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.


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Public right to film Council meetings will be law in August 6th

The right to for the public to film and record Council meetings will soon be enshrined in law. The Department for Communities and Local Government that Parliament has now approved the draft Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014. The Government intends to make the Regulations on 5 August and they will therefore come into force on 6 August.  The will give the public new rights to film and report council meetings, including meetings of committees and subcommittees, using digital and social media.  The Regulations will also require councils to publish a 'decision record' for certain significant decisions taken by officers acting under delegation from their councils.  

The Government has produced a draft plain English guide to the Regulations. Download the PDF here.

Brandon Lewis (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Communities and Local Government; Great Yarmouth, Conservative) stated on June 26th:

"Most town halls in England are already embracing such transparency, and do not need to wait for permission from Whitehall to open their doors to the press and public. However, a small minority are dragging their feet; Ministers want to make it clear that there is absolutely no reason for the public not to be able to exercise their new rights once the secondary legislation has been approved by Parliament and made."

Monday, 14 July 2014

Why is Andrews Passage taking so long to re-open?

Andrews Passage in Margate has been closed for months since a hole opened up in the flagstone pathway.

1873 OS Map
The passage is one of Margate's most historic walkways, providing a link from the middle of the Lower High Street to the seafront. The passageway existed before Marine Drive was built along the seafront.

Over the years, Andrews Passage has suffered through neglect. The beautiful original iron railings have been allowed to rust and so were boarded up for safety reasons. The York Stone flagstones have been patched with tarmac repairs. The shops that run along the passage used to have active window displays onto the passage forming an arcade. Now they're boarded up.

One building, next door to the brilliant Henry's, is owned by what appears to be an absentee landlord with little interest in maintaining the property the fronts on to the High Street. It has stood empty for years boarded up with a publicly funded painted mural, making the trading environment for nearby shops even harder.

The maintenance of the passage is the responsibility of Kent County Council Highways. One has to wonder why this walkway, so vital to the shops on the High Street and to the businesses on the seafront is left closed with no timetable for re-opening.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Thanet Council to allow BBC and ITV to film tonight's Council Meeting but not the public

Thanet District Councillor, John Worrow (Labour), announced via his Facebook page that tonight's Council meeting will be filmed by the BBC and ITV. Tonight's big debate will be a motion from the Labour Group regarding Manston Airport. 

Thanet Council, however, are still not extending the right to film to the public only to corporate media.

I previously covered this issue in March 2013:

The right to report, film and tweet from council meetings in England

This runs contrary to the guidance issued in June 2013 by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles MP. This guidance from Central Government 
explicitly states that individuals should have the right to film and report on local council meetings that are open to the public. Yet Thanet Council are relying on the 2012 Statutory Regulations to prohibit the public from filming and reporting on their meetings.

Let's look at Thanet Council's position in detail:

2012 Statutory Regulations:

“Nothing in these Regulations requires a decision-making body to permit the taking of any photographs of any proceedings or the use of any means to enable persons not present to see or hear any proceedings (whether at the time or later), or the making of any oral report on any proceedings as they take place.”

Central Government Guidance:
This guidance, issued by Eric Pickles (the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) on 14th June 2013, effectively, the guidance takes a different interpretation to that of Thanet Council, with regard to the 2012 Statutory Regulations (referred to above). The guidance, then, states that:

“The rules (the 2012 Statutory Regulations) require councils to provide reasonable facilities for any member of the public to report on meetings. Councils should thus allow the filming of councillors and officers at meetings that are open to the public.”

With regard to reporting via social media and blogs, the guidance also states that:

“Similarly under the new rules there can be social media reporting of meetings. Thus bloggers, tweeters, facebook and YouTube users, and individuals with their own website, should be able to report meetings. You should ask your council for details of the facilities they are providing for citizen journalists.”

Thanet Council’s Position:
Thanet Council has rejected the central government guidance, outlining their position on their website:

“Confusion over the council’s position has arisen following the publication of The Guidance Document, which substantially misrepresents what the statutory regulations say in relation to the recording and filming of council meetings – which is that the council has complete legal discretion in this regard.”

Thanet Council and Central Government appear to be at odds about the 2012 Statutory Regulations.

The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014:
The guidance issued by Eric Pickles, regarding the right to "report, blog, tweet and film" council meetings, has been effectively enshrined in law by the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014, which was passed into law on 30th January 2014. Eric Pickles has asserted that:

“this new right will be the key to helping bloggers and tweeters as well as journalists to unlocking the mysteries of local government and making it more transparent for all.”

In particular, s.40 of the Act now provides the Secretary of State with power to make regulations that may allow local people, including citizen journalists, to attend public meetings of local council meetings and report the proceedings by using various communication methods such as filming, tweeting and blogging. Therefore, once new regulations have been introduced, councils and other local bodies will be compelled to allow the public to "report, blog, tweet and film” at their public meeting. This applies to a number of bodies, listed under s.40(6), which include:
  • a district council, and
  • a county council in England
The Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014:

There are new Regulations, albeit still in draft form, which have been drafted using the Secretary of State’s powers under s.40 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. These Regulations will amend, among others, the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) England Regulations 2012 (referred to above). If introduced, the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 will:
  • Omit s.20(4) – the provision currently being relied upon by Thanet Council.
  • Require a decision-making body to permit any person attending a meeting of such a body to report on the proceedings - “reporting” is defined as:
“(a) filming, photographing or audio recording the proceedings of a meeting,
(b) using any other means for enabling persons not present to see or hear proceedings of a meeting as it takes place or later, and
(c) reporting or providing commentary on proceedings of a meeting, orally or in writing, so that the report or commentary is available to persons not present, as the meeting takes place or later.”

If these regulations are introduced, they will therefore confer a statutory right upon members of the public to film and report on council meetings that are open to the public.

Should it really be this hard if the right for the public to film Council meetings is going to be an inevitable right?