Monday, 22 September 2014

Grant Who a CPO for Manston Airport?


So the best Iris Johnston and Roger Gale could do to save Manston Airport was to invite Grant Shapps MP to Thanet for a couple of hours. Not a  “proper”  Government minister with an aviation or regeneration portfolio; nor an influential  heavyweight in  the corridors of power at Westminster; Shapps is the  Tory Party Chairman. A  post generally occupied by failed Tory wannabes who  didn’t have the talent to make it to the top table,  or for those politicians who have seen better days and who are being gently eased out of their senior responsibilities and retired from the A team.

Ever Get the Feeling You've Been Cheated?
But its not the fact that a political nobody turned up at Manston Airport last week, but that
this nobody said nothing, which should be of concern. His 2 minute speech was full of   gushing hyperbole, yet Shapps failed to give a commitment that his Government would support  Thanet Council’s moves to compulsorily  purchase the airport site. In fact he didn’t  mention the CPO once. And sadly the short film of Shapps meaningless rhetorical flannel illustrates, through the applause he received, that it is indeed possible for politicians to fool most the people most of the time.

Because  just like Thanet Labour who are cynically manipulating the Manston CPO to gain votes in 2015, here  was the Chairman of the Tory Party,  whose job it is to manage the Tory general election campaign,  doing exactly the same thing  in order to shore up  support against the UKIP onslaught in Thanet in 2015.  The spectacle of Johnston and Shapps shoulder to shoulder at Manston was nothing less than a shameful circus sideshow of  rank political opportunism by politicians from the 2 old fashioned  parties who are underwear soilingly fearful of the future.


Should You
 
 Trust Her??
The real truth is that both Labour and the Tories know damn well  that securing a CPO on the airport will be an incredibly expensive and high risk long shot with no guarantee of success. They know that there  is nothing they could do to prevent would be investor RiverOak, or any other investment partner, from acting in precisely the same way as Anne Gloag if they got their hands on the airport lands. They know that the  best brains in the aviation business; the cleverest airport consultants; the most well-informed aeronautical strategists have,  through expensive  hands-on experience and rigorous market evaluation, all  concluded that Manston Airport does not have a long-term sustainable future.  Shapps and Jonhnston know this too but have chosen instead to opt for political expediency and deceit instead of being honest and open with the people.

To mislead and to give publically funded false hope  in order to protect your political party's arse  is manipulation and cynicism of the first order, which in my opinion verges  on the immoral, if not possibly the downright criminal. Yet  this is precisely what the  Labour and Tory parties,  through the personages of Shapps and Johnston, appear to be doing.  I make this allegation  because whilst espousing the Save Manston mantra and leading the  CPO battle cry the Labour and Tory parties  have been formulating policies based upon having no airport at Manston for at least a year  before Anne Gloag owned the site and long before she announced it was going to close!  Here’s the evidence of the deceitful game played by old fashioned  Labour and Tory politicians.    

First, in December 2013, 4 months before the airport closure was announced by Anne Gloag, the Kent and Medway Economic Partnership (KMEP), a secretive organisation made up of Kent’s Council Leaders (including Clive Hart and more recently Iris Johnston)  and senior Kent  businessmen, including several developers builders and financiers, published a document called “Unlocking the Potential; Going the Growth - Kent and Medway’s Growth Plan: Opportunities, challenges and solutions”. This 71 page document contains lots of interesting ideas for  improving the economic fortunes of Kent, many of which I agree with. But most intriguingly it includes  a list of 32 locations in Kent where plans for economic and population growth will be located.

This list of 32 includes “Manston/ Thanet Central Island” where, according to the document, there is a large supply of commercial and residential land available. However  the viability of this land, so the report argues,  needs to be improved by public sector intervention including the speeding up of the HS1 rail-link to London, the development of Thanet Parkway Station and support by the Council of large housing projects such the East Kent Opportunities development at New Haine Road which was recently subject to a planning appeal,  and the forthcoming Manston Green development which comes before TDC Planning Committee shortly, and which is  situated extremely close to the airport runway. It may well be that discussions, earlier this year,  about building 1000 houses on the airport’s northern grassland are not unrelated to the KMEEPs document as well. But quite clearly the direction of travel of this document is for a major commercial, industrial and residential development in the Manston/ Thanet Central Island area which could  not realistically be accomplished with a  commercial airport operating in the middle of the same location.

KMEEP’s  large, well-researched, comprehensive document  must have taken many months to prepare. There would have been extensive discussions between senior politicians and council officers such as Thanet ‘s then Labour leader Clive Hart and, currently indisposed,  Chief Executive Sue McGongigal. There must have been detailed discussions with the developers, financiers and builders from  KMEEP who’s ears must have been become erect in anticipation of the exciting  and profitable opportunities coming their way. There must also have been plenty of unofficial discussions with the owners of the rolling acres of real estate in Manston / Thanet Central Island area, including Infratil, the largest landowner of them all,  to help formulate, facilitate and shape the KMEEP policy document. This process most have taken at least year or longer before the December 2013 document was finally published.

So as early as 2012 senior politicians, council officers and businessmen were already actively discussing and planning for the  Manston/ Thanet Central Island area to become  a major  centre for residential, commercial and industrial growth  without the need for an airport. Although of course no-one was stupid enough to say this out loud, it’s not inconceivable that Infratil, a company with close associations with Anne Gloag’s Stagecoach, or perhaps a politician or maybe a council officer,  may have possibly briefed Gloag about KMEEPs  emerging plans for the Manston/ Thanet Central Island area and how massively  lucrative these plans could be for her if she bought the airport from Infratil and  then closed it down. But of course this purely conjecture on my part.

Speculation aside, KMEEPs  plans for major, commercial, industrial and residential growth in the Manston/ Thanet Central Island area were eventually  fed into the South East England Local Economic Partnership’s (SEELEP), bid for the Government’s Growth Fund in early 2014. The SEELEP  bid document “Growth Deal and Strategic Economic Plan”,  was submitted shortly after Ann Gloag began the  consultation on the future  of Manston Airport , yet even  though the airport was  not formally closed,  the  document appeared to describe  a future without it.

The document pointed out that “the area around Manston and Discovery Park contains extensive land suitable for residential and  employment use, and is well connected by new infrastructure”. In order to open-up this land, and make it more attractive for developers, the document  requested the Government to

·       provide “£3.5 million Local Growth Fund finance to support commercial development at Manston and Discovery Park

·       invest “in Thanet Parkway station as a priority to reinforce the success of Discovery Park and support investment at Manston”

·       invest  in the Westwood Relief Strategy, eliminating a major bottleneck impacting on residential, employment and commercial growth in Thanet Central Island.

 
So, well over a year before  there was  any mention of the airport closing  and shortly after Gloag opened the closure consultation, senior  Conservative and Labour  politicians of the 12 Kent District Councils; Medway Council;  Kent County Council Leader Paul Carter;   and the developers, builders and financiers who together make up the secretive KMEP and SEELEP network (about which I will write separately in the near future) had already decided that the future of the so-called  Manston/ Thanet Central Island area would be  a large commercial, industrial and residential area with no room for an airport.  Indeed the closure of Manston was  manna for the planners, allowing them to develop grander more extensive strategies for the rural open spaces of Thanet than the inconvenient  presence of an airport would otherwise have allowed for.

And therein  lies the jaw-dropping hypocrisy and deceit of Thanet’s Labour and Tory Parties. Because the political bosses of these parties and senior council officers, knew damn well that significant and extremely serious plans were  emerging within the KMEP and SEELEP network to transform Manston and Thanet Central Island into a major commercial, industrial and residential centre with no airport. But instead of telling the truth and being honest with residents they gambled on no-one knowing about the secret machinations of these shadowy bodies and instead chose a path of deceit, dishonesty and political corruption over the fate of the airport.

So where does this take us? Well I think the big question is how will this game play out. My guess is that that the last thing the local Tory  and Labour parties want is to be caught with their knickers down and be exposed for their deceit before the 2015 election. What they have probably done is use their influence with Ann Gloag to ask that she holds back her planning applications for the airport until after  the election has taken place, with the promise that her plans will be  fast tracked and expedited for being patient. The “nobody saying nothing”,  Grant Shapps, may also be persuaded to use what little influence he wields with Government grandees to hold back the announcement extending the Discovery Park Enterprise Zone to Thanet. That way nobody will sniff out the  rat-like stench associated with the double game being played by our politicians. In the meantime RiverOak or whoever becomes TDC CPO partner, will be played for a fool, at great public expense, by Thanet Council who will delay and drag out the legal process until after the election, when of course support for this solution will collapse in face of Gloags plans and Thanet’s  new Enterprise Zone status.

Alternatively  it may be possible that  I have credited Thanet Council and its  politicians with too much intelligence and cunning to have planned such a Machiavellian course of action. In which case Gloags plans for the airport, the intentions of KMEEP and SEELEP for Manston, the announcement of the Enterprise Zone extension and the collapse of the CPO may, bit by bit, become known before the election takes place. Indeed this appears to be happening already. The Government announced in July  £10 million in principle funding for the Parkway station even though they knew that Manston  airport had been  closed. The controversial East Kent Opportunities planning application for 550 houses at New Haine Road is in Secretary States, Eric Pickles, in tray for decision shortly. The 850 house planning application for the Manston Green development will be discussed by  TDC planning committee in October or November. And any day now I am expecting to hear about plans for  the development of a major logistic centre, depot  and vehicle repair hub for  east-Kent  monopoly transport outfit Stagecoach buses in one of the hangars at Manston. Which of course will create hundreds of new jobs, and enjoy the benefit of zero business rates when the Discovery Park Enterprise Zone is  expanded north-eastwards into Thanet. And perhaps 1000 houses on the northern grassland might be thrown in for good measure.
Either way there is no doubt in my mind that the 2 old fashioned parties, Labour and Tory, have cynically manipulated and deceived the people of Thanet about saving the airport and securing a CPO for political gain. When this stinking , politically corrupt game became evident to me is when I stopped arguing for the CPO and began calling for a public discussion on Plan B for Manston. Because whether you agree with my politics or not I believe above all else that public affairs should managed in an open and transparent way.

As one my heroes Johnny Rotten once said “ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated”.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Thanet Labour Hopelessly Split and Deceitful Over Maston CPO


Thanet South  Green Party Parliamentary Candidate , Ian Driver, claims that TDCs ruling Labour group are “hopelessly split and acting deceitfully” over plans  to secure a Compulsory  Purchase Order (CPO) for the recently closed Manston Airport.


Jawdropping Deceit


Driver made his claim after  receiving copies of secret  Labour Party  e-mails (published below) which show  sharp differences  between senior Thanet  Labour Councillors about the CPO.  In an e-mail  to Council Leader, Iris Johnston, former Deputy Leader, Allan Poole, criticises her public support for the CPO saying   "the CPO will lose us the election as opposed to opposing night flights last time winning us the election. There is more than enough evidence already to show the airport is not viable and the CPO proposal is merely 'show boating'........it will 'bite us on the butt' if we don't start being honest with the voters".
In reply to Poole, Johnston appears to say that her commitment to the CPO is not as genuine as her high profile public statements on this matter suggest "I am afraid you are the only person who is consistently saying I am in favour of CPO's! I was never happy with any I have ever seen before including Dreamland. They are fraught with difficulties".
Poole replies "Sorry to contradict you Iris but I distinctly remember at the Group Meeting before the last Cabinet Meeting you said you were in favour of the Manston CPO and seemed very happy wearing a SMA T-shirt...And Peter (Campbell) got rather cross with you".
The communications also reveal that Cabinet member Mike Harrison, was extremely critical of No Night Flight campaigners who oppose the CPO saying "they are really not representative of our electorate, especially in Ramsgate. They are basically a rabble using intimidation to get their views across......their arguments are emotional and simply do not hold water. The NNF  leadership, in the main, are not Thanet voters and certainly have their own agenda."
Driver has pointed to comments made by Cabinet Member David Green on social media saying that  “TDC will not agree to any solution to the airport that is detrimental to Ramsgate's environment”, and “in my opinion an airport CPO is not economically viable” as further evidence  of division amongst Labour Councillors.  He also  highlighted  Labour controlled Ramsgate Town Council’s condemnation of  “proposals for the development of Manston Airport into a major freight hub”;  and Labour Chief Whip, Steve Alexandrou’s  letter to the Thanet Gazette saying that he will not vote for a CPO, as proof that Thanet Labour Party is at war with itself over Manston Airport and the CPO.
Said Driver “Council Leader Iris Johnston has shamefully misled and deceived residents  into believing that Thanet Labour Councillors were united in supporting a CPO for Manston Airport, when she knew this was not true and that many of her councillors opposed it. This was a cynical political manoeuvre by Johnston aimed at securing votes for Labour in the 2015 elections. To deceive the public like this is unforgivable. But it’s now likely to blow up in her face”.
“I understand that several of the newly selected  Labour candidates for the 2015 Council elections are  very much opposed to the CPO and are asking questions about how much  the Council is spending on this process. I also understand from reliable sources that investment company RiverOak who are rumoured to have been selected  as the Council’s CPO Partner and who are likely to meeting Iris Johnston soon, are worried about doing business with a Council whose leadership is split on supporting the CPO. Quite naturally, an investment company like RiverOak would be worried about doing a potentially expensive  deal  with a partner who has deep internal divisions. If I was in this position I would walk away from the deal rather than risk my money. Personally I believe that the CPO game is well and truly  over. Johnston has been exposed by her own people for political game playing. She has lost credibility with the public, her own party members and probably with RiverOak, if indeed they are the  CPO partner. The funding, several months ago,  of the Parkway station as a rail link to support housing and employment, rather than an airport also suggests to me that the South East England Local Economic Partnership has given up the ghost on Manstom. If this is true then it must be game over for Manston”.
“Thanet Green Party has been arguing for a while that the CPO would not succeed and the evidence appears  to confirm our view.. We have been saying that’s it’s  time to start  talking about Plan B and the alternative uses  of the site.  From a Green prospective we are opposed to large scale housing developments on the former airport site. There is  sufficient  previously used land and long term empty residential property within Thanet’s urban boundaries to meet most of our housing need. We would be  supportive of leisure, health, education and employment based developments provided that they have small carbon footprints, are sustainable, environmentally friendly and create well rewarded jobs. We would also wish to explore using some of the land for the generation of renewable energy, growing crops and providing a habitat for our wild animals and plants. We also believe that the Council should launch an extensive public consultation with residents about future uses for the airport site and we support the opening of dialogue with the airport owner, Anne Gloag, about future use of the site”.
 
The e-mails
Dear John
Add more humour please the CPO JOKE is running thin

Peter C

> On 10 Aug 2014, at 16:22, cllr-John Worrow
<cllr-John.Worrow@THANET.GOV.UK> wrote:
>
> I respect everyone's views; however, the outcome is in the hands of the gods now.> FARAGE is our real problem, NOT the airport (or possibly personal differences?) We all have views, and by the nature of politics someone will always be offended by our views.

> I actually think you have all made some very good points... (I'm am tempted to add a bit of humour, but I won't in case it offends someone) time for good thoughts darlings!
>
> John xxx
>
> On 10 Aug 2014, at 15:42, "cllr-Steve Alexandrou"
<cllr-Steve.Alexandrou@THANET.GOV.UKcllr-Steve.Alexandrou@THANET.GOV


.UK>> wrote:
>
> No airport equals no night flights, equals no manifesto commitment to support something which does not exist, you move on.
 
> On 10 Aug 2014, at 14:55, "cllr-Iris Johnston"
<cllr-Iris.Johnston@THANET.GOV.UKcllr-Iris.Johnston@THANET.GOV.UK>>
wrote:
>
> No Alan I mentioned our manifesto commitment to 'support the airport but not night flights'. Support the airport means to look at all options and one they are exhausted move on!

> On 10 Aug 2014, at 14:49, "Alan Poole"
<poole@btinternet.compoole@btinternet.com
>> wrote:
>
> Hi Iris,
> Sorry to contradict you Iris but I distinctly remember at the Group Meeting before the last Cabinet Meeting you said you were in favour of the Manston CPO and seemed very happy wearing a SMA T-shirt...And Peter got rather cross with you.....
>
> Alan

> On 10 Aug 2014, at 14:30, cllr-Iris Johnston
<cllr-Iris.Johnston@THANET.GOV.UKcllr-Iris.Johnston@THANET.GOV.UK
>>
wrote:
>
> Alan,
> I am afraid you are the only person who is consistently saying I am in favour of CPO's! I was never happy with any I have ever seen before including Dreamland. They are fraught with difficulties and it seems no matter how often I say it you miss the point,
>
> We must consider all options for Manston and also await Sir Howard Davies updated report and the Select Committees smaller airport deliberations, Cabinet ,are with group support , following the usual processes on the petition for a CPO and bond scheme. We have made it clear we cannot do either on our own.
>
> I wish you had attended the public meeting at the Marlowe where my support for the airport was clear but where I reiterated the problems of a CPO yet again.
>
> A CPO is only possible if we have strict guarantees and a massive amount of money banked that supports a probable twenty year plan.
>
> I also reminded those present I was opposed to night flights and the Liberal candidate asked for a show of hands that was overwhelmingly in support of them  24/7.
>
> Now let's all enjoy the sunshine and check if there is any sewage on the
beaches,
>
> Regards,
>
> Iris
> Sent from my iPad
>
> On 10 Aug 2014, at 14:06, "Alan Poole"
<poole@btinternet.compoole@btinternet.com>> wrote:
>
> Hi Mike,
> The difference this time is the CPO will lose us the election as opposed to opposing night flights last time winning us the election.....
> There is more than enough evidence already to show the airport is not viable and the CPO proposal is merely 'show boating'........it will 'bite us on the butt' if we don't start being honest with the voters.
Alan
 
> On 10 Aug 2014, at 12:02, cllr-Mike Harrison
<cllr-Mike.Harrison@THANET.GOV.UKcllr-Mike.Harrison@THANET.GOV.UK>>
wrote:
>
> I could of course write that "
> The  NNF may be (or maybe not) a properly constituted group but they are really not representative of our electorate, especially in Ramsgate. They are basically a rabble using intimidation to get their views across......their arguments are emotional and simply do not hold water. The NNF  leadership, in the main, are not Thanet voters and certainly have their own agenda"
>
> I for one will not decide on whether or not to support a CPO until we have all the facts, legal advice and other information. I would like to think that comrades would do the same and not base their decision on emotion or perceived threats from pressure groups.
> Mike Harrison.
> Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Operational Services.
 
 
 
 

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Manston Airport CPO - Labour's Deceitful Smoke and Mirrors

So Thanet Council’s Labour Leader, Iris Johnston, and her cabinet colleagues David and Elizabeth Green, Richard Nicholson, Mike Harrison and Rick Everitt claim they are trying to save Manston Airport and secure a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) on the site.
On the face of it this appears to be true.
 
They have commissioned legal advice, added to officers workloads producing reports,
 advertised for CPO venture partners, all at great public expense, and made positive comments to the media and posted lots of encouraging comments on the several pro-Manston Airport Facebook pages. TDC even hosted on its web-site the pro-Manston petition, they couldn’t have been more helpful.  But look more closely and the cracks are now clear to see.
 
Let’s begin with Cabinet member David Green who is on record as saying, “TDC will not agree to any solution to the airport that is detrimental to Ramsgate's environment”, and “in my opinion an airport CPO is not economically viable”. His Cabinet colleague, and deputy leader of the council, Richard Nicholson was hardly an effusive supporter of potential Airport champion RiverOak saying, “we are not going to do business with people like this”. Worse still Labour dominated Ramsgate Town Council, which includes all of Iris Johnston’s cabinet colleagues, recently voted to support  a motion which condemned “proposals for the development of Manston Airport into a major freight hub” and resolved to “defend the environment against harmful development, in particular to oppose night time flying”. And just yesterday Labour Councillor, and party whip, Steve Alexandrou in a letter published in Friday 12 Sept., Thanet Gazette said, “I cannot and will not vote for a CPO”.
 
So TDCs Labour Cabinet and councillors, who were supposedly committed to saving
the airport by securing a CPO, are, through their comments and actions, openly undermining their own position. In fact a senior TDC officer, who wishes to remain anonymous, recently told me that Cabinet members are openly saying that the CPO is a charade aimed at securing votes for Labour in 2015.  This is borne out by ex-Labour Councillor and former Mayor of Ramsgate, Kim Gibson, who has said that  Iris Johnston told her that it was politically expedient for Labour to appear to be trying to get the CPO, even though they didn’t really want it. It was all about ‘politics and votes’. I don’t doubt Kim. She is an honest person who speaks her mind without fear or favour.
 
Political Deceit and Dishonesty
But just in case you have any vestiges of faith remaining in Iris Johnston and her Labour colleagues, consider her latest Facebook post about how she is trying to save Manston.  She reproaches Sir Roger Gale MP for not reconvening the Manston Taskforce “without which we are going to have problems”.  She criticises Sir Howard Davis for his “disappointing” failure to mention Manston in his latest Airport Commission report. I suspect that these comments are designed to set up fall guys and villains whom Johnston and her Labour colleagues can blame and use as a smokescreen to justify a U-turn on their support for the CPO, which I am sure will be happening soon.
 
I can see it now - with a superficial air of concern, deep sadness and perhaps a few tears, Iris Johnston announces that the CPO is dead in the water. It’s failure will have nothing to do with the Council Labour Group which of course tried its very best to get the CPO, but others - people in government and at the Airport Commission who failed to support the (lost) cause. It’s the oldest political trick in the book! Courting electoral popularity by pretending you are trying to do something, which in reality you oppose and then blaming others for the failure of your half-hearted less than genuine efforts..
 
Cynical political manoeuvres like this demonstrate that Cllr Johnston and her
Hypocrisy in Action
colleagues harbour an arrogant contempt for Thanet residents. They show that the Labour Party in Thanet is callously manipulative and deceitful, putting party interest and votes before the concerns of local people. This is probably why decent and honourable politicians like Steve Alexendrou, who are uneasy about Thanet Labour’s dishonesty and game-playing, are now beginning to speak out.  Indeed some of my friends in the Labour Group tell me that discontent  about support for the CPO is growing.
 
For my part I have been arguing for a while that the possibility of securing a CPO and the feasibility of the airport being resurrected is unrealistic and that we should now be discussing Plan B. 
 
I believe this to be the case because  it has already been made clear that the Parkway station is going to be for people and businesses and not the airport. Also in the next few weeks we shall   see important developments which will mark the end of any hopes for an airport revival. These will  include an announcement about the extension of the Discovery Park Enterprise Zone to Thanet, the approval of the Manston Green and EKO planning applications to build housing close to the airport site and of course from Anne Gloag OBE, her much anticipated announcement about transforming the airport site probably into a housing and employment zone. Labour will of course not wish to be seen opposing these opportunities and will use every excuse in the book to re-align itself behind these new proposals.
 
Thanet Green Party opposes the building of houses on rural open space. There wis already sufficient housing development land within Thanet's urban boundaries. If we are unable to stop the rural development we will be fighting to ensure that housing and employment proposals  at Manston and the surrounding are sustainable, that they support  gainful employment, have  little environmental impact and are  carbon neutral. We will strive to ensure that proper democratic protocols are followed by TDC to enable public involvement in deciding what developments take at the former Manston Airport site.
 
 

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

East Kent Hospital Trust In Special Measures.


I fully support the decision of Health Regulator Monitor to place the East Kent NHS Trust into special measures.

Thanet already suffers from severe health inequalities compared with other parts of Kent. We must have a health and hospital service which is properly funded and fit for purpose instead of a failing service which is letting down many Thanet residents.

I hope that the additional support and expertise provided by special measures will enable  the East Kent Hospital Trust to become  stronger and more effective. However until we have a properly funded NHS free from privatization and profiteering services will continue to be inadequate and poor for many people.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Ramsgate Pleasurama Statement from Ian Driver

I understand  that building company Cardy has offered to purchase Pleasurama Developers, SFP Ventures Ltd,  takeover the development agreement with Thanet Council and complete the planned building works. I have serious concerns about this.

First the Pleasurama  development is located in an area designated as a high  risk flood zone. The Environment Agency has already expressed  concerns to Thanet Council about constructing  residential buildings on this site without  a proper flood risk  assessment. As an elected councillor my first priority must be public safety, especially bearing in mind the impact of climate change and rising sea levels on this particular site. If building work is to resume on the site then there must be a  flood risk assessment and the design of any buildings to be built must comply with any flood assessment recommendations. Anything  less is not acceptable. I also suspect that anything which is built on the site which falls outside of this safety framework will probably be uninsurable and red-lined by lenders.
Second many people have already expressed concerns about the stability of the cliff face which will be in close proximity to the buildings. Once again this presents a serious safety risk to the occupiers of any residential and business buildings on the site. Furthermore, who will pay for the day-to-day maintenance  of the cliff face? This should not be Thanet District Council as any profits made by TDC  for allowing the development to proceed will quickly be used up by year-on-year cliff face maintenance. Indeed it is entirely possible that the Council, over time, may  spend a lot more money than it makes from the developers looking after the cliff face. In my opinion it should be the developers who assume responsibility for the maintenance of the cliff face.

Third, it has been the clear  intention of the current developers SFP Ventures to secure the freehold of the Pleasurama site. This site is an integral part of Ramsgate’s historic seafront. Under no circumstances should the  freehold be handed  over to any other organisation it should remain with Thanet Council.
Fourth, although Cardy may well purchase SFP Ventures what guarantees are there that some of people associated with the SFP, who have treated Ramsgate with utter contempt over the past 12 years, will not be working with and influencing  Cardy as funders, sales agents , or advisers. I think it is extremely unlikely that these people will simply  walk away from the project. They will want a slice of the  action.

Fifth, what due diligence will be undertaken into  Cardy to ascertain if they have  access to the finance and have the experience  to complete the development? I trust that such due diligence  will be of a much higher and more robust standard to that which was carried out by a senior council officer in 2009.  
Last but not least, I am not convinced that a hotel and apartments are what the people  of Ramsgate would like to see  developed on this large and important site. I believe that most people would like to see a more leisure focused development such as a seafront park, a public stage, cafes, bars, restaurants, play areas, a skate park and state of the art IT gaming arcades etc which will attract locals and visitors in their thousands to the seafront. This would generate more income for local economy and create more jobs than a small hotel and apartments.

I hope  the Council will not take the easy option.  

 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Hey Dude Where's My Ramsgate Promenade?

I have written to KCC requesting that the hoarding licence which allows the developers of the Pleasurama site and their contractors to occupy a large area of the promenade be terminated when it expires in 4 weeks time. I would encourage as many people as possible to do likewise and who knows KCC might actually do something to stop this abuse. Despite Thanet Council’s ridiculous efforts to prevent me, I went on to the site and have shot a short film which shows the incredibly large area of promenade which has been “stolen” from the public. You can contact KCC about the promenade and the hoarding licence on roadworkseast@kent.gov.uk.

Dear Mr Edwards,
Further to you e-mail of 28 July I am writing as a Ramsgate Councillor  to formally request that you revoke the hoarding licence for the Royal Sands development Marina Esplanade Ramsgate on its expiry in 4 weeks time.  I understand that the licence is granted on condition that works are taking place on site. As you are aware no works have taken place on site for 4 years or more. Furthermore Thanet Council is engaged in legal processes which may eventually lead to the termination of their agreement development agreement. In the meantime it is highly unlikely that any development will take place until legal processes have been exhausted which will take considerable time. I can therefore see no justification whatsoever to grant a new licence for the hoarding.
I note in your previous e-mail that you suggest that to move the hoarding back to the site boundary  would require the construction of  another hoarding in front of the existing. Something which you say will cause considerable disruption. Surely they most effective way to deal with the issue would be to leave the current hoarding in place whilst construction a new hoarding on site boundary. When this work is completed the current hoarding is taken down.

I have now had the opportunity to gain access to the site and have looked  at the section of the promenade enclosed behind the hoarding. I was surprised to discover that the condition of the promenade was much better than I had expected. I filmed some of my inspection and will be posting it on the Friends Ramsgate Seafront Facebook page shortly along with a copy of this e-mail.

Finally over the course of the past 2 years I have spoken to literally hundreds of people who expressed to me their concern and anger that a failed development company and its contractors seem able to take possession of a  large area of  the public highway even though they are in breach of the hoarding licence conditions.  I would be grateful if KCC could bear this concern in mind and stop giving the  failed developers and their contractors preferential treatment and instead give the promenade back to Ramsgate residents.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely 
Councillor Ian Driver. 

From: "roadworkseast@kent.gov.uk"
To: ianddriver@yahoo.co.uk
Sent: Monday, 28 July 2014, 14:34
Subject: RE: Hoarding Royal Sands development Marina Esplanade Ramsgate

Dear Cllr Driver,
Thank you for your email regarding the hoarding at the Royal Sands development in Ramsgate.We understand that Thanet District Council are undertaking a dispute resolution process to progress matters with the developer.
A decision has been reached to extend the licence of the hoarding. This is primarily due to the fact that the extent and nature of the works required to re-site the hoarding to the original boundary are somewhat extensive and would require a new temporary hoarding, some 1.5 metres further onto the promenade, to carry out removal of the existing hoarding and make-good the promenade. The resulting disruption of these works would not be tolerated during the busy summer period in Ramsgate due to negative impact it would have on visitors, businesses and local important events.
Kent County Council Highways have therefore extended the licence until 30th September 2014. A further review will take place then prior to any further decision being reached.

I hope this clarifies our current position.
Regards
Neil Edwards
South East Roadworks Team Leader
Deputy Roadworks & Enforcement Manager

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Thanet South Election Ice Bucket Challenge I Nominate Nigel Farage

Thanet South Green Party  Election Candidate Ian Driver took the ice bucket challenge today.

Nominated by Ramsgate café owner Kandy Jones, Driver was drenched by his daughters Annie, Vickie and Suzie
Following his soaking, Driver went to nominate fellow Thanet South election candidates  UKIPs Nigel Farage, Labour’s Will Scobie and LibDem Russ Timpson to take the Ice Bucket challenge.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Ramsgate's Great Art Heist

 In February 2013 some of the art work which adorned the so-called Great Wall of Ramsgate, surrounding the Pleasurama  seafront eyesore,  was vandalised. Local business man and former Ramsgate Town Councillor, Gerry O’Donnell,  who was instrumental  in developing the idea of having paintings by local artists hung on the half-mile long  Pleasurama hoarding , called a public meeting to raise funds to restore the paintings and hang them back on the wall.

It is  understood that somewhere in region of £3,000 was raised for this purpose including a  £500 donation from Ramsgate Town Council. 18 months later and not single painting has been restored or hung on the wall. Many local artists have been asking Mr O’Donnell what has happened to the restoration project and the £3000 donations.

Some of the artists contacted me to find out what was going on. Together with  former Mayor of Ramsgate, Councillor Kim Gibson , we  ventured on to the Pleasurama site to find out more. We quickly spotted  several of the paintings discarded on the ground.  They had clearly been there for quite some time. We then discovered about 70-80 paintings in a cabin  on the site. Someone had  broken into the cabin. Its door was open. None of the damaged paintings had been restored. We removed the paintings from the site  to safe keeping. They will be photographed and published on face book  and the artists who painted the pictures for the Ramsgate  Great Wall will be bale to  re-claim their property.
In the meantime someone needs to explain why  after 18 months of being stored in a cabin on the Pleaurama site, or left to rot outside, the paintings have not been restored and hung back on the wall. There also needs to be an explanation about  what has happened to estimated £3,000  in contributions handed over in good faith to restore and re-hang the painting.  Where is that money now? Who has it? Ands why has it not been used  to restore the damaged paintings and rehang all the others. Perhaps Mr O’Donnell can help?

 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Visit to Ramsgate Project MotorHouse

I spent a couple of hours in the company of Janet Fielding today. She is an inspirational woman running an inspirational project.  Janet talks about her plans for the former motor museum and the role it could play in regenerating Ramsgate. Having been inside the building for the first time today I was overwhelmed by what I saw. This building literally oozes regeneration potential for Ramsgate and Janet Fielding has the dream and the drive to make it happen. Ramsgate needs more Janet’s. Step forward because I want to interview the women and men who are going to regenerate Ramsgate and create a future for children and grandchildren. You know who you are.

PS the  loud humming noise  is the generator of the ex-King of Norway’s Royal Yacht the Horten which has been moored at the port for the past 4 months. I have been approached by several people about  this constant low pitched noise which is disturbing people’s sleep. I am on the case and will report back soon.

 

Thanet Council Dog S**t More Important Than Disabled People

Thanet Council thinks that  organising a  public consultation on clearing up dog s**t is  more important than organising a public consultation about disabilities facilities grants (DFG)– or so an email to Councillor Ian Driver appears to suggest.

In answer to Driver’s enquiry about why there had been no public consultation on proposed changes to DFGs, a policy which effects an estimated 15,000 disabled people in Thanet,  an officer replied that because there was  no statutory requirement to do so no consultation was planned. On checking  previous  consultations carried out by the Council  Driver identified several which had been undertaken but which were also not  required to be conducted by statute. One of these ‘Keeping your area clean’  requested members of the public in Margate and Westgate to feed back to the Council about  dog excrement.

Said Driver ‘I simply cannot believe that Thanet Council regards a consultation on cleaning up dog s**t as more important than consulting an estimated  15,000 disabled people living in Thanet and their organisations about their  rights  to have their homes adapted so that they can continue to live independent and dignified  lives in the community. This says a lot about the values and morality  of our politicians and some senior officers.’

He went to say ‘this appalling perversion of priorities suggested to me that Thanet Council is institutionally prejudiced against disabled residents. This prejudice  and discrimination is reflected in data which has been provided to me  which shows that the average time taken to assess and approve a DFG application is 40 weeks. This is 15 weeks longer that the statutory requirement of 25 weeks and is totally unacceptable. In most other areas of Council work performance targets are matched or exceeded, but when it comes to a disabilities issue significant under-performance seems to be tolerated over a prolonged period of years. This can only mean that the Council does take the needs of disabled residents seriously’.

Driver’s exposure of the Council’s failure to consult and his persuasive arguments in support of engaging with disabled people and their organisations  was able to win over a majority of councillors at last night’s Overview and Scrutiny  Panel who voted to recommend to the ruling Labour Cabinet that a 6 week consultation on the draft policy be carried. 3 Labour Councillors voted against the consultation, including Michelle Fenner who until her recent sacking from the Cabinet was responsible for Equalities Policies at the Council. Said Driver ‘its shameful that the council’s former equalities boss and 2 of  her Labour colleagues voted against engaging with Thanet’s disabled  community on an issue as important as this. I only hope that the Labour Cabinet and senior council officers will take a more inclusive and enlightened approach towards working with the disabled community and we might then begin to see an ending of what I believe to be  institutional  discrimination’.

Ian Driver’s film of the debate on the disabled facilities grants will shortly be available on his blogiste , his Facebook page and YouTube. This was first recording  of a Thanet Council meeting made  under the new legal rights for the public and councillors to film meetings.