Sunday, 28 February 2010

Sunday ramble

Looking over the past weeks blogging it started with modern art and the Turner contemporary, I am often surprised by the weak use of the internet by publicly funded organisations, in this case their website still hasn’t managed to get the latest video promoting their main project on their website.

As the event is due to take place in three days time it makes one wonder what the hell they are playing at, presumably the video they have failed to add to their website was funded by their own grant money.

Still on the subject of modern art here is some of the work of one of my artist customers who buys 5 and 10p books from the austerity section in my bookshop.

The Pleasurama saga still rumbles on, am still trying to get some response to my FOI request made in October of last year for the development agreement, all this time and still they won’t even tell me if I will get the document or not.

This is an important document as due to a loophole in the law, there isn’t a planning agreement, this would normally be the key publicly available document for a development of this size, but the loophole is that there doesn’t have to be one as the council owns the land it is to be built on.

About a year ago I discovered that Roger Gale and Laura Sandys had a meeting with our senior Environment Agency officers and so asked them to put a few questions that relate to various large local developments to them, one of these questions was to ask them what their position was on the Pleasurama developments flood and storm risk?

Here is their answer:

“The Pleasurama development gained planning consent prior to the publication of the latest government guidance on development and flood risk, PPS25. When we were consulted in 2003 our floodplain maps did not show the site to be at risk and the design, at that stage, had clear evacuation routes to the top of the cliff. But, having received revised plans for the development last year, we highlighted our concern over flood risk and recommended that a site-specific flood risk assessment be undertaken. This would inform appropriate mitigation measures such as recommended floor levels, flood resilient design and an evacuation plan to ensure that the development is made as safe as possible.”

Now since then the council has agreed a new development agreement with the developer, obviously it should contain some reference to the flood and storm protection.

Another important aspect of this document is how the council is protected financially in the event of the developer getting into financial difficulties.

As the council decided to go ahead without the bond to protect it this is another important matter, my understanding is that part of the original development agreement was that the council agreed to buy the hotel part of the development if the developer couldn’t find a commercial operator for it.

I also understand that the development agreement states that the hotel is to be built first, so it would appear that we could have a situation where the council would have to find millions of pounds that it doesn’t have, to buy an hotel that no one wants.

The roadworks on harbour Parade have rather concentrated my historical interests on this part of Ramsgate this week, I wonder if the listed status of the harbour will effect how they deal with a big chunk of he old harbour wall getting in the way of their trench?

I foresee that they could run into considerable difficulties when they reach the old underground toilets, I would imagine that if the work that they are doing collapses them this could lead to considerable extra expense.

I then come to TDCTV, I gather that the video of last Thursday’s council meeting should be available on the internet from tomorrow afternoon.

As I consider that this is a very important step towards more open government from the council, I want to stress here that I am wholly supportive of them doing this. I am also strongly supportive of them going ahead with this, with dated and unreliable equipment rather than throwing money at the problem, especially as taking this risk leaves them open to criticism when things go wrong.

Next I would like to draw your attention to the new About Ramsgate blog and the associated collection of old pictures of Ramsgate that are appearing linked to it see

I can tell you all from experience that the amount of work involved in publishing and identifying these old pictures is considerable.

This leads to the dilemma faced by historians, which is that much local history is derived from a fair amount of detective work followed by the historian drawing some conclusions and making the decision that those conclusions represent the truth.

For me the conundrum of Tissot’s blue plaque sums up the problem nicely, obviously we want to have a blue plaque commemorating his association with the town and obviously the at the moment The Castle Hotel is the most likely candidate but at the moment we can’t be 100% sure that it is the right building.

I suppose niggling in the back of most of our minds at the moment is the forthcoming general election, even talking to Conservative that I know there is sense of,

“always keep a-hold of Nurse
For fear of finding something worse.”

Much more a case of people considering the worse of evils, than having positive ideas about selecting the best government.

The legality, or not of taking us to war and the expenses scandal featuring greatly in ones thoughts.

There is certainly a sense of people wanting electoral reform, well reform of our whole political system if it comes to that and I think this may effect the way people vote.
Anyway to keep on the local theme here, what interests me most is what will happen in the general election locally.

My feelings here is that peoples perception of the quality of local government that they have been and are receiving both at county and district level, is likely to have some effect on the way people vote in the general election.

I don’t think anything much could effect the result in Thanet North, but here in Thanet South I am not so sure.

Talking to councillors and council officers it is obvious that there is going to be some sort of major shake up in the cabinet at TDC, there has also been much talk of change of leadership and deputy leadership.

As I have said before one of the big problems with the leaders position in the council it is a full time job but it doesn’t attract the level of salary commensurate with the job.

One does get occasions where the job of leader is seen as a political stepping stone, usually towards being an MP, but there doesn’t appear to be anyone on that road within the conservative group at the moment.

Talking to politicians of all parties at the moment particularly at local level the fallout of the expenses scandal means that it is becoming more difficult to find people who want to become councillors at all.

One road here is the possibility of having an elected mayor, partly because this position carries a large salary that would enable a professional person to give up their job for three years to take the task on.

I know that in the next 18 months or so the council is obliged to investigate which method of government they think most suitable for Thanet and officers will have to consider the option of an elected mayor.

Sounding them out on this one I get the feeling that they don’t like the idea of this one.

Of course we could force the issue by getting up a mayoral referendum petition, something that would mean that they would then have to ask the electorate in a ballot if they would rather vote for a leader or have one chosen for them.

As effectively this means asking the people who bother to vote if the want to vote, it seems a bit of a forgone conclusion to me.

However the short term question here is, would a change in the leadership at TDC make people more likely to vote Conservative in the national elections?

Still rambling on I’m afraid and now thinking of the local things that have gone onto the backburner, Euroferries are another company that seem to have problems keeping their website up to date, while their website is announcing tomorrow as a start date for their ferry service, it won’t actually let you book a ticket until the 18th of march and replies from them are to the effect that the service won’t start until later in March.

China Gateway was as far as I remember due to be started this March but still no sign of a planning agreement, I have always maintained that the layout of the site would probably make surface drainage imposable, so I had expected completely new plans to have appeared by now.

I will ramble on as the day progresses and may even go through and make any corrections and try and find the link to the book art website.


  1. I hope you are not including TDC with your " the weak use of the internet by publicly funded organisations" comment!
    With any luck we may be able to view the council meeting video, without any joins, in the next day or two.

  2. A step in the right direction anon 13:16, but would it REALLY be asking too much with today's technology for a LIVE broadcast too?

  3. 13.16 I think that a great problem that surrounds most of the way that government uses the internet is that when they first started doing so publishing anything to the internet required an expert IT team.

    Now anyone can do it without much difficulty, in fact you have just published to the internet by leaving your comment here and I am sure you would agree that it was as easy as viewing web pages.

    Now the problem within local government is that it is practically impossible to sack an officer even if his job has been replaced by more advanced technology. So frankly when it comes to government funded IT the IT officers employment relies on the system involved being difficult and complicated.

    Peter there are two problems here, one is that I believe the council wants to retain the ability to edit the tapes, I know this sounds like censorship, but I believe it is much more to do with a desire to stay within the rules governing what councils should be doing and publishing.

    The other is the cost, from looking at the available hosting, the cost of hosting the videos they make of the council meetings already would be about £35 per year, whereas live streaming the meetings would be much more expensive.

  4. Just went on to which is Hamish Fultons own website. I found it a very difficult site to get around so maybe if he does another walk inn Thanet that is disabled friendly I can ask him how his site works. Tdc's record of all things internet is not what I would class as good so I am not holding out much hope. Right I am off to watch the football and then Sunday dinner at our daughters. Both daughters cooking for me in one day........ that represents some sort of record.

  5. walk in Thanet Not Walk inn Thanet . sorry my typo's are getting worse I had changed about ten red lines but missed that one coss it didn't underline it

  6. That's another gripe of mine Don - slow loading & difficult to navigate websites (I gave up on Hamish's website after a minute or so AND I have a fast broadband connection!). I've had several people offer to make my own website a bit more fancy with flash intros etc (for free too), but I prefer to get plenty of visitors that can access things quickly.

  7. Don I think it is a case of his website being a statement in modern art, functionality appears to a reciprocal of art in this instance.

    As today is so climatically challenging I sit down and write a website called this is not a website.

    Anyway keep the typos coming I don’t mind them they are so similar to mine that I hardly notice them.


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