Monday, 25 January 2016

The BBC's 'exclusive' GVA Report on Dreamland February 2015

Tonight's BBC South East will run another feature on Dreamland. This time, they're running another 'exclusive' on a report by planning consultants GVA from February 2015. This report was again released as part of my Freedom of Information Request to the Heritage Lottery Fund. It was actually released to the public domain on June 10th 2015. This was before the lease to operate the park was signed by Sands Heritage Ltd on June 18th with the park opening the following day on the 19th.

 In the programme it seems the BBC will make quite a deal about GVA's description of Dreamland as a 'speculative' project. This reminds me of how Dreamland as a project was described as 'nebulous' at the High Court  during my Arlington case by the legal representatives for the Secretary of State and landlords Freshwater.

The facts of the matter are, that Dreamland, as a publicly funded project to the tune of millions was part of a process that spanned over a decade, and as such went through intense scrutiny. If you've ever seen a Heritage Lottery Funding application process for this amount of money, you would know what the very meaning of scrutiny is. It's eye watering. It was undertaken mainly by volunteers who dedicated literally thousands of hours to get this through many stages.

So, let's be careful about viability assessments of Dreamland as a park in comparison to other so called comparable operations. What we should see is the same rigour applied to the procurement process of the park operator.

Let's be careful not to confuse Dreamland as it was proposed and funded to be as opposed to the park operator or land value.

Dreamland as a project has the backing of the public. It's crucial to Margate and the wider area. I've worked in PR and marketing all of my adult life. The decision to open the park early rests with those who signed the lease on June 18th 2015 and opened the park on June 19th.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The latest Dreamland Freedom of Information Release

This week the Heritage Lottery Fund released a series of previously withheld documents from a Freedom of Information Request I'd issued back on May 13th 2015. The request is in the public domain on the excellent What Do They Know website. The documents released reveal a worrying level of what I think can be honestly described as anger and concern from the main funder of the £28m publicly funded project in the weeks running up to the park opening on June 19th. In particular this letter.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing said someone somewhere. What we now know is that Sands Heritage Limited the chosen operator of Dreamland hit the financial skids six months in and sought legal action laying the blame at the door of Thanet District Council. Scroll down for the debt document of creditors on Ed Targett's blog here. The result of this action has local businesses having to agree to wait up to 5 years for payment for debts of £2.9m. I understand the detail of how these debts were accrued are subject to gagging orders.

Dreamland is a crucial project for Margate and £30m is a lot of public money. By comparison, Turner Contemporary came in at £18m. Thousands of hours of volunteer work went in from the public over a 12 year period to fight against the closure of the site as a working park and secured the said millions in funding. It's for this reason that the issue of who operates the park is of public interest and that the best people come out as being chosen.

I was interviewed today by BBC South East about the FOI and it will run tonight.

My hope, as I'm sure most of Margate share, is that everyone with the responsibility to steer the good ship Dreamland and its associated funding does just that. If you haven't read it already, Ed Targett's post earlier in the week is very good.

With all things that are public projects, openness and transparency is key.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

11 and 13 Marine Gardens

This week I notified Thanet Council's Planning Enforcement department regarding a couple of sites along the seafront at Marine Gardens that are really dragging the area down. Specifically, 11 Marine Gardens and Clock Tower News at 13 Marine Gardens.

Wouldn't it be great for the whole of the seafront to be improved now Dreamland is open?

11 Marine Gardens

Grade II Listed Georgian building that had until a few years ago stood empty for years with a commercial restaurant space at ground level. Sadly, it was granted permission to be converted into flats, including at the ground floor and basement levels. The resulting flat at ground floor on this busy road now has curtains pulled across the doors at all the time and have resulted in the loss of what would now be a viable commercial space. 

There is a very tiny window at ground floor level for the basement flat with a large Euro Bin that stands immediately in front of it. This surely isn't a good idea in front of a basement flat window.
This is adjacent to the busy seafront narrow stretch of pavement and the bin is often overflowing.

The reply I got from Planning Enforcement today stated:

"I have checked the planning history and can advise the reference number application ( listed building ) you provided is for a withdrawn application The associated planning application was refused. The last approved planning application for a conversion to flats , does not have any conditions relating to bin storage. There is therefore , nothing I can enforce. I would respectfully suggest , you contact the Councils waste area for assistance."

Surely, one avenue the Council could pursue is a Section 215 Notice? This is the legislation that authorities can utilise to deal with general eye sore problems. Guidance on Section 215 Notices.

"SCOPE OF POWERSection 215 can be used  effectively on large vacant industrial sites, town centre  street frontages, rural sites, derelict buildings, and semi-complete development as well as the more typical rundown residential properties and overgrown gardens.

The scope of works that can be required in s215 notices is wide and includes planting, clearance, tidying, enclosure, demolition, re-building, external repairs and repainting."

Clocktower News - 13 Marine Gardens

An empty ground floor shop in a Grade II Listed Georgian building situated at a busy seafront location. The frontage is very run down with lights hanging off. The tiled area in front of the shop is in poor condition and used by the public to walk on around the corner, yet it's privately owned. 

Planning Enforcement today stated:

"I have taken a look at the photo you have provided and am of the opinion , that it does not warrant any action yet , under the planning act."
 Again, I would have thought that a Section 215 Notice would be applicable here.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Owners of Thanet Press are appealing

I got a letter today from Thanet Council dated May 21st 2015. It states the Baird Group who are owners of the Thanet Press site are appealing Thanet Council's decision to refuse GTL Property Management Ltd's application for 2 x 4 storey buildings with 64 one and two bed flats and the demolition of the existing Thanet Press buildings. Appeal ref: APP/Z2260/W/15/3013844.

The letter states the Council received the appeal on 05/03/2015 and that the appeal start date was 15/05/2015.

I went along this evening to view the files at the Thanet Gateway aka Margate Library. There were no files to view.

One has to question why an appeal that was received on 05/03/2015 and that started on 15/05/2015 is only being notified by letter on 21/05/2015. And of course the obvious; where are the appeal files?

No doubt all will be revealed on Tuesday after the bank holiday.

In the meantime, we now face an appeal to try to save this historic print press site that could provide many jobs.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Iris Johnston replies regarding Arlington

I had a reply from Labour Councillor Iris Johnston to my tweet to her regarding the Arlington shops and car park. Iris emailed on her personal BT Internet account. I've published her reply, but I'm left wondering why the Leader of the Council is sending emails in a breach of Thanet Council's email usage guidance, given their stance on this matter.:

   Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 10.35.46

 Iris replied to me via email and requested I publish her reply.


 From: Iris johnston
Date: 20 April 2015 at 16:42
Subject: Fwd: Louise Oldfield (@margatearchi)
To: Louise Oldfield
Please could you publish my response Louise.Sent from my iPad

Begin forwarded message:
From: Iris johnston 
Date: 20 April 2015 07:19:00 BST To: "Louise Oldfield (via Twitter)" Subject: Re: Louise Oldfield (@margatearchi) mentioned you on Twitter!
< Thank you a Louise
I have been asking Freswater to reopen the car park from the first days it closed and specially every summer when I have to go down to resolve parking issues. They have now opened a section and I am working on getting the rest.
When they planned to close the shops (when awaiting the Tesco store ) I arranged for the then tenants to have an extended tenure and fought with them for compensation.
Freshwater have a contract with Tesco that is now involved in a legal discussion. They  also have others interested in the site.
Long term Residents will know that for the last thirty years I have been there for them and since I became a Councillor fought for them on a wide range of issues including challenging Freshwater  from the masts on the roof to ensuring the occupiers keep their car parking rights.

Sent from my iPad

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Arlington car park is open to the public!



I was over at Arlington yesterday afternoon and saw that car parking spaces have been marked out in red on the public car park. I was visiting Arlington House because as the local Green Party candidates we've been working hard to secure a good future for the site.


A small number of car parking spaces at Arlington House’s 500-space car park (still shut to the public in breach of their contract with the council) have been opened up. The council has previously said it’s closed due to health and safety concerns. The spaces have been granted via Councillor Iris Johnston and landlords Freshwater to Children's Club World, a play centre on Marine Drive. (The play centre were in the press a few weeks ago complaining about the loss of their car parking at the Beacon Bingo site to Dreamland. They now offer free parking to their customers from these bays at Arlington…)

 I’m pleased that local parents have somewhere to park when they take their kids to play at this local business. And it's great news the carpark is safe after all. When I spoke to TDC’s parking department today however they said: “Thanet Council parking office have not granted permission to anyone to use the Arlington site car park. I do know that Cllr Johnston was involved in some sort of arrangement that was made between Club World and the lease holders of the Arlington Site it might be best to speak to her..."

 If the Arlington car park is ok for customers of the play centre to park there, then surely it should now be open to the rest of the public and for Dreamland’s opening. Let's see the gates opened wider.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Vote for the Little Oasis Skate Park!

Last year, a group of young people came together and built a skate park on the derelict Council owned Little Oasis Crazy golf site in Cliftonville. Wonderful things began to happen; Visitors came from far and wide to their park. Here's a video of their efforts before the park was destroyed.

 Then the worst thing happened; At 6am one morning, Labour controlled Thanet Council sent in a team, with security guards in support, and smashed their skate park to rubble. One year later, this is what still remains of their park and the Council have stated they are now in talks with an unknown company with a commercial interest in the site. This is one of the most shameful acts of Thanet Council that I've heard of in the eight years that I've lived here. It's an issue that I've continued to question the Council about.

 Last night I saw that Little Oasis skaters had launched a new website posing questions from the skaters directly to the candidates in the upcoming election for May 7th. It gives me great pleasure to be able to reply and to again offer them my support. They're posting the responses they get from candidates in the order they receive them on their website. There's also a link on their site to their online petition, now standing strong at over 4000 signatures. This is an amazing piece of work from a community group of young people who have proven they are engaged in the place they live. What needs to change is how the existing democratic system engages with them and supports their efforts. This episode is one of my main motivations for deciding to stand for election for Margate Central.

Things need to change.

 They asked:

"On April 13th we asked candidates for the Thanet constituencies and for Thanet District Council two questions about the derelict Oasis Crazy Golf site in Cliftonville.

  1. Thousands of people have said that they want the Oasis site on the seafront in Cliftonville to be used as a skate park. They believed that a community-built and run skate park would be an asset for the community and an attraction to visitors. Do you agree with them that the site should be a skate park?
  2. If you do agree, how will you use elected office to achieve this goal?"
Here's our reply from me as a Thanet North Green Party candidate:
  1. We've always supported the people making Little Oasis site so successful. We agree 100% that the Oasis site should be a skate park and that's why we turned up and offered to help. We've offered support and advice right from the beginning on how to secure the site as a community group. We know that the current council set up can seem impenetrable and closed to young people and that there is a feeling that you are not being listened to. It should be a great skate park, built by skaters for skaters.I'm a founder and Steering Group member of the Margate Neighbourhood Plan Forum and we've already agreed to do the work to nominate the Little Oasis Skate Park area to be registered as a official Community Asset of Value to protect it from inappropriate development and to secure it as a skate park for community use. As a constituted group of 21 signatories, this is one of the important roles we can fulfil. This at the heart of Neighbourhood Planning. This is just one of a number of leisure sites that have been identified and will be nominated under this important national scheme.It was utterly devastating to hear how the skate park was smashed to bits by the Council at 6am one morning. It's one of the most shameful episodes in Thanet Council's history. So I'm really pleased to see your initiative to bring the Little Oasis Crazy Skate back on the agenda.

  2. We're already working to make sure the site is nominated as a Community Asset of Value to stop any future development.

I've not only supported Little Oasis Crazy Skate since the beginning, but also other groups such as the campaign to renovate the 1977 Hartsdown Skate Park (see my FOIs on that ongoing debacle here and here) and the crisis that had befallen the O'Neill's Boxing Club with their roof caving in, many of the young boxers are now at Pej Court Boxing Club in Westbrook. My Margate Central running mate and Thanet North MP candidate, Ed Targett boxes there. Grass roots sports facilities are vital for young people. I look forward to the day when we as a community will no longer need petitions to be heard by the Council. That young and old, should have a seat at the table to participate more than once every four years. Let's ride!