Saturday, 23 April 2011

West by Sou’west

Water to the North.
Water to the East.
Water to the South-East.

The clue is in the name “Isle of Thanet”, before draining of an area around the River Wantsum in the Middle Ages, Thanet was in fact an island.  Access onto this” island” is still from one direction only, West by South-West, a corridor where all land based communication must pass.

This has certain repercussions for the prosperity of the area, everything and everyone has to enter and exit from one direction, which makes for an amount of isolation. This is a geographic fact of life which cannot be changed, so when planning for airport expansion we must factor into the equation that the airport has a catchment area one quarter the size of an inland airport. This is a good reason to plan for moderate expansion and not be too over ambitious about its growth potential. This is not to say that a thriving airport does not have a part to play in the regeneration of Thanet but it will not single-handedly be Thanet’s saviour.

The degree of isolation caused by Thanet’s island status has a certain allure to tourists and this should be promoted and encouraged to build on the foundations set by the Turner Contemporary.

Another factor which is overlooked when planning a massive airport expansion is our newly acquired HS1 train service joins the main high speed line at Ashford where it competes with Channel Tunnel traffic for space on the high speed line. Trains from Thanet will always be considered secondary to the cross channel services.

We need a reality check and some solid research into these aspects of airport expansion to establish what is feasible and what is fantasy.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Conservative Manifesto – REVEALED.

Just in case you do not wish to wade through the whole 36 pages of the Conservative Manifesto to verify that the items which I have identified as Core Strategy policy are in fact contained in the Conservative manifesto. Here they all are:

Your Conservative Council supports the expansion of Manston Airport subject to suitable environmental safeguards.

The TDC Scrutiny process will inform your Conservative Council’s Cabinet of areas to be included in a Night Flying Policy.

Infratil will be invited to resubmit a modified Night Flying Policy provided this can be supported by a robust economic justification for any change to current operating hours of 7am to 11pm. This will then go out to consultation with the public. That consultation will inform the Council’s decision regarding night flying.

The Conservative Group will propose a free (unwhipped) vote on the Policy, as we believe that public opinion should be paramount in this important issue when voted on by Members of the Council.

COMMENT: A vague description of airport expansion without mentioning 6 million passengers. The vote mentioned in the  last sentence would benefit from more Independent Councillors.

PARKWAY STATION Transport Links and Infrastructure

 Securing commitment of sufficient funding to enable by 2014 the construction of Thanet
Parkway Station and a minimum reduction in rail journey time of two minutes.

COMMENT: A commitment to the station by 2014.  Grant funding by KCC has already been applied for.

CHINA GATEWAY Marketing Thanet………………….

Thanet Thrives – supporting the establishment of more small and medium sized businesses, by making available the necessary land and facilitating the provision of modern efficient business units at realistic and affordable prices.

COMMENT: A vague reference which would allow the construction of China Gateway.

7500 NEW HOUSES Providing housing opportunities and choice for the residents of Thanet
- Making sufficient land available through the development and planning process to meet the housing requirements for Thanet (6,000 homes between 2001-2016).

COMMENT: 6000 homes by 2016 becomes 7500 by 2026 in the Core Strategy.

So nothing NEW in the Conservative Manifesto then – All in “Shaping our Future” last year.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Chinese Puzzle?

Much publicity was generated about the Thanet District Council delegation, which visited China in 2008 with the supposed intention of securing Chinese investment in the China Gateway project. Three years on, with no commitment by the Chinese to support the venture and a fragile financial predicament of the development company , no sign of economic advantage from the East Kent Opportunities LLP backed venture has filtered through to Thanet.

In fact the planning permission for China Gateway Phase 1 still remains outstanding and not approved because of real concerns about discharge of effluent from the factories and warehouses into septic tanks above Thanet’s underground drinking water supply.

Grandiose schemes like these are “pies in the sky” and it is very unlikely they will come to fruition. The number and type of jobs created by this sort of venture are not accurately quantifiable and by no means secure. Take the example of M&S Westwood Cross for instance, on the face of it, a creator of many jobs, but when the number of jobs lost at M&S Margate is deducted, the picture looks far less rosy.

The only way to job security is economic prosperity for the whole island and whilst Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate continue to look run down and unattractive to both visitors and prospective new residents alike, the Thanet malaise will remain. Grants are available for regeneration on a large scale like Turner Contemporary or on a small scale for garden planting etc. We need a council sympathetic to the needs of the whole community and with the energy and determination to make it happen rather than sitting on their hands and saying “it can’t be done”

Friday, 15 April 2011

The Big Issue? - 7500 Homes

This is a rather interesting and emotive subject. The figure of 7500 is copied directly into the TDC “Shaping our Future” document from the South-East strategic plans as the allocation for the Thanet area, however this must be reduced by the number of current residential planning approvals not yet constructed, which I understand is a considerable proportion.

Also approximately 1600 units are planned for Greenfield sites in and around Westwood Cross to complete the overall town planning concept.  To add to the complication, approval in December 2010 of planning policies DM1 and DM2 could substantially alter the mix and availability of properties in Thanet.

DM1 states that unless there are justifiable reasons, houses should be built in Thanet rather than flats. DM2 encourages reversion or conversion of existing flats into family houses. Now that is all quite commendable to redress the balance of family homes versus one bedroom, minimal standard flats and it is essential if “yuppies on HS1” are to be attracted to live in Thanet.

It is ironic however, and an illustration of the difficulties for planning legislation that a recent application, only months after the introduction of DM1 and DM2, is for 7 luxury seafront apartments of generous proportions at Ramsgate. The building housing the flats, overlooking the sea, is interesting modern architecture and far more appropriate to the area than 7 town houses would be, it is also unlikely to attract DSS tenants. The progress of this application should be an interesting one.

On top of all this, we have a need for social housing in the villages so young local residents are not forced to move away but not a general expansion of residential development in the green spaces of Thanet. One little considered offshoot from HS1 could be an influx of new commuters, taking advantage of the improved journey times to London. If Parkway station is allowed, pressure will mount for new housing developments surrounding the new station.

“Shaping our Future” was first drafted as a consultation document only a year or so ago, but since that time  the shape of the future has changed somewhat and a radical rethink on housing will be necessary.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

“Margate Industrial Estate?”

Jumbo jets landing every half hour, 24 hours per day, spewing out 600 passengers per hour (divide 6 million by the hours in a year) driven in a dozen coaches continually circulating the airport and mingling with commuter traffic to get to Parkway station car park, where the “ Manston Express” leaves every 20 minutes to cope with peak demand.

Juggernauts thundering along the Thanet Way, to and from an ever expanding China Gateway, marching across open fields, towards a creeping Westwood Cross, until it finally meets up in a continuous urban sprawl across the whole of Southern Thanet.

Is THIS the price we want to pay for getting Thanet back to work?

Or is there a better way? -  An integrated transport and tourism plan. (ITTP)
ITTP can combine moderate development with a revitalised tourism scheme for the WHOLE of Thanet. This will attract new residents, with greater disposable income, to take up family houses, created by planning policies DM1 and DM2, benefiting from the new proximity of Thanet to London using HS1. The Turner Centre will be a focus for a renaissance in Thanet tourism, visiting the scenic delights of the whole island from Minnis Bay to CliffsEnd.

Yes, you can say it is scaremongering!  Yes, you can say it will never happen!

But unless we get the document “Shaping our Future” amended, it is written into all our futures by 2026.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Towards 2026 and beyond -.”Shaping the Future”

The forthcoming election will take voters in Thanet to 2015 but the document “Shaping our Future” is the proposed plan and policies to 2026. The document is long and often technical so I have listed the policies with a simple summary so you can judge how they affect you. Some of the policies are GOOD for Thanet others need amendment, I would like to help Thanet Villages have a real voice in the negotiations.
Please read "Crouching Tiger - Hidden Dragon" for the background information.

DCS1 - Overall aims of job creating development, airport expansion, new houses,
              Westwood Cross expansion, revitalising Margate and Cliftonville West

DCS2 – Manston Park Business Park development (uses B1, B2 &B8)

DCS3 – Allocating land for Airport Expansion (up to 6 million passengers per annum)

DCS4 – Allocating land for “Airside” development and Airport Expansion

DCS5 – Land North of B2050 for Airport development

DCS6 – Land allocated for car parks in Airport Expansion.

DCS7 – Parkway Station adjacent to Cliffsend

DCS8 – General expansion policy for Westwood Cross

DCS9 – Further development of Westwood Cross town centre

DCS10 – Wider commercial development – North East of WC town centre

DCS11 – New Haine – High density housing (400 to 600 units) and business uses

DCS12 – Nash Road, North West of WC town centre - High density housing (1020 units)

DCS13 – Westwood Technology Centre – relocating Thanet College plus B1 uses

DCS14 – Improving sports facilities at Jackey Bakers.

DCS15 – Regeneration and development of Margate Town Centre and Seafront

DCS16 – Development of Cliftonville West

DCS17 – Ramsgate Waterfront development

DCS18 – Ramsgate Port development

DCS19 – General clause allowing development for economic enhancement.

DCS20 – General clause on allocation and placing of development

DCS21 - Maintaining Green Wedges – essential development only.

DCS22 – High quality design for new development

DCS23 – Energy efficiency in new developments

DCS24 – Placement of development for business use, Manston Park, Manston Airport
                New Haine and Westwood Technology Centre.

DCS25 – Economic development outside designated areas (China Gateway 2 & 3)

DCS26 – 7500 new houses by 2026, 20% on Greenfield sites around Westwood.

DCS27 – Changing shops to residential in the Old Town Centres

DCS28 – Affordable housing incorporated in developments of 15 or more units
                30% in urban areas except Broadstairs, 35% in Thanet Villages

DCS29 – Preference for houses not flats in new developments

DCS30 – Lifetime standards in new developments of 15 units or more

DCS31 – Restriction on converting existing houses to flats.

DCS32 – Provision of land for gypsies and travellers

DCS33 – New development compatible with transport, social, physical and green

This is only a summary and may not contain every aspect of a given policy.

Items shown in bold have a direct effect on Thanet Villages.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Six million passengers.

Before I get all the anti-airport accusations let me say that I am in favour of a “good neighbours” airport,  partially because the repercussions from airport closure would be far worse than allowing reasonable expansion.and I also think the airport has a part to play in Thanet regeneration.

What I disagree with is an immediate permission for 6 million passengers, whether or not they will ever arrive.  Passenger numbers this year were approximately 30,000 so an increase to 6 million is a 200 fold increase, the present annual number of passengers would be handled in two days if the Infratil Masterplan expansion came to fruition. Although even Infratil have downgraded their maximum numbers to 4.7 million.

Assuming an average of 100 passengers per plane it would take 60,000 planes to shift that number of passengers. If the airport was working 365 days in the year it would equal 164 planes per day, 14 planes per hour on a 12 hour day or 7 planes per hour on a 24 hour basis. This does not include any allowance for planes carrying freight.

Before you accuse me of scaremongering, I am not saying this is going to happen, all I am saying is that this level of expansion is, at present, included in the Core Strategy document, “Shaping our Future”

If  a person put in a planning application for one house and was granted permission for  100 flats, you would think that ridiculous, but 6 million will be granted to the airport even if they never can achieve half a million.Unless we get it changed!.

A much better solution would be to grant 250,000 passenger numbers (10 fold increase) with safeguards before any further increase is accepted. Further permission for increase can always be granted , but numbers cannot be reduced once granted.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Crouching Tiger - Hidden Dragon.

You may have forgotten about the Core Strategy document in the fever of an election campaign but just remember that it awaits to bite back as soon as the election is completed.  This ill conceived document still contains China Gateway Phases 2 and 3, Airport expansion to 6 million passengers, undefined freight and night movements, Parkway station and 7500 new homes.

Assurances have been given that the 7500 homes will not be added to the Thanet villages but proposals have been put forward for changing the use of the poorly developed Eurokent Business Park into residential development. This would reduce the future industrial site availability in Thanet and consequently strengthen the case for China Gateway Phases 2 and 3 to be built on Greenfield sites in rural Thanet.

All this is happening on top of our drinking water supply reservoir.

We need to be extremely vigilant about the progress of this document through the various stages of consultation to ensure it is a “sound” document when finally presented to the Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for final approval.

Friday, 1 April 2011


Just as well I published my April Fool’s post this morning, it might be the only advertisement the poor old Turner Contemporary gets, even if it was by implication.

I have to thank Don at Promote Thanet for highlighting this, but with only two weeks to go to the grandest opening in Thanet for many, many, many years, there is no substantial mention of it on either TDC website or Visit Thanet.

Is it, they have no interest, financial or otherwise in the project? Is it, that their IT department is crap NO non-existent? Or is it, they just don’t care? No doubt we will be told by the usual semi-official  blog sources that the services are “farmed-out” and they have no control over what is published. How many businesses get sub-contractors to do specialist work for them, it is not rocket science, but a sub-contractor is expected to carry out the work efficiently and in accordance with agreed requirements. Get your act together TDC and publish the opening, even I can manage it in my spare time.

In case anyone out there does not know what I am talking about

 ( remember you heard it here first (well not quite))

Thanet Art Gallery “opening” soon.

Chalky Walker and his outside broadcast team are oiling their tripods and polishing their lenses in preparation for the big opening event, Local people are excited to see the result of 12 years of hoardings around the site and have high hopes that the finished product will live up to their full expectations. Chalky will be out interviewing visitors and getting their views about the future regeneration potential from such as local masterpiece.

The opening ceremony will be conducted by GO’D who is a larger than life figure in the area, expected to hold back the waves and get the sun shining especially for the event and also for the hoards of local people expected to turn out for the well-wishing.  It is hoped that the blue skies of Thanet so often revered by famous artists will decorate the ceiling of the new gallery.

Numerous local artists have been commissioned to provide a colourful array of varied artistic talent from Thanet and beyond and the response has been overwhelming. My own meagre contribution (see picture above) will have to remain in cyberspace and at the wrong end of town (Whatever happened to my board Gerry! :-()

The “Van Gogh Alfresco” commonly known locally as the Great Wall of Ramsgate “opens” on the 23rd of April 2011 at 3pm, so put that date in your diaries. Where’s my diary? ….. ah! yes…only 22 days to go!

Oh, you thought I was referring to …er … the other…………………………..