Sunday, 21 December 2014

UKIP expel Councillor Rozanne Duncan for 'jaw dropping comments'

Rozanne Duncan

The news has spread like wild fire this afternoon across local and national media that UKIP have expelled Councillor Rozanne Duncan from the party for making what is quoted as 'jaw dropping comments' in a BBC documentary to be aired in January. 

UKIP have so far declined to offer any further clarification on what Ms Duncan, the Deputy Leader of the Thanet UKIP group has actually said. There has also been no statement from Councillor Duncan either. This leaves the residents of the Cliftonville East, the ward that Duncan represents very much in the dark.

Duncan took the seat in last year at a bi-election after Sandy Ezekiel the former Conservative Leader of Thanet District Council, was jailed for misconduct in public office. I also contended this seat as an independent candidate myself.



It leaves open the question whether the so called offending comments, that were strong enough for expulsion from UKIP, a party that in recent weeks has thought it acceptable and defended a candidate's use of 'chinky' as a colloquial term often used by people who come from council houses, were comments acceptable for a serving councillor to make. Describing the comments as 'jaw dropping' and offering no further explanation has lead to rampant speculation as to their content.

So, will Rozanne Duncan, who has previously served as a Conservative Councillor, do the right thing by the residents of Cliftonville East and clarify what all of this is about without delay? The silence so far is telling. Her member information page on Thanet Council's website only has a landline number and postal address and not even a council issued email address.

Shouldn't Thanet District Council be clarifying what this is about? Surely residents need to be assured that their councillor abides by the Code of Conduct. 


Friday, 19 December 2014

Is Thanet's Local Plan a viable plan?



Here's a puzzle for you:

What happens if you plan to build 12,000 new houses in one of the poorest districts in the country (that's had one of the highest council spending cuts of 5.3%) around a shopping centre that is based on people visiting by car.



Then you only plan to create 5,000 jobs. You then designate the shopping centre, full of corporate chains that up sticks when the going gets tough, as the main primary town centre drawing transport and other resources (such as train services from the stations in the towns to the new station in the middle of the fields to serve the new 12,000 houses) away from the three towns of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs.



This puzzle is laid out in Thanet Council's draft Local Plan that will be up for consultation in the new year.

Someone had better invite an economist quick!


Saturday, 6 December 2014

Thanet Council plan demolition and social housing plans for historic Fort Road Hotel, Margate


During the Leader's Report on Thursday's Council meetingIris Johnston announced  the Council's intention to seek potential demolition of the historic18th century Fort Road Hotel, directly opposite Turner Contemporary and that the Council were working up plans for social housing flats on the site.


Present day with scaffolding
This news has come as a complete surprise to many of us that were waiting to hear when works would commence on the boutique hotel and restaurant scheme that had been announced in the press last year.


In 2011 the hotel was compulsory purchased by Thanet Council. It was then marketed by Thanet Council as a site suitable for regeneration into a boutique hotel. They advertised the building and even funded the placement of a neon advertisement on the roof proclaiming 'Iconic Site'. 




It was reported that there were 20 expressions of interest and a developer was then selected who then committed to working up plans. The developer was the owner of London's Beach Blanket Babylon. A mixed use hotel and restaurant scheme was drawn up by Guy Holloway Architects (who are also working on Dreamland) with all the associated costs of this process.

In their own report of 2011, Thanet Council described the building as:

"The Fort Road Hotel (previously the Fort Castle Public House) is one of the last surviving buildings in the area today that the artist JMW Turner would recognise. Turner spent fifteen years ‘weekending’ in Margate with Sophia Booth (whose house was opposite) and, as a noted drinker, it seems inconceivable that he did not visit the establishment.
This gives the former hotel hard-to-beat historic and artistic credentials that are likely to be of special interest to visitors to Turner Contemporary. The hotel also benefits from a fantastic position, facing the sea, overlooking (and overlooked by) the gallery. The two buildings share the same privileged view of Margate’s sunsets, that Turner declared “the loveliest in Europe”. These associations with Turner (historically with the artist and now with the gallery) give the Fort Road Hotel potentially iconic status.Furthermore, the building is well situated on the main coastal route in and out of Margate, within close proximity of the harbour area; the Old Town; and Margate High Street."
Thanet Council also posted a video on Youtube, which shows inside the building and includes a very fine Georgian staircase in the interior:




This leaves a number of unanswered questions:

Why is the boutique hotel and restaurant scheme not going ahead?


Why is Thanet Council, as the developer, contemplating demolition and working on plans for the development of flats in this key seafront location when we last heard it was going to be restored as a hotel?

Yes, there is a need for social housing in the Margate area. But the Council itself advertised this site for development into a hotel. 

Were the developers offered the option to demolish and replace with flats? Why take forward the creative marketing scheme of the 'Iconic Site' neon if all that is planned is demolition and flats?

We have, at Thanet Council's last count, over 800 empty properties in Margate and Cliftonville to be brought back into use. The Fort Road Hotel site seems to be a poor choice of location for the development of social housing. Tourism is a valuable, sustainable industry for Margate and key seafront sites like this are limited and should be retained for tourism purposes. Thanet's heritage buildings are a key driver for tourism. Extensive funding has already been allocated towards the marketing of this historic site to attract developers for the purpose of restoring the building as a working hotel. This seems to be yet another example of Thanet Council embarking on a u-turn without any of the public being informed of the process and heading off in a conflicting direction that their own policy stipulates. 


What can you do?
- Please sign the petition and share it with your friends and contacts.
- Give the Save Fort Road Hotel Facebook page a like and a share.
- Use the hashtag: #SaveFortRdHotel on social media.
- Write to the Leader of Thanet District Council, Councillor Iris Johnston with your views.

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.
2012
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."
"REASONS FOR DESIGNATION DECISION
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?

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Sir Roger Gale MP's April Galemail





From my MP, Sir Roger Gale. Against same sex marriage. Against the European Charter of Human Rights. Against shooting badgers. Against hunting with dogs. Good morning!

I do find it odd it is sent out by his wife Suzy who then strongly states not to reply to her on her galemail.com address but to reply to Roger on his parliament address. Why don't they send it out on Roger's email in the first place?

IF YOU HAVE ANY COMMENTS ON THIS ARTICLE – PLEASE ONLY SEND THEM DIRECT TO ROGER AT galerj@parliament.uk – THANK YOU

Gale`s View – 9th April 2014. 

I cannot pretend to have endorsed every dot and comma of the Coalition Government`s policy. I remain opposed, for example, to the concept of same-sex `marriage` and had the Conservatives not failed to win the last general election we would most certainly have by now culled some 60 or more Parliamentary seats that, in this day and age of modern communications, are still funded by the taxpayer but surplus to requirements.  Without the Liberal Democrat albatross around our necks we would also have fulfilled our electoral promise to have scrapped our adherence to the European Charter of Human Rights in favour of a British Bill of Rights that recognises our sovereign desire to preserve our own identity and does not, for example, subscribe to the liberal view that it is in some way the “right” of convicted prisoners, otherwise deprived of their liberties in recognition of their crimes, to vote in elections. At the end of the day democratic politics is about numbers in the voting lobby and those numbers do not always stack up. 

Nevertheless, in more general and less geo-politically trivial terms, I believe that the Coalition, while not in the partisan interests of my own party or that of the Liberal Democrats, has certainly served the national interest and, in particularly, the repair of the broken economy bequeathed to us by thirteen years of Blair-Brownite misrule, rather well. I doubt whether we would be where we are today had it not been for the willingness of two otherwise frequently opposed parties to bury differences and work together to put the country`s finances back on the road to recovery.

All that said,  policy insofar as it relates to animal welfare issues, a cause that has been politically close to my heart for all of my years in parliament, has been what, in tolerably polite terms, can best be described as “a badger`s muddle”.  

Nobody sensible could fail to recognise that bovine TB is a terrible disease that affects cattle and wildlife with equally awful consequences for animal health.  That something has to be done to seek to eradicate TB in the interests of farming and also for the benefit of many species of wild animals that carry and transmit it is beyond question but it is not enough to do “something”.  We have to do the right thing.   Scientists have been arguing for at least twenty five years about what that right thing is, with little agreement, but it has become painfully obvious that trying to cull the badger population by shooting it is not the answer.   “Blue Badger” and Conservative Animal Welfare have worked together to see the current programme of destruction that does not discriminate between healthy and sick animals  consigned to the dustbin and will now continue to work together to press for a co-ordinated programme of management and vaccination that stands at least a chance of working. 

Nodding in the direction of “Vote OK” and the countryside alliance the Government also flirted with the idea of trying to introduce by the back door (a statutory instrument that is debated in committee but not seriously considered on the floor of the House) an amendment to the Hunting Act that would have allowed farmers to increase the number of dogs allowed to be used to flush out “vermin” – a pack of hounds by another name.  Happily, a combination of those who still bear the scars of hours of debate about the Hunting Act before it was finally passed into law and a 2010 intake of young Members of Parliament who are not wedded to the idea of controlling wild animals by chasing them with dogs and then watching with apparent pleasure as those animals are torn apart, has at least for the moment seen off that proposal. The Government has had to bow to the fact that there is no parliamentary stomach or majority to re-visit the legislation.

 Curious, though, how a House of Commons that has, under successive Governments (and  the Conservatives both  care about animals and have legislated accordingly) brought about significant improvements in the laws governing wildlife, domestic and farm animals, remains unwilling to address the thorny issue of the manner in which Kosher and Halal meat is slaughtered.  There is a squeamishness, on both sides of the House, about  debating with what are clearly significant minorities (and those minorities do not by any means include all Jews and Muslims) in order to bring an end to an inhumanity that under any other guise but that of faith would simply not be permitted. Just because a practice has been followed for a millennium does not mean that it is right or that it ought to be allowed, in a civilised society, to continue. 
The priority of this Government has to be the economy, from which all else that matters flows, and Animal Welfare is not at the top of the political agenda.  It does, though, concern people  and I hope that we shall see a better  stall set out very clearly in the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos for a General Election that is now only just over a year away.


Sir Roger Gale MP
01843 848588 (a.m.)
07623 978479 (24hr pager)
07774 841557 (Suzy - mobile)
galerj@parliament.uk
suzy@galemail.com
www.rogergale.co.uk
www.animalsworldwide.org

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Thanet Council response re pre-consultation discussions re Walpole Bay De-designation

On March 28th, I asked Thanet Council for information regarding discussions that were undertaken by the council prior to the public consultation regarding the de-designation of Walpole Bay for bathing. These pre-discussions were part of their submission to DEFRA.

I requested:

"'During December 2013 and January 2014 the Council held discussions with two local hotels, a local traders' representative and a Residents Association representative. The business representatives felt that dedesignation was preferable to a sign advising against bathing' 
Please can you provide the details of these meetings and who they were."
The council has today replied stating it has applied exemptions under sections 40 and 41 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Section 40  relates to personal information.
Section 41 relates to information that was provided in confidence.

I'm unsure how pre-discussions with groups that are then relayed to DEFRA as backing for the de-designation of a public beach could be undertaken by a local authority in private so that the information is 100% exempted from release.  Section 40 personal information could be redacted. Section 41, I'm unsure how the council can legitimately undertake consultations that are confidential in this manner. I've issued a request for an Internal Review. 

From: XXXXX@thanet.gov.uk
Date: 8 April 2014 16:36
Subject: Thanet District Council - Your Information Request Response
To: "louise.oldfield@gmail.com"


 
 
Ref No: 62796 / 2649740
 
Subject:Bathing Waters At Walpole Bay
 
Dear Ms Oldfield,
 
Thank you for your communication received on 28/03/2014 where you requested information about meetings held with local traders in relation to the consultation regarding the bathing water dedesignation of Walpole Bay.
 
This information is exempt from release under section(s) 40 & 41 of the Freedom of Information Act.
 
The reason for this is that the release of the names of the Traders would make the person on persons attending the meetings easily identifiable which therefore contravenes the Data Protection Act and Section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act applies.
 
Also, the attendees at these meetings had a legitimate expectation that it was held in confidence and that the council would not publish their details therefore Section 41of the Freedom of Information Act also applies.
 
These are absolute exemptions and there is therefore no requirement to consider the public interest.
 
If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original letter and should be addressed to: Information Request Assessor, Thanet District Council, P O Box 9 Cecil Street, Margate Kent CT9 1XZ, or send an email to foi@thanet.gov.uk.
 
Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.
 
If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF
 
Yours sincerely,
 
 ________________________________
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