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.

 

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Manston Time To Talk Plan B

Whilst I still support it, the  prospect of securing a Compulsory Purchase Order on Manston Airport appears to be  receding fast. So it seems sensible to begin preparing  for the inevitable  and start  discussing  future uses for the  airport land.  In fact Thanet Council has already begun doing this. As part  of the local planning process  officers are now working to develop policies  which will eventually regulate  what the airport land can be used for. This is going to be a big job and its already been said by the Council that land use policies for the  airport site  and the associated public consultation , will delay the adoption of Thanet’s Local Plan by several months. In the meantime, without a local plan in place developers including airport  owner Ann Gloag, can apply for planning permission to develop almost anything they like.   

I’ve  said all along that its highly likely that the airport land will be used for  housing. There’s  lots of circumstantial evidence to support this . First Gloag’s planning consultants  held exploratory discussions with Thanet Council  earlier this year about building 1,000 houses on airport land. Second, other planning applications for housing in close proximity to the airport are already in the process of being approved.
Next week we have East Kent Opportunities planning appeal hearing for permission to build  550 houses on prime agricultural land at the New Haine Road, which I’m pretty sure will be granted. It also looks as though the massive 1,000 house Permission’s greenfield development behind Marks and Spencer at Westwood Cross,  is gearing up for  its next phase of building . In September/ October the 850 house Manston Green development, again on prime agricultural land at the bottom of the Manston Airport runway,  will come up for approval before Thanet’s Planning Committee.  Again I suspect permission will be granted. So within a square a mile of Manston Airport we already have plans for the building of 2,400 new houses.

I believe that these developments, so close to the airport land, will persuade airport owner Gloag  to submit her own plans for housing on the site. This means that within the next 5 years we are likely to have a ‘Gloagsville’ garden city of 6-8,000 houses developed by stealth  on the open spaces and agricultural land in Thanet’s rural hinterland.

Finally the Government, through its Growth Fund scheme,  recently awarded 10million for the development of a Parkway station near Cliffsend in 2015-16.  Originally seen as life-line for the airport,  Parkway is now being touted by the South East England Local Economic Partnership (which won the Parkway funding and about which I will write more later), not as a link to Manston Airport  but as a transport hub which will  ‘open up access to major new sites for housing and business development’  and which  would make commuting to the Capital feasible – and attract higher earners to our coastal towns’. 
So there you have it an extremely  powerful regeneration focused organisation  which is supported by the Government, Kent County Council and all the Kent District Councils,  is openly backing  what is likely to become a Gloasgsville garden city on and around the Manston airport site which will be served by a  Parkway station.




Apart from a few select politicians chatting over lunch at secret regeneration meetings,  has anyone living in Thanet ever been asked if they would like a massive housing development,  served by a purpose built railway station, to be located  on greenfield agricultural land and former airport open land in Thanet’s beautiful  rural hinterland? I suspect not. Does it make sense? Certainly not.

There are almost 1000  long-term empty residential properties  available for refurbishment and  plenty of previously developed  brownfield land available within Thanet’s urban areas to meet the need  for  all the new homes we might require over the next 5-10 years. There is absolutely no need to concrete over our valuable countryside and destroy farmland.
But we must also ask whether the target of building 12,000 new homes in Thanet over the next 10-15 years is realistic and sustainable.  Will there be enough  jobs,  sufficient infrastructure and support services to manage a rapid growth in Thanet’s population associated with building so many new homes?  How we will manage the growing demand on our already stressed water supply  and aquifers? How we will mange the pressure on our sewers system which is already at breaking point? And how we will cope with the congestions and pollution caused by the massive increase in car ownership?

There is also a much bigger question which few people are talking about – why should Kent and Thanet increasingly have to support the consequences (good and bad)  of London’s   unique and powerful juggernaut economy? Surely Mayor of London, Boris Jonson, should be doing a lot more to ensure that London is a sustainable city which does not need to rely on Kent, Surrey and Essex to manage the conflicts and problems associated with it economic success?

Personally I am opposed to building  new homes on our agricultural land and rural open spaces. But I am not opposed to utilising the airport land for sustainable developments which would create jobs.  For example educational use of the site for East Kent College, the University of Kent or  Canterbury Christ Church University, or perhaps the building of a state of the art  new hospital to replace to QEQM. Such developments would also have the advantage of freeing up additional brownfield sites in our town for use as housing. The site could also be used for leisure developments,  the generation of renewable energy, or growing food.

Although the loss of the airport has had a massive impact on Thanet and its people, its time to begin thinking about the future without it and like the SME campaigners did so brilliantly well – take control of the discussion before it gets into the hands of secretive, unaccountable organisations like the Thanet Regeneration Board, the Kent and Medway Economic Partnership, and the South East Local Economic Partnership which serve the interest of greedy developers, financiers and unscrupulous political bosses instead of the people of Thanet and Kent. 

Monday, 4 August 2014

Thanet's Beaches; Southern Water's Sewage

Last week saw the second major sewage spillage this year onto Thanet's beaches  from Southern Water's Foreness Point Pumping Station. 9 of our beaches were closed for 24 hours because of this. Over the past 3 years there have been 6 major incidents of sewage spillages on to our beaches from the Foreness Point Pumping Station.

Last year Southern Water was fined £200,000 for a beach sewage  spillage in 2011. This year it is highly  likely that Southern Water will face prosecution for a sewage spillage incident in 2012 which led to the closure of all of Thanet's beaches for almost a week. How long will this go on for?  It's beginning to look as though we can expect sewage spillages on a regular basis, which for an area dependent on the visitor economy is not a good thing.

Southern Water claim to have spent £3million upgrading Foreness Point over the past couple of years. Clearly this has not worked and sewage spillage incidents continue. Thanet Council estimates that we need 12,000 more houses over the next 15 years which will place extra pressure on a sewage system which is obviously not working. Climate change means that we will have more and more extreme rainfall incidents in the future: which Southern Water blame for some of the sewage spillage  incidents. So come on Southern Water spend some of your £179million profits on properly upgrading and future proofing Foreness Point and stop dumping on our beaches!!


Sunday, 3 August 2014

Ramsgate Pleasurama Named Shamed & Filmed

I gained access to the Ramsgate Pleasurama site and thought it might be useful to use the opportunity to make a short film  which names and shames those responsible for this appalling blight on Ramsgate's seafront