Saturday, 22 November 2014

As Hornby vacate Thanet why do we need their advice?

An article in today's Guardian features Thanet based business Hornby moving out of its base of 60 years and follows on with the woeful news about the struggling Margate economy.
You might be interested to know that senior executives of Hornby take up places on the boards of both
Thanet Regeneration Board (you have to actually click on Frank Martin's name to reveal he's from Hornby) and the Destination Management Plan Steering Group (Nick Cole representing the Thanet Business Group is Vice Chairman). 
Now we hear Hornby are upping sticks out of Thanet completely [edited to add: the Guardian article states they may keep their visitor centre in Margate], just as Thanet District Council release their
draft Local Plan which earmarks large scale development and expansion of the Westwood Ward. That's Westwood Cross, folks with infill of housing all around it on empty brownfield sites on all sides, and includes land that was once prime agricultural and ended up as EKO
The Financial Times reports that Hornby:
"announced an annual pre-tax loss of £4.6m and renegotiated its debt. Two months earlier, it issued its third profit warning in less than two years following prolonged problems with a Chinese supplier and adverse foreign exchange movements."

Do we need this kind of regeneration advice for Thanet?

There are no small business reps on the Thanet Regeneration Board. Why? I've asked and have never been given an answer.

So, here's to another positive piece in the national media about Margate struggling, when in reality, there are many small businesses collectively expanding.

The times they are a changing.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

'Stylish' Walpole Bay Cliff Lift Grade II Listed

What a marvellous bit of good news to come home to this evening! English Heritage have approved my application and have designated Walpole Bay's 1934 Art Deco cliff lift at Grade II.

The Advice Report from English Heritage states:

"The Cliff Lift, Queens Promenade is a stylish 1934 Art Deco style concrete cliff lift which survives externally unaltered. It is an example of a very rare building type of which only four examples nationally are currently listed and the published criteria state that these are 'generally listed'. It is comparable with an inter-war cliff lift at Ramsgate which is listed at Grade II. It is part of a series of seaside structures in Cliftonville ranging in date from the early C19 to the 1930s, most of which are listed. It therefore meets the listing criteria for its building type."

The Cliff Lift now joins the recently designated Walpole Bay Tidal Pool at Grade II. Along with the rejection of the de-designation of Walpole Bay for bathing, the future for bathing at Walpole Bay looks ever more secure. If the Walpole Bay Swimmers keep at it they'll still be swimming at Christmas. 

In recent months, residents rallied and undertook the hard work of organising and painting of the lift's sadly dilapidated facade. The indefatigable Kate Harrison, while working as a Community Organiser for Locality, came across local painter and decorator Mark Johnson-Cooper who was eager to work to improve local historic buildings and get them looking better. They got others involved locally. The team was made up entirely of volunteers. Funding for the painting project was through the Community Organiser project and the Margate team that were in place at the time. The Margate Community Organiser team was the result of local residents successfully applying to Locality.
Transformed in 2014:

Photo Ian Venables
There is a dedicated Facebook Group for the lift. Join!

The listing now opens the door for further funding opportunities for this stretch of Cliftonville seafront. It's one of only four listed cliff lifts nationally. Taken out of service in 2009 when Thanet Council closed it, I hope that the dream of the lift working again and enabling easier access to and from the lower promenade can soon become a reality.
Walpole Bay Tidal Pool
Cliftonville has so many beautiful assets from the era when Britain proudly invested in building facilities for people to enjoy bathing along this unique stretch of coast. Protect them, love them and the community will flourish. They lie on the walking route from Margate Harbour along to the jewel in the crown of Thanet's beaches, Botany Bay and on to Broadstairs. For the last five years this has been a really popular pastime for our guests at our B&B throughout the winter months as well as the summer. This route aka, Cliftonville is the crucial link between the towns of Margate and Broadstairs. It's a place in its own right. Where else can you ride an art deco lift down to a 4 acre tidal pool at the end of your road? Viva Cliftonville!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

19 Hawley Square break ins

In the last week, we've sadly had to report a spate of break-ins at 19 Hawley Square. The building is Grade II listed and was, in better days,  The London Hotel. The building had previously had been sold to a housing association, then later becoming part of the portfolio of Orbit South. I've previously reported about Orbit South's failed attempts to get planning permission for conversion to tiny one bed flats and bedsits that were below their own minimum space standards. The purpose they stated at meetings with residents, was to obtain planning permission before selling on the property for the benefit of Orbit South's overall portfolio. 

Thanet District Council purchased back the building in 2011 from Orbit South for £75,000 to "bring a derelict building back into use and allow the Theatre Royal to expand its operations."  Earmarking 19 Hawley Square for the Theatre Royal has been the Council's stated intention for quite a few years. However, these intentions seem to have been ongoing for years and all the while a Grade II listed building is falling into ever greater disrepair. The building has substantial water ingress and dry rot. It's clear this situation shouldn't be allowed to continue indefinitely.

One has to wonder why Orbit South, allowed the listed 19 Hawley Square to fall into such a serious state of disrepair knowing its status as a designated heritage asset. The public may well now ask themselves how this affects Thanet District Council, who by buying the building have taken on the responsibility of the consequences of neglect. Depressingly, this was my post on the news of the Theatre's plans for the building back in 2011 and also Orbit South's Managing Director, Vivien Knibbs, also 2011. 

This is the third Grade II Listed large scale Georgian building on Hawley Square that is standing in a sorry state for years, exposed to the elements with seemingly no end in sight. 47, and 48-49 have both stood like gaping teeth having suffered arson attacks.
But these are Listed buildings. There is legislation to enforce their upkeep and protection from willful neglect. They are, by way of their listed status, eligible for funding. The Council purchased 19 Hawley Square in a bad state of repair and in the ensuing years the condition has worsened through lack of maintenance and repair. 

The Council list the property on their asset list:
19 Hawley Square is item 712, and is curiously listed as 'freehold and occupied'! The building has been empty for years.

Returning to this week's spate of break ins.

Worryingly, at the beginning of last week, children were seen entering the building at night with flashlights. This poses an obvious health and safety risk given the poor state of the building.

Today, two men were seen entering the building with a metal crow bar. They'd climbed up the scaffolding and entered through the easily accessible windows on the first floor.

Police attended and later this evening a Thanet Council Building Control Officer. The police contacted the company advertising on the scaffolding as responsible for security. The company stated their alarm, which didn't appear to work, was in place to protect the scaffolding and not the building.
Tonight the rain continues to fall into the buildings left with insufficient roof coverage.
Some may wonder how the Council's planning department can require of the public a standard of care for heritage assets in the face of this ongoing situation?

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Roll over! Roll over! Chris Wells jumps ship to UKIP

After listening to the BBC Today Programme this morning slaughtering Ramsgate in their need to editorially define Thanet South as a UKIP Tory battleground acted out on a broken town, the news has just come in of another Tory defector to UKIP.

This time in the form of Councillor Chris WellsShadow Cabinet Member for Community Services and Councillor for the Viking Ward. Councillor Wells told The Gazette: 

"“I have become increasingly disillusioned with the direction of the Conservative party under David Cameron, and feel that locally UKIP now offer the best potential for positive change in Thanet.”
Perhaps that would read better as "the best potential for keeping my seat".

One hopes that Councillor Wells, now jumped ship, will not carry on with the jibes in the council chamber about other councillors who've changed parties.

Wells is returning to the side of Roger Latchford. Very soon the cabinet of Sandy Ezekiel will be reassembled. We can look back on those days with fondness as we survey the enduring rubble of Pleasurama.

Remember, folks. As Dave said so well today: "A vote for UKIP is a vote for Labour".

Tricky thing, this gambling malarky.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Walpole Bay Tidal Pool is Listed at Grade II

Walpole Bay Tidal Pool by Chloe Young

Just received the fantastic news from English Heritage that the magnificent Walpole Bay Tidal Pool in Cliftonville has been designated as Grade II Listed by the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport.

Do have a read of the report. This is great news for the pool in that, as a designated heritage asset it is eligible for funding streams that wouldn't otherwise have been available. Thanet potentially will have more listed assets connected to the history of the english seaside than any other region. Can someone check me that fact!?

"This is an important structure in the history of English seabathing, one of only 13 tidal bathing pools in England, few of which are on the scale of or as intact as this example at Walpole Bay. It was also a considerable engineering feat, having to be built both by day and at night at the mercy of the tides. It fully merits listing at Grade II."

How amazing were the engineers from the day who built such the pool in Cliftonville. One that is still welcoming swimmers to this day. The Walpole Bay Sea Swimmers are there and have a Facebook Group.

Walpole Bay Listing Area

Excerpts from the English Heritage designation report:

"The architectural or design interest of the structure at Walpole Bay lies chiefly in its scale and shape. It occupies 4 acres, which is larger than the two largest listed seawater lidos, Penzance and Lymington, and in shape forms three sides of a rectangle, the seaward end and two sides, which increase in width towards the landward end where there is no wall, the beach acting as the fourth side. The wall is two or three feet wide and ranges from two or three feet above the shore at the landward end to about seven feet deep at the seaward end. Its shape and scale can best be appreciated from the top of the cliffs. 

This was an ambitious engineering feat. Each concrete block weighed about one ton in weight and had to be fixed into position by hand crane. The work was carried out by day and night to take advantage of every tide. Two foot wide overflows were built into the top course of blocks so that the water line was always six inches below the top of the wall and three penstocks were fitted in the outer wall in order to empty the pool in about two hours. 

The structure appears to survive intact except for the loss of its two diving boards. However, a number of listed lidos no longer retain their diving boards."

"As a structure the Walpole Bay Tidal Pool has social historical interest as it provided an improvement to sea bathing at the period of the greatest popularity of the English seaside."
"To sum up, Walpole Bay Tidal Pool meets the criteria for listing, particularly given its structural engineering and social historical interest, and is recommended at Grade II."
Walpole Bay Tidal Pool, one of two tidal pools designed by Margate's borough engineer in 1900, constructed in concrete blocks reinforced by reused iron tram rails, is recommended for listing at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Structural engineering interest: an ambitious project because of its scale, the weight of each concrete block, and that work needing to be carried out day and night because of the tides;
* Scale and design: impressive in scale and shape, occupying 4 acres and three sides of a rectangle, the sides 450ft long diminishing towards the seaward end which was 300ft long;
* Social historical interest: provided an improvement to sea bathing at the period of the greatest popularity of the English seaside;
* Degree of intactness: intact apart from the loss of the two diving boards which do not often survive;
* Group value: situated quite near the remains of the 1824-6 Clifton Baths (Grade II), an 1935 lift and the other 1900 tidal pool.
Countersigning comments:
Agreed. This is an important structure in the history of English seabathing, one of only 13 tidal bathing pools in England, few of which are on the scale of or as intact as this example at Walpole Bay. It was also a considerable engineering feat, having to be built both by day and at night at the mercy of the tides. It fully merits listing at Grade II.
V. Fiorato, 18th August 2014"
So, as Thanet District Council decide what to spend the £500,000 allocated to implement the Destination Management Plan, perhaps an upgrade to pool facilities to support bathers now might be within reach.  

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Thanet's Regeneration Game

Today the news hit that Manston Airport has been bought by the developers of The Discovery Park in Sandwich headed up by Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner.

Yesterday, Thanet District Council put out a press release that might have passed many by. The Thanet Regeneration Board has changed its name to Invest Thanet. Many may not have noticed who or what is the Thanet Regeneration Board.

I've been asking since its formation how board members are appointed and haven't managed to get a reply:

In June this year, a new Chairman of the Thanet Regeneration Board was appointed, a Mr Paul Barber. Mr Barber is the Managing Director of the Discovery Park in Sandwich. It did seem odd to me that a competitive regeneration site boss from the neighbouring Sandwich area would head up Thanet's Regeneration Board.
Edited to add link to March 2013 post:
Fwd: Why has the This is Margate website has been removed?

The previous TRB chairman was Pam Alexander (ex-SEEDA). I don't recall anyone from Thanet being asked to join the board or apply for the position of chairman.

Here are the current members of the Thanet Regeneration Board:

Paul Barber

Cllr Iris Johnston - Leader of Thanet District Council

Sue McGonigal - Chief Executive Thanet District Council

Laura Sandys - MP Thanet South

Victoria Pomery CBE - Turner Contemporary

Daivid Ashdown - Job Centre Plus

David Foley - Thanet & East Kent Chamber of Commerce

Andrew Ironside -Strategic Director (Resources) for Canterbury Christ Church University

 Malcolm Frier - FujiFilm Speciality Ink Systems Ltd

Graham Razey - Principal & Chief Executive East Kent College

Andrew Scott-Clarke - NHS

Sean Kearns - Connexions Kent & Meday

Andrew Brown - English Heritage

Cllr Mark Dance - Kent County Council

Cllr David Green - Thanet District Council

Frank Martin

Janet Haddock Fraser - Dean of Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences

Mr Barber stated back in April the need for a fast train time to the 'edge of Ramsgate'. That would be to Manston Airport site that we now know has been sold to the Discovery Park. I've long been concerned that the Parkway Station plans risk the loss of train services to the towns of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate with shuttle buses bringing passengers from Parkway to the towns.

On BBC Radio Kent today I caught a snippet of an interview with either Mr Musgrove or Mr Cartner stating they were 'property people' and Manston would be developed for housing, retail and schools.

Does that sound like a business park?

The funding for the Parkway Station and the big new roads that run there were all funded for employment and job creation. Not to enable a massive housing estate.

Is it feasible that no one at Thanet Council, Kent County Council or MPs knew this was coming?

There seems no representation on this TRB from small businesses or tourism. Which for a coastal region is highly significant.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Does Thanet Council suggest to people not to be filmed at public meetings?

Yesterday I received an email from an officer from Democratic Services at Thanet District Council. It was part of an email exchange regarding public speaking at the upcoming Planning Committee on the 17th. Out of the blue the officer sent an email flagging up 'new filming regulations' with regards to public filming:

"I should have mentioned that there are now new filming regulations which allow attendees to film the proceedings of public meetings.    Would you (or XXXX) have any objection to being filmed?   If so, the Chairman will ask attendees not to film you/ other rep. when you speak."

This seems a little overly proactive of the Council to suggest to prospective speakers at a public meeting tin advance that they may opt out and that this will be flagged to the Chairman, who in turn would ask members of the public not to film them.

On what basis would the Chairman ask members of the public not to film under these new regulations?

The guidance issued by the Government in June stated:
"Are there other limits that I should be aware of? 
The council or local government body should consider adopting a policy on the filming of members of the public, such as allowing those who actively object to being filmed not to be filmed, without undermining the broader transparency of the meeting."

This seems very different from an officer corresponding with a member of the public in advance of the public meeting and without communicating any detail on the regulations.

My view is that Council meetings are public meetings and speaking at them is public speaking. Similar to how photographers have a right to photograph us in the street.

And here is a Council meeting filmed by a member of the public regarding the Pleasurama development in Ramsgate on September 11th.