Sunday, 19 December 2010

Sunday ramble snow, duty and civil disobedience

Airports

Heath Row


As a parent on the end of the phone with the youf of today on the other end trying to deal with a departure from Heathrow, Heath Row as it used to be called, one does wonder at the way large companies use the internet. Something clear informative and decisive on their website wouldn’t go amiss.

Put your flight number in the box and the answer “no flights found” don’t exactly help.

Kent International Airport – Manston

Since we have had a relatively small amount of snow here in Thanet, one would have expected some flights to be diverted there, it is supposed have considerable capacity, who knows?

There appear to have been no less than four Manston flights recently where the safety of the aircraft has been dubious, not so funny with Ramsgate directly under the flight path.

Manston has a bit of a history of operators going out with a crash.

Then there is the business of the night flights and the Bureau Veritas report commissioned by the council see http://www.thanetonline.com/nightflights/id7.htm reading this is seems that the airport was asking for unreasonable noise levels.

Safety and pollution issues are not something one expects to be related to a modern airport in this way.

Democracy and Thanet District Council

In recent years I have had a few run-ins with the council, mostly about public safety issues, pollution and the way they look after iconic assets put in their trust.

I think often people view this as a direct confrontation between me and the council, truth is that in many cases it is a council officer who asks me to make the fuss, in the first place.

This latest business of changing what happens in the May elections is another matter altogether and effects our basic human rights of living in a democracy, in this case the right to vote.

The indicators are pretty thin on the ground due to the mishandling of the consultation, but everything there points to the electorate wanting to vote for a leader and the council wanting to chose one.

It is absolutely clear that the previous government and their legislation intended the voters to make this choice, it is also absolutely clear that the new coalition government have the same intention and when their new localism bill passed, the legislation will also say that it is the electorate who should make this choice.

Once the council have started down the slippery slope of trying to bend democracy to do what they think is good for local people, instead of allowing local people to vote for what they want, in this case preventing a valid election, then they have passed a line beyond which there is no easy return.

I think the main aspect of this won’t be to do with their going outside of the law of the land, but more the slow grind of publicity and public opinion. Because of the way the council tried to hide that the public consultation was happening, I think that it is only now that the local press are starting to realise the enormity of what has happened.

The excuses coming from the council about this seem to have totally missed the point, and range from what other councils have done to what they think is best for us, the point here and the only salient one is that they were supposed invoke the will of the electors and instead they did what they wanted.

Ramsgate Maritime Museum

I have had a verbal assurance from a senior council officer that the council have prepared a lease for both The Clock House and Smeaton’s Dry Dock and that the council cabinet have approved this lease.

The main criteria for the lease, as I understand them, being that the museum has to be able to pay the rent out of the proceeds of the museum and that the lease is long enough to enable the charitable trust, running the museum, to obtain grant funding.

The King George IV Maritime Heritage Pontoon

The picture above is illustrative of what happens when the council throws common sense out of the window and tries to apply cost cutting measures.

A few notes about the costs of mooring in the harbour here, the last vessel I had anything much to do with that was moored in Ramsgate Harbour, was a historic vessel called The Peggy, I think she was about 11 metres long, about 35 feet on old money, and I suppose now mooring her in the inner harbour would cost around £2,500 per year about £50 per week.

We had about four historic vessels usually moored on the historic vessel pontoon and for ease of calculation we will say that their full mooring fees on an ordinary mooring in the inner harbour would have been about £2,000 per year each.

What they had were concessionary mooring fees i.e. a discount between a half and a quarter off the full mooring fees, so they were bringing in the council and annual income of about £5,500 per year.

The council’s argument here was pretty roughly that the people who owned the boats had plenty of money and so they shouldn’t get the discount.

This all sounds fine and dandy, until you take into account the reality of the situation, first and foremost the historic vessel pontoon is the worst mooring in the inner harbour, right next to all the problems associated with late night drunks, worn out and without proper services. The historic vessels enhanced the café culture and this part of the town. As no one else would choose to moor there, reduced mooring fees are the only option.

So now we don’t have the historic vessels to look at, the council is out of pocket by about five thousand a year and all of the rules have been properly applied.

Ramsgate Harbour Slipways

With one thing and another we now have a difficult situation here, half the slipways site is leased to the slipway operator and half to the developer who wanted to build a bar complex there and paid £90,000 for the leasehold interest.

The main working part of his bit of the site was slipways 2 and 3, I have now heard that the slipway cables have been cut, this is unconfirmed information and I am not sure if this means the electrical cables or the steel with cables that pull up the cradles.

Pleasurama, Royal Sands Development

The development has now appeared on the contractors website, under their executive developments section, see http://www.cardygroup.co.uk/projects/projects.php?cat_id=4 so it may be that these condominiums will eventually be known as Cardy’s Condoms.

This has happened twice before, (appearing on their website that is – not Featherstone’s ticklers, Knight’s Amor or Robert Leonard Group Plc, no I had better not go on) with different contractors who have subsequently removed it, so it doesn’t mean that much.

Before the inclement weather, sporadic activity peaking at about four men on site had been occurring, this consisted of digging holes and filling them back in, sounds funny if you don’t know what they were up to, which was looking for the various pipes and wires under the site.

At the moment my main concern there is the stability of the cliff wall and since the lump fell off I have been getting a small amount of cooperation from the HSE, they are obviously very cautious about criticising another part of the great government machine, but lumps falling off that could have killed people seems to have put some sort of pressure on in the other direction.

Blogs with local news and debate from the top of my sidebar.

Bignews Margate has two local articles that are worth a gander http://bignewsmargate.blogspot.com/2010/12/margate-museum-its-mystery-tdc.html and http://bignewsmargate.blogspot.com/2010/12/local-democracy-we-deserve-better.html about Thursdays council meeting with masses of comments.

Thanet Life http://birchington.blogspot.com/2010/12/through-looking-glass.html about Thursdays council meeting with comments disabled http://birchington.blogspot.com/2010/12/kapital-performance.html and http://birchington.blogspot.com/2010/12/thanks-andy.html

Sorry if I missed anything but these seemed to be the most lively posts, apart from the one where the comments were disabled of course, couldn’t be asked or something like that I suppose.

Councillors who actually engaged in the debates on the local blogs this week.

Simon Moores, Chris Wells and David Green.

Especial thanks here to Simon and Chris, they are both cabinet members of an administration that has been in power for nearly eight years, politically positions don’t usually get much more difficult than this and yet they did attempt to explain some difficult issues.

You may not be Conservative, you may not like them personally but they did make an attempt to communicate in this difficult public forum, and in view of the large number of councillors who never bother to reply to anything from both sides of the political spectrum, out leader included, I would say that I f they stood in my ward I would vote for them as I will vote for Dave this year if he stands.

I will ramble on between children and anything else that occurs today.

19 comments:

  1. "There appear to have been no less than four Manston flights recently where the safety of the aircraft has been dubious, not so funny with Ramsgate directly under the flight path"
    Apart from Kam Air, name them.

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  2. So now we need to decide how much of an issue we want to make of TDC incompetence/indifference/arrogance; call it what you will.
    The first step is to get the press involved. Given the shocking behaviour at last Thursday's meeting they should already be interested. I say should but this sort of news has to compete with endless articles trying to convince us all that Turner Contemporary will be the saviour of all East Kent.

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  3. If you want to make an issue then "Incompetence, indifference or arrogance" don't exactly feature.

    You need to argue unlawfulness or unreasonableness (See Wednesbury Principle even ?)

    The press may show interest to the extent of asking you to notify them when the court hearing takes place.

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  4. Retired. You're tending to confirm what I had already started to suspect about the local press; that they're good for village fetes and bouncing baby competitions but not a lot of use otherwise.
    I'm not sure how we move on from here.
    The consultation was demonstrably unlawful - I have evidence that the consultation was not uploaded to the TDC website until 18th October, eight and a half weeks before the consultation closed. The Council's own briefing said that a consultation period of 12 weeks was required, so they were three and a half weeks short on that.
    If we can't rely on the press then I suppose it's an official complaint to the Council, etc, etc.

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  5. 13.13 my information comes from correspondence between KIACC and KIA and Andrew seems to have come up with the same names.

    It’s all been covered and you can google it if you want the details, you have to appreciate that I am not against the airport, but as a local businessman would like to see some flights there scheduled in a way that was beneficial to the area, rather that just based on convenient plane movements.

    Quite a lot of my aviation book customers work in aviation and I believe that they too would like to see Manson being used more beneficially, I also don’t think they are that keen on the parts of the operations there that generate bad pr, like training flights over the town that could just as well have happened over a less populated area.

    Andrew and Retired, you have to appreciate that the way the council has handled this is by misusing a consultation, designed to save taxpayers money, into a situation where resolution involves expenditure of taxpayers money.

    We are only too well aware that when the council behave in a questionable way, they will spend any amount of taxpayers money, as if it were their own personal fund to try and defend their position and achieve their ends.

    Hence the tennis court fiasco and forcing a referendum for the Ramsgate Town Council issue. In both cases they then withdrew having wasted our money.

    So at the moment I am looking for a solution that isn’t going to cost us the taxpayer thousands of pounds.

    Andrew I suppose the timing is just part of the whole mess, but that comes down to evoking the law and I have just said it is voters money they would be spending defending themselves from us voters.

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  6. Michael
    I'm completely with you in not wanting to waste any more taxpayers money here. I'll wait for your deliberations

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  7. "Meridian
    EgyptAir
    MK Airlines"
    Explain any safety issues from these 3 specifically AT Manston

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  8. Michael,

    Heath Row – I couldn’t agree more. One of the best uses of the internet is to disseminate information. Why then don’t they use it? Maybe they’re incompetent and don’t know what’s going on, or more likely they are trying to manipulate us to their best advantage.

    Manston – All you’re doing here is supplying ammunition for the armchair gossips and scaring others who are not so informed about aviation. Personally I feel re-assured that problems are being exposed at Manston. A comparison with similar airports on the same issue would be more informative.

    Democracy and TDC – now there's two words you don't often see in the same sentence! I fully agree with your sentiments here, and so often trying to rectify a situation after the event is almost impossible with TDC. Councils appear to operate in a bubble which is designed to protect them from the real world. No matter how outrageous, ludicrous or out of touch their decisions are, provided they have ticked all the boxes in arriving at the decision there is little you can do about it.

    Sometimes I wonder about the relationship between Councillors and Council officers. The Councillors I have spoken to have said that the Council officers often obstruct rather than help them, and can bring their big guns to bear when it comes to decision making. Of course we have elections to decide who to represent us, but can they make any real difference? It’s not surprising that the electorate are disinterested in local politics. Our elected Council should be listening to us and openly leading us, and the Council officers should be taking instructions from them. There is far too much secrecy and therefore potential conspiring going on for the electorate to feel they have any input.

    I cannot believe that if the Council had done its job correctly in promoting the consultation, only 26 out of an electorate of around 100,000 would have responded. I suspect the Council will have ticked just enough boxes to get away with it, but even if they have, some very serious questions should be asked about such a fundamental democratic issue. The problem here is that there probably isn’t a procedure for it.

    Ramsgate Harbour Slipway – Let’s just watch this one and see how it works out. It’s going according to my predictions so far. In the real world, nobody spends £90,000 without some kind of guarantee.

    Oh, and just one more prediction. It won't be too long before the electorate catches on here in Thanet and the're will be some king of civil disobedience.

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  9. Frustrated your ongoing multiple comments saying the same thing have activated bloggers auto spam controls, I have retrieved one for you from their spam folder, but I can’t guarantee that if you try and comment again on this or any other blog it will appear.

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  10. Anonymous 1953. Go Google it yourself - it's all recorded in the public domain. Bolts missing from fuel tanks, cargo improperly secured, admitting that they did not have enough money to operate safely; it's all there if you can be arsed to look for yourself.

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  11. Sorry Michael, my browser kept doing strange things with no sign of the comment having been sent. I'll be more diligent in future. Computers are like Councils, you can't believe what they tell you and they can be very frustrating, but unlike Councils you can re-boot them which tends to sort out most things.

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  12. Andrew, I could google that. I could also find that many airlines at many different UK airports have the same thing all the time. I am pointing out it is unfair to suggest Manston has more 'dodgy' airlines operate to it than any other UK airport.

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  13. Frustrated you will be glad to know it didn’t spam this comment, so blogger hasn’t blacklisted your ip address.

    8.38 I should make it quite clear that I am not anti airport, the issue I have is with the balance of safety against some sort of commercial benefit to Thanet. My main concern is related to the way the airport manages the environmental problem of being on top of our drinking water reservoir and how it manages the various concerns related to Ramsgate being at the end of the runway.

    The problem with dubious operators seems to be out of all proportion with the amount of actual flights that take place and the drinking water protection issues have been going on for years.

    I would think most people would agree that there will always be some element of risk attached to an airport and some level of noise related to it and this is usually balanced against the benefits.

    But still my main question, the youf of today are in a queue at Heathrow at one airline’s desk now, with about 500 other people, so why haven’t some of these flights been diverted to Manston?

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  14. Presumably one of the handful of people actually employed at the Saviour of East Kent Airport. Technically you are correct - the bans were imposed by the EU - but presumably if the airlines operations were considered unsafe in Ostend (Meridian) then they were likely to be unsafe in Manston. If no faults were picked up at Manston I would qualify that as yet another black mark against the airport.
    Some years ago my wife had the opportunity to go the Manchester for a one-day conference. She didn't want to be away overnight so I suggested that EUJet might be the answer. Sure enough they had a very convenient flight up to Manchester in the morning, but no return flight in the evening. The system was set up for the convenience of the operator rather than the local business community. Michael's point entirely.

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  15. Michael,

    How do you justify your comment that “The problem with dubious operators seems to be out of all proportion with the amount of actual flights”, and are you referring to the airport operator or the aircraft operator?

    Statistics can be misleading, but the airline industry generally quotes that travelling by air is five times safer than travel by road per kilometre travelled. This would indicate that a fuel tanker is five times more likely to be involved in an accident than an aircraft. Also, economic sense indicates that aircraft arriving at Manston are carrying the minimum amount of fuel whereas fuel tankers arriving in Thanet are carrying their maximum amount of fuel. You might also consider that it would take ten fuel tankers to fill a Jumbo Jet, each one of which is statistically five times more likely to have an accident. This suggests the road transport element of transporting 210,000 litres of fuel is fifty time more likely to be involved in an accident than the airborne element. Should we not be worrying more about fuel tankers on our roads?

    As far as I’m aware, Manston does have containment facilities for fuel spillage and if I remember correctly they have recently been upgraded. Fuel spillage from road traffic accidents is highly unlikely to occur above such facilities as those at Manston and is therefore more likely to contaminate anything nearby such as drainage systems, rivers and water courses.

    When balancing the annoyances of Manston against the benefits, maybe you’re subconsciously biased because flights would not be of any immediate benefit to you, but somewhere convenient to fill the car up would be!

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  16. Frustrated that one spammed and I had to retrieve it, meaning we may have to engage in a bit of pointless dialogue on my test blog to retrieve the status of your ip address, let me know if it keeps happening.

    With Manston it is a more a history of operators going back to 1967 and the Oscar Golf and Yankee Kilo, perhaps bad luck, perhaps the economics of trying to have a transport hub where there is only a fairly thin slice of cheese.

    Statistically the number of Manston operators relative to the number of problem operators has not been so good.

    The pollution problems seem often to be as much about weak pr and monitoring, with the recent noise issue as an example, the airport’s monitors were broken, so they lacked the basic measurements to produce a solid noise assessment.

    With the water issue, pollution protection wise there seems to be a lack of overall strategy, some bits of the hard standing just draining off into the soil and at the other end of the scale a new interceptor that seems much larger than needed.

    The contingency plans for a fuel spillage caused by an accident on the grass part of the airfield make no sense that I can understand.

    With aquifer pollution in general I have been steadily leaning all of the potential polluters, the road drainage situation was very bad and is steadily improving.

    A very large problem here is to do with replenishment and the simple fact that you have to have enough undeveloped ground over the part of the aquifer that isn’t already contaminated.

    I think that at the moment a somewhat blinkered approach to this will ultimately be damaging to commercial expansion in Thanet. At the moment we have Thanet Earth due to expand, China Gateway back on the table after their new loan, airport expansion, the new road.

    The problem here is that we around the finite level for hard standing on the aquifer, from a replenishment point of view. Technically there are ways of mitigating the problem but fundamentally we are around the point where more development of this part of Thanet will be stopped by the environment agency.

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  17. Michael, I agree with you about the replenishment point, but I view this as a positive for Manston. Until the statistically miniscule possibility of a disaster actually occurs, Manston will be a huge source of clean surface water, guaranteed free of pollution associated with other far more harmful commercial activities.

    My rather simplistic and uninformed thoughts suggest that after the surface run-off water has been contained, it must go somewhere once it’s declared pollution free, and I see no reason why it can’t be dispersed back to the aquifer as if the hard surface wasn’t there.

    I’ve heard the cries of “danger”, “noise”, “pollution”, “unnecessary” and “not viable”. I would ask anyone who thinks this way to consider where their daily fresh fruit, veg. mail and many other items come from and how they get here. If you consume any of these items then you should accept that someone, somehwere has been inconvenienced for your benefit.

    We really must keep a sense of perspective about this. Danger and pollution are certainly not high on my list of worries when considering the future of Manston. I accept that there are concerns about Manston, but these concerns apply to most airports. To fight expansion on what boils down to almost non existent risks and the “not in my back yard” philosophy is futile and only distracts from other far more relevant arguments.

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  18. Frustrated your comment was in the spam folder again, blogger not me.

    None of the hard standing runoff is allowed to go into the aquifer, it’s interceptors and the sea EA rules, I think this is to stop things like aircraft de-icer coming out your tap.

    Well to be more realistic they purify our drinking water, so pollution just puts the bills up but the agricultural extraction for irrigation and crop washing is pretty much direct.

    From my point of view it is the history of the problem that I get to see and even the very recent history is not so good, I had a look at this issue a couple of years ago and published some of the documentation at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/drink/

    It is as you see a complex problem of balancing risk and benefit, with no easy solutions, the fundamental problem for Manston has and always will be that no one would chose the site and runway orientation for a commercial airport.
    Making something commercially viable of the site within the costs imposed by increasingly tougher environmental controls has this history of trying to bend and delay the rules, I suppose some sort of new approach is the only realistic way forward.

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