Sunday, 30 January 2011

Sunday Ramble

Thanet and China, a union of pollution and economic disaster or a union of eco friendly prosperity?
Checking around the web this morning I noticed Commercial Group Properties, the firm behind the China Gateway development at Manston, seem top be having IT problems.

Their website has gone, see or rather don’t see it.

As soon as I saw the initial plans for this development, I had great reservations about what these people are actually up to, because from an engineering point of view these plans just didn’t make any sense.

These plans were drawn up by the same firm of architects that drew the initial plans for the Pleasurama development, the ones that were for the building that was higher than the cliff behind it.

In the case of The China Gateway development it was the drainage plans that didn’t make any sense, one aspect of which was that the individual Chinese companies were to have their own septic tank system, processing their own sewage and industrial waste on site and poring the results into our drinking water reservoir.

Now I am all for a dialogue with China and the encouragement of an improvement in their human rites, attitude to pollution, a more balanced trade relationship etc, but with an element of caution.

When it comes to environmental projects, one that I view with suspicion is the offshore wind farm one, from an engineering point of view this seems to me much more about getting grant funding, than solving pollution and climate change problems.

The first question here is, what happens when the wind doesn’t blow? I am afraid the answer to this one is. There is some sort or polluting backup power station, after all if the backup power station was one that wasn’t polluting, why not use it all the time?

Of course here in Ramsgate we can only benefit from the windfarms putting money into out economy and I am please to have their business here.

That said I am suspicious about the windfarm operators attitude to the environment, because the whole business doesn’t seem to make sense to me, from an engineering point of view, so I tend to keep a bit of an eye on the situation there.

I have to say I wasn’t that surprised to read this morning about a pollution skeleton in their cupboard, see

It is looking to me as though, if Thanet is going to develop a special relationship with China, we need to take some care.

Kent International Airport
I am afraid when one of the local councils starts talking about spending six figure amounts to regenerate the area, I now get very suspicious and spending £10,000,000 ish on in a station for the airport is just another occasion.

I really don’t believe that our local councils take an objective view of the airport, of course I am likely to be ill informed, so corrections in the comments please.

What we have is a huge runway, in a place where no one sensible would put a commercial airport, it faces the wrong way, has a town at the end of it and because of its geographical location can never be a transport hub, a couple of spokes of the wheel maybe, but a hub never.

With a truly massive amount of investment, modern guidance systems, hard standing for enough aircraft to park in, viable solutions to the drainage and other pollution problems, still it’s in the wrong place.

Talking to the engineers who have to solve the problems there is a bit of an education and the main problem at the moment that they are working on is the drainage one, here is an example of what I mean.

Now something you just wouldn’t do if you were planning a new airport from scratch is build it on top of an essential drinking water reservoir, solving the problems just don’t make economic sense, but as Manston is already in this situation and various contingency plans exist in case of a big fuel spillage.

At some time in the past some clever engineer decided to take up the turf covering a large part of the grass bit of the airfield and put a thick layer of clay underneath, so that if a plane crashes on the green bit and the fuel is spilt, then there will be time to contain the fuel and clean it up before it soaks into the ground.

Sound great doesn’t it, unfortunately the clay is only under some bits, no one seems too know which bits and putting clay under the rest of it wouldn’t be an allowable pollution solution with the regulations in place now.

Apart from when encouraging investors and government finance I don’t think anyone really sees Manston as a paying proposition, different firms have tried to make it pay, over the last fifty years or so, with no great amount of success, when it changes hands it tends to do so because it is very cheap.

Local Blogs
On to the local blogs this week, the main thing to covered is the councillors handbags at dawn spat over Mark Nottingham’s deselection, the implications relating to the leadership of the Labour group and possibly even the future leadership of the council.

There are several rumours going around about a spat in the Conservative group over deselection too.

The whole business raises two important issues that I can see.

One being, is party politics in any way suited to district council level? I say this mainly because I think if you took the time the able councillors from all political persuasions are able to give to the very real problems in Thanet and got them all to work together, I am not so sure they would be up to the task.

The other being, having voted to chose the leader of them selves against the unanimous results of the public consultation, the bits of the way the leader of the council is chosen that have slipped into public view, look well just ludicrous.

Looking at the other blogs for something in terms of other news, I should draw your attention to one I put up on my other blog

The national government has told local government that it now has to publish details of any individual spends over £100 and this post has links to the first lot of figures that Thanet District Council have published.

The whole thing is a bit only in Thanet, as all the information is there apart from what they actually spent the money on.

Thanet Press Releases is bit of a strange blog, I started it so that I wouldn’t spam this blog up with all of the bits of local information that receive by email.

Most of these were council press releases and now the council are getting much better at publishing them on their own website, in a timely manner I am considering stopping publishing them there.

Any one got any views on this one?

Simon Moores has a post about Margate Caves that doesn’t sound very encouraging see perhaps if the caves contained modern art they would have some chance of getting open again.

Perhaps the people bunkering fuel just off Margate could be asked to sponsor the caves.

The rest of Simon’s posts this week bring to mind people in glass houses and make one wonder which councillor will go nuclear, perhaps this enigmatic post by Ken Gregory is a portent

Bignews Tony Margate has had so much unsavoury comment about the councillors handbags at dawn that he has switched off comments for the weekend see

I don’t think people realise the problems associated with potentially libellous comments about known local people, I had several from Retired which I have had to delete as I just don’t have the resources to check on their accuracy and frankly as this is my blog, it is me that carries the can if someone decides to take legal action.

I should reiterate that unsubstantiated comment naming real people and suggesting that local people have done something that may be construed as wrong will be deleted out of hand.

New kid on the block Readit, now revealed as our very own Ken Read has produced some excellent posts in the last week, I can recommend his whole weeks blogging, see

Sacking the Senior Council Officers
As far as I can work out talking to various council officers about the council job cuts, most of the senior and quite a few junior council officers get made redundant, I am told that the redundancy payments are fairly modest.

The ones that want to then have to apply for the replacement posts in what is a new job structure.

Rather a peculiar aside to this seems to be the situation where some of the very senior officers have moved sideways over the years and so don’t have qualifications for the job they do.

I will explain this with a purely hypothetical example, that has no relationship with any one working in the council, I hope.

Joe Blogs is good at sums, gets a good maths GCSE and enough others to go on for A levels, he then gets a grade A in maths at A level so goes off to university and does economics, having got his maths degree he gets a job in the accounts department of the council and eventually gets near to the top of the councils finance department.

He then switches to the planning department where most of the other people have got degrees in architecture, over the years he eventually becomes the head of the planning department, but his professional qualifications are in economics.

Now the council has a great job reshuffle and there is no longer a head of the planning department, but a post called “head residential social and economic environmental development”

The question is will Joe be eligible even to apply for this post, based on his qualifications.

Anyone for tennis?

The children watched the tennis final today and I managed to find them some clips of John McEnroe’s spat with the rude words omitted, see below.

I will ramble on today as the mood takes me.


  1. Michael, considering the way the council published the "alternative leadership options" I think you would do well to keep monitoring.

    With regards to renewable energy vs nucleur, both solutions seem to be bugged by waste issues. What we need is mountains and valleys for hydro-electric, but not much chance of that.

    A study I undertook in 1996 about energy efficiency of UK dwellings revealed to me, that whatever we do with new-build the vast majority of energy wastage will continue to be from the irreplacable stock of older properties in the UK.

    A high profile, highly efficient, grant aided insulation scheme for old buildings is what is required most urgently, but this is not "sexy" enough for politicians and doesn't sell energy.

  2. As everyone's energy bill is taxed to provide subsidies for green energy producers. Could Thanet profit by covering the runway at Manston with solar panels? The runway is nearly 3 km long in an east / west direction, and clear view to the south. The power generated could be connected up to the grid at Richborough and complementary to the wind farm.

    As a more exotic idea of backup generation for the wind farm, DCNS has Flexblue with an output of up to 250MW. Not sure that placing a nuclear reactor on the sea bed would be an easy sell though.

  3. Readit, I think you need to review your thoughts taking into account predicted population figures and expected resultant pollution levels.

    What we are talking about realistically is taking action now to prolong the expected habitable life of the planet from about 50 to 150 years, to between 100 and 300 years.

    I don’t really think anyone who understands the science is really considering long term and sustainable conditions that could sustain the rising population beyond that time.

    Having said that of all the waste resultant from producing energy in the quantities we need at least radioactive waste decays.

    Many of the figures are just potty when you look at them, keeping a large dog, for instance seems to damage the environment more than running a car.

  4. Michael, to explain my previous post in more detail.

    If new houses constructed to the most modern energy efficiency, standards account for say 10% of the total UK housing stock but are say 10 times more efficient than older properties they will only utilise 1% of the UK domestic energy requirements.

    Although the population may explode in the future, the existing housing stock will be where most people continue to reside because we cannot afford to demolish and rebuild all houses even if we wanted to.

    The existing housing stock is where most of the inefficiencies exist and must be addressed if energy is to be saved.

  5. Readit thanks I have just read your post on your blog about this, insulation has it’s place in all of this and I do agree, but the point I am making is that we have gone too far, as far as the planet is concerned.

    What we are looking at now is not a permanent solution but a delay of the inevitable, something that puts a different flavour on waste storage.

    Primarily switching rapidly from carbon based fuels to the most viable available resources, solar in hot climates, hydro where it’s mountainous, wind just doesn’t work with current storage abilities.

  6. I totally agreed Michael, I have always seen Global Resource Depletion as a bigger threat to humanity than Global Warming,

    With the current global resources being used at a rate which requires amounts equal to about three and a half planets, it is hard to invisage the population rising from around 6 to 9 billion without serious consequences.

  7. After the money KCC wasted on EU jet you would think they would be a bit more cautious.... saying that did i hear they have just opened a new account in Iceland

  8. In regards to the Manston Parkway station. Nick Chard said the station would be east of cliffs end. By using the new road and approaching the airport terminal avoiding Manston Village (as the airport themselves recommend in their masterplan), this is still 4.5 miles by road.

    The current Ramsgate station is just as near, so I don't understand why transport improvements between there and Manston are made rather than plonking more concrete on a filed for a station where one is not needed. And being paid for with our money!

  9. In fact it's only 2.7 miles from Ransgate Station to KIA Terminal

  10. Oh, you silly little people. Don't you realise that the great Roger Gale has decided that Manston will be a raging success if it has its own railway station. He doesn't seem to have noticed that the vast majority of travellers at other airports arive and depart by car.

    The whole idea is (yet another) white elephant from people who are happy to gamble public money on their idiotic ideas, but wouldn't risk a penny of their own money on them. If Manston airport needs a railway station, Manston airport should pay for it. Period. We shouldn't be asked to pay one red cent.

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