Saturday, 30 January 2016

Sketching Wallace Pring Castle, against the clock, from Quayside Free House in Whitstable and I do Pot at the Horsebridge.

Here is the Whitstable pen and watercolour, an hour really isn’t long enough to drink a pot of tea, eat a substantial sandwich and do a sketch. Parking was the problem, I spent about half an hour driving around Whitstable – well mostly sitting in traffic jams – and wound up parking in the harbour car park. Maximum stay 2 hours £3, not ideal.
 It would have looked very different had I gone home and painted it from the photo


By the time I had bought a few books and done The Pot business, here is the link http://www.horsebridge-centre.org.uk/?q=node/8066 tomorrow’s the last day you can do this, photos below and well worth a visit, I only had an hour left. 




Friday, 29 January 2016

Thanet Democratic Independent Group DIG, Councillor Konnor Collins and the stolen valour scandal.

Having received a UKIP press release from Chris Wells, the leader of the council, vial a Facebook message I feel duty bound to say something about this one here.

So first a bit of background about, what is DIG or should that be what DIG is?

Here in Thanet we have the first and only district council with more UKIP councillors than any other flavour, indeed to begin with we had a UKIP majority and we still have a UKIP council leader. Why? Well disagree if you want on this one but I think it’s down to the level of dissatisfaction in the previous political administration of our district council. 

This peaked about three years ago when the council leader was sent to prison for misconduct, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-21632631 rightly or wrongly our local councillors are perceived collectively as not being good for Thanet.

I am not sure if this is a fair assessment, certainly many of the councillors appear to be well meaning and have the area’s best interests at heart, but as I say people’s perception is that the council wasn’t and isn’t a good one.   

Before the last election there were a lot of voters who seemed to want to do anything to keep both Labour and the Conservatives out. The alternative in terms of voting was perceived locally as UKIP and this perception extended beyond how people voted to the people who stood for election.

Apart from Ramsgate’s Trevor Shonk there didn’t seem to be much in the way of a history of supporting UKIP among those who stood as UKIP councillors, but as there was a very good chance of getting elected UKIP managed to attract 56 candidates for 56 seats and romped home with a majority.

One local campaign that was strong at the time was The Save Manston Airport one and it appears that some of the councillors who stood as UKIP were actually primarily part of this campaign and would have stood for any party provided it supported their aims.

Since then the various groups supporting the saving of the airport seem to have spilt between those who only want the airport saved by the American company RiverOak who want to build an airfreight hub there and those who want to save the airport and don’t mind which company saves it as long as it continues as an aviation site.

The council has to perform certain checks before they can go into financial partnership with a company and RiverOak didn’t check the boxes for this, the result of this was that the UKIP administration decided to drop RiverOak and look for another partner to finance a cpo for the airport.

This left the UKIP councillors who were only prepared to go with RiverOak, something the council rules prevented the council from doing, the council can’t – isn’t allowed to act outside the constrains set upon it – they can’t for instance decide to use a street cleaning service that doesn’t tick the boxes that have to be ticked to comply with the council’s money laundering rules.     

In practice this means that the officers never set up an agenda where councillors can vote for something they are no allowed to vote for, although of course theoretically councillors could propose a motion to do this, in practice I don’t think it would get very far.

Anyway after the council went down the road of seeking another cpo partner some of the UKIP councillors split with UKIP and formed Thanet Democratic Independent Group DIG, with the group leader being Councillor Konnor Collins.

Now Councillor Konnor Collins claimed to have had a prominent military career and to be the second most decorated ex soldier in the British Army, on paper the second bravest soldier ever. In his election bumph it said he had been Sgt Major in The Parachute Regiment.

Now it turns out that no one can find any record of this The Parachute Regiment have never heard of him, his decorations don’t appear in The Gazette and he won’t answer questions from the local press.

So now we have various possibilities:- One being that Councillor Konnor Collins was telling the truth and there has been some dreadful mixup. Another being that Councillor Konnor Collins is a con man. Another being that Councillor Konnor Collins has some sort of mental disability.

This raises all sorts of questions

If he got elected under false pretences, should he have to stand down?

Do councillors have to stand down because the have mental disabilities?

Does this impact on the credibility of Save Manston Airport?

Has Councillor Konnor Collins committed a criminal offence?

To name but a few, anyway here is what the council leader sent me.

UKIP Press Release

The MOD's statement to the Isle of Thanet Gazette that they can find no record of Konnor Collins ever having served with the Paras has confirmed what many have suspected for some weeks. Konnor Collins is a con man. Even that understates the awful nature of what he has done. Konnor Collins, in lying about his military service, has stolen the virtue and bravery of those who have actually won the medals he falsely claims.

Collins was unmasked by his own bluster, using medals he has not earned on an application to the court for damages against three fellow members of the Council. He sent it for publication in the newspaper before the defendants knew of his accusations. And from that single act of reckless bravado, the extent of his lying and cheating has gradually been revealed.

Collins claims disability on the back of a non existent army career. He may be disabled, but he ain't no military veteran.

Partner of many years, Helen Smith, was elected alongside him, their appeal being based on these disgraceful lies. Named, shamed, and beneath contempt for any who have served in the armed forces, both should immediately resign as councillors, having clearly brought their elected office into disrepute.

Behind them stands close friend and PA, Dr R John Pritchard, who claims academic excellence, research and legal experience, and has known since before the election that Collins military record was not provable. Pritchard could have stopped Collins being elected; and as Vice Chair of Save Manston Airport, could have saved SMA the embarrassment of publicly backing conman Collins.

54 councillors do their best for the isle. Clearly these two, and their trusted PA, have been in it for all the wrong reasons. All three should slink away in their shame, and trouble us no more.

Chris Wells. Leader UKIP Group South Thanet. 07825203043


Press release, 28 January 2016

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Canterbury sketch of La Trappiste from Chocolate, well nothing much.

As you can see from the Canterbury picture I should have started with the paper the other way – portrait instead of landscape – an easy mistake, but then one learns from mistakes.


I also started with pen in the top left corner – should have been paint I think now, wrong shades of green, hand wasn’t in, brain not engaged type of thing, thumb too, one of those days.

Perhaps I will go back and start again with the pad turned round.


As I have already painted this part of the cathedral from upstairs in Chocolate Café, pic above I can probably copy it and fill in this bit at home.


I spent most of the day in Canterbury buying books, this 1865 guide to Folkestone being the star item.


I won’t post up all the books I bought today as they will apper on my bookshop blog http://michaelsbookshop.blogspot.co.uk/ when they get priced and put out in my bookshop here in Ramsgate.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Pleasurama aka Royal Sands Development Ramsgate Update

If you live in Ramsgate you probably know some of the good and bad points about this development and I would imagine for most of us the worst of the thing is how long Ramsgate has been stuck with a dreadful unusable mess behind the main sands.

There are various schools of thought on whether it will ever get built and a whole stack of political stuff related to the site value, whether it has actually been sold and contracts exchanged with the latest developer Cardy Construction of Canterbury.

There are pages and pages of optimistic announcements and not so optimistic announcements on the council’s website at https://www.thanet.gov.uk/search/?q=royal+sands 


However the point I am making here is that wolf has been cried rather a lot in terms of this development.

If the development ever gets built to the plans that have been approved, then I think the worst of it, in terms of what it will look like, will be the view from the cliff top opposite Wellington Crescent. From what I have been able to put together, most of this will be about an acre of flat black corrugated rubber roof, roughly the same height of the cliff top and extending about 100 feet away from the cliff top. Looking across the rubber, which wont have access to it so rubbish and seagull droppings will stay on it, you should just about be able to see the horizon. Between the rubber roof at a height of about eight feet below the cliff top footpath will be the external patios for the flats, looking over the top of these you should just about be able to see the low tide mark.     

I don’t think the development will look too bad from the bottom looking up at it, it is a bit dated in terms of design, partly because the plans were drawn up in 2003 and partly because it was a bit dated then.

In terms of day-to-day functioning the worst aspect seems to be the road layout and parking, partly because there is only one space for each flat, hotel room and shop unit and partly because as the architect measured the height of the build wrongly to benign with very unfortunate compromises have had to be made with the road from one end to the other of the building.

When I first started, what? My outrage about the thing or perhaps it would be kinder to say interest in it, it was the height issue I concentrated on, this was because the plans showed it as mostly being much taller that the cliff top, meaning that if you stood on the cliff top you wouldn’t be able to see the sea over the top of it.

Now the council and the architect say that the height has been reduced so that you mostly will, probably, although I honestly don’t think anyone is exactly certain as to how it will stack up against the cliff.

One way or another while the height business was going on, perhaps the realisation that the architect wasn’t too handy at measuring had something to do with it, I looked into other aspects of the development. In the end I discounted all of the aspects of the development apart from the ones relating to safety and ongoing financial liability to the council.
      
These issues really boil down to; will the cliff fall on the development unless the council spends and continues to spend loads of money on the cliff wall and will the development’s foundations get washed away unless the council spends loads of money on a new sea defence?

The cliff behind the development is an unsupported chalk cliff which has what is called a weathering façade made out of concrete, breeze blocks stone and bricks – to you and me the cliff wall.

What this does is stop the rain, ice and heat from the sun from making the chalk go crumbly so that bits fall off, what it doesn’t do is prevent major cliff falls.

Over the last hundred years there have been several major (thousands of tons) cliff falls chalk, cliff wall and all along this part of the cliff. There is a considerable degree of uncertainty about what caused them, the last one in 1957, recently enough for fairy advanced civil engineering, collapsed again half way through the rebuild, see article above.

Building on or under an unsupported chalk cliff has its risks, but then life in general has its risks, the trick is to properly assess the risk.

The flood risk is a bit different because I got some degree of support from the Environment Agency who strongly recommended that the council assessed the risk.


Anyway enough of my preamble, back in December I wrote to the council to see if the had done anything to assess either of these risks, the sea washing the development away or the cliff falling on it, this is since I asked about eight years ago, just before Cardy Construction built the now abandoned foundations. At this time the cliff wall had just been painted and Cardys were about to start building, which is pretty roughly what they and the council say is the situation now. 

Here is my response from the council, my questions in italic type, their answers in bold type

Ref No: 84703/3211812
Subject:        Pleasurama
Dear Mr Child,
Thank you for your communication received on 15th December 2015 where you requested information about the Royal Sands Development and Wellington Crescent Cliff Facade Wall.
For ease of reference I have summarised your questions with a response in each case below:

Can you kindly give me an update on the Pleasurama aka Royal Sands development on Ramsgate seafront?

An update has been provided on the Council’s website but for ease of reference I have provided the text below:
Work to the cliff façade on the Royal Sands site has taken place as planned, however unfortunately weather has delayed the final paint finish.
Due to the weather conditions expected this winter a decision has been made to delay this work until the early spring. This final painting is estimated to only take a few weeks after which the Development can commence.

If there is an officer coordinating the project can you please provide contact details? If not, please consider putting someone in charge of coordinating the whole project.

The project to deliver the new Royal Sands development is the responsibility of Cardy Construction.  Chris Rolle the Interim Head of Economic Development & Asset Management at Thanet District Council is the appropriate officer to contact for any questions relating to the site itself prior to sale.

Last week various rumours which were apparently supported by some TDC councillors, appeared on the internet, saying that the wrong paint had been used to coat the façade.  This was followed by the council issuing a statement, saying that the paint job wasn’t finished when the scaffolding was up, and a further coat of paint still needs to be applied.  Does this mean that the scaffolding will need to be re-erected? Or does this mean that the council intends some other method of applying the paint and if it does what method will be used?

The paint used does meet the required specification however the coating to some of the blockwork panels will need to be repeated due to poor weather conditions at the time of the initial application at the end of the contract period.  It is better to leave this until the warmer weather in the spring. Arrangements have been made for the contractor to return to complete the work.  The method of access is still to be confirmed but it is possible that this will be via a hydraulic platform which will avoid the need to re-erect scaffolding.

Since the initial planning application was approved in 2003, the Environment Agency have designated the site a “Flood Zone 3a (High Probability)”
Have the council either conducted a flood risk assessment or produced any report detailing why one isn’t necessary?

You have previously requested information on the subject of a flood risk assessment for the site.  This was responded to in an email from Doug Brown on 18th November 2009.
Does the whole liability of maintaining flood protection for the new development rest with the council or has any of it been mitigated either to the developer or the EA?

Flood defences are provided and maintained by Local Authorities under permissive powers, they are not duties.  However the existing sea wall at Ramsgate is likely to continue to be maintained by the Council in accordance with the ‘Hold the Line’ policy indicated in the Isle of Grain to South Foreland Shoreline Management Plan.

In 2005 the council commissioned Jacobs Baptie to examine the cliff façade, the conclusion of their report states that the structure has a short serviceable life. Since the report the council have had the façade pointed and recoated twice.
Do the council envisage this happening every five years for the life of the development and do the council envisage funding this?

The structure is the subject of regular inspection and the observations from these inspections inform the maintenance regime.  The 2005 inspection report predates the maintenance work undertaken in 2008 and 2015 which has improved the condition of the structure and extended its service life.  It is not possible to confirm the frequency of future maintenance work but the cliff facade will remain a TDC owned and maintained structure.

To facilitate the ongoing cliff maintenance do the council have any report stating the distance required between the development and the cliff façade, needed to maintain it economically?  With the structure having a short serviceable life, do the council have any plan for replacing the cliff façade with the new development in place?

The Council has not commissioned a report which identifies the most appropriate distance between the building and the façade to facilitate economic inspection and maintenance.  There are no plans to replace the façade with a new structure.

Do the council hold any engineers report stating that it is safe to build a residential development in front of the cliff façade?

The Council has not commissioned and does not hold a report on this specific subject.

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original letter and should be addressed to: Information Request Assessor, Thanet District Council, PO Box 9, Cecil Street, Margate, Kent CT9 1XZ, or email to foi@thanet.gov.uk
Please quote the reference number above in any future communications.
If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF

Yours sincerely,
***** ****
Technical Services Manager

A bit of a postamble here about collapsing chalk cliffs, in their natural sate they mostly collapse due to the sea at the bottom undermining them. With this one I think the reasons for the various collapses has been a mixture of things:-

Bad surface maintenance meaning that acid rainwater has been concentrated along the surface cracks cutting down thought he chalk like a cheese slicer.

Leaking pipes behind the cliff face.  

Cracks caused by the ships guns mounted on the cliff during both world wars.

The tunnelling for HMS Fervent. 

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Dover Castle painting fakes and fantasy, some pictures of Ramsgate today and more lies.

Back in the time of Queen Elizabeth I, the mid 1500s if you are a bit vague about dates, a clergymen by the name of Darrell who was chaplain to the queen wrote a history of Dover Castle.

Just at the moment here in my bookshop we are preparing a cheap reprint of my copy of the 1786 edition, I hope to have it in print for around £6, I think it will be a useful addition to my range of local books. Partly because it is one of the earliest history books relating to this area and partly because having the original Latin accompanied by an English translation will be useful for those hoping to improve ther grasp of Latin.

To finish this task in need a cover picture of Dover Castle for the book, sounds simple. Doesn’t it? Well there are complications, firstly it has to look like Dover Castle for people buying the book and secondly it needs to look like Dover Castle did in 1550 and not how it looks now or as some later intermediate time.


There is for instance a very nice painting by Turner but unfortunately it doesn’t look much like Dover Castle, or does it? Anyway I can't use it as it has a seam boat in the middle, not invented in the mid 1500s.


In fact there are lots, I particularly like this Turner watercolour 


Anyway at the moment I think the only solution is to paint the thing myself, here is my first crack at it, mostly done using Turner’s sketchbooks which date mostly from the early 1800s and not from the mid 1500s.

I don’t think that I am very good liar and trying to be a liar with paint is very tricky, added to this is the business of trying to depict the castle by the sea in my mind an presumably other people’s.

At the same time I would like you all to know that I have a lot of decorations for valour and academic qualifications, and am not the rather stupid coward that presumably most of you thought I was, I am also a lot taller than I look.

Where was I? Oh sorry I got a bit carried away there. The truth is another matter with painting, you can of course take a photo, trace it, paint over it, use a light box, all sorts of tricks to get it right. Of course this isn’t lying, in fact the result is likely to be much nearer to the truth than the paintings I do directly from life.



Anyway today I breakfasted (toast and marmalade) on the end or Ramsgate’s East Pier at The Royal Harbour Brasserie and added a bit more to my sketch of Ramsgate from there.  
 Here are some photos I took today, which of course tell the truth.













Friday, 22 January 2016

Thanet Schools GCSE result league tables 2015

This is the last year that these tables will be published, next year it looks as though the new method of publishing school league tables will be something wholly incomprehensible to parents.  


School
2015 GCSE results 5+ A* to C (including English and Maths)
Change from 2014
Chatham and Clarendon Grammar School, Ramsgate
96%
UP 2%

Dane Court Grammar School, Broadstairs
93%
UP 3%
King Ethelbert School, Birchington
45%
DOWN 10%
Ursuline College, Westgate
44%
NO CHANGE
Hartsdown Academy, Margate
36%
UP 17%
The Charles Dickens School, Broadstairs
30%
DOWN 5%
Ellington and Hereson School, Ramsgate (now Royal Harbour Academy)
23%
DOWN 5%
St George's CofE Foundation School, Broadstairs
12%
DOWN 10%
Marlowe Academy, Ramsgate (now Royal Harbour Academy)
6%
DOWN 7%

Newington by-election and a ramble.

Here are the results ramble to follow

DECLARATION OF RESULT OF POLL 

District of Thanet

Election of a District Councillor for

Newington
on Thursday 21 January 2016
I, Madeline Homer, being the Returning Officer at the above election, do hereby give notice that the number of votes recorded for each Candidate at the said election is as follows:

Name of Candidate
Description (if any)
Number of Votes*
BIRCHALL, Grahame George
Independent
10

CONSTANTINE, Karen Mary
The Labour Party Candidate
288
Elected
DARK, Adam Nigel
The Conservative Party
156

DRIVER, Ian
The Green Party
20

HODDER, Alan Mark
Independent
49

SMITHSON, Duncan
UKIP
229

WILLIAMS, Jordan Luke
Liberal Democrats Party
12


Vacant Seats: 1
Electorate: 3563
Ballot Papers Issued: 767
Turnout: 21.5
And I do hereby declare that Karen Mary Constantine is duly elected.

District of Thanet

Election of a Parish Councillor for

Ramsgate - Newington
on Thursday 21 January 2016 
I, Madeline Homer, being the Returning Officer at the above election, do hereby give notice that the number of votes recorded for each Candidate at the said election is as follows:

Name of
Candidate
Description
(if any)
Number of
Votes*
DARK, Adam Nigel

The Conservative Party

159
JEFFERSON, Andrew Philip
The Green Party

25
KENNEDY, Susan
Labour Party Candidate

294 Elected
PRITCHARD, Robert J
Democratic Independent

40
SMITHSON, Duncan
UKIP

225
WILLIAMS, Jordan Luke
Liberal Democrats Party

11

Vacant Seats: 1
Electorate: 3563
Ballot Papers Issued: 763
Turnout: 21.3%










First my congratulations to Karen Constantine who got elected as a TDC councillor and Susan Kennedy who got elected as a Ramsgate Town councillor, both Labour.

Back in the day Newington was a safe Labour seat, with Labour getting about two thirds of the vote and the Conservatives getting about a third, then along came UKIP and at the last election UKIP got in beating Labour into second place.   


My own take on this is that had they done more for the Ramsgate area the may well have got in again.

Here in Ramsgate we have predominantly UKIP councillors at TDC, KCC and RTC but the bonkers Ramsgate issues that date from the Labour and Conservative administrations don’t seem to have been touched on by UKIP since they got in.

This is evident to all of us living in the Ramsgate area, just over the road from me TDC are building a largish social housing development in what was a large shop in an otherwise fully let and trading shopping parade.

Now apart from the obvious damage to the part of Ramsgate shopping centre adjacent to the only large car park that most shoppers will use, this development has flats with the bedroom windows facing onto the pavement in an area where TDC has licensed takeaways to be open until 4am.

Obviously the only tenants that will put up with this are likely to be problem tenants and with problem tenants living on the ground floor the whole development is likely to turn into a problem.

Having discussed this with UKIP candidates before the election they agreed with me that this was a totally bonkers approach and just the type of thing that UKIP would address. They could have dealt with it as the building belongs to TDC, but no they just ignored the problem. 

The really strange thing here is that Ramsgate has been the deciding factor in a lot of elections recently, Thanet South is a strongly contested seat, taking Ramsgate is a major factor in taking TDC and yet most of the resources seem to go into Margate.

The Manston issue didn’t seem to go the way a lot of Manston campaigners wanted, with the group that broke away from the UKIP group, “Democratic Independent Group” ostensibly because UKIP decided to reject RiverOak as an indemnity partner and not to proceed with the cpo to build an airfreight hub, only getting 49 votes.  


Oh well I suppose one of these days the local politicians are going to wake up to the fact that if you want to get voted in in Ramsgate you have to give Ramsgate a fair crack of the whip.



Thursday, 21 January 2016