Friday, 20 January 2017

No plan, no good and some Ramsgate fishing industry circa 1900 pictures.

I have had the Thanet Local Plan follow-up email, of course like so many things related to local politics I only have a vague idea of what the plan is and how it impacts on our lives here in Thanet.

The local plan sets out local planning policies and identifies how land is used, determining what will be built where, says IT. So this is an important document. Here in Thanet I think part of the plan has been that we should have air and sea transport hubs. To a greater or lesser extent this hasn’t entirely worked out and the tangled web goes on, both with The Port of Ramsgate and Manston Airport.

I think the vision here was a busy passenger ferry with day trips and European holiday business combined with a busy passenger airport with holiday and business flights, both employing lots of local people and enhancing the local economy.

The down side of this is it opens the door to the side of the transport business that no one else wants, animal exports being the most high profile. Airport and port activity where the local environmental damage, reduction in local people’s life expectancy and so on coming a close second.  

So the reality has been bankruptcies, unpaid debts to councils, people losing their holidays, much less positive impact on the local economy than one would have hoped for. 

Underlying all of this was the tangle the council got into over Manston Airport and trying to buy it using a compulsory purchase order financed by a third party, complicated by many of the current councillors getting elected on the remit of saving the airport.

Anyway the council commissioned an “independent” report which concluded the airport was a non starter. This leaves the council with the Parkway Station and The Port of Ramsgate, which I though all integrated with the airport in some sort of transport plan.

I think the other very big factor in all of this is that central government have told our local government that they have to allocate parts of Thanet for building 17,140 dwellings.

This produces a bit of a strange edge to the “not in my back yard” approach, inasmuch as they have to go somewhere in Thanet.

Anyway I did have a bit of a go at responding to the local plan consultation so may have a bit of a go at responding to the revisions. I suppose theoretically doing my civic duty could stop at voting in the council elections, which I did although I am not sure now if anyone I voted for got elected, or if I have any councillors who would represent – or even listen to my views.

The first council consultation page is https://www.thanet.gov.uk/the-thanet-magazine/get-involved/consultation/2017/local-plan-revisions/, which has lovely picture of – local people engaging in their civil duty.

It tells me that there will be public engagement session in, Thanet Gateway Meeting Room x, which I think means the council at Cecil Square Margate, Kent innovation centre Broadstairs, which I think means near Asda on Northwood Road and at Ramsgate Town Council, which I know means the Custom House in Ramsgate.

The next page https://consult.thanet.gov.uk/consult.ti/TLPPOR/consultationHome seems to be the hard one with lots of documents to consider and the option of filling in online boxes with text.

A tricky business these online consultations as one lacks confidence that what one is filling out is going somewhere and unlike a physical form, it’s difficult to run through it first to see where it is leading.

Here is the table showing where the council think the seventeen thousand flats and houses should be allowed to go, or is it go.

Period                                               
2011-2031
Strategic Sites (sites of 500+ dwellings)

Westwood
1,450
Birchington on Sea
1,000
Westgate on Sea
1,000
Manston Green
700
Land at Manston Court/Haine Road
700
Former Airport Site
2,500
Other Housing Sites/Areas

Land at Manston Road/Shottendane Road
250
Margate & Cliftonville
816
Ramsgate
793
Broadstairs & St Peters
304
Birchington on Sea
101
Westgate on Sea
36
Rural Settlements
375
Windfall Sites (based on 225 units per year, discounted for years 1-3 to avoid double counting)
2,700
Completed since 2011
1,555
Extant planning permissions
3,017
Empty Properties
540
Total
17,837



So do I try to persuade blog readers to take part in the consultation? Will it make any difference to the outcome?  The whole business of local council consultations is a strange one, for one thing I don’t think you have to live in the area, be a council taxpayer or business ratepayer to contribute to them.

I have never been able to find out from the council if and how locals input to their petition scheme and consultations are weighted. The national government seems to think local council’s will consult local people and it’s the local’s views that should be important. The council seems to think anyone anywhere in the world should be able to take part and the internet makes this very easy. 

I have sneaky feeling that the council are looking for anything to justify the way they think they want to go and a lot of this is more about them keeping up appearances than improving the lot of Thanet.

I think on the whole the answer is yes please have a go at the council consultations, I think local government is slowly moving towards consulting and while they have a long way to go in making the online consultation work effectively and properly, but I also think we the locals need practice with this consultation process. So if you come away from doing the online consultation with the feeling that you messed it up I wouldn't worry too much and see it as part of the learning curve. 

My own feelings are that we are probably in the very early stages of something to do with the way what we call democracy works. We have had what we now regard as democracy for a relatively short time, remembering that it is less that 100 years since the right to vote was granted to women over the age of 30 who were householders, the wives of householders, occupiers of property with an annual rent of £5 and less than 90 years women were granted votes on the same terms as men and most of the property qualifications were dropped for both sexes.

This is all down to various bits of representation of the people legislation, which is in some sense to do with us not being able to have a referendum about every issue, but with the internet there is also some sense that we don’t need representatives to engage in the decision making process particularly at a local level.

Apologies if necessary, I often find writing things down helps to clarify them. On to the world of bookselling, where I have spent my day, here is the link to the books that went out in my bookshop today http://michaelsbookshop.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/more-westerns-in-bookshop.html

I find that apart from the ongoing conversations about local history in the bookshop, there is much more interest amongst my customers about the whole business of physical books and bookshops.

I think there is a certain amount of concern that leisure is becoming so focused on either social media or eating and drinking. I also think I am detecting another shift in what people are choosing to read on the screen and what people are choosing to read on paper. It’s a subtle business and certainly not one I understand that well but it does nonetheless exist and I think it will be years before it settles – if it ever does. If nothing else the attempts mimicking paper by technology are an indicator of where I am coming from.

On the whole my bookshop is doing fairly well at the moment, with non fiction I think the focus is on areas where the information just isn’t easily available online, this is partly a wood from the trees thing but the main issue is still here. The main issue being the browse followed by buying the information. With books in a bookshop this is straightforward, you decide to take up woodturning, so you go to the bookshop, look at the books on woodturning, where you can see the whole content of each book by looking through it, you then either decide to buy one of the books or you don’t. with the internet there is the information which is just there for free, which you can just look at, then there are the e-books and other downloads for technology and of course you can’t look at all of them – the whole book – or it wouldn’t be possible to sell them. With the fiction it’s much more a lose toys in the attic thing, some people’s brains only being able to handle some things in some formats and paper is very much still one of the formats. As most people are still learning to read using paper books I see this one running and running.         

It was a long old ramble wasn't it, so here are the old Ramsgate fishing industry pictures

 Ramsgate from the West Pier with fishing smacks I think this is about 1900
 Ramsgate Clockhouse with the buildings still on the back but the Millitary Road arches showing in the distance so again around 1900
once again Ramsgate sailing fishing smacks and not steam trawlers but the Military Road arches that were built in the 1890s so around 1900

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