Wednesday 31 March 2010
The school holidays this year run for about two thirds of April, so a lot of people in the southeast will be looking for events and days out during April.
As I pointed out on Monday Thanet’s largest all weather attraction the Powell Cotton Museum (This museum receives no public or government money) has events for all ages on over Easter, so I was interested to see what the publicly funded Turner Contemporary gallery in the Droit House was doing for Margate over this critical period.
Nothing on their website so I rang them, the answer was nothing the Droit House is closed for the whole of April including Easter.
Frankly with art galleries up and down the country holding events for adults and children and hosting exhibitions all through April and Easter, I don’t really know what to make of this information.
Tuesday 30 March 2010
The old question, would you buy a used car from this man? went through my head, although to be fair it also goes through my head when David Cameron speaks.
Frankly in terms of charisma and sincerity politicians don’t seem to be what they were, staying with the used car analogy I feel a bit like seeing two used cars in garages on either side of the road and the car dealers main selling points being that if I buy the one from the garage opposite it will breakdown just after the warranty has run out.
Here in Thanet South we don’t really have the option of going off and buying a car elsewhere, as it is likely to be a tightly fought marginal with only Labour and Conservative votes counting for much.
Anyway back to Blair, as his speech came to the end the BBC news commentator said he would next be answering questions from the audience, well as someone who voted Labour in the last two elections I thought there were a few questions that I would like to ask him. Would he have taken us into Vietnam if he had been prime minister at the time and the Americans had asked him to? Did he think that police crime figure targets actually made the police reluctant to prosecute people? Being examples.
Well the speech ended and I have to say that I was pretty much astonished when they threw all of the press out before the questions, the BBC camera went black, something that immediately made me think of the blank pages in the pre apartheid South African papers.
As public relations exercises go I really don’t think I have seen a major political speech end so badly.
The tree I believe may be a Politician Tree it’s twisty enough although I have been assured that it is Morus Nigra.
Monday 29 March 2010
If you are looking for something to do in Thanet over Easter, you may consider what they have on at Quex.
Victorian Easter Event
Date: Good Friday 2 April, Easter Saturday 3 April,
Easter Sunday 4 April & Bank Holiday Monday 5 April 2010– 4 Days
Location: Powell-Cotton Museum Quex House and Gardens
Time: 11am-5 pm
Description: ‘Dining Room open, Victorian re-enactments, strongman, carriage rides, activity stall for children £2 to make a boater or bonnet with daily prizes, Easter egg hunt.
Price: AD £8, CHD £7, FAM £30
One ticket for the four days
Friends of Quex Half Price
Sunday 28 March 2010
I did a post about this clock sometime ago here’s the link http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2008/09/ramsgate-in-clockwork-of-synagogue.html another case of now you see it now you don’t here in Ramsgate.
The Ostend Spirit was entering the harbour as I was walking along the cliff top, quite a tight fit and I would think fairly difficult in bad weather.
Much boarding down Marina Road I suppose had I been in a different mood I could have called the post look no hands crunch no teeth, although frankly I still consider driving coaches down this structure to far more dangerous than boarding down it.
Here is the link to the pictures http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/310/id21.htm
I have just noticed that my automated publishing program has muddled up the order the pictures published in, I will apologise for it, I have a horrible feeling that it wont be long before my computer starts apologising, with all the insincerity of a machine.
Saturday 27 March 2010
So first a few thoughts on the council’s new leadership, the first being that Bob will have to stop being chair of scrutiny as the two jobs are mutually exclusive.
I think one encouraging thing here is that Bob is a person who will be able to work well with the Labour group, as he has already done as chair of scrutiny, so we may see a bit less of the party wrangling that many of us find unpleasant and is damaging to constructive debate.
Knocking a few ideas around I do speculate as to why and wonder if the deal is that Bob will stand down as a Conservative KCC councillor so that Sandy can stand in his place.
One senior Conservative councillor I disused this with said that although he wasn’t aware of any deal, it would make sense for Sandy to offer his considerable experience to KCC.
One senior council officer I discussed this with who had read Bobs quote:
“Thanet faces unique challenges but it also offers equally unique opportunities, through its coastline, tourism, green energy, its airport, harbours and much more. I have a number of new ideas which I hope will contribute to making Thanet a better place for us all.”
Said he didn’t like the sound of a leader with new ideas and at least they all knew where they were with Sandy.
My understanding is that the thing that worries the senior officers the most is that Bob is capable of working with pretty much anyone and getting down to the job in hand so he would probably be able to unite the best talent from the councillors of all parties, meaning we would be effectively governed democratically, rather than by an elite of senior council officers.
One thing that is particularly damaging is the inter departmental wrangles within the council, the Maritime Museum is a case in point here, where the leisure department made an offer to Preston Steam Trust of a 99 year lease and then the estates department moved in and forced the council to renege on the offer.
Now we have a situation where no council officer appears to be dealing with the issue, or indeed knows how to and so Ramsgate looks like losing its museum because council officers have dug themselves a hole that they can’t get of, without someone admitting they have made mistakes.
This is very difficult when the administrations stance is that all senior officers are infallible.
The clock on Ramsgate’s Clock House has stopped, so I don’t know if this is in any significant of the ongoing situation, possibly a signal of some sort that the end is nigh.
My understanding of the Pleasurama cliff façade issue at the moment is that the developer can’t start boring for the piles until the structure has been underpinned, estimates in the region £4m to £6m would seem likely, looking on the bright side one could say that the council will be providing much need work for the construction industry.
Of course the council’s stance here is still that there is nothing wrong with the foundations, it will be interesting to see how long they can keep this up, I have made it abundantly clear to them that if they don’t do something about the heavy vehicles going near to edge of the top of the cliff by Monday, the HSE will become involved.
With Easter coming on an interesting question now is, who moved the stone? It obviously wouldn’t be in the developers interests to cover up defects in the council owned cliff façade, the thought of the council sending someone out to cover up the hole is interesting, I wonder if any paperwork was generated that would be available for an foi request.
While on the subject of foi requests, it would seem to be that the development agreement that I haven’t seen, so I wouldn’t know what it contains, in fact may contain a planning agreement that the council have been withholding from me, when perhaps the ought not to have done.
An interesting problem here is that you can’t request a document unless you know it exists, however concealing a document that in fact exists, by saying it doesn’t exist is a bit of a novel one, particularly when juxtapositioned with concealing foundations that don’t exist.
Perhaps the council’s rulebook was written by Edgar Allan Poe, when dealing with the council the words:
As I was going up the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today...
Oh how I wish he'd go away!
come to mind quite often.
An interesting observation about politics locally is that Steve Ladyman and Laura Sandys both are behaving in civil fashion to each other, and I am hoping that this grownup approach to politics will filter down into the rest of local politics.
I may ramble on as the day continues, please try to keep any comment civil and courteous.
The link is to today’s pictures http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/310/id20.htm
Friday 26 March 2010
Thursday 25 March 2010
The main thing that I have been trying to achieve in the short term is to stop heavy vehicles going up onto the cliff top near the edge, until the cliff façade has been properly investigated and proven to be safe.
My obvious concern is that they are taking a considerable risk in not preventing vehicular access to the footpath above the site immediately.
My feelings are that a Catch 22 situation has developed in the council, whereby if the put up signs or barriers to prevent vehicles from going up there, they are admitting that all may not be well with the £1m contract repair that they have signed of as being done properly.
I have had an email from the council saying that the investigation work is being done by Cardy Construction the main contractor and developer’s partner in the project and that council officers were present at part of the investigation.
They have also told me that the council holds no report on the investigation work.
I have had no assurances from the council that the cliff is in fact safe, or that the façade has adequate foundations.
A big problem with man made cliff façades is that they often make the eventual collapse much worse as both enough unstable chalk has to build up behind them to cause the concrete barrier to fail and when it does the big lumps of concrete that fall tend to do a lot of damage.
The picture above is of a previous Ramsgate cliff collapse and the link leads to more pictures of collapses http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/collapse/
Wednesday 24 March 2010
There were a few pictures on my camera memory card apart from those of the cliff façade that I published yesterday, here are a few notes on them.
Some shot out of the car window of the new link road that will connect Ramsgate up to the road to London better.
A few of Monkton nature reserve that I visited on book business on Sunday, something that I hope one or more local book publications will come out of.
Some of the repairs at the top of Augusta Stairs.
Some of the reinstatement work at Harbour Parade, I am glad they have stopped at the halfway point to reinstate as it helps keep things there tidier which is better for the businesses there.
Click on the link for them http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/310/id18.htm
Tuesday 23 March 2010
What happened next was rather strange, I sent them pictures showing vegetation growing out of all the cracks in the façade, a bulge in part of it and an apparent lack of foundations.
The council investigated the bulge and repaired it, weeded the vegetation out, but said there was nothing wrong with the foundations.
During the last four months I have badgered on at them about the foundations and then I heard that they have finally decided to investigate them, they didn’t do me the courtesy of telling me that they had decided to investigate them, so once again I had to go and have a look for myself.
Well it appears that they dug away where the absence of foundations had been crudely covered up by dumping a bit of concrete and what they found was no foundations.
I suppose the pertinent point here is that I pointed out that there didn’t appear to be adequate foundations, both to the council and the council’s advising engineers right at the very beginning of the £1m contract to fill and paint the façade.
The question begged here is why didn’t they investigate the foundations then?
Click on the link for some pictures of the investigations of the façade http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/310/id17.htm the number of exploratory holes suggests that perhaps they should have taken a closer look before spending so much of our money painting it.
The council have also repaired the wall that was sinking into the ground at the top of Augusta Stairs.
In this case I printed the first batch only to find that when I converted it into a format that formed a staple bound A4 format I hadn’t changed the page numbers on the contents page, so I had start again.
I know it is a bit of a lame excuse that that I was delayed by a famous Ramsgate resident who died in 1862, but that is what happened.
Anyway the book is now printed and will soon be available online both from my website http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/catalogue/ and ebay shop http://stores.shop.ebay.co.uk/thanet-books__W0QQ_armrsZ1
I now have copies available in my bookshop for anyone who can’t wait and I will do a comprehensive blog post about it later in the week, once all the online bits are completed.
The picture above, for the cover of the book © Mark Negin is of the Montefiore Synagogue in Ramsgate, he also wrote the introduction for the book that I have just published here http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/catalogue/lady_montefiore_s_cookbook_1846.htm
As Eddie Gilberts fish restaurant has been in the newspapers again see http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/mar/21/jay-rayner-eddie-gilberts-restaurant-ramsgate I have published the fish section from the book online here http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/310/id16.htm as you can see the tradition of fine fish cookery in Ramsgate extends back some considerable time.
The other thing that has prevented me from getting much done today is the stunning 1872 map of Ramsgate newly published here http://www.ramsgateremembered.co.uk/1872_map_index
Oh and I just noticed that China Gateway have made an announcement of changing the ownership of about 1,000,000 shares see http://www.londonstockexchange.com/exchange/prices-and-news/news/market-news/market-news-detail.html?announcementId=10420615 at today’s prices about £200,000 I don’t know if this is significant of anything much.
Sunday 21 March 2010
Last week I embedded their two latest videos one about the teenage bedroom exhibit and the other about the silly walk in this blog, at the time neither were embedded in the galley’s website or linked to it, as one would expect when I embedded the videos the viewing statistics increased from pretty much zero so that between them both videos got about 60 viewings.
Since the subject matter isn’t that interesting I assumed that of the 400 or so people who read this blog in a day, a small percentage of them didn’t take my word for it and had a look for themselves.
As there has been virtually no comment here supporting the gallery’s activities I can only assume that those people were as disappointed with what the gallery is doing as I am.
Well now the gallery has embedded the video about the silly walk in its website and there is no noticeable change in its number of viewings, suggesting to me that very few people look at the gallery’s website or are interested in their current projects.
Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t dispute that walking and getting people to participate in local history are worthwhile projects, I do both and a great many of you buy my local history books and look at the pictures from my walks.
My problem is that these activities are treated as publicly fundable art, when in fact they are not and that these projects are supposed to be drawing visitors to Margate in sufficient quantities to help with the regeneration of the town, something that there doesn’t appear to be any evidence to support.
As I have pointed out the only statistics I can find on the internet suggest a total lack of interest by anyone whatsoever.
Next some thoughts on the Pleasurama development, as I have pointed out on numerous occasions the two main impediments to this development ever happening are, the lack of a flood risk assessment and its close proximity to an unsupported chalk cliff.
Added to this I have heard from a couple of different sources, one a comment on this blog and another a friend with an interest in civil engineering that the council has finally inspected the foundations to the cliff façade and that all is not well with them.
Now my understanding is that the apart from the £1m cash bond that the developer has deposited for the council’s protection in the event of anything going wrong financially, they have spent over £2.5m on the project so far and are still spending money on the project.
All of this would seem to be based on some sort of assertion that the cliff will be perfectly safe and maintainable in a safe condition – even with the restrictions imposed by the close proximity of the back of the development – for the expected life of the development and that there is no significant flood risk, despite the historical evidence and the EAs concerns.
As the council have already spent over £1m on the project and presumably the developers spend is based on assurances from the council that the problems that I have outlined don’t exists, I wonder where this leaves the council in terms of liability, if the problems that I, the EA and their consulting engineers outlined in the report on the cliff façade prove to be true.
It is my understanding that one of the main concerns that caused the council to allow the project to proceed without a performance bond was that the developer would try to recoup the amount they had already spent, by engaging in litigation against the council.
Now at the moment with a development agreement in place, that will almost undoubtedly have a time schedule in it setting out a time scale for the development with penalty clauses if the developer doesn’t comply, this would seem to be increasing the councils potential liability on a daily basis.
With an approximate overall cost of the development of over £22m the potential for their ongoing liability would seem to be considerable.
The really annoying thing here is that we have considerable need for regeneration of the site here in Ramsgate, a first class contractor in place a developer who obviously has real money and has been investing it in the development providing much needed work in the current economic climate, but an apparent lack of organisation and communication that beggars belief.
On to Euroferries the first available sailing on their online booking facility has now been change to one departing from Boulogne at 7.45 on 10th April, I don’t know if this is significant of anything.
We now come to the Royal Victoria Pavilion, my understanding is that the buildings condition is rapidly deteriorating, this combined with its inadequate flood protection will almost certainly lead to its eventual demolition, either by the sea or the council.
I understand that the council are engaged in litigation with the Rank Organisation over the repairing order, but in this instance Rome appears to be burning.
Now onto the Maritime Museum still closed and likely to remain so until the council grant the new operator security of tenure.
Another interesting aside to this is the position over the Tug Cervia, as far as I can understand the tugs mooring is part of the whole security of tenure problem.
The next stage that has been delayed several times is to get the tug onto the slipway, assess the condition of her hull with a view to deciding how to approach such repairs as are necessary.
There is however a potential problem here, which is that as there is no security of tenure in place the museum operators can’t do the work to the dry dock that is intended to be her new home and I suppose that she would only be allowed to return to where she is now at the whim of the council, not a happy situation.
There is a further problem that is while the dry dock work isn’t done that is also deteriorating, it now leaks badly at very high tides.
Once again there is potential with this situation for the council to find itself in a position where it has to find considerable funds, because the Clock House, tug’s hull and dry dock are all deteriorating while the council prevaricates.
As I said in my previous post the council is in need of firm and decisive leadership urgently, as not only does it appear to have lost its grip on the whole eastcliff part of Ramsgate but also appears to be taking considerable financial risks in so doing.
Albion House is another case in point where the council have allowed that condition of what is not only a royal residence but an important public building deteriorate to the point where it has ceased to be fit for purpose.
I may ramble on a bit as the day continues, will also make some corrections as I am working on a notebook with a very small screen and can’t see what I am doing that well.
Saturday 20 March 2010
After yesterdays post where I was pretty critical of the council’s IT and noticing several other blogs had negative things to say about the council, I thought I would delve around for something positive to say.
The first thing is that they have managed to get their magazine “Thanet Matters” online without any noticeable errors see http://www.thanet.gov.uk/files/TDC_Thanet_Matters_Issue46.pdf it’s only available as a pdf file, something that’s a bit annoying for people with older computers, but at least unlike last time it is all legible.
Also the council have also announced that they intend to webcast the council meeting of 22nd April, something that I strongly support as it is a move to more accessible and open government, see http://www.thanet.gov.uk/council_meeting_video.aspx oddly enough they are promoting the council’s youtube channel on the same page.
This is a bit strange as they haven added any videos to it for about a year, I wonder if they are still making videos but just not putting them up, one would have thought at least one of last years big event would have appeared by now.
Next week should be an interesting one for the council, as I gather that the Conservative group are to select a new leader, I always find it interesting that the cabinet appears to select the leader and the leader appears to select the cabinet.
What the council needs for a leader is a well educated person with experience of running a large organisation, preferably at the peak of their career, unfortunately the position doesn’t attract a salary that would allow this type of person to give up their job for three years to do the job, full time.
I am hoping that the compromise of selecting a deputy leader from the best of the available talent within the conservative group will be adopted, this is not a full time job and I would say that it is the person who gets this job that could really make the difference.
I would also say that it is the selection of this post that is most likely to have some effect on the way the local Conservative groups show their intent to improve their act and could ultimately effect the general election result in in the marginal Thanet South constituency.
Oddly enough some more documents have appeared since I published the new documents last week, that predate the ones I published last week in terms of their publication date.
Friday 19 March 2010
Royal Sands Development Ramsgate and Thanet District Council’s ability to send an email the saga goes on.
Ten days ago this astonishing saga was compounded when TDCIT failed to send the vital email, this should have gone to both the information commissioner’s office and to me, not only did the email not send but the TDC mail server didn’t tell the officer concerned that it hadn’t sent.
The complaints officer at the information commissioners office only found out that he hadn’t received it because he found out that it hadn’t sent from my website.
The problems that relate to the council not being able to reliably send an email either to me or to another government department seem pretty serious to me.
Anyway I have now sent them my request for an internal review and will wait and see what happens next.
The correspondence is published at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/foi/id19.htm the information commission’s in blue, the council’s in black and mine in red.
The subject of Thanet Earth and other major initiatives that government support to create employment is an interesting one and one with no easy answers here in Thanet.
Put in simple terms we have several different types of migrant here the most problematic being those who are long term unemployed, often rehoused here by London boroughs, because it is a cheap solution.
We also have, at the other end of the spectrum, those who work in London but have moved here and commute, this is particularly so in Ramsgate at the moment, due to the fast rail link.
I suppose those who migrate to Thanet for work probably represent a fairly small proportion of our migrants and the effect they have on the local job situation difficult to assess.
I would say from my own experience that a fairly large proportion of the long-term local residents, of working age, are employed and much of our unemployment problem is an imported one, albeit part of that problem a long-term one.
Thursday 18 March 2010
I took a few hundred pictures on the way, for those of you that can’t get out for a walk the links to them will be at the bottom of this post when the computer has finished processing them.
I also took a few yesterday morning here is the link for those; http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/310/id9.htm
I have decided that with the right titles some of my photographs could be considered modern art, and am wondering if grant funding would be applicable.
The one above is entitled; “Warning you may encounter a person or persons having difficulties opening umbrellas.”
If I get the time I will add a few more thoughts about some of the pictures to this post during the rest of the day, here are the links to the pictures:
You may have to wait for them to appear as there are over 400.
Work continues on the wall that is sinking into the ground at the top of Augusta Stairs.
Preparations are being made to prepare the sands for the Easter holiday.
Work continues on repairing the low wall around the bandstand’s dance floor, in front of Wellington crescent.
Today’s pictures starting with id10
Work on Broadstairs High street seems to have finished.
A few things on id13 sorry the last picture on these pages seems to have jumped to the top I will try to remember to sort it out tomorrow.
The Pleasurama roof drain pipe has now been diverted off course, they seem to have conceded that at least one aspect of the Pleasurama plans were just plain crazy.
I had to nip back home for a coffee at some point on this page if you are becoming directionally disadvantaged.
The Grand Turk seems to have made a short reappearance, rumour is that she has been bought by a private buyer, but no one seemed to know much at all.
The anti fox hunting campaigners were campaigning outside where the Thanet South Conservative offices used to be, I am pretty sure that they don’t use them any more.
I have slightly mixed thoughts on blood sports, as I tend to consider it from the fox’s point of view i.e. were I a fox would I prefer to be gassed in my den, shot out of hand or take my chances trying to escape the hunt?
I have to admit to having ridden only once with the Froyle hunt, this was in about 1967, I caught up with the fox as my horse bolted but the hounds didn’t and the fox escaped, in fact I was the only one injured.
All of this wasn’t anything to do with a conscious decision to engage in blood sports, I had had about 3 riding lessons at school and these were really too expensive for my budget, so when the opportunity of a free ride presented itself I took it.
I only learned later that the very experienced rider left his huge stallion available for me to ride as it had thrown him on the way to the hunt and he had been taken away in an ambulance.
Looking at yesterdays post this morning I noticed that the video I embedded had vanished, this is a bit odd as presumably this video was made with the gallery’s grant funding, never got linked to the gallery’s website and as far as I could see the very few viewings it got came from when I first embedded it in this website some time ago.
Anyway there are now two new videos about the gallery’s recent activities, this firs one about the recent Margate walk
and a new one about their current exhibition.
Wednesday 17 March 2010
They looked on the Thanet tourist website see http://www.visitthanet.co.uk/
The top link in the welcome to Thanet section is called Margate this takes you to http://www.visitthanet.co.uk/explore-margate.asp?&p1=g&p2=margate
They were looking for something in terms of winter entertainment and the thing on that page that looked promising was the link called The new Contemporary Art gallery this takes you to http://www.visitthanet.co.uk/thedms.asp?dms=13&venue=3200241 they were pleased to see that there was an event on and clicked on the link called Times of Our Lives, this takes you to http://www.visitthanet.co.uk/thedms.asp?dms=13&feature=1001&venue=3200241 and they were pleased to see there is an exhibition on.
The video is below.
Tuesday 16 March 2010
Click on the link for the correspondence http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/foi/id18.htm please leave the officers surnames out of any comments, my emails in red theirs in black to make it easier to follow.
This isn’t the end of the matter, as I will pursue it to the bitter end, something that will probably take several more months, mainly because there is a point of principle here.
As the Pleasurama saga roles on it would seem highly likely that the site will stand deserted for another summer season, during which it could be used both for parking and leisure, something that would be highly beneficial to Ramsgate during these harsh economic times.
So if you see some more bankrupt and closed businesses in the town during the next year, you may consider that a contributory factor to their demise will be a failure by highly paid and very senior council officers to face up to and admit the practical problems related to building on this site to the existing plans.
In this particular instance the development agreement is important because the council are using a technical regulation to hide information that would normally be in the public domain, for a development of this size and significance.
The key public document would normally be the planning agreement, something that most importantly when considering the years that this unused and hideous building site has blighted the main leisure part of the town, would have set out some sort of time scale for the development.
There is no development agreement because one isn’t mandatory and the reason it isn’t mandatory is because the council own the site.
The picture, click on it to enlarge is of the site being used normally.
Monday 15 March 2010
I did get out just after lunch yesterday and did get a short walk this morning between taking the children to school and opening my bookshop s here they are.
The weather in Ramsgate this morning is about as good as it gets in early spring and I recommend if you get a chance that you take advantage of it.
Nothing much of note in the pictures apart from the one above, it would apper that someone has been investigating to find out why the wall at the top of the cliff by Augusta Stairs is sinking into the ground.
Sunday 14 March 2010
With the general election looming and many pundits suggesting that the internet is going to very influential in this election I have just been having a look at the way Thanet’s political influencers are grappling with the internet.
Like it or not the main Thanet internet forum is blogger something for the most part our MPs and hopeful candidates seem to give a fairly wide berth, fairly unrestricted public internet forums present various problems for politicians.
There are considerable restrictions on what the various candidates in the forthcoming elections can and can’t say in a public forum and still remain candidates, partly because of electoral rules and partly because of the political parties they represent.
One way an astute and politically knowledgeable blogger can exploit this situation is by asking why candidates haven’t commented on something that they know full well they can’t, something that makes for some amusement.
Oddly enough most of the candidates seem to be somewhat aloof of this situation, I believe that they assume the ordinary voter is much more clued up than they really are.
At the moment the general consensus seems to be that here in Thanet the election is a bit of a three horse race, with Roger Gale odds on for Thanet North, and Steve Ladyman and Laura Sandys battling it out in Thanet South.
The two main Thanet Politicaly slanted blogs Thanet Life run by Conservative councillor and From One End of Kent run by Labour councillor Mark Nottingham have had a fair amount to say about national politics lately.
Most of the people I talk to who are likely to vote seem to be most worried about the economic situation after the election, the concerns mostly seem to revolve around what the financial cuts will be and how this will effect them, both in terms of personal allowances and benefits and in terms of how either the business they run or work for will be effected.
The whole thing seems to be much more about who will lose the election than who will win it, with people trying to work out which will be the least bad option for the personally.
I think that the expenses scandal has damaged what trust existed between the electorate and our MPs much more that our MPs seem to realise, in fact trust is very much the key word in this election.
Back before the banking crisis the trust that was being talked about was mostly about Tony Blair taking us to war under false pretences and the trust that was damaged by doing so meant many who would have voted Labour, intended not to for this reason.
I don’t think the economic crisis in itself is seen as being the government’s fault, in fact many have a perception that a Conservative government wouldn’t have handled it any better.
There is also a sense that within a democracy a change of government occasionally is something healthy and that when one party remains in power for too long, they become too comfortable.
Some feel that a hung parliament wouldn’t be such a bad thing, not because they would make a good government but because they would be more likely to implement electoral and parliamentary reforms, something often promised but seldom achieved.
It would however locally seem that as Thanet South is a marginal the few floating voters in that constituency will have a disproportionate effect on who forms the next government.
As far as the two major candidates go both are personable and responsive individuals and I am aware that both do a lot to help local people, regardless of their political affiliations.
Mainly because of this I get a sense that any mud slinging is likely to be counter productive and I suppose that those who are voting by making a choice between Steve and Laura have two things to weigh up.
One is how influential either of them would be in any new government and even this is a bit of a double edged sword as an MP with greater responsibility in parliament is likely both to have less time for their constituents but more influence to achieve things for them.
The other is which is most likely to pursue their concerns and try hardest to resolve their problems.
The other group of floating voters will be making a choice between the national parties or their leaders, trying to cut through the spin, hype and twaddle and work out which will make the best government, or as I have already stated the worst.
I also get the impression that some of the floating voters that vote Labour will be both ashamed of doing so because of the trust that was broken by Tony Blair and scared of voting for change, in case some cut finishes off their livelihood.
Because of this I think it possible that Labour are doing rather better than the polls suggest, as I think quite a few people would be a bit reluctant to say that they intended to do something that they new in their hearts to be based on their shame or fear.
One thing that is of great concern is the way the Conservatives are talking austerity in the one hand and yet our Conservative run county council is behaving, funding silly walks isn’t likely to be perceived as sensible even by the most conservative of the Conservatives.
I may ramble on as the day continues.
Saturday 13 March 2010
Both Ramsgate and Margate have a very long history of flooding and storm damage caused by a combination of an exceptionally high tide and storm, fortunately for Ramsgate there is very little on the western undercliff to get damaged and Ramsgate Harbour protects the main developed part of the town that is low lying.
All this really leaves is Ramsgate’s eastern undercliff, the important part being from the Royal Victoria Pavilion to the car park that used to be the Marina Swimming Pool.
This area has a long history of flooding and storm damage – it’s designated “High Risk” by the Environment Agency - and if the sea level does rise the problems there can only get worse when we have a high tide combined with a storm.
During my discussions with various council officers about this area, the Royal Sands or Pleasurama development in particular, I was told by them that the council was due to carry out a “Strategic Flood Risk Assessment” SFRA on the various vulnerable parts of the Isle of Thanet.
My freedom of information act requests about these matters still rumble on with very little in the way of information from the council, click on the link for the email I sent them yesterday http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/foi/id18.htm I have uses the officers Christian names instead of nicknames based on their weekly salary this time as the nicknames seemed to irritate our chief executive and it’s information I want from him, not to get his back up.
The problem for Ramsgate in all of this is that the area of the town that most needs regeneration is the eastern undercliff and without properly dealing with the flood risk any regeneration there could well be money wasted.
The pictures are of storm damage to Ramsgate’s eastern harbour wall.
As the internet has a very long memory and I have a fairly high internet presence, it isn’t my objective to have something stupid they have said to come up when one googles their name years after the event.
KCC’s new chief Executive will be Katherine Kerswell she is currently chief executive of Northamptonshire County Council.
As her salary at KCC will be £197,000 per year, I couldn’t resist the honorific of 4k.
When I was a child back in 1950s my father was the manager of a bookshop, in those days bookshops were mostly staffed by highly educated and articulate women, many of whom were spinsters trying to live on what wasn’t a living wage.
I was often sent to these women’s homes to be looked after and became acutely aware of their poverty, so this is also a bit of a reflection on how women’s pay and jobs has changed in some cases over the years.
Friday 12 March 2010
First the link to the Planning Inspectorates decision allowing the development that the council turned down:
This link takes you to the planning inspectors decision to award costs against the council.
It only goes to show what you can get away with when it comes to listed buildings.
The links below take you some of my previous posts about the matter.
More pictures of the demolition.
Thursday 11 March 2010
Photography banned at the Turner Contemporary some pictures of Margate, Westsgate coffee food and internet a bit of a day off ramble.
I wanted to go over to Margate to see the exhibition at the Turner Contemporary, I thought as I had posted about it, http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2010/03/brand-new-arts-video-on-turner.html some pictures of it it would encourage other people to go and see it too, things started fairly well as you can see from the first batch of photographs http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/310/id6.htm
I though that as last time I visited Margate in the Middle of the day I had had my car vandalised in the car park by the High Street, I would park at the top of the High Street as near as I could to the car accessory shop as this seemed to be an unlikely place to have my car vandalised.
I then walked down the high street taking a few photos towards The Turner Contemporary’s exhibition in the Droit House, I had forgotten how much colder the northern side of Thanet can be, so when I arrived at the harbour arm I was in need of a hot drink and thought I would try the café on the harbour arm.
BeBeached click on the link for their website http://www.bebeached.co.uk/ excellent coffee, chocolate cake and wifi internet connection and a very welcoming atmosphere.
I reflected that Margate didn’t seem quite as bad as last time I went, the High Street had quite a lot of people in it, well if you looked at the pictures you can make up your own mind.
Rejuvenated I headed off for The Droit House then - I view it as Margate’s equivalent of Ramsgate’s Clock House and somehow I expect it to be similarly interesting – I started taking photographs and was immediately accosted and told photography was forbidden.
Last time I went there it was apparently quite OK to take pictures, so why the change in policy I don’t really know.
When I try to describe the exhibition, words fail me I think is enough to say that it was so popular that I was the only person there and leave it at that.
I then thought I would walk back through the old town and look at the improvements there, that too was pretty much deserted, the photographs speak for themselves, sorry the first few at the top of the page should be at the bottom so it starts with the picture of The Droit House, click on the link for them http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/310/id5.htm
On to Westgate, when I arrived my camera batteries died so I borrowed my wife’s camera, I am afraid I didn’t get on with it too well, anyway click on the link for the pictures http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/310/id7.htm
Finally lunch at Quex Barn as you can see from the pictures they really know how to make a sandwich fit for an earl, wifi too.
Wednesday 10 March 2010
I contacted them and said something along the lines of, during my research related to Ramsgate history I had consulted the works of Mr W C Lavatory, the well known inventor of the Victorian loo and discovered that there was a large underground one in the path of their trench.
Obviously I was concerned that if they dug into it the whole thing could collapse causing considerable expense at best and at worse this could result in injury.
They replied that they had a radar survey of the site and had consulted with council officer 1k who had looked at the old plans held by the council.
As a result of this the route for the pipe had been modified to avoid them.
Tuesday 9 March 2010
This was important to him, as his father had served on her during the war, I found it eventually in one of the old guides that I have reprinted, “Ramsgate For 1934” click on the link if you want to buy it http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/catalogue/ramsgate_for_1934.htm
Alternatively I have published the whole guide online for fellow bloggers click on the link for it http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/310/ originals of these old guides are very difficult to get and very frail making them difficult to use if you do.
One thing that is particularly useful about these guides is that they allow you to put a fairly accurate date to the pictures in them, something that is often very difficult with postcards and lose photographs and up to a point they help when dating the others.
Monday 8 March 2010
Click on the picture below to view the latest video from the turner Contemporary.
Sunday 7 March 2010
Now when I come to dealing with our council I try very hard to make life easy for them and if I make a complaint or a foi request it will be because I have already tried to get them to deal with the matter in an informal and less expensive way.
Any of you who have been following this blog during the last week will know that my oldest foi request became the subject of a series of rather ludicrous emails between me and the council’s chief executive.
The main drift of the correspondence was that he said I had recieved a response to my request when I in fact hadn’t.
Click on the link to read the correspondence so far http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/foi/id17.htm I have used nicknames for the officers involved based roughly on their weekly pay, the reason for this is that my correspondence – much of which is published on the internet – that relates to the Pleasurama saga extends back over a number of years.
During that time some council officers have said some pretty stupid things and because my high internet profile this means that when you google their names those stupid things come up. Obviously it is not my intention to damage some officer’s career because of some stupid thing that he said years ago about Pleasurama.
One thing that came up in this week’s correspondence was the business of if it was legal for me to publish that correspondence on the internet, recently the council have started putting a note on their emails – funnily enough even emails containing their press releases – to the effect that the email is not for publication or re distribution.
Obviously though when these emails are a response to a foi request the information contained in them is by definition a public document, even if the response is to say that they have fulfilled the request when they haven’t.
Now although some of this can be seen as quite humorous, the crux of the matter here is that the councils state of denial over the impossibility of aspects of the Pleasurama development, so that the main leisure site in Ramsgate remains a building site year in year out and in doing so does immeasurable damage to Ramsgate.
One aspect of the Pleasurama development that I found strange this week was that the workers digging the trench along harbour parade, discovered an old wall of dressed stone.
Well of course they stopped work as is the case now when building workers discover some historical artefact, I was told that when they contacted the council, the council officers didn’t want to know about it and didn’t even send out someone to look at it, but instead told the workers to smash it up and carry on laying their pipe.
Now I am not saying that the wall should have been preserved, what I am saying though is that it should have been properly and professionally identified before any decision was made.
I am pretty certain that this was part of the harbour wall that extended behind the stone yard, whatever it was it was very thick indeed, more on the scale of Hadrian than garden.
Obviously with my mistake over Tissot that I posted about during the week, I am not infallible when it comes to historical identification.
Another thing that rather dominated the blog this week was Margate’s silly walk, an aspect of this that I found particularly interesting was that apart from an elite few and the art students that were forced to take part, is the apparent lack of interest in this event based on web statistics.
Now the artist, if that is the right name for him, had two films made about the event and published on the internet, one was linked to the Turner Contemporary’s website and the other wasn’t.
Both of these films have are published with counters showing the number of times they have been viewed and even the days that those viewings took place.
Interestingly though the only days that they had any significant amounts of views was when I embedded the films in posts on this blog. Something I also find interesting is that for a short time one of the videos was embedded in the Turner Contemporary’s website – something that didn’t seem to increase the number of times that it was viewed significantly – it was soo removed from their site, I wonder why?
Sticking with the musical theme the wall seemed appropriate, for any of the youf of today watching the clip, school really was very like that back in the distant past when I was educated, for want of a better word.
Coming back again to the foi act and the council there have been several suggestions made recently that most of the information people have requested is unnecessary and that dealing with these requests is a waste of time and money. The council has to publish a log of these requests, if you know where to find it click on the link for it http://www.thanet.gov.uk/pdf/freedom_of_information_disclosure_aug_sep_09.pdf
I should also add that one of the requests that related to the Pleasurama development was for the report that stated that it would not be safe to use driven piles in the construction of the development.
At the same time as they held this information the council announced that pile driving was to start imminently, I dread to think what would have happened if it had.
Saturday 6 March 2010
Incidentally the birds are the ones that wake me up in the morning, hence far too many photos, I told them that if they didn’t pose like that there would be no more peanuts.
and thoughts on our somewhat - why do I find myself at a loss for words when describing our council – perhaps some nickname based on its daily cost would be the answer – the picture of these council flats in Ramsgate was taken a noon today.
As you can see not only do all of the lights point in the worst direction for light pollution but also they were all turned on in the middle of the day.
Friday 5 March 2010
This I suppose is often followed by the cry of “dad got any Doors albums” – sheet music, know any riffs – type of job, assuming dad is of a certain age the answer will probably be “which one do you want” however when asking for something you have to know if it exists.
As you can see from the picture above (click on it to enlarge) dad may have some stuff on vinyl that you don’t know exists, and this is the nub of the problem when trying to extract information from Thanet District Council, by that I mean you have to know if it exists before you can ask for it.
Anyway the freedom of information requests relating to the Pleasurama development that I submitted to the council last year are, see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/foi/ are coming to a sort of fruition and some further correspondence from senior council officers is emerging see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/foi/id17.htm
I have deliberately removed the officer’s names and substituted a code based on my guess of their approximate weekly wage, I would please ask anyone not to use their names in comments.
I have added the following song, not The Doors but somehow appropriate to the dialogue.
I recommend you double click on the video so it opens in a separate window this will both enable you to reach the volume control and listen to it while reading the dialogue.
Thursday 4 March 2010
Several local artists have either applied for grant funding from, or offered input to the Turner Contemporary project all those I have spoken to say they have been turned down out of hand, one said that he was sure it was because his work is paint on canvas and that he thought he would have much more success with them if he asked for a grant to dig holes in the sand.
Now what really worries me here is the criteria by which they are deciding what constitutes appropriate art and the experience of those making these decisions.
As far as I can tell they are not affiliated to any experienced and significant existing art gallery and most of the control over what is happening there seems to be in the hands of civil servants, without artistic ability or qualifications.
The gallery only seems to want to interact with either people who are very young and inexperienced and therefore easy for them to manipulate, or artists who producing elitist work that’s only justification for it being art is that the “artist” says it is.
To quote Hamish Fulton "Some people have asked whether what I'm doing is art but my answer is always the same: I'm an artist so therefore this is art."
There is also a grave concern here about the effect on our young people, by this I mean the message being conveyed to them when they were forced to attend yesterdays event is this.
You are to walk round in circles, the man leading you is an artist therefore this is art, if he wasn’t an artist it wouldn’t be art, this is part of your training as artists, when you have completed your training, you will become an artist and whatever you say is art will be art and will attract funding.
Wednesday 3 March 2010
I can only say that I am afraid I was mistaken in my previous post when I said it was the Castle Hotel and that it was in fact The Royal Albion Hotel, this was the building – now demolished – that stood on the site of the building where Pizza Express is now and was purpose built to house The National Westminster Bank.
Several things worried me about my previous assumption, one being that Tissot was unlikely to reproduce the same artistic license over the shape of the windows in several paintings and drawings.
Another was would have stayed at The Castle when he could have stayed at The Royal Albion Hotel or The Royal Hotel?
Another was the position of the Police Office and the Harbour Trustees Committee House on the other side of the road, shouldn’t part of theses have shown up in the pictures.
Click on the link for some more http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/Blogpicts1210/id23.htm
Tuesday 2 March 2010
Unfortunately like most of the people who will be funding the running of this new asset for Margate I will be at work, so this is one artistic experience that I will have to forgo.
A question that one may need to answer is; is it art?
I mean for me Andy’s Coke bottle and banana -click on it to enlarge - in the picture above definitely are but does this mean that as he is an artist; Andy Walking, Andy Tired, even Andy Taking a Little Snooze is art?
What is wrong with me? Am I caught out perhaps? Musausa sapientumum fixa est in aure?
You will note that on some days more than one person was interested enough to watch the above video.
Sorry about that once I try and write banana I can’t always stop, I have just been for a walk here are the pictures http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/Blogpicts1210/id22.htm I am fairly certain that it wasn’t art, and fairly certain that it wouldn’t have been art, even if I was an artist, I am not so sure however that it would have been not art if it had been expensive and not unsure if this wouldn’t have been to do with who was forced to pay the bill.
Yes I am afraid that is what we are left with; lots and lots of bill, bill in fact for miles and miles.