BBC reports that violent crime in Kent has risen by 16% over the past year, according to figures released by the government.

The rise is the biggest in the south east region and compares to a rise of 2% nationally. See Thanet.

Theft, criminal damage and car crime have also gone up, but Kent's crime rates are still among the lowest in England and Wales.

Dave Ainsworth, Assistant Chief Constable at Kent Police, said the rise was "disappointing".

There were a total of 147,112 crimes in the county over the past year - an increase of 10,672.

Ed: So while the nasty violent drunken stuff is on the increase other crimes – theft of garden gnomes etc – are low, which is nice!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dalby Square Project

A £300,000 community project in Cliftonville has been officially unveiled today.

The Dalby Square Project was first started by a group of residents in 2002, who wanted to regenerate the main part of their neighbourhood. After securing funding from the New Opportunities Fund, Living Spaces, Thanet Council, Sure Start and the Council’s Cliftonville West Renewal Area programme, the project developed plans for the main square, with help from Thanet Council, the Thanet Community Development Trust and Thanet Local Strategic Partnership.

Since January, the Council’s Regeneration team has been transforming the central area of the square from a mainly concrete area, interspersed with trees and large shrubs, to a tree lined avenue, with gravel pathways, seating areas, a range of colourful flowerbeds and a children’s play area aimed at under sevens.

Cllr. John Kirby, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Development Services, said: “This project has been a superb effort driven by local residents and one that the Council has been delighted to be involved with. This type of community project is a priority for the Council’s Cliftonville West Renewal Area team. They’re there to listen to what local people want and to try to help turn those ambitions into reality through help and advice and, where they can, by financial support. The difference in Dalby Square as a result of this scheme is striking and it’s an excellent example of a range of different organisations working in partnership together. This whole area is now somewhere that the entire community can use and enjoy and not only that, it’s made the square a far more attractive place to live.”

Hotter Than Cyprus

More brush fires breaking out between here and London and the temperature showing 41 Celsius at Brimpton airfield near Farnborough today.

I’ve attached a few photos taken above the airshow here. Spot the stealth fighter and of course the big A380 airbus for the aviation buffs among you. If not, then I’m too hot and bothered like everyone else to write much here today.

Stabbing Attack - Two Arrested

Thanet Extra reports that two people have been arrested in connection with a knife attack in St John's Church graveyard, Margate on June 23rd.

An 18-year-old a Sittingbourne man was stabbed in the side of his body and received smaller cuts to his face and legs.

A 22-year-old Margate man and a 16-year-old boy from Orpington boy were arrested on suspicion of wounding and attempted robbery and are helping police with their inquiries.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tinderbox

I’m seeing fires all over the country now, nature reserves (arson) woodlands and fields are going-up on a daily basis.

The Isle of Thanet Extra reports that fire-fighters successfully prevented a fire from spreading to a 60-acre field of dry standing corn at Shallows Road off St Peter’s Road in St Peter’s on Monday evening.

A spokesman said: "We had to get across a narrow bridge along a rickety farm track to reach the field. The fire was in a pile of dumped rubbish in grass next to the cornfield.

"We got to it with inches to spare - if the flames had caught the corn alight, it would have destroyed the field."

One near Rochester wasn’t so lucky.

Alien Visitors

If it's quiet here it's because I've been doing the Farnborough Airshow for the last two days. Here's a picture of the huge A380 airbus on the runway.

One of our readers asked for photos of the crop circles I spotted near Rochester, I found them again this afternoon, so here you are, an exclusive of sorts! I wonder why Thanet doesn't have any crop circles? Perhaps the aliens can't be bothered!




A New Identity

A curious tale today.

Found down the side of my hedge, a pile of letters addressed to a woman living in Westgate Bay Ave in Westgate. BT Bills, PAYE slips, NHS card application, Argos card application, I could go on.

Enough material to clone a person’s identity without too much trouble.

Something is going on and I had a word with the police, who have taken it seriously enough to give it a crime number.

My guess, for what it’s worth is identity theft, the fastest growing crime of the decade. This kind of thing is frequently serious and organised, so I wonder who might be behind it and why Westgate? Unless of course the woman in question has simply mislaid all her most valuable items of post. Any guesses.

Dreamland - A Different Angle

Here’s an interesting angle on the Dreamland regeneration story from Thanet District Council:

Pupils from three schools in Margate have presented their own ideas for the future of Dreamland.

Officers from Thanet Council were asked by Kent County Council Education if they would help organise an end of term project for year six pupils, who would be moving to secondary school in September. They wanted to do a topical subject that was of interest to the local community and asked if they could do a project on the future of Dreamland. The pupils were given an introduction to Dreamland by Council Officers and visited parts of the Dreamland site and Arlington Square early in July, then went away to formulate their ideas.  

Pupils from Palm Bay, Holy Trinity and St. Gregory’s presented to the Leader of Thanet Council, Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel and the Mayor of Margate, Cllr. Doug Clark, with ideas including an ice rink, swimming pool, water rides, a go kart track, graffiti wall, spa or paintballing – with the children even suggesting discounts for stag parties! These ideas will be taken into account in future considerations for the site.

Leader of Thanet Council, Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel, said: “It was obvious that the children had worked really hard on their ideas and they had put together some excellent and very creative presentations. It was so useful to hear their thoughts on the future of Dreamland and what they would like to see there. There were certainly some new ideas put forward today and some very creative ones and I’d like to thank the youngsters for taking the time and trouble to do this. The Mayor of Margate and I found the presentations thoroughly enjoyable and I am sure that the children learnt a great deal from this worthwhile project.”

Ed: Yes but will anything actually happen on the site as a result of such new ideas?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Crop Circle Mystery

Flying home today from the annual TUC rally at Tolpuddle in Dorset, where we were displaying a banner for one of the big unions, we saw something interesting but before that, a little reminder of what the rally celebrates.

The six Tolpuddle Martyrs were all farm labourers, paid 9 shillings a week and lived in dreadful poverty. Their leader George Loveless, decided to set up a Union in Tolpuddle to give the labourers bargaining strength.

In 1834 James Frampton, a local landowner, wrote to the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, to complain about the union, invoking an obscure law from 1797 prohibiting people from swearing oaths to each other, which the Friendly Society had done. James Brine, James Hammett, George Loveless, George's brother James Loveless, George's brother in-law Thomas Standfield, and Thomas' son John Standfield were arrested, found guilty, and transported to Australia.

Avoiding a similar fate, on the way home, I commented to my colleague that I hadn’t seen any crop circles this year. “Neither have I”, he said. Not more than five minutes later we spotted two of them just south of Rochester. One a large and highly elaborate triangle and circle design and the other, a series of interlocking circles of larger sizes in an adjacent field.

The alien authors had, I assume had landed at Rochester during the night and were leaving a message or perhaps coded directions to the Kent Show at Detling.

Dream On - A Little Longer


According to a report in Kent On Sunday this morning, Essex leisure park entrepreneur, Philip Miller, say's he'll buy Dreamland for £3.5 million. He is also quoted as saying: "There's nothing happening about it at the moment,it's not up to me."

Another false alarm story I fear

UK - Violent Crime Continues to Rise

As if we hadn’t noticed in Thanet, from a string of violent assaults and muggings over the last twelve months, Home Secretary, John Reid's efforts to turn around the embattled Home Office will be dealt a major blow this week by figures revealing a surge in muggings and other robberies over the last year, suggesting police forces are struggling to control street crime.

Read the story in The Observer on Sunday

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Kent Show Time

Judging by what my family bought back from the Kent Show at Detling today, the event certainly appears to offer great value and an equally good day out.

I couldn’t make it with several flying jobs to do today as far west as Minehead but I buzzed over the top of it on the way home and there’s a lot going on from what I could see.

Earlier, on the way back from Dunkeswell in Devon, I had wondered what the huge pall of smoke, almost like a volcanic eruption, was in front of me to the East. It turned out to be a brush fire at Hankley Common near Farnbourgh which has been burning for two days now and flames could clearly be seen through the thick pall of smoke that was blanketing the south of the country as far as Winchester. We’re lucky here that the wind is blowing in the opposite direction.

Violent Attack in Cliftonville

More violence in the news, with the BBC reporting that a man suffered serious injuries during an attack in.Surrey Road, Cliftonville, just after midnight.

Kent Police said the 20-year-old victim was recovering from his injuries at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate.

A spokesman for the force said the man's injuries were not thought to be life-threatening.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Almost Exclusive

Reader “Chaz” sent in this note today:

“DrM, the front page of the ‘Gazunder’ today is' Will our schools ever be the same?', detailing the major review of Thanet’s Secondary schools. "

"The joke is they call it ‘Another Gazette Exclusive’ where the article basically mirrors the one you ran in May under the blog heading ' All change for Thanet’s Schools'. "

"Some exclusive seeing they are two months behind the 'Life'.”

Ed: Dear Chaz, I’m sure it’s simply a retrospective exclusive, even a coincidence. News travels slowly in Margate.

Throw Away the Key

It was almost inevitable, I thought, the 93-year-old lady mugged so callously in Margate a week ago, has died in hospital.

Ethel Pym suffered a broken leg when she had her handbag snatched at the junction of College Road and Upper Dane Road in Margate.

Colin McCurry, 31, of Appledore Close, Margate, was arrested on the day of the robbery.

He has appeared before magistrates charged with robbery. He was remanded in custody and was due to appear at Canterbury Crown Court on Friday.

A post mortem examination has been carried out but police say the results will not be known for several weeks.

I’m sure that we all share the same feelings of revulsion over this incident and would like to offer our condolences to any family that Ethel left behind.

Gale's View - A Different View of Hoodies

The overall response to Conservative leader, David Cameron’s new policy on “Hoodies” has not been universally positive and Thanet North MP, Roger Gale, has taken some criticism for his support of Mr Cameron.

In his Gale’s View for today, Roger explains why we need to take a different view of a problem, that I am sure, concerns the majority of people in Thanet..

“They fought on the beaches of East Kent.  Throughout the early sixties gangs of Mods and Rockers gathered on the sands fuelled by alcohol and hatred and hell-bent on murder and sudden death.  It was not a pretty or an acceptable sight, it terrorised innocent and law abiding citizens and visitors and it rightly attracted condemnation in press and parliament.

It would not have been right, though, to condemn every wearer of the "drapes and drains"  that preceded them, every buttoned-down scooter rider and every leather-clad biker as a public enemy.  As always, the hooligan minority tarred, and continues to tar, a fun-seeking and innocent majority with the same brush.

I have not, in the past, always agreed with Mr. David Cameron and I do not doubt that we shall have to agree to disagree over certain issues in the future.  I do, though, believe that he is right to speak out in defence of the lawful wearing of the hooded sweatshirt.

In post-war memory, from the Teddy Boys, through Mods and Rockers, the Hippies and flower-power seeking wearers of Kaftans and Loons and beads, we have rebelled against "authority" - which has tended to mean anything that our parents wore and believed in! I don't doubt that pre-war families had as much difficulty throughout the "Roaring Twenties" and some of Shakespeare's teenage tearaways suggest that this particular diversion goes back quite a long way!

The sad and significant fact is that a very few anti-social louts, tanked up on lager and testosterone and sometimes drugs as well can breed fear and loathing in a normally tolerant and properly liberal society.

Foul language, graffiti, violence, criminality are unacceptable at any time and at any age in any generation and the book needs to be thrown now, as it has been in the past, at the perpetrators.  I think, particularly, of one local oaf who left one of my constituents, making his peaceful way home, in a coma and was left to walk the streets by a politically-correct set of guidelines from the Lord Chancellor's department).

As we also know, though, and as is born out annually by the growing number of nominations for the TryAngle Awards scheme, most young people enjoy life to the full, play music and sport, contribute to the community and want to work hard and to make a success of their young lives.

David Cameron has rightly identified a disadvantaged and disillusion minority that do require the kind of additional challenge, encouragement and support that is offered by organisations such as Fairbridge in Kent, The Weston Spirit, Toynbee Hall, Operation Raleigh and they Duke of Edinburgh's award scheme.

Instead of wringing our hands, blaming the police and other authorities for their failure and banning "hoodies" from out-of-town shopping malls we might just be better off investing a little more time and money in offering disciplined alternatives to vandalism. Some form of "national service" surely has a great deal to offer and the return on such an investment might surprise us all.”

Summer Hols Activities for Kids

With the schools starting to break-up for the summer holidays today, a booklet, listing more than 300 activities and events for young people during the summer holidays, is being sent out to secondary schools and other organisations across Thanet.

The activities are all taking place under the Engage banner, which has been established by the Engaging Youth Forum, part of the Thanet Community Safety Partnership, which works to make Thanet a safer place to live, work and visit.

The programme of events has been designed to give young people a range of things to do over the summer, helping to keep them out of trouble, and has also been designed in response to local peoples’ views who wanted to see more activities for teenagers. The activities in the Engage programme are provided by a range of different organisations, including Thanet Council, Kent Youth Services, Pie Factory Music, Sport 4 NRG, Hang 10, Pipeline and the Thanet Coast Project.

  • Amongst the activities planned for this summer are:

  • Sports activities, including cricket, rugby, basketball, ten pin bowling, football  

  • Seashore safaris around the area’s coastline

  • An inter-estate mixed football tournament in Newington

  • Carnival workshops

  • Music workshops, including African drumming, guitar lessons, DJ-ing and making and playing instruments

  • Beginners music workshop at the Broadstairs Folk Week

  • Football with Charlton Athletic at the Summer Slam in Hartsdown Park

  • A range of sports activities for those with disabilities, put on by TADSAD

  • Theatre summer schools at Theatre Royal

  • Lark in the Park, offering ten days of family fun at Government Acre in Ramsgate.

Cllr. Ingrid Spencer, Cabinet Member for Housing and Community, said: “We’ve listened to what people have told us. They wanted to see more activities for teenagers and that’s exactly what we’re delivering this summer. There’s a superb line up of activities over the next few weeks. Whether your interest is in sports, music, the coastline or theatre, there’s something for everyone during the school holidays. There should be no excuse for being bored with the varied programme that Engage has on offer for young people. And it couldn’t be easier to find out more – with information available at every secondary school and online.”

A website http://www.engage.eu.comwww.engage.eu.com%20has been set up to promote all the activities that will be available this summer. If any organisation that works with young people would like a copy of the leaflet, please contact the Thanet Community Safety Partnership on 01843 577 647.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Keep it Clean

I noticed a three piece suite dumped beside the road opposite the Westgate golf course on Sea road early this morning. Out of sight, out of mind for someone I suppose!

Meanwhile, a major clear up project is underway to rid a Cliftonville alleyway of dumped rubbish, weeds and graffiti.

The week long clean up, in the alleyway between Athelstan Road and Ethelbert Road, is being carried out by the Clean Kent campaign. This is an initiative which involves both Thanet Council and Kent County Council.

The scheme is part of ongoing work in the Cliftonville West Renewal Area, which has already seen a number of a number of alleyways in the area cleared up and then gated to stop any further rubbish being dumped there. The “alley-gating” schemes are run in conjunction with local residents and anyone living in the Cliftonville West area can approach the Council's Renewal Area team to ask for their help with a particular alleyway.

Residents in Cliftonville West who want to report an alleyway that needs clearing up or who want to discuss the idea of putting gates into an alleyway near their home can contact the Council's Renewal Area team on 01843 577 407 or by e-mailing mailto:housingrenewalarea@thanet.gov.uk

All About Roads - Ask Sandy?

In this week’s “Ask Sandy”, I decided to raise the traffic question. Let’s face it, Thanet traffic is awful and getting worse, it seems each month. What plans are there to deal with a problem which is causing misery in certain key “choke-points” across the island?

Q: “The rise in the number of cars on Thanet's roads is immediately obvious to local residents. Several areas of the island are very difficult to negotiate at peak times and the recent incident on the Monkton roundabout involving an overturned chemical lorry, demonstrated the vulnerability of our local roads system to any major obstruction which either cuts off any of the routes from the St Nicholas roundabout.”

“How are we going to manage the road traffic problem given the predicted rise in population density over the next decade?”

A:”One important thing to remember is that any rise in the number of cars on Thanet’s roads is actually good news for the area. As the area becomes more prosperous, so car ownership rises. Let’s not forget that, as that’s actually a positive sign for our area’s economy.

I think we also need to be realistic. Yes, being an island we have limited capacity here. Yes, there is congestion, but generally it only affects certain areas at certain times of the day. A major cause of this is the school run and we are working with Kent County Council to address this, by promoting School Travel Plans and Walking Buses.

All planning applications with the potential to generate additional traffic are carefully assessed to gauge their impact on both the local and wider area. For larger developments we require developers to submit and implement "green travel plans" showing how they propose to reduce car travel to and from their development and encourage walking, cycling and public transport.

As car owners, we all need to accept that if we want to continue driving, then journey times will inevitably be longer than they were five years ago and will continue to rise as car ownership increases. But let’s not forget that there are alternatives to using the car – and those alternatives have improved in Thanet dramatically in the last couple of years. The Thanet Loop and Thanet Stars bus services have helped to greatly increase bus usage and a recent study has shown that there is already a shift away from the car to the bus.

Our Thanet Cycling Plan and the Thanet Walking Strategy "Feet First" both aim to encourage cycling and walking as an alternative to the car and funding has been identified from the Local Transport Plan to start implementing the cycling and walking networks and we will also be looking for contributions to these initiatives from developers.

Let’s be clear that building new roads is not the only answer to the problem. It’s also about traffic management – that’s why this administration replaced the dreaded Clock tower lights in Margate with a roundabout.

That’s also why we are aiming to put new developments close to existing facilities, which is why the proposed Westwood housing development is being planned for a location that’s already close to shops and why we are looking for other community facilities to be located there.  Those who are concerned about the development at Westwood can see that we are actively producing plans in conjunction with the private sector that involve new road schemes. “

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Blogger Problems

There appears to be a problem publishing this evening. I assume it’s with “Blogger.com” and so if you can’t see the usual template please be patient and we’ll see if they have managed to fix whatever the problems is by Thursday lunchtime.

Another Local Sniper

We have yet another Ramsgate “sniper”, with a Thanet Extra report that a man has been shot in the head with an air-rifle pellet.

Gary Milton, 53, was at home when he was struck on the temple by the pellet, believed to have been fired from a rifle.

Gary said: "An inch lower and it would have been my eye. I can’t believe it. I was sitting there having my dinner and I’m shot by some punk kid."

He was left with a small hole in his temple and blood running down his face.

Gary and his family were eating at their home in Vine Close, Ramsgate, at 6.30pm on Saturday, when the incident happened.

The houses back onto fields where police told Gary the farmer had given permission to a group of youths to go shooting.

Gary added: "There’s no way that it was an accident."

Police confirmed they spoke to a group of youths who were shooting in a nearby field with permission.

Is That Norfolk Virginia or Norwich?

Kent Online reports that weekly flights between Manston and Norfolk Virginia, will take off next spring in time for the 400th anniversary celebrations of the first settlement.

Aviation and council chiefs have confirmed the direct service between Norfolk International Airport and Kent International Airport, Manston.

Weekly charter flights will be operated by Bromley-based independent tour company Cosmos and its sister airline Monarch.

Start-up costs of at least £800,000 will be shared between Norfolk International (£400,000) and a group of Kent partners.

They include Kent County Council, SEEDA, Infratil Airports Europe (owner of Kent International), Kent Attractions, East Kent Partnership, Thanet District Council, Canterbury City Council and Gravesham Borough Council.

Kent County Council is injecting £150,000 in the project, with a further £250,000 coming from the other Kent partners.

Tudor House Opens

The Tudor house in Margate, thought to be one of the oldest of its kind in Kent, will be opening its doors to the public on selected dates during the summer season.

Situated in Margate’s King Street, it was built in the early 16th century during the reign of King Henry VIII and is typical of many houses of that period. It’s believed that the Tudor House would have been one of the largest buildings in Thanet and would probably have belonged to a wealthy farmer or brewer.

The oldest deed can be traced back to 1802, when the Tudor House was a farmhouse owned by Francis Cobb. In 1815, the building was converted into three cottages and the lower part of the exterior of the Tudor House was plastered over, while inside the oak panelling was covered with wallpaper and the beams were plastered over.

During the Second World War, the roof was damaged and vibration from bombs led to it tilting forwards. In 1951, restoration work started to return the house to its former glory, when the panelling was completely restored and the windows and doorframes were re-situated.

Now, thanks to a partnership between Thanet Council, who own the building, and the East Kent Maritime Trust, who are providing the resource to open the Tudor House, local residents and visitors can see inside the Tudor House on one Saturday each month and every Friday throughout the summer holidays.

Cllr. Roger Latchford, Cabinet Member for Commercial Services, said: “This is an excellent opportunity for both local residents and visitors to come and see a piece of history. The Tudor House allows us to step back in time nearly five hundred years and see how homes at that time would have been built. I’m delighted that this will be open during the summer and I hope people will take the opportunity to come and have a look at this unique building.”

He added: “This has been a partnership with the East Kent Maritime Trust, who are totally reliant on volunteers to open these facilities to the public. The re-opening of the Tudor House has been made possible thanks to the volunteers who already help the Trust, but they still desperately more people to come forward to pledge their help to open up Thanet’s historic sites to the general public.”

Admission to the Tudor House is free. It will be open to the public one Saturday each month from 10.00 – 3.30 on the following dates - Saturday 15 July, Saturday 12 August and Saturday 30 September and no booking is required for these dates. Visits to the Tudor House can also be pre-booked on Fridays during the summer holidays, between 28 July – 1 September and bookings can be made on 01843 290 399. Group visits by schools, clubs and organisations can be arranged year round by contacting Margate Museum on 01843 231 213.


Elizabethan House

Pool of Confusion

Cllr Clive Hart writes:

"Please tell your readers not to be concerned by new signs erected last week on each arm of the seawater pool at Walpole Bay in Cliftonville, which confused local residents, and tourists alike. They are completely wrong.

The signs that were erected at the pool during the hottest week of the year clearly state that it is now a boating pool and that swimming is no longer allowed. I investigated and found that lifeguards were unaware of any change of use and the pool was most certainly part of the area they patrol.

On further investigation I also discovered that the signs were actually meant for the boating pool in Margate.

Not bad. Four signs to fit. Two in one location and two in another. 50/50 chance and TDC got it totally wrong! "

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Vandals Strike Broadstairs

Vandals have caused hundreds of pounds worth of damage to the seafront area of Broadstairs.

Both the ladies and men’s toilets at the Broadstairs Clocktower were targeted, with all the toilet seats ripped out. Two door panels in the men’s toilets have also been kicked in and this is the third time in just 10 days that the toilet seats have been ripped out.

Elsewhere in the area, the Council’s Environmental Action Programme, removed graffiti from the walls of the shelter, opposite the lift on Friday, but just 24 hours later, more graffiti had been put on the shelter and this will again be removed by the Council. New lights, which were put up in the shelter, were smashed the next day.

Cllr. Roger Latchford, Cabinet Member for Commercial Services, said: “It’s a real shame to see the damage that a mindless minority is causing to our area. It’s also going to start having an impact on the vast majority of law abiding residents and visitors, as the Council doesn’t have limitless funds to put towards fixing and repairing this appalling vandalism. Toilets and shelters are intended for everyone to use, but instead we’re getting to the stage where they’re being put out of use on a regular basis. This can’t go on indefinitely.”

A Little Assistance

Thanet has been put on the Assisted Area Status map for the next seven years, which will help Thanet to access different types of financial support.  

Under new Regional Aid guidelines produced by the EU, just 23.9% of the UK’s population will be covered by Assisted Area Status from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2013. Currently, just over 30% of the UK population is covered by this status, which makes firms in these areas eligible for certain forms of large scale investment.

The only other area in the south east that to be awarded this status is the Sandwich ward of Dover. The chosen areas are those identified by the government as having higher levels of deprivation, but also those which offer development opportunities for large companies, who can benefit from the status.

Leader of Thanet Council, Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel, said: “This is excellent news for the area, particularly as the government has recognised Thanet as an area of opportunity for large companies. This round of Assisted Area Status has been more competitive than ever before, because of the expansion of the EU, which has seen a redistribution of aid to newer and poorer Member States and has also seen other parts of the UK lose out. Despite this, Thanet has been able to maintain this support – something that the Council has lobbied hard to ensure happens. This has been a real team effort between the Council, our officers and both of the area’s MP’s, all of whom have worked together to get the right result for the area.”

He added: “Over the last few years, Assisted Area Status has opened up funding opportunities for many businesses in Thanet and has also helped to attract inward investment into the area. With the announcement that the District is to retain this support for the next seven years, we look forward to seeing business growth and investment continue in Thanet, which can only bring positive benefits for our area’s economy and our residents.”

Opportunity Lost

An opportunity lost a couple of hours ago. Messrs Blair, Darling and Milliband were in a speedboat visiting the windmill farm opposite Herne Bay and I had just cycled over there along the sea wall.

With a little more warning, I could have got to the airfield and put-up a “Free Thanet” banner or perhaps a more interesting message to the Prime Minister. Better still, he was in an inflatable RIB and I have a large hook that swings from the back of the aircraft to catch banners and quite possibly, the occasional Prime Minister too. – Dream on!

Monday, July 10, 2006

100% Proof or Just Tired

One of our readers has sent in an action photo of young "drunks" in action at the Thanet Bowls club, he writes. Mind you, this could be a spurious allegation and the teenagers in question may simply be very tired. Note the boy slumped in the far right hand corner under the tree.

A second reader has sent in a link from "The Orlando Sentinel" newspaper, which commenting on Zero Tolerance and the "Broken Windows" theory of policing, writes:

"The policy stems from the so-called "broken windows" theory, which suggests that a broken window of an abandoned building leads to the decay of a neighborhood and, ultimately, to more serious crimes." It adds: ""If you don't respond to those street-corner offenses," he said, "then the neighborhood has no confidence in the police."

Finally, there's something very wrong, I suspect, taking place at Westgate station in the evenings and you don't have to be Inspector Morse to work out what it is.

Waiting for my train yesterday, I was astonished by the density of disposable BIC lighters on the track (to Victoria), a big increase on the last time I was there a couple of weeks ago.

We also have bits of wire large rocks and other detritus, aimed, I assume at the live rail and discarded pieces of silver foil. Add the BIC lighters to the silver foil and what class A substance might you associatewith the two? And I forgot to mention, the shelter has been smashed too.

Perhaps we could learn something here in Thanet from the police initiative taking place in Orlando.

Carry On Conscription

Following on from this weekend’s posts on the subject of “hugging hoodies”, it appears that the majority of Britons want National Service to be reintroduced, a survey shows.
About 69 per cent think that compulsory military service would curb the country's growing yob culture and cut crime.

The survey, by GfK Media, found that 65 per cent of adults think National Service should be used to reduce overcrowding in prisons.

National Service ran from 1945 to 1963, with 2.5 million young men conscripted.

As you can see from the photo, Nigeria appears to have a working solution to the hoodie problem and are keen to share it with David Cameron.

St Peters - A Short History

The BBC website has a special interactive feature on St Peter’s village in Broadstairs today.

“This busy village is steeped in history with a smuggling background! Many local homes have caves and passages, some of which may have once led all the way to the sea at Broadstairs. “

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Gale on Hoodies

Chairman of the TryAngle (youth) Awards foundation, Thanet North MP Roger Gale has been quick to endorse party leader, David Cameron’s line on "hoodies".

The MP, whose pre-parliamentary professional career as a television producer/director included the award-nominated "White Light" teenage magazine programmes for Thames television said in his constituency today:

"To judge a generation by its tribal clothing is ridiculous. Condemning everyone who chooses to wear a hooded sweatshirt makes no more sense that to condemn every Teddy Boy, every Mod, every Hippie or, indeed, anyone else who has worn a "social uniform" such as a city suit!

Young people rebel. That is in their nature. The Try Angle Awards scheme *  was established to recognise the fact that for every young anti-social yob that hits the headlines there are thousands getting on with enjoying their lives and making a significant contribution to society and determined to succeed - whether they wear hoodies or not.

Society should have no time for those very few who regard it as their right to make the lives of others a misery but we also need to recognise that it is right to offer young people a challenge and channels for their energies. That is why the work of organisations such as Fairbridge, The Weston Spirit, Toynbee Hall and Operation Raleigh and the Duke of Edinburgh`s Award Scheme are all so important".

The MP also added a note of caution to his support.

"We must" he said "make it abundantly plain that anti-social behaviour, graffiti, violence, drugs and alcohol-related crime have no place in our society.  Coupled with encouragement for, particularly, the disadvantaged young in our communities there has to be a very clear message that the criminal justice system will take a very robust line with those who believe that they can get away with anything."

Homes Abroad?

A number of people in Thanet seem to have holiday homes abroad; it's a popular here as anywhere else as a way of escaping the winter weather.

Be warned however. That serious and very organised gang of criminals, otherwise known as HM Revenue & Customs wants their "cut" and if you have an overseas holiday home or second property that you rent out, the taxman could soon be turning his attention to your affairs.

An investigation by Revenue & Customs into Britons with bank accounts abroad has been launched as part of a wider drive against tax evasion and money laundering. Anyone with a separate overseas account linked to one in the UK is likely to have the details passed on to the taxman by the host British bank.

In May this year, the Revenue won a key ruling that forced Barclays to reveal the identities of all its UK customers with accounts abroad, to see if they have been complying with UK tax regulations.

It estimates that many have not.

The Revenue's best guess is that as many as a fifth of Barclays customers with offshore accounts may not be complying, and it expects to recoup up to £1.5bn as a result of the probe.

Ed: To help Customs officers combat money laundering they have trained sniffer dogs to sniff out cash! They are, apparently, operating at major railway stations and on the London underground. If the dogs sniff out some money the person carrying it is pulled in and asked to explain why he is carrying so much cash around with him.

If you regularly move large sums of cash around in the UK don’t be surprised if you are pulled over and asked to explain why you are carrying large sums of cash. You should carry proof of identity and be able to give an explanation of why you are carrying cash to prevent the inconvenience of a trip to the police station.

"No Arrests Were Made"

Before I look at The Observer newspaper this morning, a catalogue of crime and horror recording a single week in lawless Britain, in the Sunday Telegraph, leaves me wondering how on earth society can control what is clearly out of control.

By the way, the national ID card scheme looks to be as dead as Monty Python's Parrot or at least we're expecting an announcement this week. I took some part in the campaign against this £19 billion attempt to do the impossible with IT and every credit goes to Simon Davies at the LSE for the remarkable work that he put in to forensically destroying the government's weak argument.

Meanwhile, Conservative leader, David Cameron is encouraging us to "Hug a Hoodie." It's a bit deeper than that but let me see you and your Parliamentary colleagues team doing it and I'm sure we'll all be happy to follow

Sunday Telegraph story, read on.

Heir Apparent?

Remember that little bet I made several months back?

The Telegraph this morning seems to be on the same tracks:

“Tony Blair is hatching an extraordinary plot to replace John Prescott as Deputy Prime Minister with his "favourite son", David Miliband. The plan, being drawn up by loyal Blairites, will be brought into action if the beleaguered Mr Prescott is forced to resign over the next few weeks.”

Local Wish List

Having a chat with my neighbours yesterday, it occurred to me that simple things can be done by the council without great effort or expense to improve the surrounding quality of life. Give that local councillors and local government officers regularly, “dip-in” to the website, why not suggest three “wishes” for things that could be sensibly improved within walking distance of your own home.

Here’s my local three:

1. Turn Beach Road and Boundary Road in Westgate back into the one-way system it once was. With the Nottingham Castle pub busy to all hours, traffic pressure on to the beach car park and more cars than ever before, these very narrow roads, which don’t have room for cars to pass each other, need to go back into what they once were. The one-way system was seasonal when I was younger and then someone at TDC seemed to have forgotten about one summer and we’ve been left with the chaos ever since. Can we have it back please?

2. Place a speed camera on Westgate Bay Avenue as it becomes Westbrook Avenue or at least some form of traffic calming. I hate speed cameras but the road is now becoming potentially lethal as more and more traffic, including trucks uses it. At night, it becomes a juvenile race track, as does the Royal Esplanade.

3. More visibility of Community or Police Officers on the seafront during the summer and especially warm weekends. What about a bicycle patrol that takes them between the bays on the promenade on the sunnier days – didn’t we have one once? - There’s too much ground to travel on foot and when I was young at least, our local beat “copper” on a bicycle acted as a form of deterrent to anti-social behaviour.

What’s on your wish list?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Much too Much

Can anyone explain why £18 million of the BBC license fee; more than the total license fee for every household in Thanet, should be spent on a three year deal for presenter Jonathan Ross, who is apparently, “Good value for money.”

In addition, BBC chiefs have received record rises in a £3.7 million deal, despite presiding over falling audience figures and thousands of redundancies.

BBC income from licence fee payers topped £3 billion for the first time this year. A television licence costs £131.50 and the corporation has asked for a 2.3 per cent rise above inflation, which could result in viewers paying £180 by 2013.

White Cliffs

Remaining briefly on the subject of alcohol and now cigarettes, you may be pleased to hear that the UK has lost its right to stop its citizens filling up white vans with enough “personal use” items to last a forty a day man – lager or fags – for six months.

By the way if you are caught speeding in France this summer, you could have your car impounded under a French government campaign to stop foreign motorists breaking the law.

Under the measures approved by the French Cabinet this week, police will be given the power to detain vehicles until on-the-spot-fines of up to €375 (£260) are paid. The worst offenders will be prevented from using their cars until a French judge rules that they can do so.

Perhaps we’re lucky that France is just a little too far for a jet ski towing a floating trailer but I notice that Little Britain star, David Walliams had a very successful “wet run” this week and became one of the fiftieth fastest swimmers to swim the channel, deserving enormous respect in the process. Towing one hundred cans of lager behind him on a lilo, he’s still paddling home as I write.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Stop Selling Booze to Kids

Back from a cycle ride from Westgate to Minnis Bay along the promenade – it’s after 6pm – and I would like to know who is selling lager to under age kids in the area.

Of late, I’ve noticed “hotspots” of young teenage drinkers (13+ boys and girls) in St Mildred’s Bay, West Bay and Minnis Bay. Fosters is the drink of choice and one group, last month, had about thirty cans of the stuff.

I like a cold Fosters – the amber nectar – like the next man but I draw the line at encouraging children to start drinking it. Councillors, you need to start asking questions, particularly in Westgate ad Birchington, over which Off License may be selling the stuff and to whom.

Thanks to the relaxation of the licensing laws, we’re starting to witness an alcohol crisis in our society and anyone with modest powers of observation will have noticed the difference between last year and this year.

Ed: Here's a thought, as raised by one of our readers. Are the Off Licenses being intimidated into selling to these kids. i.e. their fear of the consequences of saying "No" to groups of teenagers may be greater than their fear of the legal consequences of breaking the law on under-age alcohol sales. What do you think?

Concern Over Missing Girl

Police are asking for the public's help in tracing a 14-year-old girl who has been missing since Wednesday.

Nataleigh Cross left her home in Margate with a friend at 8pm but has failed to return.

Officers say they are concerned for her welfare.

She is white, about 5ft tall, of slim build, with blue eyes and light-brown, shoulder-length hair.

When she was last seen Nataleigh was wearing black trousers, a black shirt, white and pink trainers and carrying a purple bag.

If anyone has seen Nataleigh or knows of her whereabouts they are asked to contact police on 01843 231055.

Ask Sandy About Dreamland

One of our readers asked that I “Ask Sandy” Ezekiel about the viability of Dreamland, the local plan and council policy for the amusement park and here is his answer.

"Given the Local Plan was moving close to adoption, we wanted to take this opportunity to examine the policy for Dreamland and put an appropriate policy in place. Not to have addressed the issue in the final version of the Local Plan would have been simply avoiding the issue and could have caused greater concern and misunderstanding in the future.

"The position is that the owners have to clearly demonstrate that whole or part of the site is not viable as an amusement park, before any other development can proceed. To date, we, as a Council, have met with two interested parties, one wanting five acres, but they were not prepared to put forward any capital costs, this would have fallen on the previous owner of Dreamland. This Council has had several meetings with Mr. P. Miller, who is also interested in the site and would need between seven and a half and eleven acres to ensure a first class family amusement park. We are currently facilitating meetings between the new owners of Dreamland, Margate Regeneration Company, and Mr. P. Miller. But let's remember that there is only so much that the Council can do on this issue. These are two private companies talking about a private piece of land to which the Council has no jurisdiction."

Help Protect Thanet' Seals

Editor's note. Jetski's are now such a menace that for the first time in my life, I daren't venture outside the protection of the yellow buoys in St Mildred's Bay. Since I was seventeen, I've swum between the two bays - without seeing any seals until last month - but it's now far too dangerous. Incidentally our postman, Jason tells me he saw a seal while fishing from the promenade in Cliftonville this week. There are obviously more of them around.

The Thanet Coast Project is warning that the one of the biggest seal colonies in the south east of England is in danger of being broken up, if they continue to be disrupted by people.

It comes after reports that the seal colony off the Thanet coastline are suffering from increased disturbance from a range of boats which get too close to them. In recent weeks, this has included problems with RIB’s, catamarans, speedboats and jetskis.

The Thanet Coast Project, which developed the ground breaking Thanet Coastal Codes in conjunction with local people and stakeholders, is now working on an additional code on marine wildlife watching with local marine wildlife watching operators. It advises people to keep their distance and never go closer than 100 metres to seals or cetaceans, as they are easily scared. It also suggests that people should maintain a steady and slow direction and not chase or harass wildlife and avoid getting close to groups which contain mothers and their young. Rubbish should always be taken home and never disposed of at sea.

Tony Child, Project Manager of the Thanet Coast Project, said: “One of the south east’s largest seal colonies is under threat and all because people just don’t realise that a few simple changes to the way they act could make a world of difference. That was the whole idea behind the Thanet Coastal Codes when they were put together by those who use the coastline for both leisure and work. These voluntary codes encourage people to use our coastline responsibly and safely, while respecting the unique wildlife that lives there.”

He added: “Already this year there have been more reports of disturbance to the seal colony than in the whole of last year. That level of disturbance needs to be reduced dramatically, if we are to keep these magnificent animals off our coastline. That’s why we’re drafting an these guidelines to help avoid unintentional harm to marine wildlife and promote responsible wildlife watching at sea. We understand that people want to see the seals, but if you do, please use an organised wildlife excursion, such as Wildlife Sailings, Windrider RIBS from Ramsgate Harbour and the Sandwich Riverbus. That minimises disruption to our wildlife and yet still allows us to enjoy them in their natural settings.”

These marine guidelines complement the Thanet Coastal Codes. Full details of the Codes can be found at www.thanetcoast.org.uk .

1) The Thanet coast together with Pegwell Bay are internationally important asset for wintering birds and the marine life associated with chalk cliffs, caves, reefs, and sand dunes. They form part of various nature and geology designations collectively known as the ‘North East Kent European marine sites’. The Thanet Coast Project was established in 2001 to help co-ordinate priority action arising from the numerous wildlife ideas put forward in the Management Scheme for the marine sites and raise awareness of the importance of the Thanet coastline and wildlife.

2) A number of wildlife excursions operate around the North East Kent area, including the Sandwich Riverbus www.sandwichriverbus.co.uk/ 07958 376183; Wildlife Sailing www.wildlifesailing.com 01227 366712 and the newly formed Windrider www.windrider-rib.com 07931 744788 which operates out from Ramsgate harbour.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

First Choice Rule Dropped for Thanet Schools

The BBC reports that all schools in Kent and several in Thanet will now adopt the "equal preference" system. Earlier this year, like many parents, I received a survey which asked me whether I considered the “First choice” system to be fair or not.

Now, Secondary schools in Kent have been told they can no longer give preference for places to pupils who put them down as their first choice.

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator ruled 29 schools must drop the "first preference first" rule from 2007/08.

Read the full story.

Casino Royale

As a matter of interest, how many readers are comfortable with the idea of John Prescott being left in charge of the country when Tony Blair goes on his annual holiday in a couple of weeks?

Given his statements of the last 24-hours, Prescott may have been thinking of the words of Winston Churchill: “Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed.”

Let The Punishment Fit the Crime

31-year Colin McCurry, of Appledore Close, Margate has been charged with robbing a 93-year-old woman in Margate yesterday afternoon. He is due to appear before magistrates in Margate today.

The elderly victim was in College Road shortly before 2pm when her bag was stolen.

She suffered a broken leg, cut head and an injured hand in the attack. She is being treated at the town’s Queen Mother Hospital.

This is not a teenager charged with such an abhorrent crime, it’s a grown man, who if found guilty, can’t realistically claim “issues”, I would have thought. Let’s see if he receives a custodial sentence or a “telling-off”. I for one would like to see the person responsible for such a crime locked away and breaking rocks with a large sledgehammer for a very long time but something tells me that this won’t happen in a society where convicted murderers are “lost” to the probation service after being released in as little as five years of a life sentence.

Light Rain

We may have missed the thunderstorms yesterday but other parts of the South-east weren’t so lucky.

The Times newspaper reports: “That hailstorms and squally winds were part of overnight storms in France that had made their way to southern England. They were most intense in London and the South East.  With up to 75mm (3in) of rain falling in the South, the Met Office gave warning of possible disruptions to electricity supplies and damage from hailstones and winds.”

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Comments Glitch

There appears to be a “Glitch” with comments this evening. They may show “One Comment” but in fact there are more hidden behind and you need to open them and “Post a new comment” to read all the others.

This is nothing to do with moderation, it just seems to be a Blogger error, so I’ll republish the website and hope that it corrects itself before bedtime.

93 and Mugged - Only in Margate

A 93-year-old woman suffered a broken leg and cuts to her head and a finger today as she was robbed of her handbag in the street.

The woman was taken to hospital after the incident which happened at about 2pm in College Road, Margate.

Police say members of the public chased a man to an address in Margate. A 31-year-old suspect was later assisting detectives with their enquiries at Margate Police Station.

Police say the handbag has been recovered.

Anyone who witnessed the incident is asked to contact Det Sgt Claire Munday at Margate police station on 01843 222192. (ref 05-0716/0714).

Beware of the Dog

Its ironic how one group of people religiously clean up after their dogs on the beach and a second group of pet owners don’t.  The council appears intent on clamping down on canine crime in this release:

One of Thanet Council's watchdog bodies has been looking at how the Council deals with problems caused by dogs.   The Finance, Best Value and Performance Review Panel heard last night (Tuesday 4 July) that last year the Council dealt with more than 700 cases involving problems with dogs.

The biggest two areas were noise nuisance and stray dogs, which are picked up by the Council's team of Community Safety Wardens and are returned to their owners, if they can be identified. The owner will be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice of £25 if this happens. If the owner cannot be found, the dog will be taken to kennels.  

Other issues tackled by the Council include dog fouling, with the Community Safety Wardens issuing 17 Fixed Penalty Notices in the last financial year. This will become a major focus as part of the Thanet is Beautiful campaign, which is due to be launched later this month (July).  

Most of these cases are dealt with, in the first instance, by the Council's Community Safety Wardens, with support from Environmental Health Officers, if abatement notices and prosecution is necessary.   Cllr. Jill Kirby, Chairman of the Finance, Best Value and Performance Review Panel, said: "We know from the feedback from the Community Matters panel, made up of local residents, that many people have experienced problems with issues like dog fouling and that they want us to take strong action on this subject.

This Panel is here to look at the way services are provided and how they are performing and make suggestions for future improvements. Because problems with dogs are a major concern to local people, we want to ensure that our residents are getting the most effective service possible."

Turn on the Lights

Very dark out towards London this afternoon. I was headed for Dunkeswell in deepest Devon but didn't get any further than Rochester when the lights went out and the rain started.

Whether the predicted storms will touch us here in Thanet I don't know but somewhere is going to get very wet in the next few hours. we'll still have a drought though!

Devolution and Democracy

Why should Scottish MPs be able to vote on schools or hospitals in England when English MPs cannot do the same for Scotland? - Tam Dalyell MP, arguing against devolution for Scotland:

How do you feel about restricting the vote of Scottish MPs to Scottish issues, Welsh to Welsh issues and the English, let’s not forget them to English legislation?

Presently, the fuss is all about Labour using its “Foreign” MPs to ram through its Parliamentary programme, while MPs with English constituencies are denied the opportunity to vote on what happens north of the border.

Now, we used to have something called a “Union of Great Britain” where everyone voted as part of a great Parliamentary democracy. Then we had devolution or what author Peter Hitchin called” The abolition of Britain” in his book which set out to describe how one particular political party planned to change the boundaries and regulations governing our democracy to ensure that once they were in power, it would be very difficult to vote them out.

Jonathan Friedland, in the Guardian, believes that David Cameron’s plans to introduce a kind of voting parity between MPs would be the death of our Parliament, “The four nations of the union, separately writing their own laws, would eventually go their own ways. The union would break up.”

Is the present system fair? What do you think?

It's a Train - It's a Train!

Electrostar Services have been restored on the 06.46 Broadstairs/Cannon Street and the 17.30 Cannon Street Services.

The move, by Southeastern trains, has come in the wake of complaints from Thanet and Herne Bay commuters about the re-introduction of unsuitable Networker rolling stock lacking in disabled access, through corridors and air conditioning.

These complaints led to a meeting, at the House of Commons, between North Thanet/Herne Bay MP, Roger Gale and Southeastern`s MD, Charles Horton.

Following the meeting Charles Horton agreed to a timetable to review to reassess how best the available more modern Electrostars might be deployed.

Then, in a letter to the MP, Mr. Horton said:

"the further changes that we are making represent a better overall use of the rolling stock that we have available to us" and added that because of previous commissioning policies the new train operator had been left with insufficient Electrostars to operate every Kent Coast service.

"I am, on behalf of my constituents, hugely grateful for the constructive approach taken by Charles Horton and Southeastern" says Roger Gale.  "It takes a big man and a big company to be prepared to take another look at a decision in this way and Southeastern have done that with positive results.  With new rolling stock on order and the advent of the CTRL domestic services and a new timetable in 2009 I hope that we are - literally - now on track for a service designed to meet the needs of our commuters and other rail travellers"