Friday 28 September 2012

Friday evening ramble and a few photos of Ramsgate.

Starting with a yacht aground in Ramsgate Harbour, I should think it’s about time some dredging happened in the inner basin. Apologies for the picture quality, too lazy to take a large camera I used my mobile phone.

 I am reading the book I have just published about Ramsgate’s fishing industry and remembered there are some pictures of old Ramsgate fishing boats in the sailor’s church.

There is an unusual sign on the abandoned amusement arcade in harbour parade.

Anyone know what this means, perhaps some difficulty with the word metre and they mean a distance, but even then what is to keep ten feet away from this empty building?  

A quick pencil sketch in The Belgian Cafe

Last but not least a new building unveiled in Harbour Street, as you see a thing of beauty is a joy forever.

Now for the ramble, as I said I have been very busy moving my book publishing equipment, so I have had my eye mostly off the ball this week.

A quick check on the Pleasurama situation reveals that the developer still hasn’t provided the documents showing that they have the money necessary to proceed with the development. I am concerned that the Labour cabinet are being a bit naive over this one, the lack of using the opportunity to ask for a flood risk assessment suggests a callous approach to local people’s safety which the other local political parties no longer seem to share. Perhaps concern for local people only applies when in opposition. However it is the motives of both the council offices and the developer that I think the Labour cabinet may be confused about, there is of course the possibility that both council offices and the developer are genuinely pursuing a development and not in one case covering their backs and the other land banking, but it does seem increasingly less likely.  

Some good news on the council owned derelict building front in Ramsgate, the café on the end of the East Pier in Ramsgate has been finally let out to a local chef, and not some sort of property consortium. His plan is to have it open around the beginning of December.

I for one am looking forward to comfortable seat, a cup of tea and a good view of Ramsgate to sketch.   

The Turner Contemporary are advertising for a press and media officer, see it had never occurred to me the art galleries had officers, there are overtones of the art police here. It certainly suggests that the gallery is not only government funded but also government run, I wonder can art be organised by officers? Are the collectively called art officers?

I have just bunged up Clive Hart’s press release about the council officers pay consultation, it does rather beg the question, who is being consulted? I can’t find anything on the council’s consultation pages, perhaps it is like the council’s constitutional reform consultation, happening without telling anyone how to take part, or perhaps council taxpayers are not to be consulted, could it be that only senior council officers are to be consulted? Anyway Clive says it is a 90 day consultation.  

I will endeavour to ramble on here.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Manston aircraft noise last night

Did anyone get woken up by the 4.34 am landing at Manston last night? It had a noise rating of QC2.
Please note this isn't a pro or anti airport post, but just related to the fact that I seldom know the noise rating for a night flight that I have actually heard.

Here are the flight details
Date 26.09.12
Time 0434 Arr 0609 Dep
Cargolux B744

Not sure of the date of the picture of Concord at Manston, possibly 1988.      

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Publishing reorganisation.

One way and another I am rather busy at the moment as I am in the process of moving all of my book printing equipment into a different part of the building. I have also finally bitten the bullet and bought a 42 inch colour printer that prints on canvas and paper, this is mainly so I can print reproductions of old sheet maps of this area.

The local book publishing that I do has reached the point where I now have about 150 of them in print, see and as this has expanded I have fitted the equipment into different parts of the building, something which is very difficult with printers. I reached the point where the book I was editing was coming out of a printer at the other end of my bookshop, about 70 feet away from the till desk where I was working, while the street directories that I was using to check local peoples names were in a different part of the building altogether.

Anyway while I am sorting all of this out, during what is a wet week, I am not getting out and about, so don’t really have that much to blog about.

With three fairly large new publications recently, two on local maritime history A History of Ramsgate Harbour and Guide To Its Existing Features and A History of the Ramsgate Fishing Industry, plus the one on the Granville, The Granville Hotel - The Story of the Granville Hotel Ramsgate 1869-2012, plus several more in the pipeline, I am hoping that the improvement will make things run a bit more smoothly.

The net result of this should be that it is easier for me to produce more local books, so if you have been researching some aspect of Thanet’s history I can probably help you get it into book form. 

Sunday 23 September 2012

The Cleggeron

Having watched Dr Who last night and Nick Clegg this morning I felt inspired to paint the Cleggeron.

Sorry about this, it is so wet today that I have only manage to visit one bookshop apart from my own and was even reduced to watching a politician on TV.

We have also just discovered that there is a right and a wrong way to make popcorn, believe it or not both pans contained the same ingredients before the cooking process.  

Saturday 22 September 2012

New Local Book "A History of Ramsgate Harbour "

A book describing the industry that was once a mainstay of Thanet’s community and economy is published this month.  Writer and historian Michael Hunt, whose previous work A History of Ramsgate Harbour was re-published last year, has produced a detailed but highly readable description of a commercial sea fishery the legacy of which still informs Ramsgate, Margate and Broadstairs life.  From the local industry’s earliest traces, through its 19th century hey-day, to the still important, ‘though contracted, fishery of today A History of the Ramsgate Fishing Industry encompasses a thousand years of Thanet men and women’s engagement with the sea.

The author evokes not only the image, familiar to our great-grandparents, of harbours packed side-to-side with herring boats and sailing trawlers, but the area’s largely forgotten involvement with the Icelandic cod fishery, the migration of fishing families and their craft around the coast of Britain, their involvement in the political and economic squabbles of mediaeval monarchs, and all against a backdrop of the tragedy and heroism endemic to this most dangerous of trades.   From the intricacies of boiling-up livers for oil (a ‘detailed and fairly disgusting description’) to the lad who could crack marbles with his teeth (‘he was always a quiet boy, was Percy’) this is a story long-overdue for the telling.

The development of fishing boats and activities of their crews in peace and war; the rivalries that existed (and still exist) between local and Continental fishermen are examined – sometimes to comic effect (‘the darned Mounseers danced and gesticulated and threatened worse than ever’) - but frequently tragically, as in the recounting of losses through shipwreck, storm or enemy action.
With dozens of black & white illustrations and copious source notes for readers wishing to explore the subject further this book makes a valuable addition to the history lover’s bookshelf.

A History of the Ramsgate Fishing Industry is available, price £7.99, from Michael’s Bookshop, 72 King Street, Ramsgate,

Also available online, post free to UK addresses, at 

Friday 21 September 2012

Wind up the week

My bookshop is fairly busy today, market day in Ramsgate produces a slightly different average customer, if there is such a thing in amongst bibliophiles.

There are now so few bookshops of reasonable size where you both stand some chance of finding a book you want and the price being competitive to the online price, that some are in a state of shock.

There is also the problem of running out reasonable non food or clothes shops to browse in, almost a sense of there being hardly anywhere left to hide.  

Anyway what with one thing and another I haven’t been able to get out and buy an Isle of Thanet Gazette.

As newspaper websites go the Gazette’s on is a bit peculiar and requires devious means to separate the Thanet items from items on the whole of Kent, here is the link I use for want of something better.

The articles come up in particular order, meaning that the headline maybe the bottom line.

I suppose the headline is probably something like, “Animal Death Ship Jolene Switches to Ipswich After Animal Massacre Ramsgate Ban” that is providing they found out about the ship sailing off to there before their copy date.

Have we won on the live animal export front? Well that remains to be seen as the exporters may raise some sort of legal challenge to the council’s ban.

The whole business of town centres becoming no go areas of an evening needs solving and I guess that paying for this needs in some way relating to the sale of alcohol. 

I have just been looking at details of the next major exhibition at the Turner Contemporary; Alex Katz: Give Me Tomorrow, this exhibition will be moved from Tate St Ives and open in Margate on the 6th October.

It will be the first main exhibition not to feature any work by JWM Turner, below is the film Alex Katz did for the Tate St Ives  

I am not quite sure what to make of his work, but am very much looking forward to seeing the real thing instead of photos of his paintings.

Further learning curve on the new phone camera, this time Ramsgate Harbour with diminishing light and then night shots

I generally work on the adage that as a photographer I will never be as good as a very basic camera, by this is mean that there is always more to learn with a film camera that has the usual settings, aperture, shutter speed, film speed and focus. With a digital slr you get these thing partially simulated and can get by, with something like a phone camera you are mostly at the mercy of its automation and so different skills come into play. I was a bit deliberate with various types of camera shake here, and I am coming to the conclusion that I can manage with the camera on this phone.

I should point out here that even a conventional film slr camera doesn’t normally have a conventional shutter speed in the way that say a box Brownie has, the sly has a thing called a focal plane shutter, at faster shutter speeds it doesn’t open completely, but works like the curtains on a window would if you were opening one while closing the other. The shutter speed translates to how long were the curtains open for and the answer is they are never completely open.  

I may ramble on here

Thursday 20 September 2012

Turner Contemporary Margate Not Just a Load of Old Rope

This weekend sees the end of the turner contemporary’s period of eroticism, there is already a sense that things are getting floppier.

This Sunday will be the last day of Tracey Emin’s exhibition “She Lay Down Beneath…” and it will be your last chance to see some of Turner’s erotic sketches that Ruskin failed to ignite.

The Kiss has gawn and there is an exhibition called “Tempo para Respirar” in front of the widow where the mirrors and stripes were, so not the Paris Metro of the 60s but something ropey and psychedelic, it would seem.

I have been out and about today, my day off, and I have been trying to learn to use the camera on my new smart phone, so here is the link to the pictures I took with it  

Apologies for the pictures being all muddled up, I forgot to put them into order before I copied and pasted the the contents of the file on to the internet.

As you can see from the watercolour at the top of the post, you are unlikely to find my artwork on display at the gallery.  

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Android smart phone typing spelling and keyboards

This is a post about how to produce documents, with reasonable spelling and few typos, very quickly, using a smart phone and folding pocket keyboard. Useful for the older blinder blogger with big fingers and also useful if you want to be able to write things quickly when you are out and about.  

I was disabled during my childhood and had very little in the way of primary school education, this means that I can’t spell very well at all. Having four children of my own, I have now learnt that spelling seems to mostly to do with neat and consistent handwriting, the brain appears to better at learning the shapes of the words than the order of the letters by rote. My guess is that earlier use of different types of keyboard is going to leave future generations with problems spelling.

 There are various courses and computer programs to help you to learn to touch type, an alternative method is to put coloured stickers on the font edges of the keyboard keys, that correspond with the each finger and to only use the right fingers when typing. This worked for my children and me.

The Android smart phone operating system doesn’t have a conventional spellchecker that highlights or underlines suspect words, spellchecking is achieved by something called predictive text, which works fine for some people but produces gibberish when I attempt to use it.

There are various spellchecking aps available, some work better than others on different smart phones, one that works perfectly well on one make of smart phone will make another crash or freeze. Most of these aps need an internet connection to function, as I only need to spell correctly when I am publishing something, this isn’t an issue, however if you need this facility for text messages it may not function all the time.

Another thing that I find peculiar is that sites like blogger that underline suspect words in the comments submission box, when you are commenting from a conventional computer, don’t do this when you use an android smart phone.  
 The virtual keyboard on my smart phone is about the largest there is, but it still isn’t big enough to touch-type on, there are various folding bluetooth keyboards available on ebay, like the aps, some work on some smart phones but not on others.

Folding keyboard and smart phone won’t fit in the pockets of tight trousers, but will fit in handbag or jacket pockets comfortably.

With my combination of keyboard and phone, once the initial bluetooth pairing has been done, it is only necessary to turn on the folding keyboard, it will then override the virtual keyboard and temporally turn off the predictive text. Predictive text won’t work at all with the folding keyboard, so if you like using this method of spell checking you need to think again. 

I know this sort of thing doesn’t really relate to my usual sort of local blog post, however the logistics of producing blog posts very quickly and from anywhere when I have a few moments to spare, is the reason that you all get the blog to read.

Another point that some readers may wonder about is, are many of the people reading this blog doing so with a smart phone? From what I can make out looking at the various web statistics, of the 20,000 visits to this site in month, about 1,000 were made using a smart phone. This is a bit difficult as I think some of the pads, that don’t also work as phones, may look like a smart phone to the gismos that collect statistics.  

While on the subject of smart phones, just like the bigger computers, you have to sort them out when they slow down, restarting them by turning them right off (holding down the on button until you get the “do you want to shut down button”, shutting the down, then pressing the on button so they come back on again) needs doing about once a week.

With android there is likely to be an app called “Task Manager” exiting all the active apps, these tend to build up and will soon restart after. Going onto the RAM tab and clearing the memory. These are both things that can speed up your phone. 

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Technological impasse

The last few days have seen some of my techno lumps fail, the most personally significant being my phone pad thingy, known here as the RaspBerry. Once upon a time when this sort of thing happened one took it back to the shop where it either got mended or one bought a new one, now a combination of the cost of repairs and the pace of technology means a different approach.

Even if you could buy one for a reasonably competitive price in a shop, you wouldn’t be able to effectively try before you buy, so the ghastly mixture of looking around phone shops and reading internet reviews had to be gone through, before getting the best deal online.

Being somewhat decayed, with sausage like fingers and a need for reading glasses I went for the largest phone with a reasonable camera that would fit in my pocket. I also stuck with the Android operating system that I have become used to, the choice was a “Samsung Galaxy Note” and I have spent the last 24 hours doing little else other than trying to master the thing. 

One of the most difficult aspects of this is publishing blog posts from it, now mastered, it is one of the best silicone based writing mediums since the stone tablet.

The Android operating system lacks the fundamental business of underlining spelling mistakes which is irritating and the main thing it falls down on, all I can promise is to try and make corrections when I get to an ordinary computer where any dubious typos appear underlined within the blogger editor.

The picture is of one of my earlier RaspBerries 

Sunday 16 September 2012

What have the council got against funfairs and sailors and a Sunday ramble

There is a funfair on the Margate Dreamland site at the moment, I was fairly certain about this having seen a poster and vaguely taken it in.

It is, as you can see from the picture of the poster, very good value if you have children, they can ride for four hours for £6.99, the thing I couldn’t remember was which four hours.

If any mention of the funfair is on the council financed Thanet leisure website I couldn’t find it, so I didn’t take my younger children to it today.

This sort of nonsense can’t be good for Thanet, I wonder is it possible that the council don’t know that there is a funfair on the Dreamland site.

When they grow up children need something requiring a little more skill and manual dexterity than a funfair, so I helped the youf of today with dinghy launching, the council provide launching slipways for this and there is only one in Ramsgate where you are allowed to launch sailing dinghies from.
Most people in Ramsgate know that the prevailing wind comes from the west, so the east side of a concrete jetty is going to be sheltered and the west side not, if you look at the sea in the picture above you can see what I mean, no prizes for guessing which side of the jetty the council put the slipway on.
It wasn’t a particularly windy day today, just about right for dinghy sailing, frankly about the only difficult and bumpy place in the whole of Pegwell Bay is the launching slipway, being blown towards the jetty makes things a bit difficult for a craft without an engine too. 

Writing a blog pretty much exclusively about Thanet I do wonder if local people are interested in reading about this sort of thing, I noticed just now when looking at the other local blogs that Simon Moores is speculating about bloggers block, see with me I don’t seem to have a problem writing something. My problem is much more do other people want to read it, frankly if I didn’t take a few photos and write something down the day would soon be lost to my memory and for the most part lost.

There are about 350 days in a year, 3,500 in ten so seven thousand in twenty meaning in my three score there have been about 21,000 days and frankly with out some sort of notation outside of my mind, most of them would be lost. Since taking up sketching again I guess it is the watercolour and pencil sketches that work best for me in terms of recording life for me.

For the most part I don’t bother publishing them unless the are of local views as I guess most people wouldn’t be interested here is yesterdays watercolour, see what I mean.
But yes I guess, like Simon, I do wonder about continuing blogging, I also wonder if there is any point in continuing to point out simple things to the council, like publicising a funfair on the Dreamland site.               

Friday 14 September 2012

Wind up the week ramble

 News about Thanet this week has been quite prominent, the animal export business being at the top of the list and for once seeming to produce unity between all of our political factions.
 I am no vegetarian, quite frankly the English countryside devoid of livestock, which is what would happen if we all were doesn’t appeal to me, but I have to admit to being very firmly against the ill treatment of animals, so am very glad to see the end of live animal exports out of Ramsgate.
 My thanks to all those involved Laura Sandys, Ian Driver, Clive Hart and more, it is good to see the council sticking its neck out and risking action from central government and Brussels.
 The news that none of the children in Thanet’s care homes are from Kent highlights the problems that we are up against locally, very much a place for other areas to export their problems to.
 Apparently a Thanet printer has been condemned for printing offensive material about Margaret Thatcher to celebrate her death, see I’m not precisely sure who has condemned them, most Tory commentators are probably blockading Calais in protest at Kate topless photos in Closer Magazine
 La jolie Kate Middleton aime peut être prendre des bains de soleil dans le plus simple appareil plus parler que les fesses du prince Harry !

Perhaps a bit more later.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Royal Sands Development on the Pleasurama Site in Ramsgate Conservative Group U Turn.

 Having spent about eight years trying to get Thanet Conservative group to examine financial and safety aspects of the development I have to admit to being slightly surprised by their press release, issued earlier today, click on the link to read it

When it comes to common sense statements about the development this press release is the nearest to expressing my own views on the subject that has ever appeared as an official statement, from either or Thanet’s main political groups.

It also suggests that Thanet’s Conservative group have finally woken up to the fact they have completely lost Ramsgate and in doing so have lost control of the council. I think that the Pleasurama acts as a constant reminder to the voters in Ramsgate of council shortcomings. This position has been considerably enhanced by the council’s costly and highly publicised work to return the sister leisure site, Dreamland in Margate to a leisure site, despite considerable opposition from a residential development company.     
 The main difficulty is that the council have surrounded every aspect of The Royal Sands development with a shroud of secrecy, which for a major high profile project on prime publicly owned site seems inappropriate.

This leaves us all guessing as to the council’s, officers and councillors motives, so this is just a best guess of what they may be.

I think since the project was first approved officers concerns both about the viability of the site and the nature of the construction work done on the site so far have increased considerably. However I think their main concern has been the nature of the developer who started out a partner of Whitbread in the project and became the sole developer when Whitbread pulled out. I think officers moved to a state where they wanted the council to pull out of the project some time before the previous cabinet meeting about four years ago, when the officer advice to the then Conservative council was to pull out.
 As we all know the then Conservative cabinet went against officer advice and decided to go ahead against the recommendation of the council’s head of finance, so the leases and variation to the development agreement were issued.

This took the council from the position where they could pull out with very limited risk of the developer making a successful legal action to recover the money he had already spent, to one where there is much more risk of this happening.

Without checking the council’s restricted documents I can’t be sure of the exact figure, but I think the developer would be likely to try and recover an amount in the order of £4m if the council booted him out now. This is mainly because the existing development agreement is framed so weakly, something that probably wouldn’t reflect well on officers.
 Another aspect is the ongoing cost of the council’s liability to make the site safe to a standard appropriate for a residential development, for the life of that development.

The two main safety aspects that concern me are the cliff and flood risk, in both cases I have pressed for proper independent safety assessments. With the cliff I was partially successful, part of it was surveyed and the council had to spend £1m on it, then recently part of it was surveyed again and the council will have to spend a further and as yet undisclosed sum on it. I failed to get a flood risk assessment and now the Conservative group are saying. “Does the council have a moral, if not a legal, duty of public safety to conduct a flood risk assessment on the site?” Obviously the results of this may possibly mean more money has to be found.

It’s been a busy day in my bookshop and I will endeavour to continue this post if I get time. 

The Royal Sands development has produced many unanswered questions, some of which are quite difficult to follow, but the simple one. How can a new development be built on a high risk flood zone, without first having a flood risk assessment? Should be easy for anyone to understand.

Now after putting this question to the conservative group for the last few years they finally seem to have grasped its implications, it is just a pity that they didn’t manage to grasp it when they were negotiating the previous set of changes to the development agreement.

Does this mean we will see Simon Moores questioning the safety and the financial viability of the development on Thanet Life? Does it mean that the new development agreement will come before full council?

This also raises some important questions about what the overview and scrutiny panel actually do, if they can call in a cabinet decision, ask pertinent questions about it, but the cabinet can simply ignore them, then why are we paying for the cost of having this panel at all?

Obviously I phoned the council to ask them what the position is with the decision, I got the promise that that someone would phone me back during the afternoon, however no one phoned me back. So it is possible that the council’s democratic services don’t know the answers either.  

It further occurs to me that perhaps the press release was a fake, sent out maliciously to make the Conservative group look…… I realise I am lost for word here. 

I have just cheked this with a shadow cabinet member and apparently it is a genuine press release. 

Minor update here, I just tried to find out if there were any more call in documents relating to the decision and this came up$Agenda%20Enclosure%2014.doc.pdf well it made me chuckle.

and this

Monday 10 September 2012

Royal Sands Development on the Pleasurama site Ramsgate, update.

Thanet District Council have now published the minutes of the overview and scrutiny meeting about the development, here they are:  

'Call-In' of Cabinet Decision in relation to Ramsgate Royal Sands

Mr Harvey Patterson, Corporate & Regulatory Services Manager introduced the report. He said that the after Cabinet had made a decision on the matter, the Chairman of the Overview & Scrutiny Panel formally call-in the decision as it was felt that some Members had some concerns and queries they wanted addressed before implementation of the decision. There had been some substantial changes made to the proposed development agreement at the request of the developer because of the current market conditions made it difficult for most developers to acquire funding. It was hoped that such changes would enable the developer to complete the project.

As part of creating an enabling environment for the developer, Council had proposed and Cabinet had agreed to release freehold to the developer subject to the fulfilment of the conditions of the agreement that included evidence of the availability of project funding and a hotelier signed up to rent the building.

Members said that it would be difficult to engage in discussion without making reference to the exempt Cabinet Report on ‘Royal Sands – Development Agreement.’

Councillor Campbell proposed, Councillor Bayford seconded and Members agreed the following:

1.  That the public and press be excluded from the meeting on agenda item 5 as it contains exempt information as defined in Paragraph 3 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended).

Members of the public left the Chamber.

Members of the Panel said that almost all the decisions regarding this issue had been made by Full Council and would have preferred that any re-considerations of the matter be undertaken by Full Council rather than be delegated to the executive. They were particularly concerned that the due diligence report on the developer was still outstanding; citing that the report should have been brought before Cabinet as per the Cabinet decision on 5 April 2012. There was a need for the Section 151 Officer to be satisfied that the developer was a viable company with funders to back the project implementation.

Other Members said that discussions on this issue had gone for too long and it was now time to implement the project. Some Members were concerned the Council was not taking advantage presented by the re-negotiation to ensure that a fair deal for the Council and that transfer of freehold would only be done once completion had been achieved. They said that the piece of land in question is prime land on the coastline and what Council was going to get in the deal should reflect that value. Mr Patterson said that there will be Cabinet report going to Cabinet on Due Diligence in due course.

Members suggested that a risk assessment should be carried out, whilst other Members said that the risk of a flood is rare; one in two hundred years. There was a concern that Council was giving away freehold too early leaving Council without a leverage for enforcing completion of the project. They said that the Council should rely on itself rather than the Banks for successful completion of the project. Mr Patterson said that Council had a number of approaches to enforce completion of the project. These included enforcing positive governance and Section 106 agreement.

Members requested that Officers’ responses to queries that were raised as detailed below to be done through a report to the Overview and Scrutiny Panel:

1.  CEx was asked at the Cabinet Meeting on 05 April 2012 to come back to Cabinet with a report on Due Diligence – It appears there has been no further reference to this issue;

The Cabinet Decision on 05 April 2012 was as detailed below:

“Councillor Poole moved, Councillor C. Hart seconded and Members agreed the following:

i  That the heads of terms as set out in Annex.1 form the basis of the draft of a new development agreement for the Royal Sands site;

ii  The new development agreement and updated due diligence report on the developer to come back to Cabinet for final approval.”

2.  S151 Officer should be satisfied that the developer is a viable company that has secured enough funding for the project; there is a need to for Members to know the source of the funds;

3.  Free-Hold is being proposed to change hands between TDC and the Developer at the payment of the overage levels. What leverage does TDC have to ensure project completion after surrender of free-hold;

4.  Although everything else in the original development agreement was potentially up for change, for some reason the overage payments were sacrosanct. Why was this?

5.  Members would like to review the detailed proposed Development Agreement prior to a Cabinet Decision;

6.  Members were concerned that as proposed in the new development agreement, TDC would be relying on Banks for successful completion of the project;

7.  Where are the milestones for the project implementation process?

8.  What is the potential profit for the developer; - is TDC getting a fair deal in view of the potential profit for the developer?

9.  There was no mention on whether TDC has attempted to negotiate for better overage levels. Can Members be availed with the details of the negotiations?

10.  What are the options for Developer’s Disposal Clauses?Is there any disposal clause in the agreement which limits the developer's option to sell on the lease or freehold?

11.  Are there any other developers who can pay more? This would help Members conclude whether this proposed agreement was the best deal for Council;

12.  Could there be a clause in the new development agreement that could include “If the developer was to sell-on; TDC would get 50% (of sale value)....”

13.  What assurances does Council have that the developer would complete the project under the proposed agreement?

1.  Is there a possibility for including in the agreement a clause on ‘windfall profit’ in the event that sales prices are higher than was envisaged in 2006, when the original agreement was signed?

2.  Flood Risk: - Why is a flood risk assessment not being suggested in the proposed development agreement, as this is an opportunity to conduct one? There is a need for a moral decision to be made on this issue;

3.  CEx and Director of Operational Services to be attendance at a future Overview & Scrutiny Panel meeting to consider these queries raised by Members.

Councillor Harrison proposed, Councillor Bayford seconded and Members AGREED the following:

1.  That before any final decision is made, external due diligence be undertaken and the report brought back to the Overview & Scrutiny Panel;

2.  That the final decision is made by the Cabinet Member (for Commercial Services), Leader of Council and Officers;

3.  That points (i.e all unanswered Questions/Queries) raised by Members of the Panel be responded to and report authors be present (when such issues would be considered next).

The net results of this was that the issue went back before the council’s cabinet on 23rd August, so here is what the cabinet minutes have to say: 

Agenda and draft minutes

Thursday, 23rd August, 2012 7.00 pm

Report Back - 'Call-In' of Cabinet decision in relation to Ramsgate Royal Sands - Overview & Scrutiny Panel - 16 August 2012
Councillor Bayford and Councillor W. Scobie spoke under Council Procedure Rule 24.1:

Members discussed the call in of the Cabinet decision and Councillor Poole moved, Councillor Fenner seconded and Members AGREED that:

1.  As all the concerns expressed by the Overview & Scrutiny Panel have now been addressed, Cabinet confirms its decision taken on 26 July 2012.

Ed. My initial reaction to reading this is that some of the councillors are beginning to voice a degree of disquiet about this development. This doesn’t seem to be in any way curtailing the desire of the present cabinet or previous cabinets to bend over backwards to accommodate the developer’s desires.

Living and working in Ramsgate I am made aware of local people’s concerns about the towns main leisure site being a mostly deserted and always unsightly piece of waste ground.

To read my previous posts about this development click on this link when you get to the bottom of a page you need to click on the link that says “Older Posts”  

Eleven Plus or Kent Test Week.

I guess most of my blog readers who are either ten years old or parents of ten year olds will be aware that this exam will be sat this week.

Regardless of your views about selective education, this is what we actually have in Kent at the moment, for example here in Ramsgate the secondary school options are 

 ChathamHouse Grammar School

 ClarendonHouse Grammar School

The Ellington and Hereson School

 The Marlowe Academy

The links above, click on the name of the school, take you to the Ofsted reports for those schools.

Eleven plus papers are very difficult to find online in a format that is similar to the one being used here in Kent, for those of you interested the following link leads to a few papers with answer sheets that you may wish to try, to see how you will or would do in the exam.
The pass mark is in the region of 60%

The picture above is of a Chatham House School dramatic production, for the rest of the series of pictures follow this link

I would guess, if like me you have attempted some of the papers, you can see the whole business of whether you wind up in an outstanding school or one in special measures is a bit of a bagatelle. Some of the local primary schools appear to be doing everything they can to get their students to pass the exam, while others are much more focused on the results of stats tests, which appear to benefit the schools much more than the pupils.   

Friday 7 September 2012

Moses Montefiore’s remains may be removed from Ramsgate and reburied in Jerusalem

I guess most locals know Moses Montefiore built a mausoleum in Ramsgate and that is where he and his wife are buried.

The mausoleum will be open on Sunday as part of the weekend of heritage building openings, here is the link to information about the opening

I may write some more about this, I guess it is a complex issue with implications for the synagogue in Ramsgate.

Visit Open Day tomorrow, open from 9.30am to 2.00pm, and sign protest against removal of Sir Moses and Judith Montefiore remains from Ramsgate.   

Thursday 6 September 2012

Photos of The Beaney Canterbury, newly reopened, and a bit of a ramble.

For those of you unfamiliar with Canterbury, this isn’t another new eatery specialising in food that may cause flatulence, but the reopening of Canterbury’s art gallery, library and museum after a £14m makeover.

Now renamed The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, what I had always thought of as Canterbury Library has a new lease of life.

Their website is you will note the gallery is open on Sundays, so it is another fairly local place to go that is open at the weekends, there is a fair amount for children to do too.

I went to Canterbury mainly to buy a few books and to visit the artist’s materials shop, as this was done while my children were at school I didn’t have enough time to photograph the gallery, which I didn’t realise had reopened.

Such photos as I did take are published directly from my camera card here and here
Unusual comb, click to enlarge and then click to enlarge again.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Margate and empty shops, a Midweek Ramble

 I guess the main local news item this week was that Margate has the most empty shops in the UK, which I guess means that despite The Turner Contemporary the viability of the town is getting worse and not better.

Running a bookshop in Ramsgate for the last 25 years I am only too aware of the problem, but don’t see a solution to the problem of closing retail shops. I guess the problem is worse in seaside towns where the decline started earlier, sometime in the 60s with the coming of the package holiday abroad.
 The problem is twofold at the moment, one part being that with most products there is a greater range and cheaper prices to had online, the other part being the knock on effect of having less shops open in a town, meaning fewer shoppers go there so the existing shops are less busy.

I only suffer from the latter in my bookshop as I look books up online when I price them now and make sure my prices are competitive.
 I would guess though the problem of goods being much cheaper online than they are in shops will cut through retailing in all locations changing our society, which for the last few hundred years has been people living clustered around shops, forming what we now call towns.

My guess is that the out of town shopping centre will be a fairly short-term aberration soon to be made unviable by the internet, the only real exception being places selling food and services like having a haircut. 
 In my area of expertise, the bookselling world, the other side of the coin is the new bookshop, shopping there has for the most part degenerated to going to Waterstones, browsing the books there, finding the one you want, pointing the camera of your iphone at the barcode on the back, pressing the buy it now button, leaving the often shop soiled copy in Waterstones and buying the book for much less that Waterstones hoped to sell it for.

As far as our town centres go, this raises the problem of what you do with the shop buildings, I guess the out of town shopping centres will eventually be bulldozed and returned to farmland.
 One solution here is to convert the shop buildings to residential buildings, I would say a wander around any UK town centre late on a Friday or Saturday night would be enough to show most people that living next to the pavement of a UK town centre, won’t exactly be a bed of roses.

One solution is to fill the resultant residential property with benefit claimants and people who have histories as bad tenants so have very limited options relating to where thy can live.
 The options for landlord of empty shop properties are outlined on various websites, this is an example

What they recommend is an interesting insight into some of the problems of empty shops.

5 tips for landlords on how to avoid tax on empty buildings

Here are some tips on how to get tax relief on your business rates:

1. Use a charity

As mentioned, leasing a shop or empty building to a charity can help you to avoid landlord tax in the thousands as charities pay no or reduced business rates.

2. Demolish the building

The reduced tax relief on business rates was nicknamed the “bomb-site Britain tax” as many landlords scrapped projects and demolished buildings to pay less tax when the levy was introduced. If the building is at the end of its useful life, this may be a way to avoid landlord tax.

3. Vandalism

Buildings that can no longer be occupied don’t pay business rates, but the ‘vandalism’ must be relatively dramatic. It can even include stripping a building back to its shell or taking the roof off. The other option to save landlord tax is to start redeveloping the building, but never finish it.

4. Intermittent occupation

Buildings that have been occupied for six weeks qualify for another three or six months’ tax relief from business rates when they are empty. To let landlords avoid tax, there are companies that are springing up which offer to occupy buildings on short-term leases. To pay less tax, the landlord will pay the tenant to occupy the building rather than the tenant pay rent to the landlord. 
 I guess here in Thanet we are all too familiar with developments that never seem to finish and buildings that get demolished and the sites just left. Seeing that some sort of act of vandalism could have financial advantages to the landlord puts an interesting perspective on property speculation.

I am rambling on here and may add some more thoughts as they occur to me.      

The pictures above come from the book I publish “Margate and Westgate With Birchington 1903-04” you can buy it online at

What you can’t do is buy in Margate as I can’t find a shop there to stock it, if anyone reading this runs a Margate shop I can offer reasonable trade terms and full sale or return.  
Looking at the picture above, click compulsively on it to make it big enough to read, I wonder what the famous Thanet Motorcycle was, I have never encountered one, has anyone else?  

Back to the problem of shops, you can have shop buildings selling food where there is no or little internet competition, you can have other businesses in them where the profit margin is very large, betting shops are a good example here, you can have something subsidised by charity or government grants.  

The problem though is that the main reason that people go to shopping centres is to buy goods at a reasonable price, the betting shops restaurants, barbers etc are there because the real shops are there, without them the shopping centres will die.

To get the real shops back into the shopping centres the expenses of being there have to be comparable to the expenses of selling goods online, that is rent rates insurance light heat etc. 

There is a very long way to go with this one, a tube of artists quality watercolour that costs me about £5.50 both in the local independent art shops and the multiples at Westwood Cross can be bought online at about £4 including postage.