Sunday, 31 January 2010

Altogether 118 individuals and organisations interested in the future of Thanet, or were there more?

The council have published the results to the core strategy consultation, here is the link http://consult.thanet.gov.uk/inovem/consult.ti/core.strategy/listresponses interestingly they have published the list of the people who responded to this consultation.

I have decided that as I can’t find my name in the list although I responded to the consultation and received conformation that my response was valid from TDC that my cold is actually man flue.

The list of respondents at http://consult.thanet.gov.uk/inovem/consult.ti/core.strategy/listRespondents is certainly interesting as much for who’s names it doesn’t contain as those it does.

I hope that they are going to go a bit further than just publishing the summary of results at http://consult.thanet.gov.uk/inovem/consult.ti/core.strategy/questionnaireResults?qid=6755 I will endeavour to try and translate this page from gov speak into something people can actually understand, but this may not be easy without my main computer running properly with all of the usual programs on it.
There appear to be 129 entries on the list when I removed the duplications I could only count 117 different entries and once you have removed the organisations you get down to about 80 individuals.
Not many local politicians have commented, not much sign of many of the Thanet bloggers either, although I have saved the resulting document as TDCs hit list, it isn’t really up to being that.

Sunday ramble from the secondhand book trade with masses of boring stuff about computers.

Looking at this mornings news I found I was surprised at myself, for not being surprised, that the man who is supposed to be sorting out the MPs expenses issue, has expenses issues himself see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/7112659/MPs-expenses-watchdog-claimed-15000-in-taxi-fares-on-expenses.html

As various stories about government local and national break I find I am now inclined to get the uneasy feeling that I have had de ja vue before.

What we seem to have here is a case of another highly paid civil servant milking the system, while not really achieving anything apart from trying to keep all the plates spinning until he moves sideways to another lucrative job within government.

On to computer problems now, my in house expert and I decided that the time had come to reformat the main computer in the bookshop, this is primarily used for online bookselling, local book publishing and publishing images to the internet.

The idea being that we would install a new operating system at the same time, last time we tried to do this I bought Vista, couldn’t make the scanner work at all so bought a new scanner, while I was waiting for it to turn up I discovered that the vista drivers to ordinary thing like Epson printers produced completely different colours to the XP ones.

When the scanner that worked with Vista turned up it turned out to be far to slow and complicated, at this point I gave up a few hundred pounds worse off.

I should point out here that in the secondhand book trade we are stuck with windows as the industry standard book cataloguing program won’t work on anything else.

This time I was much more cautious before I bought another Windows 7 license and tried the one I already had on my laptop, this is the free evaluation copy that expires later this year and I can honestly say that it is the best version of windows I have used so far.

Having discovered one again there was no driver for the scanners that we use to copy the images for the books I publish and that the driver for the colour laser printer didn’t work properly, I am back with XP again.

A few more detailed thoughts on computing here, firstly when Microsoft are about to launch a new operating system you can download the evaluation copy for free and try it before you buy it.

Over the years we have found with the main computers that having two completely separate drives in them is the best set up, one for the operating system and all of the programs and drivers and the other for our stuff, documents images etc.

If you are running a computer hard in a business then you can pretty much guarantee that you will have to reformat (completely wipe the drive) with the operating system and programs on about once a year.

If you have a single drive even if it is partitioned into more than one drive you will have to wipe the whole thing, including all of your stuff.

Also it is sensible to save programs and drivers that work properly, as when newer versions come out they may not work properly and the older versions may be no longer available for download.

The last operating system that offered a way to completely wipe a drive including the boot partition was windows 98 via a floppy disc, so I recommend having this equipment available if you intend to do this yourself.

We are very careful about making backups with the bookselling program we use it is important to make these backups to a different drive to the one running the program as if the drive dies you lose everything, including the record of who owes you what.

We had a major glitch with this program “Homebase” in as much as there was a corrupted entry back in March of last year so unbeknown to us all of the backups we had made since then didn’t actually work.

When we came to restore the entries in the program it got as far as entry before this entry and just stopped, as all of our clients details and our invoices were further up the backup file, this was a considerable problem.

This is an Access based program and we got round this by opening the backup file in Wordpad and deleting the book entry that was corrupted i.e. the one after the last one to load from the backup file into the program.

One final boring bit of computer information, there is now a security update for internet explorer 8 after it was compromised by Chinese hackers, it is important to note that it is a good idea to make sure that your operating system is up to date before installing the latest version of internet explorer and that with XP this should include service pack 3.

Frankly using Firefox as a browser for blogging has been a right pain, you cant even copy images straight from it as I did from IE8 for the one at the top of this post.

I have gone to the trouble of writing this all out mostly for other secondhand booksellers as had we not found these solutions it would have cost us a considerable amount of money.

As far as the local book publishing goes my latest publication John Heywoods Illustrated Guide To Margate is now available, see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/catalogue/john_heywoods_illustrated_guide_to_margate.htm this is a fairly ordinary Margate tourist guide form about 1905 and may be of interest to some people.

Publishing guides to Margate is a bit of an uphill struggle as there is nowhere left in the town to sell them, Albion Bookshop in Northdown Road closed, as did the museum and now Thanet District Council have introduced a new purchasing system for the tourist information offices that means that the people working in those offices no longer seem to have a way to purchase the books they want for resale.

Frankly I was quite surprised that my last post was met with so much support for Tony Blair, my thoughts were based on background research, as they mostly are, and having discussed this with an Iraqi I know who is an academic historian and someone else I know who worked as an intelligence operative in the build up to the war.

I get the feeling that if I respond to the comments there the argument will just go on interminably, so a few thoughts here.

Firstly the people I spoke to were in no way friends of Saddam and he would probably have had them eliminated if he could.

Both were convinced that war was not the right solution at that time and that the weapons of mass destruction was a ruse by Saddam to make it difficult for parts of his regime to run for a coup.

This was just a false show of strength in and this game of chicken was well understood by our military intelligence.

Consider the 45 minutes to Cyprus statement click on the link to remind you http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-1364802-45-minutes-from-chemical-attack.do as the evidence is coming out it is obvious that they were uncomfortable with it, which begs the question why didn’t they rebut it.

There is very much a sense here that The Civil Service and intelligence services became Blair’s agents rather than agents of the Crown’s, telling him what he wanted to hear.

Consider were his allegiances to the Americans or to parliament, yesterday when explaining how he took us to war he mentioned all the things that he had to have in place and then said, oh yes and then I had to go to Parliament.

Oh well this is tucked well down and not tagged in what must seem to most a pretty boring post, as I don’t have much time to deal with the comment about it.

As the main computer hasn’t got all of the image handling and web publishing programs on it yet, and my children are using my laptop to maintain an audio visual connection with each other using Skype, I can’t publish yesterday’s pictures at the moment but will probably do so and ramble on some more later.

This computer doesn’t even have a question mark on it, or an exclamation mark….

Here are the Ramsgate pictures, sorry the snow had mostly melted by the time I managed to get out also the picture enhancing program on my notebook is just not as good as the one on the shop’s main computer.

http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/Laptop5/id7.htm

I have a cold at the moment so may not be getting out taking photographs for a few days unless things warm up considerably.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Some old Ramsgate pictures and a few thoughts.

The picture is of the speed trials on Ramsgate’s western undercliff probably in the late 50s or early 60s.

One of my customers brought in a few pictures for me to scan and share with you all this week, well the main computer in the shop has reached the point where it needs reformatting and so some of them scanned so badly that they weren’t worth publishing, we are on to that now and hopefully they will all appear in high definition soon. Here is the link to the ones I managed to scan fairly ok http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/blogpicts110/id16.htm

Having spent yesterday mostly listening to Tony Blair and his failure to explain why he lied to the country, I am particularly annoyed about this as I voted Labour mostly on the basis that he seemed a decent and honest sort.

The thoughts that go through my mind are along the lines of, oh well Hitler didn’t actually invade Poland like we said he did.

Or perhaps the enquiry should have asked if he should the UK have joined the Americans in the Vietnam War.

To my mind the issues here are, was going to war legal and why did the government lie to us? I expect I am being naïve here but I can’t get out of my mind the fact that Blair is a trained lawyer and instead of answering the critical questions, he seems to be saying, that as he thinks the war was a good idea, the legal and truthful niceties are irrelevant.

I was talking to one of my occasional customers who works for local government in another area and he reckons his council are every bit as bad as TDC if not worse, I was interested in his general reflection about what he thinks is going wrong in local government.

What he said was something along the lines of; your average councillor stays in the job for what three years and your average officer about two and it really is now mostly about keeping all the balls in the air until their time is up.

He also said that there is little other choice for most officers who whish to retain some sort of career, as the jugglers far outnumber those genuinely trying to do a good job for the community.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Royal Sands Development Ramsgate cliff façade job done or is it.

Well no hard hats today no blokes and no scaffolding either, possibly a hurried retreat, I don’t really know the problem being that the council won’t tell me what they are up to which is all a bit daft really.


From my point of view it wastes a lot of my time as despite freedom of information requests and complaints I just can’t get straight answers to straight questions.



An example of what I mean here is that I asked them for the CDM assessment for the site back in October, this is just the site safety plan, well they fobbed me off with the one for the paint job that had already been completed.



I had good reason to ask as there were blokes down there painting the skirting for the hoardings at the time and there was that bulge that could have fallen on them and killed them. Of course they still haven’t provided one and as you know they recently had their contractor down there standing under buckets of concrete that he was hauling up scaffolding, without a hard hat on.



Now right down the line with this site the council seem to have a totally caviller approach to health and safety. OK no one had been killed yet, their advising engineers have told the council in a written report not to put heavy weights on top of the cliff near the edge, well there is still no weight limit there and heavy vehicles are still going up there.



The Environment Agency have strongly recommended to them in writing that the site should have a flood risk assessment and emergency escapes should be incorporated in the new developments design, something that they seem to have completely ignored.



I am not talking about the stupid and unnecessary health and safety that has come in to play in recent years I am talking about the ordinary health and safety regulations that were saving lives in factories and building sites more than thirty years ago when I was working in engineering.



Now we have this latest cliff repair done by people with a lax attitude to safety in a way that looks OK on the outside, but without even the most basic adherence to this sort of construction that uses reinforced concrete, by that I mean you have to compact the concrete to make this sort of construction work something they didn’t do.



This sort of thing happens in the third world, one hears news stories where the concrete hasn’t been made properly and a building or a bridge collapses killing people; frankly I have watched the construction of this thing and could hardly believe what I saw.



Now what I find even more bizarre is that the council are having a cliff repair done further along near the park and there as far as I can see the work is being done to a high standard, with proper safety precautions.



I just can’t understand what is going on here I watched the major work going on to the Wellington cliff façade the work on the cliff top the surfacing waterproofing the concrete balustrade the new railings all seemed to be being done to a very high standard.



The cliff façade wall though, no foundations, all those unfilled cracks, rust coming from underneath the concrete badge, vegetation growing out of the cracks less than a year after it was all supposed to be filled and coated.



I wonder if the firm doing it that had lost heart in what they were doing, they must have been aware of the bulge, the missing foundations, the irregular damp patches that shouldn’t be there, but where do we go from here.



Is the next stage to be expensive litigation between the developer who presumably like me has been assured that the cliff is safe, the council who have there own internal experts, the councils outside technical advisors who are a multinational company and frankly should be good at their job.


Sorry about the strange code appearing in some browsers it would appear spilling wine into the keyboard has more of an effect than just stopping the question mark key from working.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

POLICE STATION CAVENDISH STREET RAMSGATE bit of a planning nightmare.

83 two bedroom flats on the site of the old police station in Cavendish street with 18 parking spaces. Many flats are below ground level. Thanks to Steve for pointing this one out to me, a problem with the way the council put up their planning applications is that the big ones show up as much as the little ones so one is inclined to miss them.

I am becoming increasingly concerned about the high density residential builds within the town centre, I am not saying here that I am against social housing or housing that is likely to have a high turnover of residents.

My concern is that it is should be properly mixed with family residential accommodation, I am a bit concerned that we may turn our town centres into ghettos of social deprivation without very careful planning.

I am very much aware of the problems associated with what after all are blocks of flats and have been trying to study the plans.

The problem here is that the plans are not published very well on the internet some of the writing on some of the sheets is illegible, something that makes me smell a rat.

The developers website http://www.lilybrook.net/ isn’t any help either, the trouble is here in Thanet I no longer trust the council to make sensible decisions about this sort of thing.

The planning ref is OL/TH/09/0853 and the planning website http://www.ukplanning.com/thanet you have to go there and put the ref in the search box as it is some wonder of government financed IT where you can’t actually make links to pages.

The picture above if you click on it to enlarge you will see what I mean about the definition.

Anyway I am not saying that I am definitely coming out against the application I just haven’t been able to look at it properly and I think they already have planning permission for something very similar anyway, so this revised application may actually be an improvement.

Copper thieves, no coppers about and other thoughts on the latest pictures.

I did manage to get out for a short walk yesterday and a very short one this morning so there are some pictures.

Looking at the pictures of the newly restored eastcliff bandstand you can see that nearly all of the copper band around it has now been stolen, a quick look on the web suggests you would probably get about a £1 a pound for copper from a scrap merchant.

I don’t know about anyone else but it seems pretty incredible to me that this should happen in such a prominent and overlooked site, it’s a depressing thought that our once proud town can’t even sport a copper strip round its bandstand.

I don’t really know what the solution is here, more CCTV, some sort of private police force like the one I encountered at Westwood Cross, using materials that have no scrap value.

I think much of the problem here in the eastcliff area of Ramsgate is that it is sliding into being an area of poor and very densely populated housing, some of this is due to the long term state of denial about what could be viably and safely built on the Pleasurama site and some down to poor planning control over residential conversions.

Weak policing and lax late night licensing means that the area is not so pleasant to live in and eventually it is going to wind up with a population of those who can’t get accommodation elsewhere.

I would imagine that if local government took decisive action now it would probably be possible to stop it from becoming a run down area without having to find massive funding.

On to the rest of the pictures, the very large shop opposite mine that was the Carpet Sale Centre, now empty and with planning permission is in for the upper floors to be converted to residential and the ground floor into smaller shops.

I hope that they have the funding to get on with this, I find that I am becoming surrounded by more and more empty and progressively derelict buildings.

The new carpet shop that opened further down the road is moving to where the cycle shop has recently closed.

Work is going on to restore more of the royal Parade balustrade which is good, however a fundamental problem with this structure is that when the major strengthening work was done to it, I think about 15 years ago the waterproofing wasn’t addressed properly.

This means that there are ongoing problems with bricks bursting due to the effect of freezing and many of the arches are either very damp or in some cases wet.

I was fascinated by the crane being used to lift the propellers from the slipway, as you see it sits on the back of a lorry and folds up very small, the operator controls it with a remote control, much like a TV.

Both of the chaps working on the cliff façade were wearing hard hats today, I suppose that’s probably a case of they will be cussing me right up to the point that something heavy falls on one of their heads, then perhaps contemplating the rest of ones life with severe brain damage will put a different flavour to their thoughts.

What worries me still though is that I don’t believe this was a quality repair and looking at the damp stains on the other panels it is obvious that there will be further problems of this nature.

Back to the bandstand for a moment it doesn’t look as though the restoration of the pillars that support the roof is lasting that well, a problem here is that people always seem to underestimate the problems associated with our exposed seafront conditions.

Here is the link to the pictures http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/blogpicts110/id15.htm

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Royal Sands Development cliff façade one hardhat on and some pictures.


I got a short walk yesterday afternoon and one this morning, a point of note here is that the chap hauling up buckets of cement and concrete to the man up the scaffolding building the blockwork, that is the part of the Wellington Crescent cliff façade, is wearing a hard hat, the chap up the scaffolding laying the blocks isn’t

It’s a bit hard to tell how my intervention in this would have gone down, by this I mean did it make them resentful, or do they see it as a move that may eventually save one of them them from death or injury.

Of course the real problem here is the long term one that this appears much more about covering up the defects as quickly as possible, rather than really addressing the problem of the cliff façade safety.

There is also the problem of the million pounds of our – the council taxpayers money – being spent on a job that was obviously faulty and the council instead of seeking redress both from the firm that was supposed to be supervising the work and the firm that did the work, at the very least they must have known of the existence of the bulge and the crack that it caused as they filled the crack with cement before they painted the blockwork.

So much today seems to be about going to any lengths to avoid admitting that people make mistakes, as human error is part of human nature this is all a bit of a waste of time really.

No problem photographing in Ramsgate of course and I am still having an ongoing dialogue with The Westwood Cross people about why I was refused permission to photograph there, so far I am none the wiser.

Click on the link for the pictures http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/blogpicts110/id14.htm

Monday, 25 January 2010

Shaping Our Future - Thanet Core Strategy – my response.

Some of you may have had difficulties with this one and as far as I am concerned in the end it was a bit of a pr coup for TDCs development services.

When after having fought with their online form etc, tried to unscramble the govspeak in the document I phoned them up and they assured me that I could just say what I thought in ordinary English, email it to them and it would be included.

They also extended the deadline by a month.

So many thanks to the people in this part of TDC click on the link to read the emails http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/blogpicts110/id13.htm this really is a case of credit where credit is due.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Sunday ramble reflections on a week’s blogging pinball, walk and a few pictures.

The last week on the blog has been pretty active starting with Euroferries, the thing that puzzles me here is that Euroferries don’t appear to have acted improperly, by this I mean that when things went wrong they paid the money back to people who had left deposits and yet when the BBCs inside out team contacted me about it during the week, they said that Euroferries was refusing to talk to them.

I very much hope this isn’t the end of the road for what would have been something highly beneficial for the area, we really do need to attract a foot passenger ferry service to Ramsgate.

The Pleasurama saga goes on and as you will have seen from ECRs blog, now it’s the drains.

My understanding here is that Cardy Construction intend to lay the roof drainage pipe along Harbour Parade during the next few weeks and that they are doing it now so as to cause minimal disruption to the traders there.

I believe that this work will only be on Harbour Parade not on the site, I have no problem with this at all, it is normal practice to drain a roof in this way and conforms to EA advice.

I don’t normally go into problems that relate top the development that are not fundamental issues of public safety, frankly I don’t have the time but in this case I will explain something of the problems with the drains.

The drainage system for this area is a mixed surface water and sewage system, the pipe comes from the cliff top where the open derelict arches are at Granville Marina, the contents flowing through the Pleasurama site and along Harbour Parade.

It has various problems that have lead to flooding at the arches, the old underground toilets near the pavilion and some of the cellars in Harbour Parade, these problems are caused when we have heavy rain and the system can’t cope.

There is an outfall pipe into the sea opposite Granville Marina which has a pressure activated valve on it that is supposed to open when the system can’t cope, unfortunately this doesn’t seem to work properly.

There is also a maze of old pipes in the harbour parade area and there seems to be some uncertainty as to what leads where.

There is a certain amount of doubt that this system will be able to cope with the demands of the new development, particularly as it seems to be unable to cope with the existing demands.

I suppose it is fair to say that this problem is just part of Ramsgate’s crumbling infrastructure, something that wasn’t addressed during the period of prosperity before the economic downturn and now leaves us looking a bit of a poor relation.

Few towns can boast a royal residence that is in such a bad state that it has to have netting on it to prevent bits of it from falling on passers by.

The Pleasurama problems really extend back to the plans that were passed by the council for the building that was too high, there were many aspects of these plans that didn’t make sense to me.

As an example they showed 1 metre wide 250 metre long corridors running the length of the building, this sort of design problem that makes it much easier for criminals and encourages other social problems.

What stands out about the plans for this development is that no one seemed to take any account of the special problems associated with the site, the cliff is a good example of what I mean.

I think it is fair to say that no one would consider building 4 metres away from an unsupported chalk cliff, that had been wakened by tunnelling, poor surface maintenance above and wartime activities.

I think perhaps everyone involved assumed that the concrete façade supported the cliff and made it safer than a bare chalk cliff would be, with the benefit of hindsight we now know that this is not the case.

If anything the concrete façade makes cliff falls bigger and more dangerous when they happen, both because a larger amount of material builds up and concrete does more damage than chalk when it falls.

The problem we now face and it is our problem as until some sort of resolution is found the site continues to blight the town. I can only think of two solutions one being a large development integrated with the cliff and designed to support the cliff, the other being a much smaller development, far enough from the cliff not to be effected by any cliff collapse.

Let us suppose that I am wrong and the council is right and the repairs to the cliff façade have been totally successful, let us also suppose that there is no problem with the foundations. This still leaves us with an unsupported chalk cliff with a history of collapses.

Very much a case of not being able to see the problem and therefore assuming it isn’t there.

This of course raises the problem of would the million pounds spent by the council on the cliff rears still have been largely wasted even if the repairs had gone to plan?

The latest set of Pleasurama plans have tried to address some of the problems that relate to the site but this has led to different problems. You will appreciate here that the architect has his hands tied by what the council planning department perceive as material change. If he makes sweeping changes then it will invalidate the planning permission and new planning permission will have to be sought. Because times have changed the restrictions on a new planning permission there would be much tighter. The Environment Agency has now designated the area as being a high risk flood area, meaning that a flood risk assessment would be mandatory. New heritage regulations would put much tighter restraints on what could be built adjacent to a conservation area.

One aspect of what I mean about the new plans is that they have addressed the problem of the bottom of the cliff façade not going down as far as the proposed car park, by changing the ground level between the cliff and the back of the building from car park to road and raising its level above that of the bottom of the cliff façade.

A major problem here is that as this raising means that the road is too high to allow lorries to pass under the building, so you have a two way road being used by lorries that is 4 metres wide between the pillars supporting the cliff façade and the pillars supporting the building.

When two lorries meet on this road one will have to back up in this confined space, obviously sooner or later a lorry is likely to catch one of the pillars with undesirable consequences.

I now come to the photographing of Westwood Cross, something that has caused considerable interest, it certainly wasn’t a publicity coup for the management team there.

This is something that makes me wonder if they properly understand how news spreads in Thanet, by this I mean that if you look at the recent posts on this blog, several of them have been the first appearance of something that has made its way into next weeks local papers.

It isn’t that I have gone out of my way to make this blog newsworthy or to try and beat others to stories, quite a lot of the stories that come my way I just put on http://thanetpress.blogspot.com/ and they get picked up by other local bloggers.

The truth is that I just don’t get time to put everything up, of course a lot of the posts that appear on the other Thanet blogs are news to me, I certainly don’t claim to have a finger in every pie.

All that said the Euroferries losing Bonanza Express and the cliff façade post both appeared here first and were in last weeks papers.

Something I do really try to do is to get my facts right before I publish anything and if I do get something wrong to say so straight away, so over a period of time people have come to believe what I say is true, frankly it wouldn’t give me any pleasure at all to make it up.

With Westwood Cross if a local journalist had gone there and asked to take pictures, I believe the management team there would have welcomed them with open arms so I suspect their refusal to let me photograph there was based on not understanding that the Thanet blogs are an important source of publicity.

My main concern over the issue is not that I was not allowed to take the photographs but that we have a shopping centre set up in the middle of Thanet where the management has decided that the normal way we are governd an policed in this county is not most conducive to a vibrant retail centre.

To rectify this situation they have made their own laws with there own police to enforce them whereas here in Ramsgate we are not allowed to do the same in order to compete with the shopping centre there.

By this I mean we can’t decide to have an effective private police force to make for a safe and comfortable shopping environment, we cannot implement planning laws to prevent people putting residential and office space on the ground floors of our prime locations (The Customs House is an example of what I mean here) we can’t decide how our town centre parking should best be managed to encourage shoppers (as an example of this I at WWX they do not allow shop staff to park in the shopping spaces, but have a separate car park for them next to a rival retailer)

Perhaps it is the councils managing the towns that should be implementing the solutions at WWX, perhaps the council should be making WWX put more into the local community.

We went for a short walk this afternoon the high point being a visit to the Pinball Parlour http://www.pinballparlour.co.uk/ sad to say that this is another little Ramsgate gem that will be a victim of the massive grant funding to Margate.

The owner tells me that when Dreamland becomes a grant funded fair museum he will probably move there.

Here are the pictures http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop5/id6.htm

Oh yes sorry about the minor errors and the length of the post the touch typing is coming on a pace so that what I write is getting closer to what I am thinking, you get more words less punctuation and more errors, you could say I am using you for practice learning to ride this particular bicycle, I hope you don’t all mind that much.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Why would Thanet District Council lie to Your Thanet newspaper?

After the last two days posts this one is a bit of a mixture of Ramsgate Royal Sands Development – Pleasurama to most of us – and some thoughts on photography.

Now although we all know that phrase, “the camera never lies,” isn’t completely true there is certainly an element of truth in what photographs portray.

Having had a few days to think about it I think that the most interesting Pleasurama development, development this week is that the council lied to the local paper see http://www.yourthanet.co.uk/kent-news/Cliff__collapse-worries-at-Pleasurama-site-newsinkent32003.aspx?news=local

I revisited the pictures that I took of the bulge in blockwork panel that initiated the repairs and the other pictures of the weeds growing out of the newly repaired and painted cliff façade I have put them on the internet half sized – very big - at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/blogpicts110/id11.htm and run them through a batch process in photo enhancing program and published them at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/blogpicts110/id12.htm

You don’t really have to be a civil engineer to see that the bulge was there and the crack filled before the façade was painted, anyone who has done the most basic of home decoration can see what’s been filled and opened up even more as the bulge got slightly worse after the paint job.

You don’t really need to be Bob the Builder to see that the pointing work to the cracks in the façade wasn’t done properly either.

The picture above (click on it top enlarge) shows the bottom of one of the main support pillars TDC say “The load bearing columns are founded on reinforced concrete pads,” I say it’s sitting on a little pile of chalk.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Photography banned at Westwood Cross Shopping Centre.

Several people have asked me to take some pictures of Westwood Cross, some of these are completely disabled and will never get to see it, some are people who have moved away from Thanet and are curious to know what people are talking about.

Anyway it’s my day off today and although the gloomy winter weather does bring to mind a phrase popular among teenagers of my generation; “today has been cancelled due to lack of interest,” I thought I would get the shopping from Sainsburys, take the bookshop recycling to MPL at Westwood and take a few hundred photographs of Westwood Cross.

After taking a few a couple of security men appeared and told me I would have to get permission to take photographs, they said that they would use their radios to get permission from head office and asked me why I was taking pictures.

Obviously I explained that I had started taking them last year to make an historical record of Thanet and that when I had started publishing them to the internet in the order that I had taken them, this became as close to going for a walk in their home town as some people could get, and when I stopped doing this I got a lot of emails asking me to carry on doing so.

They relayed this to head office in the simplified for of taking pictures for a website for disabled people, frankly they seemed more stunned than I was when the answer came back as no.

One of them said to me, “I would say to you have a nice afternoon shopping with your wife, but now I just don’t know what to say.”

The only picture I didn’t publish was the one of the security guards, as they were so pleasant about the whole affair that I don’t want them implicated.

Now I am not sure of the legal position here, the security guards said that this ban could be enforced, as Westwood Cross Shopping Centre is private property.

Firstly it begs the question of what constitutes a public place? I would have though anywhere the public have unrestricted access to.

More important here to my mind is that there should be one law for this shopping centre and another for the rest of Thanet, with its own private police force enforcing a constitution that isn’t made up by an elected body or producing laws that are not made by precedence based on the courts and the jury system.

This is a very slippery slope to go down and could have an effect on our basic human rights.

The last time that we had a constitution in England was when Oliver Cromwell reigned, his slippery slope lead all the way to regicide.

They are certainly quite happy to use the law of the land when it suits them it says on their website http://www.westwoodx.co.uk/terms/ “6 Governing Law and Jurisdiction
These Terms and Conditions will be governed by and construed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you agree that the English courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction in any dispute.
If you do not agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions, please leave this website now.”
Here are the pictures I took before I was stopped http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/Laptop5/id5.htm

Oh and the top picture is of a CCTV security firms van at Westwood they seem to think that they are above the law too, as they have no number plate.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Royal Sands Development Ramsgate, the saga just goes on and on.

Looking at the Haiti disaster news unfolding day by day I am very conscious that there can’t be many things worse than having your home collapse without warning and being trapped inside.

So at the moment I am extra conscious of my concerns about the safety of the cliff that will be only four metres away from people’s homes.

Yesterday I was talking to someone who had occasion to visit the site recently, he is a well known and respected local businessman and frankly what he said appalled me, like me he has some sort of background in engineering, can read a scale drawing and he has some understanding of what can and can’t be done in the real world.

He said had read some of my blog posts about the site and so he had a look at the foundations all the way along the façade, he said they looked worse in reality than in my photographs see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/blogpicts11/id31.htm I know this doesn’t say much for my ability as a photographer. In my defence I can only say that I was so shocked by what I saw that I didn’t record it in the methodical way I should have done. Next time I have a chance to get on the site I will try and do abetter job.

What he had to say about the repair work, to the repair work that is going on down there was this.

“I went down when the snow was still on the ground and work had been suspended for some time.

No proper foundations have been dug for the panel being repaired, I think this may have been because they were afraid of disturbing the ground near the supporting columns that don’t appear to have any foundations.

A concrete strip has been laid on the exposed topsoil there above ground level.”

I asked him if this was on solid chalk. He said.

“No on nothing much at all really just muddy chalky soil.”

He went on to say.

“The block work is single block thick, not tied to the columns or the chalk cliff in any way, something that may have passed muster in the 1930s when the original panel was built, but certainly not to a standard that would be acceptable today.

The cavities in the blocks – these are oblong concrete cast blocks with two square holes and are laid hole over hole leaving a line of square holes running all the way down inside the wall – had been filled with concrete and bits of reinforcing rod had been pushed in the top, running down inside the wall.

At this time the concrete had set hard and shrunk away from the reinforcing rods, so that it was possible to lift them out of the holes.”

He also said that he was surprised that they hadn’t investigated the other panels, as presumably they would be expected to last the life of the new development and it would be much easier to sort out any problems now than when the new development had been built.

I went to have a quick look after taking the children to school and before opening the shop this morning, I didn’t have much time, but took the picture above from the top of the cliff (click on it to enlarge).

Now when you see two men operating a hoist to get buckets of concrete up scaffolding then wearing a hard hat is mandatory, this is because if a bucket of concrete falls on your head it kills you.

So if they had such an apparent disregard for their own safety, how much concern have they for the safety of the construction workers that are supposed to be starting on the development in about three weeks, or the people who will be living in the development.

The council say the work is being undertaken by the council's term contractor, council work on council owned land.

Here is the link to the other pictures I took this morning http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/blogpicts110/id9.htm I have made some attempt to get the bits out of my camera, so have put them up bigger than usual.

I am beginning to wonder if the councils desire to sell this site hasn’t reached the point where there actions are going to wind up costing us a considerable amount of money.

They seem to have agreed to sell SFP Ventures a site that isn’t safe to build on, I don’t really think any contractor large enough to take on the building of the development will wish to proceed without an independent survey of the cliff safety issues.

I don’t think anyone looking at my pictures at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/blogpicts11/id31.htm would want to start boring the hole for the building support piles four metres away form the cliff façade without one.

So if there is an independent survey and it confirms what I and several other people fear i.e. that the cliff façade isn’t safe – despite the fact that the council and the council’s technical advisors say that it is safe - the ensuing legal battle could go on for years.

This is not a happy thought for the future prosperity of Ramsgate, nor does it bode well for the council’s already overstretched budget, perhaps the council officers involved are hoping that the development will be delayed until they are safely retired.

Another question here is why didn’t the council go back to the contractor they paid a million pounds to for the cliff repairs and ask them to do a proper job, the bulge was there when the work was done, the council say in today’s Your Thanet see http://www.yourthanet.co.uk/kent-news/Cliff__collapse-worries-at-Pleasurama-site-newsinkent32003.aspx?news=local that the bulge wasn’t there when the work was done, although I have photographs taken at the time and you can clearly see the bulge once you know what to look for.

You can also see in the pictures I took that caused the present repairs to be done that the contractor has filled the crack in the middle of the bulge before it was painted, so why are we shelling out an extra £1,500.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Burning your boats, Euroferries Bonanza Express update and a bit of a ramble with more pictures of Ramsgate.

Bonanza Express seems be travelling back and fourth between Santa Cruz and Agaete, there is a bit of an internet toy that you can use for tracking vessels in this area see http://www.localizatodo.com/mapa/ it is quite a toy really.

If you get addicted to playing with this a better one for UK waters can be found at http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/ now I have stopped you getting any work done in the office today, playing with internet toys, perhaps I should offer some appologies to the bosses.

The Euroferries website has had a considerable update since yesterday, all mention of Bonanza express has gone see http://www.euroferries.co.uk/ but they still appear to be hoping to start their service from March the first.

I very much hope this happens and would like to offer them any support that I can, I certainly still wonder how much of the delays have been caused by our own dear council.
I am publishing up yesterdays pictures of Ramsgate on the internet at the moment and will add the link to them and some notes about them to this post later this morning.

The picture above is a bit of a sad one, this wooden cruiser is being broken up and burnt on the slipway in Ramsgate.

Also on the slipway for repairs in Silver Sturgeon see http://www.silverfleet.co.uk/fleet/silver-sturgeon/ she is steel hulled an I would imagine this involves a survey, replacing any steel plates that need it, painting the hull and fitting new anodes.

Click on the link for the pictures http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/blogpicts110/id7.htm as you see despite yesterdays forecast for a dull and foggy day, here in Ramsgate our microclimate meant the weather was much more spring like.

Back to the burning of boats, why, well in this case the hull has rotted beyond repair, there is a little story here for anyone interested, about rotten hulls.

The last boat I had of any size was a river cruiser on the Great Ouse and there was a pretty astute marina owner there who was about to break up and burn a large and luxuriously fitted river cruiser that had a hull as rotten as a pear.

A local builder came along and offered to buy it for repair and as the marina owner figured that the fees he would get for the boat on hard standing while all of the planks were replaced would be considerable, he allowed the builder to knock the price down to £100 although he engines alone were probably worth about £1.000.

She was 50 feet long so the fees for a year hard standing would have been about £2,000, this wasn’t a cheap marina.

Well on the Monday a truck from the builder’s firm turned up loaded with chiken wire and three men got to work with electric staple guns and a generator.

On the Tuesday a gang of plasterers and a concrete mixer turned up and ferro coated the boat, nothing happened on Wednesday and Thursday while the concrete dried.

Friday and Saturday the painters turned up on Monday the boat was in the water and the builder on holiday, on the boat.

Reading through the planning applications that I have just put on http://thanetpress.blogspot.com/ I notice Mr Hilton of Bleak House has applied to for planning permission to turn what was a jewellers shop in Ramsgate High Street into a pie and mash shop.

It occurred to me that there could be a lesson for other retailers like myself here, by that I mean you can’t buy it on the internet, even if you got it from Westwood Cross your pie and mash would probably be cold by the time you got it back to Ramsgate.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

What a difference a day makes.

Thanet could be a completely different country or planet, the sun out the weather mild and I did eventually get out for a walk I even took some pictures.

A bit of a ramble while the computer sorts them out, my notebook is not very quick so I will probably drivel on a bit..

I am cautiously using firefox instead of internet explorer, which is more difficult to post to the blog from as it copies all of the encoding out of word.

The Euroferries Bonanza Express thing is a bit of a blow and I hope thy manage to sort something out, Ramsgate really needs some sort of ferry service with foot passengers arriving regularly in the town.

There is a bit of a sense here in Ramsgate that the council having broken Margate beyond any hope of repair with Westwood Cross, is now putting all of the available resources into Margate.

There is quite a convincing argument that Margate is beyond hope now, that Broadstairs is not too badly effected and the only way that Margate will ever recover is on the back of Ramsgate and Broadstairs, so that what available resources are available should be put into Ramsgate.

I am not sure I subscribe completely to this school of thought, but Ramsgate is now starting to suffer more than it was, the cycle shop closing was a real blow in my opinion, they have another branch in St Peters Broadstairs and the people who run it assure me that they are doing fine there. Now if a good business model that works well in St Peters can’t make a profit in Ramsgate town centre, then we have a problem.

The pictures about 500 of them can be accessed by clicking on the following links.

http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop110/

http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop110/id3.htm

http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop110/id4.htm

http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop110/id5.htm

http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop110/id6.htm

although as ever they are publishing to the web now so you may have to wait a bit for all of them to appear.

No chance of editing them as my notebook only allows me to see a small part of them, so you get the good the bad and the terrible.

Some thoughts on the pictures.

Why would the council allow people to park on Marina Road on Sunday but not on any other day, if anything there is more traffic on Sunday, so all this does is damage to Ramsgate’s economy.

Spalling is now occurring on the dodgy bit of cliff façade there and still no weight limit on the road, spalling is when the reinforcing rods in the concrete rust, expand and burst the concrete.

It looked like the barge that services the wind farm was stuck in the entrance to the harbour for some time, I believe the entrance needs dredging urgently or there will be a serious incident.

More pictures of the state of the pavements in King Street, they are just falling to pieces and becoming very dangerous.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Euroferries update and don’t use Internet Explorer

Many thanks to Antonio for this update on Bonanza Express.

I had heard that all was not quite going as hoped so emailed Antonio for an update here is his reply.

I´ve been out of Tenerife in Seville, this week At the end of Nov 09, before the guarantee nonpayment for Euroferries (00), Olsen decided to end the share operation of the Bonanza in the connection UK - France in Channel, erasing the logo of the sides of the Bnz (01 and 02). For the last few days Bnz moved from Los Llanos dock to the Ribera side dock very next to Osen station (05), where is proceeded to paint again with colors of Olsen (03 and 04 pictures, taken yesterday) revising and equipping the HSC to operate on again.Saludos desde Tenerife.
See also http://oportodagraciosa.blogspot.com/
05

04

03


02



01




00


John Heywood’s 1904 Guide to Ramsgate and a bit of a ramble.

We have just completed the facsimile reprint of the above guide and it is coming out of the printer now, it should be in sale in my bookshop on Monday.

Those of you with an interest in Margate will be pleased to know that I am also doing its companion the guide to there.

I was very lucky to be able to borrow these from a customer of mine, these little ephemeral guides are so scarce that it isn’t a matter of money, getting hold of them is much more a matter of luck.

I suppose it would be fair to say that most of the information in the guide is already in the other publications that I produce, so you don’t actually need to rush out with your £3.99 and buy it. It is also fair to say that the printing of the original owes much to the potato school of printing so the pictures aren’t up to much either, so why? I can only speak for myself here and say that reading it just now gave me considerable pleasure, as much related to the sense of spending time in a different age as anything else.

There was one minor conundrum in the guide which was it referred to The Thanet Light Railway, this turned out to be the local tram network.

I will now ramble on a bit, so no apologies if you continue reading.

I am sorry about the lack of posts recently, truth of the matter is that I have been writing a lot recently but not for publication, I have been trying to teach myself to touch type and I am afraid the strain on the old brain meant that although I could type words this way, writing anything coherent has been another matter altogether.

I wouldn’t say that I have mastered the skill entirely but things are improving markedly, so that I can at last think to some extent about what I am saying as well as just the making my fingers go in directions that they plainly don’t want to.

There is also another problem and that is that we are in somewhat depressing times at the moment, so that it is hard to think of something cheerful to say.

The news, something that I watch at breakfast and at lunch time is mostly about the earthquake in Haiti frankly things couldn’t be much worse there, making our problems in the UK pale into insignificance.

People are starting to talk about the forthcoming general election and from what they are saying it seems be going to be decided on the least of evils principle, with the MPs expenses scandal the whole system of British politics was shown to be mostly people in it for themselves first and the benefit of the country a long way second.

Talking to various other business people that I know I am sensing a distrust in Cameron and his cuts, there is very much a sense of we are just about hanging in there at the moment and any sort of major cut in expenditure now would finish a lot of businesses off.

Many of the traditional Labour supporters don’t seem to be very keen on Brown either, there is a sense that neither man has what it would take to get us out of the mess that we are in.

There is a very real sense that our system of government has failed, mostly that there are too many levels and a huge bureaucracy that we neither need nor can afford.

There is also a sense that reforming the system would probably break the economy, by this I mean that although there are masses of unproductive government departments at every level of government that we can ill afford, the people working in them spend their wages in real businesses.

Locally I have been battling on with the councils core strategy consultation, something that has to be submitted by Monday, it really is an up hill struggle as the thing has been written in a way that people don’t normally write or speak in, so that after a short time it seems ones brain is turning to putty.

The bottom line her though is if you want to have any say in Thanet’s direction over the next fifteen years, you have to respond to it.

I have had another nonsensical reply from the council about Pleasurama, they still seem to be in a state of denial about the condition of the cliff façade and the flood risk assessment.

I have to admit that dealing with our local council leaves one with a sense of hopelessness that goes beyond the reasonable, with the foundations business and the cliff façade they just wont accept that the whole thing is a terrible mess that has cost us a million pounds. My latest information is that they haven’t gone and taken the consulting engineers and the contractor to task over the bad job, but as none of the officers want to admit that there was any mistake, they have got another firm in to patch up the bulging bit at a further cost to us taxpayers of about £15,000. as far as all the cracks in the façade that were supposed to be filled before it was painted, but weren’t so started sprouting plant life after less than a year, the seem to think that weeding it is a good enough solution.

It would be funny if it wasn’t our money, imagine having your house re pointed and painted only to discover afterwards you would need to budget to have it weeded annually.

One is reminded of some alien culture where losing face is more important than getting a workable job done, how one goes on to explain to people that their home has collapsed because no one at the council would admit to being able to tell the difference between concrete and chalk, I don’t really know.

The good news is that we should be going into a period of brighter weather so I should be able to get out and take some pictures.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

A few pictures on another gloomy morning

If you are wondering why this blog post is a bit muddled if not plain bad I am battling with my response to Thanet’s core strategy at the moment see http://consult.thanet.gov.uk/inovem/consult.ti/core.strategy/consultationHome

Once again I managed to get a short walk this morning and take a few pictures for those who can’t see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/blogpicts110/id4.htm

The amount of cloud means that it is pretty much dark before I get the children up for school so I am afraid you only get a quick half hour between dropping them off at school and my opening the bookshop.

Looking on the bright side though it is getting brighter every day now behind the clouds and the weather is looking to improve at the weekend.

I have been going through the early pages of this blog trying to make broken links work and republishing missing pictures that seem for no apparent reason to vanish from the internet.

The trouble with all of the pictures that I have published to the internet over the past three years is there hasn’t been much method to my madness, this is partly due to lack of time. What happens is that I take a few hundred pictures, stick them anywhere on one of my websites, do a quick blog post linked to the pages where the pictures are and forget about them.

I tried Flickr the other day and I can see it would be very good if I had loads of time see http://www.flickr.com/photos/45794516@N03/ eventually I hope to go through the pictures that I have got stored on various computers and put up something that makes a bit more sense.

As far as I can see though Flickr just isn’t going to work for my morning walk pictures for the people who just glance through them, as there would just be too much clicking about, the 100 picture to the page method seems to be the best option for these.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Minor ramble

Sorry about the lack of posts I have been having printer problems and have had to move the offending machine somewhere warmer, this meant the end of the road for conventional photography for me, all of the contents of my darkroom has been boxed up to make room for the printer.

I did get a walk this morning although the quality of light can best be expressed as gloomy so the photographs are not that great see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/blogpicts110/id3.htm

The main thing of note being that work has resumed on repairing the Wellington Crescent cliff façade, the saga of trying to build to close to this and too low on the foreshore goes on, with the council pretending that there isn’t a problem.

I am still at the stage of having sent them photographs of the bulge in the façade and the lack of foundations because they wouldn’t inspect it, and have been told the bulge is a minor problem that they are fixing but there is no problem with the foundations.

The trouble is when one has to deal with this sort of nonsensical situation it is hard to have much confidence that they are making proper repairs instead of just covering up the defects.

Here in King Street Ramsgate another shop has closed, this time it is the huge carpet shop that once formed the main part of the Co-Op, with the cycle shop next door to it failing so quickly it isn’t an encouraging sign.

The whole eastcliff area of Ramsgate is in a bit of a state really, from Pleasurama, the pavilion and Granville Marina site on the front extending back into the town.

There are reasonable successful things within this area like the Granville Theatre a few shops and some residential areas that are reasonably pleasant but the area is dominated by houses of multiple occupation and social problems.

I am also working on my response to TDCs core strategy, something that has to be submitted by the 18th of this month, apart form concluding that this part of Ramsgate is going to need some sort of special approach over the coming years if it isn’t going to move further into being a rundown area, I am coming up against the councils lack of facing some of the realities that transcend what they would like with what is possible.

Pleasurama is a small example of what I mean and here the main problem is the council just not being able to face the physical limitations of the site, contractors come and go but the fundamental problem is that any firm large enough to take on building something so big will not be prepared to ignore the flood risk and cliff safety problems, so in the end they just walk away from it.

Now we have a similar problem with what is being mooted in the core strategy as policy 25 that on the face of it appears to a special exception to the rules on building on greenfield sites but really the problem is fundamentally much simpler.

It comes back to our water supply, even the developments in the pipeline, as far as I have been able to find out from The Environment Agency and Southern Water, and it isn’t easy getting clear responses from large organisations, the combined effects of Thanet Earth, China Gateway’s first phase and the airport expansion take us beyond the point where there is sufficient greenfield area to replenish our essential water supply.

Now it strikes me that before huge amounts of public and private money are wasted we need a definite figure on the area of farmland we need to retain to get enough water.

I do wonder if it is only here in Thanet and perhaps some third world dictatorships that the governing powers put so much of their resources into producing documents about plans to revitalise the area, without first looking at the physical restrictions of the area and deciding what is actually possible.

China Gateway is a case in point here, forget for a moment the implications of building on a greenfield site, forget even the questions about would local people be employed in sufficient numbers there to make the project beneficial.

The point here is that a business wanted to invest here in Thanet, but the council were so unrealistic about their approach to what would be possible in terms of site drainage that a year after the application being approved there still appears to be no planning agreement.

The trouble now is that we are coming to the end of large government funded projects and we now need the council to set out a storefront to attract investment that is in some way realistic.

Projects that look good on paper but are impossible in practice are not in any way going to help our credibility in the real world.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Grit gas political websites and local blogs

Credit where credit is due the main bus route here in Ramsgate has been salted and busses are getting through. The town centre has been treated with what looks like sand and small stones from the beach, I am sure someone will correct me if I am wrong about this, and Ramsgate market is up and running.

A quick glance at the local political websites reveals an update from Roger Gale, with an interesting press release about Eurostar see http://www.rogergale.com/content_manager/page.php?ID=102287&dbc=f37674049e904c861c5b875d94bd57c6 I don’t quite know what to make of this one.

A quick glance at the local blogs, Tim’s post on the levels of airborne mercury at Thor Chemicals in Margate during the 1980s is a bit jaw dropping see http://lovekentloveramsgate.blogspot.com/2010/01/another-thor-mercury-report.html 20 times the safe limit, at first I thought he must have something wrong here but he confirms this with documentation that seems pretty cast iron see http://www.idrc.ca/en/ev-138117-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html

Tony has some interesting thoughts about compensation when things go wrong and the local economy is damaged see http://bignewsmargate.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-about-sandy-ezekiel-gets.html I wonder if Ramsgate is due any over the Pleasurama debacle.

Bertie has an interesting post about gas, I had thought the business about gas supply problems was just a bit of Tory scaremongering and hadn’t realised that the reduced gas pressure some people are experiencing actually stops their heating see http://thanetstrife.blogspot.com/2010/01/when-will-we-have-gas-supply-crisis-in.html

It’s good to see Matt picking up on my thoughts about how local politicians are using the internet see http://thanetstar.com/article/thanet-politics-thanet-conservative?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ThanetStar+%28The+Thanet+Star%29

I think a factor here is that the most pertinent to the coming national elections is what proportion of the Thanet South floating vote is going to be influenced by the internet.

Oh and a particularly funny post from Simon http://birchington.blogspot.com/2010/01/frozen-fish.html


The picture above prompted the obvious question from one of my children, why didn’t it snow on the beach?

Thursday, 7 January 2010

It’s All White With Kent County Council, Isn’t It?

A few pictures of snow in Ramsgate this morning click on the link for them http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop5/ no signs of gritting again today and I have only seen one bus get through today.

Mal has just emailed me some more snow picture click on the link for them http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop5/id3.htm anyone else got any?

No worries for me as the bookshop is closed today so my customers not being able to get here doesn’t make any difference.

I don’t think the lack of or inadequate gritting, not really sure what it is, seems to be understood by KCC the cost to Thanet’s economy must be colossal, I will do my best to explain this in terms my own business, with thoughts about what is going wrong.

My bookshop is at the bottom of The Plains of Waterloo, funny name for a road, I know but there have been funnier ones. Anyway this is a steep hill on the main bus route and I can’t really miss what goes on there in terms of traffic and road maintenance because nearly all of my windows look out on it.

I have been here since 1987 working in the bookshop and living above and up until this winter every time it has snowed the council have made special efforts to grit it, both the road and the treacherous sloping pavements, one has to be careful negotiating these when they are wet and ice makes them pretty much impossible to stand up on.

Now KCC assure us that gritting is still going on as normal, but there is no sign of any grit, previous years you could see it very clearly, brown and rather nasty.

When it snowed on the Saturday before Christmas it should have been the busiest shopping day of the year, as it was the bookshop takings were 10% of what I expected, it’s all a bit difficult to work out what this means in terms of lost profit as takings would probably have been down a certain amount because of the snow, even if the roads and pavements leading to the shop had been gritted as normal. There is also the factor that some people would have come another day to buy their books. At a guess I would say the amount of profit lost was between £200 and £300 which to me is just the same as if someone had taken this amount out of your wages, before tax deductions.


Anyway back sort of on subject you may remember back in may I had a problem with a drain at the bottom of Plains of Waterloo see http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2009/05/crazy-waterworks-in-thanet.html well I notified KCC highways of the problem with the drain and they came and dug up the road. I had assumed that they had mended it but in fact it still doesn’t work in exactly the same way.

There is also the appalling state of the pavements and road surfaces in this part of Ramsgate, a couple of times recently KCC workers have turned up fixed one paving slab in amongst lots of others that are either broken displaced or wobbly, completely ignoring the others.

They did this to one outside the bookshop the other day, lifted it up and put a bit more sand under it, not enough though as it started to sink again in a couple of days.
What I am getting at there is has something changed, or is it just my perception of things, as they seem to be going through the motions of fixing things but not succeeding very well, I am wondering if the gritting lorry came along but the grit didn’t actually come out of it for instance.

A bit of an update here, they have just 1.30pm come along and gritted the pavement between my bookshop and the town centre, it looks amazingly bizarre as the grit extends to the bottom of the really treacherous hill but not up it click on the link for a picture of this http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop5/id4.htm I know the answer to this will be that it isn’t part of the town centre.

As you can see the road itself is pretty slippery, with vehicles and pedestrians making their way down it together at walking pace.

Three busses came through pretty much all at the same time about half an hour ago whch suggests the roads must be clearing a bit.


and this from th KM website

StMARY'S ISLAND PRIMARY (CHATHAM) - Open

StMARY'S ISLAND PRIMARY (CHATHAM) - Closed


I will ramble on here as the day goes on and hopefully add a few more pictures.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

A midweek ramble

After my last post and probably unrelated, Labour have made the first internet sally locally with Steve posting. “New Year is a time for looking back and looking forward.” On his website see http://www.stephenladyman.info/looking-ahead---2010 and nationally once again probably unrelated Labours first election sally, Steve's colleagues are working up to a leadership ballot. I am no great fan of Gordon Brown apart form his lack of charisma which I find has a certain appeal, he often looks as though he is on the verge of picking his nose or having a good scratch, which adds a sort of suspense to otherwise tedious political dialogue, but frankly the man has done better than I expected.

One does wonder who on earth the Labour party would put up as their next leader, particularly as Brown does seem to be performing better than expected, it certainly begs the question why put him up for the job in the first place?

Watching PMQ time this lunch time just before the ballot news broke, I was thinking how David Cameron was doing worse than I expected, by this I mean the bickering thing, one sort of feels he ought to have the charisma to rise above it, but somehow doesn’t ever quite manage to. One is left with the feeling that apart from his very clear ideas on what is wrong with Gordon Brown, something he now seems to share with quite a few Labour MPs, he just doesn’t seem to be coming up with the radical solutions we need.

Oh well perhaps it’s just me but I do get a sense of these people playing at being part of running a major world power, rather than accepting that we are a small country that has pretty much gone broke and needs to sort itself out and keep out of major world issues for a bit.

The trouble is that virtually everyone living in this country is aware that it isn’t such a nice place to live anymore and this is the priority for most of us. Simple things like being able to once again wander around our towns in the evening wouldn’t be a bad starting point. I probably shouldn’t have said that as I am sure someone is going to tell me the statistics show that crime is down.

There does seem to be a certain lack of enthusiasm by the police to prosecute criminals engaging in crime and I suppose this makes for better statistics and less work.

I have just unplugged the thing that goes beep from the usb on the shops computer to copy the few pictures from my camera, not much there I am afraid as it’s been just too slippery for morning walks over the last few days.

The map above (click on it to enlarge it) is about 1900 I think it comes from a little guide I am preparing for reprint but I have had to stop due to printer problems, the mono laser printer seems to have a cold.

The pictures, just walking back from school yesterday and the day before are now done, click on the link for them http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/blogpicts110/ no opportunity to take any going as was holding on to slippery children.

Another of the shops that opened here in king Street Ramsgate last year has closed, this time the cycle shop, last time the washing machine shop, it is not an easy time in the world of small shops.

In the case of these shops that lasted less than 6 months, I am certain that if they had opened in the same sites 10 years ago they would have both lasted several years and if you go back 30 to 40 years probably the proprietors working lifetime.

These were both shops offering on site repairs, something obviously beneficial to the environment and the local community, I suspect mostly made unviable by a throw away society based on cheap fareastern manufacturing.

The problem here though is what’s the solution, from my own point of view both of these shops were between my bookshop and the centre of the town so this means less customer footfall for me but the larger problem is for the town as a community.

No walk this morning as I drove my son to the station to get his train to go back to university, all a bit of a waste of time really as the train was cancelled and before you ask we had checked the rail operators website first and that said it was running.

Back to the shops. Things that don’t help are, the removal of a lot of the sreetside parking in this part of town, the infrastructure of King Street falling apart (road surface and pavements), the clusters of inebriate smokers forced onto the pavements outside every pub by the no smoking legislation, a sort of ghetto of deprivation that seems to somehow revolve around putting housing association property somewhere where people don’t actually want to live.

I am not saying I have solutions here and frankly all things considered the bookshop isn’t doing that badly since the New Year, however I don’t think this has much to do with having a town centre site, with the associated expense and problems.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Thanet and the general election and how the two main parties are using the internet.

As I suppose everyone must know 2010 is to be an election year when we elect our MPs and I am wondering, as a floating voter where I will put my X.

As I see it the electorate in the UK is segmented into two main groups, those who always vote for a particular party and therefore really make no difference and those who don’t and therefore have to make some sort of decision.

The decision making group then further segment into those who live in constituencies that are so dominated by one party that their vote makes no difference and those like Thanet South, where the votes of those of us who don’t always vote the same way actually have some effect of what party eventually governs the country.

I haven’t worked it out but suspect that people who fall into this group are probably in the order of 10% of the electorate.

It’s a peculiar system and one that seems to encourage a lot of the electorate not to vote, but it is the system that we have and with the election looming the only one we have to use.

Here there is also the Thanet factor, which is a sort of mixture of the following:

Considerable disaffection with the local Conservative council administration.

A relatively strong internet community the political part being mostly blog based, seemingly stronger than any other area in the southeast and something that already has an effect on conventional local media.

Presumably this must have some sort of effect on how local people will vote here in Thanet, in fact I think it would be fair to say that this election will be more effected by the internet than any other, so in the first instance I though I would have a look to see how the main political parties were web wise.

So to start with local Labour and Conservative associations and election candidates websites and blogs.

Labour first

The local Labour association website.

Top ranking on Google for the phrase “Thanet Labour”

http://www.thanet-labour-group.org.uk/

This website seems to have last been updated in 2008, it has no feeds so there is no way that anyone can subscribe to, nor is any way I can put some sort of live updating link on this blog so you can see if it ever gets updated.

Next the Thanet South MPs site http://www.stephenladyman.info/

Fifth ranking on Google for the phrase “Thanet Labour”

This is a very sophisticated website with feeds (updates appear on my sidebar) KIA survey on the homepage, video hosted on site with some linking to social networking via facebook.

A bit of a deeper delve suggests that despite this being a sophisticated and expensive site the last press release went up last October. The sidebar announces: Whats new this week - 28/4/08, also a bit peculiar.

Interestingly this site has a place where people can leave comments at http://www.stephenladyman.info/ft_have_your_say_f10d7a59-ba0e-2054-e1a5-a819cdee611a a couple of thoughts here, first I find it quite strange that no one has commented here since April 2009 and second this is quite a bold move by any MP, so please don’t abuse it as we are better of with it than without it.

Thanet North Labour candidate

Seems to have a non existence web presence.

The local Conservative associations

North Thanet Conservative Association http://www.ntca.org.uk/

Second ranking on google for the phrase “Thanet Conservative”

This site is nothing but a holding page for the url the main link is directed at the North Thanet MPs site.

South Thanet Conservative Association

http://www.stca.org.uk/

Third ranking on google for the phrase “Thanet Conservative”

This is a broken page that leads to a plumbing site.

Next Thanet North MPs site

http://www.rogergale.com/

Twenty first ranking on google for the phrase “Thanet Conservative”

No feeds and nowhere interactive.

The site seems to have last been updated on the 8th December 2009, the fact that the press release that I received on the 21st December and published on http://thanetpress.blogspot.com/ doesn’t seem to have appeared on his site yet suggests not being too internet savvy.

Next Thanet South Conservative candidate

http://telllaura.org.uk/

No feeds, I couldn’t find her email address either, contact form only.

The last press release published 25th November 2009 the last one I had was 4th December.

Having said all of this I should point out that it is only the two MPs sites that are likely to be funded by us via their expenses, I haven’t checked this out.

What I am getting at here is that the way the local politicians and political parties use the internet in the run up to the elections is very important.

Certainly the two local politicians who blog regularly do leave me feeling that I have something of their measure see http://birchington.blogspot.com/ and http://marknottingham.blogspot.com/ I am not talking here about agreeing of disagreeing with them but just about their willingness to communicate and tell us who they are and what they think.

There is also another factor here and that is some sort of measure of competence and efficiency, since most of what our MPs do is essentially what used to be called paper pushing and is now keyboard tapping, this is some indicator of how good they are at it.