Friday, 9 December 2011
Sunday, 4 December 2011
Over on the Arlington Margate blog there is a scaled elevation drawing of what the Margate seafront could look like for years to come if permission is granted to demolish the front of the building without there being a hotel operator in place. And guess what folks, the developer told TDC in May that there isn't any interest from a hotel operator and there isn't likely to be one until after the store is completed and trading.
The blog post has details of the email sent from the developer to TDC in May confirming this lack of interest.
We also see that Thanet Councillor Simon Moores is of the opinion that anyone who discusses factual evidence is a fantasist while at the same time asking the public to believe the truth lies in unattributed statements from the local newspaper. http://birchington.blogspot.com/2011/12/christmas-comes.html
Friday, 2 December 2011
Over on the Arlington Margate website, there are details of the elusive Section 106 agreement between TDC and Freshwater. A document file has been relased to the public that reveals the communication between TDC and the developers agents.
Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Wednesday, 9 November 2011
The Friends of the Shell Grotto are putting on another one of their fabulous fundraiser events. Professor Heard's Curious Victorian Magic Lantern Show comes to The Walpole Bay Hotel at 7pm on Thursday 7th November, featuring Misadventures at Margate.
Monday, 17 October 2011
The first meeting of the new TDC Local Development Framework Cabinet Advisory Group was held on Thursday 6th October. The LDF covers a wide range of detailed planning policy issues guiding development and investment for Thanet's long-term vision.
The first meeting was called to iron out organisational matters for the group who will be working on the long-term vision for TDC.Regarding poor practice, Cllr Alan Poole immediately raised concerns that two cabinet members (Tories - Cllr Bayford and Cllr Moores) had been put on the advisory group and were therefore 'advising themselves'.Cllr Clive Hart also raised the issue of a possible 'conflict of interest' concerning Cllr Bayford's membership as the group were discussing Kent county and East Kent Opportunities matters and Cllr Bayford is a Kent county councillor and a director of EKO. The legal officer had to dig very deep to squeeze Cllr Bayford out of this, but he did finally advise all was legal. Cllr Hart strongly disagreed with the legal officers advice that Cllr Bayford could carry on, on the basis that under the councillors code of conduct, councillors are supposed to consider how the 'man or woman in the street' would see any conflict, and he believed they would be appalled regarding Cllr Bayfords confusing roles.Cllr Bayford then performed his usual 'you're being political' routine on Labour members so Cllr Hart reminded the group that the meeting had been made political even before members had sat down in theirseats as Cllr Bayford, the Conservative council leader, had already decided there would be three Conservative's and only 2 Labour members on the advisory group (most other advisory groups are balanced due to the current 'hung' situation of the council at TDC).
Regarding continued Tory 'spoiling tactics' at TDC. These reached new heights when the LDF group got to deciding terms of reference and other organisational matters for the newly formed group. In the end Cllr Bayford was so angry at the perfectly reasonable request for advisory group members to maintain voting rights for their recommendations, that he ended the meeting prematurely and simply 'informed' the assembled group that he and his Cabinet would write its own terms of reference for them!Following the meeting Labour Group Leader Cllr Clive Hart said "I felt it was a terrible shame that Cllr Bayford brought the LDF Advisory Committee to a sharp and premature close with the insistence that he and his cabinet will now write our terms of reference for us. Worse still is his insistence that we should not even be be allowed to vote on our recommendations.I sincerely hope Cllr Bayford will see sense and maintain voting rights in this process. At the meeting there were several references made to the fact that the group 'ONLY' recommends matters to cabinet and I feel the further changes proposed by Cllr Bayford would water down the hard work of the committee still further".
Friday, 30 September 2011
Freshwater paid for Thanet District Council's 'independent' heritage report written by Tesco's consultancy firm
Not much more you can say about this really other than sheer amazement that anyone would think a report credible or independent enough to be presented to the Planning Committee that involves the developer Freshwater and prospective tenant Tesco. So to convince the Planning Committee to give the green light, TDC agreed to commission a report that was funded by Freshwater and as a suitable consultant they chose a firm who have a long standing relationship with Tesco Stores. More on the Arlington Blog.
TDC's press statement:
Wednesday, 28 September 2011
This morning in my inbox arrived an email from TDC proclaiming how an independent expert had been written and an oh so independent heritage appraisal report had been published on the impact the proposed Arlington superstore development will have on the Dreamland heritage site.
By the time we'd got to the end of the day, it turns out the report author, Dr Chris Miele, specialises in shoe horning in supermarkets into heritage sites and is a partner in the firm, Montague Evans, who in turn seem to have a lengthy relationship with Tesco as a major client. Not sounding so independent now, eh?
The fact that TDC decided to PR this as an independent report with no conflict of interest issues is remarkable. A good PR day? There is a more detailed blog post and all the relevant documents to download for yourself on the Arlington blog.
We wonder how much money has been paid to this consultancy firm that works for the developer to write this 'unbiased' report?
Monday, 12 September 2011
I woke this morning to various outraged tweets from fellow townsfolk of Margate at the tone and bare faced drivel that was passed off as a blog post by Tara Moore for Kent Life magazine.
Tara was dredging her depths about her recent visit to Margate and the Turner Contemporary. Not enough to moan she didn't like it. She had to moan she didn't like it being refitted for the next upcoming exhibition. Moaning about the cost of the building, she went on to moan about the cafe and shop being open. Make your mind up, love. Moaning about the shops that have opened in Margate. Not good enough for you? I hope she hasn't been paid for this effort. But you know what? Margate doesn't need her. Margate is working hard to move things in a better direction. More about Tara and her wonderful 1994 web design concept http://www.taramoore.com/ Do we really mind that Tara doesn't like us?
Which brings me to the next exhibition to open on the 16th at Turner Contemporary. It promises to be great. If there is one thing that is close to Margate's heart it's youth culture. Out on a limb. Away days of freedom away from it all. More info as always on the Turner website.
Tuesday, 23 August 2011
Margate is gearing up for this weekend's event of the summer. Blink is coming. The event info states:
For one very special night, Margate's seafront will undergo a miraculous transformation. Watch as buildings come alive, the beach is lit up with stunning flaming structures and ONE HUNDRED local people take to the beach to perform. BLINK Margate is a celebratory event that re-imagines not only the seafront, but also the sea, the sky and beyond.
Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Those lovely people, Studio Two, based in the Pie Factory in The Old Town, are putting on an event on the weekend, that really will be a showstopper of all show stoppers here in Margate on the 26th and 27th of August. Private view starts at 7pm
Tuesday, 16 August 2011
Margate based artist, Steve McPherson, is exhibiting his sound sculpture installation 'Siren - Signal' on Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd August within Light Vessel 21 (LV21), now moored at Gillingham pier on the river Medway.
The weekend is International Lighthouse Weekend and the 3 works that constitute 'Siren - Signal' will be installed in this magnificent 40 metre steel-hulled Lightship which saw active service at stations around the Kent coast between 1976 and 2001.
'Siren-Signal' references Steve's experience of growing up on that
coast, where the Fog Horn sound was a seasonal event that signalled the warning of impending and seemingly infinite cloud conditions. The Horns mournful cry echoed along the cliffs, yearning and piercing the visually impenetrable fog and thick sea mists that curtained the land and turned days into eerie twilights.
Vocally creating all the sounds and manipulating them digitally; Siren - Signal aims to reawaken slumbering memories and experiences which are no longer a part of our coastal environment, whilst at the same time reflecting on and echoing my own and LV21's lost pasts.
Pier Approach Road
Kent ME7 1RX
Saturday, 6 August 2011
Campaigners succeed in halting final decision on Freshwater application for superstore at Arlington, Margate
One imagines there was an almighty kerfuffle at Cecil Square on Wednesday when Richard Buxton solicitors, acting on behalf of a group of Margate residents and businesses, sent a letter informing TDC, that for them to issue a Decision Notice on Freshwater's application for a superstore as big as two football pitches, it would be unlawful. The reason? As detailed on the Arlington House blog, the Scenic Railway at Dreamland was upgraded to Grade II* on July 7th. This is considered a 'Material Consideration' requiring the whole application to come back to Planning Committee to be reconsidered.
Conversations with English Heritage and other consultees indicate that greater scrutiny will be placed on the sensitivity of the site, now nestled between a number of Grade II and now two Grade II* structures. Importantly the Scenics recent upgrade cited the importance of 'Group Value' of The Dreamland Cinema, The Scenic Railway and the Menagerie Cages that run along the perimeter of the Dreamland site:
"The Scenic Railway at Dreamland, Margate, built in 1920 by JH Iles for his new American-style amusement park is recommended for listing at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * Rarity: it is the oldest surviving roller coaster in Britain and is of international importance as the second oldest in Europe and amongst the five oldest in the world of this prominent C20 entertainment structure; * Design: Scenic railways are amongst the earlier types of roller coaster design and it is an internationally important surviving example of this technology; * Townscape value: as an important and evocative aspect of the seaside heritage of Margate, one of the earliest and foremost English seaside resorts, and Dreamland, its principal amusement park ; * Group value: it groups with Dreamland's other listed buildings the Grade II* cinema and Grade II menagerie."
Perhaps this time round we will actually get a S106 agreement that works for the town and not to refurbish the applicant's own property and a traffic survey conducted not in winter but in summer and to also include a fully functioning Turner Contemporary with revised visitor figures and projected figures for the reopened Dreamland.
And what great timing. There is a piece in today's Guardian about Tesco's influence as an 'amighty conglomerate' and urging Mary Portas, who will soon be visiting Margate, as part of the Government Funded review into the future of the high street.
Thursday, 4 August 2011
The Thanet Gazette and Thanet Times are under threat by a bid from the KM Group to purchase them. It's outlined in detail by Tony Flaig:
You will need to write to Mr Raúl Nieto at the OFT: firstname.lastname@example.org
As a Thanet resident, small business owner are you concerned that the purchase of the Isle of Thanet Gazette and the Thanet Times by the KM group will have a detrimental effect on the quality of journalism in the area and lead to loss of jobs?
If yes, you need to muster 2 minutes to write to Raul.
Reasons could be:
- If the bid goes ahead, all printed news will be under the control of one company.
- There will be no commercial competition.
- There will be no competitive reporting and resulting in less variety of opinions voiced.
- Local democracy will suffer as there will be fewer journalists and resources to scrutinise local government and public bodies.
- The amalgamation into one company will lead to the loss of jobs in an area where unemployment levels are exceptionally high.
Best of Britain
After 35 years away: Roger Boyes on a changed BritainRoger Boyes
Last updated August 4 2011 12:01AM
Dreamland, that’s what Britain has become for me after 35 years across the water. A country left behind, whose slumbering rhythms are still dimly familiar, like Aboriginal songlines.
Brief return visits to the Mother Country were shock awakenings — the heaving, hustling crowds in London; the sheepish acceptance of slipshod service. And, everywhere, the New Bossiness, the fines and warnings and video cameras. Safely back at my various bases across the Channel, foreigners, even enlightened ones, would lather me with unctuous admiration for British fair play and British irony and Scottish golf courses and PM’s Questions and Jeremy Paxman. All I wanted to do was shout, treacherously, “No, no, no!” Fair play was now Dutch, e-government Estonian, and Newsnight viewing figures corresponded to the population of a Welsh mining village.
But I let it be. What did I know, after all? When I left Britain, Morecambe and Wise were still big. So were Wimpy Bars and Kenny Dalglish. Now, having returned from exile, I needed to reset my compass with a Great Britain Test. What has changed? What have we discarded? Is it better, ruder, more forgiving, more European?
It started badly, this trip. In Margate, a wheeling seagull raided my fish and chips and, in a frightening statement about the eating habits of a nation, ignored the cod and ate the batter.
We kicked off there because it was the last place in Britain that I had vomited — on the rollercoaster, one of the ruins of the defunct funfair that was called, yes, Dreamland. I can still remember the choral nagging of my parents, the stench in the car. Margate had been a treat just for me. Ramsgate was more sophisticated; the hovercraft for Europe taxied out of Pegwell Bay when the sea wasn’t too choppy. Ted Heath, still our most European of prime ministers, went sailing in nearby Broadstairs. But Margate was cheerfully downmarket and even then had an enveloping sense of decline.
“It was a wonderful place to be as a child,” says Sandra Cooke, 41, whose parents came to work at Dreamland in the 1970s. “There was the lido with its two pools, Tony Savage put on a show there — that’s gone now. Then there was the rollercoaster, the big wheel.”
The lido is desolate, whipped by the wind. There is a plan to make a few of the rides — still charred from a fire — into a heritage amusement park and maybe it will happen. In the meantime, a chunk of the seafront has to make way for a Tesco superstore.
This was, I was to discover as I tramped around the country, one of the great pitched battles of modern England. A dozen towns seem to be engaged in debates about the commercial use of urban space and the steady demolition of traditional corners.
“Yeah, that’s what Margate needs,” says Glenn Hall, 50, sitting on the doorstep of his boarding house. “Come to Margate and see Tesco’s.” Clutching a mug of tea, Mr Hall looks as if he has just got out of bed — but that can’t be right, it has turned 11am — the very model of the seaside drifter. Yet it turns out that he is writing an oral history of the York and Lancaster Regiment’s experiences in the First World War and upstairs in his room he paints pictures of the Somme. When it’s sunny he goes for a swim. Later he chases us down to the front — that’s Margate, not Ypres — and shouts out: “See that shelter, that’s where T. S. Eliot wrote The Waste Land.” And indeed, T. S. Eliot did write about the place: “On Margate Sands./ I can connect/ Nothing with nothing.”
No wonder that Margate doesn’t use T. S. Eliot in its marketing campaigns. For years, the place has had only one ploy and it has nothing to do with poetry: get people on the trains, get them off, put them on the beach, hope they spend money before they head back. “It’s the jewel in our crown,” says the woman who runs a souvenir shop that will have to shift for Tesco. “The station is so close to the sand, you can travel in your swimming costume.” It was ever thus. But not enough to divert holidaymakers from the Costa del Sol.
What has changed, though, is that British towns are learning to brand themselves and compete mano a mano. Margate now has a fast train connection from St Pancras and a magnificent new gallery, Turner Contemporary. Margaters have been flooding in. “We are running workshops to bring them in,” says Chloe Barker, of the spectacular gallery that looks out at sea and sky.
But the real hope is to make Margate a logical outing for culturally aware, deep-pocketed Londoners, to make the place posher than it has ever been, a gentrification of the British seaside.
Somehow I don’t have great faith in this new formula that is being tried out not only in Margate but in Liverpool, Wakefield and across the country: high-speed train plus cultural attraction equals regeneration and improved property prices.
On first coming back to Britain, I took the Heathrow Express — 15 minutes for £18 — and was astonished by what seemed to be a metaphor for the acceleration of Britain. Then came the letdown: a 40-minute queue for a taxi at Paddington as someone occupying the newly invented job of taxi marshal chaotically allocated the cabs. The Underground lines were undergoing engineering works, a phrase familiar to me from the 1970s. The cab drive across a clogged city cost more than the air fare.
That has often been the way of recent British modernisation. Every five years there is talk of a white-hot technological revolution, and then the country shoots itself in the foot. New, for me, is the British urge to catch up with Europe, and outperform, overtake it even. Yet on my whistlestop tour I found a different concern that has little to do with Pharaonic projects such as the Olympic Games and more to do with the shaping of communities, the return of local pride. That will be a theme of the next leg of my journey.
A predictable drizzle settled on Margate, awnings teased by the wind, and I felt almost guilty about abandoning it. A man got out of his car and threw away a ball of silver foil that had once wrapped his sandwiches. He had been watching the sea with his wife from the security of his sensible vehicle, sipping tea, opening the window occasionally to gulp some air. Now, apparently, it was time for them to head home.
Friday, 15 July 2011
Fro Clive Hart. Leader of Thanet Labour Group
NIGHT TIME FLYING
Thanet District Council meeting - Thursday 14th July 2011.
(MOTION - INTRODUCTION - LEGAL ADVICE - OUTRAGE)
1) THE MOTION:
The following written motion to council was submitted by Cllr Clive Hart and seconded by Cllr Alan Poole (Thanet Labour Leader & Deputy Leader at TDC).
'The Council adopts a policy of not allowing scheduled, pre-planned or otherwise timetabled flights between the hours of 23:00 and 07:00. That a period of 1 hour at either end of the flying day be allowed for late/early arriving flights only. That a penalty be applied to any flights arriving during the 1 hour periods. No take-offs will be allowed between 23:00 and 07:00 hours and a schedule of exceptions to the above be prepared to include ‘mercy flights’, and flights for medical emergencies, coastguard movements etc'.
2) THE INTRODUCTION:
Introducing the motion at Thursday evenings meeting, Labour Leader of the Opposition Cllr Clive Hart said,
"Firstly, and I want to make this absolutely clear, we are not against the airport. We in the Labour Group most sincerely want to see a thriving airport creating good jobs for the people of Thanet.
However, we hear constantly of Thanet being termed as a ‘dumping ground’ in relation to social and economic issues and sadly, statistics show overwhelmingly that poor health standards here in Thanet are far worse than the average for the South East and even the whole country.
On a personal note, I have witnessed at first hand the effect that sleep deprivation can have on an individual. One of our wonderful grandsons has decided that for him, daytime starts anywhere between 3am and 5am and the cumulative effect of this over several months has had a devastating effect on his equally wonderful mother’s health and wellbeing.
Hopefully, that situation is a temporary one. The prospects for many Thanet residents if we are not clear as to what is and what is not reasonable could be permanent misery.
At this evening’s meeting we have heard what happens when there is a lack of ongoing monitoring in relation to grants and again in relation to a lease negotiated in good faith many years ago by this council.
The current section 106 agreement was put in place over a decade ago and has served Thanet very well indeed, but sadly the last two Conservative administrations at TDC have failed to review the agreement every three years as was originally planned, and it is clear from recent reports sponsored by the airport that they now see the 106 as an outdated agreement and will soon be pressing to extend their operations at night.
Chairman, America and Europe are currently experiencing very tough times due to the actions of a few bankers who saw loopholes in regulations and exploited them at all our cost.
We in Thanet suffer disproportionately from almost every social and economic ill. We do not need to add poorly regulated night time flying across our island as a further environmental problem.
The Labour Group therefore believes the council needs to give a clear steer as to what is and what is not environmentally acceptable here in Thanet. We support the airport but not at any environmental cost to the people of Thanet.
Chairman, I move the motion printed at item 8a in the agenda and option 2.2 to debate the motion".
3) THE LEAGAL ADVICE:
However, the TDC Legal Monitoring Officer advised the Chairman that the motion could not be allowed for complex legal reasons and pointed to a letter of advice from Bevan Brittan LLP (dated 14th July - the very day of the meeting) that had been left on councillors seats just minutes before the start of the meeting.
4) THE OUTRAGE
An intense debate on the extremely late legal advice followed in which Labour councillors explained that the motion had been handed in person by Cllr Hart to the Legal Monitoring Officer more than five weeks before the meeting on the 7th June and that the Monitoring Officer had read it and accepted it as a valid motion. A month later the motion had also been accepted onto and clearly printed in the council agenda as item 8a.
During the debate it also became clear that on the evening before Thursday's council meeting (13th July) Cllr Bayford, the Conservative Council Leader, had raised objections to the motion and that as a direct consequence further legal advice had been requested on the very day of the council meeting.
After the meeting Cllr Clive Hart said "TDC had my written motion to council for more than five weeks and the only thing I was aware of during the whole of that period was that it had been accepted onto and printed in the council agenda. The motion was submitted to support the councils own TDC Airport Working Party recommendations that had been 'left off' of the agenda of an Overview & Scrutiny Committee meeting in error and the actual wording of the motion simply confirmed the basis of the existing 106 agreement that the Conservative administration had failed to review for the past eight years".
The night flying motion to council was also directly in line with the 2011 Thanet Labour Manifesto that proved so successful with the public that it helped Thanet Labour to increase its number to twenty six councillors at TDC, just one short of the Conservatives.
With three Independent councillors, May's elections left TDC with no party in overall control.
Published by Thanet Labour Group Press Office, 44 Northdown Road, Margate, Kent, CT9 2RW.
Wednesday, 13 July 2011
Forgive me for laughing. But seriously.
How many kitchens and bathrooms does one single family dwelling need?
The answer according to the owner, Dr Ali, of the Grade II Listed Georgian townhouse at 45 Hawley Square is 5. A planning application has been submitted for change of use from a Private Members Club to a single dwelling.
The applicant states in their Design Access Statement:
"The current owner of the property...is looking to restore the building to its original purpose. Internally the existing layout requires little alteration to create a fantastic family dwelling."
I'm sure good Margate folk know a HMO (house in multiple occupation) when they see one. We've had enough of them to get rid of for the last firty years. If it looks like an HMO it probably is an HMO. Unless the prospective residents of this house will be so into cooking and bathing that they must have a kitchen and bathroom on very single floor, just in case they need to cook another snack or have a shower.
Photo: © Mr Peter Keeble English Heritage, 2006
The proposal to install this number of kitchens in terms of building regulations will require a degree of fire separation that would require an unacceptable level of modification to a Listed building. It's probable that the owner imagines, that since the Coalition Government scrapped Labour's requirement for HMOs to secure planning permission to convert from a single dwelling, that this would be an easy ride. But you see, ownership of a Listed building comes with red tape and responsabilities. As an owner you often can't make modifications as you choose. This is why Listed buildings really don't make great rental property investments for the bottom end of the market. This of course is dependent on Thanet District Council enforcing the regulations.
If Mr Ali intends to create self contained flats he should apply to do so, which would require extensive fire and sound separation. Perhaps this will not be cost effective compared to the rent he will achieve out of small units on a busy Margate high street. There appears to be no extra refuse storage for 5 units. Conversion works to a listed building are not cheap.
You can view and comment on the application: http://www.ukplanning.com/thanet
Search for applications: L/TH/11/0472, F/TH/11/0417
Your chance to get into film making - and it's free! Beeping Bush in Margate's Old Town will host a one-day "Introduction to digital filmmaking" workshop and networking drop-in event for all who are interested in how to produce a micro-budget short film or documentary. Through practical "hands on" professional camera, lighting, sound and editing demonstrations; and screening Q&A discussions of previously made local films, participants will learn how to make best use of their own and hired equipment.
Bring along your previously made films (on DVD) for group screening and feedback!
Emma, a previous participant says "It was great fun day, a met a lot of new local filmmakers and I learnt a lot about how to make the most of my budget!"
Another participant Sophia adds "As a student studying Media communication and specialising in film this event was invaluable. I learnt so much in just a short space of time and can only imagine if you guys could have given more of your time. It was a great hands on experience in a beautiful setting."
The event is free but prior booking is advised. The workshop takes place on Saturday 23rd of July from 10.30-4.30pm.
Contact to reserve a place:
Phone: 01843 223800
Tuesday, 12 July 2011
Hold the front page! Arlington House residents are planning direct action to halt the planned development at Arlington House and Square. The application is being covered on the dedicated Arlington House blog. So pop over there for a read what's going on.
Friday, 1 July 2011
Monday, 27 June 2011
A fresh look at what an Enterprise Zone could look like in our area. We're situated in a fine coastal region. Do we really need to only believe that job creation means building industrial units on our beautiful landscape? How many jobs have truly been created from projects in the past. Thanet Earth being one that springs to mind.
Thanet has space and opportunity. We could put out a strong message that we will support and nurture entrepreneurship of forward thinking ideas. it's not only possible elsewhere. So while KCC are looking at an Enterprise Zone for Sandwich at the Pfizer site, who about Thanet? Laura Sandys MP is pushing the idea of the Green Isle for example. http://telllaura.org.uk/home.php?page_id=32
"This is my column that will feature in Saturday’s Financial Times, which can be found in the entrepreneurship pages of the Money section. You can also find my columns on the FT web site here: http://www.ft.com/mikesouthon
Enterprise zones in the UK are typically based in depressed urban areas hit by the decline of traditional manufacturing industries, places that most people aspire to finally escape from, one day. However, there is a different model that can potentially deliver even better long-term results.
The city of Kelowna is less than an hour’s flight east of Vancouver in the Central Okanagan region of Canada, an area of outstanding natural beauty next to a 72-mile lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Its fruit-growing industries were declining, so local entrepreneurs shrewdly switched their crops and the area now boasts several award-winning wineries.
The region might have remained a tourist and retirement destination but for local entrepreneurs Lance Priebe and Lane Merrifield who had the idea for Club Penguin, an on-line social network for children. Riding the first wave of Internet adoption, they soon had 3.9M users before being purchased by the Disney Corporation, who still maintain a 350-strong operation in Kelowna.
Once the city’s credentials as a new media hub had been established, the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission resolved to attract more hi-tech businesses. Since 1998, Robert Fine has been Executive Director, which involves constant local networking, the promotion of the area internationally and the essential ability to encourage funding and tax breaks from local and national politicians.
The result is a region that punches considerably above its weight. Entrepreneurs have low-cost access to Accelerate Okanagan, a purpose-built incubator that provides membership, networking and serviced office space, as well as practical training, consultancy and market research services.
Unlike the incubators that emerged in London during the dot-com boom, Accelerate Okanagan is not run by venture capitalists focused on generating deal-flow geared for a quick and lucrative exit. This incubator works more like a social enterprise, providing long-term mentor-focused nurturing on a not-for-profit basis.
Government funding meets the basic running costs of Accelerate Okanagan, but the incubator also has commercial targets, with profits recycled to improve and enhance the various programmes.
Ambitious entrepreneurs always crave worldwide fame and fortune, so Fine and successful technology entrepreneur Steve Wandler launched the Metabridge Conference, now in its third year. This attracted venture capitalists and successful entrepreneurs who made their fortunes in successful hi-tech start-ups such as Google, Facebook and Electronic Arts.
These were the conference VIPs who delivered keynotes, appeared on panel sessions and acted as judges for the pitching competition. The conference numbers were deliberately kept small, with 14 companies pitching to twenty VIPs. This enabled all the aspiring entrepreneurs to have quality networking time with world-class business mentors in the relaxed atmosphere of a golf course or boat trip.
This year, two companies won a two-day facilitated tour of influential companies in Silicon Valley. These were Connection Point, whose product FundRazr is a next-generation fund-raising application, and Xomo, who develop mobile applications for live events, including the 2010 Winter Olympics and the Isle of Wight Festival.
As the winners were chosen by some of the most astute technical and funding experts in North America, their future looks bright as well as for the place where they got their big break.
As the Metabridge entrepreneurs and investors grow their companies, I am sure they will look to Central Okanagan not only for good staff, but also as somewhere they can enjoy the more enhanced and relaxed quality of life they will have earned after their own successful exits.
Perhaps this is a better definition of the perfect enterprise zone; not an industrial urban sprawl that most people aspire to escape from, but instead an attractive location to relocate to, once you have achieved success.
The Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission can be found at http://www.investkelowna.com"
Saturday, 25 June 2011
News from the Arlington House Margate blog: Suggesting that Margate businesses could do well to appeal their business rates on the grounds that the authority is recommending approval of the proposed Superstore with a loss of trade of 10% for Margate businesses. it has been successfully achieved in other towns.
Margate is often cited as having the street with the most vacant shops in the country. Is it really acceptable for the local authority to be walking the remaining shops into further decline?
Friday, 24 June 2011
The Thanet Gazette published an excellent report in to TDC's Governance & Audit Committee's report on the ERDF expenditure between 2000 and 2006. The report was until recently not open to public scrutiny. It is now available to read and download here:
The Gazette article by Saul Lease reads:
"A report for the Governance and Audit Committee, which monitors how the council spends its money, has been made public for the first time this week. It reveals that between 2000 and 2006 the council received £5,575,715 in government grants, but has since been forced to repay £603,340.
The report also highlights large sums of taxpayers' cash, intended to boost tourism and to spruce up businesses and buildings, which vanished or was misspent and cannot now be recovered.
Tens of thousands of pounds was given to hoteliers to improve their businesses and attract more tourists only for the hotels to close, be demolished or converted into flats.
The extensive list specifically mentions the Thanet Innovation Centre, which shares a site with the Broadstairs campus of Canterbury Christ Church University.
The report says: "This was the council's single biggest reclaim and the partial repayment related to the authority not fulfilling all of the grant conditions and failing to notify the Government of the South East (GOSE) of changes in the management approach following the original grant letter, that were considered substantial changes by GOSE".
The reports says that instead of filling the business centre with innovative companies, it used space for companies that "are not innovative start-up businesses" and its own staff. The report also said the council had not maintained records of jobs created by the grant.
A business owner inside the centre said: "The council could have spent that money on improving the centre which would attract new businesses in.
"There is no air conditioning and it gets hot in here in the summer. The carpets are shabby, the parking here is poor and visitors sometimes have to park over the road, which is not good at all for business. This building is 10 years old and it needs updating. What a waste of money."
Vice chairman of the Governance and Audit Committee, Councillor Peter Campbell, vowed to get to the bottom of how the money was so badly mismanaged at a meeting later this month.
He said: "This information has been unavailable to the public for a long time. I want to know why this money has been returned when it could have been put to good use"
The report says that since the audit which uncovered the blunders, the council has changed its procedures and employed someone to oversee the process of grant management.
A spokesman said that many of the officers who would have been involved in running the grants programmes had since left the council.
Mr Campbell added: "I want to know what happened to this money. My assumption is that the money repaid to the European Development Fund came from Thanet council's general fund and ultimately the taxpayer."
A council spokesman said: "This is an issue from a number of years ago and when the problem emerged, the council dealt with it. An action plan was put in place as far back as 2008 with measures introduced to ensure that a similar situation will not arise again. We have had an External Funding Protocol in place since 2009 and a dedicated External Funding Officer ensures this is adhered to.
"There were many issues regarding monitoring of ERDF grants throughout the whole of the country.
"In some areas, much higher levels of funding were clawed back, even leading to a suspension of the programme. We have never had that situation in Thanet. We worked with the Government Office for the South East (GOSE), came to an agreement about how to go forward and this was implemented."
Points in the report:
1.1 The Council had grants approved of £5,575,715 through the 2000-2006 ERDF programme, for which, The Government Office for the South East (GOSE) was the accountable body.
1.2 The purpose of this report is to summarise the amounts awarded, received and repaid in relation to all projects and the reasons behind these reclaims, where made and action taken to reclaim them.
2.2 The table above demonstrates that of the total funding received (£5,035,463), 12% of funding had to be repaid to GOSE (£603,341), the details of these reclaims are set out below.
3.0 ERDF Reclaims
3.1 Project 002/036 – Encouraging Social Inclusion – Main/Trans - £1,806 + £1,093
3.2 Following an Article 10 audit of both projects by GOSE, some expenditure claimed through the project for salaries could not be evidenced and as such the grant in relation to this expenditure had to be repaid to GOSE.
3.3 Project 006/028 – Business Networks and Cross Working – Main/Trans £17,443 + £20,159
3.4 These projects related to grant payments, however the sums made ineligible by the audit related to match funding that was originally added to the claim by the claim preparer, so the authority was able to claim back 100% of the grants paid out. There was no evidence on file of where the match was meant to come from and so could not be subsequently evidenced.
3.5 Project 011 – Thanet Museum Strategy - £63,702
3.6 The authority had claimed £63,702.48 in grants paid out to 2 museums, however the authority could not evidence what the museums had spent the funds on, despite attempts to contact the museums in question.
3.7 The authority sought to reclaim the grants from the museums, but between the time of the grant being paid out and the time of the audit, both museums had closed and the owner of one had passed away, meaning the authority was unable to reclaim the grants.
3.8 Project 015/158 – Thanet Tourism Grant Scheme Phase 3 & 4- £52,960 + £81,890
3.9 Both phases of the scheme faced issues when audited and there were three main reasons for grant repayment, these were:
• The hotel had been converted into apartments within 5 years of the grant being paid;
• The hotel was never eligible for a grant, as the grant was approved retrospectively or was for work to restaurants or other facilities that were not allowed under the scheme;• The hotel closed within 5 years of the grant being awarded. 3.10 The Council managed to reclaim £10,000 of the total repayment of £134,850 on
3.11 Where the hotels were never eligible for the grant, payment was made to the hotels in error and so a reclaim could not be undertaken.
3.12 Despite the Council pursuing other grant recipients, many of the owners were no longer traceable, because the hotels had been demolished / closed or the companies that the grant had been paid to, had ceased trading.
3.13 Project 016 – Margate Harbour & Turner Centre - £22,635
3.14 Some expenditure, which attracted grant of £22,635 was identified as ineligible by an audit and was subsequently repaid to GOSE.
3.15 Projects 031/033 – Organisational Development Grants Main/Trans - £16,237 & £42,363
3.16 Both projects had an Article 10 audit by GOSE and as a result it was identified that most organisations that had been paid grant, did not provide the authority with any evidence to support what the grant had been used for.
3.17 The authority subsequently wrote to all grant recipients and obtained a large amount of information which helped secure some of the grant. However, as the audit was not until 5 years after the grants had been paid out, a few of the organisations had ceased trading, some were un-contactable, some had passed away and some did not respond, leaving the authority with an incomplete audit trail.
3.18 The grant offer letter with each grant recipient stated that they were only required to maintain records for 5 years from grant award, though the authority is still required by GOSE to have access to records until 2014.
3.19 The External Funding Officer identified £12,935 of grants that were still within the 5 years and should be sought for reclaim, however the legal department have confirmed that as the second payment was made to these grant recipients confirming that the authority was satisfied with the project progress and evidence at the time, that it is not possible to progress a reclaim against these recipients.
3.20 Project 034 – Marketing and Communications - £9,924
3.21 The reclaim on this project related to expenditure that the authority had tried to claim twice, which was identified through an audit at a later date.
3.22 Project 037 – Thanet Innovation Centre - £250,000
3.23 This was the Council’s single biggest reclaim and the partial repayment related to the authority not fulfilling all of the grant conditions and failing to notify GOSE of changes in the management approach following the original grant offer letter, that were considered substantial changes by GOSE. The authority has since agreed with GOSE some key changes in the management of the centre in order to overcome further reclaim.
3.24 The partial grant repayment specifically related to the authority running the facility (for VAT reasons) instead of the management being vested in a specialist Board - which resulted in a lower level of business networking than had been envisaged in the grant offer, that TDC had too large a percentage of tenants in the centre that were not innovative start up businesses and that the authority had not maintained fully detailed records of the jobs created and their longevity (including after tenants had moved out of the centre).
3.25 Project 085 – Stimulating Innovation and Entrepreneurship - £1,797
3.26 The reclaim related to ineligible accommodation costs that were claimed through the project, that were subsequently identified by audit.
3.27 Project 451 – Delivering Margate’s Creative Quarter - £21,331
3.28 This was the last project running through the 2000-2006 programme and finished on 31st December 2008. Unfortunately some of the expenditure claimed related to an invoice that covered a period after the project end date and the rest related to a grant offered at a rate of 45% of total spend, to a grant recipient, however the authority could not reclaim any grant, due to an error on the grant offer letter to the individual company, which stated 31st March 2009 as the end date for the project.
3.29 The authority did manage to attract additional grant from KCC due to invoices provided to them to assist in match funding their own ERDF project. The funds from this meant that TDC could repay the grant without any adverse impact on its own budgets.
3.30 Under this scheme, a grant of £68,750 was paid towards refurbishment works of 16 Marine Drive and 42 High Street. Works started in 2008 but the scheme has not been completed due to the withdrawal of the developer’s private sector funding. Action has commenced to recover the grant monies and GOSE has agreed that should any funds be recovered, that these could be recycled to support works that meet the original objectives of the programme.
4.0 The Way Forward
4.1 Following the lessons learnt through the old ERDF programme, the authority has now implemented the External Funding Protocol and has a dedicated External Funding Officer.
4.2 The External Funding Protocol came into force on 13 November 2009, this stated that all external funding bids had to be reviewed through correct channels prior to bidding of funds to ensure that:
• • •
Finance were aware of the grant; That terms and conditions in relation to the grant could be adhered to; That the grant met corporate priorities.
4.3 As a result the External Funding Protocol requires that all external funding bids are examined by the External Funding Officer, who scrutinises the funding stream and requirements, prior to being considered by CMT for approval.
4.4 Should there be tight deadlines on submitting an application for funding, the Section 151 Officer has delegated authority to approve the funding and CMT are required to retrospectively approve the funding bid.
4.5 Some of the ERDF reclaims were due to poor audit trails maintained either centrally or by the individual departments, as a result, electronic records are now being maintained in line with the protocol, to ensure that large scale repayments due to a lack of audit trail, no longer occur and that all paperwork relating to claims or funding sources are routed through the External Funding Officer as a central point of contact.
4.7 That Governance & Audit Committee note the report contents on ERDF repayments;
4.8 And that the Committee note the progress made by the authority regarding systems implemented to avoid future grant reclaims.